Chapter 2

Tales of Hens

As the days past, most of the wedding plans were being finalised. In the lounge, Asbel and Cheria sat on the couch looking through some papers, seeking inspiration for their attire.

"I can't decide if I should wear a veil or a headdress What do you think Asbel?"

"I'm not too sure about a headdress. Like, that woman with the headdress made of fruit?"

"I don't that one's really appropriate for a wedding."

"That's a good point. We'd have to be careful it didn't go bad before the ceremony."

"I'm pretty sure the fruit was plastic."

"That's too bad. If its fresh, you can have a snack while you're waiting to come into the church!"

"I'm not going for the fruit one! Look." she said as she passed Asbel the catalogue "these ones made from flowers are the ones I'm talking about."

"Hey, that's nice!"

"It is pretty, isn't it. So, if I get one of these, what flower do you think I should get?"

"That's kind of a hard one. I want to say Sopherias but you'll probably want a colour of flower that compliments your hair colour."

"I could have some purple Sopherias as an accent colour. But I'm definitely having Sopherias in the bouquet. They're both our favourite flower after all."

Asbel knew this to be true. His knowledge of flora had increased, upon reading his late father's old gardening books. And while he wasn't fluent in the language of flowers (what each species of flower symbolized), that lilac coloured flower was Sophie's namesake and to them, symbolic

of coming together as a family.

Presently, a maid came in with a message.

"Miss Cheria, a visitor is here to see you."

"Is it someone we know?"

"Well.." said the maid who was slightly new and unfamiliar with the names of their immediate circle of friends but was good at recognising faces, "It's that funny woman with the red and white hair, who doesn't act her age and gets excited when talking about bananas."

"Ah! Pascal! Great!" said Cheria standing up.

"So are you off to the bachelorette party, now?" Asbel asked her.

"That's right. We're spending the day the beach. Will you be okay on your own, until Hubert arrives?"

"It's fine. Once Hubert gets here we're taking a boat to Barona. I'm having my suit fitted there and then we're having the bachelor party in Bar Tactics."

"I'll order some extra eggs." said Cheria withholding a giggle "You'll want to make a few Prairie Oysters if Malik convinces you to drink too much."

Asbel made a grimacing face as the memories of his twenty first birthday resurfaced, along with the strange textural sensation of the raw egg. This famous hangover cure was taught to Cheria by her grandfather (for it was a trade regulation for all butlers to know the recipe).

[-]

A group of young ladies arrived at the beach for Cheria's bachelorette party, also referred to as a "Hen party" in some parts of the world.

Cheria emerged from the changing room looking fetching in her turquoise one-piece swimsuit with a lacy black trim. She proceeded to set up her parasol and beach towel, then removed some sun oil from her bag. It was particularly hot that day, so it was important to make sure that her skin was adequately protected. Cheria had just finished applying the oil to her arms and legs and was about to put some on her face when Sophie came out of the changing room in her black one-piece.

"Cheria! Let's play!"

"Hold on a minute, Sophie. Let me put some sunscreen on you first. I don't want you to get burned."

As she was rubbing the lotion onto Sophie's back, the funny woman with the red and white hair who didn't act her age and got excited when talking about bananas came running up. She was followed by her older sister Fourier and their family friend Poisson.

"Ooh! Here let me!"

"Hehe! Stop, Pascal! That tickles!"

"Okay! Sun oil's on! Lets go play!"

"You can be such a child." Fourier sighed. The polar opposite of Pascal, she looked elegant in her lacy blue bikini, which was attracting gazes from many male sunbathers. Pascal's outfit on the other hand was a full on wet-suit with the arms and legs rolled up. There wasn't anything inherently wrong with it, but the blue and white stripes made it look like it was from a 50 year old travel poster.

Pascal was able to convince Cheria to go for a paddle and together with Sophie they floated out in the water.

"So, I bet you're really excited, huh, bride-y?"

"Bride-y?" Cheria piped.

"Yeah! You and Asbel have been all Mwa-mwa hanky panky for like what three years now?"

"Pascal! Ladies don't talk about "Hanky-panky" in public!" Cheria yelled as her face went red.

"Oh come on, you're an adult and you've been living together for years! Don't get shy now!"

"We're through talking about this. Kyaa!"

Pascal's cackling upon splashing Cheria with water was very much a deceleration of war. Cheria began round two with a wide sweeping arc, spraying Pascal all over, who in turn returned fire by flapping her arms in front of her, as if trying to swat a fly. But their smiles and laughter came to fall when Sophie decided to join in. Copying the wide swing that Cheria had used earlier would have been perfectly fine if not for the fact that Sophie happened to have super strength.

Cheria and Pascal give a terrified scream as a huge and powerful wave slammed into them, sending them speeding towards the shore like a pair of torpedoes.

The water died down, leaving the two women face down in the sand, like two castaways.

"Perfect timing." said Poisson, who happened to be in the area that they washed up at "I've just finished setting up a net to play volley ball."

"Dibs on pairing up with Sophie!" Pascal called.

"If its okay with everyone, I think I'll just lie down for a minute." said Cheria "That wave took a lot out of me."

"Aw okay. Hey Fourier!" Pascal called over to her sunbathing sister "Come and play with us!"

"Absolutely not." she called back

"Boo...we can't play with just three people..."

"Then I'll fill up the numbers." said the sixth member of the party- a tall, lean woman with sandy blonde hair tied in a ponytail and a stunning purple bikini. Major Victoria of the Barona academy took hold of the ball in her well toned arms.

"Oh, that's right." said Poisson, "I forgot that you were here too."

"How can you just forget that I was here too?!" Victoria demanded.

"Because you're not really our friend," said Sophie "just Captain Malik's guest for the wedding." she said it so nonchalantly that anyone would think she was just giving directions to a stranger.

"Sophie, that's rude." Cheria whispered, while Victoria's face contorted, as if she was resisting showing whatever emotion she was feeling. While it was true that Victoria wasn't exactly part of Cheria's inner circle of friends, Victoria had travelled to Lhant with Malik, who was to attend the bachelor party with Asbel, once the women returned. Cheria had invited Victoria along to the bachelorette party because she didn't want her to feel left out, or be made uncomfortable at being the only woman at the bachelor party-a room full of man who were most likely getting drunk.

"Do you have any objections to me playing?" she asked standing next to Poisson on the side opposite Sophie and Pascal.

"No, not really." said Sophie

"Then have at you!"Victoria yelled, her voice going especially high pitched when she was excited.

Cheria went to her deckchair, since the immediate area was about to turn into a war zone.

As the sun was setting the girls all gathered around the bar and a bunch of cocktails were served (as well as the odd mock-tail).

"Come on. Speech." said Victoria.

"Speech?" Cheria asked with wide eyes.

"Yes. Your maid of honour should have prepared one."

This was certainly embarrassing. Cheria had been more focused on planning the reception and the ceremony itself and had yet to decide on who to appoint as her maid of honour.

"I..haven't picked on."

"In that case..."£ Victoria sighed, not even trying to hide the condescension in her voice "We'll have to improvise. You, the snooty Amarcian..."

"I have a name, you know." said Fourier "or is three syllables too much for your brain to process?"

"Shut up! You start the toast by telling us some of the bride's accomplishments."

"It's been a long time since someone's actually said no to you, hasn't it? Fine. Well let's see...there's her relief organisation. They've helped to save hundreds of lives from what I understand. She also stopped my research h from being used to..."

"That's fine. Now you, insane Amarcian..."

"I'm not insane!" Pascal cried, "My parents had me tested!"

"Whatever, Tell us a fun memory about the bride." Victoria continued, all the while the others were sure that they heard Fourier mumble something about a specialist in Yu Liberte.

Pascal pondered for a moment.

"Well, we have a lot of fun memories from when we got swallowed by the Rokgagon!"

"Oh no...!" Cheria moaned.

"Yes!" said Victoria "The more humiliating the better!"

"Oh, we had a lot of fun inside the Rokgagon! Like that part of the wall that looked like a human face! I said it looked like it was trying to say something, like somebody's name. Then right out of the blue,e Sophie tapped Cheria on the shoulder and Cheria screamed the cutest scream you could hear! She even hit the same note as the flute I was carrying at the time. C-minor, if I remember correctly."

Amidst the sniggering of the guests and Cheria's face buried deep into her hands, Victoria was satisfied that the bride had been sufficiently embarrassed and turned to Sophie.

"Now you , with the pigtails. Tell us something good about the groom."

"Asbel has a kind smile."

"Give us more than that."

"Um...he's also brave, loyal, merciful, generous..."

"Okay, that was boring. Now lets raise a toast- to Cheria and Asbel. May you have a long and happy life together. Cheers."

"Cheers!"

After a few more rounds of drinks the sun began to set, they decided to call it a night. Mostly because Victoria seemed intoxicated. This was apparent when she put an arm around Cheria and said-

"Say, Asbel was quite the heartthrob when he was a student. How big is his...?"

"Alright! I think its time I went to bed! Don't want to miss the boat back to Lhant tomorrow!"

The next morning, the gentle splashing of waves and the chattering of seagulls heralded a peaceful morning on the seaside paradise. The clear blue sky perfectly encapsulated the perfect summer morning. But that was until a high pitched scream echoed from one of the rooms in the hotel.

"Cheria, what's wrong?" said Sophie, "Burglars?"

"No..." Cheria sobbed in front of the mirror "Worse..."

She turned to face Sophie and her face was all red and blotchy. She looked as though an unpleasant rash was covering her face.

"Sunburn? You should have put sunscreen on."

[-]

When they returned to Lhant, Cheria locked herself in her room. Fourier, being knowledgable in the field of biology promised to get some treatment for Cheria's burnt face (once she and the others had finished laughing of course).

Asbel knocked on the door.

"Cheria, Hubert's arrived so we're heading out. Are you okay?"

"Y-yes! I'm fine!"

"Can I come in?"

"Nooo!"

"What? Are you sure that everything's okay?"

"y-yeah! Everything's just peachy1 Have fun! Love you!" and the girl made kissing noises from behind the door.

The bewildered Asbel met Sophie in the corridor on his way out.

"Sophie, is Cheria okay? Did something bad happen to her at the party last night?" his immediate thoughts were that the hyper aggressive Victoria or the condescending Fourier had said something to upset her. Sophie smiled sweetly.

"I thin she finally made up her mind to wear a veil."