PREVIOUSLY: We took a break for Veteran’s Day. Oh, but before that, Paige settled her match with Viktor, as did the royals. Let’s see what happens next!
[Prince Shun strode over to the door, and placed a hand gingerly on the doorknob. It gave way with the slightest push. Stepping inside, he quickly scanned the room for any more “surprises” — he wouldn’t put it past the hosts at this point. The room was lavishly decorated, and certainly fit for a princess, only… where was she?]
Prince Shun: …Your Highness?
[There was no answer. He took another step into the room. Feeling a set of eyes upon him, he turned around to see a baby deer, wearing a golden crown. It sat so still that he had mistaken it for an elaborate toy at first.]
Prince Shun: Odd.
[But then again, so was the majority of everything they’d had to face in this “game show” so far. He approached the deer carefully. For all his royal training, he’d never really had to deal with animals before.]
[He reached out for the deer, only to retract his hand again hesitantly. How was one supposed to hold one of these creatures? He could only vaguely recall seeing Ah Niu at the markets with a pig trussed up and slung over his shoulders.]
Prince Shun: Well then.
[He reached for the deer once again, trying to get a good grip to swing it onto his shoulders. It didn’t seem too keen on this idea, and he received a swift kick in the chest for that maneuver. Well. That was going to leave a mark.]
Prince Shun: …Would you rather… follow?
[He extended a hand as he asked, feeling rather silly. To his surprise, though, the deer got up, as though it understood his words. He took a step towards the door, and it followed.]
Prince Shun: Let us be on our way, then. I tire of this tower, and I am sure you feel the same.
[Paige hurries her way down a hallway that seems unending. Torches that adorned the walls, lit her way. Red carpet lines the floor beneath her. It reminds her of when she played the old Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time game and ascended the stairs to reach the final boss.]
Paige: Great, that’s all I need is to run into Ganondorf at–
[She stops when she reaches another door at the end of the corridor. However, the man casually leaning against the wall beside it causes her temper to flare up to a dangerous temperature. Tightening her grip on her weapon, she tries to speak as evenly as she can.]
Paige: Where is he?
[Wind had heard her footsteps when she was still at the far end of the hallway. He could smell her from before that. The scent of her blood carried to him as clearly as the notes of a song. Looking at her, he didn’t think that it had come from her fight with Viktor or Bo-Peep – whoever she had chosen. It might have been the thorns, but the exact cause wasn’t really important to him.]
Wind: Under the carpet. Where do you think he is?
[She narrows her gaze. She has no interest in his smart remark.
He pushes off from the wall and turns to face her. He raises a tiny silver key in his right hand.]
Wind: You want this?
[Paige throws a glance the key’s way before returning her glare towards his person.]
Paige: Among other things. Are you going to hand it over, or do I have to take it from you?
Wind: Tch. Like you could even stand a chance. You can have it if you ask nicely for it.
[Paige shakes her head in disgust. She isn’t about to belittle herself in front of this man. The way he spoke, the way he acted, it all reminds her of a certain someone. She smirks and lowers her weapon.]
Paige: You know, you and Blake have a lot in common.
[She begins to approach him at a slow, deliberate pace. Wind watches her, his fingers flexing. His claws are ready to lash out at the first sign of aggression.]
Paige: You’re both rude, cocky, and you say and do stupid things without thinking about how they’ll affect others around you.
Wind: Hmph. It’s annoying to hear you talk like you know me. As if I care what lesser creatures like you think. Don’t compare me to your kind.
Paige: Right, lesser creatures like us. So I guess you wouldn’t care about the opinion of any of your group’s members…
[She steps up only a foot away from him and stops.]
Paige: Funny story, Blake didn’t want to come along to this shindig either. He whined and complained and told me it was a stupid waste of time, but in the end, he was the first one there to meet me for our trip.
[She taps her finger against her chin, feigning being deep in thought.]
Paige: Does that sound at all familiar to you? You’re obviously a strong guy, so are you going to claim you’re being forced to play along with this game against your will? No, I think the far more logical to think your presence here stems from– oh I don’t know– an interest in a certain pretty young girl?
[His momentary flinch shows that she hit the nail on the head. He snarls once before letting out a sigh.]
Wind: You talk too much. If it’ll make you shut up, just take it.
[He throws the key at her, not caring whether she caught it.]
Wind: And you’re reading too much into things. You’re out of your mind if you think I’m into Phoenix trash.
[Despite his words, his tone doesn’t have the same edge as before. He begins to walk forward, intending to pass her.
Paige tenses and briefly considers throwing her plans out the window to get one good shot in on him. However, she manages to refrain, and let’s him go by without incident. Her friend is more important right now.]
Paige: A wise decision.
[She can’t help but let one more biting remark spill out of her mouth before leaving, however. She forgets about him and uses the key to open the door blocking her way.]
[Her eyes scan the room and find him lying on the bed. While she’s relieved to see him in one piece, there are a few things that strike her as odd. One is that he looks like he’s out cold and the other is that he is no longer wearing a shirt.]
Paige: Seriously? They can’t possibly want me to…
[She approaches him cautiously. The first thing she does is poke him, trying to wake him up the old fashioned way. He doesn’t respond. She tries again, shaking his shoulders.]
Paige: Blake, come on, get up!
[He still refuses to open his eyes. She rakes a hand through her hair, knowing what had to be done based on the hundreds of fairy tail variations she’d read.]
Paige: I don’t believe this is happening.
[She takes a step back to gather up her courage.]
Paige: It’s not like I don’t want to, ok? I mean, look at you. Who wouldn’t want to…
[She blushes and hides her face in her hands. What in ‘s name was she doing? Why is she getting so flustered? It’s Blake, for heaven’s sake. However, when she glances up at him again, she bites her lower lip.]
Paige: Why do you have to look so cute when you’re sleeping?
[She sighs, closing her eyes as she steadies her nerves. She nods confirming that she’s ready. This has to be done, for his sake.]
Paige: Ok, here I go.
[She gently cradles his cheek in her hand as she leans in until her lips are only a few inches apart from his.
Blake groans and Paige freezes, her eyes widening in horror. Blake’s eyelids flutter open a moment later. His gaze focuses on the invading presence a hair’s width from his face, and he springs up in alarm.]
Blake: What the–
[Their foreheads collide, and Paige falls backwards to the ground. The both of them grab their wounded craniums and groan in pain.]
Blake: What kind of idiot leans over someone when they’re–
[Out of the corner of his eye, he sees whose head he smacked into, and he’s shocked.]
Blake: Paige? You actually…
Paige: I’m going to murder you.
[She jumps back to her feet and swings her scythe towards him. He falls flat on his back in alarm, his eyes widening as the blade rests under his chin.]
Blake: Y-You crazy woman, what the heck are you doing?!
Paige: I raced through this whole stupid castle, got stuck with a hundred thorns, risked my neck battling some samurai guy, faced off against a lunatic that could probably skewer me before I blinked, and you are in here TAKING A BLOODY NAP?!
Blake: You’re gonna kill guy for resting his eyes?!
Paige: I was worried sick about you, ok?! I wasn’t sure what he did to you. We’re in some strange alternate dimension that I dragged you into, and if something ended up happening to you–
[She’s unable to finish, feeling guilty for bringing any of them into such an unknown situation. Blake’s fearful expression turns to one of astonishment, and then his cheeks begin to flush.]
Blake: I’m fine, ok? Or I will be once you get that cleaver away from my throat.
[Her eyes fall, and she catches sight of the small wound on his chest, right where his heart is located. She pulls her weapon away, coming out of her blind rage as she brushes her thumb gently across the scar.]
Paige: What happened? Did he hurt you?
[He didn’t know what was more embarrassing, listening to Paige fret over him or the way she’s casually touching his bare chest.]
Blake: It’s just a scratch. Don’t go lop someone’s head off over it.
[He lightly pushes her hand away as he sits up.]
Blake: He tossed me in here and locked me inside. I considered jumping out the window, but I figured he’d get sick of waiting eventually and let me go.
[Blake shrugs like it’s no big deal, but Paige is horrified.]
Paige: Why would you even joke about that? Didn’t you think I would come find you?
Blake: Can you blame me? I know what a pain I am. I’m the most infuriating, frustrating, rudest man you’ve ever met, and you’re only my partner because you got stuck with me.
[He repeats her previous words almost verbatim, which isn’t difficult considering the dozens of times they’ve repeated in his head since she said them. She frowns and then she catches him off guard with a surprise embrace.]
Blake: Annnd now she’s hugging me.
Paige: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said.
[He blinks in confusion. She continues.]
Paige: I’ve been having a hard time coming to grips with my own weaknesses. I lashed out at you and I clearly hurt you. I’m so sorry.
Blake: You– I was– nrgh! You stupid girl!
[He couldn’t even form a proper response. He couldn’t comprehend her apologizing to him after he insulted her time and again. She really is…]
Blake: You’re a great defenseman, alright? Way better than me. So what if you can’t outrace that string bean or overpower some valkyrie?
[He speaks his next words in a hushed but clearly audible tone.]
Blake: You’re still irreplaceable to me.
[She releases him, so she can lean back and match his gaze. When she sees he’s genuine, she feels her heart leap in her chest and she smiles. Blake averts his eyes.]
Blake: I mean– as a partner– a defensive partner– y-you know.
Paige: Yeah, I feel the same way about you, Blake.
[He hides his expression behind his closed fist, not wanting her to see how she affected him. How is this girl able to fluster him so easily? He gets up from the bed as if putting some distance between them will reduce his feelings.]
Blake: We should be able to get out of here now that you completed this dumb challenge.
Paige: Right, but uh, we should really find you a shirt.
[He looks down at himself in surprise like he’s completely forgotten.]
Paige: I mean, I certainly am not complaining. I really need to get your core strengthening workout.
Blake: Will you knock it off! I just took it off because it was torn.
Paige: Yeah, whatever you say, studmuffin.
[Blake hides his red face as he quickly grabs his old shirt and throws it back over his head.]
Blake: , this competition can’t end soon enough.
[He glances back at her from the door with a ‘are you coming or what’ expression. She moves to follow him out.]
Blake: Paige, one more thing.
[She stops next to him in the doorway. He leans in and gives her a blink and you’ll miss it kiss on the cheek.]
Blake: Thank you.
[He quickly exits, leaving Paige slack jawed at the passing affection. She chases after him with a playful smirk.]
Paige: Wait, Blake. Don’t go on too far ahead! I need to protect you from more potential abductors!
[He misses a step and clicks his tongue in disgust.]
Blake: Shut up, woman.
We’re almost done! It’s been a wild ride, but we’re almost to the finish line. Who will come out victorious?
There won’t be anything next week because when it’s Thanksgiving, it’s absolute madness here. But after that? You better be ready. The grand finale’s coming.