A/N: This fic is dedicated to my good friend Maggie, who wanted me to write for her belated errr Christmas present? . . . so you can all thank her for this story and the chapters which may come hereafter. I hope you like it, Maggie. :) Everyone else: I haven't written for awhile, so be kind.
Warnings: Eventual Ken/Omi, Aya/Youji
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Not Weiss, not tights . . . well, okay, so you caught me, I own a pair of tights . . . but I don't own the title or the legend!
.....................Prologue......................"You really believe we have him for good?" A knight in black armor and one visible eye asked his team mate.
"Like a fly in a jar." The knight answered, taking off his black helmet to reveal a mess of orange hair.
"Wonderful imagery, Schuldig." The knight with black hair pushed his glasses up.
The fourth remained silent, Youji noted as he approached, but had a strip of red velvet hanging from his saddle with several combat metals on it. The blond whistled in awe as the four black knights dismounted. They were pretty famous around here, but to hear that they caught someone wasn't really good news. He came closer.
"mm. . . excuse me?" He tapped the least threatening one's shoulder.
"What is it?" the boy turned. He couldn't have been more than 17!
"You're almightiness" Youji bowed almost mockingly, "Who, may I ask, do you speak of?"
"Ken of Sherwood forest. He's condemned to execution at the prison house on the other end of town. Doesn't really make a difference to me, though." He walked away, with the other three, looking quite indifferent to the entire situation.
Youji sighed. Not again.
Why he just didn't hand Ken over to the authorities and collect the reward in the first place was definitely a mystery to him, but since he was set on keeping him alive, he might as well stick to it.
Grabbing a rope, a burlap potato sack from someone's garbage, and borrowing a hammer from a blacksmith workshop, he set off merrily down the road to the prison house.
............................................."Hey, guard. . ." Ken raised his eyes from his sitting position to fix on the locked door, where the guard was most surely on the other side. Ken sighed, sinking further on the lonely bench in the cell, and adjusting his heavily chained hands a little. His stomach made noises. He hadn't eaten in over two full days.
"In the name of the King, I am not allowed to speak to you," the guard repeated in monotone. Ken shook his head in amusement.
"You just did," Ken sighed. These guards were all dolts. Good thing, too, or else he wouldn't be alive today, ". . . hey, you got anything to eat?"
"In the name of the King I-"
"Oh, geez," Ken cut him off, leaning his head back onto the wood and staring at the ceiling, "Cut a guy who's going to die a little slack, would you?"
"You're a thief!" the guard reminded him.
"But with good intentions, sir," Ken mocked, and there was a very awkward silence, ". . . Hey, do you think that I could have my hat back before I die?"
"Why?" the guard's voice outside the locked cell sounded sour, glancing at the green archer's hat on the ground to his right. It wasn't even attractive.
"Well . . . my hat and I," Ken smiled, ". . . We're very close."
The guard's face twisted several ways in confusion. What was that supposed to mean? However, the guard's attention was directed almost immediately to the prison door to the outside that opened. In its entrance stood a man in a brown friar's burlap sack? and a rope tied carelessly around his middle. The face of the blond monk smirked at the incredulous look on the guard's face; poor guy.
"Brother. . . William," Youji 'ahem'ed as he introduced himself, trying to look professional. He'd put on some pretty outrageous getups before, but this holy man thing definitely had its advantages . . . especially when Ken had to go and get himself condemned to death again.
"What is it?" the guard asked calmly.
"I'm uh. . . I mean, I was sent here by the king to spare the unfortunate soul who has been condemned here on this day. . . this day which has been uh. . . blessed by God." Youji saw the odd look the guard was giving him, smiled sheepishly and tried to save himself, "I mean, I need to offer this soul confession so that God may save him from the devil."
"That's strange . . . we've never had any friars come here before."
"He's my—cousin." Youji averted his eyes at the awkward silence, "---Twice removed."
"But he is a non-believer, you cannot save him." He referred back to their previous conversations.
Youji's eyebrow twitched angrily, glancing over to Ken's cell, where the prisoner added, "I'm converting. Now."
"There you have it!" Youji pat the guard on his back, "Now, I'll just be helping the young man confess his sins and then you may go back to doing your job, and he can die in peace." Youji smirked, walking over to the cell, and the guard got up to come with him. The guard took the key from his belt and undid the lock on the door. . . offering Youji safe entrance.
"If he gives you any trouble, I'll be right outside," the guard said seriously.
"Thank you," Youji said in a mocking tone, putting his hands together in prayer and bowing slightly as the door closed. Youji turned around slowly, a deeply amused smirk plastered on his face as he looked at Ken, the prisoner, who had to restrain himself from chuckling.
"Burlap?" Ken asked teasingly under his breath, eyeing Youji's getup as the 'friar' got out the small hammer he'd brought along, hidden in his robe.
"Hey, I could have let you die." Youji whispered back as he began banging as quietly as possible at the chains binding Ken's hands.
"What's that?!" The guard said sharply from outside, as a rather noisy clash came down metal to metal. Youji cringed. Ken shrugged.
"Uh. . .that?" Youji's eyes darted around nervously, "That was . . . the sound of. . . The breaking of the chains on this poor soul that . . . uh- bind him to the Devil!"
"I find that hard to believe. . ."
"But it's true! My preaching is so powerful that you can actually –hear- the chains breaking. . ." Youji slammed the hammer down on the chains once more, emphasizing awkward syllables, "Break, oh, cursed chain which binds this . . . uh. . . soul! Let Thy heavenly. . . savior bring him from his earthly sin. Break!" Youji sweat-dropped furiously, banging the hammer down in the hopes that they would break before the guard had the common sense to check on him.
Youji looked from the chains to Ken's face, which was practically tearing with laughter.
"Oh, shut up and play along," Youji whispered. Ken wiped the tears from his eyes, grinning. Youji said as he brought down the hammer once more, and the chains binding Ken's hands to the wall finally broke. Ken brought his hands out in front of him, feeling his free wrists and smiling as he helped Youji with the window to the outside. The window did have bars, but they weren't hard at all to take off if you knew how. . . and your hands weren't chained to the wall.
Within seconds, the bars were relocated to the ground, and Ken began to make his way through the small opening.
"Are you sure you're alright in there?" The guard asked. Footsteps could be heard walking towards the door. Youji blanched, helping Ken through.
"Y-yes. Just a moment."
"I think you've had enough time. . ." the guard said angrily, noticing (finally) that something was up, and turning the key on the lock to throw the door wide open. He stood aghast at the empty room. Bars on the floor, and broken chains, he was practically blown away by his stupidity. "Hey, come back here! In the name of the king! He'll have your heads for this!!" He yelled through the window, where the two figures could still be seen running away.
Ken heard, and paused only slightly to turn around, "The name's Ken of Sherwood Forest! I steal from the greedy and give to the needy. Don't you forget it!" He held up a finger, winking, before he continued running, catching up to Youji. They ran at a good light pace for nearly twenty minutes, or roughly two miles, before Youji decided to duck behind a bush a ways away from the main road to catch his breath. Both of them were desperate for air when they finally stopped to catch breath, "Youji!"
"What?" Youji asked between breaths, looking out from behind the bush to make sure no one had followed them so far as this.
". . . I forgot my hat"
Omi sighed as he made his way through the empty halls of the palace. Being prince had its advantages, of course, but it seemed like it was a prison sometimes. Omi supposed he didn't make a good prince at all. If he were married, everything would be different.
His father, King Persia, had left for the crusades ten years ago, when he was only 7 years old, so he barely remembered him, now. Most of the people here had assumed the King dead after not hearing from him for so long, and although he acknowledged this when speaking with others, the truth is he believed his father was alive.
Miss Manx had called for him in the dining hall, tonight. Omi brought his eyes to the entrance and entered cautiously, finding himself face to face with her.
"Omi-kun, I'm glad you came." Manx said with a smile, "We need to talk."
"Yes?" Omi asked politely.
"You will be eighteen soon. . ." Manx frowned, "I should tell you something. King Persia . . . your father, Omi-kun. . . he never intended to return."
". . .I think I already knew" Omi passed a few minutes of silence, though his eyes held sadness as he tried to stray them from the topic at hand.
"I thought you would from the talk that's been circling the kingdom, but listen, Omi-kun, he made me promise one thing before he left." Manx looked to see Omi's eyes on the floor, "Look at me, Omi! Your father made me promise that you would become King by your eighteenth birthday."
"What?" Omi exclaimed in surprise, "That would mean. . . I would have to. . ."
". . . be married? Yes." Manx said. "This is not new news to you. You have known it is a tradition in your family to be wed on your eighteenth birthday."
"Yes. . ." Omi affirmed, regaining his composure, "but I don't wish to marry."
"You've made that clear, and I don't want you to be forced into anything, but I think you should at least consider. Miss Sakura has come to visit again." Manx told him, "I have arranged for you to meet her tonight, though it is your decision to dine with her or not."
Omi sighed knowingly, "I will."
"Good," Manx motioned, "Then come this way." She and Omi walked through the dining room and into another small room where a table and chairs were set, and plates of food littered the table. A charming girl in a blue dress walked up to meet Omi.
"Your highness," the girl curtsied politely.
Manx smiled as she looked at the pair standing next to each other. Omi looked apathetic, but Sakura had a bright smile on her face. /Don't mess this up, Omi. She's a perfect match./ "Enjoy your dinner," Manx said as she left. The footsteps echoed in the corridor. The awkward silence filled the room as the two sat down awkwardly at two ends of the long table.
"It's been a while, Sakura . . ." Omi poked his vegetables with the end of his fork ". . . I'm sorry I've been distant, but I -feel- distant. This place seems like a prison, sometimes."
"hmm?" Sakura asked innocently, her confused face turning into one of concern, "This castle is lovely. It doesn't feel like a prison at all." She smiled.
"hmm . . . it is lovely." Omi looked up at the girl. She was lovely as well. Not much for solving metaphors but. . . Beautiful face, beautiful dress, warm and cheerful personality . . . Why was it that he wasn't attracted to her? They had known each other since they were little. He just thought of her as a friend, that's all . . . but if his father's last wish was for his marriage, then it wouldn't be so much of a sacrifice to marry a good friend. . .
"I know this is sudden," Sakura interrupted his thoughts, "but I was wondering-- have you heard of an outlaw who lives in Sherwood Forest?" she asked. Omi stared at her for a minute.
"Yes, actually. I've never actually seen him, but I am aware that he's a thief around here. My guards are doing everything in their power to try and capture him."
"Then this hasn't been the first time!" Sakura answered, "My guards caught him this morning when he stole three gold coins from my purse, but I've just received news of his escape."
"Only three gold coins?" Omi ignored the fact that he had escaped, "He wasn't violent. You didn't condemn him for that, did you? He can't be any regular thief if he took care to only steal what he needed."
"They did. That is the law set down by the black knights, isn't it? Theft of any kind is punishable by death. Though it doesn't matter now that he's run away. . ." She paused, putting down her fork, and looking the prince directly in the eyes, "How is it true that his highness doesn't have any say in these matters?"
"Uh—well," Omi bowed his head, ashamed, "My father left the black knights in charge, and I have no authority here aside from my own protection and needs until I am married."
"Oooh, I see," Sakura smiled, "So that's why your housemistress was so intent on me having dinner with you, tonight." Omi frowned with embarrassment.
"That's probably true."
"But his highness doesn't seem all too thrilled."
"You can forget formalities, here, Sakura," Omi said, avoiding the subject.
"Then why haven't you ever asked me?" She said calmly. Omi's fork left his hand. Why -hadn't- he? They were the same age; she came from a rich family, and a prestigious family at that. He would be king. The black knights would have to listen to him.
"Well, I-" Omi struggled with the subject. How could he tell her he didn't like her? Sakura was his friend. . . but Omi didn't. . . he wouldn't! Could he?
". . . Sakura?" Omi stood from the table, unwilling to look his friend in the eyes, "Would it be alright if we discussed this later? I. . . have to go" Omi fumbled for an excuse to leave the table, "—look for that thief that so wrongly robbed you. Y-yes! I feel I must attend to the matter as a personal offense."
Out of the corner he saw a slight and saddened nod.
Omi gulped as he walked away, an unusually serious expression on his face. He hoped he wasn't being rude, but he just couldn't stand the pressure. If he stayed in there any longer he might have actually considered asking her. His eighteenth birthday. . . Omi shut his eyes tight as he reached his room, sinking down at the edge of his bed. Why did this have to be what his father wanted?
At least this criminal-hunting excuse would give him a chance to take a stroll along the path to town. He needed some fresh air.
.........................................................."Ken" Youji put his hand to his head hopelessly, "What the hell are you doing?"
"What does it LOOK like I'm doing?" Ken asked, dragging a stick with a worm fixed on the end in the water.
"It looks like you're trying to fish in a pond."
"Yes. And it's more than you're doing. We need to eat."
"I would have been offended by that if you didn't look like a complete idiot. Ken, there are no fish in vernal ponds. . . In fact, I don't think there are fish in ANY pond."
"Sure there are!" Ken replied without thinking. Then he thought about it, "What's a vernal pond?"
"I'm not talking to you anymore. If you want to fish, there's a stream further down the way." Youji pointed in the direction as he lay down on a rather large rock, "Wake me when dinner's ready."
Youji closed his eyes, turning over on his side. Yep. Ken wouldn't be able to catch anything with that silly excuse for a lure. Hopefully that meant he'd never wake up.
Ken sighed, pulling his worm stick out of the water and making his way down the path to the stream. It wasn't long before he got there, but the most curious person was standing in front of the bridge. He was tall, but not much taller than Ken, with dark red hair and a large pole in hand. Ken misjudged it to be a walking stick, and merely smiled in a friendly nature at the man who didn't smile back, and put his worm stick in the water again.
"You can't do that." A deep voice loomed over him, and Ken looked up.
"No." Ken frowned, narrowing his eyebrows stubbornly.
"This is my stream. You can't fish without paying the toll of one gold coin. And if you refuse, I have no choice but to fight you." The red-haired man said threateningly.
"Well, that's very hasty." Ken smirked, taking his worm stick up out of the water, and held it by the hilt, like a sword, worm failing proudly the air, "I accept."
"You're a fool." The older man narrowed his eyes.
"And?" Ken jolted his stick out at the man in a clean swipe, but it was blocked quite easily by the pole the man brought out in front like a sword as well. It would have been a rather long sword if he'd held it in the middle. Ken tried to push him back, but the man was strong! He cringed. Really strong. . . maybe stronger than he was, but he wasn't going to let that stop him this early on. He jumped back. Both 'swords' returned to their original position.
From the looks of it, the older man was impressed by Ken's skills as well. He adjusted the grip on his stick, and this time took the first charge. Ken noticed the red-haired man's footing was foreign to him. Not self-taught, that is. There was structure to his movements, as if every step was calculated and processed to the degree of the highest success rate.
The battle raged on. Each move was closer to victory than the next. Ken was struggling under the power forced into every one of the older man's blows until finally Ken pointed and said "look! It's Elvis!" and the man looked, and Ken sent him splashing into the stream.
By the time Ken had even thought of that, he was waddling to shore, drenched from head to toe.
"You have the right to boast. You have admirable skills." The older man started, taking down his weapon.
"So do you." Ken said miserably, taking a corner of his shirt and wringing out the water. "I've met few people could best me in a close combat fight." Ken sighed. It might not be such a big loss if he was beaten by a royal guard (which he had been before), but to be beaten by a bridge-guarder. This was a little embarrassing. He was just glad Youji didn't see that.
"hahahahaha!" Youji laughed outright, holding his stomach as he came down the path, "Ah, Ken, that was priceless." He wiped a tear from his eye.
"I thought you were sleeping." Ken looked sour.
"Who wouldn't have looked at the sound of all that racket?" Youji grinned, ruffling Ken's hair as he came up.
". . . I would have won if I had my hat." Ken said defensively.
"Sorry that was just too good to leave without a laugh—"Youji noticed the guard next to Ken, looking dashingly handsome, "hellooo. And who might you be?" He smiled seductively.
"Fujimiya Ran. . . but my friends call me Little Ran."
". . . you have frien- -?"Ken started to question, but a hand was quickly thrown over his mouth belonging to the very blond who laughed nervously.
"My name's Kudou Youji, Little Ran. This is Ken of Sherwood forest. We're thieves." Ken pried Youji's hand from his mouth.
". . . but not bad thieves." Ken said.
Youji took his hand away as he moved up to Little Ran, smiling, and adjusting the rope around his burlap sack, "Has anyone ever told you you're gorgeous?"
Ran thought about it a moment, before turning to Ken, "Your friar friend isn't really a man of the church, is he?"
"No." Ken laughed at the spontaneity of the question, "No, he really isn't." Youji looked offended and crossed his arms. The blond 'hmphed'.
"Can't quietly take a compliment. Jerk." Youji complained just loudly enough to be heard, separating himself from the two.
Ran looked at the unlikely duo. He was particularly interested in the blond. He had a sort of personable personality that was alluring. It wasn't everyday you met someone who was willing to judge by reserving judgment. Little Ran put his pole down on the grass, and said four words that would change the course of their lives.
"Take me with you."
....................................................A/N: You're thinking: Where are Ken and Omi? Why aren't they together? Just wait. This was just the prologue (though it was regular length). I promise there will be lots of fluff and humor. Meanwhile you must review! Then I will be sparked to write more. And I can also answer any questions you have in the next chapter, so I would appreciate it very much.
Thanks for reading!