1. One Shot (Hakuryuu & Kougyoku); Hakuryuu is on his way to his room and meets Kougyoku. He greets her and the two have a small conversation about wishes.
Hakuryuu was not a partier. He disliked big crowds and the noise that came with it. As part of the royal family he could not avoid some festivities, like the visit of another ruler or the birthday of the emperor. Such occasions were annoying for him, but he attended and often it was relatively nice in the beginning. As soon as the participants of the festivity started to get drunken he took his leave. It was only important that people saw that he had been there, since he was only the fourth prince people ignored him most of the time anyway, because he didn't hold an important position. So while everyone was having fun at the party, Hakuryuu sneaked away silently. He was not welcomed there anyway. He knew that his uncle would prefer it, if he stayed away from political gatherings at all, so his uncle could badmouth him. It was quite sad how an adult hated a child so much just because said child was the son of the adult's older brother, who was smarter, more popular and powerful. Hakuryuu had accepted how he was treated by his relatives, if they wanted to be so pathetic, he would not stop them. He had his own plans anyway. All he needed was a bit more power, so he could kill the witch and her follower and take back the empire. This was Hakuyuu's last wish and Hakuryuu was determined to fulfill it. Until then he would endure his relatives and stay low.
Today was not an important gathering, just a few nobles that would kiss anyone's ass as long as it meant more power or at least to maintain the power they already had. All of them looked down on Hakuryuu, since he was no longer the son of the emperor. He may have only switched from third to fourth prince, however he was not Koutoku's biological son, so he was even more "worthless". He held no military position or even a political one – some even went so far to say he was less worth than the princesses, because they could at least be married off. Hakuryuu on the other hand was too ugly, because of the scars on his body, because he was too weak and too stupid – according to them, which was not true at all – to be married off and maybe they also feared he would rebel against the empire together with the person he would be married to, which was not even too farfetched. He would rebel, but not only with someone at his side, he also would do it alone – and he was already planning his rebellion. Thereby he also would get rid of all those pretenders. Things would be so much better, of his father and brothers were still alive. Or if his relatives were at least good people. Yet one could not have everything and Hakuryuu had nothing. And nothing was not everything.
The celebration was held in front of the palace, due to the nice weather and the fact that the forecourt was very spacious. This had the advantage that it was easier to get away from the noise. If the celebration would have been held inside, one could not go anywhere without being disturbed by the noises. And one had always to fear to run into a guest, which was not a nice thought and could make one a bit paranoid. Hakuryuu preferred it to be himself in his private chambers, but he could not feel save as long as a guest was nearby. What if they accidently came into his room, while he did something embarrassing? What if he already wore his sleeping clothes? No, he definitely did not like this thought and it made him feel uncomfortable. Those despicable nobles should stay away from him. As a child he hadn't liked to be alone, now he preferred it, because the only company there was in the palace were either the witch's underlings – he included his relatives, the servants and soldiers as well as the nobles in the term underlings – or foreigner kings and queens. Those, of course, were not interested in making friends with him, they only cared about politics. Everything he said could be used against him or the country, so it was better to say nothing or keep it at small talk.
He had no friends or allies in this country, so why should he celebrate with the nobles and his family? By the way, what were their celebrating anyway? The empire's down fall? There was no reason for a celebration! Probably they just needed an excuse to waste money, which could have been used for the citizens, and to get drunken. They would lose face, if they could not make up some reason for their extensive alcohol consume – any reason was fine as long as it sounded like one.
Hakuryuu was done with that, he wanted to get some sleep. His days were filled with a lot of training and different lessons that he needed to be a good prince – although no one saw him as such or cared about his position. Sooner or later they would try to get rid of him – well they already were trying but had not succeeded until now. It may be true that he was weak, but he knew how to survive! A skill, which was extremely handy in his case.
When he reached the sleeping quarters, he slowed down with his steps. He had more or less run away from the celebration, because it annoyed him and he felt uncomfortable. All the noise, the disgusting conversations, all the lies and bootlicking. No, he did not need that and was happy being away from this kind of humans. Of course, he was aware of the fact that even when he killed the witch, those nobles would still be there and he could not sentence all of them to death – for that he needed proof that they knew about Gyokuen's and Koutoku's schemes. Obviously he had no proof, actually he did not even have proof that it was indeed Gyokuen and Koutoku, who were responsible for his family's death. His words would stand against those two's. It should be clear, who the people would believe – just a small hint, it was not him.
The bedrooms of the royal family was at the other end of the palace, yet one could still hear the noise from the celebration. Hopefully it was not so bad when he was in his room. The walls may hold some of the noise back.
Before he got to his room he saw someone sitting on the bench in the nearby small garden. There were a lot of gardens on the palace ground and Hakuryuu loved it. As a child it was nice, because one could play around everywhere and now he liked it because they looked very beautiful and had something calming. Moreover it gave the palace a more colorful appearance. Most of the hallways looked the same and so it got monotonous over time. Therefore seeing the colorful gardens with the different flowers and trees was a nice change of view. Maybe he was the only one, who thought this way, or maybe not. It was seldom to see someone sitting in the garden, which was strange to a certain extent, since so many people lived here. Well, it could also be that he simply just never had seen someone doing so, because the people sat in the garden, when he wasn't looking. Sounded a bit odd, but considering how big this place was and how many people lived here it could be the case. Whatever the reason was, it did not matter much.
The person, who sat in the garden, was not a stranger to Hakuryuu. Kougyoku, his cousin, was looking at the starry sky. She looked sad. Hakuryuu hesitated to approach her. Although they lived at the same place since they were born, those two had barely interacted with each other until now. Besides her name, he knew nothing about her – well, he knew that she had a djinn called Vinea and that she was Koutoku's seventh daughter, but this were all things everyone knew. Her not being at the celebration was not surprising. She was in a similar situation like him – actually maybe she had it even worse in a way. Kougyoku had the unfortunate luck to be the seventh daughter of Koutoku – the eighth princess of Kou – and thus was seen as nothing more than a tool to be married off. She had no political power and no way of voicing herself – Hakuei as the first princess was better off than those after her. Most of the imperial princesses only attended celebration as the current one for a few hours and then left. Probably the best choice. Those drunken nobles could be very dangerous – he had witnessed it before, when he had been still a child and had hidden behind his brothers, because he was scared of the drunkards.
After hesitating for a moment he decided to at least greet her. Maybe she wanted to talk to someone. His greeting made her jump up, because it had scared her. She had been in deep thoughts and her cousin's voice had brought her back into reality. Her heartbeat increased so much she feared it might jump out of her chest. However, she calmed down fast, when she saw Hakuryuu and greeted him back with a kind smile.
"Good night, Hakuryuu. What are you doing here?", she asked.
A stupid question and she knew it. The garden was near the bedrooms so he probably wanted to go to sleep.
"I was on my way to my room. It's been a long day and I am very tired. What about you? Why are you sitting here alone? Did something happen? You looked quite sad", Hakuryuu answered and showered her in a bunch of questions in return.
"Please don't worry about me, I am fine. I am not sad, just a bit dreamy. You know, I do not like this kind of events and wanted to go to my room as well, but honestly I felt lonely in there. So I decided to take a stroll around and somehow ended up in the garden. The sky is quite pretty, don't you agree?", Kougyoku explained herself.
While she talked the two of them sat down on the bench. Hakuryuu looked at her when she spoke, while Kougyoku's view was directed towards the sky. It really was a beautiful night.
"Yeah, you're right. The sky is very pretty tonight indeed", Hakuryuu agreed and looked up.
A short moment of silence followed after his response, but it was not an uncomfortable silence.
"Say, Hakuryuu, do you believe that shooting stars can make your wishes come true?", Kougyoku suddenly asked, which caused Hakuryuu to stare at her in disbelieve.
It was not because of the question itself, it was more because he had not expected her to ask him such a childish question. If one wanted to have a wish come true, one had to work for it! In all honesty, Hakuryuu once had believed in all this magical things like granting wishes. This was before his family had been murdered. Now he could only laugh about such childish naivety. How often had he wished for his brothers to come back from the dead? How many times had he wished to go back to those days in which his family had been happy? How often had he wished for the punishment of his family's murderer? And how many times had his wishes come true? He had wished too often and yet it never had come true. If he wanted those murderers to be punished, he had to do it himself. His brothers and his father on the other hand would stay dead forever, there was nothing he or anyone else could do – even less a shooting star or a wishing well.
"No, I do not believe in shooting stars granting wishes."
"Not anymore or never had?"
What a mean question! As if she knew that he once had believed in them. Hakuryuu hesitated with his answer. If he waited long enough, maybe she forgot her question. Her gaze said something else. She wanted an answer and would not accept silence. So Hakuryuu gave in.
"That's sad", she said, "Maybe you should try to believe in them again. Life will be more fun."
"More fun? I don't think so. You will only be disappointed again and again. Being disappointed and let down is not fun at all. It is depressing."
Kougyoku did not answer. Her head was titled a bit and she seemed to think about a proper response. To be honest, she did not understand why it should be depressing to believe in shooting stars. Why one should be disappointed over and over again. Sometimes a wish needed more time to come true.
"Hakuryuu, what do you wish for?", she suddenly asked.
A simple answer. All he wanted was his family! He wanted his brothers back. He wanted to have fun with Hakuyuu, Hakuren and Hakuei again. But this was not possible anymore. One could think he had finally accepted this fact, but this was not the case. No matter how often he tried to tell himself that he was over his family's murder, it did not work. At night he would dream of their death and during the day he could only think about avenging them.
"Aren't you a bit too young to think about a family? For such a wish to come true, you have to wait a little while. And you also have to go out more. If you stay inside the palace all the time, you will never find a good woman for you", Kougyoku told him with a big smile on her face.
"This was not what I meant. I wish for my family to come back. I want to have a family again. But no shooting star will grant my wish, I've already tried a million times."
A sad smile crossed Hakuryuu face for a split second, before he turned serious again.
"Oh … I am sorry."
For what did she apologize? She hadn't done anything wrong and less was it her fault that his family was dead or that the stars would not grant his wish.
"It's fine. You're not at fault, this is just how this world is. If you want your dreams and wishes come true, you have to work for it yourself. That's my conclusion. However, if you want to believe in shooting stars and if it gives you the extra strength you need to go on with your daily life, then don't stop."
"I had no intention of stopping. And you shouldn't have stopped believing in them in the first place. Of course one has to do all the work to achieve one's dreams, but a little help can never be wrong. No one may be able to bring back Hakuyuu, Hakuren and uncle Hakutoku, but you still have Hakuei and your mother …", Kougyoku hesitated before adding, "and you have me. We are family as well."
Hakuryuu was perplexed. Yes, he still had Hakuei and Kougyoku was also family. Although they had barely interacted until now, this didn't mean they were not family and they always could improve their relationship. He had been really narrow minded in this case. Just because he disliked his uncle Koutoku and the older princes, did not mean he disliked Kougyoku, who had never done anything wrong in her life. Actually she was always nice towards him, when they met each other in the hallways of the palace.
"Yeah, you're right. I am sorry."
Maybe he should trying wishing again. It couldn't hurt and as long as he did not expect his wishes to magically come true, he wouldn't get disappointed.
The conversation with Kougyoku gave him new strength, gave him hope and it was nice to see her smile and hear her laugh. She was a bright and optimistic person. From now on he would definitely interact more with her. He hadn't felt so at ease as he did during their conversation in a long time.