Kyoko stared down at her untouched meal. In a way she felt bad for not having sampled the fine food, but she had so much in her mind right now, especially with the Prince speaking to her so discreetly so that no one else could hear. From those that would have been watching the couple, they would have seen fleeting glances being exchanged, but no words from their lips. To some this may well have been viewed as unusual, to others that were far more observant, they may have caught on to the fact the couple were trying to converse.
When Kazuhiko suggested that he knew a private place whereby they might have some privacy and be able to speak freely, Kyoko was both relieved and delighted. He mentioned the academy and her heart swelled. It was the best thing she had heard all day.
I would be honored if you could escort me to the academy. I do not think bringing a hand maiden would be necessary however, for I find them to be more trouble than they are worth.”
She was right in her assumptions, for the handmaidens were tremendous gossips. That is how she found out that the Prince was so handsome.
Kyoko placed her napkin back on the table, neatly folded to signal that she had finished with her meal and was ready to go. All the Prince had to do now, was lead her from the hall, and then out the main doors, before escaping to the academy together.
Kazuhiko was glad that she wanted to visit the academy. It had been five years since he had last walked its halls. The Rise Arsenal, the special ops team he lead, usually kept him busy. This whole engagement business kept him from his work, but he was sure Kyoko felt the same way.
The academy in Desnonia was built after The Great Time of Turmoil. Many Nephilim immigrated to Desnonia after General Takahashi defeated Cadell Hanegan. The Royal academy had been constructed to provide training for the new born Nephilim of Desnonia. Kazuhiko started his training at the age of eight like his father and it became glaringly clear that he had a natural ability for Nephilim combat and glider handling. Some of his fellow classmates showed similar promise so they were assigned special positions within the Air Brigade. They became known as The Rise Arsenal.
He stood and bowed before the people. Becoming the prince came with a different kind of training that was almost more difficult to master than combat training. He descended the stairs and held his hand out for Kyoko. It made him nervous and he was afraid she would decline, but he held it steady none the less.
“Shall we?” He asked aloud. It was obvious they were leaving, so there was no use in speaking secretly. “You may change if you wish.”
Kyoko accepted Kazuhiko’s hand and rose from her place, following the Prince down the two small steps, and then crossing the floor. She would have been aware of all the eyes being on the couple, but to see them unified may have brought a smile to the Prince’s mother. After all, they had never met before, and were enjoying each other’s company.
“I would be delighted, Your Highness.” Kyoko answered freely, while her thoughts added to this. “To change would be a god send, but it will take a short while. This garment is not the easiest to get out of.”
When they left the grand room, she freed her hand and walked down to her own chambers, where there were handmaidens ready to help her remove the fine dress, and fold the fabrics away with an almost religious precision. Before too long Kyoko was dressed in a more casual ensemble, with her hair brushed down and having it flowing upon her back. She looked completely different; natural, one could say.
Emerging from her quarters, she again bowed before the Prince, her hair spilling off her shoulders in a torrent, before she rose to full height. She was now ready to accompany him to the academy; a place where she longed to be.
Kazuhiko smiled and looked down at his own clothing wishing he taken the time to change as well. The fabric of his suit was thick and caused him to sweat a little. He took off his jacket and draped it over his arm and took up a casual stride beside her. Kyoko looked different without her kimono. He kept taking quick glaces at her, hoping she wouldn’t notice.
“The academy is not too far from here,” he notified her. He meandered his way through the small maze that were the castle halls and out through a side entrance that no one really used. It lead to a quiet, dark alleyway. He walked to the end and out onto a well lit street of the Desnonian Capital. Since, he was still wearing his suit, he was easy to recognize and many citizens, stopped and bowed before him. He smiled and greeted them in return. Finally after very slow progress, they made it to the academy.
The academy was a large, grand building that also provided housing for the students. To get inside you need to use your military tag in the keyhole. Kazuhiko took his tag from under his shirt and pulled it over his head. He inserted the tag into the keyhole and the doors began to open slowly.
“After you,” he said smiling.
Kyoko nodded and gave a shy smile, as she entered the door that had just been opened by Kazuhiko. She knew from her experience at the Grand Academy, that all entrances and exits required military tags. Course, she wasn’t carrying one now, so it was wonderful the Crown Prince was.
Stepping inside and going down a small corridor, that led into a main auditorium chamber, Kyoko was astounded by the grandeur of the building’s interior and the sheer scale. Their footsteps echoed as the building was empty this time of night. Not even the guards were doing routine inspections, so this was a perfect place to finally get to speak.
Turning around, she let out a small sigh of relief. No longer under the watchful gaze of the court and the royals. They could be themselves for this short time. She stepped up to the Prince, so that he could see her better in the light. Her face was without the white that she wore whilst in her ceremonial clothes, and her skin was like a fine porcelain shade. Kyoko now decided to speak her mind.
“I am sure this is difficult for you, Your Highness. To be betrothed to a girl you do not know.” She said with some conviction. She took another breath and then continued. “I am sure you have many questions about me, as I have about you.” Her honesty was something that often got her in trouble at home, and though she came from a high standing background, her family like others had its moments.
“I graduated with honors from the Grand Academy at the age of 18 years, and I am..was..a Second Lieutenant.”
Kyoko wondered if he knew this about her, or read her file.
Kazuhiko was silent for a very long time. He hadn’t expected Kyoko to be so austere and he didn’t want to tell her that he had initially had no interest in getting to know her. The events that transpired before their engagement were not her fault.
“I know this is no excuse, but I have endured a tough time recently. This isn’t something that they broadcast, but I am leader of The Rise Arsenal. I’m sure you are aware Cadell Hanegan was never captured. We have been following his puppets, trying to track him down,” he said quietly. He wasn’t sure why he was telling her all of this. For some reason he felt like he could trust her and he wanted to make sure she knew that he wished he had taken the time to read her file.
“The last recon mission went south when our secret base of operations inside the human territory was discovered. Two of our own were killed… my best friend was one of them.” He went silent again, no longer wanting to dig up terrible memories that already haunted his dreams. He often woke up in the middle of the night thinking that maybe he imagined Casimiro’s death altogether, but then the sleepy fog would clear and he was subejected to a fresh bout of grief.
“Suffice it to say that I have not been myself as of late.”
It wasn’t unnoticed by Kyoko that Kazuhiko was keeping silent the whole time she spoke. Only when she finished did it hit her, and she wondered had she said too much. After all, he must be pestered by many people daily about trivial matters and that of the royal family. But when Kazuhiko did speak, it was very illuminating. Kyoko leaned against a stone wall and listened politely as Kazuhiko spoke about not being himself as of late. So something was troubling him, and it was not just about the engagement. Her face showed concern, as he started to relay some hidden truths about his life away from the palace. How he was the leader of The Rise Arsenal, and how they had been unable to track down Cadell Hanegan and bring him to justice. Kyoko knew the name and folded her arms as she paid close attention, whilst monitoring his facial expressions.
“The last recon mission went south when our secret base of operations inside the human territory was discovered. Two of our own were killed… my best friend was one of them.”
The moment he said that he lost his best friend, Kyoko’s face fell. No wonder he had been having such a hard time dealing with this. With Cadell Hanegan still on the run, the matter can never be closed.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Your Highness.” Kyoko said softly, feeling like she should embrace him and offer comfort, but she had a nagging sensation that that was not appropriate. Thinking for a moment, Kyoko asked;
“Is..our engagement stopping you from going out and capturing this man?”
It was a reasonable question.
Kazuhiko raised a brow and thought for a moment. It would be easy to blame the engagement for his absence from work lately, but he failed his psychological evaluation and was prohibited from returning to his duties until he was more stable. He wasn’t sure if he should tell Kyoko, otherwise she might think he is crazy or weak minded, but he also didn’t want to lie.
“Other matters have been keeping me from my duties,” he said without disclosing any specifics. After a brief pause, he decided to change the subject. Something Kyoko said had caught his attention. “You said you studied at the Grand Academy? I was born on Desnonia shortly after my father became the emperor, so I have never been to our homeland. What is the grand academy like? It must be amazing being surrounded by so many of our people.”
The location of the old lands are kept secret between those who know how to get there. This includes any of those who fought during The Great Time of Turmoil or were born before it began. Any Nephilim who were born on Desnonia after the fact, were kept out of the loop to further protect its location. It annoyed Kazuhiko to no end that his own father would not divulge the secret of where they came from. It made him feel like he was still a child.
The sudden change in direction of the conversation had Kyoko wonder if the Prince was telling her everything. She didn’t expect him to suddenly open up on that part of his life, and when he said that other matters had been keeping him from his duties, not their engagement, she had to wonder. But with the conversation flipped over to ask about her life and studies, she paid good attention, so she could give the best answers possible.
The Crown Prince wanted to know about her studies, and about her homeland, which he had never been too. Kept secret for reasons that she was unaware.
“Well, I first started out as a trainee in the Nephilim Air Brigade cadet school at the age of ten. You see, in Nephilim, its mandatory for all children to undergo lessons, so that they may then move up to the Grand Academy.” She smiled wistfully as she remembered those years.
“At first it was hard being away from my family, but you soon get used to it. The strictness of the training regime gives you some comfort.” It was pretty clear she enjoyed that time in her life. “I made my parents very proud on graduating. Course they already had the arrangement made about our marriage. Part and parcel of being in the upper class, I suppose.” She said freely, only to stop herself, and then sigh wistfully. “I was never really one for crowds, if you are wondering if I liked being constantly surrounded by people. I tend to be a bit of a loner.”
She pushed herself away from the wall and smiled as she remembered her home land.
“Nephilim…to me, is the center of all life.”
He yearned for that feeling of home. The castle felt cold and empty most of the time. The halls were definitely a lot more quiet without him and Casimiro running through them. Memories of their childhood flashed through his mind. They had been roommates in the Royal Academy and they shared all of each other’s secrets and hopes. Casimiro had been his right hand in The Rise Arsenal. Kazuhiko was making himself sick with sadness. He felt like he couldn’t breathe and had to sit down in a nearby chair to steady himself. He was quiet for a very long time, lost in his thoughts.
He looked over at Kyoko and remembered that she said she was a Second Lieutenant. He was currently short two members in the Rise Arsenal. She seemed to love her job very much and when she spoke of it, there was fondness and passion her eyes. She would never be able to go back to the homeland now that she was marrying him, but she could still have her military career. It would be different from what she was accommodated to, but Kazuhiko hoped she would at least give it a try.
“I have a proposition for you. Marrying me requires that you leave your homeland behind, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t still work for the Air Brigade. Work for me and I promise that I will not abuse my seniority. You can ask any of the Arsenals; I try my best to be fair,” Kazuhiko said trying to win her over. “I know it might feel like a demotion, but we do important work. And to help you feel more at home, you can request that one of your Senior Master Sergeants be transferred here so that they may join the team also.”