Satoru always loved spring. After the gloomy winter threatening to stab your fingertips with frostbites, you're welcomed with a ray of warm spring sunshine covering you like a blanket. Even though the winter nights were long and cold, Satoru didn't mind much as long as he could spend it sat in front of the small fireplace all huddled up with his mother while drinking lukewarm milk mixed with sweet honey, it was comforting. But nothing could compare to spring, rows of colourful flowers bloomed on the vast green field, a mix of bright reds and blues complimenting each other perfectly with hints of yellow scattered around, picking up every flower he could find and presenting the bouquet to his mother who couldn't help but smile at the gesture. His mother's happiness was a treasure he kept in his heart, he wouldn't trade it for the world.
Satoru loved spring.
The sun rose upon the high hilltops, emitting a soft glow, it blessed the early risers with a breathtaking view. The hues of magenta, orange and yellow merged together immersing the sky in its ventures. In the distance, the robins and sparrows can be heard humming their gentle early morning tune, in perfect harmony with the faint gusts of wind. Young fair maidens silently preparing breakfast for their loved ones, filling the kitchen with a savoury smell. As each minute passes, the villagers begin leaving their homes ready to start the day off.
"Satoru, it's time to get up." Sachiko leaned in, gently tucking the strands behind her son's ear. He let out a soft annoyed groan and shifted his blanket over his head, covering him from the blinding sunlight. He could hear his mom giving out a defeated sigh while getting off, the feeling of the heavyweight on his bed quickly disappeared and footsteps made their way to the dried wooden door. "Make sure you wash up and get dressed after you're awake! I'll be waiting for you inside the bakery." This earned a groan from Satoru in response.
After the footsteps finally left the small bedroom, Satoru shifted the blanket off, disappointed at the loss of warmth. He was suddenly hit by a cool breeze coming from the open window. He sat up, stretching his arms and slowly got out of his cosy 'chamber'. He goes on with his daily morning routine; bathing in cold water, rinsing his mouth, eating his mother's home-cooked breakfast and getting dressed. If he was lucky enough, he’d be able to drink warm milk with honey. Closing the wooden door behind him, Satoru hummed a melancholy tune while walking to his mother's bakery. A sweet aroma wafted in the air and filled his senses, even after eating his mother's home-cooked breakfast, he felt his stomach growl in hunger.
He gently pushed the door open, hearing the quiet chime of the silver bell which was hung above it, the wave of baked goods was the only thing he could think of. Satoru eyed the freshly baked pastries as steam released from it.
"You're finally up." Sachiko glanced over the counter. Her apron which was clinging onto her waist was covered in flour as she held the tray full of loaves and brioche. Sachiko placed the pastries into the straw-woven basket with precision, making sure they were neatly lined up and not a single one out of place. She then placed the basket in order, displaying its mouth-watering texture to any fortunate customer passing by. Sachiko dusted the flour off her hands before taking an envelope from the dirty counter and handing it over to Satoru. He looked dumbfounded at his mother's gesture before grabbing the envelope and shaking off the remaining flour.
"Read it out loud for me, would you Satoru?" His eyes set onto the letter. The crescent sign shown on top of the flap as it was neatly stamped, it’s golden wax sealed the centre of it. However, the stamp itself was enchanting. Satoru could see flowers covering half of a spider's body on the stamp, it was prepossessing yet chilling. "Satoru?" He heard his mother call out, a concerned look spread across her face. "A-ah, sorry. I was just admiring t-t-the stamp." He stuttered out while giving an awkward smile to his mom. "Well, it looks quite important, that's why I wanted us both to read it together." Sachiko gave an amused chuckle. ‘ By 'we' she meant 'me'..’ He thought.
" Dear people of Ishikari. " He starts " You are formally invited to join the celebration of the second Prince's 16th birthday. From the words of his highness himself, he'd love for all of you to be able to attend tomorrow night, regardless of your standing. This is a time for all of us to come together, to spread joy, laughter and solidarity. He'd love for everyone to be able to contribute to making happy memories. We hope you will take the time to attend as he eagerly awaits your arrival ." Pausing at each word in disbelief "Yours sincerely, The Royal Family."
His eyes scanned the ink letters, analysing them as if this was an ancient manuscript that had a hidden meaning towards every impossible question that mankind created.
"It's a surprise that the royal family is even willing to throw a celebration for the prince, I never imagined them to be the type of family to enjoy a bit of fun." Satoru finally sets down the letter, listening to the fire crackling in the masonry oven, trying to find the correct words to express his emotions.
"Are we going?" His voice rasped while eyeballing the ceramic tiles, he could feel his mother's eyes staring right through him. "Do you want to?" Sachiko hums, carefully placing a dozen of small piping hot buns into a woven basket. Satoru stayed silent.
"Satoru, do you mind delivering these to the sisters in the orphanage?" Finally covering the basket with a thin fabric, she paced towards Satoru and lightly shoved the basket into his chest. "Do I have a choice?" He replied nonchalantly. Knowing the answer - he took the basket, gripping onto the handle balancing out of weight.
"No, not really." He could feel his mom smiling. "I'll head out now." He walked towards the door and turned the metal doorknob but was quickly tugged away. His back faced the door as he felt a warm, affectionate kiss imprinted on his forehead, staring up at his still-smiling mother. "Don't get sidetracked too much." Her warm smile remained as she gave Satoru the list of errands. With a quick nod, Satoru exited the bakery.
The news spread like wildfire, people entering tailor shops with a hefty budget to spend. Almost all of the shops in the village were packed with well off customers and before he knew it, he was in a sea of rushing people shoving and pushing all around.
Not a good way to start a spring day. He thought to himself.
After almost stumbling towards the concrete ground numerous times, he finally made it to the cosy orphanage. The chimney piped out hot smoke as it spread its bitter smell across the clear sky, the chatter of the children could be heard inside the orphanage. Not long after arriving in front of the building, the door slowly creaked open revealing a girl of his age. Her brunette hair reached her waist while her fringe covered parts of her forehead, her brown eyes squinted under the mild sun, wearing a plain white dress.
The girl's eyes landed on Satoru, shooting him a warm welcome smile. "Good morning, Satoru!" Airi shouted. Satoru could hear the obvious enthusiasm in her voice and gave the optimistic girl a short wave back before slowly making his way to her. With each step Satoru took, he noticed the existing dark circles under her eyes. She must have stayed up too late while helping the sisters with the orphanage again. Like always .
"Airi, did you stay up late again?" He questioned. Airi replied with a sheepish smile. "Maybe..?" Satoru bit back a sigh. "Don't push yourself too hard, okay?" He advised fully knowing that his friend won't listen. "Fine, fine.." She trailed off as her gaze fell on the basket filled with delicious, home-baked pastries. Airi placed her hand on her mouth and released a dramatic gasp. "For me?" With a light chuckle, Satoru gently placed his hand down on the girl's brunette hair. "Just give these to the sisters." He continued, "You and the others must be hungry."
With that, he set the basket's handle into her soft palm. "Are you going to stay and play with them today?" Airi gripped onto the basket's handle, swaying the basket from side to side.
Ah? Oh, right. It's been 4 days since he last visited and checked on the orphans, he felt a warm feeling casting itself inside of him. Whenever he can - Satoru always comes back to spend time with the bored children, always thinking of himself as an older brother or an understanding guardian to those who crave to have someone to look up to. Satoru promised only and only to himself that he would always help people in need. Like the knight and shining armour in his favourite book, he was everything Satoru aspires to be: courageous, thoughtful and has moral integrity. He could feel a smile slowly forming on his mouth, recalling every silly memory he had with them. But sadly...
"Can't, I have other painful errands." He sighs, they were never fun but he had to help his mother somehow. Airi gave an understanding nod then spoke: "Well, I'll tell them you said hi!" Shooting off another prize-winning smile she went back into the church, having to answer questions from the orphans.
With that, he turned his heels and marched off into the village square. Ready to go on a small adventure and face a wave of people.
Time flew by fast as Satoru slowly limped towards the small house, each of his limbs aching and screaming from fatigue. That was the most errands I’ve had in the last few years. He thought to himself. Out of all of the busy days, this was by far the most exhausting. Pushing the door open, he forced himself into the building, slumping onto the chair as it croaked. I could sure go for some curry right about now.
"Dinner will be ready in a minute, be patient." Sachiko's head popped out from the kitchen. Oops, I said that out loud...
True to her words, a bowl almost filled to the brim sat in front of Satoru. Inhaling the mouth-watering scent it gave off, each individual spice and flavour only increased his craving. It was a miracle that Satoru hadn't gotten tired of the dish, after all, it was his mom's home-cooked curry. With each bite he took, he could feel his tongue being hit with the savoury taste. It’s amazing as always.
"I'm glad you think my curry is amazing, Satoru." Satoru can feel the amusement in his mother's voice as she sits opposite him. He needs to sort out this awful habit.
After dinner was done he helped clear the table, wash the dishes and then took an ice-cold bath. He slipped into his thin fabricated gown and tucked himself into the firm, wooden bed. Rinse and repeat. Relaxing his face and finally getting some shut-eye, washing away in the land of dreams as he fell asleep peacefully.
Before he knew it, a new day came. The star-filled sky was now a bright blue haze. Puffy clouds gently danced across the sky as the sun beamed behind them. A soft yawn came from Satoru as he shifted from his wrapped-ragged blankets, enjoying the soft atmosphere in his bedroom.
Today was an important day for the people of Ishikari. The prince's birthday. He tried not to envy the royal family with their fortune and wealth. Everyone saw them as powerful and one to care for their kingdom, doing everything they can to improve and expand their territory for the people of Ishikari. However his mother saw them as a sad and incomplete family, but it doesn't matter to Satoru. He never paid attention to their history and current situation, the only time he ever took notice from the family was the current event happening now. Sometimes the blue-haired boy dreams of living in a big house near the seaside of a grassy hill with his mother, living in peace and never having to worry about food when he can fish near the ocean. Sadly it was only the figure of his imagination, this is reality- not some made-up fairy tale where everything has a good ending.
This is reality
Finally, Satoru stood up, his feet touching the cold planks, stretched his arms and headed off to start a new day. Repeating the same task from yesterday until he was finally outside of the bakery, admiring the creaking old signboard as it swayed back and forth. Living outside of the kingdom had its perks. Dazing off while laying on the grassy meadow, what Satoru would do to live in peace.
And yet, achieving something so simple would be too much for his life-time status: a peasant. Life is unexpected in many ways, he knew it himself and made an easy understanding. Only try hard enough to fill the emptiness in you. To Satoru, filling the void means being there for others, helping them through their pain and becoming a warm memory for the person.
A light yet sudden knock came from behind, forcing Satoru out of his thoughts. Head-turning, he could see his mom leaning against the wooden door, arms crossed with a concerned look plastered on her face.
"I've been calling your name for a long time, what's wrong?" Sachiko said, her tone laced with worry. "E-eh? Oh! Nothing, I was just thinking." He managed to stutter out, Sachiko’s face stayed the same. "Don't tell me..." Her tone was suddenly serious, did he do something wrong??
"You did nothing wrong, is just-" Her sentence was cut off with a quick smirk. "Are you thinking about a girl?" It took Satoru a moment to analyse his mother's words before his face was burning with embarrassment.
"What! No!!-" His eyes quickly avoided hers. "I was just teasing you, Satoru. No need to shout so early in the morning." Immediately after dropping the topic, she urged Satoru to enter the bakery with a wave.
Satoru hung his bag on the worn-out wooden chair and sat down - hearing the loud creak coming from the chair. Once again, the strong scent of pastries and bread, slowly baking in the oven, assaulted his senses. Swinging his legs slowly, the blue-haired boy patiently waits for his first-morning errand. He could've sketched during the wait but remembering the soaked sketchbook he dropped in the puddle a couple of weeks ago, frowning slightly at the loss. It would probably take him a couple of months to be able to buy another sketchbook. But for the time being, he will continue to work hard and save up. Recalling all of the pieces of artwork he drew, Satoru looked outside of the bakery to see many people still rushing about for the big night. ‘Dress to impress’ as they say, it’s probably normal to stress over the finely-made attire you would wear – especially if you were to meet people of higher status in a party.
“Speaking of the party.” He thought as his attention quickly fell onto his mom, something felt off , but what was it? Nothing looked out of the ordinary, it might just be a hunch that he got from his mom since birth. Nothing changed him and his mom's daily schedule but the feeling was still there, slowly burying itself into Satoru's head and nesting it as its own home. He couldn't help but drag the hunch onto his mom - was she hiding something from him?
He still needs an answer for the ball party
"Mom? Can I ask you a question?" he asked, repeatedly scratching the table.
Sachiko's head facing away from her son's direction presents a soft hum in response.
"Are we-" His sentence was quickly cut off by his mother's voice. "-are we going to the prince's birthday party?" She hums while busy kneading the dough.
"I wouldn't say ' we' but rather you " Oh? Well, that's a shame-
"Eh?!!" Instantly getting up from his seat as his hands slammed onto the table with a loud thud, not one single flinch came from his mom during the duration of those 2 seconds of action. Still kneading the dough. "M-me??" His finger points at himself.
"But! I don't personally know any people attending the party except for myself!" He wouldn't mind going to the party with someone but going to a celebration, with many higher classes wearing fancy suits and sipping expensive wine while boasting about either themselves or others, alone?! Now that's out of the question.
"You can always meet new people, Satoru." Meeting people with high standards! That would definitely work out.
"Besides, it would be such a waste if no one wore the suit." A fake sigh came from Sachiko.
Suit? What suit? We had a suit??
"Oh you know, the suit in the small wardrobe." Cursing underneath his tone, Satoru continues to find excuses. "But, what if I get lost? I don't know how to get to the palace." That should do the trick, right? Wrong
"Don't worry, I was able to get a deal with one of the coachmen, 3 hours of his service for 3 months of free baked pastries to feed his family." She replied. "It would be a shame if he and his family are left hungry during the rough months..." Her voice was filled with genuine guilt. That was the final push, Satoru knows that even if she was able to feed them without expenses, it wouldn't take long for all of the ingredients to run out without enough money to afford for more. "Fine. I'll go."
"Good idea, I'll let you know when Satoru." Her head slightly turned to the side, he could see the tips of her mouth twitching up.
What has he gotten himself into?
With the sun slowly setting, the azure sky was filled with various pinks and purples as surroundings only became nothing more than silhouettes. Gently, the calm wind rustles the emerald-shaded leaves. This was one of the reasons why Satoru enjoyed the spring season, walking around and being careless and enjoying the colour-filled sky. Well, 'careless' isn't the right word to express how he feels right now.
Satoru wouldn't call himself as an approachable person to strangers, the reason why Airi and Satoru were close is because of their cooperation with his mother's bakery: He would always bring the deliveries while she collects it. The first meeting between him and Airi was still fresh in his memory, awkward and quiet. However, he finds her company very entertaining during his break. They would always talk about their day or something interesting that happened weeks ago.
He should tell Airi about this tomorrow.
Currently, Satoru was standing in front of his mother who was enjoying herself at her son's attire. "D-don't laugh!" He shouted, his serious face burned with embarrassment. "S-sorry, it's amusing to see you in a suit." His mom wiped the tear leaking from her eyes and continued. "What do you think? Do you like it?"
The suit had practically screamed 'old', but the smell of fresh soap stuck onto the antique suit: A clean white linen-shirt tucked in his pale-brown, knee-length breeches pants, a beige button-up waistcoat lay over the shirt while a jabot tie hungover it, white stocking covering the rest of his calves. The buckle shoes made him taller than what his real height was, the silver buckles tightly held the thick straps of the worn-out black leather shoes. To top things off, a pale navy blue coat draped over his shoulders. The embroidery on the waistcoat was breath-taking, a dozen of sapphire-blue butterflies were spread across the waistcoat. He wouldn't be able to recognise himself if it wasn't for his blue eyes.
"It's nice..." He fidgets the wooden button on his waistcoat, having second thoughts about his decision. Feeling a sudden icy hand on his cheek, Satoru immediately looked at his mother's face. Her eyes were calm and warm while her smile still plastered on her face. "Are you reconsidering in going?" She asked, her motherly tone struck Satoru with nostalgic memories. Slowly, he nods his head while looking away from her eyes. "I want you to enjoy yourself, Satoru." She continued while her hand slid off his warm cheek.
"For the past few years up until now, you've been overworking yourself to exhaustion. Why not spend this opportunity to have fun?" Sachiko hums as she adjusts his collar into a presentable look, Satoru looks down at her while giving another slow nod. "Isn't it funny? Your birthday passed weeks ago. Even if we didn't get to celebrate it, just think that the prince's birthday is your birthday."
"Isn't that selfish?..." Satoru mumbled, still rosy red. His mom let out a small chuckle, "It is, isn't it?" Sachiko brushes off a small particle of dust on his shoulder. "If you want to put it into a nicer context, just imagine celebrating both of yours and the prince's birthday, hm?" Stepping back, she gave a pleased look at her son - like how an artist would view their work after years of work and drafts. Satoru opened his mouth to protest but a sudden knock startled them both. "Oh, they're here." Step by step, she walked towards the door then grabbed the metal handle and pulled it open to reveal a man wearing a black top hat with a fully buttoned-up black coat. He exchanges a friendly smile with Sachiko before finally looking at him.
"This your son, Mrs Fujinuma?" A quick nod came from his mom as she continued the conversation, "He's nervous about the prince's celebration."
"I'm sure' it's new for the gent, yeh?" The rest of the conversation was casual between his mom and the coachman. "Enough about that, I need to drive the fine gent to the palace, eh?" He then began to usher Satoru outside but to only stop at the doorway. Satoru stood still like a statue, his feet were stuck on the ground while his eyes were staring in awe at the carriage.
It wasn't the first time seeing a carriage, he can count numerous times when he sees a carriage passing by. But being able to sit and relax in one? He stares at the glorious carriage in awe: it was entirely painted in a jet black colour, it's English oak wheels were not spared from being painted on, a golden symbol decorated on the door. Out of all of these features, there was one that Satoru instantly noticed when stepping outside - on the left, two beautiful black stallions were standing and waiting for their master's commands.
"Beautiful aren't they?" The coachman praises. "They are the fastest horse you'll probably ever see! I know because I trained them deathly." He puffs his chest and smirks triumphantly.
"I can tell..." He whispers shyly. "Let's get a move on then, say goodbye to ya mother." With one smooth move, the coachman climbed then sat on the front seat of the carriage and grabbed the rein strap that laid in front of him. Satoru turned to his mom and gave an awkward wave to her, which in return she gave one back, then stepped on the folding step and entered the carriage.
He sat stiffly on the fabricated seat and looked out of the window, his mom gave one last wave before Satoru heard a loud flick from the rein and a sudden movement shoved him forward. He can hear the loud trotting on the cobble street, the tension left his shoulder as he rests his head on the soft wool of the seat. He should rest before arriving, it would be bad if he was exhausted and was forced to converse with others. A calm sea before the storm
In a couple of minutes, Satoru found himself dozing off while drowning in the forest's ambience.
"We're here." Satoru's eyes instantly shot up just before his body lurched forward again. Groaning at the impact, he was quickly blinded by the beaming light from outside.
The carriage door flew open, forcing more light inside. Satoru shifts towards the exit and climbed out of the carriage, an audible crunch was heard after his feet stepped on the gravel pathway, he squints at the colossal palace stood in front of him: The walls were a white stone that glistened underneath the moonlight, there were one too many golden domes with sharp golden points that went horizontal which gave it the look of an eccentric crown, the palace porch at the front was held up with the most ostentatiously detailed pillars, a gigantic tower overshadowed the entire palace altogether, guards were posted at each palace entrance.
This was overwhelming
"No..." He swallowed thickly, thinking back to what his mother had told him; "enjoy yourself." Repeating the words until it burned in his memory. It was too late to turn back now, he couldn't imagine the amount of time his mom wasted planning this in a day. "-before you go in, yer mom told me to tell you that you need to be back here at 11:20." The driver got back on the front seat and sighed while kicking his leg up to form a relaxing pose. "She must love ya very much, tell her that I appreciated the trade she offered."
"Oh, alright..." Quickly walking towards the entrance, a guard gave him a dull look and gestured to Satoru the entrance.
Upon entering the huge palace, many aged statues were carrying either a pot full of various coloured flowers or posing dramatically as if they were in the Italian Renaissance. Prestigious paintings were painted on the roof or hung up in detailed wooden frames, showing extortionary content, with more guards guarding the expensive artefacts. The diamond chandeliers hung aimlessly, the stones glistened on the marble floor beneath him. Not a shock for Satoru - if the palace looks grand on the outside, it would definitely look more magnificent inside.
Pausing outside another entrance leading to the ballroom, he took a deep breath and went in casually.
The ballroom floor glitters brilliantly under the glowing light of the chandelier. The figures of men and women dressed in elegant clothing cloud his vision. Servants carrying trays of costly wine or appetizers, offering them politely to the chattering guests. Satoru notices a balcony above everyone in the ballroom, 2 grand empty thrones that were meant for the king and queen. On his left, there were 10 rows of long dining tables filled with: platters of vegetables and cured meats along with a side of different types of cheese, a dozen of fruit basket filled with exotic fruits from other countries, 6 tiered cake stands which includes many other desserts he had never seen before, loaves of bread piled up on the centre of the table, and of course there's more wine.
If it wasn't for the tension he feels after entering the palace, he would've consumed the food without any worry. The ballroom was getting stuffy as the number of people started to enter increased, even if he wasn't so nervous he wouldn't want to eat in a crowded room. He can just come back later. This gives him a good excuse to explore outside of the palace.
Taking another exit, he strolls down the empty halls while humming peacefully to himself until he reaches an open golden gate which leads to the garden. The royal family really likes to impress their guest with their interiors, huh?
Walking into the garden, unfazed with all of the nude statues shown, Satoru wanders carelessly while staring at Daisy planted in a stone pot. There were many fountains and walls with spiders sculptured as a design.
After wandering for a couple of minutes he found himself in front of an enormous fountain, more statues posing and gushing out water at the centre of the fountain, he peers before going around. Finger drifting around the fountain, he silently listens to the stream of water running down from the rock figure - cancelling out all distracting sounds in the garden.
Well, almost all of it.
A heavy thud came from the opposite side of the fountain following with a rageful shout. Satoru took a quick glimpse across the fountain to see the outlines of two people. One collapsed on the ground while the other hovered over them.
"God! You're so weird!-" The incoherent screaming slowly became more coherent as he slowly got closer, curiosity quickly twisted into the gut feeling of dismay.
This is wrong
Eyes glued on the scene, the figure hovering over the small figure grabbed them and tossed them around like a rag doll.
Their fist raised in the air, preparing to give a solid blow to the face.
He ran as fast as he could, his legs were screaming him to stop but his brain kept telling him to keep going. His breath was hitched and all over the place.
Running as if his life depended on it.
Running as if the moment he stops the world would end.
Running like he never had before.
Running to save the victim
He collided into the taller person, feeling his entire body weight shoving the stranger, knocking down both figures onto the ground.
Still panting, Satoru glared at the tall figure then realising that it was a male. But right now he could care less.
"W-what do you think you're doing?!" Satoru yelled as he tried to recover the lack of energy in his legs. "What the hell are you doing!?"
Glaring at the man's surprised face that quickly changed into a scowl.
"What do you think you're doing!" He yelled gravelly back at Satoru.
"Stopping you." His voice instantly lowered with a harsh bitterness to it. "What makes you think you can harm someone without hesitation?..."
"You don't even realise who you're talking to." The man scoffed.
"Nor do I care." Satoru spat, venom laced in his tone.
The man stood up. Satoru quickly compares his height and build to his, there wasn't a big difference in height but the man's average build was more promising than Satoru's lanky build. The man had more advantage than Satoru. Stronger than Satoru
Even though Satoru was a stick compared to the stranger, he didn't let that intimidate him. All he needed to focus right now was to protect. To save.
instantly his shirt was grabbed, forcing him to be lifted onto his tip-toes. His eyes remain on the person's face.
Seeing the clenched fist preparing for a knockout made Satoru automatically scrunched his eyes shut, ready for a solid punch. Ready for the sore pain and his mother's upset state with many questions for Satoru to answer. Waiting...
But to nothing.
He dared to sneak peek to see a fist inches away from his face, the noise of the fountain water running was the only thing that was stopping the tensed silence. Why did he pause?...
In the distance, Satoru could hear a lady's laugh mixed with a man's voice - unaware of the brawl that was about to happen. "Was it because of them?..." Satoru thought as he felt the grip on his shirt tighten in frustration.
He was suddenly flung onto the stone floor, hands scraped against pieces of gravel, immediately sitting up while ignoring the sharp pain.
"Next time, you should mind your own Goddamn business." The person sneered before taking his leave, disappearing from his and the other person's sight.
Releasing the pent-up gasp he held throughout the arrival. Satoru shifts his head to the boy next to him, expecting to see a frightened expression but was instead shown a surprised face that quickly changed into a neutral look.
His dark bangs were slightly ruffled, the umber narrowed eyes bore into Satoru's blue ones. His hand neatly rearranged the bangs into a more attractive look to hide the faint bruise that was forming slowly, on his temple. In all honesty, he was extremely handsome- but as a compliment of course.
"Hey...are you-" Satoru was disrupted by a low, monotonous voice.
"Yes, I'm sorry you had to see that." The boy said simply while breaking eye contact with him. "Oh...no, it's okay."
Satoru got up and dusted the dirt off of his breeches pants, still feeling the stinging pain on his palm. While doing so, he spotted an opened-page book laying carelessly on the begrimed floor. Is that his? He looks like the type that would read...
Walking over and picking up the book, he paced in front of the boy and leaned in while holding out his right empty hand, the other was occupied with the hardcover book, offering his help.
"No problem!" Trying to sound positive as possible even after the heavy event that occurred.
He pulled the boy up to his feet, they were about the same height but Satoru was a bit shorter than him. The boy began to repeat the same action Satoru had done: dusting off the dirt from his expensive-looking suit and making himself look more decent. Satoru looked everywhere, his vision bouncing on inanimate objects to another just to ignore the awkward tension between them.
Remembering the book, Satoru lifts the book and analyzes the title on the hardcover. "Cinderella..." He mutters underneath his breath. "Is this yours?" Handing it over to the boy.
"Ah, yes. Thank you." The boy slips the book into his hand.
"It's not a problem! You're reading the book Cinderella, huh?..." This was a poor attempt to start a conversation, Satoru could just walk it off, but there was a gut feeling telling him to stay.
"Yes, you might now think I'm a peculiar person." Satoru was quick to object.
"N-no! I've also read the book as well! it's very...interesting." Satoru's strident tone startled the stranger. "haha, sorry..."
"Oh?" He said flatly. Satoru nods. They were talking about Satoru startling him, right?
"Well, I think the story is quite interesting as well." Never mind, it was the book. All Satoru could do right now is listen.
"I sometimes think of the alternative ending and the 'what ifs'." Satoru furrows his brows.
"What do you mean?" He finally asked.
"If Cinderella wasn't able to tell the Prince in time, would she receive the ‘happily ever after’ she deserves?" he continues, "Or if Cinderella didn't tell the prince, would her two stepsisters not have their eyes plucked off by crows?"
The boy opened his book and flicked at the end of the book, showing a picture of Cinderella and her Prince charming being happily wedded. And continued again in a low tone.
"Sometimes I question myself..." He pauses while his umber-coloured eyes stared down at the picture with the same neutral expression.
"Question yourself what?"
The boy looked up at Satoru with a small smile glued on his face. "If I will be able to get a happy ending like her." Even though his smile looked casual and warm, Satoru felt as if he was looking at a porcelain doll. A fake and practised smile plastered on its face.
There was a small, painful throb in his chest but Satoru ignored it.
"Well, I think everyone deserves a happy ending..." Satoru broke eye contact with him and stared up at the night sky.
"Oh? Why do you think that?"
"I think all of the worst of humans must have felt the worst kind of pain to be able to spread their misery around others. Never being able to feel true happiness." Feeling the emotion being robbed from them ...
"And maybe, just maybe, they will be able to experience a kind of happiness once in their lives. To fill the hole in their heart." Satoru could practically feel eyes on him but chooses to ignore it.
Listening to the distant music playing inside of the palace, Satoru snapped back into reality.
"O-oh! I must have talked too much, haha!" Scratching behind his neck before turning towards the boy, who's expression was unreadable.
"No, I agree..." The boy gave a slow nod and closed his book.
"Do you mind if I asked you a question?"
"I don't." Staring on the ground while waiting for the question.
"Why did you help me?..." He questioned.
"Even though you know you would be harmed as well, you still did it. What gave you courage?" Satoru stared at the boy before changing his view again towards the dark sky. Staying quiet.
"Why did you help me? A complete stranger?..."
"Because...it was the right thing to do..." Satoru quietly answered.
The boy immediately silenced.
"Knowing what I'm doing is right gives me courage and confidence." Because he was the hero, a hero who will try to help everyone with the best of his abilities.
"Hero? I see..." Satoru cheeks burned red.
He just embarrassed himself twice this evening, this will forever burn in his memory and in the history of: "Good at conversations".
Silence introduced itself back into the atmosphere, it was unbearable.
He took a quick peek at the boy, his expression was presented with a small warm smile.
"Would you mind sitting down with me? I very much enjoy your company and presence." The silence broke as the boy shuffled to the bench not too far away from them.
"Alright." Satoru took the invitation and sat next to the boy, who was still smiling.
"May I ask where you come from?" The boy fidgets with the bookmark thread.
"I live a little bit far away from here, just in the countryside." Even though living in the countryside was seen as peaceful, he would like to prove that in his town it will always be buzzing with people everywhere.
"I come from the east." Satoru continues while nodding to himself. "I see, what do you usually do over there?" The boy hums, still fidgeting the fabric.
"Well, my mom runs a bakery so I usually help her run errands and deliver things." He might think Satoru as someone low because of the hierarchy.
"That sounds nice, I bet you must enjoy your life." A dream sigh came from the boy. He leaned forward, resting his cheek on his left opened palm.
"I wish it was like that." The thought about owning a small house near the seaside appeared inside his head. He carries on: "When business is slow, my mom would not eat anything just so I can." Those days were rough, he still can recall the effecting features of his mother: Skin was pale white, bags underneath her eyes, her arms were sticks and her hair was dishevelled. She must have weighed lighter than a feather. "I...don't want to see her sacrifice so much for me to the point she will pick pieces of herself."
Satoru waits, expecting an answer but is given nothing. A comforting hand rubbed his back following a small yet warm tone. "I'm sorry you and your mom have to suffer that..."
"It's alright." A simple reply could finish this topic for now.
When the hand finally withdrew itself, Satoru feeling a pint of disappointment, The boy, hesitating at first, finally spoke: "May I ask for your...name?"
"Satoru Fujinuma, yours?" The boy opens his mouth to reply.
"Gaku Miko-" A sudden high-pitched shriek came from their right and then a dozen of girls approached them... or him.
Their dresses surrounded Gaku while Satoru watched the poor boy being shrouded in questions or conversation.
"Congratulations on turning 16!"
"Thank you." His voice was calm and modulated.
"It was so nice to invite everyone, your highness-"
Pieces start forming together to present a missing puzzle, full to its conclusion. Satoru's eyes widened in surprise, mouth agape, he could barely listen to the muffled conversation happening beside him.
For the entire evening, he had been talking to one of the members of the royal family, remembering that he embarrassed himself twice was a solid punch to the stomach.
He bounded, abruptly, from the bench - surprising the crowd of middle or higher class girls - and hurriedly walking away from the group. "I think it's time to go now..." Hoping no one will call out for him. Of course, hope wasn't on his side.
"Fujinuma, wait-" A soft voice called out for him, his legs stopped automatically and turned around to face the prince. Even though he wants to leave, manners are still a thing. "Are you leaving already?..."
"I need to get back, it's getting late after all." He lied while trying to hide the sudden nervous tone when he spoke, failing miserably.
"Let me assist you back inside the palace." That's the last thing he wants to happen, being alone after finding out he's a prince would be extremely nerve-wracking for him. Even if they're not alone, it will still be the same. Satoru did what he had to do, for the sake of him not embarrassing himself and revealing the truth.
He left, quickly.
Satoru was already speed-walking through the halls, going through random entries. Finally, coming to realise that he was lost. Turning around every corner hoping to find the entry to the ballroom.
His scheme was simple: find the entrance to the ballroom, re-cap all of the steps from the beginning when he entered the room, leave the palace, go home and forget this had ever happened. If lady luck was on his side, maybe the prince might forget about him! Hopefully
His plan can succeed if he completes task one first. The prince sounded desperate for him to stay - but it doesn't matter anymore - the sooner he finds the entrance, the better.
Drowning in his thoughts, he hasn't noticed the approaching sound of loud heels clacking on the marble floor. A light hand placed itself onto Satoru's left shoulder. " Fujinuma, are you lost? " The same soft, monotonous and calm voice had appeared once more, right behind him. Satoru paused.
"You're majesty, w-why are you here?" His tremulous tone was unpleasant to listen to, biting inside his cheek was able to calm him down a bit but not enough. "You left in a hurry but went in the wrong direction." Satoru stood frozen on the spot as his cheek flushed light red. Currently, he wants to crawl into a pit and die.
"You should have accepted my offer, Fuijnuma." The way his second name pleasantly roll, out of the prince's mouth was all too strange for him.
The prince lifted Satoru's hand and placed it onto his arm, escorting him to the opposite direction. "The ballroom is this way."
This is fine! There's still a slight chance of hope in him, he might be able to flee when they arrive inside of the ballroom. This is okay.
Both heels clicking on the floor with a slight feeling of unease in the atmosphere. The prince paid no mind, however, still keeping the same neutral face and was only paying attention to what's in front of them until all of the attention dotted onto Satoru. He saw the prince's narrow eyes stared into his soul, glistening with boredom yet interest, his mouth perked up - finally giving Satoru a different expression. "Don't fret, I know where to go."
Of course, you do, you live here.
The prince lets out a small chuckle, "I guess that's right, I do live here." Satoru cursed himself greatly in his head. "I'm sorry-" He was quick to apologize, his hand gripping slightly on the prince's arm. Satoru continues: "It's a habit of mine..."
"It's alright, I don't see it as an annoyance." Satoru winced at that word: "annoyance". Was his habit a bother to people? Well- of course, it has been, it's no surprise to him anymore. Without a delay, his head was sending signals; screaming for him to stay quiet or act his best self while in front of the prince.
"I'd never left the palace, well, after I turned 14." The feeling of dread formed into something less pressuring: disbelief
"The first time going out of the palace was a little bit..." Little bit what? Exciting? Scary?- Satoru was curious, he was curious about someone who had never left the palace until 14. Why? Is it a royal family thing? Well, certainly it must have been terrifying-
"Boring." A disappointed huff came from his companion. He bit his tongue, a shivering stab rang throughout his body. Head to toe.
"My mom took me out to an annual event happening in one of the neighbouring kingdoms." Following those words came a sharp 'tut'. The prince continued with a look of displeasure while he tried to remember, "I had nothing to do except sit and smile on the throne next to the queen." Satoru spotted a quick eye roll but said nothing.
"And things continue from there, I would attend parties with my mom-" At this point, the prince could be talking to himself for the entire time. Come on Satoru! Say something, you git!
"I thought princes could go anywhere..." Forcing out the sentence from his mouth, gathering all of his skills into showing the prince that he cared.
Which he did
Letting out a rich snicker, the boy confessed: "I chose not to, nothing is fascinating out there." He looks at Satoru for a minute before looking back in front.
Satoru did the same, staring only at what's in front of him. That's not always true, the world is a scary place...but it's also beautiful. Recalling the rare times he spent in the green field, slouching on huge tree bark, dozing off underneath the cool shade. But, that was the only thing Satoru would want to do in his spare time. The world was so colourless... but it still kept its beauty. His stare slowly turned into a tired gaze. the prince never wanted to leave the palace because the outside world was boring. He was like a princess stuck in a tower but wanting to stay in forever. Then, what if he finds something beautiful that lives outside of the castle's wall? Would he change his mindset?
Something inside of him ached of an undetected feeling, but he ignored it.
Maybe...if he helped, would he change? If Satoru helped the prince then what would he get in return? The obvious answer was 'nothing' but the feeling of hope starts to construct itself inside of him. If he's able to help the prince in finding something that intrigues him, that means Satoru would make a big impact in a powerful and high standing person's life which might lead the prince in helping the unfortunate part of the country. He would make a great king, after all.
"Enough about that, we're outside." Satoru broke out of his thinking trance, both of them paused and stood still outside of the entryway into the palace. Same familiar guards, who were now alerted in the presence of the prince, and same dashing pillars. Satoru's hand flew off of the prince's arm and started looking for the jet, black carriage. It was nearly impossible to find the carriage when it's basically camouflaged with the dark sky. Thanks to the light giving off from the palace, he was able to spot it.
"I thought we were going to the ballroom." Satoru's eyes narrowed in suspicion, the prince blinked back. "Well, I knew you wanted to leave so eagerly, so I led you to a shortcut." Satoru gave out a small groan before looking at the prince. "Thank you, your highness." He gave a sloppy bow and slight smile.
"Sorry?" Satoru blinked in confusion before realization struck him.
"It's my name, you exchanged yours so I did as well." His face was unchanging.
"A-ah! Right! Hahaa-" Satoru kept awkwardly laughing, seeing if 'Mikohara's' face changed. After Satoru had finished laughing at presumably nothing, he coughed to focus the prince's attention on him, which it was already on and spoke with confidence.
"Prince Mikohara, if you can, I would like to invite you to visit the east of Ishikari." The prince's neutral face quickly changed into confusion. Satoru tried to hold back a barking laugh. "Uh- if you do decide to visit, maybe you might be lucky to stumble upon my mom's bakery." He could feel his confidence slowly fading, but he needs to keep going. "Maybe I can help you find the beauty in life." Ending off with a high note, Satoru quickly finished and waited for a reply.
"Well...I'll try to." Mikohara's voice was filled with uncertainty and doubt but that's alright. Satoru nodded, still keeping the smile plastered on his face, and replied: "That's okay if you can't, it would be nice for a companion." Mikohara's face was unreadable, was that a good thing? Satoru would take it. "Well, goodbye and goodnight." He walked towards the carriage, opening the door and hopped in.
"I'll see you soon then." Mikohara gave a slight smile before waving goodbye to Satoru, which he repeats as well.
Once again, Satoru was flung forwards by the impact of the carriage but immediately got up, ignoring that ever happening and hoping no one saw it. Not long, the palace's light faded out and Satoru found himself, once again, drifting to sleep with the loud forest ambience surrounding him.
When morning arrived, Satoru was bombarded with questions from his mom. These questions were either: "How was it?" or "Did you meet any new people?" to which Satoru replies: "It wasn't that exciting, everyone just danced and gorged themselves with expensive food." or "I didn't get to dance because I was exploring their garden." Of course, his mom was slightly disappointed but satisfied that he still went.
The suit was tucked away back in the closet, never seeing daylight again, but Sachiko hoped for Satoru to wear it again one day. To that, he doubts ever seeing it again, besides it's not like he would ever attend a party that important again in his life. Even if he had the chance to, he wouldn't and he won't.
Satoru hoped to forget the shock that occurred yesterday but it was still there, still haunting him. He still remembered the invitation he made with Prince Mikohara, what was he thinking? The prince might've thought he was a crazed person to make a stupid request, he's probably laughing about it right about now. The more Satoru thought about what happened yesterday, the more he cringed inside out as if his intestine twisting itself into a tight knot. "Satoru? You're making a weird face right now, did something happen that I wasn't told about?"
Satoru quickly changed his expression, his eyes shut itself which showed more dark circles under his eyes as his mouth formed a tired smile. "No, I'm just tired." Faking a simple yawn. Satoru rests his head on his arm, still thinking of the prince. "I wonder if he's okay." He said softly and quietly.
He sat there, trying to forget everything that happened yesterday. Trying to forget him...
"Well, the weather is nice today." Sachiko finally replied, "You should go to the field to take a nap." A short, mature giggle erupts from her. A faint blush seeped on Satoru's face, he bit back an insulting reply. "Or you can draw." If he had something to draw on, that would be great. "Speaking of drawing, what happened to your sketchbook?..." The suspicion finally caught onto her, seeing him without having his dedicated sketchbook was inevitable.
He could lie to her and tell her that he finished every page in his sketchbook but with her all-seeing eyes she could easily tell it was a lie, in short, there was no point but, to tell the truth. "I dropped it in a puddle..." He bit his lip, thinking of the disappointing outcome.
"Ah, okay." That was unexpected, maybe she already knew. "Since that happened, I went out and brought you a new sketchbook for your birthday. I must've forgotten until now." A quiet yet remorseful sigh left Sachiko's mouth. "If I remember...it might be inside the drawer next to your bed." Tapping her fingers on the wooden table in uncertainty, he can imagine the face she was making: brows furrowed and a slight frown. "Why hide it so close?" It seems to frustrate him, hiding something that he uses to kill time so close was a big peeve for him; It's like playing hide and seek but the person you're trying to find was hiding where you were counting.
"I thought you might go through your drawer and find it but I guess not." She pats her flour-covered hands on her cheap apron. "You know what? I'm going to the field today." He sat up from his usual seat and walked to the door and before he could exit, his mom mentioned: "Make sure you come back for dinner." To which he gave a short 'ok' and left.
The route he took to get to his house was short and after entering his house, he went upstairs and strode in his bedroom. The bed was neatly made, that he took his time doing, and stood beside his bed was his second-hand wooden drawer which he fumbles with the pull and drags out the content inside. There, sat a brand new book: It was simple, nothing too fancy, it looked like every other sketchbook but to Satoru, it was like a gift sent from God. For months he sat on that old chair, doing nothing, or running to do errands but now he has something to do other than sitting and thinking-
He flinches for a quick second, staring down at the sketchbook before grabbing it and pushing the drawer shut then making his way downstairs and out of the door, closing on while he leaves. He dashes following the usual direction he takes to the field, becoming out of breath rapidly. He's still thinking about him, this could be normal. "He might not even visit, I'm such an idiot." There was a high chance of them both never meeting, so why is he so nervous? Might just be the remaining adrenaline from last night. Satoru slows down, his breath was ragged and his legs were screaming from the sudden sprint, and starts to force himself to hike the small, grassy hill. Not long before he finally got on top, he relieved himself by collapsing his chest-flat on the ground and not caring of a small grain of dirt ruining his freshly-washed t-shirt. He, then, rolled over and stared at the blue sky, still heaving. Wiping his forehead, which was drenched in sweat, and cool down underneath the tree leaves with his sketchbook gripped tightly in his hand.
Minutes had passed when Satoru had finally sat up, dusting off the remaining dirt that stuck on his shirt like a stain and relaxed underneath the cool shade provided from the leaves above him.
Soon realising that he forgot to bring a pencil, he stared down at the sketchbook and hoped to forget him. "What's with the change of hearts?" The thought struck him, why is he suddenly acting so negative about this? Must be the nerves.
Right now, he needs to face the upcoming situation in hand; if the Prince is coming, he needs to prepare and try to find fun things that might excite him and the prince. Like going out and enjoying your time with your best friend...
He'll start tomorrow, just in case...
For the time being, he'll just count the clouds and enjoy the noise of the leaves rustling gently.
Time goes by fast when you're resting in a quiet field, Satoru continues to walk down the small hill while admiring the pink clouds and birds flying freely.
After arriving home: he converses with his mom, eating her delicious food, bathing in the same water from a few days ago and tucking himself into his hard bed. Falling asleep instantly from the warm meal and his eternal exhaustion. Still, thinking of him.
3 weeks after the prince's celebration, Satoru's life was slowly turning back to normal; doing his daily errands and delivering the baked goods to the orphanage and the coachman's house, which was pretty far from the bakery, he couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed. "Maybe he might not come after all." He murmured to himself, without realising Airi sat beside him with a confused yet curious look. "Who's that? Is it someone you met at the celebration you've been talking less of?"
"It's no one, just drop it." Airi huffed and rested her head on her knees, her fingers twirled around her thick hair strands. "You've been acting strange lately, is something bothering you?" He frowns, puzzled by what Airi meant, "What do you mean?" Letting out another huff, Airi replied simply: "You've been staring off to space whenever I see you, I'm a little bit worried..." She continues, "All the kids in the orphanage noticed it too..." Satoru didn't notice until now, the thought of the prince still stuck with him, that it's becoming a bit out of hand. "I'm fine, don't worry about me too much." Trying to play it casually, sooner or later thinking of only the prince will become another annoying habit. "If you say so then..." Immediately dropping the topic with nothing but silence. But it was disrupted by the church's bell, ringing quietly in the distance. "I guess I'll be going now." Satoru stood up and off of the porch steps with Airi following next. "I'll see you next week then." Smiling at Satoru while watching him leave in the other direction.
Again, Satoru went on with his daily life. Still thinking of the prince.
2 weeks have passed and the prince still hasn't shown up. Satoru gave up hope and continued living and working as he always has, he thought less of the prince and more about his future. The new sketchbook was now filled half of the book with sketches of birds, leaves and the sky. He had regularly visited the field and drew most of the time, but that didn't stop him from overworking himself. His life was finally back to normal, nothing new coming its way and bashing him out of his quiet life. Guess there was nothing to be hopeful about, huh? Looks like things will never change.
While walking down a block, Satoru couldn't help but eavesdrop on a conversation happening between 2 elder ladies. "Have you heard about the second prince?" One of them said while the other replied: "No, what happened?" Their conversation was orotund, it was easy to make out what they were saying. The second prince?...Prince Gaku? Satoru slowed his pace, basket in his arm, and listened closely. "Rumour has it that he's coming to East Ishikari! I don't have a clue why though..."
Satoru found himself walking faster, his chest felt somewhat tight, while the loaves of bread bounced inside of the basket. He rushed to where he needed to go, delivered the loaves and then left to go home. Right now, he needs to sleep to think properly; his shift is done anyways. After reaching his house, Satoru kicked off his muddy leather boots, placed the basket on the table and jumped into bed, his face laid flat on his bed. He can deal with this later but right now his brain is still processing what to do. Forcing himself to sleep was hard but he had still managed. Only now he thought of nothing.
For the rest of the week, Satoru tried to find out more about this 'rumour'. Even go as far as to asking his already suspicious mom, but he kept the question to a minimum. Luckily, she didn't look into it too hard as Satoru thought she would; he was safe from the time being. Recently, Satoru began to wander off around the bustling village, trying to find more answers about the rumour but to no avail. "Maybe it's just a coincidental rumour..." He thought one day while strolling in a shockingly empty route to waste his day off productively. Minding his own business while humming his mother's tune once again, this isn't such a bad thing he should do this more often.
Too indulged in the sweet melody but still felt the light hand on his left shoulder . This felt oddly familiar but why? Satoru turns behind with a loud "hm?" giving a simple smile.
He faced the same person he met months ago, the same soft and calm smile played his lips while his eyes were neutral and showed no interest. "Fujinuma..." The same low, rich and smooth voice echoed in his head, sending shivers down his spine.
"Y-your majesty-" A hand instantly clamped his mouth shut while another pulled down the unnoticeable hood that hid the prince's identity. "I don't think calling me by my title in public is a good idea, maybe we should talk somewhere private ?" He whispered, still smiling at the surprised boy. Satoru nodded profusely then pushed Mikohara's fingertips away from his mouth - Mikohara took out his handkerchief and wiped his hand. "I- I know a place..." Satoru stutters, trying to keep his posture straight and then begins to walk while Mikohara follows closely behind.
He came! The thought and promise that haunted him for months came true; the 2nd Prince Of Ishikari came!
Where are his guards? Did he sneak out? No, that would be too dangerous. Then, how?
"Where are we going exactly?..." Mikohara whispered loud enough for Satoru to hear, which gave him an immediate reply: "T-to a place I usually go in my spare time."
Taking the same route he had always led them both to push through a tough crowd, they had finally reached Satoru's 'secret' place: The field. Satoru exhaled and smiled slightly to himself and took a couple of steps towards the ancient tree which stood on top of the same grassy hill where he always spends his pastime.
A small fwoomp was heard when Satoru sat down on the hill following with the prince doing the same. The silence became more comforting to Satoru. It doesn't mean he doesn't mind it but as currently, it's better if they just sat in silence and enjoy the scenery with the hushed breeze caressing their face.
Minutes passed and still nothing, Satoru looked at the prince and stared at him silently. Mikohara noticed and gave Satoru another charming smile, the poor boy continued to stare dumbfoundedly before saying: "You're actually here..."
"Yes, does that surprise you?..." Mikohara simply said, pressing his lips into a straight line. "Well, kinda..."
"Oh, why?" Satoru scratches the back of his head and then asks Mikohara the question from before.
"Where are your guards, Prince Mikohara?" Mikohara blinked at him and continued to stare at the sky.
"They're close by..." Satoru began to look around the vast field, seeing no one but themselves. "You can't see them but they're probably hiding in the distance."
"Why?" Still looking around for the hiding guards. "It might be too obvious, I don't want you to be uncomfortable around me with them around. So I ordered them to stay as far from my sight as possible."
"Eh?? Really?" The confusion in his voice made Mikohara chuckle, keeping a short amused smile on his face before dropping it once again. "But why your majesty?" Satoru's eyes were still on the Prince. "We're friends, aren't we?..." Mikohara's tone was flat and neutral like that time in the ball, narrowed eyes still staring at the sky.
"Of course we're friends, your majesty!" Something warm was dancing inside of Satoru's chest. He could feel the awkwardness in him fade away and was replaced with something else. Happiness? Maybe not...
"You don't need to call me by my title, just call me 'Gaku'." Satoru gave out a quiet snort, becoming a bit more comfortable around Gaku. "Alright. Of course, we're friends, Gaku." He's going to need to get used to using his name but for now, staying informal and becoming close to Gaku is his number one priority.
"I guess you can call me Satoru." Gaku nods his head, stuttering quietly: "Satoru..."
Satoru smiles at the slightly bashful boy. "What do you want to do now, Satoru?" Repeating his name, Satoru, once again, looked around the field and then an idea popped into his head. "How about making flower crowns?"
"Sure." Satoru stood up and searched for bushes of flowers, which was easy since it surrounds them, and started picking.
Gaku just watched and waited in the distance, before turning his gaze back to the sky.
After coming back with a collection of different flowers, Satoru began crafting while sitting next to Gaku, who was staring in awe at the process the entire time. When Satoru finally finished, he admired his handy work and placed it on top of his head. "There, easy!"
Following the same steps, Satoru took, he looked down at the flowers on his hand with the same neutral expression. "I don't know how to make flower crowns," Gaku admitted, with no hint of embarrassment. "Then why did you agree to make flower crowns?" Satoru bit his lower lip, biting back the breathless laugh.
Gaku gave a little shrug and looked up at Satoru, "I don't know...can you teach me?" Without hesitation, Satoru grabbed another dozen of flowers and started explaining the simple steps to the slightly dazed Gaku. Of course, Gaku asked a bunch of questions and Satoru replied simply which was tainted with an invisible amusement. There was a lot of physical contact between the two since Satoru had to fix the little errors Prince Gaku made but neither seemed to mind. "And done!" His hands drifted away from Gaku's, a slightly disappointed look formed on Gaku's face but quickly disappeared. Satoru watched him remove his hood and placed the flower crown on top of his head, a small satisfying smile stuck on Satoru's face. "It's likeable," Gaku snatched Satoru's flower crown off and placed his fine flower crown on him. Then placing Satoru's on his head, smiling fondly at Satoru soon afterwards. "We're both wearing each other's flower crown." Gaku smiled softly at the amazed Satoru.
A faint blush crept onto Satoru's face. Unfair...
"R-right!" Satoru gave out a hearty laugh trying to ignore the stuttering. "Am I making you uncomfortable, Satoru?" Shaking his head, Satoru quickly protested: "No! It's just...I’ve never gotten a flower crown from someone else before." The truth sunk into his teeth. It wasn't a lie, in fact, Satoru never received a flower crown unless it was from his mom but that was years ago. "So...am I the first?" Gaku scratches his cheek shyly. "Yeah, I guess."
"Want to make some flower jewellery?" Satoru questioned. Making jewellery out of flowers was an easy second hobby for Satoru, he was skilled enough to perfectly make necklaces and rings out of daisies. Trying to find something to do while in the field was hard - the only option you can do whilst relaxing in the field is either napping or making flower jewellery. "I can teach you how to make flower necklaces if you're up to it." Satoru's companion gave a small nod. "Alright, help me collect some more flowers." Satoru grabbed Gaku's hand and stood up, lifting him as well, proceeding to lead him down the hill and towards the flower bushes.
"You can pick which flowers you want your necklace to have and meet me back on top of the hill." Satoru grinned at his friend then stopped in front of a dozen of flower bushes. The prince started picking the chosen flowers and soon enough he was carrying an armful of daisies and daffodils with other flowers that Satoru was too lazy to name. Satoru did the same and soon they met back on the hill. "Okay...so you loop them stem with another stem..." He began doing what he had done last time with the flower crown, he explained carefully to the Prince as the Prince followed Satoru's hand movements.
For the entire afternoon, they've spent making jewellery and enjoying themselves in their conversations. Satoru learnt new things about his new friend: Firstly, Gaku likes reading and writing journals. It was obvious on the reading and writing part; Princes needed their intelligence to lead their future roles. What did Gaku usually write in his journal? Were there things even Satoru doesn't know about? Oh well, he could always ask about them in the future.
Secondly, he had a brother. The same boy who was shoved down by Satoru and hurt Gaku. When he first found out about this Satoru didn't know what to feel, a roaring of emotions was waving over him: Disgust, confusion, pity and anger . The blue-hair spent a couple of minutes bad-mouthing the eldest prince, saying how he should 'be more responsible' and 'he should feel the same pain!', with the younger Prince listening attentively and nodding politely but he mostly stayed quiet, only working on his flower necklace. After Satoru finally finished letting out his steam, Gaku complimented him saying: "You're very bold, Satoru. Saying such words about my brother to me without a care in a world." He let out a fruity giggle before adding another flower to his necklace, "Well you don't like him, right?" Satoru said, interwinding two different stems into one. "I guess you have a point."
Satoru laid his back against the tree bark and sighs, then placed his already finished necklace on Gaku and told him with a cheery grin: "Prince Gaku is strong, therefore he can protect our country." Gaku blinked astonishingly at Satoru, who had looked away burning in embarrassment. "Sorry, I might have gone too far..." Feeling a sudden lightweight, Satoru looked down to see a poorly made flower necklace hanging from his neck. "I'll protect our kingdom." Gaku smiled softly and then immediately stood up and headed down the hill to presumably get more flowers.
Satoru, who was still beet red, stared at the distanced figure before saying out loud: "This might not be such a bad idea..."
When the night was approaching, both Satoru and Gaku bid farewell and then departed into the opposite direction. Satoru hummed his mother's classic tune again while striving home - what will they do tomorrow? Make more flower crowns? Maybe Satoru should ask his mom to add a bit extra into the basket. These same questions were repeating in Satoru's head. When Satoru finally got back, he told his mom about his day, leaving out his meeting with the prince, and ate and then went off to bed. As soon as he laid on his bed, he was knocked out cold from the shocking warm blanket. Still thinking about the prince .
After the uncoincidental meeting between the prince and him, Satoru started working harder and finishing his work earlier to meet up with him who always stood across the bakery, watching Satoru intently. Whenever he left, his mom always insisted him bring the basket, filled with piping-hot goodies, to eat after a hard day's work. Gladly, he took the basket with no complaints and simply thanked her and strolled out of the bakery then took the familiar route to the field while Gaku was following a couple of metres from behind. When they arrived on the hill: Satoru would lay the basket on top of the cloth, take out the steaming bun, give one to his friend and munch on them happily.
That has been the new change in his routine for the past 2 weeks, not that Satoru doesn't mind and besides he can ask any questions without Gaku being too bothered by it. One of the questions being: "How did you find me?"
But all Satoru got as a reply was: "out of pure luck," Clearly Gaku being too busy making his flower jewellery and placing them all on Satoru. "Ah, thanks."
Giving another fond smile, Gaku continued to make more crowns and necklaces. Also, a developing attempt at making what Satoru thinks to be, some sort of bracelet.
Hate to say it but, making spring jewellery is getting boring for Satoru. Right now, he would rather take a short nap and wait for Gaku to build up piles of flowers on top of Satoru.
"If you're tired, you can rest your head on my shoulder." His neutral friend exclaimed, taking out flower petals that were stuck on his hair. "Eh? Really?..." Gaku nods, placing down his newly made flower crown onto an old pile of crowns and necklaces and shifted closer to Satoru and leaned back against the tree bark. Waiting for Satoru to lay his head on his shoulder.
"I don't mind." Satoru nods lightly and slowly laid his head on Gaku's shoulder - this is what friends do right? His muscles were tense and unable to relax. Wasn't this going too far? This is wrong. Gaku rested his head on Satoru's, continuing to make jewellery and placing newly made one on Satoru.
The more time passed, the more Satoru became relaxed. He could feel the tension slowly leaking out of his shoulder making them more loosen. At last, Satoru finally fell into a light slumber and listened to his friend humming a...familiar tune. He will ask about it later on.
Satoru woke up covered in flower petals, his friend sitting and gazing at the sky beside him holding an unfinished flower crown that rested on his lap. "Good evening, Satoru. Ready to leave?..." Whispering in a hushed tone to the sleepy boy. Satoru's face scrunched up in annoyance, letting out a groan. "We can stay here until you're ready, that's okay with me." The tired boy shook his head, rubbing his tired eyes, and stretched his arms. "No, no, it's okay." Letting out an exaggerated yawn, Satoru stood up and inhaled in the fresh air.
Gaku stood up and stretched as well, he dusted off the petals that stuck onto him like a cobweb. Soon after, they both exchanged goodbyes and left.
While walking, Satoru starts to question the weird behaviour of the prince. It can't be a friendly gesture towards a peasant and a royalty, that was very strange of Gaku. But Satoru dared not to say anything that comes out from his mouth, afraid of betraying him somehow. Even though he was walking alone, Satoru couldn't help but have an uneasy feeling in his gut; it was like someone or something was watching him, hiding in a blanket of darkness. But Satoru instantly shrugs it off as paranoia, it was dark and a bit cold so that was common, right?
Two months flew by like a breeze, it was finally summer. Gaku still wore his dark cloak with his hood still covering his face whilst in public but when Gaku is alone with Satoru, he would take off his hood and wipe off the slight sweat dripping from his forehead. Taking off his cloak and laying it on the ground for him and Satoru to sit on, which Satoru was hesitant at first but after the Gaku had convinced him that it was alright he slowly sat next to his friend. Sleeves rolled up, the two boys lazed around, talking about nonsense and eating pieces of bread. Today, Gaku brought a literature book for them both to read.
The hardback book was written by a French author, who had an obsession with a mistress which led him to kidnap her and stow her away in his home. He wrote every detail he could about her: her favourite food, her favourite book, what she does in his house during her spare time, EVERYTHING .
It creeped Satoru out so Gaku placed the book in his newly brought satchel and never took it out whenever he was around him. A pang of gut-wrenching guilt stuck with Satoru after that so he decided to show Gaku his sketchbook.
It wasn't the best sketch or drawing Satoru could do but Gaku stared in awe, complementing every drawing he saw. "Are you planning to become an artist in the future?" Gaku flipped through the thick sketchbook, again and again, still staring in amazement. "I've always dreamt of painting master portraits that might become famous in the future." Gaku stopped and looked into Satoru's eye, in a silvery tone he asked: "Can I be the first portrait you'll ever paint?"
The blue-haired boy paused for a minute and then nodded, smiling at the boy. "Sure, but you need to pay me back with something."
The other boy blinked in confusion, "with money?" Satoru bit back a snort, shaking his head in disagreement: "Something that isn't about money."
"That was a first," Satoru thought to himself. Not taking money as payment was the stupidest thing Satoru could have to comprehend. Everyone needs money to survive, he's talking to a prince for heaven sake! He could ask huge amounts of money but that would be ripping off the prince, for short: only greedy people do that. Satoru wasn't greedy, he learnt long ago that you need to make a living to have a worthy life and not to use others for yourself. Because that's the right thing to do.
"How about you teach me something?" The prince stared dumbfounded at Satoru, "Why?". Satoru coughs and exclaims with confidence in his eyes, "Memories are more valuable than all the money in the world." Quoting what his mother once told him, he fumbled his flower crown with his lips pressed into a straight line.
"...I don't know what I can teach you..." Looking down at his flower crown, Gaku thought hard on what he could teach Satoru. "I-I don't know..." Satoru became quieter while finally finishing his sentence, "how to dance..." Fumbling more aggressively to the point bits of petals fell off quicker.
"I...can teach you how to dance?..." Oh god, this suddenly fell somewhat in a comfortable atmosphere into the same awkward feeling they had since they've met. "T-that would be nice!" Satoru sat up and covered his mouth, his face burning but that could be mistaken from the heat. With a short nod, Gaku took Satoru's hand and lifted him to his feet. They both were led down the hill and into the flowery field.
Gaku positioned Satoru in front of him, giving an assuring smile, he then placed his left hand with Satoru's right hand, clutching it softly. Gaku's right-hand placed Satoru's left hand onto his shoulder, he then placed his right-hand on Satoru's shoulder blade. "Okay, now follow my lead." Gaku began moving backwards and then forward. Satoru started following Gaku's movement, making tiny errors but then-
Something soft touched Satoru's heel.
Automatically, Satoru lifted his foot off of Gaku and looked at Gaku's face expecting to see the pain but instead, there was the same soft smile. "I-I am so sorry!" He tried to let go but felt a tight clutch on his right hand. "It's alright, I'm fine." He continues to move, forcing the guilty Satoru to move with him.
The more they continued to dance, the more Satoru stepped on his highness's feet. Satoru started whispering apologies profusely while Gaku kept a straight face, only whispering back in a husky tone, "It's alright, that's okay, you're doing great."
When they had finally finished, Satoru collapsed flat-faced on the field with Gaku sitting beside his collapsed body. "Are you okay, Satoru?" Gaku asked but then hearing a soft cry. "I think you did great for your first time..." Satoru felt a light hand on his back, swirling in comfort, still listening to the soft voice that was talking to him. "We can try again if you want to..." With one swoop motion, Satoru picked himself up. "No, let's do this tomorrow." Satoru beamed brightly at Gaku, who is now getting up on his leg and returning the smile.
The evening soon arrived and then Gaku left without a word, rushing the same pathway he takes whenever they depart. Satoru shrugs and assumes it was a princely matter or...maybe because he's angry about him. Maybe he's going to stop talking to him altogether. Satoru continues to walk home worrying over Gaku.
The next day, Satoru asked about how he felt yesterday to which Gaku replied with a puzzled tone: "I'm not mad, I had to leave because I was expecting something." Satoru sighed in relief and both continued the dancing session.
One day, Gaku wasn't there standing and waiting for Satoru. Dread filled Satoru's head as he began to walk and follow the same route to the field, almost tripping and dropping the basket on the dirty cobble floor. " Did someone snatch him away? No that can't be, there's guards hiding and watching him from afar, he must be fine! " Satoru mumbled loudly, still speed walking but losing his breath quickly. Carrying and trying not to drop the basket was hard, especially when he was rushing.
Halfway through walking inside the field, Satoru spotted Gaku, without his cloak, waiting patiently for Satoru. "G-Gaku..." He slowed down, placing down the basket next to his feet, and then took his time wheezing and gasping for air. "why...didn't you wait-"
Gaku gently took Satoru's hand and wrapped his ring finger with a single red salvia. Satoru gazed at the crimson red flower, admiring it in astonishment.
"Let's see your progress in dancing." Satoru gave an odd look to Gaku and then slowly nodded. 'He's definitely answering all his questions after this..' Satoru huffs out. They positioned themselves in the same position they had always started with for the past couple of weeks and started to move, Satoru still catching his breath.
Without a single error, Satoru continued by humming Sachiko's tune. Gaku was listening silently while still leading his dance partner, slowly leading his partner up the hill. When they finally stood underneath the shade, which hid them from the sweltering sun, Gaku pulled Satoru into a tight embrace and buried his head into Satoru's shoulder.
"Satoru, let's run away together..."
" yeah... "
Satoru pushed Gaku away with a stunned expression, stumbling back a bit. "H-huh?" Gaku stared back at Satoru with an affectionate smile. "Satoru, Let's run away together." He repeated again.
"W-we can't do that," Satoru laughed lightly, this is a joke, right? He analysed more on Gaku's face only to see the same smile glued stuck on his face. "No one will notice, except for your mom..." The boy now re thought hard about his plan again, leaving Satoru standing there still and...disturbed?
"Gaku, this isn't right..." Satoru whispered but it was loud enough for Gaku to hear. "Satoru, I know you may find it hard to understand but for the past months, I have found myself having knowledgeable feelings towards you..." He took a step forward and moved away Satoru's bangs with a gentle brush of his fingertips. His soft gaze, filled with a loving and warm feeling, fell upon Satoru. "I'll supply you with your simple needs if you just say 'yes'."
Satoru's knees trembled, hands were shaking and his heart was racing. "What's with all of this all of a sudden?..." Satoru gathered all of his power not to collapse on the spot, the sudden disbelief and fear were too much for him. "Recently, I had found out from my guard that my dad arranged a marriage for me with the neighbouring kingdom." His expression darkens, his narrow eyes look away from Satoru's. "I didn't want to marry someone I didn't have an interest in." Wasn't their neighbouring kingdom the Nishizono dynasty? To what Satoru heard, the Nishizono dynasty was the richest out of all of the royal families far and wide. "So I decided to propose to you now rather than later..." Gaku's dark demeanour quickly changed into a warm one.
"I-I'm sorry...I can't do this..." Satoru shook his head, avoiding the prince's eyes. " We can't do this..." Satoru speed-walked down the hill and grabbed the basket, quickly heading towards the exit of the field but was immediately pulled back by a strong force. He was faced with a distressed Prince, "Satoru..." There was an obvious hurt in the tone of his voice but Satoru pulled his arm away from Gaku. "I'm sorry." And with that, he fled leaving the grief-stricken prince in the field. Alone.
Satoru couldn't find Gaku the next day which then increased into a week. It was like he completely vanished out of Satoru's life.
He grips tightly on the red salvia, his thoughts only dotted on the prince.
After Gaku's sudden disappearance, Satoru went back to his normal life once again. Yesterday, his mom asked him about his 'friend' but received no answer, just a little shrug. She must have found out by his obvious behaviour. Sachiko dropped the topic and continued talking about something else, clearly trying to keep the atmosphere up.
Satoru began to visit the orphanage and spend his spare time with the children rather than resting in the field, Airi was worried by his sudden appearance but Satoru assured her that he became busy over the past months.
She took his reasoning and never spoke of it again, just like his mom.
Last week, Satoru was invited to go with Airi and the children to the field to make some flower crowns. Satoru hesitated at first but was convinced by his loving mom and now he's here, sitting in the same field and making flower crowns for the laughing children. Airi, who sat beside him, was blabbering about random news that happened last week; the kids were running around the field, pushing and shoving for fun. Satoru sighs and finishes crafting his tenth flower crown, calling a young orphan girl over and then placing the flower crown on top of her head - she giggled and praised Satoru but then asked a question: "Big brother Satoru! Can you teach me how to make flower crowns?" The girl tugged his sleeve.
"I don't know...can you teach me?"
Satoru eyes widen, letting out a sharply drawn breath. "I..." The girl looked innocently at Satoru, her innocent gaze suddenly turned into a slight concerning one. "Big brother Satoru?..." A sudden slap on the back knocked the air out of Satoru, "I'm sorry Kumi but ol' lazy Satoru-nii is tired, maybe I can teach you?" Kumi shook her head. "It's okay, I'll let big brother rest." And with that she left, joining the other girls in the field.
"Satoru, what's going on?" Her visual concern for him was irritating him slightly. "N-nothing, I'm just...tired..." Satoru hung his head, taking small breaths. "Do you want to go home?" He shudders, shaking his head. "No, I'll just rest here." Airi stares at Satoru, worryingly, for a minute before shifting her attention to the orphans. "Have you heard what happened to the royal family?"
"...what happened?" Airi paused for a minute, thinking on what to say, then she finally revealed the news to Satoru: "The king and the eldest prince were assassinated by a maid." Satoru breath hitched. What happened to Gaku? Was he okay? What about the queen? He swallowed thickly whilst Airi carried on. "The queen killed herself by impaling herself with her husband's blade..." The doleful look on Airi's face made Satoru heart clenched. He finally opened his mouth to ask the forbidden question: "What about the young prince?..."
"At a current state...he's suffering..." Satoru let out a sharp sigh. He's suffering...and his friend isn't there to help him... Satoru wanted to apologize to him, he wanted to apologize for leaving after the sudden proposal without talking thoroughly with him. He left Gaku in a state of despair before more arrived. He left him for dead.
"He was crowned king 3 days ago, despite the condition he was in, he still pulled through..." Satoru's chest felt tight, his lips started to quiver. "He told everyone in this kingdom that...he will try his best as a leader and lead us to a brighter future." Airi looked at Satoru with a soft smile, "He will protect his people..."
Satoru let out a shaky sigh, "I see..." Satoru laid back against the tree, shielding his eyes from the light with his arm.
Shielding the hot tears that were now spilling out from his eyes, hiding them away from Airi.
Satoru took a week off after that, spending his time walking around the village. His mom tried talking to him, asking him many questions, but he would always ignore them; his thoughts were with something or someone else. Currently, Satoru is sitting in the field with the dawn breaking slowly. He waits but for what? For Gaku to show up out of nowhere so he can apologize deeply to him? Yeah, as if that's going to ever happen.
He should accept the past and move on, Gaku is now the new ruler of Ishikari; he must've moved on so Satoru should as well. Maybe in the future, he might be able to keep his promise and paint his portrait. Satoru stares at his ring finger, imaging the red salvia wrapped around his finger. The flower had already withered away from him, all of the flower crowns and necklaces Gaku made had withered away from existence. Like it had never existed.
The only thing Satoru had left was the memories they shared as close friends.
He remembered a time where Gaku was translating an Italian book loudly to Satoru. Gaku could speak 5 languages, he was extremely intelligent. He always had ideas. Satoru quietly mumbles out a word Gaku referred to him once: "il mio amore..." Gaku told him that it meant 'Dear friend'. He tried to use it on Gaku but he was told that he couldn't pronounce it properly and made an entirely new meaning of a word. Even then Satoru still couldn't pronounce it.
Pouting, Satoru stood up and dusted the dirt off his hair and then started walking home, eyeing the pathway Gaku would take whenever they leave. It was now late, the sun was already gone and the chilly breeze pushed itself past Satoru. "Winter sucks..." Satoru grumbled as he watched the last person enter their house then shutting their door.
There it was again, the sudden shiver down his spine. The feeling of being watched...
Satoru sped up. His pace quickened with every step he took whilst hugging the cloak to himself, trying to keep himself warm from the bleak wind.
The wind was howling right in Satoru's ear, the regret of staying out so late hit him. The sooner he gets home, the sooner he'll be with his mom eating dinner together.
In the distance, he could see his house emitting warm candlelight from inside. He was almost home! Just a couple of sprint and then he'll be-
A strong hand pulled him back and into a dark, narrow alleyway. The strong damp smell in the alleyway made Satoru's stomach churn. He pushed and kicked his attacker but it was no use, he was losing. He cried and screamed for help but a hand clamped over his mouth so he did what he had to do, he bit the man's hand. There was a painful, low cry that came from the man. The man was way taller than Satoru and had a strong build but he still let go of the petit boy and cursed underneath his breath. Satoru took the chance and sprinted out of the alleyway, gasping and choking for air.
"Mom! Airi! Anyone! Please help!" His cries for help were useless against the roaring wind, his legs were shaking from the coldness and fear. He wasn't athletic...he wasn't strong enough...he wasn't a knight and shining armour for himself...
He could hear frantic footsteps scampering from behind, so he cried out the name: "Gaku!"
All of a sudden, a heavyweight slammed Satoru onto the ground, forcing the air out of his lungs. Tears splashed onto the cobblestone ground, Satoru looked up at the shadowy figure to see nothing but a masked face. "Please don't..." Satoru pleaded, eyes smothered with the salty liquid. The man looked down at Satoru, letting out a gravelly and pitiful sigh: "Sorry, orders are orders..."
Before he knocked Satoru out cold, forcing him to enter the lonely darkness in his mind.