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Star-Crossed AU

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“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.

Chapter Text

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 wasn’t.

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.

 

Chapter Text

From then on, Rokusho and Kabuto had been able to meet more often by coordinating arrangements. Luckily, no one in the court suspected their true motives, for they all well knew of the knight and prince’s close friendship since the king had first taken Rokusho under wing. Both found their ability to hide in plain sight quite amusing.

Unfortunately, they hadn’t an idea as to how to solve the question of Kabuto’s betrothal, even as the time ticked by. Kabuto’s attempts at dropping hints by the king had proved inauspicious. Even with Rokusho’s exceptional ranking and the king’s favor, he would never be considered a noble.

As the wedding drew nearer, it became evident that no one would allow the prince to marry his knight. Rokusho lamented to Kabuto in private, “I curse this commoner blood of mine, Kabuto. Were I a royal or even an aristocrat by birth, I would have stood a chance, yet we are unfortunate.”

Kabuto looked sternly at his knight, proclaiming passionately, “Don’t say that, Rokusho! You’re worth more than any heir apparent. Hell, I’d choose to marry you over a god! I’m gonna make the king see that this arranged marriage is downright ridiculous.”

Before Rokusho could react, Kabuto turned abruptly to head for the throne room. Quickly, the knight sprinted after the prince. “Kabuto, wait! If you do that, you might forsake the alliance of the kingdoms!”

Kabuto kept his pace with loyal knight right beside him. “Fuck the alliance! If I don’t at least try, then we’ll both be miserable. We’re all of options, and we’re running out of time.”

When the duo came upon the throne room, Kabuto burst through the doors with Rokusho following with a look of understandable anxiousness.

Kabuto’s commotion had silenced the room of councilors and advisors, while the king rose from his seat. “Kabuto, what is the matter?”

“Father, I don’t want to marry Princess Peppercat,” Kabuto boldly declared.

If the Medalorians surrounding the king hadn’t been paying attention, they certainly were, now. All eyes looked between Kabuto and the king, but the monarch waved his hand, saying, “Everyone please excuse us. We have some private matters to discuss.”

Slowly, and with a degree of disappointment, the advisors filed out of the room. Rokusho was also about to take his leave, but Kabuto caught his arm and indicated for him to stay.

“Now, what is this all about?” the king asked, sitting back down on the throne.

“You heard me. I don’t see myself getting along with someone I hardly know, like Peppercat. I’m sure she has some fine qualities, but I’d rather spend the rest of my life with Rokusho, who I know and trust to stand by me through both victory and defeat. Isn’t there some way for me to marry whoever I want?”

Rokusho whispered audibly enough for only Kabuto to hear, “It’s ‘whomever.’ “

“You’re not helping,” he whispered back.

The king answered, “Kabuto, you very well know that the benefit of two whole kingdoms outnumbers the benefit of two lovers–”

“But there has to be a way to form an alliance without having me marry a total stranger!” Kabuto brazenly interrupted. “Can’t we just draw up a treaty, or something?”

“Prince Kabuto,” the king said firmly. “We cannot guarantee that a peace treaty will be upheld if you do not join the bloodlines.”

Rokusho attempted to form a rebuttal. “However, you cannot guarantee peace even if Kabuto does marry Princess Peppercat. You gain additional enemies as well as dissenters by joining the two realms.”

“That is enough of the matter,” the king boomed, momentarily silencing any further argument. The monarch of Helm looked imposingly at the knight. “That is Prince Kabuto to you, knight. Know your place. If not for the prince and me, you would rotting in the gutters from whence you were born. You may have risen through the ranks, but you will never be of royal blood and will never be worthy of wedding an heir.”

The king’s scathing argument silenced Rokusho, and he looked away out of shame. This, however, incensed Kabuto to no end. “What?! Rokusho is worth infinitely more than any noble on this planet and certainly worthy of marrying me. He outdid all of your elite soldiers, and he’s our most loyal knight. What does blood have anything to do with someone’s worth?”

“Unfortunately, Kabuto, it has everything to do with what we’re arguing about. Even if you could convince me to allow you choose whom you marry, you will never convince the rest of the royals that it is a wise decision. It would incite rebellion. It would insult the Felyne empire and turn them against us! Now, that is enough. For your conduct, I am scheduling the wedding early. It shall be tomorrow.”

The king’s declaration shocked the prince and his knight to silence. They looked at each other in horror, crestfallen. The king spoke once more, “You are dismissed.”

Both prince and knight knew they were no longer welcome. Rokusho held the door open for the prince to storm out, but the king stopped the knight at the door. “You have the Helm’s favor, but do not forget where you stand, knight. Consider this a warning.”


 

“How do I look? Pretty damned fancy, huh?” Kabuto asked lightheartedly, though Rokusho could tell that his heart was heavy.

“As glorious as the sun, itself,” Rokusho answered with a sad smile.

He had been lucky enough to retain his position close to Kabuto, since he was still the prince’s best friend. As per tradition, the best man was allowed to have his weapon in order to defend the groom from challengers. However, since he was Peppercat’s theoretical competition, Rokusho saw his current circumstance as rather ironic. Thankfully, those who had spread the rumor of Kabuto’s cold feet before the wedding had not been enough to thwart Rokusho’s sheer devotion to the prince, and he was honored to be there for him. He would have not been content any other way.

“Prince Kabuto,” Rokusho addressed formally and bowed respectfully, remembering all too well what the king had said to him. “I would like you to know that even though we cannot be together in wedlock, I will forever serve you without a doubt. You can always count on me.”

“I know,” Kabuto said softly. “You know, I don’t care what my father says. You can address me without any titles, and don’t you bow, either. Personally it gets on my nerves that my best friend feels compelled to kneel before me.” The prince playfully punched his knight and added, “You know that we’re in this together until the end.”

“Until death do us part,” Rokusho commented with wit, earning a smile from the prince.

A squire interrupted Rokusho and Kabuto’s moment, stating, “The ceremony is about to start. You’ll hear the brass and winds shortly,” before he gave the two privacy once more.

Kabuto sighed. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out the way we wanted.”

“Please do not apologize. You did what you could, and I am glad to be with you, either way. Perhaps… in another life we will have our way.”

Before Kabuto could comment, the wedding music sounded, and they were to quietly coordinate their entrance with the bride’s. Rokusho dutifully took his place directly behind the prince.

Prince and knight walked gracefully down the aisle while the princess and her maid of honor approached from the opposite side. The prince and princess met at the altar at midpoint before turning to the archbishop, who would initiate the ceremony.

Vows were exchanged, albeit hesitantly on the groom’s side. The bride narrowed her eyes upon noticing this and immediately glanced accusingly at Rokusho, who glared back. Apparently, the Felynes had caught wind of the rumors, which were largely true, Rokusho had to admit.

The archbishop began his final queries, “Now, do you, Princess Peppercat, take Prince Kabuto as your husband?”

“I do.”

“And do you, Prince Kabuto, take Princess Peppercat as your wife?”

Kabuto stayed quiet, and Rokusho’s eyes widened a bit. “No.”

… Did he really just–?

Peppercat and her maid of honor tensed. The Princess grumbled, “That’s it. If I can’t have your kingdom peacefully, I’ll just have to take it by force.”

“What?” Rokusho tensed in turn, this situation not boding well.

Peppercat grinned. “I was going to do stage a coup quietly, but no. You just had to get in the way. Now I’ll just have to take the Helm kingdom the old-fashioned way.” Both Felynes activated their weapons, and Rokusho instinctively pulled Kabuto back behind him, holding a protective hand in front of the prince.

“You’ll have to go through me, first,” Rokusho snarled as his sword sprung from its sheath.

Thus, chaos ensued. Those of the Felyne realm drew their hidden weapons upon the unsuspecting Helms. The royal guard responded messily and without coordination, never having thought that a wedding would be one of their battlegrounds.

In the meantime, Rokusho had become preoccupied with those immediately wishing harm upon his prince. With his sword drawn, he was determined to protect Prince Kabuto with his life.

The Lunar Knight called to the prince while expertly keeping his attackers at bay. “Kabuto! Flee when you see an opening! I will make sure no one gets through.”

“No way, man! I’m not leaving you!” Kabuto shouted. He disarmed the nearest Felyne and grabbed their weapon. The prince was secretly glad that he had attended Rokusho’s sword lessons so diligently. “I guess all that sword practice pays off, after all,” he yelled jokingly.

“Kabuto, could you please pay attention to the threat at hand?!” Rokusho yelled back amidst the clanging of swords and haphazard firing of guns.

Prince and knight stood back-to-back, fighting to defend each other. It seemed as if they outmatched their opponents.

Kabuto charged forward and made for an overhead blow on one of the Felynes, who held their ground and was able to push the prince back. Kabuto stumbled back into Rokusho, causing the knight to lose balance and fall forward.

Rokusho’s opponent, Peppercat, took the opportunity to deliver a potent shock to the knight, who fell to his knees. One of Peppercat’s subjects handed her a sword while Rokusho struggled to regain his senses.

“You will never get in anyone’s way, ever again.” She pierced through his chest plate without a second thought, and the knight cried out in agony.

“Rokusho!” Kabuto screamed. He dispatched the Felyne who had pushed him back, then turned to charge at Peppercat. Despite her quick reflexes, his dogged rage wore her down, and he cut her down mercilessly.

The prince ran for his knight, who lay bleeding on the ground. “Rokusho!” he yelled, kneeling by his old companion. “C’mon, man. You’re gonna… you’re gonna be fine. Stay with me.” Kabuto lifted Rokusho’s head slightly. “Say something, anything!” By this time, the Felynes had fled, their plan to usurp the Helms having failed, and the royal guards started to rush to the prince, but they stopped short.

Rokusho’s eyes were already too dim for Kabuto’s liking, and the growing puddle of black fluid beneath him was least promising. “K-Kabuto,” he stuttered weakly. He lifted a shaky hand, which Kabuto held with his own.

“I’m fine, Rokusho. You did well. Please, hang on.” Kabuto turned his head to address the rest of the royal guards. “Where the fuck are the doctors?!” he yelled. They fruitlessly scrambled to find one.

“I’m… not going to live,” Rokusho told Kabuto truthfully. He could feel himself slipping, and he had a sinking feeling that he wouldn’t make it. “I’m sorry. At least… I was able to protect you.” The dying knight was at peace knowing that he was able to pay Kabuto back and so much more; he wouldn’t have wanted any less. Rokusho gave a sad smile.

Kabuto used his free hand to lightly tap the side of Rokusho’s helm. “No, no, no, no, no. You’re not allowed to die. Please, we can love together, now. Peppercat’s not in our way, anymore. Come on, please. I’ll do it even if my father never approves of me for the rest of my life. I’ll even become a commoner if I have to. I still have a long life to live, and I can’t do it without you! Please, just stay with me.” The prince’s voice became more and more tremulous, and tears started dripping down his face. “Please don’t leave me.”

“I… I’m sorry… Kabu. Please know… I love you more than anything else… in this world.” A few solemn tears gathered in Rokusho’s eyes before the light left them, and Rokusho gave Kabuto’s hand one last squeeze before going completely limp. Kabuto held on more tightly, as if this effort would compensate somehow and bring his knight back.

“No!“ Kabuto lifted Rokusho’s body and rocked back and forth. He cried, “I’m sorry. This is all my fault. I’m so sorry. Come back, come back. Please!” He sobbed. “Come back, come back,” he kept repeating, and the onlookers could do nothing but stand and watch as the noblest of them all passed away, away from his one and only heart’s desire, having done his task of protecting the prince exceptionally.

That day, the Helm kingdom did not rejoice for marriage nor for victory. The castle bells sounded not for a wedding but for a funeral. It grieved for the worthiest of lives lost and true love’s death. It grieved for friends parted and undue blood shed. That day, the prince would never be the same, nor would he ever find anyone quite the same as his loyal knight. He would never find solace in what he had done or whether he was to blame, and the kingdom suffered with its suffering prince.