Jefferson had an idea of where he went, and he was not at all okay with it. He ran his hand over his face, growing more worried by the second and it was reflected in Abra. The pokemon was growing anxious and despite his calm exterior, seemed to be nervously teleporting all over the place.
He rubbed his arm after a moment then nodded his head. ”To find the world the pokemon are from…” he said softly. ”I told her she couldn’t go…that it was too dangerous…I think she went against me…”
Belle’s eyes grew large.
"How can she find this world then?" she wondered. "I mean… they say you have a magical hat. Does Grace have anything that could bring her to another world? Or does she know any people that would be able to help her get there? If so, we should look for those people - try and see if they can help us find her - or perhaps we’ll be able to intercept her before she’s able to reach them."
Totodile’s head tilted, a glint of confusion on his face. What was it that he was to have seen?
The mirror vanished in another puff of violet smoke, a giggle escaping his lips. “Well, then, dear lady… Shall we once more enter your festive little town?” With a wave of his hand, he gestured back to the guarded town gates, his head tilting. Yes… Everything was working rather perfectly…
As he giggled, Belle smiled as well. There was something about his mischievous grin that always lured her in, and in good humor, she approached him and put her hand in his arm.
"Lead the way, master," she encouraged him teasingly.
He smiled further, waving his hand. Violet smoke appeared before a silver mirror appeared in his hand. “Why don’t you have a look for yourself, my dear?” His other hand gestured to the gleaming, reflective surface, glee glinting from his own reptilian orbs. Oh, he so hoped the Lady enjoyed her newfound appearance and found it…satisfactory enough to continue on with this little arrangement. They would need it, if he was ever to find the right portal.
As Belle looked in the mirror, she saw a girl staring back at her - but it most definitely wasn’t her. The girl seemed to be a peasant, her blonde hair messy and some strokes of dirt on her face, but as Belle looked at her hands, she still recognized her own hands, and when she wiped her face, there was no dirt on her fingertips. It seemed like the charm only worked in certain cases, and she was still able to perceive her body as though it was hers.
Odd, very odd.
"Thank you," she replied, feeling a little confused as she handed back the mirror. This was all so odd.
Farfetch’d, however, did not seem to spot any difference in her, and hardly looked up. Belle wondered if the magic spell did not work on Pokemon, and if they were able to perceive her as she was.
The imp nearly rolled his eyes at such comments. Yes, yes, he knew perfectly well what she meant…but what else could such an agreement be called when the girl offered to massage his feet, for Gods’ sakes?
Quickly, he plucked the cloak from her hand, admiring the embroidered silk underneath his rough scales. “A pretty article you have…” Slowly, his other hand lifted up, splayed around, before a purple glow encased the glittering scales. His eyes darkened, the imp concentrating on every part of his curiosity and determination on the green silkwork; the glow spread, covering the cloak entirely, before vanishing at last.
Perfect~. Rumpelstiltskin grinned, eyes glancing back at her. “Your cloak is now enchanted~.” He extended the cloak back to her, head tilting to the side. “So long as you wear it, not a single soul in this city will be able to recognize you.”
She took the cloak from him again, her eyes wide as she tried to look for a difference, but apart from the fact that she knew magic had been used on it, she could not see it.
"That’s pretty amazing," she said, very impressed by him, and she offered him a warm smile. Putting it on, she did not feel any different though, and she frowned for a moment. She had expected some sort of transformation, but apparently the cloak worked differently.
"Wait eh… What do you see now?” she wondered.
His eyes widened a fraction of an inch, the grin fading with a slight grimace. Dear Gods, just what did this girl believe that he had in mind? “No, no, dearie,” he countered with a wave down of his hand. “I am not looking for a slave.” Nor would he ever wish to. Ever. “Worry you not. My favor will be fulfilled, and you shall know of it the exact moment when these festivities,” he waved behind him, “have ended.”
And not a moment later. Then, they could begin the search for these mysterious portals…and he could get his son back home.
"Now," he straightened himself, the calculating gleam returning to his eyes, "might I see…your cloak?" He pointed straight at her, his lips widening in an impish grin.
Taking off her cloak, she frowned. Before handing it over to him, she needed to set something straight. It seemed like he had misunderstood her. “I eh… I wasn’t offering myself as a slave,” she said. “I mean… I didn’t mean I’d serve you forever. Just… When you’d need it. For a week… or a month… Maximum a year… Not… Not forever…”
It felt a bit silly to tell him this, but she felt like she needed him to know what she had meant to say, before he would think of her in an untrue way.
Hoping that this was all he needed to know, she handed him her cloak, wondering what he would do with it.
He grinned wider. “Indeed. You do owe me one more favor.” His finger held up, straight for her to see. “However, perhaps you can fulfill it right here at this festival. But…” His head leaned in, almost conspiratorially. “I believe you getting caught would ruin both our plans, nyeh?”
Yes. If she was sent back to the palace by the guards or her father, why, their deal could not be fulfilled. And, as everyone knew, no one broke deals with him. Not if they wished to see the light of another day, of course.
The imp straightened himself. “What if I told you that I can disguise your appearance completely? Make you look like an utter stranger to the eyes of your father’s guards, hm?” All he needed was a simple object to do so. Her cloak perhaps. True, it would be quicker simply to cast the spell on her and be done with it, but, considering the nature of her situation, he was sure she wished for a hand in controlling the enchantment herself.
Belle looked at him as he spoke. It seemed that he did want her help with something - though she could not figure out with what. But the idea of roaming the festival without fear of getting caught, was a good one - even if she would have to roam the festival with Rumpelstiltskin by her side.
"I don’t have much to offer," she replied weakly. "Nothing that you couldn’t just conjure up out of thin air," she added with a sad smile. "But…" There had to be something she would be able to do for him. "…I could serve you. Clean your castle or… take care of your Pokemon or…" She could hardly even believe she was saying this: "…massage your feet."
Gods, she hoped he wouldn’t take her up on that offer…
"I can keep you company, if you like…"
As the words left her mouth, she feared she was making a complete fool of herself. He was the Dark One, after all. Would he truly enjoy her company?
His gaze shifted up and down. Truthfully, yes, he had planned to head quickly back to the castle as soon as the deal was done. His prize awaited him so carefully back in his lab, and work needed to be done. However…
The rumors of the portals around Navarre itched, clawing at the back of his mind. Moreover, he was intrigued. Belle was the princess of this land, knew the town and its surrounding neighbors perhaps better than most if she had been able to escape so swiftly. Perhaps…he could fulfill her last favor here, so long as he gave her some incentive.
"Why, I’m staying, of course," he replied. "Your…plight has brought me some interest, dearie, and I believe I have a solution to your most grievous problem."
Her eyes remained narrowed as she heard those words. What was he playing at? She didn’t trust it one bit.
"Last time I checked, I still owed you a favor… Not the other way around, Rumpelstiltskin. Even if you have the solution to my problem - as you choose to call it - then what makes you think that I have something to offer you in return?”
She wasn’t feeling as eager to offer him her favors as the previous times. He had insulted her - or perhaps that was just what it felt like. Maybe it was not an insult that he said that she would be discovered - maybe it was the truth, and maybe he was just trying to protect her from being captured.
But then again - why would he care? Did he care?
Her gaze softened only a little at that thought, and slowly her frown disappeared and made way for a more curious gaze.
A giggle bubbled past his lips, eyes even lighter with mirth. Oh, such hope and naivete, even when she was in her own kingdom. “Trrruly?” He straightened himself, hand lifting up with a flourish. “I wouldn’t get your hopes up.” Bringing the hand down, the imp drew closer to her. “No matter how long you might wait, even if your beloved father,” his hand rested on his chest, “returns back to his ‘humble’ abode, this event is the grandest little gathering of those like you,” he pointed back to her.
And did she truly think that the guards would lessen even after Maurice left? That they would even wish to when the population of such a small place had no doubt already doubled with weary travelers and adventure-seekers?
"Don’t ask ‘if’ you’ll be caught, dearie… Only ‘when’."
She sighed, feeling a little annoyed by those words, and she wrapped her arms over one another, her entire stance rather defensive as she narrowed her eyes at him.
"We’ll see," she replied briefly, knowing that she would be able to disappear into the crowd if she tried hard enough, despite Rumpelstiltskin’s words.
"So where are you off to now? Back to your castle? Will you return to the event this week?"
His gaze hardened slightly at the question. Yes…a good enough question as it was. And utterly accurate. Too accurate. His fingers slowly rubbed together, head straightening up as he watched her. He’d known that Belle was clever, despite her clumsiness and her uneasiness, oft leading to, shall we say, a tied little tongue. Yet, her perception and observational skills were something that he had seen, and he knew they led to the question.
Especially the night where his most hyper little croc had made his appearance.
"Deals to make, of course," he replied, the half-truth easily sliding from his lips. "However…" His gaze sharpened again as he took another look at her. "I’m rather curious at your plight. You may study Pokemon, dearie, but to place yourself in the midst of your father’s clutches?" An amused grin spread on his lips. "Rather reckless of you, I must say."
He seemed to be too eager to divert her attention from her earlier question. There was more he was looking for than just deals. Deals would come to him regardless of where he was. No, he was looking for something - he just didn’t want to tell Belle what it was.
She was willing to humor him though, and to reply honestly to his inquiries, hoping it would show him that if she was able to trust him, he was able to trust her too.
"I’m sort of in disguise," she said with a smirk, pointing to her clothes. "And I’m studying Pokemon! This is the biggest Pokemon event in the entire world. It might be dangerous to come here for me, but it would be even more horrible to stay away. This is a great opportunity for me to gather more information on Pokemon. I just hope that tomorrow, my father will remain in his palace, and then as long as I avoid that area of the city, and none of my old guards spot me, I’ll be quite safe."
Jefferson’s eyes went as wide as a startled deer’s. She had seen his daughter… The Hatter shook his head. He did not want to get back into the trade that had taken Grace’s mother from him, but to find her? He would do anything.
"She’s my daughter…she ran away…I’ve been looking for her since…" He could remember that horrid day, how he had come home from the market to find the house completely empty, no sign of Grace…
Belle visibly paled at that news and she looked at him with large eyes.
"She… she ran away?" she repeated weakly. "When I spoke to her, she was gathering mushrooms to sell at the market…"
For a moment she stared into the fire, feeling incredibly sad that Grace had run away. She was still so young! Then she was reminded of the presence of Jefferson, and how worried he had to be.
"I’m so sorry," she said immediately. "I promise I will keep an eye out for her. Do you have any idea where she went?"