“So I’m late.” William muttered, unfazed by all the unfriendly, even scowling, faces. “My apologies. What were y’all discussing?”
The group which was surrounding an empty throne lavishly decorated with ruby, sapphire and emerald fell into a deadly silence. William scanned the group quickly with keen eyes. Seven men and seven women with blue eyes and blond hair stood in a circular fashion round the throne. They all towered above him, and that made his hair stand on edge just a little, but he had an inkling they did not dare hurt him. Not without an edict. “Has it even started?” Again, they just stared at him wordlessly.
Like a Japanese enso, the circle was not open, not closed. There was just a little gap left, signifying to William’s sharp intuition that the meeting was not going to be complete without him. The circle was an enso – the fourteen men and women as well as William were one thick black stroke drawn with the finest brush by a skillful calligraphy master. But the throne was still vacant: the master had not yet arrived.
The light was switched on, and the master sat down.
“Hello, William, nice to meet you.”
It was William’s turn to be speechless.
What piqued William’s curiosity was the fact that this master was actually a lady. Not just her gender but also her petite size intrigued him. She was of a small build, one head shorter than the rest of the fourteen men and women standing around the throne. She was dressed in an elegant blue and white kimono; however, her makeup was simple and her face was not caked in white powder.
“You’re the master?”
Obiya chuckled, a small fluttering laugh. “No, I’m not a master, I’m only here as a guide. Your guide.”
“Oh, you flatter me!”
“But that’s your throne…or am I mistaken?”
“Why, thank you. This chair was a gift from my son-in law. He would be glad to know someone appreciates carpentry as much as he does.”
“And these…these are all your underlings?” William asked in suspended disbelief.
“Underlings?” Princess Obiya smiled inquisitively at him. “What underlings?”
“All them.” William gestured around at the fourteen men and women standing guard around the throne. They seemed to be more alert and tenser, not twitching a single sinew in their flesh, especially after their master had appeared onto the scene.
“Where?” She looked to her left and her right and gave another kind smile after recovering from her slight confusion. “Yes, yes, they’re all mine. Shall we proceed?”
“You told me previously that you began missing your appointments with Gina more and more often.”
William nodded, spell-struck by Princess Obiya’s beauty, even though he had no clue who Gina was and why she was helping him as his agent. As far as he knew, he had no underling and Obiya had fourteen of them. Possibly more.
“And every time, your finger and wrist joints will hurt terribly, so much so that you cannot concentrate at all in any task.” William nodded again. He had some faint memory of pain shooting through his fingers, but they were merely intellectual. There was no emotion attached to that memory, or even if there was, it drifted away like a passing cloud.
“William, as unconventional as this may sound, I believe that this joint pain triggers your instability.”
“I’d hate to disagree with you, O master, the fairest princess of the land, but I’m totally fine.” From the corner of his eye, William saw the seven men particularly stiffening up, as if bracing themselves to defend Princess Obiya. One simply does not go against the sovereign, he mused. “I mean no ill intentions; your humble servant is at your service. I’ll be loyal and faithful to the end.”
William watched intently as Princess Obiya hesitated. Before Princess Obiya could speak, however, he suddenly felt very, very, very sleepy. Man, the underlings probably thought tranquilized him, thinking him to be a threat. Exactly how, he had no clue. With that thought, William sank into a deep slumber.
“Are you okay?”
The light was shining bright again and William opened his eyes to see a flustered looking petite woman standing before him, holding his right hand. “Carolina, my love?”
But she did not return his affectionate and tender greeting. “Obiya here. Are you okay?”
“Obiya? Where am I, my Carolina?” William furrowed his brow, trying to make sense of it all. He thought he had died when the large lorry had slammed head-on into his small pickup truck. Or maybe he hadn’t. Or maybe he had died but Carolina found some way to resuscitate him.
“Right here. Your joint pains flared up again and you passed out.”
“Carolina? Did I die?”
“No, no, you didn’t. Don’t worry, you merely passed out.”
“Are you sure?” The bright lights were reminiscent of that grim incident where the lorry’s headlights shone upon him as his eyes widened in fear in the nanosecond before the terrible collision.
“Yes, William, you didn’t die.” He saw her frown and was – deep down in his heart – not very convinced. “But your condition was worse than I expected. Much worse.”
He didn’t die but he was in bad shape. William asked quietly, “How bad?”
“Very bad. I’m sorry, Mr Lems, there is nothing else I can do for you.”
There were tears glistening in her eyes, which made her appearance more doe-eyed. What was the meaning of this? Was Carolina going to leave him after he had woken up? Did she find someone else, rekindle with her ex-boyfriend or get into affair while he was in a coma?
William’s head swirled; he was getting a throbbing migraine soon. “Honey...” He leaned towards her, trying to plant a kiss on her cheek. "I'm Mr Lancestor, the man you met and fell in love with when he folded you 9999 paper cranes for your birthday."
“No, you’re Mr Lems. William Lems, renowned author of a dozen novels, winner of the distinguished Warwick prize.” She paused, adding, “and I’m not your honey.”
William gasped in horror.
“That’s a lie!”
P.S. Photo Sourced from Pixabay.
A heartfelt thank you to @zen-art for organizing this writing relay, and to the other participants @ireenchew, @ocrist, @manoldochev, @wales in writing the story before me. I stand on the shoulder of giants (and had so much fun doing so!).
I credit this story and the deadline for getting me into serious flow mode, which I'm extremely thankful for. So thank you all - hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing this.
If you enjoy this story, do take a look at the other stories which set the stage for our protagonist, William Lems below.
I nominate @blueeyes8960 to be the next in line for this relay.