“Great.” Daisuke finished with the last of the soup bowls and put it on the pile of cleaned dishes. “I come all this way, and I’m still washing dishes!” He could hardly believe the unfairness of his situation. I’ll never get to meet Hikari like this!
He still hadn’t managed to catch a glimpse of her. Daisuke sighed, and his thoughts wandered back to when Iori had been showing him around the previous evening. The only two nobles he’d seen that time had been the clumsy two that Iori had identified as Lord Ken and Baroness Miyako.
He grinned. What a pair! The baroness had sported a torn dress and a pair of crooked spectacles, looking like she’d tried to dance with a pair of scissors. However, Daisuke had a feeling she’d been sparring with his Lordship, from the way he had been crumpled on the floor in quite the undignified position. There had even been a touch of panic in the poor guy’s eyes.
Violet eyes. A nice shade, actually, Daisuke considered absently. Almost a blue, but with just the faintest purple hue… Different from Hikari’s eyes, which had been dark green – or were they brown? Well, something like that. Maybe she had blue eyes, like Lord Ken’s. Daisuke tried to form a picture in his mind, of Hikari’s face with those violet eyes. It didn’t really look like he remembered, but it seemed… right.
Daisuke gathered an armful of clean dishes and headed for the kitchen, his mind still full of Hikari and violet eyes.
“There he is. Hey Daisuke!” Iori came running up from a side corridor, followed by a tall, lanky young man with blond hair. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Well, you found me!” Daisuke put the dishes down and grinned at the shorter boy. “So, what’s going on, Iori?”
“You’re a friend now, so I wanted to introduce you to Takeru.” Iori smiled, and gestured toward the friendly-faced youth beside him. “He’s my best friend, after all.”
“Nice to meet you, Daisuke,” Takeru said, smiling. Even his voice was friendly, and his blue eyes were quite open. “I hear you’re one of the servants Taichi sent over as a gift for Hikari.”
The mention of his crush’s name made Daisuke take immediate interest. “Oh, yeah, I am,” he answered eagerly – then he realized how impudent that sounded. “Uh… Your Lordship,” he added, hastily.
Takeru laughed. “Just Takeru,” he corrected. “I’m not big on formality. Anyway, a friend of Iori’s is a friend of mine.” He held out a hand to shake.
“OK.” Daisuke took the offered hand. Feeling bold, he asked, “And… you’re a friend of Lady Hikari’s too, aren’t you?”
Takeru exchanged glances with Iori. The shorter boy seemed on the verge of saying something, but the blond lord shook his head slightly. “We’re… close,” he answered, cautiously.
“Oh.” Daisuke hesitated for a moment, then brushed the exchange off as unimportant. “Well… uh… I don’t suppose… you could introduce me?” He glanced up hopefully, feeling his face heat at the words.
“Sure!” Takeru seemed to relax. “She’s busy right now, distracti – ah, I mean, visiting with Miyako, but I’m sure she’d love to meet you.”
“Great!” Daisuke could hardly believe his good fortune. “Thanks a million! But…” He glanced back at the dishes and sighed. “I guess I’d better get back to dish-washing now,” he stated unenthusiastically.
“Fun,” Iori commented, rolling his eyes.
“That doesn’t sound like fun to me,” Takeru added, raising an eyebrow. He smiled again. “How about if I ask Lord Ken to give you a position serving people in the nobles’ wing? I’ll bet it’d be a better job, at least.”
“Really?” Daisuke’s eyes widened. “I’d love it!”
“Great. I’ll go ask him.” Takeru turned to leave the room. “Just wait here.”
It seemed far too early for sunlight. Ken groaned and rolled over, pulling a pillow over his head. He never wanted to see any kind of daylight again. After making such a huge fool of himself, he was seriously considering turning himself into a recluse.
Not that it would help. Ken growled wordlessly under his breath. He’d spent the night tossing, unable to sleep and unsure if he even wanted to free himself of the image of deep brown eyes that haunted his thoughts and kept him awake. I’ve never seen anyone like him… He’s just so… so… A description eluded him in the case of the brown-eyed boy. He could hardly stop thinking about him, even for a minute, and yet he still didn’t know how to describe him. It had kept him awake nearly to the point where the sun started to rise above the horizon.
And, to make matters worse, Miyako had come to pound on his door practically at dawn.
A polite knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. Ken growled again and pushed himself out of bed. So help me, if that’s Miyako again, I’ll…
“Ken?” Takeru’s voice. “It’s just me, Ken. Open the door, will you?”
Letting out a sigh that was half irritated and half relieved, Ken made his way across the room and cautiously opened the door. It was only Takeru. “’Morning, Takeru.”
“You don’t sound too happy,” the blond lord observed, coming inside so that Ken could shut the door. “What’s the problem?”
“Same problem it always is.” It was only half a lie; Miyako was still part of the problem. “So what brings you up here to see me, Takeru? Was there something you needed?”
“Sort of.” Takeru shrugged, smiling. “Iori made friends with one of your new kitchen servants – and we’re wondering if you could have him serve up here instead. Kitchen work is pretty boring, after all.”
Ken half-smiled, distracted. “Sure, whatever you want. What’s his name?”
“Nice one.” He hardly cared; his mind was still occupied with the red-haired boy he’d seen the night before. “When you go tell him the good news, could you get him to bring up some towels? I’m just about out of clean ones.” And considering what kind of messes Miyako gets me into, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry.
“No problem.” Takeru headed for the door. “Thanks a lot, Ken. That’s another one I owe you.”
“Yeah, well, I’m keeping track.” Ken shut the door behind him and sank into a heavily cushioned armchair, still thinking about the previous night. Just because I’m thinking about him like this, it doesn’t mean anything, does it? I mean, it’s just a stupid infatuation. I don’t even know his name! As long as I don’t see him any more, it should just go away. Right?
Right. And maybe the sun will set in the east tonight.
There was another knock on the door.
“That had better not be Miyako.” Ken rose yet again and reached for the handle. “It’s probably my towels. Miyako usually makes a lot of noise…” He opened the door.
And found himself staring, yet again, into the beautiful brown eyes that haunted his dreams.
The boy tilted his head and gave him a lopsided grin, charming enough to outdo even the King’s court itself. He opened his mouth to speak…
“No!” Ken surprised himself with the outburst, feeling irrationally frightened. “You’re… you’re here to make fun of me for last night, aren’t you? Well, it won’t work!” He stuck a finger out at the astonished boy’s face. “I don’t have any kind of feelings for you, hear? Not one!”
The boy blinked at him, looking totally baffled. He shifted the bundle in his arms, and Ken noticed, for the first time, what he was carrying. “Um… Towels, my Lord?”
Ken felt his face growing red. “Er… yes. Right.” He took the towels from the surprised boy’s hands, shut the door right in his face, and finally let out the moan of despair he’d been holding in, collapsing onto his bed and pulling the pillow over his head. Right. Now I’m never coming out again!
Daisuke stared at the closed door for a moment, feeling as if he’d just missed something important. First he tells me to come up and bring him towels, and then he yells at me! I don’t think I’ll ever understand this Lord Ken guy. He shrugged and started to turn away from the door.
“Hey wait! You there!”
At the sound of the high female voice, Daisuke stopped in his tracks and turned around. The lavender-haired Baroness Miyako was coming toward him, this time in a dress that wasn’t ripped and with her spectacles perched properly on her nose.
“My Lady?” Daisuke asked, as politely as he could.
She caught up to him and gave him a steady look, eyes moving from his head right down to his toes and back. “You’re the boy that Iori was showing around last night, aren’t you?”
“Yes, my Lady.”
“And he was staring at you because he’d never seen you before, right?” Her face was almost openly hostile. “I mean, there wasn’t any other possible reason for him to look at you, was there?”
Daisuke wished he knew what she was talking about. “Um… I didn’t notice anyone staring at me. But… I don’t really know all that many people around here just yet.”
“Oh.” She smiled then, seemingly satisfied. “Then you’re probably one of the new servants that Hikari told me her brother sent to her. Am I right?”
Daisuke nodded and looked up eagerly, brushing aside his confusion. “You know Lady Hikari?”
“Naturally, I do.” She laughed. “I was just talking with her, after all. She’s feeling a bit nervous about the upcoming wedding.”
“Lord Takeru’s wedding,” Daisuke guessed out loud, forgetting to be polite. “Is she going to be in it?”
Miyako laughed out loud. “Well, of course she is, silly! How do you think it would work if she wasn’t in it?”
Daisuke frowned a little in confusion, but decided to let that pass. “Was there something you needed me for, my Lady?”
“Nothing specific.” She shrugged, then tried a coy little smile. “But I saw you by Ken’s room. Would he happen to be in there right now?”
“He was the last time I checked,” Daisuke told her. “And that was just a few seconds ago. Why did you want to know?”
“We have an understanding,” Miyako stated loftily. “I’m certain that when the right opportunity presents itself, he’ll propose to me.”
Sure didn’t look that way last night… “OK.” Daisuke shrugged. “I’ll take your word for it, my Lady. May I be excused, please?”
“Yes, you may.” She waved a dismissive hand, already more focused on Ken’s door than she was on Daisuke. A little giggle escaped her throat. “I’m sure it’d be good for Ken and me to have some time alone anyway.”
Daisuke nodded, backing away slowly. I pity poor Ken. “Uh… yeah. Have fun, then, um… my Lady.”
“I will, thank you.” She raised a hand and pounded on Ken’s door. “Ken! I know you’re in there, sweetie! Open the door!”
Daisuke laughed quietly to himself as he moved down the hall. Boy, poor Ken. I’ll bet he’s having a real great time dealing with her! Maybe that was why he’d been so abrupt earlier. I can hardly blame him, in that case. Poor guy.
On the other hand, though, he could see why the baroness would be so desperate to get some attention from Ken. After all, his Lordship was young, powerful, and painfully good-looking. He recalled the handsome play of emotion across that pale face with some interest. It was a nice face, too, especially with those gorgeous violet eyes and the silky dark hair. As Daisuke remembered, Ken had been just a bit taller than himself, and he was thin without being overly skinny. Who wouldn’t want to marry him?
Oh well. Daisuke shrugged, smiling. I guess Hikari didn’t, that’s who. But that was OK, since it left the field open for him. So then I can marry Ken instead… No, wait! He frowned. That wasn’t right. He wanted to marry Hikari, not Ken. So I mixed it up. No big deal.
At the back of his mind, the image of violet eyes still stuck.
Ken had a headache. It was one of those throbbing, mind-bending ones that made it seem like there was someone on the inside pounding to get out.
Understandable, sine Miyako had been pounding on his door all morning, trying to get in.
There’s got to be a way I can get rid of her! He peered cautiously around a corner, heading to the medical room to get some herbs. Maybe if I kissed that servant boy in front of her… The idea made him smile; it would certainly be a double bonus for him.
“There you are, Ken.” Takeru joined him in the medical room a short while later, with Iori. “I’ve been looking for you. Daisuke said you were behaving strangely.”
“Was that the servant who brought me those towels?” Ken’s mind seized on the name. Daisuke… I like it. And it figures that he’d have a beautiful name, too…
“Yeah, that was him.” Takeru smiled. “I thought you might’ve been acting funny because of Miyako and all… Are you feeling OK?”
“Just a headache.” Ken sighed. “Hardly surprising, considering what I’ve been going through lately. The girl is practically a natural disaster!”
“She’s not that bad,” Iori said, in Miyako’s defense. “She seems nice enough to me.”
“Well, you’re not the one she’s trying to get her claws into,” Ken countered, sighing. “But, I’ll think of something, I’m sure. Was there any reason in particular that you were looking for me, or did you just want to inquire about my health?”
“Actually, I was hoping to talk to both of you,” Takeru admitted. “You see, I’m facing a bit of a dilemma here, and I need some advice.”
“You don’t even have to ask,” Iori smiled.
“Of course. What’s the problem?” Ken asked him.
“Well… it’s about the wedding.” Takeru looked at his hands. “See, Kari and I had originally planned to elope – just run off and marry without telling anyone. But our brothers seemed to have gotten the point from the ‘running away’ part, and now they want invitations to the wedding. Yamato actually asked me if he could come.”
“But you’re not sure you want him there?” Ken raised an eyebrow.
“No, nothing like that.” Takeru shook his head and sighed. “I definitely want to have my brother come to my wedding – we’re really close, after all. But, in the case of Hikari and Taichi, I’m not sure if we should invite him.”
“How come?” Iori asked curiously.
“He might still be angry at us for going against his wishes,” Takeru explained. “Hikari and I have been waiting a very long time for this, and we don’t want anything to go wrong. But he is her brother…”
“I can see why it’s such a dilemma,” Ken mused. “And you can’t very well invite your brother and exclude Hikari’s, can you?”
Takeru shook his head. “It’s all or nothing, I’m afraid.”
“Well, have you tried talking with Hikari about this?” Iori suggested. “Taichi is her brother, so maybe she’ll have some idea of what he might or might not do.”
“We haven’t really had a chance to talk about it yet,” Takeru admitted.
“Well, you should probably make time,” Ken told him. “This involves the both of you, so it’s a good idea to discuss it together and then come to us.”
Takeru smiled ruefully. “I guess you’re right.”
“That’s right.” Ken nodded. “We are.” He thought of Daisuke’s beautiful brown eyes and then of Miyako’s insistent voice outside of his bedroom door, and winced. I wish I could solve my problem so easily. “Now since we’ve finished with that,” he added, “could one of you please go and find out where Miyako is so that I can get back to my room safely?”