CHAPTER 49 - Of Allies and Enemies

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Author's note: A little heads up - this chapter is divided into two POVS. First is Eleni's and the second half is *drumroll* RALPH'S POV. You will see by the end of this chapter why I preferred to put these two POVS in one single chapter. It's a whole short story within itself. Enjoy the fireworks.✨

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Walking back to the great hall of the palace from the study, I heard raised voices. Doran's already panicked eyes met mine and we jogged off quickly towards the stairs.

"Shut up!" Ralph's roar was audible down from the hall. My breathing faltered.

"No, no, no, no! I was afraid of this," Doran muttered in a whisper-scream as he took in the scene. He ran down, his brown hair bouncing a little and urgency rippling on his face.

"You had one job. One job!" Una's voice rang in the room and my heart thundered. I watched aghast from the top-most stair, frozen.

"Last I checked, I don't take orders from you," Ralph spoke, his hands tightly clasped behind. His back faced me, and still I knew that a different kind of storm brew within him.

"What is wrong with you two?" Doran joined the chaos.

Una gritted her teeth and pointed a finger at Ralph, "This fire-boy is chickening out."

"Hey!" Ralph took a step ahead, and Doran put a hand on his chest, stopping him. "And what are you doing, rocky?"

"I am at least, not sitting and getting dead-drunk till my eyes pop out of my head." Una snarled, chewing her words.

"What?" I gasped, jolting out of the initial shock, and hurriedly climbed down the remaining steps, two at a time. My eyes roved over the table, with half-a-dozen empty bottles of some liquid, laying atop. Dead-drunk?

Lord Orlon was sitting at the far end of the table, sipping through his tea ever-so calmly as if this was a normal routine. How many such fights had he witnessed to be so unhinged?

"Ralph?" I walked over to him, and the unmistakable stench of liquor hit my nose.

"Eleni, um, let me talk to them both." Doran whispered and pulled me away from Ralph. Away from the reek. My mind numbed down.

"We have to convene at the High Panel's convention and look at him." Una said, crossing her arms. Doran turned to her, and gestured with his eyes to shut up. Una berated yet, "He was supposed to go talk to Orella, before we got the Enigma. I would have gone myself, but I am not friends with her like you are. One job! And look at him. Drunkard." She stressed on the last word, as if spitting a swear word.

"I don't take orders from you. From anyone. Shut up." Ralph snapped, taking a deadly step towards Una, and she stepped ahead, raising her chin.

"Ralph... what's going on with you?" I whispered, my heart thundering as I saw the white of his eyes, turned blurry red just like his irises. This was so unlike him. Una, yes. Him, no.

Ralph pointedly ignored me, his eyes still affixed on Una, "You... you talk too much. That too standing in a Summer Palace. Be grateful and mind your tongue, earthling."

Una cocked her head, smiling, "Your sister is an earthling, too." Her smile made her words stung harder.

"Shut the Hell up!" Ralph growled.

Doran stepped back to me, and whispered urgently, "He is just not himself, Eleni."

"D-Does he d-drink like this a lot? Will he be okay?" I asked, afraid of the answer.

"He had given up a long back but I don't know. Don't worry, though." He squeezed my shoulder and retreated.

"Ralph, please tell me you didn't finish all the drinks in the palace. You owe me now, alright?" Doran laughed, nervously and pulled him back from Una.

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