If one could describe the events of the previous year down to just one word, it would be something between 'exhausting' and 'annoying'. Between dodging the glares of his new step-brothers and trying to live up to his father's standards, Art Princeton felt as if the world he lived in was becoming closer and condensed with each passing day. Eventually, he would end up never leaving his room, then never leaving his bed, and then, Art felt as if he would fall into a deep sleep without ever waking up. He didn't get solace from anyone anymore, and it was more than depressing.
Ever since Art's father Steven had become the mayor of Trinity eight years ago, the Princeton household turned upside down. A year later, Steven remarried and Feodora Koates brought along her two sons that seemed to know nothing but the rich life, Art hated even being in his own home. At least he didn't have to share a room with them, as they were both very disorganized and it would have ruined his plan of living surrounded by the only things he really got any joy out of anymore. His overwhelming collection of books were placed in bookshelves that reached up to the ceiling. The shelves were a gift from his mother, a woman he missed very dearly, for Christmas the year before she died. Every day, they would sit together in the center of the beautiful green and orange Ottoman rug that covered Art's bedroom floor, sharing a plate of delicious chocolate chip cookies that she made herself, and reading all sorts of stories and lessons. Those were his happiest memories.
Art stopped himself from going out into the hall to look at himself in the mirror. He always favored green, especially since it was the color of his mother's eyes. He wore a dark green t-shirt. Art looked into his own blue eyes in his reflection, surrounded by his strawberry blonde bangs that framed his slightly rounded face, and tried to part his hair in a way that would have it look less messy. Eventually after becoming a bit frustrated with it, he pulled out an elastic green headband from a drawer and pulled his hair back so he could see more clearly.
"Aye," he muttered to himself. "I've never been able to keep this without it looking like a rat's nest."
His eyes spotted the calendar. August 2012. In Spring 2013, it would be time for Art to step up to his father's plate and carry on the Princeton legacy. He frowned a bit. His mother wouldn't have wanted the family to do such things. She was of the old way of thinking from before the world became united as one global unit, and she did not like how politics worked the way they did now. It wasn't long after voicing her opinion in public that she died. Of course, Art knew that it wasn't murder which ripped his family to shreds. He knew she was sickly since she was a child, and that her body had finally given out. Art coughed a few times so he could get those old thoughts out of his head. Once he thought he was presentable to the outside world, grabbed his messenger bag full of books that needed to be returned to the local library, and started out his bedroom door.
The Princeton house was very large. One could call it a mansion, as it had three glorious floors full of all sorts of rooms, each with their own restroom, as if it was originally supposed to be a famous hotel. There was nothing but finery in this place. Tall windows that towered over any human's height were covered by beautiful orange silk curtains from Asia. The furniture was as high quality as money could buy. Maids and butlers made sure everything was picture perfect just in case the press wanted to come and see how Trinity's mayor lived. This had to have been Feodora's doing. The place felt more like the pictures from a tabloid newspaper than a real home.
"Oh, Arty!" a high pitched female voice called out to Art as he made his way through the main hall and down to the front door. Art rolled his eyes and stood in place, as he was always taught to do, waiting for Feodora to catch up to him. "There you are. Your father wishes to speak to you, so while you're out, stop by his office." Her voice grated on his eardrums in a way that made him want to become deaf for the rest of his life, even if it was a rather pleasant sort of voice for an older woman to have.
Art nodded. "I will," he said quietly, not even looking at her.
"What are you doing dressed in such plain clothing?" Feodora asked, walking around him, trying to just look into his eyes for just a second. Art's eyes moved further along than she, until she just stood on his left side. "You don't carry yourself like a future politician."
"Is a politician supposed to carry himself a certain way?" Art asked. "If I am to see my father, I wish to go now as to not keep him waiting, Feodora." He was even more annoyed than he had been before. Art preferred wearing a shirt just big enough for him to move around freely in and a pair of denim jeans. He felt like a normal person that way. Wearing clothes bought from a designer brand would have meant that he was living this lifestyle that his father's wife had forced upon everyone else, and Art would have none of that.
"You won't ever call me 'Mother', will you?" Feodora asked as if she wanted to just bring tears out of nowhere. "Fine, go see your father."
Art stomped onward without so much as a goodbye in her general direction. He went out of the greatest, most golden door in this side of the Americana continent and was greeted a nice breeze outside. He took in a deep breath, slowly absorbing the free-flowing air around him. It was pleasant and calming. Today, he had a good feeling. Something was going to happen today, and it was going to be great. Not for his father or Feodora, not for anyone else but him. He smiled when he looked up at the passing clouds. The summer was going to fade soon, so he was going to have to make use of such a fine day. He was going to walk to town, pleasantly enjoying everything that the world had to offer him, as it was much more than his family had, especially lately.
It didn't take long for the heat to finally surface, though it barely managed to get over 75 degrees. Art didn't sweat from the heat, but from the fact that he was walking on the sidewalk that led in the direction of the climbing sun. He was glad to have put on his headband now, as his hair would have absorbed it otherwise, making a very gross slimy sensation on his forehead. The trees swayed with the wind as he passed, just like his fluffy hair. Art had been walking for about twenty minutes when he came to the intersection that led to the library he frequented every day it was open.
Cars slowly passed by as he walked on, leaving behind the smell of smoke and oil. Art didn't care, of course, as he was glad to come to one place that gave him some solace. He heard a honk or two, which made him turn his head a little to see what it was. Nothing important, just some driver that was irked that he left later than usual and he was in a hurry, if Art had to guess. He wasn't too keen on cars anyway. Cars had the effect on people, men especially, that seemed to give them an inflated ego. His step-brothers both had nice fancy cars, and Art had the opportunity to have one, but he really did like to walk.
That's when he noticed a bright yellow sign on the other side of the street. Art read the big, bold, black font that stood out against the yellow tarp it was printed on. 'Grand Opening of the Barnaby Bakery.' The name didn't ring a bell at all, so it must have been a brand new shop. He turned back to walk to the library and put all five books in his bag into the drop box near the door. There wasn't anything else he felt like checking out at that moment, so when he turned around, that sign once again caught his eye. All of a sudden, he felt like going and trying a chocolate chip cookie, even though he pretty much had his heart set that no bakery could ever make a cookie better than that of his mother.
He crossed the street using the crosswalk, and walked up to the front door of the shop almost in anticipation. Could this be that thing he felt was going to make his day better than almost any day that had come before it? Art didn't want to get his hopes up, and when he opened the front door to hear a little jingle, he was glad he didn't.
The place looked worn down. Paint on the walls cracked open from age. The tables were made of old wood that almost smelled like mildew, and the stools that sat around the tables looked like they would break underneath any human's weight. Feodora would have thrown a fit if she walked into a place like this. The place was well cleaned, however, and the two employees of the place that he found were both well groomed and smiling.
"Hiya," said the smaller of the clerks. She was shorter than her coworker and Art, having straight light brown hair that could have appeared red, but the light was too dim for it then. Her nametag read 'Terra'. She was holding a tray of individually wrapped cookies to put them in the display case. "Welcome to our little bakery."
"Thank you," Art said, stepping up to the register. He eyed all sorts of sweets that were in the case. "I saw your grand opening sign from across the street. Thought I'd come and see."
"I told you that it would work," Terra said to the taller, blonde clerk at the register. "Big happy signs always do the trick."
"Hmm," the blonde clerk said with a nod. Her nametag read 'Ally'. She seemed to have an odd disposition about working the register. "So, is there anything you're in the mood for?" she asked the handsome customer.
"Actually," Art said with a smile. "A chocolate chip cookie." His eyes widened just as the thought of having one, as it had been a while since he had indulged in any sweets at all. "They've been my favorite since I was a child."
Terra nodded, scanning her tray and, after putting the tray away, she bent down to check the rest of the display case. She came back within his eyesight with a sadder expression as she said, "I don't think we have any right now. I'll go ask our baker." She turned and went into the back.
"If I had to guess," Ally said, her voice sounding a tad distant, "our little chef is working on them now."
"I can wait," Art didnt want to be a bother to anyone. He sat down on one of the stools at the closest table and was amazed that it didn't break when he put all his weight on it. "Really. I have all day."
"It isn't proper to keep a customer waiting, though," Ally said. She stretched upward, part of her wondering why she even took this job, and then she had to remind herself that she did this for the good of her friend and not for her own sake.
Terra came back into the front area, holding a steaming tray of chocolate chip cookies between two potholders. "They are done now," she said happily. She put the tray on the counter and carefully put three of them on a plate, and Ally carried the plate out to Art along with a fork. "Suzuri said she's especially proud of them. Her daddy used to make cookies, and she uses his recipe."
"That is a coincidence," Art said, looking down at the plate of cookies he was given. "As my mother used to make cookies for me." He was happy. It had been years since he had cookies this fresh. "How much are they?"
"Three-fifty for the three," Ally answered.
Art finally used his fork to pick up a bite. He mulled it around in his mouth, instantly surprised. The outside was perfectly crumbly and melted on the tip of his tongue, while the chocolate inside the cookie was creamy and gave him a very thick, bittersweet tasting sensation. He felt as if he was in Heaven, as even his mother had never been able to make cookies this good.
"Goodness!" Art exclaimed. "You should charge more for these. I've... I've never had such perfect cookies in all my years. These are Heavenly. What angel could have made these?"
"Don't get your hopes up too high," Ally laughed at him. "She's not angelic by any stretch of the imagination."
Art shook his head. "Oh, but she must be. There's never been cookies like these. I wish to tell her myself how delicious her cookies are. Please."
"All right," Ally said. She turned to look in the back and said, "Hey. Customer out here is impressed with your gift and he wants to tell you himself."
Out of the back came a young woman who looked older than the other two, but she seemed a bit smallish for her age. She wasn't as short as Terra, but something about her seemed smaller. Her dark brown hair was curly, around the shape of her head and down to her shoulders, while her bangs were pulled up into a teal bow. She wore a light blue dress and apron, covered with flour and splotches of various different baking ingredients. She looked up at Art with a smile, her face just a little red with blush. Hearing that someone enjoyed her food so was enough to make her happy, but to be complimented by a handsome young man also made her day.
"My name is Suzuri," she said, bowing just a little. "I'm the baker."
Art stared into her eyes, which were the same rich color as her hair, unsure of what he felt at that moment. It was as if he knew her from some far off dream he couldn't remember. She seemed so familiar somehow. "Suzuri," he repeated her name. "A cute name you have. I'm Art, and I believe you have created the most perfect cookies in the grand history of cookies."
Suzuri blushed a bit more, not looking away from his eyes. She felt as if she could fall into them, as they were clearer than the sky and more honest than any she'd ever known. They almost seemed mystifyingly clear, as if they were inviting her to peer into his very soul. "You would do well to wear an orange cape," she giggled softly. "Magic knight."
Ally was shocked. "You really think so?"
Suzuri didn't hesitate when she said it again. "Magic knight for sure." She then said, "You don't have to pay for the cookies, because they weren't ready for you when you got here."
Terra looked at Ally, then looked back at Suzuri. "Aren't you baking a pie, Suzuri?" Terra asked, making Suzuri twitch and run back to where the ovens were.
"Terra, that was very strange," Ally said. "She hasn't named anyone a Magic Knight, ever. I was starting to think she'd never call someone that." She shook her head in disbelief.
"Why did she call me that?" Art asked, continuing to eat.
"Oh," Terra said, "Suzuri's obsessed with this video game called Dragon Fantasy. In it, the player can make characters to fit their party. She has this odd habit of telling people when she first meets them their class as if they were from the game. When she first met me, she said I was a brawler. I didn't even tell her that I teach karate or anything like that. She just knew I was a brawler after staring at me for just a few minutes." Terra laughed at herself for a moment.
"She said I was a 'treasure hunter'," Ally said, looking away. "I don't really play video games much, but I'm sure it has some meaning that I haven't really looked into at all. Still, to see that she called someone a Magic Knight... that kinda bothers me."
"Why would it?" Art asked, having finished the cookies and digging into his wallet.
Ally shrugged. "It's not important. Just a video game, after all. Suzuri just really adores the magic knight class. She says it's... oh how does she put it? 'The eloquent balance between a strong knight and an intellegent caster' if I remember right."
"Yep, that's her words," Terra said.
Art got up from the table, handed Terra the plate and fork, and slapped down a fifty dollar bill. "I'll pay you what I believe their worth. I don't want change. Pretty the place up, and I'll tell everyone I know about your shop." He smiled. "You deserve more than just a little hole like this."
Ally and Terra looked at each other, then blinked a few times in confusion. They were a bit shocked by this. They watched him leave as if he was the happiest man alive. When he was gone, they both let out a huge sigh.
Ally said, "I saw sparks fly between them, the moment their eyes met!" She seemed both happy and worried about this information. "And then... Suzuri called him a Magic Knight."
"This can only mean one thing," Terra said. "Your prediction came true. You're a better fortune teller than I gave you credit for, Ally. You read dreams like a pro."
"He did look familiar though," Ally thought aloud. "Like I've seen him somewhere... somewhere important. Why can't I remember?"
"I don't think that matters," Terra replied. "What matters is how Suzuri deals it. This Art guy, he seems really nice. And he's cute, too. If you saw sparks fly, then I have to say that this is destiny. They're gonna fall in love, Ally." She seemed excited about the whole idea.
"You think Suzuri can handle that?" Ally asked. "That's..."
Suzuri came out holding a freshly made pie. "Is... is he gone all ready?" she asked quietly. "I would have loved to tell him why I see him as a cape wearing Magic Knight. He's... perfect..."
"Oh no," Ally said. "...why did I even examine your dream log anyway?"
"You said you were concerned about me," Suzuri answered, putting the pie in the display case. "That you wanted to know something that I wouldn't tell you. I handed you my dream log and told you to do your thing. You said the magic knight in my dream would be coming, Ally, and you were right! All he was missing was the orange cape and the sign of the phoenix over his heart."
Terra shrugged. "Let's just get through the day, okay?"
Suzuri sighed, unable to take him out of her mind. "I hope he comes back sometime..." She went to the kitchen again, all aflutter. Her gut feeling was right. Something great was going to happen today, and it did.