Welcome to the Imperial Castle, home of Emperor Takahashi and the royal family. You are invited to the engagement announcement celebration of Crown Prince Kazuhiko. Please reserve your place in advance as accommodations are limited. It gives us all great pleasure to have you as our guests.
“Good afternoon, Prince Kazuhiko. May I have a word with you?” he asked while bowing respectfully. Kazuhiko groaned internally, but nodded politely and opened his door to let the messenger inside. He motioned to one of the armchairs in his living chambers and headed over to the end table that held his crystal decanter of expensive scotch whisky.
“Would you like a drink?” Kazuhiko asked while pouring himself a swig. He was slightly mocking the innocent porter. He felt a little bad, but in his defense, he had tried to spare the occupants of the castle the fury he was about to unleash. The courier happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Oh… No thank you, sire,” the messenger said, his face starting to fluster. Kazuhiko nodded and moved his hand in a circular motion.
“Proceed,” was the final thing he said before taking his shot back and returning the glass to the table. He sat down in the armchair opposite the courier and leaned back. The nervous little porter held his elbows tucked and hands folded defensively in front of him as if cornered. He cleared his throat and tried to regain some of his former composure before speaking.
“I am simply here to remind your grace of this evening’s festivities.”
Kazuhiko leaned forward in his chair and bowed his head. His hands came up slowly to cover his face. He sighed deeply before lowering them so that only his eyes were showing.
“Do you honestly think I could forget something that has been the topic of all conversation for the last month?” he asked calmly. The courier stuttered about only following orders and how sorry he was was for disturbing his majesty.
“GET OUT!” Kazuhiko roared as he flipped the coffee table that sat between them. The messenger scurried from the room without another word. Kazuhiko stormed into the bathroom as he yanked his shirt over over his head. He stared into the mirror and was ashamed of his behavior and before he knew it, the mirror lay in shards on the floor.
His knuckles were split open and the bones in his hand were shattered. He stared at his hand as blood ran off his fist. He watched the the pieces assemble themselves under his skin. The ligaments rejoined almost as if zipping back up. New, light pink skin formed over his knuckles. The whole process hurt and itched terribly. He sighed, washed the blood off of his hand and went into the bedroom.
The door to his closet was across the room. He turned the handle and entered the large, grand space. Typically his servants helped him dress when royal events were hosted, but he had made it very clear he didn’t want to be disturbed.
He donned his majestic ensemble and returned to his living quarters. After taking back another gulp of whisky, he headed for the door.
Time to meet my fiancee.
Maidens fussed around Kyoko Takiharah, as she stood in the center of the room on top of a small wooden box. Kyoko was to be adorned in a ceremonial gown that had been handed down from Mother to daughter for generations. Kept in special trunks, the vast quantity of fabric was laid out in sections across the floor, as the maidens set about the task of dressing her properly. The young woman, who had been betrothed to the Crown Prince; stood silently with little to no emotion upon her face. Though raised to one day be undertaking this role, her true heart lay somewhere else.
Her eyes darted to the landing, where only an hour earlier she stood and cast her gaze down from the royal palace to that of the barracks, that now were nothing but a distant memory. Kyoko had fought hard to make her rank, and now she wondered if she would ever be able to serve again. As the future Princess, she failed to see how that would be possible.
The young hand maidens giggled and smiled, speaking of how handsome the Crown Prince was, and that Kyoko must be the luckiest girl in all the lands to be his chosen. The truth was, she was chosen not by the Crown Prince. This was not about romance, or love….this was about duty and honor.
And so she held her head high, as the women worked tirelessly to have her finally fitted in the most dazzling kimono one had ever seen. Her hair was simply perfection, and her make up light, to show off her natural beauty. She was indeed a treasure to the eye, but beneath the finery and the gold, a girl’s heart was breaking. Kyoko was going to put away her own feelings, shut them up tight into a small box. Locked and sealed to never be heard.
The maidens fell back, and all bowed towards Kyoko who barely acknowledged them, as the gong was struck and it was time to go and meet her betrothed. Kyoko shuffled quickly from the room, and made her way down the hall, with a small procession in tow.
The castle was lit up from base to roof with lights and decorations. Witchlights gave the walls their effervescent glow, one of the perks for having witches as allies. The festival had started long ago and the feast and celebration had already commenced. Prince Kazuhiko and his fiance were to sit at the head table facing the rest of the guests. It was a very uncomfortable, public setting that Kazuhiko dreaded with every fiber of his being. He gracefully descended the stairs that lead out into the courtyard where the festival was taking place. Someone caught his elbow as he reached the bottom. It was one of his PR advisers that he couldn’t remember the name of. In any case, he was annoyed by the physical contact.
“Do you really think of no one but yourself? That outburst you pulled earlier was boorish and completely unwarranted. That courier was only sent to remind you because the festival had already commenced!’ the adviser spat angrily. He was an older gentleman, who obviously had endured many years of military service judging from his posture. Kazuhiko felt subdued and softened his expression. He remembered that this man was not his adviser, but High PR Adviser to the Emperor, his father.
“I am deeply sorry, Sir,” he said sincerely. The adviser scowled for a moment before returning to his normal unreadable stare.
“Go perform your duty. Be someone your parents can be proud of,” he said before turning away. A band played somewhere off in the distance. The song was unfamiliar to Kazuhiko, but the melody was peaceful and soothing. He sighed and turned back toward the table where his destiny awaited.
Maybe this isn’t the end of the world…
Kyoko found her way into the grand area, that was where the assembled members of royalty and the court had gathered. It was a spectacular sight, with the strains of music being played, that were unfamiliar to the young Kyoko. To those she passed, that were of rank and high position, Kyoko bowed. Shuffling along with the skirt of her kimono keeping her from being able to cross the floor quickly. She appeared to almost glide, though her footwear made a delightful sound as she approached the main table.
For the first time this eve, she spotted the Crown Prince Kazuhiko, who looked resplendent in his royal finery. He was every bit as handsome as the hand maidens had said, whilst they gossiped during her fitting.
Now, she was on her own, and approached the Prince, only to bow before getting too close.
“Your Highness.” Kyoko said, with a soft voice, showing the ultimate respect for her intended husband. “I am Kyoko Takiharah, your betrothed.”
She was aware that all eyes would be upon them, and hoped the Prince found favor with her. Her face showed little to no emotion, as she did not feel that it was time to be gay or silly. This was about making the Royal house proud in that they picked a woman who not only knew her place, but acted with dignity and decorum.
Kyoko’s head raised slightly, as she waited to be asked to take her seat.
The room suddenly felt empty as if only the two of them remained. He looked into her brown eyes and briefly felt a connection. If nothing else, she at least knew what he was going through, having to endure it herself. His long pause caused a low murmuring of whispers around the courtyard and the music quieted for a moment. Kazuhiko quickly remembered his place and bowed deeply in return. Once he straightened up he put his left hand behind his back and tipped his right hand down and forward to signify that it was fine for her to sit. A servant waited to tuck in her chair.
Though Kyoko was not a member of a royal house, her training in etiquette leading up to this moment, had her act in every way as though she had been preparing for this moment all her life. Her military training only bolstered this further, as she made no girlish giggles or sounds that would be embarrassing for those watching on. To be part of a royal house, was a serious business, and one must always remember that every move, every word and phrase will be recordered in some fashion, so one must act accordingly at all times.
At first the Prince appeared to be very quiet, and only when she tilted her face up high enough for their eyes to meet, did she feel a sudden connection. Words could not easily describe the feeling. Almost like, he knew what she was going through. Kyoko actually caught her breath as she stared into his eyes; captivated by his handsome looks. She even had a small reddening to her cheeks, as it was like they were the only two people in the room at that moment. It was like time slowed, and she waited for his gesture for her to sit. The Crown Prince then bowed low before her, and she nodded twice in recognition; the small chimes on her long hair pins making a sweet musical melody, as she sat herself down on the chair, that was pushed in for her by a servant. Kyoko sat elegantly with both hands in her lap, right hand over left, and her eyes cast down. She would speak when spoken to now that she had made her introduction to the Prince.
The table at which they sat was adorned with the most expensive dinner service, large sprays of flowers in glass dishes, and servants milling about, topping up water glasses and preparing to bring out the first course meals for the Royals. How different this was from a meal with the academy. So much noise and laughter….oh how she missed it right now.
Kyoko knew that this was her moment to shine, to bring honor to her family and her name. She was not about to let anyone down. Slowly, she turned her head enough, just to steal a glimpse at the Prince as he sat beside her. He may well catch her in this act, and if he did, what would he discuss with her? Did he know about her role in the academy? Did he know anything about her at all?
Kazuhiko felt a little shaken as he climbed the two steps that lead up to the platform that held their table. He sat down in the chair next to Kyoko, positioned a respectable distance away. There was quite a bustle in the hall from the music, dancers and many guests conversations. It would be difficult for them to speak without being overheard and he would rather not have his first chat with his bride-to-be overheard by all the nobility of Desnonia. So, he said nothing.
But suddenly she glanced over at him and it was as if every cell in his body was on edge. You would think he spotted the enemy approaching. He cleared his throat and took a sip of the fine wine that sat next to his plate of roast wildebeest, delicate spring peas and parsnip dollars that had just been served from the gourmet kitchens of the castle.
Is she going to speak? Should I say something?
He knew of one way they could speak with each other without being overheard. However, there were many things that got in the way. The top reason being that she might not even know how to use thought speech; his own mother could never grasp the ability. Some Nephilim scientists believed that the trait was genetic, but both he and his sister had easily mastered the skill, so Kazuhiko wasn’t sure. The other reason he wasn’t inclined to try was because it was customary to request permission before speaking to someone through thought speech.
Oh damn it all…
I know this is quite rude… Please forgive me. This whole spectacle just annoys me to no end. Uh, I mean the party… not our engagement.
I should have just stayed silent…
Kyoko waited in silence, hoping that the Prince might ask her a question or perhaps comment on her attire. After all she had just spent the last four hours getting ready for this meal. She was a walking work of art in a sense. The chatter of the other guests was rising to a level that made speaking and being heard difficult, and Kyoko was starting to think that this meal would turn into a disaster if neither of them spoke. She was merely observing protocol. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched the Prince pick up his glass of wine and take a sip. They had their meals placed before them, but Kyoko didn’t feel at all hungry. The kimono was so tight around her middle, she wouldn’t be able to hold much food anyways.
Just when she thought that this was all starting to go down hill, she started to hear the Prince’s thoughts. Soft at first, then louder and the girl suddenly sat up straight listening to what he was thinking. And what he was thinking came as a pleasant surprise. To show she had heard him and understood, she nodded slowly, before she checked to see if anyone was looking at her. Kyoko knew very well how to use thought speech, so trained by her own Mother, and here she was, with the Prince using it on her. The right corner of her lip twitched, then curled up slightly. Kyoko then responded, in kind.
You do not need to be forgiven, my Prince. I admit, this is all a bit much for me. Not used to the pomp and ceremony of these occasions. I just feared I displeased you.
Kyoko reached for her glass of wine and brought the crystal glass to her lips, taking a sip, while kind brown eyes glanced at his highness again.
Perhaps after this meal, we might….meet to get to know each other better?
Kazuhiko was never good at hiding his emotions. His father constantly reminded him that it was his greatest weakness. So, when Kyoko showed concern for his happiness and suggested that they get to know each other better, he couldn’t help but let a huge grin escape. He was confident quite a few guests noticed and definitely his mother too, since she had been watching them discretely this entire time. He tried to straighten his face and looked down at his plate. The food was a picture of culinary prowess, but he had no desire to eat. His nerves were doing funny things to his stomach.
If you are not hungry there is a place I know of that we can go that is relatively private… Uh, if you need to bring one of your handmaidens, that is fine. The academy didn’t require so much… decorum.
He waited with his hand on his glass and his eyes still on his plate. A little persistent smile played across his lips.