:B Shounen-ai goodness, maybe full-blown yaoi later, but who knows. I'm just trying to be cute. And this is why you should never leave your radio on on Sunday mornings.
"Sire, where have you been?!"
"We've been sick with worry!"
As Forte stepped his steed out of the woods, the three guardsmen bombarded him with all sorts of questions and commentaries; it was never like the Emperor to be late, even by a minute, and here it was, half an hour after sundown.
The blonde monarch halted his horse infront of his men gave the sky a dull look. It was then he realized just how long the concert really lasted. But, instead of feeling ashamed, Forte only smiled lazily, closed his eyes, and pushed the mare back into a walk, practically brushing past the guards without a word.
Kinzoku blinked in disbelief and leaned over towards the other two. "What do you supposed happened to him?"
Kirikizu snickered and clacked his tongue, urging his own horse to follow the strange-acting king. "Probably found a water nymph and had a very fun four hours."
"Yaro!" Hikage hit the wild haired man upside the head harshly. "Baka, still your flabby tongue and stop being so immature."
Suddenly, Forte laughed. It was a rich, thick sound and, thankfully, full of amusement. "If you really must know, I should admit. It was an.. intriguing recess."
"I knew it! He shagged a water nymph!"
"Baka!!" This time, it was both Kinzoku and Hikage who slapped him, causing the blunt guard to nearly topple off his moving ride.
Forte stopped and smiled at the three people with their brotherly antics, the ones who he has spent most of his life around.
Kirikizu was the humor in his boring role as Emperor. A bit perverted, but very dedicated and loyal, if not also his fiercest warrior. His prefered weapons were his own bare hands, but also had a love for a ninja weapon called the nekode, handheld claws used in close combat and scaling vertical sufaces. Kirikizu was /also/ well known for scrounging up booze and women in the local bars.
And yet, he's constantly being reminded to be kept in line by Hikage. The dark-garbed man was strongly disciplined as a ninja assassin and a legendary shadow walker. Tradition and pride he held very closely to his person, as well as his sword and other bits of arsenal used in protecting his Highness and himself. He was the oldest among these men.
And Kinzoku was the youngest, only two years younger than Forte. But, he had proven himself time after time with his shuriken and daggers. He wasn't as disciplined as Hikage, nor as loose minded as Kirikizu. Most of the time, he found himself laughing at Kiri-san's rude outbursts, but on those rare occasions, he helped Hikage in wounding the warrior's cranium.
"But need I remind you, sire. Suishou [Crystal] requested your presense for lessons once the stars shone bright," said Hikage, siding up with the Emperor. "And if you don't hurry, you'll be late for that too and Suishou's scorn is much more wrathful than ours."
Forte's lips tightened to prevent a un-nobleman-ish curse to escape as Kirikizu snickered behind them. "You would know about his 'scorn', now wouldn't you, kagemusha [shadow warrior]?"
"You'll one day find that tongue of yours on your pillow," Hikage hissed over his shoulder. "Learn to respect the private lives of others."
"It's not really that private," commented Kinzoku, struggling to keep his face straight, "when you're hopping around the palace as a toad, Hikage."
Hikage scowled at the two of them, his blush just bright enough to permeate the coming dark. His retort, however, was cut off by Forte's annoucement. "Tell Suishou something has come up. Something very important. I wish to speak with him as soon as we get there, stars bright or not."
Forte clicked his tongue and tapped the mare's sides, forcing the horse into a canter. Yes, he had something important to talk about with the mage. Arcanic spells could wait; the warm pulse of life snuggled into his inner pocket was much more important.
The castle was bustling with preparations for dinner. Ordinarily, it wouldn't have been too much of a deal, but Forte liked making sure his servants dined with the royal family at least once a week. It gave them all something to look foward to. But tonight was indeed a special one. Forte's son was now six months old and it was indeed a time to celebrate. That's why the hunting parties needed the meat of the animals that were supposed to find.
Although, as Forte entered the main hall, he surprisingly smelled the sweet aroma of venison from the ovens. Odd. I thought all the deer had been at the nymph's recital. But now wasn't the time. In a billowing of robes, he hurried past the servants, calling out to keeping standing as they attempted to bow before him. Not only was that a problem for the platters they were carrying, he didn't have the time.
He may have been a just Emperor, but that didn't mean he had it any easier. Ayame [Iris] and Rooru [Roll] were waiting for him as well... and so was little Rokku [Rock].
Up the stairs he climbed to the third level and knocked on the thick, wooden door. He may have the right to barge in any room he wanted, as he was the one housing those under him, but coming into the mage's laboratory without his content was dangerous indeed. Who knows what would happen if he was casting a spell and something were to interrupt it.
That's the lesson Hikage learned. Of course, with all the screaming Suishou had done, Hikage was forgiven... except the spell had lasted a week before wearing off.
That was also another thing you had to notice. Suishou /knew/. He didn't just know things, he /knew/ them. Inside and out. Forte pushed the door open and closed it behind him, then scanning the cluttered area for the mage.
The room was filled with amazing contraptions. A model with the ability to fly hung from the ceiling, balls of pure electricity lit the walls and floor, and various metal devices were scattered over the large stone table with maps of adjacent areas.
"Hai, back here!" The voice came from one of the storage closets, followed by a minor crash. Forte hurried over to the space... and blinked, concerned.
Suishou was shorter than him by at least half a foot, with icy blue hair tinted with a touch of green. And at his feet were a few small boxes containing papers. The mage sighed and waved a hand, causing all of mess from his klutzy catastrophy to reset, sending the documents back to where they had been when he entered. "The stars are only half lit, your Majesty. Hikage tells me you need to speak with me?"
"If you would, Suishou-sama, please come and look at this."
Once he led Suishou back to the table, Forte reached into his robes, gently presenting a tiny body pirched on his middle and index fingers. It chirped.
Suishou gawked-- That's a first.-- and fumbled to retrieve his spectacles. This bird was... "Great Kami and all his wards! What kind of bird is this??"
Forte retold his tale of the concert in the forest and the events which concluded in his acception of the songbird. Suishou looked as if his eyes were about to fall out of his head. "The Densetsu no Naichingeru?! Your Highness was gifted with the Nightingale of Legend? For receiving a wound from an impatient buck?! Oi, oi!"
"Apparently though," Forte said softly, stroking the nightingale's breast with a finger, "his name is Galen."
Galen purred into the touch and Suishou nearly fell over at how one could treat a /legend/, Terra's Treasure, the Songbird of Heaven, with such a simple gesture. "Y-your Majesty, I.. I suggest building a shrine or.. or give--giving him his own quarters."
"Ne, Suishou. Terra said to take care of him, not worship the very air he flies on."
Suishou stiffened. "Then..."
Forte smiled down at the bird as it fluttered from his fingers to his shoulder. "He stays in my room, until he says differently."
"......" Suishou cleared his throat. "If you say so, Highness. Will... Galen be attending the Prince's dinner?"
"I wouldn't be a very good host if I didn't invite him, now would I?"
"There will be no public announcement over this. If they ask, I will not lie, but I will not tell the truth."
The banquet was almost set up and Suishou accompanied Forte back downstairs, keeping a hard eye on the palace's newest guest. But the magician was pulled out of his thoughts when Forte asked him, "What happened here? The reason we went out was to bring down some deer, but we were never able to do that. How did we get the venison?"
"Strange you should ask." Suishou turned to one of the servants at his side and picked the wine best suited for tonight. "Shortly after you left, five healthy bucks were stacked up on the doorstep. They had to call me to figure out how they wound up there and to see if it wasn't some trick sent to you by an enemy. Now that I think about it, it may be Terra's apology for taking your game away for his musical performance."
"I don't know. It might have, but some gods are tricksters, even the most honest seeming ones. You can only trust their sworn word."
From the Emperor's shoulder, Galen chirped inquisitively. The mortal had a fresh mouth, but he spoke what was true. The songbird's puffed up his chest. Maybe he'll be interesting to live with after all... and maybe, just maybe, accomplish the impossible.
The bird swung his head away from the streaked face to watch as a young blonde girl came racing their way, arms flung open and smiling whole heartedly. Forte smiled as well and got down onto one knee to receive his little sister's generous hug.
"Oh, oniisan [big brother]! You should have seen the sight I saw. Deer upon deer and Suishou did lots of amazing spells. They were really pretty."
Forte chuckled and stroked the top of Rooru's head affectionately. "I heard. Suishou just told me."
Rooru looked up at Suishou with hurt eyes. "You said I could tell him, Sui-sama."
Suishou bowed deeply. "A thousand pardons, Princess Rooru. He asked and I forgot that you wanted to. But," a flick of his wrist brought a blue lily into his hand and presented it to the young girl, "maybe a humble gift from a senile man may tend to your woes."
Blue eyes of a nine year old child lit up like lanturns and nodded eagerly. "Forgiven, Sui-san!"
"Wonderful," he said with a laugh, sliding the stem into her golden locks. "I do say, it suits you very well, Hime-san [Princess]."
Rooru laughed gayly and twirled around in front of her brother. "Ne, Forte-kun, how do I look?"
"Distinguished," he said, rising back onto his feet. "It brings out your eyes."
The girl squealed and skipped off, shouting for her Highness Ayame to see her flower. Forte smiled whistfully, wishing he could be so young again. Being made Emperor at eleven strained his childhood. But at least Rei [Zero] had been there to help him along. His older half brother had been one of his only friends, aside from Kirikizu, Hikage, and Kinzoku.
"Sire, I think Rooru desires a playmate."
Forte blinked and turned his head towards Suishou, who was still looking out in the direction Rooru had disappeared to. "Do you really think so?" It was pointless to ask; even if Forte hadn't seen the telltale signs, Suishou was right ninety-nine times out of one hundred.
"None of the children on the royal grounds are in her league, sire. The only person anywhere near her age is Aria [Alia] and she's over in Kyoto with your brother."
Forte opened his mouth to retort, but Suishou beat him to it. "Those children in the village aren't proper playmates. They are too rough and dirty. I'm sorry, your Majesty, but maybe, for her own good, you should send her to Rei."
The was the way Suishou said it that made Forte's hackles stand on end. "Don't you be telling me what I think you are, Suishou-sama. Unless an attack is guaranteed to go off tonight or tomorrow, then do not speak of war. Not tonight."
Suishou sighed and nodded, "Yes, sire. That too, but I was also being straight."
Forte nodded once and began walking ahead of the mage, but as he left, "Oh, and Suishou-san?"
Forte gave him a small smile over his shoulder. "Only old men are senile. And you are neither old, nor forgetful. Remember that."
The dinner went off without a problem, but unfortunately, the guest of honor was sound asleep in his mother's lap. Forte had to smile at the motherly protectiveness Ayame had over her son. Maybe it was only natural to protect one that you were responsible for creating.
Rokku's hair was the same dark brown Ayame possessed and had her wide, innocent eyes. The only trouble was, no one could figure out how his eyes had gotten green. No one on his side ever had green eyes and Ayame swore the same. For a while, Forte had suspected that Rokku wasn't his, but a test from Suishou involving their blood had proven that, yes, Rokku belonged to the both of them.
But now, as Rokku slept and Ayame taking good care of him, Forte settled on watching Galen instead. The songbird was seemingly content on just taking what it could from an offered plate. And all around that focused universe, he could hear the laughter of tablemates, the story weaving, Rooru's tall tales, Kirikizu's teasings coupled with Suishou and Hikage's protests.
He closed his eyes. I wish.... I wish I could make everyone happy. Rooru. Suishou and Hikage. Kirikizu. Ayame. Rei and his subjects. Hell, I even wish for Yakasa and all his people over in Osaka to be happy. ....But it's a silly dream.
His world drifted past the nightingale into nothing in particular and Galen looked up as sad eyes looked away.
Don't worry, your Highness. Everything will be fine.
Dinner had closed with a few harmless magic spells Suishou had conducted indoors, mainly for the entertainment of the younger audience, but had captivated just more than the children. Even the old stable master was impressed.. and he was down right unpleasable (and if he ever was, his tactic was 'deny deny deny').
And as the servants and royals alike wandered back to their rooms, some lingering behind to clear the dishes, Forte tucked Rooru in. She gave him a sleepy smile and whispered, "Oyasumi nasai [good night], 'Niichan." before falling fast asleep.
Forte stroked back her sparce bangs and plucked the frail flower from her hair. "Good night, little one."
He placed the lily on the bureau and stepped outside, sliding the door closed behind him. Ayame was there waiting for him, holding the worn out babe close to her breast. Forte bowed politely and escorted her down the hall in wordless understanding.
"....Where did you get the nightingale? I find it odd, since you never mentioned it, nor have I ever seen you with one, so I assume you acquired it today."
"Ah..." The bird, happily content on the Emperor's shoulder, didn't change its mood as it hopped onto Forte's outstretched hand. "In the forest. He just seemed taken with me, so I decided maybe he should come home with me and somewhere in his head, he consented."
Ayame nodded, seeming okay with the answer, but somehow, Forte knew she was disatisfied with it as well. Yet, the brunette didn't bring up any more inquiries and Forte felt relieved.
No one up until now had asked about the nightingale or about its presense at the table, eating from a plate like a normal person, but he did know that his guards had given him strange looks about it. They were shrugged off with a I-know-something-you-don't-know grin.
He slid open Ayame's chamber door for the Empress and bade her goodnight. Ayame returned the parting, adding a kiss to his cheek as a gift. The blonde also gave Rokku a gentle twirl of the small tuff of hair as his goodbye.
Beyond that, Ayame turned to set Rokku in his cradle and Forte closed the door. Galen remained silent as Forte walked down the rest of the hallway to the very last door wedged in the corner of two wall at the very end. As the rice-paper door opened, Galen cocked his head.
For a human monarch, his room had fewer items strewn around than a more greedy man would have possessed. Magic lanturns created by Suishou hung from the ceiling, flickering on as he said the brief incantation to light them. A desk covered in parchments, bills, and town tax forms, shelves filled with things most people wouldn't have thought twice about, and a dark fireplace with a deerskin rug infront of it.
There was one rack in the back covered with children's toys, some hand-made. Strange, why would he keep those?
A full length mirror off to the side, trimmed with gold in an exotic design, a bureau made of dark mahogany next to a closed window, and a bed fit for an Emperor, covered in silks of black and purple.
Forte looked around, suddenly at a loss. He had absolutely no /idea/ what he was going to do with the nightingale. Did he sleep on a pillow or a pirch? And was Galen picky over what the material was?
He looked down at the small bird still on his hand with a puzzled expression. "You wouldn't happen to be practical, would you?"
Galen cooed, imitating a laugh. With a small leap into the air, he fluttered about the room, searching for a place to rest for the time being. Forte watched him carefully, not too sure were the nightingale would settle.
The heavenly bird nearly did two rounds around the large room before he finally slowed down, right around the rack with the old toys. He landed on the gritty wood and hopped closer to one of them. It was a wooden machine of sorts, but so simply created. Four poles, paired and knotted together, connected by a beam. And hanging from the beam were two parallel poles, shorter that the four others, with a beam at the very bottoms connecting them together. Resting on that seat was an old doll, barely being held together at the seams.
If Galen could do so, he would frown in sadness. Poor creature. If only to mend you... He chirped and gave the seat it rested on a gentle nudge. The seat swung a little and the doll, thankfully, didn't fall off. The avian tipped his head to the side. It moved just like the pirch Terra had gifted him with, but so plain and common like.
He loved it. But... What about the doll? This was the doll's space. And it seemed like a favorite, considering how worn it was.
A pale hand grabbed the doll with the utmost care and moved it aside; one of the cat ears flopped over to the side, still attached to the head by a few threads. "Gomen nasai [I'm sorry], Tangou. You've had fun there for seven years. Time to give someone else a turn."
Galen watched the display of affection like an intruder. He cooed and motioned a rusty wing to the doll, back to the wooden swing. Forte smiled and shook his head. "Tangou knows how to forgive. He's been sitting on there for a long time. I'm pretty sure he was getting tired of it."
Such a strange boy, thought Galen. He wanted to know more about the doll... and more about his host. Still so young and already old beyond his years. But, now was not the time.
Cautiously, Galen hopped around to the back and eyed the tiny motions it gave. If only he could ask about it. A tentative clawed foot gripped the the seat and pulled on it. It didn't seem like it would break under his weight and fluttered up to balance down on it. The pirch rocked back and forth, as it should, and he joulsted it. It was firm, for a toy.
Galen chirped his pleasure with three notes and tucked his legs under his body, settling down for the night. Forte watched Galen for a few seconds more before turning to his bureau. He reached for a cloth draping over the half filled basin. This one was stained, but it didn't matter.
The blonde sat down on the seat infront of it and gingerly wiped the damp towel over the purple markings beneath his eyes. It smudged across his cheek, like it did every night.
Just as the first one vanished from the pale skin, a soft serenade filled the room like crickets haunting their meadows. Forte looked up at Galen with one eye, not surprisingly finding that the small avian was, yet again, singing. So different though, now that he performed solo, but no less lovely. It sang of the rustling woods, the whispering clouds, the gossipping brooks and streams, how the sun made wishes to the people who prayed for its return, and how the moon smiled when the night symphony began their own seduction for her.
All that in only simple melody.
Forte wasn't sure if Galen did this everynight, or if this was a special occasion; he certainly hoped for the former, but felt honored either way. Hurriedly, he finished wiping away the opposite mark and left the cloth draping over the basin, as was routine.
He pulled the ties from his silk robe loose and let it slide over his shoulders, drapping it in the woven bask beside the bureau. The clip that held his hair up was pulled out, letting the locks hit his shoulders before tying it back into a tail with a ribbon. The bands on his wrists were discarded casually on top of the robe... and what you were left with was a very tired, half naked man dressed in only pants and those cute little socks.
Forte gave the nightingale one last stroke for the night, whispering, "Oyasumi nasai, Galen-sama."
The songbird hummed an eager reply and watched as the young ruler wandered over to his bed, only to fall asleep shortly afterwards, a look of content bringing light to his features.
The lights died and the room was plunged into semi-permeable shadows, but the nightingale found himself unable to sleep. Galen cooed, something akin to a sigh and he looked over at the damaged toy he had stolen his perch from. Its face was sad, yet eternally smiling as cats' smile.
He didn't have to spend his night here on the swing. The night was young, he was in capable and protective mortal hands, and there wasn't an immortal in miles.
An odd sense of vertigo woke him from his sleep, pulling out from a dream disappearing quickly behind slit eyelids. His vision was hazy and he was nearly blind in this level of darkness.
A whisper curled itself within his ear, opening his eyes wide. The action wasn't backed by any particular emotion and Forte sat up, looking around for the owner.
There it was again. A soft coo, laughter, like children playing. No voice was connected to it, however, and Forte turned around from where he sat... and stared. Stardust seemed to filter in through the window, illuminating the figure standing there. It was a man, barely recognizable in the shade covering half of his face. Wild hair, hard eyes, and a thinned frown that projected the feelings of skepticism or disappointment. His attire wasn't normal, a full, white body cloak draped over jutting shoulder holsters and beneath it, a mystery.
The astral light gave both of them accents ranging from periwinkle blues to light grey, making all that was white glow and all that was dark lost in the abyss of nothing. Forte could only stare... and continued to do so when the man leaned forward, limbs appearing from beneath the mantle like magic as he put his weight on one knee, bringing himself closer to Forte with every passing second.
The blonde's breath had caught deep in his chest, forgetting to exhale as his eyes leveled with the other's. They were void, but not frighteningly so. Perhaps... sorrow?
A hand touched Forte's cheek, a scant passing of the knuckles. A caress meant to evaluate, to judge. It was then Forte's lungs protested and he breathed out lightly, not in the harshness his body so craved, lest whatever spell was transfixed shattered like a mirror.
Oddly enough, Forte's heart beat fluttered for a brief moment when a tiny smile made the cold and passive look vanish.
You will do.
With that, the spirit rose up on his knee, unclasping a brouch centered on, approximately, his breastplate. The cloak and holster fell away, leaving nothing more than a man in a boy's body donned in nothing more than white, lightweight slacks.
Forte remained frozen in place, even as the figure made no more advances towards him, except to settle down on the side of the bed he had been leaning on. The emperor watched him curl up under the sheet, as if this were his room, and Forte was the stranger.
No thoughts ran through his mind; all Forte did was sigh lightly and lay back down, the man far enough away from him to feel comfortable. But that touch to the cheek he had been granted... There were suddenly no doubts towards his safety.
And the night went on as it always has.
Several things. I claim to be no expert in Japanese current or past culture, or their language. There are /reasons/ I didn't want Forte in the same bed as Iris, one of which you've just seen. That, and I'm not too sure if emperors slept with their (first) wife like couples do nowadays. o.O;
Besides, do you guys /really/ want Iris' slimy mits all over Forte-kun lusheous body more than they have to?
Didn't think so.
Also, you want an idea of how Galen's outfit looks, check out any of the Jurian outfits from Tenchi Muyo!. You'll get the basic idea. ... *_* Mmmm, Tsunami. That's mah bitch.