A/N: Chapter 1 is here! Yeah, I know Gakupo isn't supposed to be in the story... but this is my version of it, and I love him, so here he is! Please review and tell me what you think of this start.
The Daughter of Vengeance, Part I
"Once upon a time in the the kingdom of treachery and inhumanity, there lived the red-haired village maiden"
-"Daughter of Vengeance"
"Why, miss Meiko!" shouted the town girls as their idol walked passed them, "How pretty you look today!"
The young woman smiled, glowing with happiness and excitement. Her long red hair hung behind her in large, intricate braids, and her brown eyes practically sparkled. She had the glow of someone in love easily visible in her complexion.
One small, mousy-haired girl ran up to her. "Wherever did you get those pretty ribbons? Ma said they were expensive..."
Meiko patted the young girl on her head, remembering when she used to gawk at the village maidens during their bridal weeks. "The man I'm marrying this sabbath saved to buy them for me. He always looks out for these little details..."
The other two girls began to fight for her attention.
"What dress will you be wearing?"
"Do you have girls to toss the flowers?"
"Hey, we could do that!"
The woman giggled. "There's no need for any of that. It will be a simple affair; we lack the means for a ceremony. But we'll still be happy."
The mousy-haired girl pouted. "But that isn't fair, Miss Meiko! The Princess doesn't even have a fiancee yet and she already has a dress and decorations and everything planned out!"
Meiko's smile faltered. "Well, yes... but she's the Princess."
She was the princess. That was why one little blond girl got whatever she desired, sweets every day, horses, servants, and dresses with lace and jewels while Meiko's fiance dug through the palace trash to find simple ribbons for his bride-to-be! He couldn't buy ribbon. No one could buy ribbon. No one could buy food.
And old lady stepped out from behind the corner of a building. "Girls! Your grandmother needs help with her spinning spinning!"
"But Miss Meiko-"
The young woman smiled. "Go on. Shoo. I still have wedding things to attend to!"
As the girls ran off, Meiko couldn't help but wish she did have "wedding things." However, survival would come first. She tightened the pack around her waist and made her way to the edge of the town, towards the river Herod.
Unfortunately, although the river was a long seven mile trek from the village, it was very near to the Yellow Castle itself; barely off its grounds. There would be guards to avoid, but they really needed the fish for food. Stealth was the only option. Meiko carefully pulled the ribbons and flowers from her long, red hair and pulled it up into a bun to protect it from the messy work. She took the pack from her waist and lifted from it a ruby-encrusted sword and sheath which her father had forged himself.
He had left Meiko and her family to go join a group of outlaws who fought the king's forces, and later, the princess's. They had all agreed on the necessity of this action, but Meiko's father couldn't leave his family defenseless. He left his ruby sword, his most prized possession, in the hands of his teenage son and daughter. The boy Kiyoteru was trained extensively in swordplay and became and excellent fighter, determined to protect his family from harmed. Once his son knew all there was to know, Meiko's father left forever.
Then, disease struck and her brother died, leaving the family entirely vulnerable when thieves took what little they had and killed her mother. Meiko was alone, and she only knew how to use her sword for simple tasks.
She could never bear to sell it.
Now she was using it to fish.
Meiko stood with both bare feet in the running water and barely even breathed as she stilled her movement. The sword's tip hovered an inch above the water, poised to fall at a flicker of movement.
She froze, grip tightening, but smiled widely and ran out when she realized who it was. "Gakupo!" She embraced him as his fingers stroked her face.
"You fish very violently, darling."
"Well, if you would help..."
He smiled. "It's what I came for! We can't have a wedding feast with nothing but scraps!" He pulled a slightly more conventional fishing line from his pack, but paused. "Meiko..." he whispered.
"What is it?"
"...Do you hear something?"
There was silence, for a second. Then the sound reached her.
"Someone singing!" she muttered, puzzled.
Gakupo shuffled a little further away and paused to listen. "Come on. It's this way."
"Gakupo, darling, we're right near the castle so it's probably a guard. We'll get caught!"
He hesitated, but then continued moving forward.
He turned to his fiance. "Listen to that voice. If I'm stupid enough to think that's a guard, I deserve to get caught."
Meiko sighed, realizing he was right about the sound of the voice, and followed him.
"There-!" Gakupo pointed towards a bend in the river where the ground was covered in wild flowers. Two people could be seen sitting; a light-haired boy in his early teens who was singing, and a silent figure in a yellow hood whose back faced the two people spying.
Meiko frowned. "Probably palace servants. We should go-"
"You're right," he sighed and turned to leave. "...Meiko? Meiko, back to Earth, sweetie, we need fish."
"His voice is so pretty..." she muttered, eyes wide, "I can hear the lyrics, too."
The gold-haired boy remained unaware of the intruders, focused on singing to his companion.
"We were meant to be together from the day when we were born
Church bells rang in happiness when we came to the world
But for selfish reasons that I do not understand
You were taken away
And I no longer held your hand
And if one day you find the world's your enemy
I can promise you there's nothing that will stop me
From protecting your life, for you're the one that I hold dear
Just keep smiling and laughing, your heart should know no fear...
Sis? Do you think we should be heading back?"
Meiko couldn't hear the reply, or the short bit of conversation that followed. She decided it was best to follow her fiance, but was intrigued when the boy released something into the water. She decided to wait until the current carried it to her to see what it was.
"It's getting late." Gakupo observed a while later.
There was a squelching, splashing sound as Meiko let her sword drop. "This one looks good. I think we'll have enough fish for a few days." She lifted the blade and plucked the large trout from it. "...And we got more than just fish."
"Why did you even want to keep that?"
"I'm not quite sure... That boy dropped it in the river, he must have had a reason. I want to know what it says inside."
Gakupo rolled his eyes. "Well, you're the one with the gigantic sword! Open the bottle already! Why have you waited to long?"
Meiko was silent.
"...I do have a giant sword, don't I?"
Gakupo made a gesture very similar to a face-palm.
Meiko set the small glass bottle on the ground and brought the sword on it with a crash. Glass shattered, but the paper inside was left intact.
"...To be honest, I was just thinking you could use the blade to wedge the cork out..."
As Meiko read the message, her eyes widened. The parchment fluttered to the ground. "Ga-Gakupo?"
This shocked reaction had caught him entirely off guard. "What's wrong?"
"...Do you think they're still sitting there?" Her hand tightened on the sword hilt.
"Well, I wouldn't say it's likely but-" Meiko sped off into the trees. "Meiko? Meiko!" He looked around and grabbed the paper from the ground, and took off after his fiance. "Meiko! What are you doing?" he shouted.
Her voice barely floated back. "It was her!"
"I don't understand!" Gakupo slowed to a walk, and unclenched his fist that held the message. His reaction to the message mirrored Meiko's.
"I wish to always protect my sister. She may be the princess, and she may do horrible things, but she does not deserve to die like these people think. I wish for everything to turn out all right."
Meiko lay in the wildflowers of the riverbank, shivering and clutching her sword. When her fiance walked up behind her, she did not react but whispered, "She was right here! I could have stopped everything terrible... I could have been a hero..." Her eyes began to water up.
Gakupo knew how to deal with this. He had comforted her at the death of her brother when he died and they could not afford the medicine, and he had been there for her after her mother died when the royal soldiers did nothing to respond to the calls for help. He put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed it gently, making his presence known but not infringing on her private moment.
Meiko was weeping fully now. "I-I had my chance! I could have killed her and gotten it all over with..."
"Meiko, you couldn't have killed anyone."
She turned to her fiance, face lined with tears. "But... but..."
"You're my sweet fiance, Meiko. I love you for your kindness and gentleness. If you killed the princess, even if you truly wanted to kill her, you wouldn't be the same girl you are now."
"But she needs to die for thing to get better! Hundreds of people die every day because of her! I would save them!" she yelled.
"Shh... Shh... It's okay. It's okay, Meiko. It's not you're nature to be brutal. Besides, people change and someday the princess may too. Nothing can be solved through violence."
Meiko straightened up. "You're right." She attempted a sort of half smile, and chuckled darkly. "This is why I'm marrying you, right? You help me remember who I am. What's right."
Gakupo leaned in and kissed her forehead. "As long as we're together, everything will be fine. I'll go to town tomorrow and speak against the princess. This is a castle town; peaceful protest will be enough to throw a stick in the gears, so to speak."
Meiko returned the kiss. "Thank you."