After a brief evaluation of which activities were most suited for a Princess Day, 'Lunch in the Flower Bed' was democratically demanded by Kyoko the Plain. A cascading torrent of sandwiches, cakes, and assorted fruits overflowed the discrete tables-for-two, islands of privacy on the lush-green garden paths. Prince Ren skipped all solids in favor of tea and did a fine job of controlling his displeasure while Kyoko tasted the fruits of her own work.
"I am glad that the morning's misfortunes did not ruin your appetite, my lady" Prince Ren pointed.
For any passing observers, not used to the mockery in his eyes and the venom on his words, the comment could be interpreted as one of concern, a polite act of care for his lady companion. However, most observers were not Kyoko.
"I wish I could say the same of your highness," she filled her plate as frugally as etiquette dictated. "I keep worrying that you might suddenly puff out of existence, giving how little of you is left."
"My lady, If I do disappear it will be with far more style then that, and not because of lack of food."
"What do you like to eat in your… kingdom?" She inquired politely, adjusting her flower crown. "Perhaps the prince is merely suffering from a homesick palate."
"I would rather not name things and play favorites," he shrugged.
Kyoko halted her lemon cake midair to glare at him, pinky lifted.
"Rainwater," he offered.
"I refuse to believe that you hate all outcomes of what I create in my daily profession, Prince Ren."
The sound of his disdainful snicker produced a reluctant smile on her face. It transported her back to her kitchen where they were just Kyoko the Plain and Kuon the Bewitching, bickering over the table.
"Come on, nothing?" she nagged, leaving formalities behind.
Prince Ren the Charming lifted a grilled sandwich to her mouth.
"I find your cheese, acceptable."
"That's a start," she took it in her own fingers before biting. "What makes everything else bad, that is, in your royal opinion?"
He shook his head and filled her plate with a ridiculous amount of berries.
"It is heavy on my stomach, I do not like the feeling."
She sighed, "I think your parents did a lousy job and spoiled you as a child. If they had introduced other foods in your diet since you were little… here, try this one."
Kyoko elevated a combination of strawberry and cheese dipped in honey off her plate.
"I rather not," he made a face.
She pulled her chair closer, effectively securing a better spot to dangle her fork in front of his mouth.
"You did not even give it a chance! I guarantee that the combination of light and sweet is well worth it!"
He gracefully used his hand as a shield against her offenses.
"Maybe it is worth for your peasant tastes. Do I really need to remind you of my exact, royal thoughts about sweets?"
"Good heavens Prince Ren, I finally found you!"
Lady Mimori the Bountiful sprinted to their table, with a not so enthusiastic Prince gliding behind. She did a show of ignoring Kyoko all together, and handed forward a cloth bundle.
"Thank you for the cape, you were most kind."
"It was my honor, my lady."
Prince Ren's eyes were still firmly glued on Kyoko's offending fork.
"I took the liberty of brushing the fur for you," Lady Mimori added breathlessly.
"You were most kind," he repeated, eyes still focused on the dangerous fruit at hand.
"I also added my house brooch, since you didn't have one. I don't know how are the customs go on your land, but around here this is perfect for displaying of royalty," Lady Mimori the Bountiful persisted, leaning on his arm reassuringly and eyeing Kyoko for the first time. "See, It is important to make your status clear, so no unadvised soul take you by a crude, mannered peasant who doesn't know the way of the land. Not that it is your case, mind you. Just a thoughtful warning," she sniffed.
Kyoko gracefully cursed under the weight of the Lady's accusatory gaze and retrieved her precarious feeding attempt. Or tried to, since Prince Ren abruptly decided to pull her hand, fork and eyes to himself before deliberately swallowing the appetizer down.
"Noted," he declared. "Lady Mimori, I'm afraid I am busy now, if you don't mind."
The flustered lady excused herself as quickly as crimson flushed Kyoko's face, unequivocally irradiating her embarrassment to all nearby roses and carnations to see.
"Show off," she mumbled quietly.
"What?" He lifted an eyebrow.
"That.. that was very rude. How could you?" She stumbled all over her own words. "Your Highness should be considerate of your position and mind your manners. Show some chivalry!"
"Enlighten me, what should a man of my position have done to get rid of an annoying, clueless git who insulted his delightfully enchanting companion?
"Save the pretty words for your flock," she rolled her eyes. "I'm not sure how this goes on your land, but here there is always a strict protocol to follow. For instance, when in an ongoing conversation with nobles, never turn your back while they are still speaking - like you just did. It's common sense! And take your elbows out off the table while are eating."
"Was that also not chivalrous?" Ren shifted to a proper position as he gulped down the contents of his cup, guiding it down with both hands. "Peculiar customs, I see."
"No, no, no, no. Sip it! Honestly, it pains me to watch!" Kyoko took her own china in her hands. "When the bell chimes five one must remember the rhyme: Proper tea etiquette is needed to have a good time. With index and thumb the handle you pinch; middle finger in the bottom for just an inch. Be attentive of the rules with and you will be fine, but a twisted spine is short of a crime. See?"
Prince Ren knitted his brows and fumbled with the teacup.
"Oh, where does the ring finger rest in all this? Could you repeat it, slower?"
"Is not that hard," Kyoko lost patience and repositioned his fingers with her own. "Just like so."
"What if I lose balance?" He frowned at the arrangement. "Does not look very secure to me."
"Nonsense," she got up, stood behind him and shielded his hand with hers. "Try it now, but remember: sips not gulps."
"What did gulps ever do to you?" His milk chocolate brown eyes looked up at her, intently. "Is the movement of my throat considered rude too?"
"Kyoko!" a voice came from behind them once more. "Oh my, I don't see you since… since forever actually!"
"Lady Momose! What a pleasure." Kyoko turned quickly on her feet, but her movement was impeded by Prince Ren's firm hands on her body.
"A fall in this muddy ground would be hard for your dress to recover, my lady," he scolded.
"That was unnecessary your highness." Kyoko squinted at the hand on her lower back.
"Oh, I see you got company now, what a lovely opportunity!" Lady Momose gave a light squeeze to the interlocked arm of her companion. "I believe you didn't meet my Prince either, let me introduce all of you."
This new interruption was far more polite than the last one. After courteous introductions and light pleasantries were exchanged, the newly matched couple walked away, far too entertained with themselves to notice the plainness of a forming storm.
"Hands off," Kyoko demanded when they were far enough.
"Why? Isn't a Prince allowed to help his lady if she is in imminent danger?" Prince Ren frowned.
"I am quite secure now, thank you."
Deploying a bread kneading move, Kyoko straightened her skirts and collapsed on her chair with the grace of a potato sack. She slurped a sip of her tea and the following silence was very loud.
"What now, my Lady?" Prince Ren finally asked.
"You do would not know how to yawn without insulting three different diplomats; thanks to Lady Mimori my favorite jasmine tea is cold; Lady Momose was nice but she ate the last emmental sandwich... frankly, the 'Private tea party on the enchanting Flower Bed' has not been particularly private nor magical. Did I paint the picture well enough?"
"Would my 'flock of fans' be included in the 'lack of privacy' complain?" Ren pondered, and at Kyoko's confusion, pointed to the slowly approaching hoard.
"No, that is a whole new section." She buried her head in her hands.
"Come on now," Ren whispered, "I'm sure your chin is supposed to be parallel to the ground, my lady."
Her demons flared up as she jolted with realization.
Kyoko's fast steps sent petals storming out of her path. Mildly perplexed guests watched as she marched to the Castle stiffly, not bothering to look back at her designed Prince once. How rude, they sourly said. Stealing a perfectly good prince like that all to herself, some grumbled. Surely, he wouldn't follow that tantrum? A voice asked. What if his emotions were crushed? What if he is hurt? Poor Prince Ren!
In the end, the group agreed, the only sensible alternative was to follow.§
"You knew," Kyoko spun in place well into the kitchen walls so abruptly that the red flower crown flew off her head.
"Knew what?" Prince Ren almost collided with her.
She pushed a red, flower tile and stepped inside a hidden cupboard.
He picked his gift from the floor, and followed her closing the stone door.
"Parallel chins?" She whispered, trying to not attract the attention of the fast following female horde.
"You have to admit, it was funny."
He crowned her again and leaned closer, looking outside through the slits.
"Stop," she hissed at his chest, inner demons completely out of control.
"Stop what?," he asked lightly, gazing at the pursuers.
With a huff, Kyoko the Plain pushed him to the opposite wall. Prince Ren was too startled to react, as she slammed her hands to the side of his head, leaving no space between their bodies.
"A tactic as old as time itself. First, a casual hand dropped here, a light lingering of fingers touching there, and, off course, you help me steady my clumsy feet at some point, so that I sure enough, somewhere down the line, will find myself pressed against a wall and you will gently steal a kiss from my naive, enamored, swooning lips." Kyoko snapped a knee up in between his legs and pressed impossibly closer. "I've seen Shotaro deploying the drill countless times. Do not take me as another naive noble, ignorant of your flirting playbook just because I'm plain, Kuon."
His wide eyes stared for a long moment.
"Maybe naive was a mistake, but by no means do I take you as plain."
"Right," she chuckled dryly, "and I am Kyoko the Dazzling, Queen of the Fairies in a magical land. I own a rainbow pony, and ride to the sunset daily with my glittering, fae parade."
His mouth opened, ready, but it was dropped along with his eyes.
"Whatever you say, peasant," he muttered. "It is not like I care."
She waited, but no other arguments were rendered under their deafening heartbeats.
Prince Ren freed himself, and went back alone to the light slits.
"I think we are safe."
"Oh, they are clever ladies," she shrugged and leaned on the cupboard' shelves, "they will find another way."
Prince Ren paced in the minuscule space, nodding, "probably."
"In truth, it does not matter," she flicked a gravy boat's handle. "They will probably be anywhere "
"No Kuon, that is quite enough." She sighed and got up. "Let's go back to the main pavilion. You can entertain the guests with some sparkly hocus pocus and I can enjoy the view. They got lemonade at least."
"Peasant," Prince Ren reached for her elbows, but thought better of it. "I got an idea."
"Trust me," he pouted, "it will work."
"I am not doing it," she rolled her eyes.
"I did not question your previous choices, and even ate foul things in the name of chivalry." He stomped his feet. "Try to keep up, you owe me."
"That is not how chivalry works, you ungrateful butter…" She pinched the bridge of her nose. "Fine, just this once."
"You are not doing any more than your obligation, peasant," he gloated as he unlocked the door.
"Whatever you say, your highness."
Kyoko the Plain had an unladylike drag on her feet, as she marched through what seemed to be the longest day of her life. She was too exhausted to look forward to anything else, let alone have hopes. Maybe, she thought as she adjusted her crown, maybe she was unfit for glorious days with pretty dresses and royal balls, or maybe being a princess was simply that hard and not magical at all…
Ha, as if.§
*mumbles incongruently below a pile of plot notes*