The cloudy fall sunlight shone through the windows, illuminating two young girls being led down a hallway by a pair of female attendants. One girl looked a bit younger than ten, the other a bit older than ten, and both of them had lovely features. One had golden blonde hair hanging down to her waist, and her body was wrapped in a light pink dress covering up to her shoulders, leaving her collarbone exposed. Her amethystine eyes betrayed her nervousness, and shone with aggressive calculation.
The other had black hair, tied to the back. She wore a light blue dress adorned with a lavish frill. A quiet smile upon her lips, her crimson eyes faced directly forward, in stark contrast to the frantically darting eyes of the blonde-haired girl next to her.
“Calm down a little, Fal. What are you so restless for?”
The black haired girl quipped to the blonde haired girl with a wry smile crawling across her face. The one she had called Fal answered calmly, squinting into the early afternoon light.
“Precaution is a matter of course, Art-neesama. This is the castle of the Carvelle Kingdom after all. It wouldn't be surprising to find spies, murderers, or assassins lurking about the walls and crawling about the ceilings.”
“Well, you have an impressive vocabulary, don't you?”
“Our good aunt taught me well.”
Upon hearing Art's honest admiration, Fal took on a prideful look. The lady attendants walking in front of them looked back and smiled kindly.
“Artreia-sama, Falshella-sama, there is no need for such worry. Carvelle arranged this opportunity out of desire for peace and goodwill. They will certainly protect their own princesses. Although it may be presumptuous, we can expect that when it comes down to it they will protect you as well.”
The attendant's words were probably meant to calm the two girl's nerves. She understood quite well the hypocrisy of 'peace and good will' coming from the Kingdom of Carvelle. However, she figured such comforting words were fine in dealing with children.
Fal and Art were the princesses of the Kingdom of Parmia. Fal was ten years old, and Art, eleven. Because of their hair, Fal was known as “The Beautiful Golden Princess” while Art was often called “The Lustrous Black Princess”.
Parmia and Carvelle are both very spacious kingdoms, holding power enough to be chanted in songs over any other country throughout the land. They had recently signed a treaty promising peace for a period of three years. In this age of war, such a treaty held little meaning. Nonetheless, it was seen as preferable to have such a treaty in place. This went alongside and strengthened the calls for peace from the pacifistic factions of the various kingdoms.
As part of the treaty, it was decided that the princesses of Parmia would spend a time under the care of Carvelle; and afterwards, the prince and princess of Carvelle would do the same in Parmia. Other lands would take this gesture as a step toward peace, deepening the good will between the various kingdoms.
It was under these pretenses that Fal and Art found themselves within the walls of Castle Carvelle. The two princesses were being led by their female attendants toward the room of Prince Luceide La'hal Carvelle. The prince was ten years old. The same age as Fal.
“In our audience with the nobility we weren't able to extend much more than greetings. After talking about a few things, I definitely want to know more about this Prince Luceide.”
Fal shot an anxious look at Art as she continued walking down the hallway.
“Are you sure about that, Art-neesama? I've heard rumors that Prince Luceide is a bastard and was recognized as Prince only half a year ago.... I also thought his greeting towards us was a bit discourteous.”
“Indeed. However, I didn't get such a negative impression of him. I think Prince Luceide is experiencing some nervousness himself. Fal... if you're scared you can always stay behind me.”
Fal's face turned bright red at her sister's teasing, and she suddenly began shaking her head back and forth.
“Please, Art-neesama. Perhaps you should be behind me. I'll protect Nee-sama's safety even with my life!”
Fal replied, her hand firmly placed on her chest. The lady attendants let out a small sigh at the situation.
Unlike Art, with her conduct typical of a princess, Fal had a reputation for being quite uppity. Such a reputation would be fine in Parmia, but this was Carvelle. From a young age, princesses were expected to maintain an attitude that wouldn't cause them to be ridiculed by the populace.
“Princesses, we're nearing Prince Luceide's room. Please behave yourselves.”
At the attendant's words, Fal's expression changed completely. She shot a suspicious look at the door that had come into view at the end of the hallway with a look of caution and unease.
“Is that really a Prince's room? I don't see an attendant at the door...”
As Fal had said, there was nobody at the door. Art and the attendants exchanged confused looks, since there would normally be an attendant at the door of a Prince to accept visitors. It was also odd for a prince's room to be tucked away in a far corner of the castle. They had heard that Luceide's younger sister, Princess Constance's room was located on the highest floor.
“Artreia-sama, Falshella-sama, I'll go ahead and make sure Prince Luceide isn't asleep in his room.”
One of the attendants said in a mediating tone as she started towards the prince's door and proceeded to knock elegantly upon the door. Soon after, the door opened, revealing a young boy about the age of ten, with stark brown hair and blue eyes. It was Prince Luceide. The attendant's eyes widened; she hadn't expected the Prince to come to the door himself.
“I don't recognize you. Who are you?”
Prince Luceide looked up at the attendant with a suspicious gaze. Suddenly, looking upon the speechless attendants, Art quickly began walking past them. Fal hurried to follow her older sister. Art was the first to engage the suspicious-looking prince with a bow.
“Luceide-sama, I'm Artreia, we exchanged greetings in the audience of the nobles earlier today. We've come by to see if you would speak with us some more.”
“Go see my stepsister if you want something like that. I have nothing to speak of with you.”
Luceide answered, bluntly composing an air of annoyance before starting to shut himself back into his room. However, before he could shut the door, a confused Fal rushed forward. Placing her hand on the door and thrusting her foot forward, she scowled at Luceide.
“What is this attitude toward my Nee-sama? I know this is Carvelle, but even refusals merit a respectful tone!”
“Like I care about that!”
Luceide snapped anxiously before trying to force the door shut. However, holding her temper, Fal refused to retreat a single step. With his agitated expression intact, Luceide hesitated slightly before reaching out to push Fal away.
Perhaps he faltered, his movements lacking confidence, or perhaps Fal was too slow in her retreat. Either way, Luceide's finger became caught about the breast of Fal's dress. Before anybody could say a word, Fal's dress had been pulled down, revealing a gorgeous, if a bit inappropriate, display of Fal's upper body.
The prince sat flustered for a second after pulling his hand away, unsure of what to do next. He could not help but stare past his hand towards Fal's meager breast. Fal faltered briefly, then looked down at her body. In the time it would take you to count to two she realized what had happened. Her face grew bright red all the way up to her ears as she clutched herself and dropped down onto the ground. With her shoulders shaking out of shame and rage she raised her head to scowl at Luceide.
With tears welling up in the corners of her eyes, Fal's left hand clutched her breast while the right clenched into a tight fist.
“YOU INCORRIGIBLE FOOL!”
The ire of her words quickly escalated into a scream. In a single motion, she rose, stepped forward, and sunk her fist mercilessly into Luceide's left cheek. The prince was launched backward, hitting the floor without a shred of grace.
“Don't think that I'm done after just that punch! STAND! I still have another for your right cheek!”
Fal roared, her terrific fury coming through in her pose and shining brightly in her amethystine eyes. The attendants, who really should have been doing something about this, simply gazed upon Fal and Luceide. The Prince as well was quite dumbfounded, but the expressions of the attendants were moreso terrified and astonished.
The Princess had struck somebody; not with an open-handed slap, but with her fist; and she had sent him flying. This was a nightmare. Art rushed to fix her enraged sister's dress, and tried with every fibre of her being to comfort her.
At the sound of the commotion, soldiers from both Carvelle and Parmia came immediately to see what had happened.
A declaration of war was only narrowly avoided. The emissaries of Carvelle and the officials of Parmia refused to let it go as a simple child's mistake; and took every opportunity to cry foul towards the opposing nation. The one who was instrumental to resolving the tense situation was Princess Artreia. She had witnessed the entire event, and no matter how advantageous her testimony could have been for Parmia, she never faltered from testifying justly.
“Prince Luceide was certainly quite rude towards my sister. However, in my opinion, he has already paid the price, and it would be bad for both countries if this was dragged on any longer.”
The outcome was unfulfilling for both parties, but they couldn't just allow this unusual incident to tear apart their important treaty. They used Art's words as a chance to move on, and the worst case scenario was averted.
On the day after the incident, Luceide paid a visit to the room of the two princesses, and honestly apologized.
“I had no reason at all to treat you both so rudely when you came to visit my room....... I sincerely apologize for behaving in such a way as to make you cry or enrage you. I also apologize for refusing to listen to what you had to say.”
He bowed his head deeply to both Fal and Art. The pair had been sitting next to each other on a large sofa, listening to the Prince's apology. At the time, there was nobody in the room besides Fal, Art, and Luceide. Art had arranged for their meeting so as to receive the Prince's proper apology. Of course, there was one lady attendant and one emissary outside the room, and they would certainly jump in to intervene if anything were to happen.
Fal gazed down upon the back of Luceide's bowed head with a look of inexhaustible rage. After she had a night to calm down, her older sister explained to her that the Prince hadn't done it on purpose, and she understood. Even so, her anger towards him smoldered within her heart. In spite of this, when she saw the red welt on Luceide's left cheek, she felt some slight guilt.
The apology was quite transparent in the first half, while the second half seemed to contain true sincerity. Fal acknowledged that in addition to hearing the Prince's apology, it was their part to be receptive to his words.
“Please, raise your head, Prince Luceide.”
Luceide raised his head, and Fal rose from her place on the sofa.
“Even though you caused a panic, I also went a little bit overboard. No, I overreacted. I am truly sorry.”
Fal suddenly bowed her head. After giving fal a strange look, his bewildered gaze turned towards Art. The black-haired princess was nodding with a smile on her face.
“Alright. Then why don’t we make an agreement? I believe that someone from the castle will be bringing you an apology gift some time later, please accept it. Now, if you'll excuse me.”
“Prince, wait! That is, please if you could wait, I still have something to say.”
Bowing with a relieved look on his face, and about to leave, Luceide was stopped by a sudden outburst from Fal, trying her best to sound polite. The brown-haired prince lowered his eyebrows and looked towards the blonde-haired princess.
“You know, if it's difficult for you, It's alright if you don't speak in such a polite tone. I like it better that way too.”
Luceide's quite unexpected response caused Fal to look as though she was praying for her sister to do something. Art, barely holding back a smile, answered.
“In this case, I suppose it's alright. Since Luceide-sama says it's alright, we might as well take advantage of that.”
“If you say so, Art-neesama.”
Curtly clearing her throat, Fal turned towards Luceide once more, with a new tone.
“Prince, we made our visit to your room yesterday for the purpose of exchanging a few words as fellow members of our respective royal families. I think through doing so, we can try and get along. So, if you don't mind, I have something about which I wish to talk.”
“I feel the same way, Luceide-sama.”
With Art also giving her reccomendation, Luceide assumed an understanding look, and began shaking his head.
“You don't stand to gain anything from getting along with me. You may have heard of this already, but I am a bastard. I'll give you the same answer I did yesterday, and ask that you please go to my sister-in-law for that sort of thing.”
“By sister-in-law, you mean Princess Constance?”
Fal asked, trying to clarify. Luceide nodded. At the time in the Kingdom of Carvelle, there was one prince and one princess. The prince was Luceide, and the Princess was Constance. Unlike Luceide, Constance was born to both the King and Queen of Carvelle, and was of entirely royal status. She was in line to inherit the throne if everything continued as it was.
“But, what do you mean by saying your being a bastard makes it pointless to get along with you?”
Fal asked of Luceide, who made a face as though he had bitten into a bitter insect. After looking stunned for a second, Luceide responded with a hopeless look on his face.
“I am disliked by almost everybody in this castle! I was told yesterday to avoid you if you were to come visit me! My place as a bastard isn't to think about extraneous things, but to be quiet and do as I'm told. It wouldn't be a discussion between fellow royals at all!”
Fal and Art exchanged glances. Luceide smiled without a trace of concern.
“As I thought, you had no idea. If you know what’s good for you, you'll avoid speaking with me. You two seem like good people. I will not do you the disservice of speaking with the two of you.”
Luceide said, moving to exit the room. Fal, however, continued talking as though it were a matter of course.
“By the way, Prince. This is a little off-topic, but exactly what kind of relationship do you have with Princess Constance?”
Fal had some apprehension about causing him to become displeased, but Luceide didn't show anything like the displeasure he felt speaking about the other people in the castle, and instead simply frowned and folded his arms.
“I find her boisterous, and her speech unpleasant. Furthermore, she makes a fool out of me at every opportunity.”
Fal succumbed to an unexpected feeling. During the audience with the nobility, Constance had come to greet them. She had bright red hair and blue eyes, and was quite lovely in the face. Her manners were quite lovely as well, and she seemed just as expected for a Princess of the Kingdom of Carvelle. She certainly didn't seem like the type of princess to speak ill around her brother or make fun of him.
“So, in other words, she hates you?”
“I definitely think so, but she says differently. Honestly, I don't quite understand the way she thinks, so as long as it isn't too extreme, I just let her do as she pleases.
This time Fal tilted her head, having not gleaned any understanding from Luceide's answer.
“Why do you let her do as she pleases?”
“Because I'm her older brother.”
Luceide answered matter-of-factly. A mixture of admiration and astonishment was apparent in Fal's amethystine eyes. Luceide continued with a blunt look upon his face.
“If I feel like she needs to be scolded, I scold her.”
Fal decided that they didn't seem to have a bad relationship. Understanding that was plenty.
“Then, Prince, please guide us to where we can meet with Princess Constance. We can all speak together, the four of us.”
“Are you not listening to what I'm saying?”
Seeing Luceide's exasperated gaze, Fal simply shook her head with a serious look on her face.
“The idea that we have nothing to gain is your opinion. I have a different opinion.”
“Don't tell me you're sympathetic?!”
Seeking Fal's true motive, Luceide narowed his eyes. The blonde-haired princess once more tilted her head.
“Sympathy, eh? I would be lying if I said that I was completely unsympathetic towards you, but that isn't the only reason.”
With a proud smile crawling across her face, Fal glared directly at Luceide with her amethystine eyes.
“I have interest in you. This is my first time meeting a bastard prince from another kingdom, after all. I want to ask you about a few things. Of course, you're also free to ask about myself and Art-neesama. I see this as a rare opportunity, what do you think?”
The Prince of Carvelle stood in Fal's gaze, lost in thought, then suddenly looked toward Art.
“What do you think?”
Up until that moment, the black-haired princess had been standing quietly, watching the exchange between the other two with a pleased look on her face. She began to smile.
“I also implore you, Luceide-sama. We were able to exchange greetings with Princess Constance only briefly at the audience with the nobility. I strongly feel that I would like to speak with her properly, and for you to be there as well.”
Luceide ruffled his deep brown hair and began to relax his expression.
“Alright. I'll take the two of you to Constance's room.”
The princesses of Parmia spent the final month of fall in Castle Carvelle. After the harsh winter had passed, and after the ground became enveloped by the light of spring, it was time for Luceide and Constance to spend their time in Castle Parmia. The four were happily awaiting their reunion, and Luceide and his sister spent their one month in Parmia.
During the total span of two months, Fal and Art, and Luceide and Constance, spoke of and learned many things from each other. Luceide mostly neglected his refinement as a Royal, and the manners and behaviour he was taught never quite stuck, but he learned quite a few things he hadn't known from Fal and Art. Making crowns out of flowers, whistling with leaves held up to their mouths, and throwing flat rocks across ponds to watch them skip over and over again.
Luceide and Constance in turn told Fal and her sister many tales they had heard from their uncle. Tales of great treasure locked away in perilous labyrinths, Battles to the death with hordes of demons, Dealings with fanciful denizens, and encounters with horrific dragons. Luceide would tell these stories with such realism that he had Fal, Art, and even Constance hanging on his every word. Fal and Art attempted to teach Luceide about the history and etiquette of the various countries, but it was to no avail. They did, however, learn much about Luceide's birth and upbringing.
He had spent his time up until the start of spring that year with his mother in one of the slums in the imperial capital. One month after his mother was lost in an unfortunate accident, an emissary from the castle appeared, and Luceide came to know that his father was a man he had never met before, the King of Carvelle. Furthermore, Luceide was being recognized as a prince of Carvelle.
“It is certainly unfortunate that your mother passed away, but isn't it quite fortunate that you've been recognized as a prince?”
Hearing Fal speak these words, Luceide let through a cynical smile and turned towards the princess.
“....I suppose so, since I no longer hunger or suffer in the cold.”
At the time, Fal couldn't easily grasp what Luceide meant by saying this. More than anything else, the darkness in Luceide's voice made her shudder.
At any rate, spending their time together, the four developed a fondness for each other that transcended their positions. In particular, Fal and Luceide. Even with their intermittent bickering, they would soon make amends and continue playing together. Fal would demonstrate her characteristic vigour, dragging Luceide from place to place, and Luceide would happily follow.
“I find myself jealous of the princes and princesses from the stories that are free to go wherever they want together, aren't you, Luceide?”
“We should go somewhere sometime. We'll have an adventure like you hear about in the stories. I'm free to go wherever I want, and if there's anything you want to do, you're free to follow me.”
“Are you sure you should be saying things like that? I'll actually do it!”
The two of them made a childish promise together. However, this agreement would become something unique to this fleeting time they spent together.
The two kingdoms, thinking only of themselves, entertained the uneasy truce for but a brief time. The treaty that had been drawn up for political reasons was broken after one year due to reasons equally political. Parmia and Carvelle once again descended into rivalry. Fal and her sister were no longer able to spend time with Constance or Luceide.
Seven years have passed since the four of them parted ways. It is now October of the year 1051. Parmia and Carvelle are once again at war. Falshella D'Alphelt Parmia and Luceide La'hal Carvelle are set to cross blades, and both of them have become plenty experienced in the ways of war.