When Mame Treina was gone, Charon turned her head to find Selene standing by the window sill. The faerie wasn’t looking at her, but had her back to her. She was gazing out the window as she murmured, “Half of me is left at Dradel’s place.”
“Sorry about that,” Charon apologized immediately. “I was careless.”
Selene shook her head. “It’s fine,” she said. “I can travel only as far as the slippers are located.” After saying so, she turned to Charon, striding elegantly towards her. At the distance of an inch, the cherry blossom glimmer shone into Charon’s eyes. “I could travel between the two of you. Would you like to see him again?” she asked in an alluring tone that tempted Charon to say no.
“Let it be,” Charon decided. “This is the end.”
But as Selene observed from where she was, she had a different idea in mind. She approached Charon, and snaked her arms around the girl from behind, locking her in that space before whispering in a low tone, “You are powerless, but not I.”
As Charon’s eyes widened in surprise at the faerie’s bold touch, Selene didn’t give her even a second to contemplate the meaning behind the sensation she knew Charon must have felt. Withdrawing from the maiden, the pink silhouette vanished in the next instant, leaving Charon standing in awe, with a racing heart.
Dradel was staring at the glass slipper in silence when a young lady in a glimmering dress walked in…emerging from the wall. She had a steady gaze in her pink irises, clearly fixated on him. She strode towards him, maintaining the tranquility of the atmosphere of his room, and although he hadn’t expected the arrival of a complete stranger, Dradel also locked eyes with her. The aura of this lady seemed to speak volumes about her very essence—a lady of high status, yet he was unsure of what status exactly it was. For one, she was no ordinary human being.
The young lady stopped a few steps in front of him. Standing in front of her, Dradel somehow felt a need to give her a formal bow, even though he was a prince, and he knew she wasn’t royalty. “A pleasure to meet you,” he told her, not even asking her name. He placed the slipper on his table.
“Call me Selene,” the lady told him, her voice void of emotion, yet not ceasing to be noble. The pink sparkle in her eyes suggested an unfathomable passion, or scheme. “I am the faerie residing in the glass slippers.”
“The…?” For a moment, Dradel blinked. Then, it occurred to him that she had just walked through the wall. “Excuse me. I see.”
If she had noticed his moment of hesitation, she didn’t show it. She came to achieve something, and she would simply get it done. “Do you wish to see the girl?” she asked, her steady gaze fixated on him, blaring into him almost as if she could see right through him.
It might as well be true. Because of that gaze, Dradel decided he wouldn’t even try concealing anything from her. He knew nothing about a faerie’s capabilities, but whether mind reading was one of them played no role in his decision. “Yes,” he answered promptly.
The next instant, her lips curved into a lopsided smile. “How have you decided to succumb to me, Prince Dradel?”
A prince making one such decision seemed to amuse the faerie. “I’m not sure myself,” he answered. “I feel that there is no reason for me to hide anything from you, anyhow.” It was the most honest response on his part, and she seemed to understand that as the truth, rather than attempted flattery.
“I see,” she said, satisfied with his answer. “Tomorrow at noon, can you show up where the attic window can see you?”
“Yes,” Dradel answered with certainty. “I will be there.”
“See you then.” After saying so, Selene turned away from the prince, and strode through the wall, disappearing into it.
Selene did not appear to either of the two again, until the next morning. When Charon opened her eyes, she found the face of the faerie right in front of hers. She sprang wide awake with a start. Selene, on the other hand, seemed to have anticipated one such reaction. “Have you been wondering when I would show up?” she asked. The question answered itself without Charon having ever spoken a word—this she knew, and so she didn’t reply. Selene, too, remained silent until Mame Treina was gone. Even after that, she merely stayed by the window in the attic, gazing out in a posture that resembled one a noble lady would take as the palace painter transferred her silhouette into ink and canvas.
It was only at noon that Selene spoke again. By then, Mame Treina had been long gone. “Charon,” she called. Charon turned to her. Rather than speaking, she gestured towards the outside of the window, at the same time opening it. “Hello,” she greeted whoever was out there.
When Charon looked, she saw Dradel, standing under her attic window, dressed in casual attire, beaming up at her. Although her first reaction was to freeze, her next move was to turn away from the sight of Dradel, taking refuge in the cover of the wall, and throw Selene a sharp accusatory look.
“Good day,” Dradel greeted back, his gaze then befalling upon the space where Charon had disappeared into.
Selene gave the prince a nod, and backed off, fading from view, fading into the air.
That left Charon alone in the attic. Although Dradel was out of view, she knew he was still standing there, and she could feel his intense stare blaring through the wall into her skin. This self-consciousness compelled her to turn to the window again. “…Good afternoon, Dradel.”
“How have you been?” Dradel asked courteously. The concern he expressed was clearly as sincere as it had ever been. Even if Charon had decided for herself that the last time they met would be the last time they ever met, her decision didn’t seem to affect Dradel at all.
“I’ve been well, thank you.” Realizing that it would be improper for her, a servant, to talk to the prince from a higher position, Charon added, “Wait a moment, please.” and hurried down the stairs, meeting him at the back of the house.
“You came after all,” Dradel observed. “If I guessed right, you are refraining from me because of Mame Treina.”
“Don’t worry. I only wanted to make sure you’re all right. I will leave before she comes back.”
At this reassurance, Charon took one step forward. “How have you been, Dradel?” she asked.
“Splendid, now.” He beamed. “I’m afraid I won’t be returning the other glass slipper to you yet. When everything is resolved, perhaps…”
Charon nodded in understanding. Then, she gave him a queer look. “How do you find Selene?”
Dradel raised his brows in surprise. “She is…nice, I suppose, and a bit overpowering.”
The girl chuckled, agreeing. “I didn’t know she’d arranged this reunion,” she explained.
“But she supports us,” Dradel gathered, “She kept her words very terse, when she visited me.”
Again, Charon nodded in agreement, taking another step toward Dradel, finally growing comfortable with the reunion. She showed a genuine smile, indicating that she was now at ease. “I’m sorry for that time,” she said. “Selene’s magic was to wear off at sunrise, and if that was the last time we met…I wanted to leave a better impression.”
“You know it doesn’t matter.”
“What doesn’t matter?” This query had both Dradel and Charon sharply turn with an almost identical expression of shock. They both recognized the voice, it was the last voice they wanted to hear now. “It doesn’t matter whether she’s a poor servant or a noble lady, you mean?” Mame Treina asked Dradel. “I came back to fetch a forgotten book, and this is what I hear,” she continued, as her lips curved up on one side. “Is it true, Your Highness?”
“It is,” Dradel answered in a composed manner.
“Then, it doesn’t matter whatever form she is in, is that what you mean?”
“It is,” he said again, not the least bit shaken by her challenge.
“Then,” this time, Mame Treina’s voice lowered by an octave at least. “You don’t mind if she’s not female.” With this announced, the woman who was secretly a sorceress raised her arms slowly as a dark foam-like substance surrounded Charon. When the whole being of Charon was immersed in that substance, Mame Treina dropped her arms again, the darkness dropping to the ground along with her motion. What had originally been the figure of a modest village girl had been transformed into the shape of a man, around Dradel’s age. The new Charon’s hair was still long and wavy, though a little bit shorter than before. His eyes were of the same color, as revealed when he finally dared open them.
But the look in those eyes were different. So different from the Charon that Dradel knew.
Behind the silhouette of Mame Treina, the faerie appeared for an instant. A look of alarm could be seen in her pink orbs, but that look vanished as soon as it appeared, as Selene herself only appeared for that brief instant.