“Prince Kabuto, it is time for your weapons training,” Rokusho called gently as he knocked on the door to the prince’s quarters. He was puzzled as to why Kabuto was late for his lesson today, as he usually arrived promptly. However, he had received reports from Kabuto’s other mentors that the prince was quite lax in attending their sessions.
“Yeah, yeah! I’m coming!” came the prince’s husky voice. Rokusho heard shuffling as well as several objects thumping against the floor followed by muttered curses.
Rokusho straightened his posture as he waited for the prince, shifting the practice swords sheathed in their scabbards, which he’d meticulously secured to his waist with sword belts.
At last, when Kabuto finally opened the door, Rokusho bowed cordially, greeting, “Good morning, my liege,” to which the prince scoffed.
“Roku, please. I’ve known you since we were kids. How many times have I told you to skip the formalities?” Kabuto playfully punched Rokusho’s shoulder. He skipped past, leading the way.
The other simply gave the prince a wry look, turning to follow. “If the royal advisors caught me using names similar to the ones you use on me, they’d have me thrown into a grinder.”
“Naaaaahhhh,” Kabuto droned, walking backwards with hands behind his head. “Father wouldn’t allow it. Besides, you’re too valuable.” A smile alighted the prince’s vibrant green eyes. “I guess I’ll have to call you ‘Lunar Knight,’ then,” Kabuto teased.
It was Rokusho’s turn to scoff. “Specialize in night warfare, and suddenly you obtain a ridiculous title. Such a thing is too pretentious for my taste. Calling me anything more than ‘sir’ is superfluous.”
“Well, you’re not the head of the royal guard for nothing, ya know? You might as well be proud of the accomplishment.”
“Hubris is the key to one’s downfall,” Rokusho replied immediately. Kabuto merely rolled his eyes at the platitude. “Come, now. We’re already running late.”
The palace gardens: teeming with greenery, yet open enough for the knight in gleaming white and prince in armor the color of glazed honey to battle with their blades. They stood opposite to each other, neither moving while petals and butterflies danced around them. A warm spring breeze wafted a floral fragrance through the air while both royal and subject stood in stance, immobile as statues with leveled gazes.
Suddenly, the prince dashed forward, as Rokusho had anticipated. The knight almost never made the first move, opting to observe his opponent’s attack.
The prince started with attacks aiming for the sides, keeping Rokusho busy as Kabuto pushed forward. Rokusho quickly caught on to Kabuto’s technique and began a counterattack. Once he’d recognized the pattern, he moved to push Kabuto off of his center of balance, placing his foot where Kabuto’s next step would be.
However, Kabuto anticipated Rokusho’s move, stepping elsewhere so he could throw the Lunar Knight off his balance.
The prince almost succeeded. Almost.
The seasoned knight was caught off-guard by the side-step, but he quickly regained enough footing to block Kabuto’s next strike.
Swords trembled between the two determined fighters as both tried to overpower the other. Rokusho spoke, “Beforehand, I was worrying that you were beginning to skip my lessons, as you are doing with your other tutors.”
Rokusho pushed Kabuto back as he leaped away to recover. Kabuto didn’t miss another beat as he followed his opponent to keep up the pressure. He huffed between strikes, “Nah… Your lessons… are the most appealing… or rather-”
As Rokusho backed up, his foot caught against a rock, and the knight stumbled backward. Prince Kabuto dropped his sword and rushed to catch the knight before he fell, wrapping an arm around Rokusho’s back.
“-you’re the most appealing,” Kabuto finished.
Rokusho looked up at the prince in awe, breathless as the prince held the knight above the ground. The spring’s morning sun shined down on the prince, giving him an ethereal halo. Like statues once more, the two were caught in the stillness of the moment, their gazes locked on each other. Rokusho felt heat rush to his face as he began to feel lightheaded with… whatever this feeling was.
Only when the palace bells tolled, did they break their trance. Kabuto straightened the knight so he could stand.
“You doing alright, Roku?” he asked coolly.
More affected by what had just transpired, Rokusho took a bit longer to formulate a response, his face still flushed with warmth. “Yeah– I mean, yes. Yes, Prince Kabuto. I– Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” Kabuto said, already diverting his eyes to the palace. Rokusho gathered the practice swords and returned them to their sheaths at his hip. “It looks like the king wants to make an announcement… I’d like you to hear it.”
The two made their way to the central atrium of the palace, where the king proclaimed all of his announcements to the royals of the kingdom and the administration. Rokusho decided to bring up the question, “If I may ask, why were you late today? You are normally prompt with your attendance, and there haven’t been any changes in schedule.”
Kabuto said dismissively, “Ahhh, I’m better with firearms, anyway. Put me in my other set of armor, and I can pretty much say goodbye to any need for swords.”
“Kabuto, you know very well the reason why we have those lessons,” Rokusho started lecturing. “Even though you specialize in shooting firearms, you must always be prepared for close-quarters combat, and your sword is your best friend in such cases. Guns run out of bullets, but swords do not.”
Kabuto simply grunted a response, looking into the distance as they walked. The Lunar Knight astutely noticed that Kabuto’s demeanor had become more dour, and he refrained from speaking any more of the matter. He idly wondered what the real reason was; Rokusho had given this lecture before, and Kabuto had respected the reasons until this point. What could be the matter?
Eventually, the prince and knight arrived at their destination, its high, domed ceiling of glass casting spectrums of color down upon the marbled tile and sections of purple carpet. The room was built in a circular shape with tiered seats against the walls, separate from the seats of the most immediate heirs. Banners of the Helm kingdom’s coat of arms hung against the high walls.
Initially, Rokusho had been assigned to sit among the knights and among the lower class servants before that. However, after much of Kabuto’s insistence (and after Rokusho had risen in rank among the knights), the king had granted Rokusho a seat next to the prince. Despite the honor in such an exception, the knight had always refused to sit, opting to stand next to his childhood friend and companion in case something ever went awry.
“Still paranoid as Hell, huh?” Kabuto asked jokingly.
“You never know. I do not take my vocation sitting down,” the Lunar Knight responded with a smile, hoping to distract Kabuto from whatever was currently bothering him.
Soon, the king’s court came to order as the king called for silence. “As you know,” his thunderous voice bellowed, “the prince’s day of birth quickly approaches, and he will soon be old enough to wed!” There came an applause, which died down as the king spoke once more, “The long dispute between Felyne and Helm kingdoms shall come to a close. Once Kabuto turns of age, the two bloodlines will become one as Prince Kabuto and Princess Peppercat take their vows a week after the coming-of-age celebration.” Another round of applause ensued, though Kabuto maintained a neutral expression, staring at the same spot on the floor as if the king had just announced grave news.