The Prince was the last to enter the ballroom, subtly smiling as he descended the stairs. He was neither delighted, or nervous to be the focus of everyone's attention, though he was used to it. As the crowned prince everyone had always wanted to know exactly what he was doing, at every second of the day, but since he had come of age two years ago the attention had intensified.
He'd been named twice as the kingdom's most desired bachelor, once at sixteen and again the year after. This year would be no different, he knew without any emotional attachment to the idea, unless he married in the upcoming months. He doubted that it would happen anytime soon. Not because he wasn't pretty much, he was very handsome, or lacked in money or power, he had both in abundance. He had no ego, no bad habits and treated everyone he knew with grace and respect from his father the King, all the way down to those who served him. Many jokingly called him Prince Charming, a name the Prince accepted with apathy but not scorn.
When it came down to it, the only reason the Prince was alone was because he hadn't found the one woman who captured his interest beyond that of a friend. He didn't even know what he was looking for, which made his father sigh in frustration whenever the subject was brought up. Abstractly he could see himself with a kind, gentle woman who loved him as much as he loved her, but he hadn't been able to paint the picture in his imagination any clearer than that.
“Find a girl tonight,” the King had ordered him only a half hour before. He was a kind man, there would be no punishment if the Prince disobeyed, but he longed to make his parents happy. To give them a grandchild, and the future heir of the kingdom, whilst they were all still relatively young.
“Prince Hiyuu,” the Princess Veronica greeted him at the bottom of the stairs. She was the oldest Princess from the nearest foreign kingdom, and the first girl Hiyuu had tried to date. Neither of them were interested in the other, despite the value of the political match, but it was still expected that they shared the first dance.
“You are a vision tonight, my Princess,” Hiyuu greeted her, admiring the pastel blue and pearl gown she was wearing, “Would you honour me with the first dance?”
“I could never turn down an offer, from a man as charming as you,” Veronica answered, “Please tell me they're going to play my favourite tune?”
“I requested the song as soon as the music for the ball was discussed,” Hiyuu answered honestly, his curiosity both equal parts friendship and tradition. The kingdoms were close, and anything less than showing the other utmost respect was unthinkable.
He led the princess to the centre of the room, bowing formerly before leading her through the intricate steps of the dance as the kingdom watched. Tonight was his birthday, nobody would interrupt or attempt to join the first dance. So it was more than shocking when somebody did.
“Who is she?” Veronica asked, without jealousy but unable to hide her annoyance. Nobody was supposed to enter the ballroom between the Prince entering and the end of the first dance. The very appearance of the girl descending the stairs was enough to shock the room. How had she even got past the guards?
“I don't know,” Hiyuu answered, ending the dance as he watched the beautiful blonde girl descend the stairs. Like Veronica she wore pastel blue, matched with diamonds instead of pearls. A deliberate attempt to upstage the princess? He couldn't see it as anything else. “Do you want her to be removed?” he whispered, careful to keep his voice low so only Veronica could hear him.
“No,” Veronica replied, “It'll make me seem petty and jealous. Go find out who she is. If she wants to be the centre of attention, let her be just that.”
“You would have me dance with her all night, to face the scorn of all these women in the morning?” Hiyuu asked.
“It doesn't have to be all night,” Veronica answered, “One dance will be enough.”
Yuuki could hardly believe that Hiyuu was dancing with the girl that had ruined his first dance, a move than had sent murmurs of surprise throughout the whole room. Sure, the girl was lovely to look at, and maybe her interruption had been an accident, but he very much doubted that Hiyuu truly wanted that dance.
Excusing himself from his current companion, Yuuki found the princess Veronica and took her to the dance floor. He was no prince, or member of the royal court, but his reputation and elegant but unusual appearance was enough to bring him close to their level. His ability with magic bringing just enough fear and awe to stop anyone protesting when he overstepped his bounds. He was the Royal Mage, practised in offensive, defensive and healing magic, as well as the young Prince's closest friend. Veronica knew him well and was more than happy to accept his arms around her.
“What is our dear Prince playing at?” Yuuki demanded, keeping his tone even and without blame.
“I merely asked for him to find out who she was,” Veronica answered. “How was I to know he would dance with her all night? Perhaps she really is the one? It would take a girl that broke tradition to catch Hiyuu's eye, just look at the man he calls his closest friend? Really Yuuki, is the brim on that hat big enough? No one else would wear a hat inside!”
“If you disapprove so much of my clothes, why accept my hand in this dance?” Yuuki asked. Knowing perfectly well that his androgynous fashion sense and vivid pink hair always made him stand out in a room. No one else here was anywhere near as daring, not that his appearance was entirely his choice. Just like the red in Hiyuu's hair, some things belonged so inherently that it would be ludicrous to try and change them.
“Like I could refuse the request of the most powerful mage I have ever know?” Veronica asked. “It's a good thing that our kingdoms are such close friends, or I would truly fear you.”
“And if I ordered you to leave right now?” Yuuki asked, smiling when Veronica continued to dance, “It's not fear that made you say yes.”
“I have nothing to fear from you,” Veronica answered.
“He should dance with someone else,” Yuuki commented, his eyes back on Hiyuu, “Does he not know how jealous he's making the other girls?”
“How jealous he's making you?” Veronica teased.
“Me?” Yuuki asked, “Why would I be jealous? I want Hiyuu to find the girl of his dreams.”
“You haven't had a chance to talk to your friend all night.” Veronica answered as the song came to an end. “Thanks for the dance, unlike Hiyuu I know the importance of working a room.”
“Take care,” Yuuki said, letting Veronica go as he returned to his favourite place at the side of the room. There were no other women here that he felt like dancing with, he wondered why he had bothered turning up at all.
Hiyuu could hardly believe just how much fun he was having tonight. Elena had managed to keep his attention with her sharp wits and humours stories of events that couldn't possibly be true. She was a welcome break from the familiar formality of his routine and whilst he had warned her many times that dancing with him would only cause trouble, she had remained firmly by his side.
“Enough about me,” Elena said, “Tell me about yourself.”
“What's too tell, that the newspapers haven't already printed?” Hiyuu asked.
“Plenty of things, I'm sure,” Elena reassured him. “Like, who here would you call your friend?”
“Yuuki, the man with the pink hair,” Hiyuu answered, “If it weren't my birthday, or your grand entrance, he would be the focus of the attention of everyone in this room. We've spent practically every day together, from before I can remember, like brothers, though I'm hesitant to call him that.”
“You wouldn't?” Elena asked. “What's so wrong in using that term?”
“It doesn't feel right,” Hiyuu tried to explain, “He's closer to me than that, but further apart. Oh, it's impossible to explain. He's my dear friend, let's just leave it at that?”
“How can he be both closer, and further apart?” Elena asked. “Oh, I just don't understand! Maybe he is like a brother, but because he doesn't share the same relationship with you as your real brothers, you don't think of it like that?”
“Maybe,” Hiyuu answered, knowing that it wasn't like that at all. He distracted Elena by pointing out others he thought of as his friends in the room, relieved that she didn't ask any more difficult questions.
“Would you mind if I sit down for the next song?” Elena asked, “My feet are so sore!”
“Of course,” Hiyuu said, surprised Elena has lasted on her high heeled shoes for so long. He began to lead her towards the royal table, before following her lead into the shadows of the room.
“Forgive me,” Elena apologised as she sat on the edge of a window sill. “It's these shoes.”
“Why don't you take them off?” Hiyuu suggested. “At least for now?”
“That would be a relief,” Elena agreed. Quickly removing her shoes from her small feet and placing them on the windowsill by her side. “You men are so lucky, not having to wear such crazy shoes.”
“Yuuki wears heels all the time, he's had me in them from time to time,” Hiyuu confessed, looking around the room unable to find his friend. Had Yuuki slipped away back to his rooms? He had promised to stay for the cutting of the cake at midnight, which was only seconds away.
“You in heels?” Elena asked, “Or a heel in you?”
“What?” Hiyuu asked, gasping as the long shard of glass was shoved through his heart. The heel from one of her shoes, broken off and used as a weapon!
“Goodbye, my foolish prince!” Elena said, departing through the window with no explanation for her treacherous deed. Hiyuu remained, gasping for breath as his heart struggled to pump the much needed oxygen through his veins. Was he too die tonight? A man only just turning eighteen? The clock struck midnight, marking the end of his birthday and the beginning of the day of his death?
He fell to the floor, alerting those in the room that something was wrong. He saw people above him, shapeless forms without features, like shadows really. How could such people help him, when they had no real form? Everything was like a picture, painted with blurred lines and dark colours. Even the lights were dark, all but the crescent moon in the night sky. It seemed to pierce through the palace, shining into the ballroom and onto the form of a single man.
“Yuuki,” Hiyuu gasped, watching the shining man approach. If anyone could save him, it would be him. He would know how.
“Back up,” Yuuki ordered, “Leave me to work alone.”
“Are you sure?” the voice of the King came through, muffled but recognisable.
“Please, you have to trust me,” Yuuki begged. Had it been anyone else, the King would have ignored the request entirely. To leave his son dying would be unthinkable, but when the order came from the Mage even the King knew to obey. The room cleared, until the two friends were left alone.
“Lycaon's blessing,” Yuuki muttered as he ripped away Hiyuu's shirt, “The glass has gone deep.”
“Can you?” Hiyuu gasped, coughing as his body continued to shut down.
“How did she know to use glass?” Yuuki wondered, grabbing the broken heel firmly and pulling it out of his friend. “She planned this, knew what we are.”
“How can she?” Hiyuu got out, looking so pale that even Yuuki was worried. His friend had been hurt before, many times, but not like this. It would take all his power to save his friend.
“Not now, let's me focus,” Yuuki ordered. He muttered a spell, followed by another and then another. For the next hour he focused only on healing his friend, finally accepting his own exhaustion and unable to carry on. Hiyuu appeared better at least, no longer bleeding or fighting for breath.
“Hold me,” Hiyuu begged, clinging to his friend as they sat side by side in the ballroom, basking in the moonlight that shone over them. Gently Yuuki wrapped an arm around Hiyuu's shoulders, quietly singing one of their favourite songs. Hiyuu would be all right, he had saved him this time, but who was this girl that had tried to take his life? More importantly, why?