Kai took in a deep breath. He’d done this a thousand times, there was really nothing he had to worry about. Just another press conference. Putting on a dazzling smile, he stepped out on to the podium to greet the people. Questions flooded in and he answered them with ease. Things were going great, and soon he’d be out of the woods. A young reporter’s hand shot up quickly. Kai nodded to her.
“Emperor Kaito, what are your plans for this year’s Day of Hearts?”
Kai blinked in surprise, and completely blanked. That was the one question he hadn’t prepared for.
“I, um,” he began, not able to come up with anything.
He honestly hadn’t given The Day of Hearts a single thought. But, last time he called Cinder, she ended the phone call shorter than Kai expected. What if she thought he didn’t want to do anything? Kai mentally facepalmed. He was such an idiot.
“The people were hoping for a special ball, Your Majesty,” the reporter declared in the silence. Other reporters and the gathered crowd murmured in approval.
“Oh, yeah, yeah, I’m sure we can make something work,” Kai shrugged, deep in thought about what to do for Cinder.
“You heard it here folks, The Emperor is hosting a Day of Hearts Ball!”
“C’mon Cinder,” Iko whined, handing Cinder, who was under an old car from the end of the 20th century, a wrench.
“The Day of Hearts is an Earth holiday, I doubt anyone on Luna would care about it. I don’t even care about it, Iko.”
It’s true, she didn’t care for The Day of Hearts at all. Every year that she worked in the market this time of year, she’d see couples run around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to find the perfect gift. Out of fear for their significant other leaving them. How ironic for a day supposedly full of love? Cinder couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the memories.
At least she didn’t have to worry about it with Kai. He didn’t bring up the day at all during their last phone call, much to Cinder’s relief. She felt bad for ending the call so soon, but a little secretary-type lady kept bugging her about all the paperwork she still had to do. Cinder hoped he wasn’t mad at her.
“Winter does,” Iko reminded, “and so do I!”
“You’re not a Lunar,” Cinder sighed, “and Winter’s is… Winter.”
She heard Iko huff in irritation, and she knew her arms were crossed over her chest.
“Besides, who would you even share it with?”
Iko gasped in surprise. “You seriously don’t think I have someone to share the day with? I’ll have you know that Kinney, that cute guard? He’s definitely into me.”
Cinder rolled her eyes. Oh yes, how could she forget Kinney? When Iko managed to go five minutes without mentioning him, it was a miracle.
“Pleeeeeaaaaase Cinder,” Iko begged.
Cinder ran a hand over her face, not caring that her glove was most likely covered in grease and oil. On one hand, she thought it was ridiculous to introduce The Day of Hearts to the Lunars. But on the other, maybe if she did then they wouldn’t end up so superficial about it.
“Fine,” Cinder conceded, sliding out from underneath the car, “but if it doesn’t take, it doesn’t take.”
“Did you see that Kai is hosting a Day of Hearts Ball?” Iko asked excitedly, completely forgetting about their previous conversation.
Cinder’s eyebrows knit in confusion. She accessed her own news, and there it was, clear as day. Emperor Kai was hosting a Day of Hearts Ball.
“This is so exciting!” Iko squealed, dancing around.
“Why didn’t he tell me?” Cinder muttered to herself.
Did he actually like The Day of Hearts? And he picked up that she didn’t like it so he kept quiet? That wasn’t what Cinder wanted at all! A cold feeling settled in the pit of her stomach.
She had to make it up to him.
“Your Majesty, don’t you think you’re going a bit overboard?” Torin asked with a sigh.
They were both practically drowning in flowers.
“Torin, this has to be perfect for her! There’s already news that she’s prepared to come to the ball, and since she found out through the news before I had the chance to tell her what happened, she’s probably even more upset!”
Torin carefully picked a path through the flowers carts, and placed a hand on Kai’s shoulder.
“Does that really sound like Cinder?” He asked, eyes kind.
Kai sighed, picking a random bouquet off the nearest cart.
“No, but...everything is so new. We still have so much to learn about each other.”
“We both know her. I’ll be shocked if this is something that makes her mad. She’s probably using this as an excuse to see you. You know how she is. Relax, Your Majesty.”
Kai sighed. Deep down he knew he was worried for no reason, but he couldn’t shake them away so easily.
“I’m telling you, you look fine!” Iko said, exasperated.
Cinder continued straightening her dress out. It was a silky midnight blue fabric with swirls of green and teal, and it hung almost to the floor. The stylists on Luna were very serious about their craft. Though it was comfortable, it wasn’t...her. Eventually she stopped, trusting Iko’s judgement. Iko had a much louder dress on, it was a vibrant pink with bunches of red hearts collected towards the bottom. Anyone looking at it would instantly thing “Day of Hearts”. For Iko, it was perfect.
“What are you going to say to him when you get there?” She asked, spinning so that her skirt billowed.
Cinder had no clue. She’d apologize, and hopefully they could enjoy the ball together. But she didn’t want to think about it.
“Did Kinney do anything for you?” Cinder changed the subject.
Iko’s eyes instantly lit up.
“You bet he did! He did some research, and apparently it was a very popular custom to give that special someone something called a Valentine, and that’s exactly what he did. It’s so romantic!” Iko swooned, pressing a hand over her heart (even though she didn’t have one).
Cinder rolled her eyes. Well, apparently Lunars did like the idea of an Earth holiday. She turned her attention back to the ball, and Kai. They’d be arriving in a matter of minutes, and she needed time to prepare.
The ball was a huge success. The dance floor was packed with couples, and single people mingling with other single people in hopes of leaving with somebody else. Couples exchanged gifts, and there was even one proposal. But no Cinder.
Kai fiddled with his gloves nervously. He shouldn’t be so nervous, but he was. A lot of people considered The Day of Hearts to be a serious milestone in a romantic relationship, and he felt like a gigantic idiot for forgetting about it.
Maybe Cinder decided not to come, or the intel he heard was wrong. What if she didn’t come because Kai didn’t invite her? He hid his face behind the bouquet he’d finally picked out. This was so stressful.
“Announcing The Lunar Ambassador, Miss Linh Cinder,” a voice boomed across the ballroom.
Kai shot out of his chair, gripping the bouquet tightly in one hand and a box of European chocolates in the other. Their eyes met across the room, and Cinder let a little smile slip. Kai relaxed a bit.
They met each other halfway, and stood in a moment of awkward silence.
“I’m sorry-” They both started at the same time, and laughed awkwardly. Cinder’s head cocked to the side slightly.
“What are you sorry for?” She asked confused. Then she noticed the flowers and box of chocolate in Kai’s hands.
“For forgetting The Day of Hearts, obviously. The other day when you called and ended our conversation short, I didn’t even realize until the press conference that I forgot about it and you were probably upset.” Kai explained, holding his gifts up as a peace offering.
“Upset?” Cinder’s forehead wrinkled. “Kai, I wouldn’t be upset over something like that, even if I did like The Day of Hearts. And I had to end the call short, some annoying secretary wouldn’t leave me alone until I did the paperwork she had for me.”
Kai didn’t know what to say, he felt like an idiot. Of course Torin was right, Cinder wouldn’t be mad at something like that. And it figures she doesn’t even like The Day of Hearts, how had he never figured it out?
“But..if you thought I liked The Day of Hearts, why didn’t you tell me about the ball?” Cinder asked, nervously pulling at her dress.
“I didn’t even know until last minute, one of the reporters at the press conference cornered me and next thing I knew, the palace was hosting a Day of Hearts Ball.” Kai shrugged. The whole thing was still a confusing ordeal to him.
Cinder let out a sigh of relief. “I was so worried that I made you feel like you couldn’t celebrate with me.”
So that’s why she came all the way? To reassure him that they could celebrate The Day of Hearts even though she didn’t like it? Kai couldn’t help himself. He began laughing.
“We’re ridiculous,” he laughed, “I was worried you were mad at me for not having plans, and you were worried I felt like I couldn’t share the day with you. We’re definitely made for eachother.”
Cinder burst out laughing as well. The Ambassador and Emperor laughing like a couple of loons turned a few heads, but they didn’t care.
“Hey, you wanna split those chocolates, Emperor Kaito?” Cinder teased.
“Nothing would make me happier, Ambassador.”