Len's bare feet began to bleed against the rough pavement as he ran further and further through the dark alleyway. His quickly-tied blond ponytail bobbed vigorously with every step, and his long bangs were unable to hide the tears that fell from his frightened blue eyes, leaving clear streaks through the dirt on his face as they pattered onto the tattered rags he wore and making them seem even dirtier and torn than before.
The alleyway came to a dead end, and Len collapsed before the wall with a sob, his eyes filling quickly with despair as he gasped for breath.
"We've got you now, little kitten."
Turning and staring fearfully at the three men that began to corner him, Len backed into the stone wall.
"P-please… no…" his breaking voice begged. One of the men, supposedly the leader, stepped up, flipping his long purple ponytail off his shoulder and unbuttoning his black leather jacket.
"Be a good little kitten, and we promise you'll get some milk," he said with a cruel smirk, and the others held down Len as the leader ripped his clothes from him.
Len screamed. He already knew no one would come save him. No one was ignorant enough to go down a dark alleyway, other than other Servants like him. They would have saved him, but there were none in this country.
He'd originally lived in the Yellow Kingdom under the Tyrant Princess Rin, but under false royalty rape charges he ran like Hell to the safety of the forgiving Green Kingdom. However, the country was soon burned down and the kind Princess Miku was murdered, supposedly by Rin, and, being falsely accused once more, Len snuck onto a boat and was shipped to the Blue Kingdom… And now, not only was he wanted in two countries and illegally in this one, he was about to get raped and most likely sold into slavery.
Just another accident from the Yellow Kingdom…
"Okay, Gakupo, call off your men. You don't want to end up exiled, do you?"
Len cautiously opened his eyes as the hands were lifted from his body.
"You have no right to take away any necessity of my trade," Gakupo, the leader, snarled.
"I shall take care of this boy myself. Now go."
"… I apologize, Lord Kaito," Gakupo said sarcastically, muttering a curse under his breath as he and his men left. Len watched with increasing happiness, then looked to see his savior.
A blue-haired gentleman stood over him, his brown eyes glistening with kindness. He was wearing a blue and white outfit, colors of Blue Kingdom royalty, and a blue muffler.
"Are you alright?" he asked. Len blinked his surprise. Dare this noble speak to him with the chance of ruining his own status?
"Y-yes, thank you, Nii-cha-…" He shut up and flushed with embarrassment, mentally cursing himself. Not only had he just called a stranger of much higher class his brother, he'd done so while completely naked. He scrambled to find the scraps of clothes that Gakupo had torn off of him, but froze when he heard the noble's laughter.
"'Nii-chan'? How kind you are to call a stranger so fondly! Do tell me, what is your name?"
"Len, s-sir," Len said, still stunned.
"Well then, Len. Come with me. I'll give you some clothes and buy you a drink or two. Then, perhaps, you can explain your purpose for taking a stroll down here, eh?" Before Len could agree, the man had helped him up and pulled a spare shirt from his bag onto him.
Len admired the clothes silently. They seemed plain compared to those of the noble, but it was far nicer than Len had ever had the chance to wear. The shirt was quite large on his slender figure, and went down just above his knees, so the noble tied a belt around his waist to make it seem less strange.
"You look much better now," he said with a warm smile.
"I-I beseech you… Please tell me your name, k-kind sir…" Len said, struggling to sound proper.
"Now, now, there is no begging to be done. My name is Kaito, but if it suits you, you may call me Kaito-nii-san."
"But I couldn't!" Len protested. "That… that man- he called you a Lord!"
"I'm not a Lord."
"Oh." Len sighed in relief.
"That was intended as an insult towards me. I'm actually the Prince of this kingdom."
Len nearly dry-heaved. Not only had he not eaten since he'd snuck onto the ship four days ago, he'd just nearly gotten raped, and now had possible offended a prince that could have him beheaded with the snap of his fingers. All together, not so good for the stomach.
"Oh G-God… I'm sorry, Your Highness…"
"Think nothing of it. Just call me Kaito. Come this way, Len." Kaito lead him out of the alleyway easily. Outside stood a carriage with two women in front, having waited for the Prince's return. The first was a pink-haired woman with stern yet gentle blue eyes. A white gown melted perfectly into her shapely figure, and swayed as she opened the carriage door. The other struck Len as oddly familiar. This woman was considerably younger and less shapely than the other. She had short, teal-colored hair and somber brown eyes that seemed to pull him in like a sandpit of despair. She wore a similar dress, but hers fit a lot less well. Feeling it would help him recognize her, Len took a look at her hair again and realized the edges were singed. Of course. Her long hair had been burned away, but she was still the same…
"Princess Mik-?" Kaito slid a hand very quickly over Len's mouth. A frightened look entered the ex-princess's eyes, and she ran off to the horses.
"Welcome back, Prince Kaito," the woman still there said, as if her partner had not just run off and as if Len were not there.
"Fetch Miku and bring us to the pub Ms. Haku owns," Kaito said. The woman nodded and went to the front of the carriage, and the Prince helped Len into the seat beside him.
"You know Miku?" Kaito asked curiously.
"Y-yeah. I was… visiting the Green Kingdom for a short time before I arrived here."
"Ah. I'm guessing you were forced to leave when the fires started? I mean, everyone knows it was a sabotage done by the Yellow Kingdom."
"Yeah- wait. How did you know I lived there before…?" Len looked at him questioningly.
"You're a 'Servant', aren't you? That's what Rin calls the lower class in her country, and treats them like dirt. I guessed it from your rags." Kaito sighed. "Too bad I'm engaged to her."
Len said nothing, afraid to pry. Besides, Kaito had figured out too much about him already…
Soon they arrived to a bar, and the females opened each carriage door.
"Thank you," Len whispered to Miku, who had opened his side. She avoided his eyes, but nodded.
"Come, Len. The drinks are on me." Len nodded and hesitantly took Kaito's outstretched hand. He was fifteen, and his hand was obviously smaller than the older Prince's, and the feeling made him blush slightly as he shyly tailed Kaito into the worn-out pub.
The bar was completely void of people, but when Kaito whistled, a silver-haired woman's head popped out from behind the main counter.
"Kaito-dearie! It's been a while!" she cried her recognition, waving.
Kaito took his seat on a stool before the counter, and Len sat beside him, looking around. The place was rather run-down and poorly built to the point it made Kaito look even more royal in comparison. Len took a quick look at the barkeeper, wondering how she and Kaito might have met.
The woman seemed young, but she had silver hair tied back in a black bow. She wore a low-cut black dress that was obviously low-quality despite the lace that accented it. Her deep red eyes had an eerie joy to them, and for some reason Len had a hard time tearing his own away.
"Slow business today, Haku?" Kaito asked. Haku poured him a drink with a smile that seemed as if he had just told her an inside joke, not asked about her lack of customers.
"You're the first customer today, love. And such a customer you are! Want me to take some weight off your shoulders? You know I'm good at listening. Any burdens or sorrows? Problems at the castle? Evil fiancé got your nerve- Hello, what's this?" Haku's chatter stopped as her eyes fluttered over Len's uneasy blue ones. "Who's the pet, Kaito-dearie?"
"This is Len. He's a friend of mine. Don't pester him too much and get him a drink, will you? He's had a hard day." Kaito said rather bluntly, eyes narrowed. Instead of being angry, however, Haku laughed.
"Certainly. What would you like to drink, handsome?" Len stayed silent, still looking up at Haku (for he automatically assumed she was referring to Kaito when she said "handsome"), but noticed both of their eyes on him after a moment.
"Heeeellllllooooo? Earth to pretty booooyyy?" Haku asked, waving her hand in front of his face.
"A-ah! Sorry! I thought you were talking to Kaito when you said handsome!" Len immediately thought back on what he had just said, and blushed. "I-I mean…"
"No, no. It's just you don't know me very well," Haku said. "I always speak in terms like this; it's just natural. Sorry if it's a bit of a nuisance. You'll just have to watch out who I'm talking to, love."
"It's n-not a nuisance," Len said politely, still blushing, and pointed out the first bottle he saw. "That one, please."
"Good choice, sweety. This is our best-selling wine." She poured a wine glass, but before she gave it to him, she looked at the now-empty wine bottle.
"Saaay, you look like a strong young man. If I open the cellar for you, can you grab a box that says 'Misaki Ukene's NekoNeko Brew'? I'd ask Kaito, but he's a Prince-y and all, and I don't wanna disrespect him, ya know?"
"Uhm…" Len looked cautiously towards Kaito, who nodded.
"Don't worry. Go on; I won't just leave you," he said.
"O-okay," Len agreed, turning back to Haku.
"You're a sweet boy. The way to the cellar is down here." She motioned for him to come behind the counter and unlatched a door on the floorboards. "I can't keep it open, so call or knock on the door once you've got the box. It shouldn't be too heavy, but be careful not to drop it, as it's full of glass bottles." Len stepped down the set of stairs and looked around for the box in the dull light. There had to be at least one hundred different boxes, but luckily they were all labeled, so he grabbed the box, headed up the stairs, and knocked on the door above his head.
A small shriek and the sound of shattering glass echoed down to his ears, but then Haku opened the door.
"Sorry 'bout that, love. Didn't expect you to be done so quickly, and your knocking gave me quite a fright. Dropped a glass or two, I did." She took the box from him, and Len sat back down beside Kaito. He watched out of the corner of his eye as she slipped a small glass vial into her top, but didn't give it a second thought.
"Drink up, sweetie," Haku said, pushing his glass towards him. Len took a sip cautiously.
"This is really good," he said, slightly amazed and shooting the rest.
"Of course. Haku here is famous for her wine," Kaito said, sipping his own. Haku smiled sheepishly at the compliments she was receiving as she picked up broken glass pieces from the floor.
"Now, what are you doing all the way across the sea?" Kaito asked.
"Ah, so he's a sweet little Golden boy? I somehow got that feeling from him, but I was unsure because he's so kind," Haku announced from the floor.
"Well, I got into this incident, for this one Servant came by and pleaded for my hand in marriage. I said no, but it turns out she was Rin's cousin Neru in disguise, and, displeased by my lack of desiring her, she accused me of violating her. Even the Servants turned against me. My only friend left, a Servant who had found herself into quite a scandal or two herself, snuck me into the Green Kingdom. I think Rin found out and arrested her, or killed her." Len had started to think he had said too much already, but he couldn't stop. His throat began to burn, and he was unnaturally groggy. "I was accepted until the fire a week ago, and, since they all knew I was 'Golden' I was again accused… so I snuck onto the boat with the help of a masked figure and arrived here… then… those men…. tried… to…" He quieted, not because of realization he'd admitted his illegibility or lack of want to talk about his almost rape, but because his mind was fogging and spinning out of control, and he wanted to sate the fire in his lungs.
"Sounds harsh," Haku said sympathetically, getting up from the floor. "Think another drink would help ya, honey?"
"N-no… I'm feeling a bit… sleepy…" Len didn't even notice the hand Kaito placed on his shoulder, and Haku blurred in and out of his vision.
"Yeah, wine does that to me, too," the Prince said.
"No… I-It's… Something's wrong…." And with that, Len's head smacked against the table as he lost consciousness.
Haku grabbed his wrist and checked for a pulse, not seeming bothered to not find one.
"He does seem dead, but I know he's not," she said. "So the rumors about Cantarella were true… I kinda feel sorry for him. He's such a sweet child." She took a sip of her wine.
"Thanks, Haku. I owe you one," Kaito replied.
"None of that 'IOU' shit. Give me the money you promised." She held out her hands eagerly, and Kaito placed a heavy leather sack into them.
"One thousand gold. Just as promised," he said, getting up. "Oh, and I know you slipped poison into my drink, so I switched it with yours. Good thing we drink the same wine, no?"
Haku's red eyes widened as she grabbed for her throat, but then narrowed into a glare.
"You won't get away with this… That boy cannot be yours."
"You really wanted to save him, didn't you? Because if he had silver hair, he'd remind you of your brother who was sold into slavery two years ago, when you started this business?"
"NEVER TALK ABOUT MY BROTHER WITH YOUR FILTHY TONGUE!" Haku threw her hands down sharply on the counter, knocking over the wine glasses and causing them to shatter.
"I 'can't get away with this', eh?" Kaito said, smirking. "I think I already have. And with your help, too! That's something to reflect about while you're burning in Hell."
"I'll certainly see you down there, too, bastard!" Suddenly, there was a knock on the pub door.
"Prince Kaito, it is almost time for you to head home. You still have an appointment with the Leader of the Red Country," the pink-haired woman called. Haku scowled.
"Your dogs await," she said, spitting the words as if they were the poison she'd just swallowed. "Watch out, or they'll bite you, Kaito-dearie."
"Waste not your breath. You'll die faster if you talk." With this, Kaito took the unconscious Len into his arms and walked outside.
Haku watched him leave with dagger eyes, then sat back down and picked up a picture of a man with similar features as her.
"You were right, Dell, dear brother," she whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "I got a taste of my own medicine, just as you said I would… before you were captured…" She smiled sadly and held the picture to her chest. "I hope that boy, Len… I hope he can still remain happy, if not pure…"
Other than the slight droop of her head and the blood dripping from her mouth onto the counter, Haku didn't move.
Kaito, not seeing either female prepared to drive off, opened the carriage door, and quickly realized why no one had done so for him. He sighed.
"Luka, Miku, I'd rather not have you doing such things in the carriage. Please right yourselves and bring us back to the castle. You said yourself that it's time to go."
Luka immediately leapt off of Miku at Kaito's voice, and, with a slightly flustered look, went to coach the horses. Miku, half unclothed, looked blankly at the carriage ceiling (well, not at it, but in its general direction; she seemed to be miles away), gently touching her lips as if she didn't understand the kisses Luka had been placing upon her. Kaito sighed and redressed her while she sat there, as if she were an incompetent child, and shooed her off to help Luka with the horses.
He relaxed as he climbed into the carriage and set Len's head down onto his lap. He slipped one hand over the Servant's chest, knowing he would feel no pulse.
"Just stay sleeping until we are home, Len. That's when the fun will begin…"