Next morning Prince Percy and Mr. Kim discuss about Percy's decision regarding Mischelle minutes before the report starts.
"How do you think people would react if I punished her with treason then?"
Mr Kim is suddenly quiet.
"Exactly. And I don't want to be remembered like that."
Annabeth comes in just then. She is wearing her regular cloths - an orange tee and a knee length jeans. "Hey Percy, Good morning Mr Kim"
"Good morning Annabeth or should I say Lady Annabeth now?"
Annabeth pales a little and looks at Percy, "I thought it wasn't going to come out till tonight"
"Oh it wasn't. At least not untill Jason found it very appropriate teasing me in front of the press", he says, gesturing to Mr. Kim.
"Don't worry Annabeth. No one but me knows. We are not realising the info yet" defends. "On a more important note, it would be very convenient if you could convince the Prince to not drop all charges"
"You're dropping all charges?
"Oh not you too Annabeth. She hasn't done anything wrong -" Annabeth raises an eyebrow "-what? Okay well, not YET at least. The Selection officially starts tomorrow so I can rule off treason. She only lied because her parents forced her to and well, we all agreed to keep virtues out of statement."
A fat tall figure approaches them then. His eyes are tiny and is at least twice as heavy as Mr Kim (who is pretty fat for a 40 year old) but he looks as young as Percy. Mr. Kim introduces him.
"This is Mr. Choi . Choi you already know Prince Percy. This is Lady Annabeth Chase. Choi will be my plus one for the interview. He is the new trainee I was telling you about" Percy glares at Mr. Kim.
Choi bows 90 for the Prince before saying "Lady Chase? I thought the Prince wasn't supposed to meet the Selected untill tomorrow...?"
Annabeth says "Yes, he shouldn't. I am just a friend"
A lady assistant calls over "Report in five minutes. Everyone in position. Please bring the offender out. Anyone who isn't in the script please go backstage. I repeat. Report in five min..."
"Alright Percy, just don't try to be a good guy all the time. I'm heading back okay? All the best." Says Annabeth. Percy nods and she quickly squeezes one of his shoulders before leaving.
By the time Annabeth comes to the main hall to watch the news, at least 50 maids have abandoned duties and sat down on the big hall even if they could have gathered up chairs if they wished to. Annabeth silently sits down with a line thinking her clothes are blending enough. Hazel notices her from a few rows back and waves.
Immediately the maid next to Annabeth recognises her. "Oh Annabeth... We didn't know you were going to be here. Should I bring over a seat?",her voice too sweet for it to be kind.
"Huh? What? No no... please, I'm not a royal. But can you please tell me what I missed?"
"They just finished telling the story and let the girl tell her side too. Prince should made his case now", she replies.
The Report's location has changed. While The Selection happened right in front of the royal palace in the royal garden, this report is conducted inside a auditorium where The Selected are supposed to have their reports every once in two weeks. The judge panel has occupied the seats of Selected this time.
Percy seems conflicted but his speech is flawless and harsh.
"Mischelle do you understand the consequences of your action?" Mischelle nods. "Were you aware of this at the time we picked our name out of the poll?" She nods again.
Percy sighs before continuing. "Then why did you fail to give notice to the officials by last Sunday?" She hangs her head down in shame and her lover Harry tightens his jaw.
His tone is suddenly too harsh. "You should understand that your actions not only fall under misinformation to the authorities and borderline treason but they have also disrupted the peaceful ongoing of Selection. This year we may have to break a tradition and go on with only 34 participants."
Annabeth isn't sure why she suddenly feels disappointed.
Does Percy really not want her to be a part of it? Did he really think it was such a big inconvenience even though it allowed her to be a part of it?
Mischelle looks like she wants to cry. Percy continues "Look, I'm not charging you for treason only because The Selection hasn't started yet. If the authorities found this a few days later, you could have had serious consequences. But you will get charges against misinformation which is a week of services. Since you have disrupted Selection too, I am willing to let you go with three weeks of services. Any arguments?"
Percy is letting them off the hook. These charges are nothing compared to treason.
The couple looks up to Percy, unable to believe his choice and her defendant says "All charges accepted".
"Mischelle, you understand this is disappointing right? Not only did you lie once but you also continued lying. You shouldn't have consented in the first place but you could have at least set things better if you had spoke up after we called out your name. I expect better bravery from my citizens."
Annabeth is proud Percy handled things well.
Percy feels drained by the time Mr. Kim goes over all his statements and explains the services. As soon as the lights are out all he wants to do is ask his dad if he really did the right thing.
However he is interrupted by Mischelle and Harry before he gets up. "I'm really sorry Prince. I should have taken more responsibility"
"I'm sorry too. I had to be harsh", he confesses.
They look really surprised. "I don't understand something"
"There were two misinformation charges" says Harry. Percy wonders why he even brings it up. He wonders if he thinks Percy would find it right to pull Mischelle out of Selection for it. What kind of image do they have of him?
Percy gets up."You really thought I was going to give press such an info?", he asks Harry who looks taken back.
"I know I said three weeks but you would actually be doing four for me, understood? I don't care what the papers say" He looks at their defendant as if trying to challenge him.
"Yes majesty, we understand."
Percy sees his parents approach him. "Okay. Dismissed"
Sally hugs Percy. "You did well Percy."
He looks at his dad. "I approve. You sounded exactly how a Prince should", Paul says and Percy tells himself that it was all worth it.
Paul says "You just have to be present tonight. I will take care of the announcement. Grandma agrees too and you know how she is about traditions. We should ask Annabeth to stay out of it for a while. Let us just give press some pictures okay?"
Percy nods. "Thank you dad"
"Percy... Are you really okay with Annabeth being a part of this?"
Sally says "Son we know you have a sweet side for her. The Selection can disturb your relationship."
"Yes I am. Besides, she is good inside info"
Is that all? His mind asks.
Paul rises an eyebrow and smirks a little "Oh I don't know how she can give info for herself Percy."
Percy tries to lessen his embarrassment. "Stop! Everybody thinks I'm in love with her now that she is Selected"
"Oh I'm sure many thought so before too"
"Okay okay. Just talk it out with her too alright?"
An hour after the surprise Report ends and Annabeth has been revealed as the 35th contestant, Percy, still in formal wear as he walks through his palace, anxious to find Annabeth.
Annabeth is probably sitting in her room, drained, after going through miles and miles of paperwork in the Architecture department. Their head of department, Annabeth's role model and a council member - Athena - was surveying a major bridge collapse halfway across the kingdom leaving Annabeth and her brother Malcom to take care of most work.
What will she say?
How did I not think if she would be comfortable or not?
Yeah Percy, you assumed she is because YOU are too comfortable with it.
Gosh I should have just barged in the Architecture department. Now I never asked her at all.
Percy knocks on Annabeth's door. He hears her shuffling things around before - "Malcom I swear I can't do another bunch. You can't just ask me to do everyth- oh Percy"
Percy comes in with a small smile. "Long day?" He says.
"Probably not as long as yours"
"Hmm... Not sure about that. Five council members aren't present so we can't have any meetings now. No meetings is basically my idea of a free day", he sits on Annabeth's table, glancing at all the papers.
Annabeth's room is one-fourth the size of Percy's but that is still big enough to squeeze a decent bed, a big bookshelf covering one whole wall, two working tables, few windows and a cushion. Her room is in the 3rd floor, same as the royal family but it was originally done so because of its closeness to the royal library.
Annabeth sits down on the bed. "Wait so... the decision about me... Wasn't it cleared with the council?"
"The rest of the council cleared it"
Percy doesn't know why the words aren't coming out of his mouth.
Just ask her.
They lock eyes. "Aroookayithit?"
"Huh? Yeah, I am"
"We are fine right? Everything alright?" Percy sure asks the question but he doesn't know what answer he expects. What answer he wants.
"Of course, why not?"
"I mean... I don't know... Would... No. Wait. How?"
"Because we are friends. Any more stupid questions?"
Percyyyy. Shut up.
"Besides... you would also have some inside info", she says. "About The Selection, you gave them pictures, right?"
Percy nods and digs into his front jeans pocket. He sits in her bed too and gives her the photos. "Sorry we didn't have enough time to take better ones"
The photo Percy gives her is about 8 months old, taken during Percy's coronation when he had just turned 22. Annabeth was wearing a baby blue gown complete with dark blue earrings, blue necklace and a thin plastic blue play princess crown.
Annabeth couldn't help but laugh at the photo. "You picked this one didn't you? It is too blue!"
Annabeth liked it though. How many people get to give a picture picked by the Prince himself for his own Selection?
He scratched his neck as he leaned down to look at the photo again. "They wanted you in a dress. If it were upto me, I would just ask you stand near a plain wall and take a picture right now"
"Why? So they would vote me out of competition right away?"
Would they? (Thinks Percy)
"Yeah. Sure. Then they would tell everything to you and you can help me find who all wants just the crown", Percy laughs.
Annabeth is serious though. "Even those who come for the crown would like you Percy. There is nothing to not like about you"
Wow did Annabeth Chase just tell that about me?
If Percy were narrating this tale now is when he would suddenly interrupt to tell Annabeth is sitting right next to him. Percy suddenly finds it hard to concentrate.
Annabeth is sitting RIGHT next to him.
Percy looks to the front. "I don't think they would dismiss you though. You are the biggest competition now"
Annabeth wants to say something intelligent like 'yes no one knows you any better than me' but it comes out as "uoh"
Percy looks at Annabeth and chuckles. If Percy wasn't so nervous, she would have seen that Annabeth was nervous too.
"Don't tell them things I won't tell them",he says.
"You are a blabber mouth, Percy"
He laughs again.
"By the way, my team won capture the flag.", she smiles.
"Your royal crown"
"Hey! You can't bet my crown when I am not there in the game!", he defends.
"Hmm... Tell that to Jason", she goes to her drawer and pulls out his crown. "I wonder how much value this thing really has though, considering the Prince's friends wear it more often than he does himself"
Percy rolls his eyes. "How did you get that?"
"You forget who your room guards are", she gives the crown to Percy.
"I have to wear this tomorrow. First time seeing the Selected and all."
"It is alright. I've been wearing it all day anyway. But you know the rules. Crown me"
Percy has done this hundreds of times before but he finds his cheeks burning. His crown on Annabeth always had an effect on him.
He doesn't know why.
Percy stands up from the bed and Annabeth kneels in font of him in a proposal position. She looks up and smiles.
"Oh you are loving this, aren't you?"
"I always do, Percy"
He says the last line of a Princess coronation and crowns her. She gets up, satisfied.
Annabeth looks like she always does. She is wearing the same orange tee and a shorts this time but she's smiling, they're laughing. And... she is wearing his royal crown.
Percy suddenly finds it hard to look away.
He doesn't think twice before kissing her on the forehead.
That's when he realises. They're okay.
Everything is okay.
Percy thinks that if they stick together through this and they are still friends after everything, then he must have done something really good in his life to deserve it.
"Goodnight Lady Annabeth"
Annabeth is still smiling. "Goodnight Prince Percy"