'How much more complicated is my life gonna get this year?' was the sole thought that kept running through his head as he walked the halls of Verbena High School. In the matter of just a few days' time, Rin had not only met the royal families of both the Demon Realm and Gods' Realm, but he'd also been told he was a potential marriage candidate for both princesses. The jockeying between the two girls to win his favor had already begun and no one seemed eager to help him with such a predicament. Add on top of it all the sighs coming from Kaede, the girl who he'd grown up with, as well as generous teasing from Asa, his longtime upperclassman and friend, and it was enough to wear anyone down.
Now Kareha, Asa's friend and member of the race of Gods, had delivered a message to him that someone wished to meet with him on the roof of the school. Rin idly went through the various scenarios that he figured might play out. Another would-be lover confessing to him? A mob of angry boys that wanted to jump him for "monopolizing" all the pretty girls? Another sigh escaped him as he opened the doors to the roof and walked out into the open air, hoping whatever this was it would be over with quickly.
"So you've come." A disembodied voice said. Rin looked around and saw no one anywhere on the roof. "My deepest apologies for calling you out like this, but I wanted to meet with you personally as soon as possible."
"That's all well and good, but it's not much of a meeting if I can't see you as well…" Rin commented.
"Ah, yes. Again, my apologies."
There was a brief shimmer and a thin figure suddenly appeared not a few feet away from Rin. The person was clearly of the race of Gods with their short, pointed ears, and they wore a Verbena boys' uniform. The boy looked to be roughly the same age as Rin, but with a fairly slight figure and amazingly long, light brown hair.
"Mine is a job of secrecy, so I am accustomed to using cloaking magic to avoid detection." He said. His voice was deep and monotone, but not entirely devoid of emotion.
"Oookaaay." Rin said skeptically, folding his arms. "So who are you, and what's this all about?"
"I am a member of the personal guard of his majesty Eustoma, king of the Gods. Specifically I am tasked with the safety and security of her majesty Princess Lisianthus. I wished to make acquaintance of he who would one day become heir to his majesty's throne."
"Oh." Was about all Rin could manage in response. "Well, uh, nice to meet you. I'm Rin Tsuchimi."
Rin extended his hand to the guard, who seemed a bit taken aback at the gesture. After a moment of consideration, though, the guard took his hand and shook it lightly. Rin was a bit surprised as well. For a guy who worked as a royal guard, he had rather soft hands.
"So, uh, do you have a name?" Rin asked, scratching his head.
"Mine isn't an existence one such as you should concern themselves with. I am merely here to ensure the Princess' safety. And, of course, yours as well." The guard said.
"That's all well and good, but if you're going to be hanging around and making sudden appearances like this I'd just as soon know your name. Unless you're okay with 'Hey you' or 'Mr. Royal Guard guy'."
The guard smirked and regarded Rin curiously. "You are an interesting sort, Rin-dono. But very well. You may call me Matsuri, if it pleases you."
"Okay, Matsuri. So I guess you'll be around a lot, then?"
"Rest assured you will not be aware of my presence unless it is absolutely necessary. I have no intention of interfering with your day-to-day life or your courtship of the Princess."
Rin coughed at the inference of a romance with Sia. "If you say so, but don't be a stranger okay? Lunchtime is always more fun with more people around."
Matsuri looked aghast at the idea. "Sir Rin, I could never sit and eat along with the Princess! It would be unseemly. Additionally, as you can tell I am also a student here at Verbena so I have my own classes and matters to attend to."
"I'm sure Sia wouldn't mind, and it's not like we don't get plenty of visitors from around the school anyway. But whatever's comfortable with you, I guess. So is there anything else for us to go over?"
"Not presently, but as I said I will contact you if anything comes up."
"Alright." Rin said, sighing in relief. "I have to say, this was a welcome change."
"I'm afraid I don't follow, Rin-dono…" Matsuri said, cocking his eyebrow at him.
"Well, I thought you might be yet another girl confessing her love to me or something like that. And when I saw you were a guy I was worried I had a fight on my hands. It's nice to meet someone else here who's actually sane. I think we'll get along just fine, Matsuri."
"That is my sincerest hope, Rin-dono. Well, I will take my leave of you for now. Until next we meet."
Matsuri walked past Rin and back into the building. Rin followed close behind, but Matsuri was already gone by the time he got through the doorway. He shrugged and headed back to the classroom to gather his things and head home, wondering what misadventures awaited him that night and in the future.
Rin was just about to get ready for bed that night when there came a soft knocking at his window. He pulled back the curtain to see what it was and fell out of his chair. Matsuri was on a tree branch just outside. He slid the window open and stepped into Rin's room.
"Pardon the intrusion." Matsuri said apologetically.
"We have a front door, you know." Rin remarked, standing back up.
Matsuri's face was unmoved by the comment. He was calm but at the same time intensely serious. "Under normal circumstances I would make a proper entrance; however, something has come up that I must consult you about."
"Consult with me?" Rin repeated.
"Yes. It is with regard to a matter we have been investigating most recently."Matsuri said, making eye contact with Rin. "We have reason to believe someone is going to attempt to kidnap her majesty Princess Lisianthus."
"We've received several communications threatening such action if certain demands are not met, and we believe someone has been making preparations to attempt an abduction."
"Do you have any idea who's behind it?"
"We have an idea, but the problem is we haven't been able to track down the would-be abductors. We think they are using magic to conceal their presence until they carry out their mission."
"Is there anything I can do to help? Sia's safety is important to me too."
"This is not a foe you can take on, Rin-dono. They are skilled at combat and magic as well. You would do well to keep yourself out of harm's way here."
"I'm not going to just stand by and watch as Sia gets taken away, Matsuri. There has to be something I can do."
Matsuri stroked his chin in thought for a moment and then an idea occurred to him. He reached into his pocket and produced a small ring with a glittering gemstone set into it.
"Take this with you. Think of it as a protective charm." Matsuri said, handing the ring to Rin. "The stone is imbued with potent magic. If something should happen, point the ring at the attacker and concentrate. It will signal me to come to your aid."
"What if you're nowhere nearby?"
Matsuri smirked at Rin at the thought. "Don't underestimate the ring's magic, Rin-dono. Trust it and me as well. This may be our best chance to both protect her majesty and capture the perpetrators."
"I understand." Rin said, putting the ring on his dresser. "Thanks for the heads up, Matsuri. I'll be careful."
"Please do be, Rin-dono. Your continued health and safety is of high importance to me." Matsuri said, adding quickly, "Since, after all, you are an important individual to her majesty. Not to mention you are our future ruler as well."
Rin groaned inwardly and just nodded to him. "If you say so, Matsuri."
"I will take my leave of you now, then, Sir Rin. Good night."
"Good night. Oh, and Matsuri?"
"Next time you want to come in, use the door."
"I will remember that, Rin-dono." Matsuri said with a nervous smile. Rin closed the curtains as Matsuri left and then turned out his lights as he prepared for bed.
It all happened so fast Rin could barely keep up with the series of events. He'd been out shopping with Sia and Kaede when Sia suddenly fainted, hit by a powerful spell of some kind. Rin moved to try and get her to safety but was thrown back by a powerful force. As a figure quickly closed on him he used the ring Matsuri had given him and, just as promised, Matsuri appeared in an instant with a magical blade in hand. He took assailants in custody and contacted his superiors with information about the incident. Rin was now back home flopped down on his bed, trying not to think about how much his back hurt when a telltale knock at his window told him someone wanted to talk again. He slowly got up and opened the window for Matsuri, who quickly stepped inside.
"Pardon the intrusion." Matsuri said meekly.
"You really have a thing against doors, don't you?" Rin quipped. Matsuri, however, was clearly in no mood for joking. He had a downcast expression on his face.
"I…I came to ask your apology for earlier." He said.
"Apology? For what?"
"Had I been closer by or more attentive, you would not have been so injured trying to protect her majesty. It was my own arrogance that caused you this pain. I should not have been so comfortable with using you in such a way. I humbly beg your forgiveness, Rin-dono."
"Matsuri, you said yourself that this was the best chance to save Sia and catch the ones who were after her. If taking a bump or two was the price I had to pay to make that happen, it was worth it."
"Enough, okay? There's nothing for you to apologize for. Everything worked out, didn't it? That's what matters."
Matsuri's expression softened and he slowly cracked a smile. "Yes, I suppose you're right Sir Rin. Still, please allow me to tend to your wounds. It's the least I can do for you."
"It's really not that big a deal, Matsuri." Rin said, leaning against a wall. The contact sent shots of pain through his back and he winced at the sensation. Matsuri looked at him unimpressed by his attempt at bravado as Rin simply laughed self-consciously.
"Take off your shirt and sit so I can see your back." Matsuri told him. Rin nodded in compliance and pulled his t-shirt off as he sat on the edge of his bed, unaware of the suddenly embarrassed look that crossed Matsuri's face. Matsuri sat down a distance away from Rin and looked at the scratches and welts on his back from the impact he'd taken.
"This is much worse than I thought. The attackers really didn't pull any punches with you." Matsuri said, applying some healing magic to Rin's back. "I'm impressed you still had the presence of mind to use the ring."
"It was definitely handy to have. I don't know what would've happened if I hadn't had it." Rin replied. "Really, Matsuri, thanks again for that. And for protecting us all, especially Sia."
"Thank you for your kind words, Rin-dono."
Matsuri continued to apply healing magic to Rin's back until it was reasonably well recovered. Once done, he immediately got up and stepped back towards the window a bit as Rin put his shirt back on.
"If you have any further pain please let me know and I will fetch some proper healers for you."
"I'll be fine, thanks Matsuri. So will things calm down now that you guys caught the people behind this?"
"I'm afraid not. All we caught were mercenaries paid to do a specific job. They aren't the masterminds behind this."
"So we all have to still be careful, I guess."
"In the future, yes. However, we feel there will not be a repeat incident such as this any time soon so things should quiet down a little."
"Quiet would be good." Rin said as he laid back down on his bed.
Matsuri bowed slightly to him as he opened the window. "I will leave you to enjoy it, then. Good night, Sir Rin."
"See you later, Matsuri. Oh, and next time…"
"I will endeavor to use the door."
"That'd be great." Rin said as he rolled over. Matsuri closed the window behind him and quickly left as Rin drifted off to sleep, hoping the bulk of the excitement was behind them now.