Tree branches snagged on his tunic as he pushed his way through the dense forest. Kaoru was out of breath, but still had a long way to go. At least he had put the worst behind him; there was no way the soldiers could ride their horses between the narrow spaces in the trees.
He stopped for a moment, resting his shoulder against the bark of a tall Oak and gaged his surroundings. The sun was not visible through ceiling of tree tops so he had no way of telling which direction he was traveling. He did, however, know his maps well from lessons. So he knew that beyond this forest was the Meadows of Jsuwra. Travel would be much easier there and perhaps he could find some food and shelter. His stomach growled just at the thought.
Stepping away from the tree, he went further and further into the darkness, feeling the sheer quietness of this place ringing in his ears. Another branch scratched along his exposed forearm and Kaoru cursed but kept going. He was extremely disheartened by the way this was going so far.
Suddenly a green flash of light burst through the forest, blinding Kaoru for a just a second before it disappeared. The forest was silent again. Kaoru stared in the direction he had seen the light. "Hello?" he called. Squinting, he tried again, "Hello? I know someone is out there."
A hand grabbed him on the shoulder and he yelped in surprise. He span, turning to see his opponent. It was a man in a black cloak with his hood drawn. "Who are you?" Kaoru demanded, taking out the small pocket knife from his pants pocket.
"You must have guessed who I was already. You did, after all, take off the crystal," the man spoke gently.
"Daichi," Kaoru said simply but he did not move his knife yet. "What do you want with me?"
"You have power," Daichi began. "You could help us defeat the Queen."
"The Queen?" Kaoru sputtered.
Daichi sighed. "I see that you are behind. The Queen has cast a curse on us, the younger twins, and we must kill her in order to free ourselves."
"I'm not a twin though," Kaoru argued. "I am nothing like my adoptive brother. Unless I have another?"
Daichi snorted and raised a hand at Kaoru. "You have a disguise raised around you and a poor one at that." Then he sent a wave of power over Kaoru and he felt his body shift. He cried in surprise. "There. That should do it."
Kaoru felt around his face, feeling for the differences. "Your hair is orange and your eyes are amber," Daichi put in, noticing Kaoru's troubles. "You grew about an inch or two and you filled out a bit more in your body."
Kaoru pocketed his knife, staring at the man tightly. He'd just described Hikaru perfectly. He wished there was a pond to look into or something to at least confirm the man's words.
"So maybe I am a twin," Kaoru considered. "What is this curse you speak of?"
"It should have started on your left arm already." Kaoru lifted his wrist quickly and pulled back the sleeve. He gasped to see a black swirling design had swirled itself up his wrist just a little ways. Looking at it, Kaoru felt his chest swell with anger.
"What you're feeling is the seed of hate, the beginning of the madness," Daichi explained. "Soon those lines will cover your body and you will become insane, just like the rest of us."
"You don't seem so insane," Kaoru pointed out, clearly not believing this man's words.
"Even I have my moments of insanity, but I can control it better than others. Where we're going, there is no room for sanity."
"Where we're going?" Kaoru asked, suddenly afraid. But it was already too late. Daichi grabbed him by the arm and suddenly he was falling once again, into a green light.
Hikaru marched his way up the stone steps to the castle. He just had to gather just a few things for travel and he would set off to find Kaoru. He didn't know where to look first or how to find him, but he had to at least try. In his thoughts, he fidgeted with the hilt of his sword.
At the entrance, the guards stepped back at Hikaru's approach, letting him through. But just as he managed to get into the corridor, a messenger ran to his side and stopped him. "You're needed in the throne room. Her grace wishes to speak with you."
Hikaru's heart faltered. "I will be right there," Hikaru replied calmly.
The messenger nodded and sprinted away once again. Hikaru stood there in the hallway for just a moment, staring in the direction of his chambers. But he then thought better of it and started walking, making his way to the throne room.
At its door, his name was announced to the room. The Queen bellowed, "Bring him in!"
Hikaru entered quietly into the court room, looking cautiously at all the people inside. Two guards stood at the door. The Queen sat at the middle up in her high throne but neither the King nor the Prince was present. Hikaru approached slowly.
"Hikaru Hitachiin," she greeted.
"Your grace," Hikaru returned.
"Your brother had escaped us earlier this evening," she stated.
"Yes he has."
"And do you have any idea where he could be?"
Hikaru looked at her steadily. She looked absolutely wicked, sitting on that iron throne. "No, my grace," he uttered and averted his eyes.
"Who do you swear loyalty to?" She asked. Hikaru looked back up. She was looking at him with a malicious smile; one that a cat would give to a trapped mouse if it could.
"To the King of Arile," Hikaru replied solemnly, "until the god of death claims me as his own."
"Then you will help me in a small quest? It would surely gain you great honor and wealth," she said. Then she stood and watched him with scrutinous eyes.
"Yes, my lady," Hikaru bit out. This was bad, really bad.
"Wonderful!" The Queen cried. "Then you shall be the one to kill that bastard brother of yours."
"He isn't a bastard!" Hikaru burst out. But he cut himself off and plunged into silence.
The Queen still smiled devilishly at him. "He may not actually be a bastard child, but he is just as good as one, possessing the black magic. Wouldn't you agree?"
Hikaru gritted his teeth. "Yes, my lady," he said grudgingly.
She chuckled and paced toward him, circling him slowly. "Perfect. I am sending out my men in search of the traitor, and when we find him, we will send you out to him and you will kill him. Till then, you will remain close by and retain your duties as a servant, just as before. However, you will serve royalty; that means me, my son, and my grandson."
"Yes, my lady, as you command it," Hikaru replied with all of the hatred in his heart.
Aaaww thank you everyone for the lovely reviews! Did I ever say how much I appreciate every single one? Well I do. See you next chapter!