So... Still no Beta and not one review since I posted chapter 2. I see the numbers of views are high and go up even just a bit each day but no one has said a thing. ."

Any who, I had to wait a few days before starting chapter 3. So I decided that I'm going to just make a BIO for the OC on DeviantArt, which by the way her name is Onikaze Miyako (Miyako being her personal name for those wondering).

And since no one has reviewed I suppose I won't go and say who the ANBU are from the series. ^_~

As I said before, this Chapter will be from the POV of Mal and Carlos (Mal being first). Since it took me so long to get back to this (started a new job and some other life adventures) I am splitting chapter 3 into two parts. This will just be Mal and the next one will be Carlos. Chapter 4 will be from the POV of the ANBU.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ch 3 Cheap Change and Truths ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

part one

Hollow... Their words are hollow and laced with righteousness. Questions of 'How could this happen'... 'Did the people guilty have any mental preconditions'... 'Are we absolutely positive the teens didn't steal the merchandise'...That's because the kids were from the Isle of the Lost. Lost in a harsh world and then found. Told they're welcomed with open arms but then anticipated to be trouble... Evil. Their parents raised them so it's to be expected. Nothing is above them, nor below... Except the ground of course, but even then I suppose it depends on who you ask.

"Your Highness, we understand that punishment must be dealt to the guilty parties involved, but should there not be an investigation into the theft?" An older man of his late forties asks calmly across the oval table, hands held together as if he was talking to a child. I honestly wish surprise was a feeling I experienced often, and maybe now would be one of those moments. It seems though it's easier to feel when you haven't already 'been there, done that'.

"Lord Holte, need I remind you to whom you are speaking with?.." King Ben narrows his eyes and leans forward, "There will be no investigation of the theft, if by chance the teens were the ones who stole the merchandise, the violence that occurred was absolutely horrid and uncalled for. To suggest an investigation before prosecution of the attackers is an insult to not only the victims but to us in power!" Ben then sits back in his chair to let his words sink in; "Events such as these would start to be known as frequent occurrences and people would even start to suspect discord amongst the council meetings. I strongly suggest that we don't let the people think that. And that you all reevaluate the affects of such action would bring..." Ben... Spoken like a true King... Considering everyone and being stern, yet fair. The other council members all were subdued enough for a minute of silence before trying to find ways of saying sorry while meaning 'you're naive'. Again, wish I can say I'm surprised. It's always going to be that way. The older generations are threatened and feel like they're always right due to years on this floating rock in space... Yet they always seem to forget two facts that worst age. The first being sometimes people of all ages learn to grow up past their years... The second, that History is a great tool. Past mistakes of those before us teach us the best ways through some tough situations

The fools... Desperate to use their hollow words to sway their Kings heart. No matter. It won't work... Ben's heart is too good, I'm sure of it. I would know... It hurts to be loved by him. His pure love and all around good heart sometimes blinds me to my own soul. Since I had first met him I did not think it possible for his heart to grow and almost drown itself in total lenity. One of the few things that have ever surprised me in this world, and he's almost become the epitome of 'Good' in Auradon. And it hurts... I ask myself how do I stay with him everyday. Why does he love me?.. What twist of fate has our hearts attached and so heavy? Well, my heart so heavy, Ben's is light and always honest. I'm not right for him and yet I don't leave. I suppose those are my mothers traits... Maleficent, stubborn and selfish... Afraid to give him up because I'm right, he's too good for me and I won't be able to find someone else who loves me. So I have my claws clenched tight afraid to let go, but ready for the moment to let my darkness take flight. Maybe I can learn to be what he deserves?..

"This is no longer up for discussion. This meeting is over; unless, there's anything else that needs to be brought to my attention?" Ben stands up straight over the other men while a slender and slightly hyper man fumbles over with a file. If memory serves me, the blue and white suit says that he's either a office worker or a scout.

"Your Majesty, t-there have b-b-been two more sightings within the last ma-month. The 'Ma-masked Strangers' are still being reported it seems," Oh the poor man, he's so frightened of Ben. Probably his first time in person. The sentry passes over the file to Ben's open palm. Laying down the file he reads it over while the man lightly fidgets by his side.

"Hmm, that's quite interesting," Ben squints a little. The old miser, Holte, whispers with the other geezers. Clearing his throat he then stands up. I roll my eyes and resist the urge to smack him... Ben slowly lifts his eyes to the disturbance and then points to a guard in the room. "Thomas, please get Lord Holte some hot tea, it looks as if his throat has gone unchecked for a while." Nodding the guard runs off to do as his King asked of him.

Despite the obvious jab at his lack of respect Holte continues on with his purpose, "Your Majesty, I surely hope you don't wish to spend time and resources on Urban Tales? There's nothing tangible to these strangely dressed people, gallivanting the lands with masks."

"Sir Holte... I would like to state my surprise that you think I would go about sending troops to see if these stories hold any ground off a few basic descriptions in these reports." Sitting back down Ben waves his hand to the crowded table, "you're dismissed". Once everyone leaves I make my way over to his chair, sit on the table next to his right side and the file. He's just staring at the doors they left through and doesn't even notice I walked over to him. I can see his shoulders are stiff and once I put my hands on them, they instantly melt. How?... Why does his heart and body melt when he's near me? How can he love me so much? Taking a shaky breath in I work my hands in order to release some more tension out of his shoulders, ignoring the pained ache in my chest. "Mmm, Mal... You're absolutely magical. I'm sorry that you had to sit through another meeting. It's just past noon, how about we run away for the rest of the day? Hmm, just the two or us and possibly the enchanted lake?"

No... I stop and say "I'm sorry, I promised Evie I'd help her with one of her projects." I can't be near you too long...

"Oh, with everything going on lately it seems like I never have enough time for you babe," Ben smiles apologetically and the ache of my heart throbs louder. It's not your fault, it's never you...

"Don't worry, you did nothing wrong. The little time I have with you even now is worth it," I run a hand through his light brown hair, kiss the top of his head and hug him. I don't ever want to taint you...

Ben smiles even larger now and it's so bright it almost lightens my darkness, "How are you so understanding?" He shakes his head and holds my chin, "What do you see in me?" My shadows grow... That's what I want to ask you... Kissing me he gives me the chance to drown out the pain temporarily, enough to think.

"So, these 'Masked Strangers', what can you tell me," I push the file closer to him. "Word is that they are these people wearing strangely designed masks, they mostly wear black and they disappear as fast as they show up."

Ben lets out a long breath and grabs the file, "Well, that's true. The most detailed description we have was just now of two of them together at one time. One female had short pink hair, about 167cm (5'6"), and was wearing a grey vest. Their mask had grey rings around the eyes and red horizontal lines. The other female was about 170.2 cm (5'7"), brown hair in braids. They were wearing black and blue clothing with a vest too, but more blue steel... This witness goes more into the clothing description of these two." Turning the page Ben looks back at me, "The rest says that their mask was a tiger, painted with black and bright blue lines. After the one with the tiger mask waved they just magically disappeared. It seems like they started popping up from the Northwestern side of the lands, past the Borderlands and moved East and then South... Here in the capital. I wonder what possesses these people to go around wearing masks, they must really need some excitement in their lives to start having people spread word so fast..." He finishes reading the rest of the file and then closes it, tossing it back on the table. "There's a combination of men and women who wear these masks, with slight variations of their 'costumes'. The masks though are different and the only one with hair that sticks out is the one with Pink hair."

Smirking a little I can't help but jokingly ask, "Who dyes their hair pink?"

Ben laughs and stands up from the chair, "I don't know, but I don't think there's really anything to worry about with these people. They're just bored and wearing masks, nothing wrong there. They're not committing crimes or anything else we need to worry about, unlike these fights that are breaking out over Auradon... These councilors... I'm considering forcing early retirement on these old men, the only councilor ever reasonable was Lady Kuini, it's depressing she had to pass away when her country needed her the most." Sighing Ben slowly makes his way to a window overlooking the castle grounds. "I don't understand how they can be the wise minds to help advise me and yet so ignorant to the ones who depend on us". Ignorant, yeah, but not blind due to circumstance, blind due to prejudice... I scoff at the callous thought. He looks at me, eyebrows up in question, "What? Something I said?"

Jumping off the table I step towards him, he's wise and yet still so pure. "Ben, you aren't wrong. I was just thinking how right you are with them being ignorant." His eyes soften and he's about to say something but I cut him off, I have to finish; "It's hard to show people the truth when they're the ones who have sewn on their blindfolds... They aren't able to accept that there's more to life and that they might be wrong." His frown deepens. I'm sorry Ben... "These 'incidents' are the results of people keeping to the stereotype that people can't change, and those kids from last night better be alright." I need to breathe... "They need to be okay, because-" Ben runs up to me and holds me up, his whispers tell me to breathe and shhh...

"Mal... Mal, I need you to relax," he hurriedly runs me over to a chair around the oval table. "Please.. For me?" I laugh with what little air I held in my lungs, I live for you right now... "We're going to figure out a way to conquer this ignorance, and help out our people in whichever way we can, right? Together; because I trust your judgment and heart." How can you say that? As if saying it means it'll happen... He replies to my question, "Well, because I believe in us. Don't you?" His blue eyes hungrily search in mine and I pause, caught up in his search in hopes he'll find what I can't. The seconds drag on and both our spirits dampen, "Mal? Are- are you alright?" Nodding I try to stand, pushing his hands away. "Whoa, hold on, should you really be standing now? What was that?" I haven't had one of those before in front of anyone...

"It's fine, I'm okay, I just need to go," I try to smile and start making my way to the door. I stop once his hand reaches out and grabs mine, "Ben... I'm alright. I was just worried about those kids, I will be okay." Softly laying my palm on the door knob I say, "Love you." Opening the door I run down the hall as fast as I can...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ non-truths ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Warm light shines down and does nothing to ease the feeling of a boulder in my gut. The voices of those surrounding are muffled, as if tuning to my personal perception. Slow and uneasy... "Mal, are you even listening to me?" I blink and just like that the haze is lifted and the roar of life around me comes back full force. Evie is waving her hands in front of my face, she sighs, "You beg me to cancel my plans with Doug last minute for 'girl time' and you're spacing out..." She looks around the market square, putting back the fabric samples she was previously drooling over, "What's really up?"

I pick up the samples she put down and handed the merchant money, "I'll take three yards of each". Eyes of both Evie and the merchant widen to almost comedic proportions but while the merchant eagerly gets to work, the blue haired girl sputters, completely surprised by my actions. "What? I can't buy my best friend something?"

Best friend... Even though it's true, we barely say it... Given our start on the Isle, at first we all almost hated each other. We didn't really become friends until a year before we left the Isle of the Lost; We became family once we left... The three of them have come a long way... Jay at first was excited of getting out and off the island, he liked playing Tourney, the 'nice' girls, and the fact he didn't have to steal or sell anything for food or a nice bed to sleep in. Immediately after graduation all four of us were able to move on to the Royal grounds, courtesy of Ben, since we didn't have anywhere else to go and no money... Then following our encounter with my mother at Ben's coronation, he started dating Audrey but all that did was start a long, two month, 'on and off' again relationship. Jay put a complete end to it I suppose when he had a fling with Jane, the Fairy Godmother's very own daughter. Apparently she had a minor crush on him, they had some drinks and story goes they went to his place. I laughed when he tried to tell me the details and even harder when he mentioned Jane was the one who didn't want to pursue a relationship. Who knew?.. He works at Auradon Prep as an assistant coach, soon to take place of the current one. Evie was able to come to terms with herself shortly after our arrival here, and has been dating Doug almost the whole time, truly an adorable couple. I'm very happy with the way he reminds her she's strong. And for the last year or so, Evie has since been working on designs and selling them to some of the different royalty and the like. She still dresses the same, she has even been able to get Doug to mix up his style. Carlos... He's had the worst time adjusting. It wasn't until a year ago, after the coronation that, he fully believed his mother wouldn't get to him. All three of us held him while he cried and all our hearts heaved with him. On the fourth day, Ben unsurprisingly sneaked into Carlos' place and held us all for a night. The day after Carlos actually slept and just started cleaning up the mess we all made. No need for words, we understood what he was saying... He works in his room in the palace fixing broken technology, he's the only one other than me who actually lives inside the castle, Evie and Jay have cozy homes on the grounds. A tiny studio was built near the castle wall and Carlos runs his little business from there. Carlos truly became his own person when he was no longer frightened of Cruella showing up, he even changed his clothing style; Carlos no longer sticks with only black, white and red. Blue, green, grey and sometimes purple with the occasional black tend be his choice of colors on the wheel; But he doesn't mind brighter, warmer colors too. He even started to wear short sleeves since his scars have begun to fade...

"Now I know something is going on, but... I also know that when you're like this you either completely shut down or need time to work it out," she huffs and puts her hands on her hips. "So either way I'm not going to get a word out of you." I smile at her but then her stare turns serious, "I'm warning you though; You better let me in if you're going to lean towards shutting down. We're never going through that again, any of us." She means Jay and Carlos too... Looking away from her deep brown eyes, I slowly walk around the corner to another booth, this time with all sorts of sweets. There's a few people surrounding the booth, one of which looks very familiar, hovering over the chocolates... Evie excitedly runs over to them after shoving the bags in my arms, "Carlos!"

Chocolate orbs look up wide, dark lashes frame his surprise on getting caught in his vulnerable state; cocoa-addiction. His white and black hair sways, showing he recently started growing it out. He's wearing black and red sneakers, green cargo pants and a grey button up over a navy blue tee, sleeves rolled up. His style is better than before, surprisingly brings out the cocoa in his dark brown eyes, Jay says it's all the candy he eats. I think he's right... "I see this is where you hide out during the day," I smirk upon reaching him and wait for Evie to let him catch his breath after squeezing all the air from his lungs.

"Ugh, thanks Evie," He goes to pat himself down but stops short when he notices the chocolate covered digits. Small pale lines and burned circles form unsolved patterns over his limbs. "I was just stocking up," He proceeds to lick off his fingers. The booth manager silently cringes and busies themselves with realigning the table on the opposite side. "What are you two doing here?" Carlos makes eye contact with me but then something in the crowd catches his attention and he looks over while finishing off the candy on his thumb.

Evie tries her best to stay disgusted with his behavior but can't help to laugh a little at his antics. "We're just checking out what the market booths have to offer. But if you're stocking up, you might want to rethink your budget plan, you already ate through what you bought just now."

Carlos looks away from the crowd and had the good grace to blush at her comment, "I'll have you know that I have more at home and this bag here." He emphasizes on the word 'bag' with the sound of rustling plastic and holding up a large bag that proudly boasts its nature to carry 'Five Pounds of Your Delight'.

I stare at the bag willing it to move, "So other than the candy baby you're lugging around, what else are you doing?" Evie laughs at that and picks up her items and starts to slowly make her way around different tables. We follow behind her once he pays the merchant for the chocolate.

"Nothin' really, I have a few projects and clients lined up but their pieces are easy to fix that I'm not pressed with time. I was going to check in with Jay and see if he was free." Carlos slinks in his steps, cautiously flicking his eyes back to the crowd. I lazily move my gaze to where he keeps looking back and notice a girl and guy a couple booths over. The guy is younger, possibly near 20 and has straight, shaggy black hair. His almond shaped eyes are just as inky black as his head and his dark outfit surprisingly doesn't sharply contrast with his paler skin. He's wearing blue-black jeans, a dark blue shirt and an even darker grey zip-up hooded sweatshirt. The girl next to him looks young but is older than the male. She has fleshy olive skin and light oval eyes. Her dark mahogany hair is braided back with five braids, two along her scalp on either side and one in the middle, keeping it out of her heart shaped face. She's wearing dark forest green fitted pants, a long sleeved black shirt under a fitted vest the color of ripe mulberries. Both attractive in their own right and both seem to have a fluid grace to their movements, and considering it's Carlos it could be a number of reasons why he's staring at these two out of everyone else. I look back at him and he drags his stare back at me. "Also, I was wondering why you're here with Evie... Ben just messaged me not too long ago saying he's been bored and a bit lonely without you."

The pit in my stomach locks back in place and I feel rather than see Evie stop in her tracks. Uh oh... "What?" I somehow manage not to cringe as I force myself to face Evie. "Mal... You said Ben was too busy with being a Good King or whatever and that you wanted to get out of the castle..." Her eyes try and reach mine, "This is it isn't it?.. How long have you been avoiding Ben? What's going on?" Her questions spoken and silent are stealing precious oxygen. Precious air... Recognizing the behavior I'm exhibiting she grabs me away from Carlos after saying 'later' and away from the crowds. "Mal... I need you to focus on our hands, slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth." She squeezes my hands and lets me get my breathing controlled before she gently lifts my chin to look into my watering eyes. "How long have you been having panic attacks Mal?"

I harden my eyes and stare straight back into hers, "They're not really panic attacks, and they're not that bad." I ungracefully get her hands off of me and sidestep her next advance of reaching out.

Evie straightens herself and her hands lightly tremble. "Don't you dare..."

I continue my gaze into hers, "And I'm not really avoiding Ben... It's just hard with his King shit, the attacks in the kingdom and everything else. Really, it's -".

"Mal!" Her shout cuts me off and bounces around our temporary private space. "Stop... Just stop it. Ben, Jay, Carlos and I are here for you. So stop the denial and just tell me." She tentatively smiles and steps closer to me.

I quickly take a step back out of her reach and can't decide if I'm regretting that I did or that I have to look into her pained eyes after. "There's nothing to tell Evie..." Something changes in her brown orbs to where the left side of my face then stings so sharply, it turns numb.

"I warned you! We will not go through this again! It's better if you just face it Mal! Please?" Her eyes changed from pained to fierce so quickly that I didn't see her move at all. I put my hand over where she slapped me and turn to dash away but it still wasn't fast enough to stop her from screaming after me, "Stop running away Mal!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~THE END ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So this is part one of Ch. 3 and I truly apologize it took so long to get this out.

Any who, the girl described is the OC, Miyako (Onikaze). I hope this didn't crapsize anything and it's all copacetic. It's sad that after all this time her self-esteem has gone way down and she somehow has given a pedestal to Ben while digging a hole for herself, furthering them in her mind. I was trying to capture her love for him and how her struggle with healing and changes has somehow blurred her love and image of Ben.

Also thanks to Maximus Blake for agreeing to read my stuff before updating it to make sure it doesn't blow. ^-^

Hugs and hearts - can't wait to meet up soon and get our tattoos :3