Disclaimer/s: Art is from Pandora Hearts and this is an entry by Sana90. All credits for this art goes to each respective owners. I am not owning this image; just borrowing it.
Some of these parts were also written by my good friends, Parad1gm and Tsuki Hoshiko, particularly Azrael & Rin’s posts. Credits go to them.
Arcadian Royal Castle….
Queen Resha sat next to her father at the royal ball where hundreds of nobles had attended. And though the coronation has ended, the celebration and festivities continued through the night. The merry voices of nobles chattering as they danced at the center of the hall and their laughter could be heard, though not quite as loud as the commoners.
The young queen watched as people celebrated her ascension to the throne. Everyone was filled with joy and songs of hope had been sung to give tribute to the youngest ruler of Regulus. Resha was well received not only by Arcadia’s people, but people from all over Regulus as well due to her personality: graceful, kind and intelligent without being haughty — something that she had gotten from her mother. Many had also tried to woo the young queen, but no one had succeeded. Not that she was not interested in the idea of falling in love, but rather, someone had already captured the young queen’s heart.
“Yuhan…” she whispered to herself, a smile still on her lips. Glancing up, she looked around the crowded ballroom, searching for the sorcerer. It didn’t take her too long to find him though: amongst a number of guests by the east wing of the ballroom and with Headmaster Triskelle. She watched as the young sorcerer merrily chatted with them, noting the smile that was on his face. Oh, how she greatly missed that smile!
Resha then dearly eyed the wristlet that she wore on her left hand. Though not as fancy as the other jewelry she wore and though may look simple especially to the nobles around her, she did not care. It was special, as it was given to her by Yuhan as a gift. The fact that he had come back today of all days, Resha couldn’t ask for anything more than that. The young queen mentally pinched herself a few times to make sure that everything was not a dream.
She glanced back up to Yuhan’s direction and was surprised when their eyes met, with the latter now looking at her direction. That one glance from him was enough to make her heart skipped a beat and she smiled at him.
“Your majesty,” a voice came, snapping the young queen out of her reverie. She glanced up to the owner of the voice and saw Hououkami’s imperial prince, Rin. “Will you give me the honor of dancing with you?”
It took Resha a few seconds to take in his words, having been lost on her thoughts of Yuhan. Composing herself, she responded. “It will be my pleasure, your highness,” Then she reached out for his hand. Resha rose up from her seat as she smiled at the young Hououkami prince.
As soon as they took a step away from her seat and towards the center of the hall, everyone stopped dancing and stepped to the sides, leaving the pair alone to dance. Everyone’s eyes were fixated upon the two youngest rulers, albeit the prince was still not “officially” named compared to the newly appointed queen.
The young queen slightly bowed her head down and curtsied at her younger counterpart. A waltz tune soon began to play by the orchestra, and both did not waste time to put up a splendid and stunning performance for everyone to watch.
§ § § § § § § § § § §
The coronation was another blur to him.
Azrael couldn’t focus, nearly having missed his name when called to be given the honor of serving as the new Royal Guard, and essentially bodyguard, to Queen Resha. Even during the ball, as he stood beside her, he couldn’t talk or do anything. He thought back to before this day, how he would have been so excited to talk with her during this moment. To congratulate her, boast about how he would make sure she was safe and that no one would even dare think of attempting something against her. Azrael pictured that the now Queen would be so ecstatic and jovial to hear one of her closest friends here. Now? Such meandering thoughts were merely that and within the past.
Especially with what he saw with the young queen and his friend sorcerer before the coronation started.
Azrael didn’t think that he had ever experienced a stranger, yet deep pain like he did in what felt like the longest moment of his life.
It seemed to be just a moment, but to him, he was watching everything in slow motion. How Resha seemed to completely run off towards the great hall. How her and Yuhan seemed to just be connecting solely together while Azrael and her servants stood there watching. How Resha seemed enthralled by Yuhan’s gift, while Azrael clutch her gift in his gauntlet, squeezing tightly as his chest burned inside. His eyes gazed forward at them, even as they spoke and were within their own little world. He saw their lips move, yet nothing could be heard.
There were people all around him readying for the coronation and yet Azrael felt as if he was standing in a pitch-black void by himself. And this pain, burning in his chest, searing hotter than any flame and sharper than any blade edge. And his throat felt so tight. Was he suffocating? Azrael hadn’t even the slightest of clues. He didn’t know anything right now. And it was maddeningly frustrating.
A cold armored hand upon his shoulder broke him from his thoughts. “It’s time, Azrael. We need to be in place.” The man’s helmeted head tilted slightly in the direction towards the small wrapped necklace in Azrael’s hand. “What is that?” His voice seemed rather curious, gazing back towards Azrael’s face. He was surprised though to see his jaw tense, eyes cast to the side with more than just frustration. A pained depth was within those crimson eyes of his, mixed with envy and even anger.
Soon, Azrael squeezed the wrapping paper even more, crumpling it into his pocket as he shoved past the Commander. “Nothing. Let’s go.” Azrael said quietly, even shoving past several attendants and servants before disappearing down the hallway.
A sigh left him as the Commander stood next to him.
“You seem troubled, Royal Guard. It seems far from appropriate for this atmosphere,” He spoke, just as Prince Rin approached and asked Queen Resha to dance. He saw from the corner of his eye that Azrael seemed to clench his fists tighter at this. “Azrael… Azrael.” His voice grew firmer before Azrael glared up at the man, that face not foreign to the leader of the Knights. He almost seemed to be in one of the many taverns he fought in before. The Commander knew the young man had enough sense not to start something like that here, but Azrael couldn’t be left to stew in his own grave.
“Merely sitting on the side while the object of your affection is around other men will not resolve your feelings, Azrael,” He began, Azrael easing up as he looked off towards the dancing Resha and Rin, his fists relaxing. “Let it culminate in your heart like this, and you will begin to become something dark. You would become everything that we as Knights fight against.” The Commander turned towards Azrael, hands crossed behind his back as he stood tall. “Your affections for Queen Resha are going to be resolved soon, and I know you understand that more than I do. You are her Royal Guard. Letting your own emotions disrupt your duties is a dishonor to Arcadia and her Knights. And to yourself.”
“Just drop it, sir.” Azrael muttered, looking off into the crowd of the ball, trying to look anywhere but at Resha. “I’m fine, so I’ll just- “
“End your feelings for her, Azrael. It’s your duty.”
Azrael froze, trying to process what he just heard. It was as if the man were asking Azrael to commit murder. He just stared up at the suit of armor before him, the Commander repeating it once more before the Royal Guard stormed off with a growl. He immediately snatched up some wine from a servant, startling the poor boy as he quickly drank it down.
The Commander watched the young man until he vanished before gazing over towards Princess Resha. He was there when she happily conversed with the young sorcerer before the coronation, although his presence didn’t seem to be of importance to them. Watching their exchange and judging on how Azrael was acting, the Commander had an inkling of what was going on. He sighed.
“Even to a Knight, the heart is the largest chink in your armor, Azrael. No matter how much you clad it in steel.”
§ § § § § § § § § § §
Rin couldn’t remember a time when dancing seemed like such a chore. He had intended on engaging in conversation, but it was taking all his efforts to perform to perfection. All eyes on the two of them with whispers of young love was quite distracting! Already there were utterances of those who noticed the slight reddening of his face assuming it to be a sign of some form of infatuation coming to blossom rather than the intense focus it took to look calm and settled while dancing.
‘Damn it!’ Rin cursed in his own mind as he missed a step. But a life of royalty is much like the life of theatrics: when a mistake is made, improvise! With a graceful dip and sway before spinning the queen, pulling her back into a lean then continuing the dance. To onlookers, his misstep would have seemed intentionally done to in a sense spice up the waltz with additional moves. ‘If anything, I’ll give people something to talk about…’ Rin thought, a sly grin showed only momentarily as he decided not to give into the distraction of whispers, not to bother with engaging in chat while dancing as multitasking was a bit out of the question for the time being, so why not simply put all focus on the moment?
“Your majesty… Let’s give these people a show,” he said softly. And as commoners would say, playtime was over, and things just got real. Additional moves were added from both parties, a flare of common dance styles from their respective nations displayed and blended perfectly as each would whisper a hint of the next action they would take, or rather they started out hinting to one another before a spin, a part and collide, a lean a lift. After a short while, the two merely predicted the other’s moves and flowed into it with grace. It was the perfect blend of “unorthodox classiness”, and even then, the two didn’t at all alter the tempo but stayed in rhythm and able to merge back into a traditional waltz that ended with glorious applause.
Some nobles couldn’t help not to comment that both would make a fine couple. Such comments wouldn’t come as a surprise to both Resha and Rin. After all, with both being born into royalty, they were expected to be wed to another royalty, regardless of the reason. No matter what their true feelings were, or whether they love someone else or not, if that marriage would benefit the greater good of their kingdom and people, they would have to oblige.
“Thank you for this dance, your highness,” she thanked Rin, giving him yet another bow in gratitude. It wasn’t that long that they were joined by the others once again, after seeing how the two of them performed. Resha eyed Rin, and based on how he looked, she assumed that it would be best for them to take a breather. It wouldn’t hurt to stray away from the others, right? Yes, they may be children of royalty, but they were friends as well, right?
“Rin,” she whispered to him, dropping formalities with him. “What do you say we take a breather and head to the balcony outside?”
Rin nodded. It was almost as though she was a mind reader as he didn’t really just invite her to dance just for dancing sake but rather because he really did want to have words.
Resha let out a small smile. A breath of fresh wouldn’t hurt, she thought. And besides, she had been cooped up in the palace for a long time already. After the coronation was over, the formalities never ceased. As a newly appointed queen, she had to meet with a lot of people. Heck, she even put up with the loud representative of Eau, Lord Alabaster, as he spoke to her and bragged about how Eau’s capital of Rilassato was full of ‘eligible’ nobles that would be more than happy to make her their queen. Then there was the Elorian general, Childerich. Though they never really spoke, and she only gazed at him from afar, there was something about him that didn’t feel quite right to her. The Elorian general stuck out like a sore thumb, as only few nobilities dared to converse with him.
As soon as they reached the patio overlooking the hanging gardens of the Arcadian Royal Castle, Resha stretched her hands to the side, feeling the night breeze on her face. Truly, the long time she had been mingling with the nobles inside made her stiff. The scent of the variety of flowers from the garden soon caught her nose and the newly appointed queen rushed towards the deck, her eyes fixated upon the flowers beneath them. She watched as the flowers danced along with the night wind, the moonlight causing some of them to glimmer like fireflies. It was indeed her favorite spot in the castle.
§ § § § § § § § § § §
“Why didn’t you ask her for a dance?”
Yuhan almost choked on his drink when asked that question by his father. Turning to face the Sol Headmaster with disbelief, Yuhan couldn’t fathom why he was just asked that question. Was he supposed to ask the queen for a dance? He had already troubled her earlier when they met before the coronation started. And to ask her now for a dance? That would be asking for too much!
“You thought I didn’t see that?” the older Triskelle inquired, slyly. The way the queen looked at his son fondly and that smile she gave him earlier spoke more than a thousand words. And even though the queen hasn’t said anything about that matter, one could immediately tell that she holds the young sorcerer close to her heart. After all, the headmaster watched over them during the time the princess spent with them at the academy when she was young.
“Oh, nothing,” he shook his head with slight disappointment. Yuhan may be one of the best sorcerers the academy has produced, but when it comes to matters about the heart, he could very well be just a beginner. “Ah, think nothing of it,” he continued. “That was merely the ramblings of a fool.”
“Huh?” was the only response Yuhan could make, clearly baffled.
“No matter. I trust your excursion to the Astrean land for three years had somehow satisfied your curiosity, yes?” The headmaster asked, changing the subject. His son had always been the curious one ever since he was a kid. Yuhan wouldn’t be seen without a book on his hand during his younger years.
“No,” the younger Triskelle replied bluntly. There were still so many things that he wanted to learn and so many places to visit and explore. Those three years away from home were just too short for his liking. “I would have stayed more but…” he paused, his eyes trailing off to his side.
It was then that the loud cheers and applause were heard as the amazed crowd watched the queen and imperial prince dancing. Yuhan glanced at the young queen as he remembered the promise he made with her from prior years: the promise to come for her when she needs him. Being a princess was one thing. But to succeed the throne and having to carry people’s dreams and aspirations? He can only imagine how nerve-wracking it must be for the young queen. Therefore, he would do everything to support her on her reign.
Yuhan smiled at the memory. Sure, unraveling the secrets and mysteries that lies within Aether was his greatest dream, that not even the headmaster could stop him from leaving. But no matter how curious he was with something or how far he was from home, there was one thing, or rather a person, that would have him come running back home.
“Well then. I guess I have our queen to thank,” said the headmaster. “Who knows where you’ve gone to by now if you haven’t come back for her coronation.” Then he took a quick sip from his glass and continued. “For all I know, you might have run off with a beautiful sorceress by now,” the headmaster teased before letting out a hearty laugh.
Yuhan shook his head in disbelief. Leaving home was one thing, but to run away with a so-called beautiful sorceress? The thought never even crossed his mind! He was about to laugh it off when suddenly, an image of a certain lady donned in imperial clothing flashed in his mind.
And that cold and foreboding feeling he felt when he and Azrael were on their way to the Arcadian Palace slowly creeped back in.
§ § § § § § § § § § §
“Um… Resha…. It is okay to not be formal, right?” Rin asked just to be sure.
Resha responded with a nod as she turned around completely to face the Hououkami imperial prince, her back now against the garden’s view. “I’m curious… does it bother you at all? Having the responsibility of a nation, I mean…” he asked and then considered that she likely got questions like this from aristocratic pigs trying to downplay her position and delegitimize her because of her youth.
There were a few moments of silence between them. And the silence? It kind of worried the young imperial prince. ‘I should have worded that differently…’ he thought to himself as he threw a few quick glances at the young queen. “I… don’t mean like that… I mean…. I don’t know… does ruling a nation, and having to be… I guess perfect… how do you deal with that?” he asked again. He could only find the thought of it, especially at such a young age, to be overwhelming. He found it difficult to think that someday in the future, he too would walk the path as ruler and there is no set in stone instruction manual as to running the perfect society.
Resha pondered about Rin’s questions. Truth be told, it was the first time that she had been asked those questions as no one even bothered asking her how she felt about it. After all, now that she was appointed as queen, the burden and responsibilities placed upon her shoulders had magnified than when she was a princess. Did she ever felt any fear for taking on such a position? Yes, Resha would be lying if she didn’t admit that. But she wouldn’t let that fear consume her, as her reason behind weighed more deeply.
“My father,” she spoke up, breaking the silence between them, though her voice was soft and gentle. “My father, Rin… He had been serving as the king for a long time and did everything in his power to ensure that the people of Arcadia are well taken care of.”
“Yes. King Lucian is a great king.”
Resha smiled. Then she glanced at the king, who at that time was being entertained by nobles. “He had been a great king, yes. But…. it is time for him to rest and take care of himself. My father is not getting any younger anymore, and I would like to spend more time with him, not as a king, but as my father. I guess… to put it simply…” she paused for a bit, before continuing. “I love Arcadia and her people. But it is because of my father that I decided to assume his responsibility. I do not aim for perfection, but rather, I just want to be someone that he can be proud of.”
“You do… love your father that much, huh?”
“Of course. He is my father and the only family I have left.”
Rin smiled. “Thank you for sharing your perspective,” he responded. “It helps a lot.”
Resha gave Rin a nod, delighted to know that her response seemed to have lifted a burden off him. As far as she could remember, Rin was rather timid even when they were kids. She could also sense a bit of stiffness coming from the imperial prince, and she could only wish that he drops it otherwise. They were far from the prying eyes of the people around them anyways. Why not relax and have fun, right? After all, they were friends.
“I am grateful as well for your coming here, Rin,” she stated, changing the subject. She gave him a slight bow to express her gratitude. “I do hope that when the time comes for you to succeed the emperor, you won’t forget to send us an invite,” she jested as she tried to ease the awkward air around them, or at least, that’s what it looked to her.
Before any of them could say anything, the voice of Eau’s Lord Alabaster suddenly came in. Resha fared her eyes to the nobleman that stood by the doorway, holding a rather expensive cup of wine on his hands.
“Queen Resha! There you are!” Then the noble walked up to them, stopping only a few steps away from the young queen. Resha couldn’t help not to cringe, having smelled the alcohol that reeked from the nobleman. “I’m sorry to interrupt, your highness,” he stated sheepishly, turning to the young prince. “But your dance was spectacular, I couldn’t help not to be jealous!” Then he turned back to Resha. “In behalf of Eau, would you also allow me the honor of dancing with you, your majesty?” He asked and extended a hand towards the prince, a grin on his face.
Resha eyed the noble’s hand as the latter waited for her response. For formality’s sake, she would have to grant his request. She couldn’t just turn him down then, right? Besides, a little dance wouldn’t hurt.
“Very well,” she said as she nodded her head. “If you may please excuse us, your highness,” she said, directing her words at Rin. Lord Alabaster let out a rather excited chuckle before shifting his body to the side and offering his arm to the young queen. Resha then held the noble’s arm, as the latter walked her back inside the royal ball.
And while Regalia enjoys the coronation and festivities, the shadows of death loomed as armies of soldiers marched close to the Arcadian capital of Regalia. The wind of phantom blew, carrying with it a message of impending doom.