It was a cool summer night in the Empire of Ichihikari. The air was crisp, fresh, as it wafted through the trees, lightly rustling the branches and leaves. The slight breeze brushed a dying blossom, unhinging the bud from its resting place. It drifted in the gentle wind, descending in a slow spiral, until it landed in the lap of a young woman. Slender fingers wrapped around the browning flower, stroking the brittle petals back to life. A light, airy sound pierced through the silence of the night as the young woman brought the blossom to her lips, kissing its delicate frame softly. Immediately, the small bud began to flourish and grow, it’s frail, discolored petals blooming once again. A smile graced her supple lips as she blew into her open palm, the beautiful blossom soaring into the clear black sky.
The stars twinkled above her as the gentle breeze carried the small bud down the hill she was resting on, over the lush valley below her, to the distant sea. The smooth surface of the water rippling slightly once it landed. Amethyst eyes disappeared under lids as the young lady leaned back against the rough bark of the tree, inhaling the sweet scent of the air. It was quiet. Too quiet. Not a sound could be heard. The creatures of the night remained eerily silent, which could only mean one thing.
The slight wind picked up, howling louder through the trees as she opened her eyes, glancing off towards the West. Dark, ominous clouds were stirring in the distance, just out of reach of the full moon’s glow. A storm was brewing…but this was no regular storm.
The young girl leaned forward, back straightening and gaze shifting up to the large moon that hung in the sparkling sky. Its ethereal glow brightened faintly, reflecting in deep violet eyes.
“This is far from a normal storm…isn’t it?” The young woman said aloud, melodic voice breaking the peculiar silence of the night.
“I’m afraid so…Princess.” Another voice filled the air, soft and lyrical, like the voice of an angel.
“Do we know its origin?”
“No. As far as I can tell…this storm has no source.”
The young princess pursed her lips, dark brows furrowing. “I see…then it is not a creation of Mother Earth…”
“No, it is not, child.” A third voice cut through the brisk air, its deep resonance shaking the ground she sat upon.
The young girl gasped softly. Her shoulder dropping slightly as a small squirrel with dark markings etched into its chocolate brown fur landed upon it. She was more than familiar with those ancient runes. “Chikyū-no-Megami…”
“This storm is not something of my making and neither can I identify its cause.” The brown squirrel sniffed the crisp air before skittering down the young woman’s arm, coal eyes darting to and fro. “Tsukiakari, are you-?”
A heavy sigh left the girl’s lips as she leaned back against the tree, head resting against the rough bark. “Even as a grown woman, you two do your best to keep secrets from me.”
Another tremor shook the Earth as Mother Nature fought to control her growing irritation. “You are but a child.”
“Like no other.” The girl shot back, sitting up straight once again. Her eyes meeting the cold, hard gaze of Mother Earth. “The gods and my bloodline made that certain. I mean you no disrespect, Chikyū-no-Megami, but I do think that it would be in everyone’s best interest to not keep secrets from me, no matter how dangerous they may be. I may be young but half of your life force resides within me. If I die…”
“Yes, yes. We are all well aware what will happen if you die,” the ground rumbled.
“We only wish to protect you, Princess.” The sweet voice of the moon replied.
“I know, Tsukiakari, and I am eternally grateful for that. I mean no disrespect by the things I say. I only wish to help you all, like you have helped me.” Reaching out, she gestured to the small critter, smiling brightly when it scampered back up her arm.
“The best way to do that is to survive, child,” the squirrel chittered into her ear.
“I am more than aware of that fact, Chikyū-no-Megami. Nevertheless, I believe that the key to surviving is in knowing and understanding the intentions of my enemies. So I beg of you, beloved ones, tell me what it is you wish to keep.”
“This…storm, if that is what you mortals wish to call it, is defying the laws of nature.”
“What do you mean?”
“It means that neither of us can stop it,” replied the Moon.
“Nor can we derail it from its intended target…” Chikyū-no-Megami finished.
“Which I’m assuming is me…?”
“Yes,” the two goddesses answered in unison.
“I see…and what do you two suggest I do?”
“This storm has no natural source. It was not made by any of the gods or nature’s spirits. In other words, it’s made by a man,” Mother Earth informed.
The Moon’s light grew brighter in agreement. “Indeed, the doing of a powerful sorcerer…one that is more powerful than even the Great Yasu.”
Her brows furrowed. “There is no sorcerer stronger than Yasu, except for maybe-”
“Hello there, dear Princess.”
A small gasp filled the room as amethyst eyes opened to perpetual darkness. A young girl bolted upright, her hand flying to her chest as she panted, pounding heart ringing in her ears. Long, dark locks brushed slender shoulders as she glanced around her room, her eyes adjusting to the darkness. She was sitting in her four-poster bed, cloaked in a sheer canopy. Her many pieces of ivory furniture resting in their familiar places. No one else was there. She was blissfully alone. She sighed in relief, eyes sliding shut. It was only a dream…
She inhaled slowly before letting out a soft, airy sound; a small flame flickering to life in her open palm. She shook her head, ridding herself of any lingering chills before turning to the left, her fingers wrapping around the silver handle of her candlestick. With a wave of her hand, the burnt wick ignited, bathing the room in a warm light. Leaning back against her headboard, she couldn’t help but sigh. Her light song coming to an abrupt halt as her fingers closed around the flame cradled in her palm, extinguishing it. “Much better…”
Wiping the sweat from her brow, the young woman glanced to her left again, eyes skimming over her curtain-drawn windows. It was a new moon tonight. Tsukiakari, the Moon Goddess, was fast asleep, leaving the dark haired girl alone with only her thoughts.
It was just a dream. It was just a dream. The thought repeated itself over and over again, yet she couldn’t rid herself of the tightness that gripped her chest. Was it really just a dream? If it was just a dream…why did she keep having it…?
She exhaled sharply and fell back against the pillows of her bed. Dark eyes focusing on the collection of stars and constellations painted on her ceiling. It had been a gift from her family, once upon a time. Her mother and sisters had spent hours painting a map of the universe, complete with stars, planets, galaxies, the works. The light from the candle flickered off the fading glitter, making the stars twinkle faintly, as if it were the night sky. It’s just a dream…it has to be. There’s no other explanation for it…
Turning over, the young girl snuggled into her many pillows, pulling the covers up to her chin as her eyes slid shut. It’s only a dream…
It seemed like only mere minutes had passed when she heard a soft voice…
“Your Highness…?” A small grunt could be heard from underneath silky sheets as the figure wrapped in blankets rolled over, away from the petite hand of a young girl. Pale cheeks turned a light shade of pink at the sound of another’s slight chuckle. Her thin brows furrowing as she puffed out her cheeks, nudging at the large bundle again. “Your Highness, please…it’s time to wake up…!”
“No, no, no Aya-chan! Not like that.” The other occupant in the room laughed loudly, walking forward to stand by her younger counterpart. “She’ll never wake up if you keep patting her gently! Here, I’ll show you how it’s done!”
Violet eyes shot open as icy hands wrapped around slim ankles. The young woman currently wrapped in blankets let out a gasp, hands flailing for something to grab onto as she was roughly yanked from the soft warmth of her bed. She landed on the marble floor with a loud thump, her long limbs entangled in silk sheets.
Ari smiled triumphantly, hands smoothing out the creases of her simple dress before placing them on her wide hips. “See, Aya-chan? Now that is how it’s done!”
Aya opened her mouth, as if to speak, but before she could utter a sound, a loud shout filled the room.
The brunette in question flashed another grin, chuckling as a head popped out of the mass of sheets. “Yes?” She inquired innocently.
The young girl’s eyes narrowed to tiny slits, glaring daggers at the chuckling woman before her. If looks could kill, there was no doubt, in anyone’s mind, that Ari the Handmaiden would be dead. Her grin only widened as the other handmaiden visibly flinched, shrinking away from the murderous gaze of the imprisoned woman.
“Oh, don’t you give me that innocent look!” The head snapped back, dark tresses flying. The mass of sheets shifted as the trapped damsel tried to detangle herself from the confounded fabric. “We both know how much you like to watch me suffer.”
Ari’s hand flew to her bosom, eyes widening even more in mock distress. “Milady, please! How you insult me so! You know I would never-!”
“Ha! As if! Save your sickly sweet words for someone who believes them!” She retorted, a slender arm poking out of the large bundle to point accusingly at the woman before her. “You pull this crap every freaking morning, you no good sadist!”
“Your Highness, you wound me!”
“Just wait till I get out of these blasted sheets, then we’ll talk about wounds!” She spat, disappearing into the mass of sheets. The blankets stirred and shifted every which way as the young girl tried to free herself. The two handmaidens watched in silence for mere minutes before an aggravated growl pierced the silence. “Damn these wretched linens!!”
“Now, now Kasumi-chan. You know how unladylike it is to curse.” Ari chided, leaning against one of the four massive bedposts.
“Now, now Kasumi-chan. You know how unladylike it is to curse.” Came the mocking reply. A slight rustling was heard, her head poking out once again. “Who are you, my mother?”
The brunette smirked. “I could only thank the gods that I’m not. I don’t know what I’d do if you were my daughter, Princess.”
“Ugh, and formalities too! Sweet kami, you just live to torture me, don’t you?” The princess hissed, hands yanking at the pieces of fabric wrapped tightly around her lithe body. Dammit, Asami!
“Every day~!” Ari sang, twirling once before curtsying and flashing a wide smile. “And I do my very best~!”
Kasumi groaned loudly, her exposed head lolling to the side in mild irritation. “You are impossible, you know that?!” She huffed before glancing back down at her entrapped body, face turning almost red from anger. “Argh! Curse these sheets!! Why must Asami buy such unnecessary crap on every damned shopping spree?! Better yet, why does she even feel the need to go shopping?! Freaking bed sheets. I have hundreds of these things!! For the love of-! Ah!”
A sharp cry filled the room as the young woman attempted to stand, but the mass of sheets greatly restricted any movement and she tumbled back to the floor with a loud thump. She let out a frustrated groan, dull eyes staring at her ceiling.
Ari’s snickering face came into view, obstructing the young woman’s vision of her starry ceiling. “Need some help there…Princess?”
“N-Not by the likes of you, I do not!”
Her smirk only widened. “Sure about that?”
“I am more than sure of that, you cheeky woman!!” Tanned cheeks turned crimson as Ari’s laugh filled the room. “Don’t you laugh at me! I’m trying dammit!!” She cried, waging war upon the blasted fabrics once again. “Argh!”
Just before they could consume her yet again, Aya’s quite voice filled the room. “U-Um…excuse me…?”
“Yes?! What?! What is it?! What do you want?!” Kasumi turned to the source of the noise and her purple eyes met Aya’s.
Chocolate brown stared back in slight fear, the already small stature of the young girl shrinking under the furrowed gaze of the Princess. Her pale cheeks flushed but not once did she look away.
Kasumi’s face softened, lips curling into a smile as she dipped her head in a slight bow. “Oh, I apologize. I didn’t realize there was someone else here. Forgive me.”
“A-Ah!! N-No, your Highness, please!! Forgive me, I-!”
A gentle smile spread across the princess’s face, rendering Aya silent. “Please, call me Kira. I hate formalities.”
“B-But your Highness-!”
“Please.” She interrupted, her smile still present but somewhat strained. “Your Highness is my mother…and in no way do I wish to be compared to her.”
“Kira-chan…” Ari frowned and shook her head in disapproval, but the princess ignored her. Instead, she turned back to the young handmaiden, her beaming grin returning to its former splendor.
“What is your name? I don’t believe we have met.”
“O-Oh, that’s cause we haven’t, I, uh…” The raven girl paused, licking her trembling lips as she bowed her head. “My name is Ayako Funai. It’s an honor to meet you, your-, I mean, K-Kira-sama…”
Kasumi’s face softened as she watched Ayako fidget, her eyes looking everywhere but at her. “Just Kira is fine, you know. It’s nice to meet you, Ayako-san.” She bowed her head, the action causing Aya to blush. “Now would you mind doing me a small favor and helping me out of these confounded sheets?”
Nodding her head vigorously, the young maiden stepped forward. “A-Ah, yes! O-Of course!”
The room fell into silence as she kneeled by the princess, her shaking hands pulling at the tight sheets and twisted fabrics. Truth be told, if they weren’t currently trying to suffocate her, Kasumi would more than likely admit that they were actually quite nice. Soft, silky, and a beautiful hue of lavender, one of her favorite colors, but again, if. Instead, she glanced down, grumbling quietly, an indignant expression spread across her face.
Damn it all to hell, Asami! You and material items, I swear! You’ll purchase anything that vaguely piques your interest even if it’s something you don’t need! And 365 sets of bed linens for every person in this place is completely, totally, and undeniably excessive!!
An audible growl escaped from her, making the small girl beside her freeze.
“I-Is everything alright…Princess?”
Kasumi blinked before flashing the young girl an apologetic smile. “Ah, yes. I do apologize. I was just-.”
“Having one of her internal disputes.” Ari called from the corner, waving dismissively as she straightened the items on an ivory dresser. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to her royal craziness in no time!”
“The only reason I’d ever even be considered crazy is because I have you for a handmaiden!!”
“And yet you’d be lost without me~!” She cooed, twirling in place, her pale green dress flailing about her. Kasumi’s face flushed, her eyes narrowing as her trapped hands fisted the sheets, another growl escaping her.
“Just how?! How does she manage to find hundreds of different linens all in the same color?! I mean, sure, they’re in various hues of purple but still purple nonetheless!! And the fact that each has its own unique pattern and design…you’d think the world of fashion would run out of ideas, but no! Hell, you’d think my sister would run out of interest, but alas, no! The woman has an addiction for clothes like Satomi has for books!” The princess paused at the mention of her younger sister, eyes glancing at the ivory doors leading to the rest of the East Wing. “Speaking of Satomi…I wonder if she ever has this problem…”
“DAMN YOU, ASAMI!!” shouted Satomi two hours earlier. There she sat on the floor, wrapped in sheets and blankets like a caterpillar in a cocoon, but the look on her face ensured her servants that in no way would she escape as a beautiful butterfly.
A heavy sigh filled the room as Kasumi turned her attention back to her newest handmaiden, who was still attempting to free her from the prison of fabrics. “Anyway, I digress. So, Ayako-san, are you new here?”
“O-Oh, y-yes, I am. I-.”
“She was hired yesterday.” Ari interjected from the other end of the room. The older handmaiden was now dusting the ornate, floor-length mirror that stood in the far left corner of the room, next to the double doors of a large closet.
“I see.” The rustling of sheets was heard, followed by a small grunt as Kasumi pulled her right arm free, sighing in relief. “Ah, that feels much better.” She smiled and stretched her arm towards the ceiling. “I do hope you enjoy it here, Ayako-san. What is your duty, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Ayako shook her head. “O-Of course not, milady, I-!”
“She’s your second handmaiden.” Ari called from behind the mirror, her plump figure hidden.
“Oh, that sounds nice. I’m sure you’ll en-.” Kasumi’s eyes widened. Your second handmaiden. EH?! “W-Wait…another handmaiden?”
Her brows furrowed, pearly whites of her teeth chewing at her bottom lip—a bad habit she had developed as a small child. What could this mean? Why would her mother give her another handmaiden? It wasn’t like she needed another one. She wasn’t like Asami, who needed practically thirty, or even Hitomi, who just liked more people to order around. Yes, it was obvious she didn’t need another handmaiden so why-?
A sudden thought struck her, her head snapping up immediately in a mild panic. “Ari-chan, you’re not…?”
She could almost hear the smile in Ari’s voice. “Don’t worry, Kira-chan. I’m not going anywhere.”
Her brows furrowed even more as her most beloved handmaiden made her way across the room. “Then why-?”
“Your mother thought it imperative you have an extra hand.” Ari smiled reassuringly, dusting off her dress before crouching down next to them.
“I…I see…” Kasumi smiled wryly, her still trapped hand clenching the fabric of her sheets tightly. “I don’t know why she would find it imperative. It’s not like I’m my sister. Dear kami, only Asami needs extra help with all the crap she has. I need a new outfit for every day of the week. I need a different hairstyle that must be created using eight thousand hair products and six different people! I need ten helpers per shopping spree cause I can’t carry all the CRAP I buy. Blah, blah, blah.” A loud and forced laugh left her lips, her cheeks turning a light pink as she looked down at the floor, teeth pulling at her lip once again. “I’m not sure why my mother would hire an extra pair of hands, but I doubt it’s for the help…”
“Now, speaking of help…” The princess turned—as best she could concerning current circumstances—to regard her eldest handmaiden, clearly exasperated. “Are you gonna get me out of here or what?”
“Are you talking to me, Princess?” Ari beamed, her tone light and playful but with a bit of an edge.
“Yes, I’m talking to you!!” Kasumi blurted, her free hand pointing an accusing finger. “Why wouldn’t I be? You’re the one who put me in this position in the first place!”
“Ah, ah, ah~!” The brunette sang, her own finger wagging back and forth. “On the contrary, Kira-chan, this would be your fault. If you had just gotten up like you were supposed to-.”
“Oh, don’t give me that!” She cried indignantly, the sheets stirring as she attempted to stand once again, but was immediately swallowed by the monstrous fabric. “For kami’s sake, just get me out of this thing!”
“Not until you say please~!” Ari crooned, giving the rather astonished Ayako a playful wink.
“Ari Okura, you are so dead when I get out of here!” The pile shouted, the mass of layers beginning to shift wildly.
“Only if you can get out without my help.” Instantly, the room fell silent and the heap of cloth stilled as the captured damsel carefully weighed her options.
Barely a minute passed before a defeated sigh emitted from the pile. “Will you please help untangle me from these sheets?”
Ari smirked, moving closer to the mass, a hand cupped behind her ear. “I’m sorry. Did you say something?”
“Can you please, for the love of all that is holy, help me?” Came the slightly louder reply.
The brunette’s playful smirk widened as she took another step forward. “What? I’m sorry, I can’t hear-”
“WILL YOU JUST GET THIS SHEET OFF ME DAMMIT?!” She shrieked, head popping out of the top once again. Letting out a hearty laugh, Ari shoved her hands into the twisted fabric. Together, she and Ayako were able to free the young princess in seconds. Kasumi sighed blissfully the moment the last sheet was pulled free and stretched towards the ceiling. “Ah, finally! Thank you!”
“Of course, your Highness.” Ayako bowed. The princess merely smiled, her mouth opening as if to say something, but a loud knock on her door stopped her. It was a knock the young woman knew all too well.
Her face was alight in an instance as she turned to the door, a bright smile spreading across her face. “Hideki?!” She called out, completely forgetting that she was clad in just a simple nightgown, her feet quickly carrying her to the white doors.
“Kira-chan, wait!” Ari exclaimed, reaching out as if to grab the hem of her gown.
“Princess, you’re not even decent yet-!” Ayako cried, but the door was yanked open before she could even finish. A young man, about twenty-one years of age stood in the doorway, dressed in a simple traveling outfit. He was tall and slim with light brown hair and turquoise eyes. His lips pulled into a smile as he regarded the young woman before him, tan arms reaching out to pull her into a hug.
“Hideki!!” She practically yelled, jumping into his open arms. He laughed, arms tightening around her waist as he swung her about, like he used to when they were kids. Letting out a laugh of her own, Kasumi let herself be swung about, giggling as she clung to her dearest brother. “It is you! You’re back!”
“Of course I am!” He smiled brightly, swinging her around once more before slowly lowering her to the floor, the plush rug tickling her toes. “Why wouldn’t I be?” The question was evident in his teal eyes, but before she could even open her mouth, Ari spoke.
“Your Majesty.” The older woman bowed lowly and Ayako followed suit immediately.
“Ari. Ayako-san.” He greeted, bowing his own head before turning back to his sister—a sister not related by blood. His brows furrowed when he noticed the concern on her face. “What?”
“You weren’t supposed to be back for at least another week…” She spoke quietly, teeth nibbling on her lower lip. “Did something happen?”
“No, of course not!” He replied all too quickly, her steady gaze forcing a nervous laugh from him. “Why would you think so?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Hideki.”
He swallowed thickly and averted his gaze. They both knew he was lying, the question was only whether or not he’d tell the truth, and she’d be damned if she let him get away with this one. Leaning to one side, she crossed her arms and waited, almost breaking out into a smirk the moment he closed his eyes and let out a defeated sigh, but before he could speak, another voice filtered into the room.
“Are you badgering your poor brother again, Kasumi-chan?” A tall man of about six feet stepped into the room, his curly white hair framing his pale face. Stormy grey eyes crinkled as he smiled brightly, his lithe form dressed in a similar traveling outfit. In his left hand he held a large, ornate staff. He was known as Yasu, the Royal Sorcerer of Ichihikari.
A smile spread across Kasumi’s face as she turned, arms reaching out to greet the room’s newest occupant. “Yasu-sama!”
The young mage laughed, immediately returning the hug of his dearest student. “It’s good to see you too, Kasumi-chan. How has my star pupil been?”
“Since you and the others have been gone? Bored. Extremely bored. There’s literally nothing to do around here, as you know, and the whole castle is in chaos thanks to that blasted world council meeting.” She sighed.
Yasu’s cheerful expression darkened immediately, his lips pressing into a thin line. “Well, the state of the world calls for such things.”
The princess only nodded as she chewed at her lip. “Indeed…which reminds me, how did the mission go?” She asked innocently, her eyes studying the magician carefully, watching as his shoulders tensed and his tongue poked out to lick his dry lips.
He forced a smile. “Kira-chan, you know I can’t talk about that. Top-secret.”
“If you insist.” She shrugged, waving her hand dismissively, but a quick glance at Hideki forced the young prince to realize the issue was far from over. Before Yasu could detect any suspicious activity, Kasumi spoke. “How is Katsuhiro-sama doing?”
Grey eyes widened as a bright blush spread across pale cheeks, Yasu’s lips tugging into a warm smile. “He’s doing wonderfully, thank you. As stubborn and arrogant as always, but healthy.”
“I’m glad to hear it. Wh-?” Before she could finish, or really even start, the massive ivory doors to her room swung open, revealing a young maiden with bright green eyes and curly pink hair.
“HIDEKI~!” The woman rushed in, practically tackling the prince and flattening Kasumi in the process. The young woman fell with a loud yelp, her butt smacking against the hard floor.
Ayako was by her side in an instant. “Milady!”
“Good morning, Princess-.” Ari began, but was quickly interrupted.
“Asami!” Kasumi yelled, eyes alight with a fury that made even the great Yasu cringe, but the newest guest merely ignored her.
“Ah, morning, Ari-chan!! Glad to see you’re doing well!” Asami greeted, bouncing happily. She turned back to Hideki, hugging him tightly as words tumbled out of her mouth. “Hideki, you’re finally home!! Thank kami! I was so afraid you’d get lost in those blasted woods! How’s Katsuhiro? And Yasu? Where is-? Yasu~!” She shouted happily, jumping into the mage’s arms.
Yasu chuckled. “Asami, my dear, how have you been?”
“My dear?” She frowned, pouting slightly as she pulled away. “What am I, an old woman?” Giggling, she stuck her tongue out teasingly. “I’m doing just fine, thank you. How are you?”
“Tired,” the mage smiled, “but glad to finally be home.”
“Indeed. We missed you all dearly, isn’t that right-?” She turned to her sister, who immediately jumped to her feet.
The eldest princess smirked at the throbbing vein currently pulsing on Kasumi’s temple. “Ah, Kira, there you are, I-!”
“For the love of kami will you stop doing that?!”
“Doing what?” Asami asked innocently, face feigning bewilderment as she gingerly placed a hand over her heart.
Kasumi only growled in response. “Barging into my room without knocking!! For kami’s sake, I’m not even decent!!”
Asami’s smirk widened, her arms folding across her voluptuous chest as she tilted her head towards the only two men in the room. “Says the one who has two grown men in her room.”
The younger princess frowned, her own arms folding defensively as she muttered. “They can hardly be regarded as men.”
“Hey!” Hideki cried indignantly while Yasu only pouted.
“I may be gay but I take offense to that.”
Kasumi’s face flushed. “I-!”
“Don’t any of you know how to be quiet?” A young woman exclaimed as she walked through the open door into the room. She was a small girl, with long, straight brown hair tied into a neat pony tail and steely grey eyes. “It’s barely eight in the morning and I can hear you all shouting in the library.”
Kasumi’s jaw practically hit the floor. “E-Eight?! In the morning?! Are you serious?!” She cried, almost tripping over her long gown as she turned to her dearest handmaiden. “Ari!!”
“Well, this is certainly a sight.” The newest occupant remarked, pale face emotionless as she watched the dark-haired girl sob and flail her arms about, obviously more than a little upset that she happened to be awake at such a time. “She’s awake already?”
“And out of bed.” Asami giggled, laughing even harder when Kasumi fell to her knees, a hand resting against her forehead in a dramatic gesture.
The young prince beamed, despite his exhaustion. “Indeed…though she’s far from happy about it.”
“I’d make an end-of-the-world joke, but given present circumstances, it wouldn’t be in very good taste.” The white-haired mage chortled dryly, grey eyes shifting from the princess on the floor to the room’s newest guest. He grabbed her ponytail, tugging on it playfully. “Good morning, Satomi-chan. It’s been awhile.”
“Hey there, bub, watch-! Oh, Yasu-sama!! I apologize. I didn’t even see you there!! And Hideki!!” Satomi, the youngest princess of the three, smiled brightly, an expression that was rare to see on her normally serious face. Standing on her tiptoes, the brunette did her best to hug both, giving her dearest brother a kiss on the cheek. “You’re both back already? You weren’t supposed to be home for another week.” She stepped back, a subtle wave of worry flashing across her face.
Yasu merely smiled, his warm grin instantly putting her at ease. “This is true, but the mission was a success, so we decided to return ahead of schedule.”
Satomi beamed, pale hands clasping together. “That’s great news!!”
“Indeed, it’s great to see you both back and in one piece too.” Asami grinned, jumping up and down in barely contained excitement. “We-!” Suddenly, the bright light of the sun filled the room, followed by a crash and a loud yelp.
Satomi grimaced, her hand rubbing her right ear delicately. “Must she be so loud…?”
“Uh-oh, what is it now?” The eldest cooed in mock frustration, eyes rolling as she regarded her middle sister, who was currently lying on the floor, limbs splayed about and an arm flung across her face.
“Here we go again.” Hideki grinned.
“BRIGHT!!” She shouted, head shaking vigorously as she attempted to hide from the—surely brightening—light streaming in through the massive bay windows.
“Same old Kasumi.” Yasu chortled.
“For the love of kami, are you trying to kill me?!” Kasumi wailed, pointing at her dearest handmaiden accusingly. Ari just stood by the open curtain, a wicked smile spread across her round face. The princess strewn across the ground groaned. Only Ari could get away with such disrespect, having been the midwife to Kasumi’s mother while she was pregnant. Indeed, Ari was the one who delivered her, and has been her nanny and handmaiden since birth. She was, in many ways, like a mother to Kasumi. A rather sadistic mother it seemed.
“Ari-chan, are you torturing our poor sister again?” Asami asked, clearly trying not to laugh as she watched the two.
“What can I say? I’m a sadist~!” The brunette sang, laughing as she twirled in place, wrapping herself in the curtain before unwrapping and pulling away, her feet light as she danced across the plush rug.
“I KNEW IT!” Kasumi howled, clearly distressed as she lay upon the floor, finger moving from her handmaiden to the light outside. “I swear Taiyo-no-kami does this on purpose!”
“Oh, there she goes.” Yasu chuckled, his eyes dancing in amusement. “Bringing the gods into it. You know he only does this because it bothers you so, Kira-chan.”
“They’re all sadists!!” The others laughed at that.
“Be careful, Kira! They just might curse you if you’re not careful!” Asami chided.
“Ha!! Curse me and they curse themselves!” She declared, her fist hitting the hard marble floor in defiance. “Ow…”
Laughter filled the room at such instant karma, the loud noise finally shaking Ayako out of her stupor. Within seconds, she was by the young maiden’s side, her hands rubbing the poor girl’s injured fist. “Your Highness, please, let me help you-.”
Shaking her head, Kasumi pointed at the windows, her other arm still resting atop her eyes as she spoke dramatically. “The curtains first, Aya-chan. Close them for me, please. It’s much too bright in here and I prefer my eyeballs…non-fried.”
“But Kira-chan~! You love everything deep fried!” Ari joked from across the room, hazel eyes alight with mischief.
Kasumi shot up from the floor, her messy waves of hair giving her the appearance of a wild animal. “Foods deep fried!! I love foods deep fried!! Not my eyeballs, you no good sadist!” She snapped back, grabbing a small pillow and throwing it at the older woman. Ari dodged it easily, but just before she could grab another, a loud bell was heard, resonating throughout the entire palace.
“Ooh~! That would be my cue to leave. Her Majesty, the Empress, is requesting all hands on deck in anticipation for the upcoming world assembly. I must go and assist the others.” Ari turned and bowed lowly. “Princesses, Prince, Yasu-sama, please excuse me.” Straightening, she headed for the door, barely dodging another pillow as she exited. Within a moment, her head poked back in, as if just remembering something. “Oh, and I trust you can attend to Kasumi-chan’s needs, Aya-chan. Well then, until later! Tata~!”
“Don’t you run away from me, woman!!” Kasumi shouted, growling when she heard the elder woman’s laughter echo down the hall. Ayako scrambled to her feet, closing the curtains for the princess. “Thank you, Aya-chan.”
Satomi turned back to Yasu and Hideki, a curious look on her face, as if she just remembered something as well. “Speaking of the others, are they-?”
“They’re perfectly fine.” Yasu smiled, gesturing towards the open door. “They’re downstairs right now, unloading the cargo.”
“Cargo?” Asami’s mood immediately perked up at those words. Clasping her hands together, she twirled around, jade eyes twinkling in excitement. Her biggest interest had been piqued. “Did you bring anything back? Maybe from a foreign market, perhaps~?”
The mage grinned and turned to his younger counterpart. A rosy blush spread across the shorter man’s face, his turquoise eyes glancing away in embarrassment. He had splurged on her once again, like he always did. “I may have picked up a couple of things…”
“Oh, Hideki~! You are the best!!” Asami cheered, jumping up and down in pure elation, her soft hands reaching out to grab the calloused ones of her secret love. “This is just what I needed! Especially since my last purchases have been delayed.” She leaned in and kissed his cheek. The prince’s blush deepened but before he could say anything, she was at the door. “I’ll see you all downstairs! And Kira, just…fix yourself. Tata~!”
“H-Hey!! What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” Kasumi hollered, jumping up from the floor. Her crinkled nightgown stuck in her unmentionables.
Satomi turned to her sister, eyes widening as she took in the nightgown and her sister’s indecency. “Kasumi!! What in Chikyuu’s name are you wearing?!”
“Clothes.” She responded dryly, gesturing at her disheveled gown. Ayako ran to her side, small hands fixing the dress so she could smooth out the wrinkles. Hideki and Yasu couldn’t help but laugh.
“Or lack thereof.” The brunette replied disapprovingly.
“For kami’s sake, you act like I’m naked.” Kasumi sighed, posture slouching in a way that made the other frown even deeper.
“Cause you might as well be!” Satomi exclaimed, gesturing at her state of attire. Unlike her sister, she was decent, clad in a dark blue set of lounging wear.
The older princess let out a growl. “I-!”
“Oh, don’t worry, Satomi!” Came a sharp yell from down the hall. It seemed Asami was not quite out of earshot yet. “It’s not like anyone’s going to look at her either way~!”
“ASAMI!!” Kasumi shrieked, almost tripping over her dress as she ran to the door, but the pink-haired princess was already gone, her laughter fading away. She groaned dramatically and leaned against the white doors, her eyes watering in mock agony. “Ugh, why must my sisters insult me so?”
“Well, if you weren’t so easy to insult…” Satomi muttered, smirking slightly as the others stifled a laugh.
Kasumi only sneered, hand reaching out to pat her little sister on the head. “Says the midget.”
Pale cheeks turned as bright as tomatoes. “I am not a midget!! I am perfectly average!! Thank you very much!!”
“Midget~!” She sang as she ruffled brown hair.
“Um, excuse me, your Highness.” Ayako’s quite voice cut in, making the others turn. “I’m sorry, forgive me for interrupting but…Ari-senpai mentioned that the Princess has a meeting with the Empress at ten. I must-.”
“Get her ready, yes. I understand.” The youngest princess nodded, sighing softly. “I have to get ready for the same meeting myself.”
Kasumi frowned, dark brows furrowing in concern. “Satomi, do you have any idea what it’s about?”
Satomi shook her head, teeth chewing idly on her fingernails. “No, but…you know Mother. It’s probably a lecture on social etiquette or something.”
“Yes, probably…” Pearly whites pulled at a tender lower lip.
“Just…make sure you’re presentable.” The youngest sighed, gesturing at her sister’s current attire.
“You act like I can’t dress myself.” She muttered in irritation, arms crossing over her chest defensively.
Her sister studied her before turning to Ayako, whispering quietly, but not quietly enough. “Just make sure she’s presentable.” The young handmaiden nodded vigorously, making Kasumi’s eyes roll, almost to the back of her head.
“I can still hear you, you know!”
Before she could respond, a voice boomed from down the hall. “Princess Satomi!!”
“Ah, that’s for me.” The princess sighed, grabbing the book she had placed on a nearby table, long fingers idly dusting off the cover. “Looks like my morning read is over. Can’t go see Mother in my lounge clothes after all.” Turning, she headed for the door. “See you in a bit, Kasumi! And, for once, do us all a favor and be on time.”
“It’s not like the last few times have been on purpose.” She murmured in response, but her sister had already left, her light footsteps echoing down the long hall. Sighing, Kasumi turned back to the only male occupants, who were still, for some reason, in her room. “Well…?”
The two only stared, clearly confused. “Well what?”
The princess balked, eyes widening in disbelief. “Don’t well what me!! You heard the lady, I have to change! And I’m sure as hell not doing it with two grown men in my room!!”
“I thought we could ‘hardly be regarded as men.’” Yasu teased.
“If you’re gonna give me sass, you can at least do it while exiting my room!” Kasumi declared, her face scrunching as she pointed at the door, gently pushing at the two when they refused to move. “Go on, shoo!”
Yasu only laughed as he was pushed out the double doors. “You haven’t changed a bit, Kasumi.” He chuckled, turning to give her a small kiss on the forehead before exiting, making the young princess blush a deep crimson. “I’ll see you both downstairs.”
Her blush only deepened when she felt a pair of eyes on her, glancing over to find her brother watching her mischievously. “W-What?! What is it?! What are you looking at?!”
“That blush.” He snickered, gesturing at her reddened cheeks. “If I didn’t know you had feelings for Hiro-.”
“Hideki!” She squawked, hand instantly covering her mouth, eyes pleading. “Please.” She muttered, gesturing to Aya. The last thing she wanted was for Ayako to know about her feelings, especially since the whole bloody castle practically knew already, thanks to Asami.
“He’s back you know.” Hideki whispered, breaking her thoughts.
Kasumi instantly straightened, her heart beating faster as blood rushed to her cheeks. “He’s back? Hiro’s back?” The barely concealed hope and excitement in her amethyst eyes made the young man smile brightly, nodding his head in affirmation.
“Yes, he’s downstairs right now, unloading-.” Before he could even finish his sentence, the young woman was out the door, practically flying down the hall, the cool air rushing underneath her feet to push her faster. The prince yelped in surprise before running after her, calling for his sister, Ayako close behind him. “Kira, Kira wait!”
“Your Highness, your clothes!!”
But Kasumi could care less as she zoomed down the hall, only one thought on her mind. Hiro.