His saber glimmers in the sunlight, winking at her. She strikes and cuts only air. Ruka is 17, but he might as well be crooked and liver-spotted for all his experience.
Unmasked, she’s the mirror image of her brother in the stolen white jacket and breeches. He sees reflections of others in her: Juri’s animal grace, Shiori’s cruelty. She’s a pretty distraction for a prince on borrowed time
(when the clock strikes midnight the car will turn into a pumpkin)
and he knows his minutes are almost up. Nevertheless, he grants Kozue this one dance.
“Miki was the one who had fencing lessons,” she says. “Mother said it was unladylike.”
The sabers form an X between their bodies. “And what a lady you are.”
“I know about you.” A turn; he slips away from her. “You were here before my brother, before Touga, all of them.”
He responds with a dashingly raised eyebrow.
“You’ve been touched by power
I want it—ahh—I want to tear through this world. Make me like you. Show me how--” Kozue feints, but it’s almost over; it was never a true match at all. “To leave--”
The saber touches her heart. Gloved fingers ghost over the spot, as if expecting blood to spurt.
Ruka runs a hand through tousled hair and tucks his saber under his arm. “I can’t help you,” he says, turning his back to her. Neither a prince nor a princess, her place is off the floor, but she may observe if she likes, with the other ladies-in-waiting.
Her face darkening, she reaches for him, but he eludes her grasp. When Juri enters the practice room, rays of sunlight illuminating her hair, Kozue is forgotten. The prince has so little time, and his dance card is already full.