Seagulls screech and the sun warms my skin. I’m waiting on the jetty for Nate’s boat which is a dot on the horizon. Gorse nibbles on my ear and whimpers. He wants a conversation, but I’m too excited. On that boat is my means to escape this universal father forsaken place. I would formulate a plan but I know the abbot is checking my thoughts. He scratches around inside my head like a chicken searching for food, so I’m refusing to let myself think about my options. The warmer weather allows me to kick off my boots and walk round the island barefoot which is strengthening me.
I close my eyes and breathe, praying she will go away. She’s useless and simpering. It’s not like girls usually throw themselves at me and I have no idea how to handle this.
“Rei.” Although I manage a smile, Gorse hisses at her. I tap his nose and he bites my finger. “OW!” I suck at the wound until it stops bleeding. During my stay at the order, I’m sure my blood has become more salty. Maybe it’s the proximity to the ocean, but there are days when I feel like I have spray from the waves in my mouth. Salt hangs in the air.
“Let me.” She holds out her hand. I think she’s trying to be sexy but she’s not achieving it.
“It’s OK, thanks.” I wrap a handkerchief round it.
“We could go and sit on the beach together?” Yet again she’s doing that thing where she wraps her hair round her finger and moves her foot back and forth, tracing a semi circle on the ground. “Let’s spend time together.”
“I’m waiting for Big Mac.”
I blink. “He said he was your uncle. Have you never met him?”
She appears confused. Bea would never look like that. Rei makes me miss my girlfriend more. There’s no comparison between the two. I mean Bea wouldn’t bother flirting she’d have told me to kiss her.
“He’s Shun’s mentor?”
The smog of confusion lifts from her face and she smiles. “Oh yes, the abbot of the order of the earth. Father-Abbot Damocles Sorenson.”
I shrug. “He introduced himself as Big Mac. He’s bringing me the pieces I need to make my copper and then he’s going to help me broadcast...” Her soggy and awkward kiss interrupts my flow. It’s my turn to blink and appear confused. With my thumb, I wipe my lips and shake my head.
She smiles her vacant smile. “I like you, Angus.”
Universal Father, I don’t believe in you but if you exist, help. As the father-abbot’s daughter, I do not want to offend her. My world here could become difficult if I do – more difficult than it currently is. “You’re very pretty, Rei.”
“Angus!” Big Mac’s loud shout, disturbs my but.
To my distress, her smile, this time, is genuine. “Thank you, Angus.” She goes back to playing with her hair and tracing a semi circle with her foot.
The boat pulls up to the jetty. “Angus, catch.” Any chance I may have had to tell her about Bea is swallowed up in tying Nate's boat to the jetty. When I turn round she has disappeared.
For a large man, Big Mac is nimble on his feet and he leaps from prow. His scarlet and gold robe, and his long thick dark hair flow out behind him, creating a brief spectacle.
Gorse chatters excitedly and takes a piece of raw chicken from Big Mac. He flies off to enjoy it.
Big Mac stands in front of me. His expression of confusion bears a passing resemblance to Rei’s earlier.
Please, for all that is good on Litae, don’t let him kiss me too.
His eyebrow raises. “Now that I discerned, young man. How do you do it?”
“Block me. When I first met you I had no bother exploring the inner workings of the mind otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to break into your room.” He places his hands either side of my head.
I flinch. Please don’t kiss me.
“Why are you expecting me to kiss you? I could...”
Nate jumps down from the boat behind him and checks that I have tied up the boat correctly. “Now do you believe me, Dad?”
“Uhuh… clever boy.”
I look from Big Mac to Nate and back to Big Mac. “What on Litae are you talking about?”
His hands haven’t moved from my head. “Walk me through what you do when you meditate?”
I shrug. “They told me to visualise things I… well things that mean a lot to me and things I enjoy.”
“So you have imagined a honey pot and a firewall?”
“Not really. I was imagining my girlfriend but then I wanted to protect her. And well… I’m not very good at the yang-qi. I am good at firewalls.” I still don’t know why this is all so important. “Infirmier Kim taught me to use my strengths and what I know.”
“Very good. I can’t get past it.” He removes his hands. “I bet you’re causing my brother some serious issues.” From his pocket he takes out a sparkly pink mobile phone. The back is decorated with a twinkly, diamond encrusted sea bird. His arm is round me and I can’t help but walk with him, at his great pace. “My brother makes extensive use of his mind reading ability to control his brethren. If I can’t can’t get into your thoughts then I doubt my technically inept older brother can. Like I said you’re a clever boy. You just need to find a way to hide those stray direct thoughts like the one about wanting me to kiss you.”
I pull away. “I don’t want you to kiss me.”
He throws his head back. If a mountain could laugh I imagine it would laugh like Big Mac. “Perhaps you should explain that concern to me. Wait.” On his pink sparkly phone he pushes buttons. “Now. We are secure and can say anything without being overheard by my brother.” On a large rock halfway up the cliff path he sits and pats the space next to him.
“Rei Kazuto kissed me.”
“Ahh. Did you like it?”
I shake my head and rub my face with my hands. Looking out to sea allows me to avoid the merriment in his eyes. “I have a girlfriend.”
“She may not have survived your sister’s regime.”
His comment makes me grin. “You don’t know Bea. Bea would survive a bomb blast with barely a scratch.”
“Known her long?”
“She beat up a mayor’s son that was bullying me when I was four and she was six.” It’s the first time I’ve been able to talk about Bea and my whole being feels lighter. “She’s been protecting me ever since.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be the other way round?”
“I’m a computer geek at heart. She’s a nurse with a deadly aim and I’d much rather it wasn’t aimed at me.”
He laughs. “Well she sounds like she’d make a perfect queen.”
My protest is halted by a raise of his hand.
“Once we broadcast to the nation that your brother is no longer a crown prince and your sister is disinherited you will become the heir to the throne. That will happen whether or not your father is still alive.”
“I hadn’t thought about that. What do I do about Rei?”
“Play along. The poor child will be doing this because her father has asked. Don’t put her at risk. Do you think Bea might understand that you are helping keep Rei from harm?”
“Maybe, she’s not callous.”
“Then let Rei kiss you a bit and hold your hand. She probably doesn’t want to any more than you want her to. She’s been told to marry you because you will be king.” He touches my arm. “Breathe away any anger because the old bastard is standing there waiting for us. We’d better go.”
A night of blood, mayhem and magic thrust Prince Angus, the youngest son of the king, onto the throne of Covesea Island. He's never wanted to be king. Social media calls King Angus a clown. His subjects don't rate his ability to lead them in the trade negotiations with one of the planet's superpowers.