The royal gardens of the Momi Hale Palace were indeed beautiful as Megrez had said. Surrounding a white gazebo were flowers, trees, and bushes of every shade of the rainbow. Red hibiscus vines climbed up the slender white poles of the pavilion while orange clivias laid clustered together on the ground. Yellow plumerias sprung up from huge trees with dark green leaves that provided cool shade while sipping piping hot tea in the gazebo. Blue larkspur and violet bougainvillea grew close together towards the outer diameter of the garden. In a pond towards the entrance, great sturgeons, goldfish, and fat white ducks swam together in lazy harmony.
It was so relaxing, Serena actually did manage to get Kakane’s condition out of her head while she chatted with Princess Megrez.
“…I was so embarrassed. Kakane was laughing his head off the entire time and wouldn’t stop snickering even as I washed all of the soot off.” Serena sighed, reminiscing the time REAN010 malfunctioned while in production and covered her head to toe in black ash.
“Well, accidents are to be expected when creating something new. Although, from the sound of it, it seems Kakane only did the heavy-lifting and gave his insights to REAN’s battle functions,” Megrez chuckled.
“He was still very helpful. I doubt I could have gotten that far without his knowledge.”
“Is Kakane like a brother to you?” Serena blinked.
“W-Where did that come from?”
“Forgive me if it sounds sudden; I’m just curious, that’s all,” Megrez said. “The two of you have an interesting relationship, and I wanted to compare it to my brother and myself to better understand it.” Serena thought for a moment.
“To be honest, I don’t really know,” she admitted. “I only have a younger sister, so I cannot fathom what it’s like to have a brother. And as for Kakane…” Serena paused before speaking again. “Frankly, I never had many friends or people with whom I was particularly close. I was never on very good terms with my family either; especially my sister. I’m not sure how I would describe my relationship with Kakane. Maybe you could provide some insight, Your Highness?”
“Well… There is a three year age gap between my brother and I, yet in our youth, we were as close as peas in a pod,” Megrez reminisced. “We would play in the gardens, swim in the oceans, and take trips around the kingdom with our parents.”
“That sounds like a lovely childhood.” Knowing that her own childhood was one only full of expectation, grief, and hard work that amounted to nothing made Serena glad that Megrez’s was the exact opposite. Thinking back on it now, didn’t Kakane say something similar about his own upbringing?
“It was. Yet as Kai grew up, he was thrust with his duties as crown prince and firstborn and only son. He was expected to ascend to the throne someday while I… I had to do everything I could to support him. As his sister, the princess of Poseidos, this was, of course, what was anticipated of me. But I did it also for Kai. I love him,” Megrez said passionately. “He is a great king and an even better elder brother with a kind and gentle soul. There is nothing I would not do for him, and I know he feels the same.”
“You seem very close to your brother,” Serena noted, remembering her own younger sister. Haruka was unfailingly cold and sarcastic, never even trying to bond with Serena. Why, she had even threatened to kill Serena at one point! Yet that was what Serena had always appreciated about her little sister, although they were never friendly.
“Nowadays, I take some of the legal and political work off his hands while performing my duties as a court magician,” Megrez continued. “I became a magician and polished my magic skills just so I could better serve my brother. It’s the same for you, no? For Kakane’s sake, you wish to complete REAN, correct?”
“No… Kakane was never originally concerned with anything involving REAN. It was something I started for myself. A series of rather unfortunate events unfolded and he ended up destroying the current REAN’s predecessor. That was also our first meeting. I was so distraught by the damage done I forced Kakane to help me fix REAN. It was… Not one of my greatest moments.” Serena laughed awkwardly. “Admittedly, I’m a bit ashamed to look back on it now. But in the end, Kakane became entirely engrossed in the project. Something along the lines of, ‘if a king is going to do anything, he’s going to do it right’. I came to Poseidos by Kakane’s suggestion, but I am completing REAN for myself. I’m sure Kakane also has his own ambitions here he wishes to carry out.”
“I see… It seems I was mistaken. If anything, it appears that your relationship with Kakane is more like the bond shared between my brother and Mira.”
“His Majesty and Mira?” Megrez nodded.
“Yes. Mira and Kai are childhood friends and very close-knit. I was quite jealous of her relationship with Kai when I was a kid!” Megrez chuckled. “Even now, their bond remains strong. Mira serves as my brother’s advisor and as a correspondent for foreign affairs. They both shared a common goal of strengthening Poseidos from within and worked together to achieve that. Once it was more or less completed, Kai continued to rule while Mira turned her attention elsewhere.”
“The restoration of Atlantis,” Serena realized. “That was originally Mira’s idea?”
“It was attempted by magicians and scholars in the past, but they all gave up before long. Mira wanted to continue and finish their work, so she began to conduct her own private research. Eventually, she asked for temporary relief from her duties so she could study at the Bannaanka Weyn. She also requested a boon to fund the project. Mira had served faithfully by his side for many years and her friendship was invaluable, so of course, Kai agreed to all of this. I’m sure he expects great things from her, and it seems she’s close to accomplishing her goals. I bet that my brother was in the back of Mira’s mind all along as she went about pursuing her ambitions.”
“I see… So His Majesty was a driving motivation for Mira, then…”
“Is something wrong?”
“It’s nothing. It’s just… After REAN is complete, there won’t be any need for Kakane and I to be together any longer. I don’t have any other ambitions. I was thinking about going to Doryoku, but Kakane seems to be against this. I don’t know what to do…”
“You will figure out something,” Megrez said reassuringly. “From the sound of it, I highly doubt that Kakane will just abandon you. On the flip side, there may be a place for you here in Poseidos. Perhaps as a court magician? You could see Mira often that way.” Serena smiled weakly.
“Thank you, Your Highness. I really do hope that is the case. But, may I ask you something?”
“Is it possible for a relationship to be built on hidden truths and lies?”
“If it is a bond you wish to keep and preserve, then no. It will become something both of you will need to confront when the time comes,” Megrez said. “In return for knowing those secrets, you must be willing to do the same. Tell your partner everything about yourself, from your happy memories to your darkest secrets. If you can both accept the people you are within, then your relationship will prosper. If not, then that will be the time when the two of you will have to part ways.”
“I see. Thank you, Megrez. This was quite enlightening.”
“Are you sure you’ll be alright? I have time on my hands; you can stay for longer if you’d like.”
“No, I’m fine. It’s getting quite late, anyways. I haven’t eaten yet. One can not survive on tea and cakes alone.” Megrez laughed.
“Right you are, dear Serena, right you are.”