Kishi’s next few days were a return to normalcy. Xion had felt well enough to return to her own bed and the House went back to a proper order and wellness. It was early that morning that Roxas and Ven showed up with breakfast to wake him.
Despite the beating a few days prior, Ven and Roxas continued to serve him. The day after the punishment, things had been rough between Kishi and Ven but the servant was dutiful and professional and kept his words to himself. Roxas had been given a bath and healed but his mood had changed to be more submissive. The punishment had served its purpose and both servants seemed to understand why Kishi had to go to such lengths, but the Prince still felt a knot of guilt fading in his belly.
“Morning Prince,” Ven greeted cheerfully as he gently shook Kishi’s shoulder to wake him.
Kishi groaned in response.
“I know you’re working on your bed head, but we’ve got something you’re gonna want to hear,” Roxas added. The joke helped ease any lingering tension, reminding them that they were getting back to normal.
“Is it good news?” the Prince mumbled from under his covers.
“I mean, it’s news.”
Kishi poked his head out and blinked in the dim dawn light. There was a pleasant fresh bread and eggs smell coming from the covered tray in Ven’s arms.
“Aqua told us to tell you that the Emperor is expecting you and Xion this morning.”
Any sleep that still clouded his mind instantly evaporated and Kishi was sitting up with a hasty, “when?”
“Few hours. Around nine.”
“Around? Or at nine?” he asked.
“At nine,” Ven confirmed. He passed the tray over to Kishi.
Okay, there was some time. Not enough to think through all the possibilities, but enough to properly get ready, compose himself, and stress out.
“Will you need help getting ready?” Ven asked.
“No, you two are excused.”
Ven smiled and bowed politely but Roxas stayed put for a second.
“Try to worry too much, sir,” Roxas told him after a moment of thought, “you can take whatever he has to say.”
The servant nodded firmly and then left with his twin.
Kishi choked on some bread for a few moments when Goofy’s ears moved. He noticed the subtle movement and looked up to see Xion trying to sneak out of her room to start her morning routine. He waved a hand to get her attention and motioned for her to sit by him.
“Eat,” he managed to force out around a mouthful of bread.
"...I normally work out first, but okay." She came over to sit on a chair near his bedside and helped herself.
"We're going to see my father this morning."
She paused in her buttering and took a second to compose herself before asking, "Should I dress up?"
"Absolutely." Was his stress showing?
"I'll put in the effort, then. Do you know why he wants to see us?"
"It's probably about the engagement," Kishi guessed but really it could be anything.
"...that makes sense. When this morning?" She shoved her bread into her mouth with unladylike speed and Kishi was mildly impressed.
"I'll be ready,” she promised.
Kishi rubbed his face to try and focus less on her and more on his own food. He nearly matched her speed on the eggs.
"We need to be there early," he mumbled, mostly to himself.
"I don't know, fifteen minutes? I want to beat my brothers."
"Let's make it thirty, then," she suggested and then turned to go downstairs to bathe. Good call. Too early and the stress would show, not early enough and he wouldn’t hear the end of it.
Kishi got dressed and cleaned up while she was bathing. He was wearing one of his formal coats, going with a deep chocolate brown this time with white and silver accents and was pacing his room while Ven followed him around with a hairbrush. Despite being sent away, Ven still wanted to help and Kishi generally needed it with his diadem anyway.
Xion passed them briefly to her own room and Kishi paced a little faster until she finally appeared again. She was wearing the same uniform coat that he was, but with neater sleeves and a hood. Hers was a little darker too. Oh, her hair looked terrible. D-Did she brush it at all?
He took the brush from Ven and stepped in close to her to fuss with her hair.
"It's not really long enough to do anything with."
"I'm just trying to make it less messy," he huffed.
"Feel free to try whatever you want."
Oh, he definitely tried but it stayed flat, clumpy, and uneven. It was a little cute but it wasn’t regal and Kishi was determined to make her look… well, not like this.
He barely even noticed Aqua in the doorway until she said something.
"Good morning." He grunted an acknowledgement.
"Good morning, Master Aqua," Xion replied cordially.
"You both look nice," she praised, "Are you ready to go?"
No, but they never would be, so he just took a deep breath and nodded.
"Okay, let's go," Xion said.
Aqua led the way which was normal and Kishi was grateful for it. He wanted to spend the walk ignoring everything and focusing on his frame of mind. He had thought about it all morning and was determined to be as prepared as possible to control his reactions.
They should’ve left earlier. Ansem beat them there after all. Xigbar was smiling like a snake near the throne from where his father watched them approach. Naminé was off to the side next to a little man with a stack of paper and a pen and Terra was standing just behind her. Aqua went to stand next to him, leaving Kishi to stand next to Ansem in front of the dais. Ansem was surprisingly relaxed and hardly reacted until Riku and Xemnas arrived together. They both turned to bow their heads to the Crown Prince and then lined up in front of their father.
Xion stayed behind Kishi and off to the side, out of the way. Lining up like this, oldest to youngest, gave her a bit of a buffer from Ansem.
"I am announcing the engagement of Prince Kishi Oscura and Lieutenant Colonel Xion Terminus. They are to be wed May the fifth, nearly two months from now and I will expect all nations, cities, and territories in the Empire to send tithes and representatives to attend," the Emperor announced firmly and the little scribe furiously recorded his words.
Kishi felt his breath catch and had to take a second to mask how he felt. The heavy feeling of the unknown was lifting but it was replaced with an even heavier weight of responsibility and pressure. He could almost feel Ansem fuming down the line, but didn’t want to move to check.
"Father, why was it necessary for all of us to be present for such trivial news?" Ansem asked, irritated. That confirmed it.
"You are all dismissed now that you have borne witness," Xehanort ignored the question to say instead.
The room relaxed and Ansem spun on his heel to leave, moving as swiftly as he dared. He felt Riku’s hand on his shoulder and turned to smile a little bit at him and get one mirrored back at him.
“Congrats Ki,” Riku said softly to avoid the room’s natural echo. They clasped hands warmly and then Riku stepped back so that Xemnas could also shake Kishi’s hand.
“Many well wishes to you and your House,” the Crown Prince said as they clasped hands.
Kishi bowed his head politely in thanks and Xemnas leaned down to whisper near his ear, “Your use as a political pawn does not make you a man. You are yet unproven.”
A shiver of anger raced down Kishi’s spine and then back up to settle in his skull. He could feel his father watching them and tempered his reaction, but he couldn’t find words to snap back before Xemnas and Riku were walking away. The weight got a lot heavier and Kishi could feel that uncontrollable temper in the back of his mind and building in his gut. It made him want to get out of there now but the Emperor was still watching them so he bit it back for now.
"Father," he started, keeping his eyes down, "may I participate in the wedding planning?"
"Your focus should be on your studies and meeting the contractual requirements of your engagement. You are required to present a gift of your making to your wife to be as well as determine the nature of her role in your household."
"...of course, sir." A gift? What gift? Did they talk about a gift before?
"Aqua, Naminé, and I will handle arrangements," the Emperor confirmed.
Kishi nodded and then said softly, "I will take my leave, thank you for your wisdom and direction."
He took a breath to maintain the dam and then turned to leave. He kept walking, kept focusing on holding himself together until he could see his front door. That’s when he heard Xion behind him and the fragile dam snapped.
"Did...did that go well?"
"How the fuck am I supposed to know? We're just pawns, we don't get to see the big picture.”
"I just thought you'd know more about this than me."
"I probably do," he snapped defensively.
"I'm not trying to start a fight, I'm just trying to understand as much as I can," she said softly, "I'm not trying to imply anything about you."
Looking at her he was realizing maybe she wasn’t trying to point out his flaws and he muttered, “I think it went fine.”
"Did you want to help plan the wedding? Because you might still be able to affect some things, even if you aren't actually involved in the plans."
"I know I can. I'm not completely out of control here." Or at least he hoped he could have some say at least.
He stopped in front of his door… wait, their door now… ugh. Kishi rubbed his face and looked over his shoulder at her, turning ever so slightly to study her better.
There had been a chance that she went to one of his brothers and took all those problems with her, but it was official now. They were engaged and the entire Empire was going to know it. By the word of the most powerful man in the world, she was his to have for whatever he deemed fit. Kishi officially owned her, and he was afraid.
This was what he wanted, problems and all, but Xemnas was right. She was marrying a boy. She had more military experience and titles than he did. What if he wasn’t good enough for her? That thought shook loose as fast as it popped in. He was still a Prince of Daybreak, by blood he was greater than any mortal man, but looking at the ocean in her eyes and the pink in her cheeks he wondered what kind of life they could have now that he felt like he was allowed to explore those thoughts.
Very gently, experimentally, he reached out and tucked some loose hair behind her ear, and let his fingers rest in the soft space in front of her ear. She held still for a moment and then leaned into his hand.
The returned intimacy made him recoil. He hadn’t expected her to react like that. Kishi shook his head rapidly for a second to clear his head and then went inside and upstairs to change into comfortable clothing.
He didn’t wait to see where she went or ended up. That desire to run, to just leave, was still there and he wanted to get away for a bit. So, he left his house as quickly as they had arrived. Goofy tagged along and led the way to Riku’s home.
Mickey tackled the wolf before they made it around the corner and then they were tearing through the yard and around the house while Kishi went up to the door to knock.
“It’s open!” he heard Riku call and Kishi took it as the invitation it was and let himself in.
Riku was still formally dressed and standing in the big foyer away from the door. He was talking to Xigbar, who waved politely. Kishi froze.
“I didn’t realize you had company,” he said and turned to leave but Xigbar raised a hand and the Prince stopped moving, whether compelled to by magic or out of some instinct to avoid offense, it was hard to tell.
“Don’t let me chase you off,” Xigbar teased.
“What’s up, Ki?”
“I was just trying to get out of the house,” Kishi said, “maybe get some advice.” No sense holding back now. Xigbar had a nose for liars that rivalled the Emperor’s.
“Advice about what?” Riku asked, “Are you worried about the announcement?”
“I’m not worried about anything…” Kishi huffed, defensive again. He closed the door behind him and leaned against it. “I’m just weighing my options.”
“Smart,” Xigbar praised and Kishi had to resist the urge to squirm at the compliment, “if you want my advice, you’ll keep her locked up, treat her as a concubine while you focus on getting control over the rest of your House.”
“Ansem would say the same,” Riku agreed.
Kishi frowned at the implications.
“If you’re referring to Roxas, that’s been dealt with,” Kishi growled.
“Has it now?” Xigbar teased and the slimy feeling was replaced with a paranoid fear. …which was probably what Xigbar had wanted in the first place. Kishi sighed. The mind games were getting old already. A potential eternity of this didn’t appeal to him.
“Yes. It has. I want to speak to my brother about this in private, your Highness, if you will forgive my brazenness.”
Xigbar’s sneer never faltered but he shrugged and excused himself without a fuss. He didn’t leave, but at least they had the room to themselves.
“Why is he even here?” Kishi hissed, keeping his voice soft.
“He checks in periodically,” Riku responded with a shrug, “for real though, do you know what you want to do about your fiancé?”
“No. I don’t.”
They stood there for a second in the awkwardness processing the unspoken feelings here. Riku wanted to help, but Xigbar’s looming presence wasn’t great. Kishi wanted advice, but this was uncharted territory for Riku too.
“Look, Ki, I don’t know what to say,” Riku admitted, “you’ve always been… different from us. So, I think you should do things different here too. I mean, if you’re really worried about the peace in your home, maybe you should talk about this with her.”
“…what?” Kishi asked with a surprised tilt of his head.
“We both know you’re not going to lock her away. So do what you said you were doing, weigh your options. She might have some too.”
“You’re just trying to get me to leave, aren’t you?”
“And they say you’re the slow one in the family.”
“Another time, Ki,” Riku promised and let Kishi out. The door clicked softly behind him and Kishi sat down on the front step.
It was surprisingly sage advice, even it was just a hasty comment to make him leave. He didn’t have to listen to her if he didn’t like what she had to say, but Xion was trapped in this gilded cage with him. She probably had an opinion to share too.
And who knew, maybe she had the answer he was looking for all along.