V

Disclaimer: Hotautebz is a genderqueer bisexual whose pronouns are he/they.

The Gift was magic? What did that mean? 

This question plagued Iziser’s mind. Clearly, there was some form of disconnect between his understanding of magic and Pejemer’s understanding of magic. When he asked Lozerief about it, all she could answer was “I don’t know why she said that.”

Only three days of living with Pejemer were had before it was time for the Iziser, the King’s, coronation and eighteenth birthday. The palace was decorated with the traditional Zenestian colors: red, blue, and black. The cooks busied themselves to prepare the food for the occasion. Iziser, himself, was prepared to ascend the throne, having rehearsed his lines. 

He was standing in front of the Altar of the Hero of Life, reading over his lines when Eheste Lozerief interrupted him with a a proposal: 

“Mister In,” She began. “I’d like to take yourself and Pejemer with me on a trip in three months to a remote jungle island.”

“Uhm, okay?” Iziser frowned. “Can you give me more details?”

“Not at the moment,” Lozerief admitted. “I’m merely going to retrieve something I’ve lost.”

“What did you lose?” Iziser asked. “How big was it that you’d travel to the jungle? And how far away is this place?”

“It’s about seven thousand miles away,” Lozerief responded. “And, trust me: If I’m right, we could finally have another breakthrough in magic theory.”

“Good grief!” Iziser complained. “Seven thousand miles away?”

“I know it’s a lot,” Lozerief responded. “But please, think about it.”

Iziser sighed, curiosity getting the better of him. “Okay, okay. I don’t know how we’ll get there, or how long we’ll stay. But we’ll go… assuming Pejemer agrees.”

“I already asked her,” Lozerief responded. 

“Okay, good.” Iziser nodded. 

“Right. You’re going to do excellently at your coronation.” She patted his shoulder, teleporting away.

“Right…” Iziser sighed. The script was easy enough, but he was really looking for the excuse of just getting out of there, hoping to avoid a large ruckus.

“Oh, and one more thing,” Lozerief added, teleporting back. “You’re going to have to take off your wristband.”

Well, that would mean the end of In Iziser.

“Are you out of your mind?” Iziser complained. “No!”

“You have to,” Lozerief responded.

They bickered for a minute before Iziser finally conceded. He only hoped he could hold his physical form long enough to wear the sacred Hero’s garments for a photograph and then slip the wristband back on. He slowly slid the wristband off, and almost immediately his form went blurry. He forced himself to focus, and it went back to normal as he handed the wristband back to Lozerief.

“You’ll do just fine.” Lozerief smiled. “I have full confidence.” She walked to go sit down, and wait for the ceremony to start.

Holding a physical form was hard enough for Iziser, but talking to people while holding it was worse. It required nearly undivided attention, and so short responses like “Yes”, “Uh huh”, “Uh-uh”, and so on were the only kinds of things he could say. He started to panic about if he would be able to read his lines or not.

The pews in the sanctuary filled and Eheste Lozerief walked up to the front, and began reciting the Sacred Lines in Zispoel.

“And thus She Who Hath Saved Us rises from the ashes so that we may begin the process of Life, which must ultimately begin from nothing. Here, we are called today to Honor our new Life which comes from nothing.”

Iziser gulped. He could feel his skin starting to disappear, but he forced himself to stay put together for just a little longer as he emerged in his white military uniform to kneel before the crowd. 

“My Hero,” Iziser stumbled over the words. He couldn’t care less; he just wanted to get this over with. “To you I pledge my sacred honor. To protect your worth and value I shall, from enemies abroad and at home. Your quest was not in vain, My Hero. I shall make it anew today.” 

“Here these words!” Lozerief’s voice boomed in the sanctuary. “Our Hero.” She bent down to lift Iziser’s hand up, but when she grabbed his wrist, he disappeared. 

The crowd gasped and went silent. Some thought it was a magic trick, and others thought he’d been a hologram the entire time. Nevertheless, the monarch appeared just seconds later, holding Lozerief’s hand as his entire body phased back into existence. To Iziser’s surprise, the crowd was cheering. Things like: “What a great magic trick!” and “Such a surprise!” rang out between the claps.

Lozerief relaxed. “Sorry about that,” she whispered.

“My fault,” Iziser responded.

When the applause was done, Lozerief and Iziser walked off the stage while the audience filed out of the sanctuary for refreshments. Lozerief slipped Iziser the clasp, which he was quite thankful for when he felt the relief of not having to think about his own presence. Then, Lozerief adorned him with a pink camellia in full bloom, and a green jewel around his neck. 

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Iziser turned to face the cameraman thereafter, but his eyes kept darting away from the camera. The only blond person in a sea of black-haired people with dark skin caught him off guard. The boy was tall, and lanky, and Iziser’s green eyes kept locking into the young man’s brown ones. Iziser decided he’d have to meet with him later.

After just a few photographs, Iziser was relieved of photography and instructed to mingle among the guests. He quickly met up with Pejemer, who smiled down at him, and asked him how he was doing.

“I’m okay…” Iziser responded. “Hey, there was this dude who I wanted to go see. Where is he?”

“What did he look like?” Pejemer asked.

“He was super tall, and he had fair skin, and he had brown eyes,” Iziser described. 

“I see…” Pejemer scanned the room (no matter how many ugly glances she got) before she arrived in the gaze of a certain tall, young gentleman accompanied by a short, mahogany-skinned woman. “I think I see them.” She motioned discreetly, and Iziser stepped away. 

No sooner had he stepped away, though, then he bumped into the gentleman with his shoulder. A gentle blush crept up his cheeks as Iziser looked down at his different–albeit good-looking–half-dress, half tuxedo outfit. He shook his head to clear his mind.

“Hi.” Iziser looked up, up, and up at the person before him. “I’m Mister In Iziser. And you are…?”

“Hotautebz Az,” they introduced themself as. 

“I feel like I should ask… pronouns?” 

“They/he,” Hotautebz responded with a gentle smile. Their voice was quiet as a mouse, but rich as milk, and their smile was sweet as honey and eye-candy to anyone around. Compare all of that to Iziser’s… averageness.

Iziser shook his head. “What brings you here?”

“My Guardian brought me here,” Hota responded. 

“Who is your guardian?”

“Lu?” Hota looks around. “Lu, where are you?”

“Hota!” Lu complained, being just 5′ 4″. “You gotta look down, man!”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Hota blushed. “That’s Lu. My Guardian.”

“Hey!” Lu grinned.

“Adopted…?” Iziser inquired.

Hota nodded. “Yes,” they lied. 

While Iziser and Hota chatted, Pejemer stepped over to scan the area before her eyes landed on Lu. Lu’s eyes looked up into Pejemer’s, and they were both thinking the same thing: we’re both Guardians of Heroes. 

“You’re…” 

“Like me,” Lu agreed. “A Guardian. Who’s your Hero?”

Pejemer pointed to Iziser.

“Huh… Hota’s my Guardian,” Lu responded.

“But… aren’t you human?” Pejemer added.

“I’m hiding the wings under this dress,” Lu explained, having worn quite a concealing dress.

“Intriguing… I never thought I’d meet another Guardian.”

“Neither did I,” Lu admitted. “Well, uhm. Happy for you two, and his coronation.”

“Thank you kindly,” Pejemer responded with a grin. “I do look forward to meeting you again.”

“What’s your number?” Lu asked, pulling out her phone. 

“What?” Pejemer tilted her head.

“Do you not have a cell phone?” 

“I don’t,” Pejemer admitted.

“Wow.” Lu blinked. “How old are you?”

“About nine hundred.” Pejemer nodded.

“Same here,” Lu responded. “But, no phone? Impressive…”

“Mmm… I find it quite the opposite,” Pejemer chuckled. 

“Well, let me…” Lu turned to Hotautebz. “Hota! Get that monarch’s phone number!”

Hota squeaked. “O-okay…”

“You wanted my phone number?” Iziser tilted his head. “Sure.” 

“Impress him with the mind reading!” Lu added.

“Lu, please stop,” Hota whispered.

“Mind-reader?” Iziser looked intrigued. “Mind magician?”

“Mhm.” Hota said nothing more.

“Woah…” Izi blinked, staring up into Hota’s eyes before he shook himself out of it. “Anyways.” Iziser read off his phone number for Hota to type into their phone.

“You’re… a pretty cool person,” Iziser admitted when Hota was done typing the numbers into his phone.

“You think?” Hota asked.

“Mhm.” Izi nodded.

“Izi!” Lozerief shouted. “We need you over here!”

Izi groaned. “I’ll talk to you later, okay?” He teleported away.

Hota blinked; he’d just been within six feet of a monarch, and he’d said they were a pretty cool person. That… was refreshing.