Summary: The Prince wanted an escape so he looked for the peasant.
A/N: I don’t own them.
The prince's throne rose above their heads in the crowd, lifted by the servants whoms back ached as they walked one step at a time in rythm to the bells tolling from the temple into the city. The lines of the noble house members and warriors spread surroundering the walkway that parted to make way for the prince's throne, directing him towards the end of the temple.
This year, the victims of the sacrifice were four young virgins, awaiting for the prince by the temple. His viciousness and ignorant requirements surpassing last year's when the number of 'fortunate women' where barely the half of that year's number, and after the first night into the town by discarding them to the center of the plaza's square to return home as 're-born beings' or what other title their families felt like giving them in honor for selling them to his majesty.
This year, in the festivities of the autumn equinox celebration, he was expecting to not be dissapointed, but clearly misjudging the wills of the town's people.
His wandering throne passed above the peasant's heads, their knees touching floor and foreheads coming down to kiss the ground and rose back up in a constant and never ceasing reverence. The prince's presence was hidden inside the silk curtains of his large throne. Fabrics were embroidered in gold threats and decored with diamonds while on the top of his head and down his back and shoulder, a mantle in thin fabric brushed his cheeks almost covering his eyes, as if hiding form the bright afternoon twilight.
His crystal like eyes scanned the crowd of men reverencing for his arrival to the temple, their heads and back coming down all in unison, except for a slight uneveness on the far right side of the noble line. While the rest of the men came up with both their hands clenched together only to come back down, the back of this one didn't come down and instead stood firmly lifted, his head bowed down instead and his trembling hands holding to the weight of his back.
The prince's eyes were enchanted on this one view of that man. As the servants pulled the throne in closer, the prince's eyes rested on this one man, taken back by the aperance of his formidable form.
The prince's hand rose, making the parade come to a complete halt. The bowing nobles and warriors of the palace coming to a stop and letting their foreheads kiss the ground permenantly, not able to see what had cause the prince to stop, but for their expectations, they knew a blood bath was just waiting to be shed.
The throne had taken it's pause just in front the young man whom had lost his breath, his limbs trembling, his already asleep legs not feeling the rush of blood into them anymore. A certain death to his head surely approaching him.
The Prince's hand extended down, the tip of his finger brushing the man's hair, suddenly shaking his whole body and rising his face to encounter the Prince's eyes in his. In an enchanting glare, the man wasn't even sure if he even was allow to rise his head in the presence of the Prince, but this one instead dove deeply into the abyss of his dark eyes, making them a void to see through the color of his soul. His delicate and firm hands brushing the man's face, their skin's touching and making the man's pores rise to tip's end, a heating cold traveling down his back. In the prince's eyes it was as if he could see the same colors of the sky and in them his same reflection. His skin not far from an angel's. His partially visible hair like the silk fabrics covering his throne. He barely believed he live anymore and less when he was taking his breath away.
His soft hand left his skin seeming as if the sound of their pores brushing was almost recognizable. The man's face who appeared to have been lifted fell back on his kness, somehow, the little force of spirit taken away from him and collapsing on th cold ground.
The Prince retreated back, his back leaning against his throne once again, but his piercing eyes never leaving the man.
"Take him." the sound of his voice almost confused by the wind was transformed into immediate action as the man was lifted from his numb feet and carried out form the lines and taken out of the public sight.
His eyes had barely lost conciousness by the still vivid enchantment in his blood, rushing in like a formidable alcohol through his veins. His limbs were carried and shifted everywhere. His sight barely reconizing the unfamiliar places he was taken to and his body barely realizing the things they did to him. All he knew was, when he broke unconsciousness, he was alone. A dark room lifted by the mere flames of candles and the shade of the moon just out side the garden, hidden behind the paper doors, with the sound of the coursing water and bamboos tolling.
Looking down on himself he noticed his clothes were gone, now he wore a large kimono in dark blue shades. Even the obi had been tightly put on him and his feet shod. A table lay just across form him served with a banquet of fish and white rice, the finest vegetables form their land and other local goods he so well knew they cultivated in town. All so tempting, it's very smell was irresistible, but something wouldn't let him come closer to the table.
The doors burst open, giving way to a pair of servant warriors inside the room, all bowing to the entering of that very same great Prince, the man remembered very well he had seen. He dressed in an immense, dark kimono with fine golden patterns that endlessly flowed to his feet, and on top an open dark robe hanged from his firm shoulders. His hair fell to his ears slightly covering his eyes while a much longer tail of hair fell on his back tied with a string of ribbon, similar to how the warriors in town who would let their hairs grow with the years of their service to the royal family.
The prince looked inside the room, his lips sealed in an unpleasant and somehow aggressive matter, he turned to his servants and ordered at once.
"Out. All of you."
The servants heard his clear orders and left at once, leaving the room in total silence without giving an idea to the man across the room of what his destiny held for him. Perhaps the Prince had decided to kill him himself in secret, where no other soul could witness his last moments nor could he see the outside world before going to the other life.
The Prince returned to the man across the room who's eyes only knew how to look startled and, by the sight of his shivering body still lying against the wooden floors, his crystal eyes softened.
"My apologies if you had to witness that." he said, slightly bowing his head to the man. "They somehow only respond to me this way."
He came closer to the table speaking normaly, his heavenly voice invading the room and taking away the tension in the air as if it was never there. His feet lay down across the chabudai between them.
"Fear me not. I don't mean any harm. Forgive me if you may have misunderstood me."
Misunderstood? But he even barely believed this was the same Prince that had come to town. The man looked down, the confusion not easing in his head.
"Come. You must be hungry." The prince guessed and the minute he mentioned it, the man's starving stomach revealed it self.
"Come closer. Eat anything you like." regardless of his friendly invitation, the man couldn't dare move, just in case this was some kind of test from the prince that would surely lead to his final judgment based on his decisions.
Suddenly a bright laughter spread in the room, the prince's voice being root of it.
"Don't be afraid. I wont harm you, I promise. Come." as he invited him, the prince took hold of a plate and served a large serving of white rice for the man, placing it jut in front of him to lure him closer.
The man hesitated before giving in to his hunger. Following his order, he pulled himself closer to the table and sat in folded knees. He looked down as his plate while the prince invited him to take the first bite, perhaps expecting him to taste it in case his food had been poisoned. Even so, the man took his chances and grabbed his plate and chopsticks, taking a bite into the moist and white rice from his home land.
A smirk grew across the prince's lips to see his satisfaction. Taking his own plate, the prince served himself his portion and digged in as well. The men savored quietly into their food.
"You must be from the Sakurai clan, am I right? What is your name?" The prince broke their silence.
The man looked up from his plate silently.
"Sho? As in 'Soaring'? Or is it perhaps 'Butterfly'?" asked the prince, referring to the meaning of the kanji's in his name.
"S-Soaring, sir." Sakurai answered slightly uncertain.
"Soaring... Soaring..." the prince wouldn't cease to repeat to himself. "Have you ever flew, Sho? Do you know what it feels like to 'soar'?"
"N-No." he said, afraid to disappoint him. His comment felt short and bringing silence between them, perhaps impacting the prince more than it should have.
"Actually I... I'm not very found of heights." he concluded.
The prince smiled curiously once again. "Is that so? How ironic! I've always believed people lived up to their names, but now I see there are exceptions."
Sho noded to his statement feeling a little guilty. His diamond hazel eyes stared warmly at Sho as he proceeded to calm his hunger with the banquet before him. He hadn't notice how hungry he really was until that first portion of rice touched his tongue. His hands keep ravaging everywhere, taking portions out of every plate, unnoticed of the prince's amusement falling on him. The latter rested his elbow on the table as he held his chin in his hand watching with excitement how the man before him eased his endless hunger.
"Savior your food, Sho. There is no need to feel hurried." said the Prince.
Sho's chewing slowed down guilty looking at the great prince before him.
"I am deeply sorry, my lord."
"Call me Masaki, as in 'Elegant Chronicle'. Now isn't mine curious?" the Prince laughed for himself.
Sho's eyes widen when this request reached his ears. It was enough that he was dinning with a member of the royal family, but to use such formality before him was out of the question.
"Oh no, my lord! I would never-"
"That's an order, Sho. I am telling you to loosen up around me. It's not every day I get to talk to someone without using such informal speech. It get's tiering no matter how you see it. You'll understand one day, I'm sure."
Sho had no further remarks, although he was not too certain of what his words meant exactly.
"Now that we have introduced ourselves, aren't you curious of why I have called upon you?"
Sho's hands slowly put down his chopsticks as he gave Prince Masaki his full attention.
"Hai... I still don't understand why you brought me here."
Masaki noded, pursing his lips.
"It's true it was a little sudden. I hope I didn't gave you the wrong impressing earlier. You see, my image to the town's people is barely a mask I have to put on at times. They see me as a God, I treat them as servants. It is a balance I must maintain to gain my power and establish my order. As a son of the royal family it needs to be as wise. But here, behind walls, I can return to myself. That self of mine I have almost forgotten to be."
The prince looks down to the table before them, his thoughts lost elsewhere as the smile in his lips faded.
"You mean... You are lying to the people? About who you are?"
The prince's eyes lay on the man once again.
"I wont deny that. It is true I've been gifted with a great power from the Gods, but I am no God myself. I'm a mortal like any other and as a mortal I die a sinner. A lie is never not necessary."
"Then... Those women... the ones you call for yourself every year in sacrifice..."
"Ah, yes. I suppose you would be curious about that. But fear not. I never touch them. They are but merely the women from the town I chose to award with a token of my blessing. I give them goods for their own and prosperity. Once I send them off to town, people see them as holy for being with me. You could say it is a great service I do for them."
Sakurai Sho frowned. Although his words made sense, he would have never thought of seeing things this way.
"And that gift of your's? What people say about you..."
"I hear rumors in town have spread. You may see it as a legend told by your fathers, but it is very much real. I do own that gift. Believe it or not, you may have witnessed it already." he reveals to him.
"When I was entering the town. I used it upon you. It was my subconscious who wouldn't let you bow down as the rest did, because I didn't wanted you to bow down to me. When I made contact with you, I put you into a binding spell so you would sleep in order to bring you here. It has also helped me manifest my power to the people in town, so I must thank you."
Sho remained in silence. He now realized he had been used for his mere profit, but he was not feeling as bothered by it as he would be naturally. Perhaps this spell he had used on him had taken away his energies to do so.
"Now, as for your purpose here, I am afraid I must ask of you for a bit longer." said the prince as he served himself a second portion and the man watched him silently from across the table.
"I know it will be dangerous and the consequences extreme, but I have given my trust to you because I am clearly aware it is possible."
Sho waited patiently for his words to make sense, as Prince Masaki dropped more food into his plate.
"I am escaping."
His words took their time to ring in his ears, forming in his mind a blinding confusion.
"I feel trapped and unpleased. I am not satisfied with my current life. That is why I have decided... To run away."
Silence was spread between them, as the prince proceeded to consume his meal. The man only stared at him blankly, expecting to hear his words again to know he had not heard wrong.
The Prince ate soundlessly until his mouths were empty once again to take the word.
"The Emperor has order me to wed in spring, but I simply do not love that woman. Regardless of how loudly I may say it, the Emperor does not listen to my warning words. I have seen the visions of the Gods in my sleep. They have warned me about this moment. They have shown me the miserable end to my life if I take such path they desire for me, so I decided to take control of it myself. I must leave before the winter so they wont find me, so that the snow will erase my tracks. By spring I would be gone forever. All trace of me will be lost. People will realize I had decided to ascend to the heavens and I will pass down as a myth. I ask for nothing more."
"But... where do I stand in all of this?" the man asks him, his voice desperate. Listening to the prince's words was a crime of it's own.
"I told you before, I'm a mortal. I feel fear and I am afraid to do this on my own. But you are the confidence I need. I need you to be my hands. I want you to come with me."
"What? W-What do you mean?"
"I know you are a warrior of your clan. The Sakurai's are known for their great talent and skill. I don't doubt you are the same. And your aura, it gives me the trust I need. For years now, I've known it had to be you."
"But, my lord-"
"Do you doubt me, Sho?"
The man is taken aback by the Prince's words, moreover when he didn't let him have a word of his own. His desires to speak up to him were reduced to his silent thoughts as his eyes darted away from his. It was barely the sight of his body language what made the Prince understand.
"Then... should I ask, Do you doubt yourself?"
It was no surprise for Sho that he would see right through him.
"I don't doubt it, my lord. I've been told on and on my skill as a warrior equals that of a child. My side of the family's heritage has left me with too little. My father says I am not to be trusted with a weapon. I've been called worthless to his clan and I have known to be close to be deserted for my lack of capability. If it is a warrior you want, I am afraid I many not be of much assistance. But if you desperately need a Sakurai clan member, I suggest you could call upon my younger brother. He has great potential like my father. Perhaps he has taken what you are vainly looking for in me."
"You consider yourself vain, Sho?"
"Yes. N-No! I mean... No, I-"
"You think less of yourself because you are not like others?"
"No I... "
"You think that because your father has made you think this way or have you realized this on your own?"
Sho stammers would say no more. Masaki sighs, thinking no more of his words.
"You don't need to be dragged by this lies, Sakurai Sho. That one does not posses the same abilities as others only makes you more special. You must know better than anyone on what your true ability consists."
"I do." he says, his eyes still looking down.
"And what may that be?"
He hesitates to form his words. "My knowledge, my books, my words, everything I read and learn... it's what I can offer."
With his words, the Prince was able to smile kindly once again.
"My journey does not consist in spilled blood and open flesh. I don't need the most fearless warrior by my side to secure my life. I am not afraid of death. If I ever were, I wouldn't do such irrational thing to begin with or even dare to betray my clan. A warrior does not have to be a synonym for death. There are warriors of every kind and all I'm asking for is a kind, honest mind that would guide me wherever I go. And if that mind just so happens to be living in the same mist as mine then that would be all I ever ask for. That is all I need."
The Prince made sure to capture Sho's eyes again, giving him a reassuring smile, one that eased his mind as if for a second considering his words and his head falling in line with the nobel Prince's. Was he truly ready to do this? So soon? The thought of leaving the clan was not far from his future. Being the only member of his family his father never looked at in the eyes, he knew it would be soon before he would end on the road under the insistence of his clans elders to enlist into an academy and gain knowledge in the arts of battle tactics and, perhaps so, being accepted back into his home. Sho didn't exactly wanted this.
The poetry and beauty he could find in his texts and the same he would write every so often was enough to satisfy him. His father was the only one who wouldn't see it this way and became uninterested in is own son for his poor share of profit to the family. As he grew in his home, Sho would become more distant from him facing the reality that his father was not proud of him and there would never be a way to make him proud. Even so Sho knew there was only a single answer for him; to take his own path and leave his house behind. To forget that his father had ever doubted him would be better than being dumped by him one day. Now, with this Prince standing before him, asking for his help, his thoughts didn't seem to be so distant from his reality.
Meanwhile Sho's thoughts dwell in his mind, the Prince proceeded to offer him silence and continues his meal. For long minutes it was only the clattered of the Prince's chopsticks against the plates. When his eyes look up to the man once again, he finds the presence of his body still across him, but Sho's mind was else were. His thoughts blinded him from realizing his own hands that rested in his lab were crushing his so well ironed kimono into his fists.
"Do not torture yourself in doubt, Sho." said the Prince to bring his mind back to the room. "The answer will come out on it's own. Don't force it to come to you. It will never be there when you ask for it. It will come by it's time and it will be the right answer; you should never doubt that. And even when you can't find the answer, it only means you have to look closer.
"I am not going to force you to make a decision. If you are not sure of it then, who am I to question you? I may be a noble but I do not wish to punish you. It is merely a proposal what I make and it's up to you if you wish to follow me."
"I just need to know something." spoke up Sho from his silence.
The Prince invited him to speak up with a nod.
"Did you see me... in your visions... was I there?"
Prince Masaki's eyes softened, understanding clearly what he wanted to prove.
"...Would it change anything if you knew?"
"If I was part of that vision then I should know what is the choice I should make."
"Why would you think over your answer when you already know it's the right one?"
"Then if I say I'm not going, does that mean I'm making the right choice?"
Sho's words were silent, this not being the answer he looked for. The prince smiles for the man.
"There is never a bad choice. We learn from what we decide for ourselves, let it be good or bad."
Sho's eyes are cast down, something coming to bother him from the Prince's words.
"What is the matter? Have I not said what you wanted to hear?"
"It's sounds like you're mocking me." his voice seemed a little shaken.
"Am I? Then why do you hesitate so much about it?"
"Why are you dragging yourself, Sho?"
"I just... I don't what to make the wrong choice!"
"You are simply beating yourself up for something that has not happen yet? It is so important to prove you're right?"
"Then why do you over think things?" The Prince's voice had become heavy in the air. "Isn't it easier to accept what you really want no matter what may happen in the end? Wouldn't things be clearer if you just accept what your heart is telling you? Why do you doubt it? Why do you hesitate so much? Why wouldn't you say it!?"
"I am afraid." says Sho's shaken voice. His eyes were not meeting with the Prince's. "... I can't bring myself to do it, no matter how much I tried. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't be able to face my father."
Masaki looks at the man with compassionate eyes. The pain in his words sounding much too familiar to his ears than it should. No wonder he kept seen him in his dreams.
"You are too much like me Sakurai Sho, perhaps that is why I'm here."
Silence is drawn between them, but it was not the kind that would hold them down, it was more comforting. It gave him the time and space to think his way through doubt. A doubt that was suddenly lifted from his shoulders when he realized he wasn't alone in this. Besides, if Prince Masaki really wanted to run away he would have done it himself. And so he understood why he had come to him.
"I can't promise you I'll always have your back..."
"Again, that is not what I ask."
"Then, I can at least promise you company."
The Prince's enchanting eyes look up to the man acroos him. A smile was drawn across his lips.
"And you shall."
The Prince proceeded to stand from his place on the chabudai and for his unexpected move, Sho hesitated to get up as well. The Prince came over him and as his soft and warm hand gripped his wrist, he lifted him up to his feet in a single pull.
"We don't have much time. I suppose this will have to do." the Prince's sleeve revealed a small and cleverly hidden knife from his kimono which he proceeded to stab on to the man's open palm, making him whine in its cold sting.
"Oi!" Sho tries to brush his grip off his now bleeding hand, but the Prince holds him tightly.
"Hold still now."
The Prince tighten the man's hand, forcing his fist to spill his dripping blood on the wooden floor. Small drops fell by their feet, but as the Prince indicated, it was enough.
"They will know I'm gone, but at least now they will think you are dead." The Prince let's go of his hand, and he quickly examined the open wound in it, grinding his teeth from its sting.
"Dead? Why? That's barely a drop of my blood..."
"Trust me. They will know. It is not the first time I've killed someone." He says sarcastically yet reassuringly.
Prince Masaki kneels to the floor as if he were to go in prayer, a sight Sho couldn't understand quite clearly. As he watched him, he would see how his head lean to the wooden floor as his knuckles tapped in the board as if looking for the emptiness under them. Soon he finds what his looking for. His fingers carved on the board and lifted a plank from the floor revealing a hidden drawer.
"What are we doing?" asks Sho still holding his bleeding hand.
"Escaping." he answers simply.
"We don't have much choice." Masaki's hands draw two long katanas from the drawer under the floor. "We must go while the moon is still rising. The town soldier wont be expecting any trouble so early in the night."
The Prince throws one of the katanas to Sho, which he luckily catches with his remaining hand. Adjusting the weapon inside his open kimono, tightly secure on his obi, he comes closer to Sho. Taking and end of the sleeve of his kimono he rips it open to take a piece of it's delicate fabric.
"Leave nothing behind. They'll search for the smallest detail in proof of my disappearance and your own death." Masaki once again takes Sho's hand in his and adjust the fabric around his open wound, sealing it tightly from spilling anymore blood on the floors.
Sho could barely make words as he saw how the Prince's delicate hands took care of him. They were warm and still, unlike his trembling ones which had suddenly realized the danger he was getting into.
"I'm counting on you Sho." said he Prince, his hands suddenly grabbing his shoulders reassuringly, bringing their eyes to find one another. "You will guide us out of here towards the south. We will find a path through the forest, you understand?"
It takes time for Sho to realize he had almost lost himself on his deep hazel eyes that have turned into the color of the reborn night, but he quickly gains back his senses as he realizes the hurry in the Prince's impatient words. Shaking his loud thoughts away he confirms his understanding to him.
The Prince nods, his hands leaving his shoulder as if it had let the responsibility of their lives in his slumped shoulders.
Masaki hurries to the paper door that opened to the inner garden of the small town's temple palace.
"I have asked for the servants to vacate this side of the place for myself and prohibited their wanderings in the halls. It should be safe to cross to the back of the palace from here."
Sho has turned distracted by his patched hand, at the same time looking at the Prince across him scanning the halls for their escape. To think he were to be standing just across a member of the royal family, to be giving this trust by him, to be treated like this, better than what his own family would have ever treated him. To see him so enthusiastically giving him the words he couldn't find himself, he couldn't understand why. Why was this opportunity given to him of all people? Why would he be the one in the Prince's visions? What would the Prince before him think was so special in him as to think he deserved to be given the freedom he always looked for?
Then again he thought, perhaps his father's words had taken part in his mind and couldn't let him see the reality before him. It was him who the Prince asked for. It was him who the Prince wanted. It was him who the Prince had given his trust to. There should be no doubt in his mind as to think this was not the right choice, no matter how loudly his father's words would ring in his ears.
"I'll follow you." said Masaki's voice to call for Sho's attention which was quickly fixed on the Prince who waited for his loyal knight by the door frame in way to their escape. Leaving nothing behind, nor trace, nor proof but a mere spill of blood and cold banquet, they ran.
Tugging the sword to his obi, Sho guided the Prince through the garden under the crescent moonlight down to the back gates of the small town's palace.
Even under the remarks of his father, Masaki learned Sho was wrong about many things about himself. To think such a useless warrior would be so agile on his feet, or perhaps it was he had learned to hide from the night for his many escapades into freedom from his own home. Even when it came to climbing the murals out of the palace, his feet jumped to its top nimbly, even extending his hand to the help the Prince climb his way up with the weight of the kimono over his shoulders.
Finding his balance over the mural, the Prince seemed to laugh openly to the man.
"What is it?" he asked curiously under the night's silence.
"I thought you didn't like heights, Sho."
"There are too many things to be afraid of in life to think a mer wall is the end of me, your magesty."
"Ah! So you're talking with sense now? And why do you still call me that? I am not your lord anymore."
Both of them fall safely on the other side of the palace mural, encountering the dense and dark forest behind the palace before them.
"Then what are we?" asks Sho, Masaki thinking once again, perhpas he still had not learned his lesson regarding his answer being right in front of him all along.
With a smile, the Prince took word.
"We are free."