Humans. Jesters. Jugglers. Yelling. Shouting. Shrieking. Crying. Laughter. Boys. Girls. Ladies. Men. No shoes.
Prince Haruka Tenoh’s eyes had trouble grasping all these new impressions. It certainly was a difference compared to the court. All these free people – freed of aristocratic restrictios, living their low life, but happy. Away from any pretensions, as it seemed, free to talk to each other how, and whenever they wished to. They were all so much poorer than the people Haruka used to see each day – it wasn’t just to let these half-starved people live like that, when at court they ate the greatests menus day by day.
The prince drew his hood back and looked around in amazement. Amazed, because although life treated them like that, they looked so free and happy. A women slapped a man for having grabbed her bum, a child came running up to his mother on a vegetable stand, presenting her an apple she had received with joy – happy about an apple. There was no other word but amazing, and Haruka couldn’t even question whether it was the right thing to do for him to run away.
Haruka’s eyes fell onto a young girl in a blue dress and a maid’s apron. Her naked feet were dirty and she was carrying a basket around her arm. Her seagreen hair caught his attention. She was chatting away with a farmer, took vegetables from him and placed them into her basket. A constant smile was on her lips and her voice tingled with laughter. She thanked the farmer and turned around to go. The girl with the apple came running towards the farmer’s little market stand, but fell onto the cobble stones as her foot got caught in a crevice. The apple rolled out of her hand and she started crying. The girl with the seagreen hair picked up the apple and then the kid.
“Hey, sweety, don’t cry. Where’s your mommy?” It was all Haruka could hear, the noise of the many people in the place made it impossible to follow the conversation. He wandered further, looking around, wide-eyed. He was so impressed, that he bumped into someone.
“Hey, watch where you’re going, laddie!”
“A-aa… Sorry,” Haruka smiled apologetically and continued his way into the girl’s direction. He looked around, caught by the new impressions.
Michiru, for that was the girl’s name, had meanwhile calmed the kid down and brought it back to her mom. She had noticed the raucous close to herself and also Haruka, whom she – of course, didn’t recognize. Nobody knew what people at court looked like, and being of the lower class, Michiru had never been taught much more than the king’s name. However, she was a smart young girl, attentive, of course, and she could very well see, that Haruka was lost.
“Hey, young man, new here?” she stopped him.
“You could say that, yeah,” Haruka smiled ruefully.
“If you need any help, tell me. I can lead you around. It isn’t difficult to get lost over here.”
“Thank you.” Haruka came over to her, so people wouldn’t keep passing between them, disturbing their little conversation. “I don’t even know where to start…” he smiled. “I’m Haruka.”
Michiru was glad to make the nice young man’s aquaintance. “Oh, I forgot to introduce myself,” she apologized, “Michiru Kaioh.” She smiled her warm smile which went so well with that tingled laughter of hers. “Anything special you wanna get? A warm meal maybe? A place to spend the night?”
Haruka’s stomach growled, giving the answer even without words. The prince blushed faintly and laughed. “Both, I think. Nice to meet you, Michiru. Do you rescue strangers often?”
“Only if they look as lost as you are,” she grinned. “We have a small hotel... I think you can get everything there. Follow me.”
“With pleasure,” Haruka grinned back just as nicely. “I would get lost a thousand times if pretty girls like you came to my rescue,” he charmed in the way he used to charm the girls at court – who usually would offensively flirt back at him, waiting to be invited to his room, which he never did. But they weren’t bound to give up.
“Thanks my charmer,” Michiru replied timidly and very differently from what Haruka knew from those charmer-girls at court. He liked it.
Michiru lead the way through the streets to a small tavern in a side street and opened the door. Hot air breathed out from inside, the smells of beer, soup, ashes and fire and oiled wood. Not many people where there – a few men were drinking in a corner, a fat, sweaty cook walked around passing out bowls and disappeared in the kitchen. Jugs were clattering, laughter could be heard and the soft cracking of the fire. Briskly, Michiru disappeared through the side door in which the cook had disappeared, and only a moment later was back again with a bowl of steaming soup in her hand. She smiled and handed it to Haruka, not asking, whether he could even pay for anything she offered him. Not that it was a question – Haruka looked rich – but he could as well have lost all except his noble clothing.
“You really are unfamiliar to such places, huh?” the girl asked, only slightly embarrassed, that she didn’t have anything ‘better’ to offer. But he hadn’t wanted to take Haruka to another, better inn – she herself wanted to make sure the young lad was served well.
Haruka was slightly surprised to find the hot soup in his hands so suddenly. He blinked inside the bowl: “Yeah… what is this? Is it edible?” he asked innocently. He had never in his life seen something like that before – there were whole pieces of vegetables in there and otherwise it was a thin, watery substance. Nothing like the fish-creams or mushroom-soups they served before the real meal at court. But there was no question that the soup was the main menu here, anyway.
“Well, I won't poison you,” she laughed softly, not offended by the words. She knew it looked like something thrown together in a minute – but the cook’s kitchen qualities were known around, and the soup was, what brought them their visitors. Besides, she herself usually picked the vegetables – the best she could find. ”It's our housemade soup. Fresh vegetables and all. Try it.”
Haruka looked at the dirty spoon for a second, sceptically, but figured it was better to eat anything than not eating at all. He carefully tried a spoon full and was surprised by the good taste. “Oh-! It’s good!” Hunger befell the young prince, and he ate the rest of it eagerly, without even sitting down.
Seeing the sceptical look at the spoon, Haruka frowned for a minute. “Nice you like it,” she said after a while, and added: “You are used to better things, hm?”
“I didn’t mean to offense,” he answered quickly, embarrassed by having been so rude. “I’m just… I was very sheltered. This is the first time I have been out of my home.” He gave a little smile, painfully remembering that this was the bitter truth. He had never been allowed to leave court, and now he realized how sheltered he really had been, and how different the rest of the world seemed to be.
“Then you certainly missed something,” Michiru smiled back and left the stranger alone to let him eat without having anyone watching.
Haruka found himself a seat and finished the meal he needed so badly. Then, he went for further observations. The bowl and the cups were all hand-made earthenware – not perfect in the least, it didn’t even stand straight. It wasn’t as good as the food cooked there… he thought, but there’s something homey and… comforting that it isn’t…
Michiru was back only a second later, eager to make Haruka’s stay comfortable. “Do you want more?”
“Oh yes, yes please,” he smiled at her with his handsome young face. She is so nice. Hm, not at all like the girls I know. Truth thought, that was. The girls at court would never offer Haruka anything else but their lousy company, never do anything for him and they were filled with pretensions and pretty much impressed by themselves. But the girl Michiru, with her seagreen hair, she was selfless, shy and nice at the same time.
Gladly she returned with more soup, setting the steaming pot before the blinking youngling. “Here you go, sir.”
“No problem.” She turned away from him and crouched down in front of the fire, shoving wood inside to keep it burning. She was wearing slippers by now – old ones, just like the rest of the things she wore. She poked around in the fire, while Haruka kept eating cautiously.
Seeing Michiru struggle with the fire, Haruka went over to give her a hand by awkwardly imitating the moves with another poker.
“You are not gonna help it that way,” she laughed amusedly at the prince’s side. “You never made a decent fire before, huh?”
“Oh,. You guess right again,” Haruka grinned. Yes, at court fires were made for him, he never had to bother himself. Really, if the whole palace would explode some day and leave him alone on the streets, he possibly wouldn’t survive. Not that he would mind help by people like that Michiru Kaioh. He watched her blow air into the flames. “So, how does one make a decent fire, Michiru?”
“I didn’t mean to offend you, sir,” she said. She set more wood into the fire, blew until it the flames caught it and shoveled it around until it burned well. Haruka helped as best as he could, smiling with happiness when they managed to leave it burning securely. Michiru got up, her face flushed with the heat of the fire. She wiped the sweat off her nose, leaving a black mark from her ash-covered fingers without realizing it. “You certainly learn easily,” she stated with a look at the fire.
“Dear Michiru!” Haruka laughed, reaching out a hand to wipe the black mark away, Michiru had gotten onto herself. Unknowingly, he did it just as softly and sensually as he was used to treating girls… or taught to treat. Girls, he had learned, were pure, fragile creatures who had to be touched and treated with care. But seeing Michiru, it was the first time he could really believe that…
Michiru blushed. “Sir!”
“You’d rather run around with a black mark on your face, then?” he teased with a grin.
“No,” she blushed. “But the people who usually get here and touch me are less soft.” Timidly she turned her face away, knowing she shouldn’t have said it. “Should I show you to your room?” she asked quickly to change the subject.
The words troubled Haruka. “Michiru, what does that mean?” she asked carefully, following her and laying a soft hand onto her shoulder. Michiru withdrew from that touch, lying in embarrassment: “Nothing, sir!”
“Don’t call me sir, please,” he said softly, but then his eyes turned to anger. “Michiru, who hurt you? I know we just met, but I want to- I can get them to pay for it!”
“No really, sir… I mean Haruka! It’s nothing unusual!” she answered loudly, obviously troubled by the subject and thus, avoiding the prince’s eyes. It really was nothing unusual. She was a simple servant, and she knew hell would be loose if only one of the guests complained about her… But Haruka didn’t know such things, he had no idea how hard life down on the limits of society were. She opened the door to the room she intended to give to him. It wasn’t great, but the best they had.
“Making sweet girls upset and unwilling to talk about such things is unusual?” He seemed just as troubled, yet, completely surprised by this sudden changed of air.
“Really, don’t bother, I am just a country bumpkin.” She had heard that often enough.
Before Haruka could even reply, a man passed them on the corridor, giving Michiru a good smack on her well-shaped bum. She shrieked in surprise.
“Hey maid, I want an extra blanket tonight,” he smiled, his few ugly teeth showing clearly.
“Yes, sir,” Michiru replied timidly, “It’s cold outside.” She hoped that it was only the blanket he wanted.
“Hey! You there!” Haruka yelled, a tingle of authority in his voice, which mainly came from being totally stupified by the situation. “How dare you improperly treat a young lady like that? Apologize at once!”
Scared, the customer could report that to her mistress, Michiru grabbed Haruka’s arm. “No, don’t. It’s okay!” She turned to the men. “Excuse me, sir. Haruka is new here. I’ll bring your blanket in a moment. And a hot tea, sir,” she promised.
“I certainly hope so!” he grumbled, but fortunately seemed to be calmed down.
“Michiru!” Haruka cried out after the person had left, totally shocked.
“Here, I hope this room is comfortable enough for you. If you need anything, tell me please,” Michiru answered, still avoiding the young man’s eyes. Once again, a soft hand was placed on her shouder.
“Oi, Michiru… Is it common for man to mistreat you this way?” he asked softly.
“Yes, of course. I am a simple maid,” she answered bluntly, forcing a grin. “You really aren’t common to such places, Haruka.”
“Maybe this thing shouldn’t be common. Michiru – you are not a common maid. And even if you were, it still should not be acceptable behavior. Please, promise me you’ll tell me if someone does anything while I am in my room. Get me, alright?”
“Not really, Haruka-san, it will only upset the mistress, if I don’t comply.” She shook her head sadly. “Don’t try to change what is normal down here.”
“If not me, than who? … Michiru, stay in my room tonight with me. Please.”
Michiru misunderstood that – for her, staying in one’s room, or being asked to, meant something else than only being there. She blushed and protested faintly. “B-but … sir … Haruka-san!” Not that Haruka wasn’t beautiful, but …
“I’ll pay you,” he smiled back.
“Oh my goodness,” she gasped, her throat grew dry and tight. It was so disappointing, that Haruka wasn’t different from any other lusty stranger, it let her heart sink. “I thought you were … different,” she tried softly, but saw, that it wasn’t hers to question Haruka’s will. With a sigh she added “yes,” ready to follow him.
Relieved, that nobody was going to touch Michiru at least that night, Haruka grabbed Michiru by her hand and pulled her isnide the room. “Good. Come on.” He shut the door behind himself and immediately went inside his money pouch to grab a fist full of gold coins for her. “I am grateful you are going to stay with me here. It really makes me feel bettter,” he said, meaning, that he was glad she didn’t run into trouble as long as she was safe here with him.
Michiru sighed disappointedly, succumbing to her fate. “I guess so…”
Haruka, still not understanding Michiru’s troubles, yawned. “I’ve been out since late last night. I’m sure lucky you got me a place to sleep. – I’d probably have to sleep in the streets if I didn’t run into you.” He stretched, cracking his back, his arms over his head. “Would you mind if I slept,” he asked smiling.
Michiru looked at him in confusement. “You don’t want me to… sleep with you?” Maybe there was a tingle of hope in her voice.
“Not unless you are sleepy,” the other blinked back.
Michiru blushed for having misinterpreted the boy so much. “I thought you had the same intentions as the other men…”
Finally, Haruka understood what Michiru had understood. “Oh, no, no, no!! I mean, you are very beautful, but I wouldn’t want to foce you to – I didn’t mean to imply I wanted to pay you for sex or anything. I was just worried, if you weren’t here with me, you might be-, well…” The prince was flustered.
The maid sat down on the edge of the bed. “Yes… that is likely to happen,” she admitted without shame.
“Michiru…” the prince said softly, sitting down next to the poor, mistreated lady. “I’m so sorry… you shouldn’t be treated that way. Really. I… I have nowhere to go. Let me stay with you and protect you, alright? I’d hate to leave and know you’d still have this looming over you.”
“This is no fairy tale, Haruka,” she answered reasonably, but blushing a little. “You are very nice and lovely, and I could honestly fall for you, but I am no match for you.“
“You have no idea,” came the soft answer as Haruka shook his head. “You are beautiful, and extremely kind… And you saved my ass back there, whether I want to admit it or not. I could have starved. I am the one who is no match, lovely.” He leaned forward some and kissed her forhead. “I have to sleep now.”
Michiru simply laid down next to the boy - on the only bed that was in the room.
Haruka put down the cloak, released himself of the boots, before laying down next to the seagreen-haired maid and snuffing the candle. In the cold room, Michiru started to shiver. She was used to sleeping on a mattress in front of the remaining ashes. A warming arm was laid around her body, and she closed her eyes. I haven’t felt this good for years.
Such soft hair… Haruka thought by himself, nuzzling it kindly. Why does she call herself ordinary? I wish I could protect her like this every night.
Michiru nuzzled back. “I used to be afraid of men…”
“Oh, little bird, what did they do?” His voice carried a soft concern and sadness for her. “Together, we’ll make them pay.”
“You can guess,” she answered, unable to stop the tears anymore.
Haruka simply held her, kept nuzzling her and softly tried to calm her down with his voice. Michiru cuddled back, spilling more tears, which Haruka wiped away. He was angry, although he didn’t show to her. They’ll pay! he swore to himself, seeing that fragile, hurt and beautiful creature in his arms. Michiru, lost in herself, kissed the one before her and begged him to stay.
“I won’t go anywhere,” came the reassuring answer, completed with a light kiss on her forehead and one soft, comforting stroking on her back. The girl buried her neck in Haruka’s shoulder, wanting to fall asleep just like that. Being carefully caressed by Haruka, she eventually fell asleep and so did the young prince.
In the morning, while the exhausted servant was still asleep, the sun, shining gracefully onto the bed, woke Haruka. Carefully she put Michiru’s arm, which was draped around her nightly companion, aside and slid out fo bed. From her bundle, Haruka took clean bandages to wrap his chest in it... tightly. After opening the old ones, by now dirty and sweaty, he went through his daily routine of wrapping himself, so no outer line would show his secret.
He wasn’t even half-finished unwrapping himself, when Michiru blinked her eyes open and with a gasp came to half-consciousness: “Where am I???”
Shocked by Michiru’s sudden wakening, Haruka quickly draped his dirty bandages onto himself and threw a shirt over his shoulders to hide what was beneath. He turned his seat to look at her, showing no sign of his mental cursing, that she had to awake just in that moment and not a minute later. “You’re in the room you let me borrow,” he explained with a smile.
But Michiru had already seen what Haruka was hiding in his routine. “What is it you have there?” she asked, sitting up and cautiously eyeing the fresh bandages he still had laid out on his knee.
“Just some bandages in case,” he apologized, picking them up and stuffing them into his travel-bundle, hoping to stop her from further asking with that. “You can never be too cautious, I suppose.”
“Here, let me fix the new ones for you, it’s the least I can do,” Michiru offered with a gentle hand. She walked over to him.
“N-no, it’s fine.” Haruka forced a smile. “I’m not wounded yet,” he snickered.
Michiru was a little confused by this – she had seen Haruka’s bandages beneath the shirt, and now he was telling her, he wasn’t wounded? With a dubious glare she stated her wonders: “But you are already wearing bandages…” and reached out…
Haruka had grabbed the girl’s hands in no time, pulling her away from himself, after she had removed his shirt with quick hands. “No, really, I was told to leave those on for a while longer.” He quickly hid himself behind the secure cloth of his shirt again. But Michiru was insistent, ignoring the comment about leaving the dirty bandages on. “Please, let me do that for you… I’ll get you clean bandages.” And in a moment, her hands had pulled up the shirt again.
“Michiru, really!” He fought back the girl’s cunning hands with soft bats. But it was in vain – with determination, Michiru had forced the youngster out of his shirt, excusing: “Really, it isn’t the first time I’m doing someone up!”
“Michiru, I’m a grown man, I can take care of myself!” he protested, catching the shirt in mid-air, as she tossed it aside. But Haruka had already lost the battle. The seagreen-haired maiden had found the end of the bandage and with a careful, but quick movement, she had undone them, ready to see a most fatal wound, and not intending to question it.
“Please… I only want to-”
But the girl couldn’t finish her sentence. She didn’t see a wound… she saw perfect soft skin, but in a shape, she would never have expected. Haruka was, indeed, not a grown man, who could take care of himself… she was a light-skinned, well-shaped young woman, sitting there, awaiting the inevitable. The bandages spilled to the floor and Michiru, in a last attempt of giving the woman before her some modesty, clasped her hands in front of her eyes. “Haruka!!!”
Haruka blushed intensely, her secret, one she had grown up with, was gone with the wind – discovered by a beautiful young maiden in a shabby, dusty room in some inn on a beautiful spring morning. It was against all odds. The lady put her shirt back on and sat down on the bed, contemplating the floor. “…I told you not to take them away…”
“But I didn’t know…!” Michiru cried confusedly. “I’m sorry, milady! I am sorry!!”
“You had no way to know, trust me,” Haruka sighed, knowing only too well how perfect her disguise was… or used to be. “Don’t be sorry, Michiru… don’t be…”
“B-but I love you…!” Michiru gasped faintly, feeling all at odds with herself – the fact, that Haruka was a girl didn’t change things one bit. And she was a beautiful girl… woman… Michiru, having never dealt with such complex problems, was caught in total confusion, torn between her feelings for this beautiful princess and the weird jests of reality.
Haruka displayed a small, painful smile. “I love you, too…” she confessed, looking at her young companion. “I shouldn’t have deceived you like this, but I never thought I’d fall so fast…” The lady dressed in silence. It was no wonder she fell for a woman. She had charmed many in her disguise, and after all she had gone through, after all they had made her, she didn’t feel much like a woman herself. She was a boy, and if she hadn’t been from the start, she had grown to be one. It wasn’t her fault her body didn’t comply with that.
“Gomen, Michiru,” she excused and quickly left the room, leaving the stunned girl behind.
Michiru could finally grasp her senses again, seeing that the one she loved was about to disappear into nowehere. “No, don’t leave!” she yelled desperately, catching up with her. “I don’t care what gender you are!!!”
Someone else joined them on the corridor and grabbed the young royal by the shoulder, who had turned into a prince again.
“Prince Haruka, come now. You shouldn’t run off without an escort,” said the guard kindly.
“Please, I am no prisoner, correct?” the ‘prince’ replied sharply, her expression changing drastically as she replied. “I can go where I please. I can also take care of myself. Besides, I’m sure, babysitting me is not on your top list of fun things to do.”
“Still.. You have to come back now. Your father and mother are greatly worried.”
“I’m sure they are,” she muttered bitterly, knowing only too well, that she wouldn’t escape her royal duties in her lifetime. Sorrowfully, she threw a last glance at Michiru and pulled her coat over her shoulders. Softly she looked at the guard then, the pain still palpable. “Sidney?”
“Yes,” the royal guard answered kindly.
“I-… this lady here is in need of protection, can you? At least till I converse my father?” she begged of him.
“As you command, young sir,” the guard replied.
Prince? Young sir? Michiru, afraid of loosing the young woman, dared to speak up, even in the presence of such a high officer. “Haruka…? … What is going on?” she eyed the guard with a great amount of scare in her eyes.
Haruka walked oved to the maiden and gently kissed her forehead, a hand on the girl’s shoulder. Her smile was painful as she did so. “I have to leave now… But my friend here is a nice man, and he will make sure no one bothers you. I-.. I am going to talk with my parents, see if I can get you into my household, away from this. A noble lady- that suits you better than this, lovely girl.” She turned to go again.
But Michiru was not willing to let go… she feared what would happen afterwards and held on to her arm tightly. “But they said you were a prince!!!” she yelped not able… no… not wanting to believe that!
“I am one,” Haruka answered truthfully, brushing the seagreen hair lightly and with care. Sidney, the guard, cleared his throat.
“I know,” she answered a bit harshly, but took the time to kiss that soft forehead again. “I’ll do what I can to change this, Michiru,” were her last words, then, only the rustling of cloth was heard as she turned around, not looking back and wandered along the corridor and out of sight. A lumb formed in Michiru’s throat, threatening to bring down the tears, which were assembling in her big eyes. “Haruka…sama…”
“Miss?” the royal guard interrupted her sorrowful thoughts. She winced.
“Is there anything you want help with? I am at your disposal.”
“But I am a servant,” the girl sighed, her gaze still lost in the empty corridor. “…and I’d give anything to be Haruka’s servant…”
“That can be arranged, Miss,” the guard replied, as if she was simply stating a request.
“It can?” she snapped out of her half-dream with hope. “Please! Can you help me?”
Seeing the emotion in the eyes of Haruka’s girl of choice, the guard gave a little smile and offered his hand. “Sure, come along with me.”
“Thank you, sir,” she beamed, taking the offer.
“My pleasure, milady. I have known sir Haruka since he was a baby. Anything to help.” And with that, he led her to the palace.
Meanwhile, after having washed her clothes and put on decent wear, Haruka Tenoh was summoned to the king, her father.
“Yes, dearest father?” she greeted with a hypocritic undertone.
“Why did you run away?” the king snarled angrily, displeased with such disobedient behavior from his daughter.
“Because I don’t want to be stuck here all the time! All you tell me to do, is off to the library, drag me to parties where I have to flirt with empty-headed pansys!” she yelled at him, angry, and not restraining herself. She was sick of being her father’s puppet, lead around on strings for a purpose, she knew only too well. And he would tell her her duties, as always.
“You know your duty is to-”
“None of this!!! I wanted some freedon, why is that so hard to understand?!”
“But if someone found out you’re… well..” the queen started worriedly,
“Say it mother, a girl!”
“He’s gone nuts!” King Tenoh tried in an attempt to safe honor and future of the royalty.
“Neither of you even care! You never see me, only when to inform me of which vapid idiot I must charm! Gods, give me a little credit here!” she yelled in anger.
The maiden still held the guard’s hand, as they came to the palace and entered the gate. She felt suddenly really small and unimportant, as she stared at the beauiful building, she had only seen from afar until now, in awe. It was much larger, much more impressive than she would have guessed – she could almost feel the high classed society in there and was ashamed of her appearance – the dirty dress, the half-naked legs and her old slippers, which were hiding her dirty feet. She stopped and pulled on the guards hand.
“Sir… maybe I don’t fit in there, sir.”
“Do you honestly want to go back, miss?” the guard asked, feeling her frright and hesitation only too well. “I know what things go on in the tavern you work at…” he said kindly, trying not to hurt her, although it brought obvious shock to her face. “Are you really so sure you want to go back without giving it a chance?”
“No, I don’t want to go back…” the girl admitted. “..but I wouldn’t be able to serve someone high-born. I don’t have the education.”
“Then you’ll be taught, milady,” he replied nicely, dragging her softly and thus, forcing her to enter the halls.
“Oh, thank you…!” Michiru gasped, to overwhelmed to realize that she was already in the middle of the high corridors. She gave the guard a kiss, hugging him, releasing herself of the tension inside her and the fear.
The guard patted her on the head innocently. “Of course, milady. Come, let’s get you settled.” He lead her on. The girl still followed a bit behind, watching with large eyes. It was hard to believe that Haruka lived her… how shabby the tavern must have looked to her.
While Haruka Tenoh kept arguing with her royal parents, Michiru Kaioh got dressed up like a maid and received basic instructions for her behavior as a royal maid – especially if she should encounter the king or queen. Nobody bothered to tell her, what happened to Haruka’s former maid, or whether she had had one before, but everything was too overwhelming for the green-haired to really think about such things. The new dress, black with a white apron, her hair brushed and part of it bound back, her body cleaned with soap and smelling like the royalty itself. He cheeks were red with excitement and the shining in her eyes made her ‘helpers’ even more willing to make her ready for Haruka. Anything for Haruka, and they were pretty sure, the presence of this new maid would make the prince(ss) happy.
Finally she was lead to Haruka’s room and instructed to wait for her. She stood there, the light shining inside through large windows – nobody in her town could have afforded these beautiful, clean glass panes and the exquisite furniture. It was all like a deam. That’s his.. her place…
Cursing her family and every little pretension and duty that came with it, Haruka stormed into her room. Ready for such days, she had a pile of little arrows near the door, picked them up and started throwing them at the wall, delicately damaging a picture of her father, and judging from the holes in the wall, it wasn’t the first time. Thos brainless-!!! Cruel, bitter, old man! I would that I were never born, if only you weren’t in charge of everything!!!
Michiru had hidden in the shadows as Haruka came flying into the room – scattered away like a scared deer. It took all her courage to step out of there and adress Haruka in such a rage and in such an unfamiliar place, hiding like a thief behind the bedpole.
Recognizing the voice in a heartbeat, Haruka stopped her hand in midstep, the arrow hitting the wall wildly. “M-Michiru?”
“To your service, milady. I am your new servant,” the girl said timidly, attempting to bow for the princess.
Haruka blinked a few seconds, unable to believe what she was seeing. Finding, that it was true, she ran and hugged the girl tightly, yelling her name joyfully. She was hugged back just as nicely by an overly-joyful, young servant.
Finally remembering her royal manners, Haruka pulled back and excused: “Gomen… but I’m just surprised.” She eyed the newly dressed girl with a gentle smile. “I didn’t think it was possible but you are even more beautiful than before,” she charmed.
“Thank you, my princess,” Michiru answered with a blush on her cheek. She reached out a hand to brush a stray hair out of Haruka’s face. “Are you okay?” She hadn’t forgotten the angry outburst.
“Uhm.. yes. Demo, Michiru… You know the ruling family of this land? That is who I am. Prince Haruka. It’s a long story why it’s this way but… Michiru… what did you say back there? I only heard your voice.”
“Oh my,” Michiru said faintly, knowing exactly, what Haruka was refering to. It had cost her enough courage to say it the first time, but she knew it was true, and she could say it again, from the bottom of her heart. She came up close and stared into those bright, royal orbs. “I said I didn’t care what gender you are, my princess.” Her gaze lowered a little, feeling the heavy weight of her own social status on her shoulder. “But if you are … Prince Haruka, I shouldn’t be here.” She knew it very well. This was no fairy tale… she wouldn’t be a princess, least the princess of a young girl, disguised as a prince and heir of a whole wide and precious land. And she wouldn’t be able to stand being only her servant for long.
“Iie, Michiru.” An gentle hand caressed the servant’s cheek. “Iie… It’s been an argument between my parents and me.. they want to find someone royal, that I can marry, who won’t tell who I really am. I want to find someone I fell in love with and marry them. They are growing desperate, they want me to be married so no questions are raised.” A smile, covered by the slander wit of a smart princess crossed Haruka’s face. “I’m sure if we play a little trick, we can get them to happily marry us off.”
“Haruka… I am not high-born… I can’t be married to you,” Michiru protested, horrified by the idea to portray a princess and make a complete fool out of herself!
“I think I have an idea… Sid will help us, and so will some others.” She grinned. “Ever hear of the Kingdom of Neptune?” Michiru just shook her head silently.
“Well, you should, you know, because you are it’s most beloved and esteemed princess who just so happens to suddenly be orphaned. Sad accident, that, and you need guidance from a husband,” Haruka wickedly spun her tale.
“You parents will never believe this!” Michiru backed away.
“It’s worth a try!”
“I don’t have the manners… or the looks… I can’t play a princess…!”
“Listen, there are no other princesses, or nobles, who can even compare with your looks. I know it for a fact,” the true royal of the two of them smiled. “As for the manners, those are easily taught… and if you ever forget what to do, just go into hysterics about your ‘parents’’ demise and no one would be the wiser.”
“Haruka… I can’t even read or write…”
The blond chuckled. “You think many princesses can? I’ll teach you later on, if you like.” Once gain, she kissed that soft forehead, a habit she succumbed to quite often. “You’ll make a beautiful princess.”
“Oh…” Michiru replied dully, but the scare, thinking about such a great project, didn’t vanish.
“Michiru, if you don’t want to do this, it’s fine,” was the gently reply. That fright didn’t escape Haruka’s eyes. “I won’t force you into anything.”
No, Michiru didn’t want to do this, but she could see very well, that this was the only possibility to stay with Haruka the way she wanted to. She grabbed the soft hand firmly. “If I want you, I’ll have to do this, too. And I want you.”
“Michiru…” Once again she planted a kiss on Michiru’s head. “Then we’ll begin planning. Anytime you wish to stop, we’ll stop.”
“Yes, princess,” came the reply, followed by a gentle kiss on Haruka’s chin.
“You shouldn’t call me that,” Haruka chuckled. “It’s politically incorrect…”
“Of course, my beautiful, young prince.”
“See? You know it all,” Haruka chuckled again, her fingertips touching the sea-green hair before her. “You have the most unusual and wonderful hair Michiru-sama.”
It reminded her of something, and it wrenched at her heart: “That’s why men liked me.”
That pain caused Haruka’s smile to drop. “Oh, Michiru…” She enclosed her in a protective hug. “I promise nothing like that will ever happen again.”
“Yes please,” Michiru replied, hiding in these arms – something she had needed to do quite a while ago. And Haruka just held her and comforted her the way she needed it.
A while later, Michiru had calmed down and separated a little. “When will we start?”
“Sooner the better. Are you against starting now?”
“No. Not at all!” She squeezed the hand she was still holding in approval.
Haruka, immediately drawn to take her (and Michiru’s) fate in her hand, rang a bell for the servants. In no time, another maid appeared – older than Michiru but dressed similarly.
“Yes, my lord?”
“This lady,” Haruka explained, gesturing at her green-haired lover. “needs to be a princess. We’d like to marry… I assume you know what I mean?”
The maid gave an evil wink. She knew Haruka and her mind well enough, and as most of the staff, was fond of the young prince/princess. “Of course, my lord. I’ll be back with some dresses.” And she bounced off, leaving Haruka’s joyful laughter behind. Michiru was surprised by the good nature the servant had towards he Haruka.
“That was Melodei,” Haruka explained. “The ones who work here are more my family than the people who call themselves parents. Don’t worry, have full trust in them.”
Michiru nodded, but thought a while. “Haruka... I won't be able to give anything to your parents. No wealth or land...”
“I know. But we can tell them what they want to hear…”
“What do I tell them?”
“We’ll say you have lands that go past what any mortal eye can see. That’ll get them salivating.”
“But that’s a lie!”
“They won’t know that until we’re gone...”
Prince Haruka kissed his princess, before she could protest any further.