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ten ways of love

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He is seven years old and he's certain that he has never seen anyone so beautiful before.

The stranger is one of the delegation from the Reim Empire, and he looks nothing like his companions. They are all older, serious and important looking. The boy down with them has to be a few years Kouen's senior, he is tall enough to be ten or eleven, or maybe even twelve, and he almost has a more regal air about him than his elders, yet, he doesn't seem to carry a single trace of arrogance. He also seems very excited, with eyes bright and filled with curiosity, and the young prince can't take his eyes off of him.

That long red hair and those bubbly yet responsible-looking red eyes, the blue and golden sash draping over his white toga. The colors seem to compliment each other, like a well tought out painting created with the utmost care and love. The sight simply takes his breath away.

He watches from a hidden spot, where his mother and father won't find him. The delegation meets his uncle and emperor, Hakutoku, whom also is accompanied by his aunt, Gyokuen. Hakuyuu or his siblings are not present, but Kouen won't be surprised if they are introduced soon. They must be inside the palace, waiting for the procession to enter.

From his perch, he can't hear what is being said, but he sees the boy bow respectfully, and offer a greeting to the emperor and his wife, a polite look on his face, that tells that he is at ease with being in the presence of the ruler of an empire. Kouen envies the people below, as he wonders what the boys voice sounds like. But it is unlikely that he will be introduced, so watching from above is all he can do. Perhaps when he grows older, he can go to Reim as an ambassador and meet him proper, instead of spying from the shadows. Perhaps he can ask, when he's a bit older.

Somehow, it seems the sun sinks a little when the procession heads inside. The air has grown chillier, and Kouen shudders momentarily as a chilly wind sweeps his hair in his face.

And his breath gets stuck in his throat.

The boy, who is the only one still outside, has stopped, just briefly, and is looking up. Not up at the sky or the sinking sun, but directly at Kouen. As if he heard him as the cold briefly overtook him. He is smiling, an unbelievably warm and kind smile, and the seven year old boy, who has not even started to mature yet, feels a heat wash up on his face, and a fluttering in his stomach. The feelings are not unpleasant, and he wonders if he ought to smile back at the boy, out of politeness, despite the fact that he saves his smiles for rare occasions. This is a rare occasion though, isn't it? But before he can decide, the boy seems to realize that he must proceed inside so as to not offend anyone, and he offers a small bow and another gentle smile to the little prince that he has not even been introduced to, and then he heads into the palace after his companions.

Up in his hiding spot, Kouen rubs his stomach, confused at the warmth in it, but at the same time, he is strangely delighted. He pulls his pants up a bit so he will not risk to stumble on the hems as he climbs down back to the long-stretching balcony, and, feeling oddly excited, heads back to his room, to find an extra robe or two to put on against the out-door chill, so he can step back out and up to his spot, in the hopes of maybe seeing that sunshine-like smile again.