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PART II – Bound

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Fireflies buzzed lazily through the night. They called to each other, meeting and parting without hurry.

A pair of fairies, wings flashing in the moonlight, rushed past. They were arguing. Loud voices disappeared into shadows. The fairies' passage left a wake in the air and a cluster of fireflies, caught by surprise, somersaulted off course.

Amiboshi poked the girl flying beside him. "Oh come one! Why such a sour face?"

Miaka swatted his hand. She forced her wings faster.

"Hey! Where're you going?" Amiboshi crossed the distance. He reached for her elbow. "Wait up."

She flew harder. His fingers brushed darkness.

Amiboshi shook his head. "What's with you?" He raced forward, leaping in front of her. Miaka's jaw collided with collarbone. She swore loudly.

"OW!"

Strong hands took her shoulders. "Is this about before?" Worry edged his face. "I already said I was sorry."

Miaka glared up from his chest. She was small in his arms. "I'm just eager to get home."

"Yeah right," Amiboshi's brows hiked high. "Back to duty and responsibility? Don't be like that."

"Like what?"

"Like I don't know you better," he searched her eyes.

Miaka's anger faltered. She dropped her gaze. "Stop it."

"Stop what?"

She sighed. "Stop talking like we're familiar," she stared out into the thick night. Fireflies, no longer in the mood to meander, buzzed purposefully past. One paused to flash brightly at her. Miaka cocked her ear, listening to its complaint. The firefly went brighter and spoke softly through the wind. Miaka bowed in apology and the light dimmed. The firefly continued on.

Amiboshi grappled with her words. "But… we are," he finally found enough breath to reply

Miaka heard his hurt. Another sigh made his shoulders sag. "That's part of the problem."

"What?" Amiboshi forced his shoulders back, cursing how they gave him away. "Why?"

Her voice went soft. "You know he doesn't like how well we know each other."

"Who?"

"Who?" Mika palmed her friend's chest, pushing herself out. "You know who. The fiancé you've referenced all afternoon."

"Tenkou?" Amiboshi let her draw back, fighting a frown. "He needs to get over it."

Miaka sighed again. "Can we keep going? He'll be angry I was out so late."

"I thought you said you didn't care."

She raked a hand through her hair. Amiboshi noticed its sudden shake.

"Trust me. I care about this."

He moved aside. Miaka nodded her thanks and started forward. He followed and they traveled in silence. Trees blurred past and more fireflies were tossed into spins and rolls. Their bright protests were heard only by black branches. Far below, nocturnal animals chattered from the forest floor. They weren't as tolerant as the mother finch, and watched with disapproval.

A large hardwood appeared ahead. Its twisted trunk, bent and misshapen with age, struck a chord of comfort in the young fairies. Home. The Kith Tree supported an intricate network of branches that stretched for the canopy. Among thicker boughs, dim lights shone from hundreds of branch platforms.

"Looks like everyone's going to bed," Miaka whispered. She sped unconsciously.

Amiboshi frowned. "Why do you sound scared?"

She was already too far to hear.

Miaka soared into leaves, heading for one of the upper branches. She passed dozens of wide eyes and looks of surprise. Fairies with fireflies perched on their shoulders paused to watch her ascent. Despite whispered talk of the king's daughter, they still weren't used to her comings and goings. She had a spirit that fought for more space than her body. It wasn't natural. Flying higher, Miaka made her way to a familiar platform. She ignored the stares. It wasn't that late.

She heard the thud of rushing steps before her feet even touched wood.

"Miaka?!"

She winced at her name. He was angry.

An older face lined with worry greeted her as she crested the platform's lip. She landed gently, tucking wings behind her back.

"Tenkou," Miaka bowed slightly. She pulled on her most docile and apologetic expression, wrapping it like a weary shawl.

The man appraised her. "Where have you been?" Violet eyes scaled her form, taking in bits of bark in her hair.

"I went to—."

"Were you with Amiboshi?" A glower replaced concern.

She tensed. "No."

"Try again."

Miaka's face went hot. "You know it's not like that. It never has been."

Anger darkened the violet. "I see," he held out his hand. "Come. I've been waiting for you."

Miaka felt wind behind her. Amiboshi appeared through the leafy doorway, landing at her side.

Tenkou's mouth thinned to a hard line at the bare-chested boy. His outstretched hand closed to fist.

Amiboshi nodded absently. "Chancellor."

Miaka watched the older fairy's glare grow. She quickly took the man's wrist, still hanging between them, and pried loose clenched fingers. "We just went out for a little air."

"Unsupervised?" the word was an accusation.

Miaka's face flushed hotter.

"Of course" Amiboshi noticed her color and stepped to the girl's elbow. "I am the bodyguard appointed by King Tatara."

"Bodyguard?" Tenkou's mouth curved in scorn. "Or trailing puppy?"

Amiboshi's shoulders tensed. He advanced as Miaka stretched a sure palm to his chest. She shook her head.

"Don't," she held his gaze. "He's just angry."

"He shouldn't speak that way about us."

Miaka pleaded with her eyes. "We know the truth," her fingers curled against his skin.

Amiboshi stilled. He looked to the hand splayed across his front. Its warmth softened his frown.

Tenkou watched the exchange. Fury contorted his features.

"You two are no longer children," the older fairy pulled Miaka away. Her wrist dropped from Amiboshi as she was jerked back. "And king decree or no, these unseemly days spent alone together are unacceptable."

He crushed Miaka to him and she struggled for breath.

"Tenkou… stop," she choked on the folds of his tunic. "You're hurting me."

"My future wife has outgrown her infantile need for friendship," Tenkou spoke as if she hadn't. "You're not to see her again."

Miaka's eyes flew wide. "What?!"

Amiboshi's face turned thunderous. "You can't do that."

Tenkou straightened, towering over the boy. "I'm Chancellor of the Council. I can do whatever I want."

"But the king—."

"Tatara doesn't realize you're no longer needed," Tenkou hissed. "Last month she became mine."

Amiboshi held seething fists at his sides. He grasped for control, wrestling down his own anger. "Miaka may have been promised," he stared out from shadowed bangs. "But you will never," his voice dropped low. "Own her."

Tenkou gripped the girl tighter. "Who do you think you are?!" His arm dug painfully into Miaka's waist. "You're a nobody from a dead family who got his position through pity. When I'm king, I'll see you banished."

The corners of Amiboshi's mouth rose. "You're not king yet," he raised a fist to strike.

"Stop!" Miaka pushed against Tenkou's chest, prying arms away. She shrugged the hold from her waist and ran to Amiboshi. "Don't give him cause," she took up the boy's lifted hand with feverish intensity. "I won't lose you," she dug her fingers into his, entwining them.

"Miaka," Amiboshi hugged his palm to hers. "How could you not tell me about him? I never realized."

She moved closer, sharing his air. "It's not so bad."

Amiboshi stared past her at the man gaping with slack-jaw. "You have to go to your father."

She shook her head. "I won't. You know he's struggling to sign a treaty with the dryads. He made this choice for the good of the Kith Tree."

Tenkou, frozen by Miaka's momentary defiance, regained himself.

"Get away from him," his voice was coarse with rage.

She turned around, still keeping Amiboshi's hand. "I won't let you control my life," the statement came soft. "Amiboshi's right. I'm promised, but I can still do what I want. I'm not property."

"He's poisoned you," Tenkou grit teeth. "I ask for your hand and this is how you repay me?" The set of his mouth turned vicious. "No one wanted you. You could have brought anyone the highest status, but it wasn't enough. There's no room in a man's household for a female who doesn't know her place," he lurched forward and grabbed the wrist joined with Amiboshi's. "I was the only one. I knew your mouth ran before your head. Knew I could fix you. Make you better," Tenkou pulled the girl back with a swift jerk.

Miaka gasped as she was yanked forward again. "I don't need fixing," olive eyes narrowed in ire. "Let go."

"Oh? Who told you that?" Tenkou scoffed. "Your friend? The one who stays with you because it's his job?"

Miaka's hand lifted and became a blur. Palm connected with hard jaw and the slap rang across the branch platform.

Tenkou staggered, dropping her arm. He touched his chin in astonishment.

"I'm flying Amiboshi home. You can apologize when I get back," Miaka spun and marched to the platform's edge. "You coming?" She glanced over her shoulder expectantly.

Amiboshi cast a quick glance to the Head Council Member, whose face was turning a livid shade of purple. "Yeah," he hopped to her side. Both raised their wings and missed the fury in Tenkou's eyes. They took off into the sea of branches. Neither looked back.

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A/N: Sorry so short. I'll have Chapter 3 up soon.