Rokusho made sure to check up on the prince more often, tailoring some excuse or other in order to see him. It did not help that all of the prince’s lessons had been put on hold. However, the prince always had some event that made him unavailable. Even on the off-chance that Rokusho did catch him alone, the prince gave curt, vague replies. Eventually, the prince snapped at him, and Rokusho desisted after asking the prince to call on him for anything that begged to be addressed.
It pained Rokusho to see his long-time friend in such a state, but he knew from an early age when he was not wanted. Thus, he drowned himself in work in preparation for both ceremonies, making sure all had been organized for a smooth execution of plan.
Though he had painstakingly organized the events, Rokusho stayed back from the crowd on the night of Kabuto’s birthday celebration. He stood in the less populated second floor overlooking the grand ballroom, looking upon the procession of aristocrats, food servers, and royals from various kingdoms milling about below.
The knight stood at attention, easily spotting the prince due to the circle of sycophantic elites vying for Kabuto’s attention. To be able to curry favor with a young heir was one of the most advantageous things one could do, and there was always competition. Rokusho was incredibly tempted to take the stairwell downstairs and tell the brown-nosing pests to leave.
He clenched his fists tightly behind his back. No. That was not his job. He’d possibly bear insult to one of the kingdoms and cause ill tidings. He was supposed to protect the prince. Nothing more. The sword sheathed in his right arm part bore proof of that. He was one of the few trusted individuals who was allowed to wear his blade at all times, and he would never betray that trust.
Rokusho wished he could leave early, but his honor forbade it. He’d leave when the prince did, and the prince wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon, seeing the vast entourage of guests glutting themselves at the Helm kingdom’s table.
The Lunar Knight sighed, completely out of his element. As he kept an eye on Prince Kabuto, he thought back to the days of his early childhood, spent as an orphaned street rat stealing whatever and whenever he could. At the time, he was nothing more than a discarded remnant of a recently-conquered territory from the Scissors kingdom. One day, he foolishly decided to test whether he was adept enough to steal from the king.
He should have been executed that day, but a prince a few years younger than himself stepped in on his behalf. Since that day, Rokusho dedicated himself to protecting the prince’s life, just as Kabuto had nobly protected his.
… For some reason, the fondness of Rokusho’s memories with Kabuto made him dread the wedding day more than anticipate it eagerly. The loyal knight thought back to the morning of their last sword fight and the unforgettable moment that lasted all too briefly. He received a sense of uncertainty about Kabuto’s wedding arrangement. Was there a chance… that he could–
Rokusho quickly shook his head to disperse his notion. It’s for the good of the kingdom. You should be happy for him. You’re supposed to protect the prince. Nothing more.
At the end of this thought, Kabuto spotted Rokusho viewing him from the level above. The prince gave a formal wave, which Rokusho acknowledged with a nod. Soon after, Kabuto excused himself from his audience and took the steps upstairs.
What is he up to, I wonder? Rokusho mused to himself.
Soon a familiar voice spoke behind him. “Not joining in on the festivities? I don’t blame ya.” A brown helm poked into Rokusho’s peripheral view as Kabuto leaned over the railing and began observing the partygoers.
Still keeping a proper posture, Rokusho turned his head to the prince, surprised that Kabuto had decided to join him, especially after how the prince had acted in days prior. The loyal knight responded, “It is not in my nature to carouse in such a manner.“
“Well it sure is in mine, though I’d rather watch everyone else get really fucking blackout drunk!” Kabuto started in a jovial tone. However, realizing who he was talking to, he expressed himself more truthfully. His tone dropped a little as he spoke, “… but I’m not feeling it today.”
Rokusho had known that much since the day of the king’s announcement, but only now was the prince willing to talk. He wondered why the prince was so bothered, as both marriage and birthday should have been cause for more jubilant emotion. “Hm? Would you like to talk about it?”
Kabuto paused before answering, “Yeah… but not here.” He drew back from the rail and faced Rokusho. The Lunar Knight followed suit, recognizing this matter as something important. “Tomorrow at midnight, could you… meet me where we used to look at the stars in summer when we were kids?” he requested.
“Of course,” Rokusho assented, though puzzled why they could not speak in their current location. The vast majority of the party took place downstairs, and the noise was enough to keep anyone from listening in. Regardless, the knight made no word of it, knowing not to question Kabuto.
The prince turned as if to descend back down the stairs to the main floor, but he stopped. “Hey… Rokusho, I’m sorry I yelled at you. It was because of Peppercat, and I was really frustrated, and I really just…”
“It’s fine, Kabuto. I should have understood that you were going through quite a bit and needed–”
Kabuto cut Rokusho off. “No, it’s not fine. You’re my friend, and friends don’t do that to each other. I’m sorry.”
Rokusho bowed formally. “All is forgiven.” With that, Kabuto bid a quick farewell and went to return to the swarm guests, who had long awaited him by then.
The insects of the night chirped and stirred while the rest of the kingdom slept. Only a few lights remained lit, allowing one to clearly view the stars that gazed down upon the world, far removed from its strife. The full moon took its place in the sky like a grand monarch, shining a brilliant white, which reflected off of Rokusho’s armor as he made his way towards his and Kabuto’s stargazing spot.
It had been so long since they had gone there, the knight realized with sadness. Kabuto had his responsibilities due to an heir, while Rokusho had his military engagements in the name of the kingdom.
With this in mind, Rokusho was thankful for this opportunity, for this would likely be the last time before they could no longer meet in such a way, as Kabuto’s responsibilities would only increase after his marriage. He smiled as he neared the stargazing spot deep in the heart of the palace gardens, where no one would bother them. He heard Kabuto’s familiar voice call, “Hey, there’s my favorite knight! I was starting to worry you wouldn’t come.”
“I would have come even if I had died,” Rokusho answered, smile showing more apparently in his ruby eyes.
“Heh, of course you would,” Kabuto mused solemnly. His voice softened. “I can see why you’re called the Lunar Knight.”
“Oh?” Rokusho asked, momentarily caught off-guard.
“Your armor, Scissor Head,” Kabuto teased.
“Oh…” the knight repeated, somewhat embarrassed from not realizing what the prince meant.
“So… uh.” The prince looked flustered. “The stars… They… look different from how they look in summer.”
“… Yes?” Rokusho gave a quizzical look. Kabuto’s observation was far from being either imperative or perspicacious. “I had a prevailing perception that you had a subject of importance you wished to discuss?”
Kabuto gave a nervous laugh before putting a hand behind his helm. “Yeah. I did, didn’t I?” The Lunar Knight waited in awkward silence for Kabuto to speak instead of answering the question.
The prince’s behavior seemed quite unusual. Usually, Rokusho was the one who had difficulty engaging in conversation. “Is everything alright?” Rokusho asked with concern, breaking the silence.
“Yeah, yeah. It’s just– ARGH!” Kabuto threw his hands up in the air in frustration.
“Perhaps we should get inside. This matter can wait, can it not?”
“No! Rokusho, I–” Kabuto sighed, approaching the knight and placing both hands on either pauldron. “This wasn’t how this was supposed to go down… Rokusho, what do you think of me?”
“Well, you are strong and noble, more so than any member of royalty I have ever witnessed. However–”
“No, not like that,” Kabuto interrupted. “I mean, do you like me, like how I’m supposed to like Princess Peppercat but don’t?”
The prince’s elaboration caught Rokusho by surprise, and he took a moment to answer truthfully, “If I were to say no, I would break the oath I made to never lie to you. If I were to tell you the truth, I would be committing treason.”
Had such a question come from anyone else, Rokusho would have denied that he loved the prince so, and Kabuto saw that from the look of sadness in the knight’s eyes.
Kabuto relaxed in relief. “That’s alright, Roku,” he said with sympathy. “I’ll commit treason for you… I love you.”
Rokusho’s eyes widened. Conflicted emotions battled each other. He felt jubilation, yet he also deplored their hopeless situation. He remained in silence for a few seconds before quietly asking, “Do you know what this means? We can never be together.”
“What? Yeah, we can. We can always elope–”
Rokusho balked at such a brash idea. “Kabuto! You have your duty to your kingdom! Forsaking the marriage to Princess Peppercat would be forsaking the alliance of empires, while I’m only supposed to protect you and nothing more. You have to choose your people over me.”
“Rokusho…” Kabuto let his hands slip off of the knight’s pauldrons helplessly. He looked down, conflicted. “I… I can’t. After everything that we’ve been through, after practically growing up together…” Kabuto looked back up to meet Rokusho’s gaze. “I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be with. You’re more than just a protector, and I think you already know that.”
Rokusho took a deep breath and closed his eyes in thought. He knew when Kabuto’s mind had been made up, and the act of changing it could be deemed close to impossible. He reopened them and spoke softly, “What are we going to do?”
“I–I don’t know,” Kabuto admitted. “We have a week. We’ll think of something. We always do.” The prince paused, hesitating before asking, “But… just for tonight, could you stay with me so we can watch the stars, like we used to?”
Rokusho gave a nod, and they spent a quiet evening lying upon the soft grass, looking upon the omniscient stars that had crossed their destinies so.