Disclaimer: I own none of the characters except for OC's
Wipe Your Tears
Hundreds of years ago, the Kingdom of Princes was born. The King of the land allowed his four sons to govern the four parts of the Kingdom. The North was governed by the oldest son, the East by the second oldest, the South by the third oldest, and the West by the youngest son. Though there were years of great prosperity, it would not last.
The oldest son eventually wanted more. He had found that his part of the Kingdom was lacking in certain crops, which were abundant in the Western and Eastern areas. Deciding it would be best to expand his territory, the oldest son crossed over the boundaries and took over the land in the northern sections of the East and West.
This caused disputes to erupt between the Kingdoms, which continued to escalate when both East and West crossed into the South to make up for what they lost to the North.
Out of rage, the South fought back against the invasion from the East and West, which eventually lead to war.
Civil War broke out between the four territories, causing thousands to lose their lives amongst the struggle. Blood soaked the land as land and resources started to become scarce.
The war dragged on for years and the territories were beginning to deteriorate. This eventually lead to the awakening of the Great Beasts, the dormant rulers of the land. Upon seeing their lands lain waste, the Great Beasts became angry and sought out the four princes.
As punishment for their greed, the princes were placed under a curse, causing them to become animals and were stripped of their titles.
In order to quell the fighting, the four territories were separated into four individual Kingdoms.
Afterwards, the four princes were banished deep into their lands, forced to live the rest of their lives as animals. The only way for them to assume their human forms was to drink the water from the four grand lakes, located in each Kingdom. However, the effect only lasts a couple of hours.
They became the first animal people, which are animals who can assume human form.
Despite having broken up the Civil War, relations between the four Kingdoms were still tense and unstable.
Even to this day, the Kingdoms are still at war with one another.
Will peace ever be achieved?
"We're almost there!"
Haruka paused from her reading and leaned over the side of the moving cart a little to get a better view. In the distance, she spotted the large city that was surrounded by a large, sturdy wall. She could see hundreds, perhaps even thousands of buildings and homes scattered throughout the enclosure.
Once she passed through the gate, her eyes widened at the sight of the lively capital. People hurried through the streets as vendors called out to them to take a look at their merchandise. Children ran around, playfully calling out to each other to follow as their mothers kept a careful eye on them. There were so much more things going on than in the village she was from. She quickly put her book away in her bag as the cart came to a stop.
Stepping out into the busy street of people was intimidating, but Haruka got out nonetheless. She turned to the cart driver and gave him a polite bow.
"Thank you so much for bringing me along," Haruka said with a bright smile.
She quickly dug through her bag and gave several bronze coins to the cart driver.
The driver tipped his hat with a smile. "No problem. Good luck with whatever you're hoping to do out here."
With that, the cart driver slapped the reins against the horse and was wheeled away as Haruka gave him a small wave. Taking a deep inhale, she turned back towards the busy street. Having grown up in a small village, Haruka wasn't sure if she'd be able to settle down here. She knew the capital would be busy, but she supposed she wasn't mentally prepared for how fast everything seemed to flow.
With so many people walking around, it was difficult to figure out where to go. There was a lot of noise and a constant flurry of movement everywhere she looked that concentration was proving to be difficult. She hurried along the path across the plaza to try and find a more quiet place. If she was going to stay in the capital, she'd have to figure things out quickly. She supposed she'd have to stay at an inn for a little bit until she could get a job.
As Haruka got absorbed into her thoughts, she wasn't paying close attention to her surroundings and accidentally slammed into someone. She let out a shocked cry before stumbling backwards into a large display in front of a merchant stall. A sudden crash followed and Haruka glanced over her shoulder to see several broken vases on the ground. Haruka felt her heart sink at the sight.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" A rather burly merchant cried. "Do you know how much all of this cost me?!"
"I-I'm so sorry! It was an accident." Haruka said, bowing.
"Apologies aren't going to replace all the damages! Each vase cost a hundred silver coins!"
"O-One hundred…?!" Haruka repeated.
She looked down at the wreckage and guessed there were about seven broken vases. That meant it was a grand total of seven hundred silver coins to replace everything that was broken. There was no way she could replace all of that with the little money that she had. She had just gotten into the capital and she was already in trouble.
"I'm really sorry, I don't have much money. So please, let me make it up to you some other way…"
"I'll take care of it."
Haruka was taken aback and quickly whirled around to see the person who had spoken was the person she had accidentally run into. He was a tall, handsome young man with straight, dark blue hair and fairly pale skin. His eyes were sharp and Haruka noticed a small beauty mark under his right eye. He wore a long, tan overcoat that hung a little past his knees. Underneath he had a reddish-brown vest on top of a white dress shirt that had a red, loosely tied bowtie strung around his collar. From the way he dressed, Haruka figured he was rather wealthy.
"You're going to pay for all the damages? Do you really have enough money?" The merchant asked skeptically.
The young man nodded. "I think I can manage."
He reached into his pocket and took out a small pouch before he tossed it onto the table. The merchant narrowed his eyes suspiciously as he untied the bag and dumped the contents out. Several gold coins scattered across the table and both the merchant and Haruka's eyes widened in shock.
"Will that cover the damage?" the young man asked.
"M-More than enough…is it really alright for you to give this much away?" the merchant stammered.
"There must be about twenty gold pieces!" Haruka said in awe.
The young man merely shrugged. "I wasn't doing anything important with them anyways."
Without another word, he started down the path leading deeper into town.
Haruka was still rather stunned from the sudden display of grace before quickly snapping out of her stupor. She apologized one more time with a bow to the merchant before she took off after the blue-haired man.
The young man paused and glanced over his shoulder as Haruka rushed over to him. Once she caught up to him, she paused to catch her breath before giving him a grateful smile.
"Thank you so much for helping me out of that predicament. Please, you have to let me repay you somehow."
The young man was silent, staring at her with a cool, guarded gaze.
"You do realize how much gold coins are worth?"
Haruka tensed, her smile gone in an instant.
"In that pouch were exactly twenty seven gold coins. Do you really think you can replace it all? Besides, you were the one who inadvertently ran into me. You owe quite a debt to me."
"U-Um…I…" Haruka took a couple steps backwards as the man's cold, violet eyes seemed to bore right through her. She recoiled slightly under his gaze. Not liking where this was going.
"And if I recall, you said that you don't have much money nor a job, correct?" the man said as he took a step towards her.
Haruka felt her pulse quicken. Alarms were going off in her head, telling her to run. Before she could react however, the man suddenly reached out and grabbed hold of her wrist, preventing her escape.
"Ah!" Haruka cried.
"In that case," the blue-haired man said as he leaned down to look her in the eye. "You can work for me to pay off your debt."
Haruka blinked. "W-What…?"
Before Haruka could get a clarification, the young man had already started dragging her down the market street.
"Stop! Let me go!"
The sun hung high in the midday sky, casting radiant rays across all the buildings that made it seem like they were sparkling as Haruka found herself standing in front of the Zugravia palace. She didn't know what to think. Just a few hours ago she had arrived in the capital of the Southern Kingdom searching for a job. Now the home of the ruler of the Southern Kingdom was before her, with a job being offered to her. Never in all her life did she ever imagine that she would set foot in such a rich atmosphere.
However, her excitement soon turned to anxiety and nervousness. She wasn't coming to the palace as a guest, more like a prisoner. How in the world did it come to this? Haruka let out a sigh and looked up at her "captor." She wondered who he was and why he was bringing her to the palace.
Upon seeing them, the palace guards scrambled to open the gate, further confusing her. Was this person important? They walked down the stone path lined with freshly cut bushes. Haruka couldn't help but stare at the enormous fountain they passed by.
There were several more guards stationed around the area. Some glanced over in their direction curiously, while others continued to carry out their duties without paying any mind to them.
Once they stepped inside the palace, Haruka's eyes widened in awe. While it was only the entrance, the room was enormous and the floor was tiled with interesting and amazing designs. A large chandeleur hung down from the ceiling with several other lights hanging on the wall columns.
"This way," The young man said as he led her down one of the several hallways. Though Haruka didn't understand why he would bother telling her if he was still holding onto her wrist.
As she continued being led down the hall, she couldn't help but wonder about the man in front of her.
Who was this man? Did he work here in the palace? Judging from the reactions from the guards outside, she figured he was someone important. What kind of job did he have in mind for her?
She paused. Haruka had heard many stories of women being taken into wealthy men's homes to become mistresses against their will. The thought was enough to cause the young woman to go into a panic. She slowed down her pace slightly, causing her to jerk forward from the blue-haired man's pace.
He paused and glanced over at her curiously, finally letting go of her wrist. "Is there a problem?"
"I…!" Haruka squeaked as her whole face flushed.
"…I WON'T BECOME YOUR MISTRESS!"
Haruka's voice echoed off the walls and probably down the other hallways. The man stared at her with a blank yet confused expression, causing Haruka's face to immediately turn a dark shade of red.
"T-That is…I mean…"
It took a moment for the man to regain his composure from Haruka's sudden outburst. A light dust of red covering his cheeks.
"…I was merely going to give you a job as my assistant." The blue-haired male said with an embarrassed cough at the end.
"Huh?" Haruka looked up at him perplexed.
He let out an exasperated sigh. "I was going to make you my assistant, not my mistress."
After his words sunk in, Haruka turned an even darker shade of red that extended down her neck. She quickly turned to avoid his gaze, ashamed that she even said something like that aloud.
"I-I-I-I'm sorry! I didn't mean t-to assume…ah…"
"No, I realize it was my mistake to simply bring you here without telling you the specifics," The man replied as he placed a hand over his face. "That was much too forward of me and out of line. I apologize."
An awkward silence passed between them as Haruka fidgeted nervously with her hands.
"Oh…I…I don't think I've introduced myself yet. My name is Haruka Nanami," Haruka said, trying to ease awkwardness that had formed between them. "What's yours?"
The young man's eyes flicked over her. His gaze was cold and guarded, letting not a single emotion show through those violet orbs of his.
Hijirikawa…The name sounded familiar, but Haruka couldn't quite remember where she heard it before.
The sudden outburst immediately snapped Haruka out of her thoughts.
An elderly man came barreling over to them, nearly running into her. Haruka let out a surprised cry and stumbled a couple steps back from the shock. Though the newcomer seemed to ignore her.
"Young master, where have you been?! I've been searching everywhere for you!"
"Jii…" Masato let out an exasperated sigh.
"You can't always go off without an escort. What if something were to happen and nobody would know?! What if those infernal western-kingdom goers attacked?!" Jii cried.
"I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, Jii. Besides, I was only taking a walk around the marketplace."
"The marketplace?!" Jii exclaimed in horror. "Do you know how many robberies happen along that block?! That place is much too dangerous for a prince such as yourself."
Haruka let out a surprised gasp, catching the attention of both Masato and Jii. This person…the person she would soon be working for…was the prince of the Southern Kingdom?
Her mind started reeling and she slowly sank to the floor from the overwhelming news.
Grandma…how did this happen…? How did I get myself in this mess…? From this day forward…I'll be working for the prince…