True Love Never Fails: 3. One Winner

“I am glad that there are only three left, it would have been rather hard to do this and take care of the situation in Julhem. Come back here after lunch, we’ll make this final challenge quick as I have other matters to attend to.” With that, the king rose and walked out of the room, followed by the Queen and Princess Philomena, who took a quick glance at Dominic before passing through the door. The three suitors, Aloysius, Stanislas, and Dominic, waited a few minutes before following the royal family out the door into the hall. Since he had quite a bit of time on his hands after breakfast, Dominic decided to go to the library and finish reading some of the books he was looking at during the first challenge. He found the book he was reading before he was called to dinner that first day, but found he was unable to read it. There was something else on his mind that was bugging him. After a few minutes of trying to read the book, he picked it up and left the library with determination spread across his face. He soon found himself facing a familiar face.
“Hi Dominic, looking for someone?” asked the teen in front of him.
“Well, I found you. I was looking for John and Gabriel, but they apparently already left. I want to know something, Camillo, did you leave the competition?” asked Dominic.
“More or less, I asked to eliminated, if that’s what you’re talking about,” replied Camillo.
“Why?”
Camillo laughed, “Well, for one thing, you and Princess Philomena are meant to be together. All of us could see that. Secondly, I met another girl while I was about my mission in Sisermo. I’m thinking of finding work out there so that I can be near her and possibly start courting her.”
“You met someone else? Who?” inquired Dominic.
“Eulalia, the daughter of Paul, the governor of Sisermo,” replied Camillo, a slight blush coming into his cheeks.
Dominic chuckled, “ Well, that explains your elation at being eliminated. Is the same thing true for John, Gabriel, Pedro, Vitus, and Tarcissius?”
“Yes, it is. John met a peasant girl named Joan who wants to fight as a soldier. Gabriel met another peasant girl named Maria who apparently can’t wait to become a mom. I don’t know the names of Pedro’s, Tarcissius’, and Vitus’ new girlfriends, you might want to ask them, I don’t think they’ve left yet. But I do have to get going, so I’ll see you around!” Camillo patted Dominic on the back before picking up the last of his luggage and left down the hall.
“Yeah, see you!” Dominic waved to his friend before heading towards the other rooms. He nearly ran into two other teens as he rounded a corner. “Vitus! Pedro! Looks like I caught you just in time!”
“What for?” asked Pedro.
“To say goodbye, we’re leaving for good, you know,” grinned Vitus.
“Yeah, so, um, what do we say when we see him in a couple of weeks for school?” asked Pedro, glancing at Vitus.
“Who’s this stranger?” was Vitus’ reply. There was a bit of a pause before the three started laughing.
“Actually, I just saw Camillo, and he told me you guys met some cute girls during your missions and asked to be eliminated. By the way, where’s Tarcissius?”
“He’s already left. You heard right, we did meet some cute girls, right, Pedro?” grinned Vitus, winking at Pedro.
“Yeah, um, yeah, cute,” stammered Pedro, his face starting to get redder.
Vitus shook his head, chuckling, “Guess that means I’ll do the talking. Seraphina caught my attention with her graceful dance in Athelea. The music moved her like the wind moves the grass on a pleasant spring afternoon.” He smiled fondly at the memory. “Pedro, according to him, met the loveliest little lily you ever did see. And a tiger lily at that, whose name is Kateri.” He winked again at his blushing friend. “Now, for Tarcissius, he met the governor’s daughter, Imelda. My group had to travel through Itame on the way back, so I got to meet her. She is lovely indeed. She has blonde, curly hair and her eyes are as blue as forget-me-nots. So, yeah, those are the cute girls we met,” grinned Vitus. Vitus tilted his head to look behind Dominic and laughed, “Well, Gabriel, you seem to be popping up everywhere.” Dominic looked behind him, there stood the servant who had sent them on their missions five days ago.
“Well, I am the head messenger,” grinned Gabriel. “Vitus, Pedro, time to go, you’re the last two.” He grabbed some of their luggage before heading off in the direction he came.
“Well, guess that’s our cue. Till school,” said Vitus, shaking Dominic’s hand.
“Till school,” replied Dominic. He turned to Pedro and shook his hand, “I’ll see you soon, Pedro.”
“See you soon, Dom,” smiled Pedro. “And good luck on the final challenge!” he shouted, as he and Vitus took off to keep up with Gabriel..
“Thanks!” shouted Dominic. His smile vanished when they were out of sight, right, the final challenge. I guess I shouldn’t worry about it too much, I did pass the first two challenges. Well, winning the second challenge was due to those guys wanting to be out of it. He sighed, then walked back to the library. Maybe I can finish this book now that I’ve got that cleared up. He tried to read the book again, but he still couldn’t finish. He sat back and sighed, “Guess I should admit it, I am worried about the final challenge. What am I to do if I lose?” He put his head in his hands, and thought about it for a few minutes. He slowly moved back into a sitting position. “I should worry about it later, I want to finish this book.” He wasn’t sure how he was able to do it, but he did, he managed to finish the book. He picked up that book, and was going to start on another one, when his stomach started growling, reminding him that it should be time for lunch. That’s interesting, Gabriel hasn’t come to tell me that lunch is ready. Unless he’s still looking for Stanislas and Aloysius. Oh well, I’ll just head over to the dining room, I’m getting really hungry. He left the library, but not before leaving a message with the librarian for Gabriel. He made his way towards the dining room, and found it almost empty. Oh, I must have come at the very end of the lunch hour. His stomach grumbled again. I hope I can get something to eat. A servant was able to get him something before the kitchen closed. He sat down to his meal in silence. He finished quickly as he still needed to see the King for the last challenge. He reached the throne room just as Aloysius and Stanislas were coming out. “Am I too late?” Dominic asked, a hint of worry creeping into his voice. The other two shook their heads.
“Actually, he wanted to do each of us separately,” replied Aloysius.
“And we just finished, so you’re good to go,” smiled Stanislas.
Dominic heaved a sigh of relief, “That’s good, I’m glad that I didn’t miss anything. Well, I’d better not keep the King waiting. See you around!” Dominic ducked into the throne room. He walked to where the King sat, and genuflected before him. “I am ready for the final challenge, your Majesty.”
“Very well. Rise, Dominic, I want you to look me in the eye and answer my questions truthfully.”
Dominic rose, “I will answer to the best of my ability.”
“Good, then we shall begin. What would you do if my daughter was ill?” asked the King
“That depends on how serious her illness was. If it was life-threatening, I would drop everything and rush to her side. But if it wasn’t life-threatening, I would wait until I was done with whatever I was doing and visit her later,” came Dominic’s response.
“Now, if my daughter did die, what would you do? Would you go after another girl, or would you refrain from such actions?”
“If the princess were to die, which I hope won’t happen for quite some time, I wouldn’t go out with another girl as I don’t think I could ever love another like I love your daughter,” replied Dominic, his teeth clenching in anticipation of the King’s reaction.
He was as still as a stone, only his mouth moved, “Then, if she wasn’t born a princess but as a poor farm girl, would you have still loved her?”
“Yes,” Dominic answered without hesitation.
“What would you do if I disown her?”
“I would find a job and earn enough money before marrying her so that I can support her and our family.”
“If you were ever caught in a situation in which only you or she could live, would you try to save her, or try to save yourself?”
“I would try to save her,” Dominic quickly replied.
“If her honor was ever questioned or made fun of, would you fight for it?”
“Yes.”
“Why do you love Philomena?”
Dominic blinked in surprise. He knew that question was coming, but didn’t expect to hear the King mention her name. “Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure why, I just love her.” He paused, unsure of what else to say.
“She is very lovely,” remarked the King.
“Yes she is beautiful, inside and out,” replied Dominic, a smile showing up on his face as thoughts of the princess floated through his mind.
“And rich,” the King pressured on.
Dominic was expecting that comment. “I didn’t know that Philomena was one of your daughters until long after I had fallen in love with her. I guess she wanted to be loved for who she is and not for what she is. Too many have claimed to have fallen in love with her, and for the wrong reasons.”
“And what are your reasons for falling in love with her?” asked the King, who was just rewording his previous question.
“I fell in love with her because of who she is. Each one of us is so complex that it’s hard to pinpoint one thing to like,” commented Dominic.
“Are there any qualities you can pinpoint?” pushed the King.
“Well, she’s strong but kind, witty, but can be serious, fiercely loyal, and, um . . . well, there’s more, but I could be here all day talking about her,” Dominic grinned, a bit sheepishly.
“She does have her faults,” the King continued, his face unchanging.
Dominic nodded, “That she does, but so do I, and if we can not only work out our faults together, but also help each other get better, then it will all work out.”
“Interesting, now I have one last question. What would you do if I do not approve of you marrying Philomena, but someone else?” asked the King, watching Dominic all the more intently now.
Dominic sighed, “Then I shall leave the castle like all the other suitors who lost the previous challenges, and shall never speak to her again, if you’d like.” There was a long silence after that, the King staring intently at Dominic, neither of which helped Dominic’s nervousness. The butterflies in his stomach that he had hoped to contain were becoming more active now. He could only hope that he was keeping his outer cool in front of the King long enough to get out the door.
After what seemed like hours, the King finally spoke, “You may leave now, Dominic. The results of this test will be announced here after dinner.”
Dominic bowed, “Thank you, your Majesty, for considering me as a possible husband for your daughter.” The King didn’t say another word, so Dominic left the room as calmly as he could. Once the door was closed behind him, he took off for his room. He flopped onto his bed and groaned. “That was horrible!! I’ve lost, no doubt about it. Both Stanislas and Aloysius are more eloquent than I am!! I’m sure the King would pick one of them.” He sighed and sank his head into the pillow. He wasn’t sure how long he laid there before a knock at the door startled him. He smoothed out his clothes and hair before answering the door. “Miss Anastasia!”
The woman standing before him chuckled, “You should really stop being so formal! You can call my husband by just his first name, but not mine? It’s not like we’re total strangers, Dominic.”
He grinned, “Sorry, Mi . . . I mean, Anastasia.”
She smiled at him, “That’s better. Well, I’m here to tell you that dinner will be served shortly.”
“Thanks,” he replied. “But why are you here and not Gabriel? He’s always gathered all of us, and there’s only three left now.”
“Well, the King has sent him on an important mission, so I’m taking his place for today. Hope you don’t mind,” she grinned at him.
He laughed, “Not at all, I haven’t seen you for quite some time, it would be nice to catch up. That is, if you don’t mind,” he smiled at her.
She laughed as she moved out of the doorway so he could get past. “I don’t have any objections, that I can think of. Shall we be off?”
He nodded, and followed her out into the hall. He couldn’t help but think what a perfect match Anastasia and Gabriel were, something he hoped he could have been with the princess, but seeing as how the last challenge went, there wasn’t much hope left. Anastasia had apparently seen the look on his face.
“Something on your mind, Dominic?” she asked.
“Oh, just the last challenge, I think I’ve lost,” he replied.
“What makes you think that?” she inquired.
“Well, I didn’t say anything right, and the look on the King’s face after I finished answering all the questions told me he wasn’t impressed with my answers or my manner,” Dominic fairly blurted out. He was taken by surprise when Anastasia started laughing. “What’s so funny?”
“You! You can’t just assume that the King has eliminated you from the competition. The King does that all the time, if he lets us know his true feelings right away, he would seem weak or favorable without taking in all the possibilities first. Aloysius and Stanislas said the same thing, actually,” came her response.
“Really?” He breathed a sigh of relief, “So I still have a chance.”
“You do, and in my opinion, a very high chance. Everyone knows that you and Princess Philomena belong together. You just do, there’s no question about it,” she smiled at him.
He glanced at her, “Are you sure?”
She chuckled, “Quite sure. What’s with that look?”
“Oh, uh . . . Camillo said the same thing this morning, that everyone could tell that the Princess and I belong together. Is it actually true, does everyone really believe that?”
“Yes, well, at least everyone I know believes that.” She paused, they had reached the dining room.
“Oh, I apologize m . . . Anastasia. We spent the whole time talking about my troubles that you didn’t get to talk about anything that’s happened to you.”
“That’s quite alright, I was only wondering if I should wait until Gabriel came back to tell him something and then we can tell everyone else, or just not wait and tell everyone now. But I want to be the first person to tell him, so it looks like I will wait until he gets back.” She grinned at Dominic, “And we’d better get in there for dinner before the food’s all gone! I’m starving!” He smiled at her and followed her into the dining room. She led him to a table where Aloysius and Stanislas were already sitting. A servant then approached Anastasia and the two walked away to talk, while another served the food. She soon joined them at the table, and talk consisted mainly of small talk, of family and friends. They were having so much fun chatting, that they hadn’t realized how fast the time flew. Before they knew it, they had all gathered in the main throne room where the King, the Queen, and the Princess were already seated.
After everyone had gathered, the King rose. “After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion of this competition and have picked my winner. The qualities of the young men who were gathered for this competition are of the highest I have seen, and I would be proud to call each and every one of you my son. But, the object of the competition was my daughter’s hand in marriage, and there can be only one man who is to have that honor. And that man is,” here the King paused, glanced at the remaining three suitors, and then at his daughter. “Is the one my daughter has already chosen.” Dominic and Philomena simultaneously looked at the King, who only grinned back. “Well, Dominic Savio, come forward.” Dominic wasn’t sure how he did it, but he moved towards the King on legs that felt like jelly. He only got halfway though as Philomena rushed into his arms. There were cheers all around as the two kissed, but Dominic didn’t notice. All he knew was that Princess Philomena looked radiant, and that he felt like the luckiest fellow in the world.

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