Yu stood in front of a mirror, lost in thought, a girl to his side examining the wrinkles in his sleeves and complaining about something along the lines of how they never seemed to flatten. He has trouble paying attention to the conversation in full, but he listened enough to give feedback and responses that satisfy. It is a part of his duty as prince, after all. To satisfy all who need it of him.
Yu examined the reflection facing him. He saw a silver haired man, skin spotted with golden freckles and small stars. He was dressed in fine silks and chiffons, accented by lace near the edges that flowed into embroidery elegantly. The blued greys of his tucked blouse matched well with his dark navy slacks while still letting the whites of his outfit shine. The girl, he remembered her now as Ebihara, had moved to placing rings and bracelets on him, as well as a jeweled clip to secure the ascot she fit around his neck. All pieces had silver, jeweled with sapphires, moonstones, and even diamonds. The mirror image showed him a perfect example of what the Moon Prince should look like, exactly what he should be.
After all, he was preparing to meet with a princess that finally met the approval of his parents’ eyes.
While Ebihara was busy deciding on whether a shawl or a veil fits the outfit better, Yu took the opportunity to move towards a blue haired girl leaning along the wall, her watchful eye looking like a glare to anyone but the man walking over. When he stood in front of her, her look softened and she gave the smallest hint of a smile.
“You look good. I think the new fashion coordinator was a good choice.” She spoke carefully, but it was easy to tell it wasn’t forced.
“Thank you, Naoto,” Yu spoke, his stressed emotion fading into a faint grin. He sighed, bringing his arms up to cross.
“You seem nervous…” Naoto started, examining the prince’s stiff posture. She stood up from the wall to meet Yu closer and her hands moved up to pat his shoulders, urging him to relax. After a few tries, the man’s body seemed to unwind. “Are you that worried about meeting the princess?”
Yu gave it some thought. It wasn’t like it was an entirely new situation. He’d dressed up to see many other princesses before, as per his parents’ future plan for him as Moon King. The only difference this time is it was being weighed by the reality that he was expected to marry this one. He was going for the sole reason to meet with and then court the girl he had never seen in his life.
A minute passed before Yu was able to answer.
“Maybe… I’m not really sure.” He exhaled, defeated. “My parents insist they know what’s right for me… but I’m confused. Is this really what I want?”
Naoto hummed, thinking of her response deeply. The mood felt heavy, Yu felt almost unable to breathe in air through it, but just as his knight began to speak up, Ebihara ran up for the update on her executive decision.
“This is it!” The curly haired girl threw a cape-like veil along the prince’s shoulders, causing him to startle. Grabbing the cloth and beginning to fit it on, Yu thanked Ebihara and apologized to Naoto for the interruption and gave her an offer to continue. She shook her head with a smile.
“We can talk about it later,” She moved to grab her sword resting alongside where she leaned, and gestured towards the door. “I think it’s time we head out. Can’t keep the King and Queen waiting too long.”
“Oh, sh-“ Yu jumped straight and reassured his stiff posture from before, rushing to gather his things. He ran to the mirror to make sure his grey hair was in the tidiest form possible before jogging to catch up with his knight.
As he walked in step behind her, his mind wandered. This wasn’t what he wanted, but it’s what he had to do. It was the only way that his parents would approve of him.
— — —
Though he insisted they ride separate, Yu shifted to the edge of the carriage for his parents to fit in. His father walked on first, dressed in an outfit similar to the prince’s own but adorned by a double-breasted jacket instead of the veil he wore, and sat next to him. His mother sat on the opposite side, next to Naoto. She was smaller in stature, but her excessive dress, looking almost as if she had a second petticoat underneath, took up all the space given between her and the knight.
Before they had left, all three members of the royal family had donned their appropriate tiaras. Yu’s was simple, a silver band with a centered moonstone amidst small diamonds. The Queen’s stood taller, the silver formed into multiple arches, lined with diamonds meeting into sapphires and one beautiful cut moonstone. However, both of their headpieces were shadowed by the King’s. It almost resembled a crown, with thick cut silver filling around as many stones they could fit into the open spaces between, polished from front to back for the brightest sheen possible in the moon’s light. To all, it was breathtaking, and even without the crown, it reflected the power he held.
Yu gazed between the other two, eyes falling briefly on his father’s intense profile before returning focus to the petite knight in front of him.
“Sorry, I know you wanted to talk away from them.” He spoke quietly, loud enough for Naoto to hear but still soft enough to be covered as his parents shuffled and bickered about the inconvenient dress choice.
“It’s fine,” Naoto gave a soft chuckle. “It’s not like we won’t have a chance to talk before you’re to meet Her Highness.”
He nodded with a smile, relieved she wasn’t giving any signs of annoyance with him. The dark haired girl had also changed briefly before departing, covering the simple collared white shirt underneath with the jacket of her knight ensemble. A deep blue tailcoat cut, lined with the same grey of his blouse, folded over tight on her small form. Black gloved hands were used to readjust the silver braid pinned across her chest. Her epaulettes matched the white of her trousers, giving the outfit an overall look that complimented the royal attire well.
The most eye catching part of the uniform, however, was the set of badges and pins she had been rewarded with through her years of knighthood. It gave her a powerful presence; powerful enough to quiet down the fools who were quick to judge her for her tiny stature.
Yu shifted his gaze from Naoto to the window beside him, caught by the sight of the moon. He watches it with awe every morning, comforted by the light it radiates. It always shines in the sky, from the crack of dawn until the toll of midnight, yet he still finds himself fascinated when he has the time to stare.
The pale luminescence it cast on the kingdom gave view to a wide sea and distant fields for their harvest and livestock. Yu only knew of the history he read in books, about how farmers and sailors who migrated to the land where only the moon touched had difficulties with their work, adapting to the nature’s new laws. Seas were unforgiving and the earth was always wet and cold. It seemed impossible, but through trial and error, there was a day a bright green leaf sprouted from the dark dirt surrounding it. That moment became the first of many in the years to follow, now leaving an annual festival in its wake.
Once Yu’s parents were finally comfortable, the carriage began to move, rattling a bit over every bump in the road. The prince watched as small figures in the horizon appeared, scraping at the ground with rakes and plows and tending to the crops that now flourish with ease. His view followed couples and families as they walked down different roads the lead into either the nearby city or the distant far off villages that he would someday rule over. Some had horses in tow, others stepped into carriages of their own for the long travel.
The sight brought a smile to his eyes. He felt a warmth in his chest as the corners of his lips turned upward. The man felt a breath escape him that he was unintentionally holding as he relaxed.
“Yu, are you listening?” A deep voice cut him away from his daydream, replacing his calm mood with a slight annoyance. Before he turned to the source—his father, he figured— Yu took a deep breath and wore the best face he could plaster on. It was one of neutrality, not happy but not really any emotion.
“I’m sorry, I was lost in my thoughts,” he responded, voice tight and rehearsed. His father gave a roll of his eyes before his mother began repeating the conversation topic.
“Your father and I were just discussing how things are probably going to change once you’re married,” she started, gesturing to her husband. “You may have to live in the princess’s kingdom, I heard the Queen is getting old.”
Yu’s face fell flat, a look of shock flashing before he composed himself again. He had to turn his head away and stare at his knights shoes, but willed himself to listen as his parents continued.
“It’ll be fine, we’ll still have the connection and benefits even if he stays there,” his father replied to her, not a moment’s hesitance given. Following the beat, he continued. “Hopefully they’ll be able to give you a stronger knight, as well. Naoto’s talented, but he hasn’t grown in years. I’d worry for your s-“
“Naoto will remain my personal knight,” Yu snapped, contained frustration seeping out. It took him mere seconds before he gathered himself to finish in a way that would satisfy.
“Naoto has proven he- his worth numerous times. He’s talented, strong, and a man I put all my trust into.“ Pausing, the prince breathed a sigh as the girl mirrored his relief. He had just caught himself, gladly so. He didn’t want to see what she would be like after exposing her identity, even through accident.
“I understand your concern, father, but there is no one I’d rather have as my knight than him.”
This seemed to calm the King down enough, humming a response as he turned his look back towards his wife. His mother ached as she refused her urge to say more, but the tense mood was thick enough for her to hold back.
Yu decided that no matter what change will happen, whether it being miserably married to a woman he could never love or forever leaving the moon-filled sky he adored so fondly, he would be okay with Naoto by his side.
— — —
Along the journey, Yu passed the time with a mixture of talking to Naoto and watching the world outside change from the starry, dark skies he saw daily to softer reds and oranges as the sun dawned on the horizon. He took note of when they passed by Yukiko’s kingdom, one he visited years back when his parents thought she would be a fitting match.
Once Yu learned about how she felt towards her own knight, he couldn’t take that away from her.
A simple white lie about how she had a plan to force her kingdom to go without bathing for a month was enough to deter his parents entirely, at the small expense of a sore abdomen left by the embarrassed princess’s fist. He did deserve that one.
The memory made him flinch, but he laughed at the same time. He looked at Naoto with a knowing look, her own smile contained as she recalled the same story.
Yu was still able to remain Yukiko’s friend, in the end, and he took a mental note to ask his father to make a stop at the castle before returning home later.
When the first night came, Naoto seemed ready to talk about what she had been thinking of since they began the trip once the King and Queen fell asleep. Yu tried his best to stay conscious, but his head lolled and relaxed along the carriage, deep rest consuming him shortly after.
The pattern of bad luck followed, leaving the two with not a moment to themselves. Yu always woke later than his parents, yet could never stay up any longer. They never left him alone through a day’s time, and when they made a stop, he was forced to accompany.
By the end of their three day long ride, Naoto apologized as they stepped out of the carriage.
“It seems like we did, in fact, have absolutely no chance to talk before we’re to meet the princess.” She gave a soft groan, shame creeping up. Yu gave the girl a reassuring pat on the shoulder, a light, yet exhausted, laugh escaping his lips.
“It’s alright. I made sure that I was given my own room, and you’ll be guarding it alone,” the man himself appeared relieved as he spoke. The idea of getting a break from the ‘perfect prince and son’ role he had to perform sounded more enticing than ever.
After seeing her nod, Yu looked around at the sights of the kingdom that only shone from the sun. The brightness of it all had been difficult to get accustomed to, but after the struggle, he was able to take it in. The buildings scattered around were colored light, accented mostly by reds and oranges. Fields spread through the distance, alike to his homeland, but instead of a sea there was an ocean of sand. The earth looked dry, and Yu wondered how they were able to use it for growing crops, but figured they had learned their own techniques just as the Moon Kingdom had.
It was the polar opposite of his home, in almost every way. If he spoke with full honesty, he would admit that this was the last place he ever wanted to settle. He would talk about how there was nothing that drew him in personally.
“It’s beautiful, but I want to stay under the moon,” he would say.
Nonetheless, he knew he didn’t have a choice in the matter.
After Yu’s parents shuffled their way out onto the tiled floor, complaining about the heat with every breath they took, he started to walk forward slowly. Naoto moved to follow by his side, knowing the King and Queen wouldn’t be far behind.
There was some small banter between the four of them, giving the impression that they actually are a family full of love and acceptance, but it was short-lived. Almost immediately as they neared the door, a small woman scurried towards them.
She was dazzling and excitable, someone who’d make anyone happy just by speaking to her. She stopped in front of Yu, giving him a chance to examine her fully. Her hair was dark red, pinned up to the side in two pigtails with jewelry filled with topaz and rubies. A large diamond took the stage of her tiara, fitting into the gold frame snugly. She wore an orange dress, much simpler than his mother’s dramatic outfit, and the sheen of the material softly reflected the sun’s light, adding a glow to her already radiant person. The deeper red of her sleeves helped bring the brightness down, though, falling easier on the moon prince’s eyes.
“You must be… Princess Rise Kujikawa, yes?” Yu spoke hesitantly, prepared for the ending of laughter for his incompetence. It never came, however, as the girl gave a light bow, reaching her arm to the side for extra effect.
“That is me,” she stood back up straight, smiling up at the man before her. “You are Prince Yu Narukami, right?”
A simple nod later, her smile grew as she extended her hand for him to delicately grab with his own.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, then.”
“The pleasure is all mine.”
Yu leaned forward as he pulled her hand up to give it a gentle kiss. When he moved back, Rise’s emotion became gentler, a soft flush brushing her cheeks. A giggle bubbled up from her chest and she lifted her free arm to delicately cover her lips with her fingers.
“This is so exciting!” The princess bounced as she turned and began to walk back towards the castle, pulling Yu along with their held hands. She spoke quickly, filled with exuberance.
“We have so much to talk about! There’s plans to discuss, and a wedding to organize! And- Oh, where are my manners?” She looked back at the prince before she finished her little ramble. “We have the entire evening ahead of us, so let’s give you a tour of the castle first. Come, come!”
Beckoning Naoto and his parents to follow, Rise emanated enthusiasm. As she lead the group inside, she gave the feeling as if her fantasy was being realized. That this wedding was everything she dreamed of.
Yu ignored the dread in the pit of his stomach and kept a smile on to try and believe he felt same.