As Ronin finished saying those words, Kiyoshi felt a strong sense of uneasiness and guilt wash over him. He didn’t know how to react other than to runaway. He stood from the bench and spoke.
“Ronin, we have to stop, I…. I don’t know how to react to this, there are so many thoughts going around my head, so much that I feel I am drowning. I have no choice but to leave and think. Come and see me before you leave for school, I may have my thoughts sorted by then.”
Ronin stood and begged Kiyoshi.
“Kiyoshi, Please…..” but before Ronin could finish his sentence Kiyoshi had left and the garden lost its magic.
Ronin collapsed back onto the bench, trying to make sense of what just happened. He knew that what he did was risque and impulsive, but Kiyoshi kissed him back and didn’t try to fight his advances.
He also found that, even though they had spent close to 5 years apart, his feelings for Kiyoshi were stronger than ever. Maybe Kiyoshi did feel the same way?
Ronin’s thoughts drifted back to Max. What was he going to do about Max? Who was he going to choose? What if Kiyoshi decided that he didn’t like Ronin?
Too many thoughts, and so many strange feelings. Ronin had never experienced such confusion and frustration in his life. Ronin stood from the bench and, as if in a trance, slowly made his way to his guest bed chambers. He wanted to see Kiyoshi again, kiss him, hold him close, and never let him go, but despite his urges Ronin thought it best to let Kiyoshi be.
Kiyoshi paced around his room, his eyes bloodshot from tiredness and tears. His chest ached and his mind raced. He couldn’t understand the reason he felt the way he did. He had felt every emotion known to mankind in a single night.
His body was weary but his mind would not settle, nor would the stirring in his heart. Kiyoshi had to have some kind of feeling towards Ronin, otherwise he wouldn’t have kissed him back, collapsed in his arms, or even danced with him.
His heart raced as he recalled the kiss, the soft tenderness and sweet remnants still on his lips. Suddenly, despair filled his heart with its black consuming fog. He was the one and only heir to the Kingdom of Newcara. He couldn’t be with Ronin; he needed to marry a Princess and continue his bloodline. Not only that, but it was not looked upon kindly if people of the same sex had relations of the romantic kind. He could be imprisoned, put to death or worse still, they could be tortured in front of each other. This made Kiyoshi cringe as he sat on the bed with his head in his hands, feeling helpless, confused, scared, and angry.
Kiyoshi, frustrated, stood from his bed. He wandered over to the window and pulled the curtains apart, letting the cool autumn air swirl around his face. He listened to the noises of the night, chirping crickets, an occasional snort or whine from the stables, the distant mournful howls of a lonely wolf, and the baying of hounds
He walked to his desk and dragged his chair over to the open window, and sat and stared into the night. He didn’t know how long he was staring outside getting lost in the dark.
He was snapped back to reality when his body started to feel cold and stiff. He stood and closed the window, returned to his chair and stared blankly into the night again, his face reflecting back against the flickering light of the candles.
Kyoshi stared until the dark sky started to lighten, whereupon he decided to try and sleep. He tiredly stepped into his bed clothes and collapsed into bed, but as he was trying to settle he heard a faint knock and his bedroom door creaked open. Kiyoshi slowly turned towards the door and saw Saxon dressed in his armour, tightly grasping his sword. Saxon paused as he closed the door behind him and in a loud whisper he said,
“Your Highness, are you awake?”
“Yes Saxon, I am, you may approach.”
Kiyoshi answered softly,
Saxon approached the bed and bowed,
“ I am here to to say Farewell and thank you for the ball you had held in my honour last night. I leave for Norsika shortly. I do not know when I will return. But don’t worry about me young Prince, I have the best men with me; we will find Princess Ada and save her from the grasps of Prince Haakan and his family.”
Kiyoshi sat up and looked directly at Saxon,
“ I know you will find her Saxon, you are a good soldier and I trust you’ll do everything possible to save her. I’m going to miss you Saxon, but I look forward to your return, Sir.”
“As do I Your Highness. I must leave now; farewell Young Prince.” Saxon replied.
Saxon turned around and marched to the door, his armour clanking together as he left, and closed the door softly behind him. Kiyoshi sighed, he had too many thoughts invading his mind that he thought all hope for sleep was lost, but surprisingly Kiyoshi did find sleep. Alas, it was not for long.
An hour later, Veronica, his hand maiden, knocked on the door and entered his room. She tried to get Kiyoshi up, but to no avail. Kiyoshi, fed up with her attempts at getting him prepared for the day, said,
“Veronica, please leave me be. Let my parents know that I am feeling under the weather and will remain in my room for the rest of the day.”
Veronica stopped what she was doing, bowed and apologised,
“I’m very sorry your Highness. I will do as you wish and I’ll let the King and Queen know straight away.”
“You are dismissed Veronica, and let the other servants know that I am not to be disturbed.”
Kiyoshi replied slightly annoyed.
Veronica bowed and exited the room. Finally, peace and quiet, Kiyoshi thought as he tried to go back to sleep.
That afternoon another loud knock echoed through his room. It was so loud it startled Kiyoshi awake, and in a shaky voice he said,
“Who is it? And why are you disturbing me?”
“Kiyoshi, let me in, I need to see if you have improved from this morning. If not, I will request a visit from the Royal healer” his mother answered.
Kiyoshi let out a sigh,
“Mother, you may enter.”
His bedroom door creaked open and his mother’s footsteps echoed on the stone floor as she made her way to his bedside.
“Oh! Kiyoshi, you do look pale, let me check on you” she said, concern etching her voice. She reached over and gently laid her hand on his forehead.
“But you don’t feel abnormally cold or hot, are you feeling at least a tiny bit better this afternoon?” She asked.
“I didn’t get much sleep last night, Mother. But I have had some sleep today and I am feeling slightly better” Kiyoshi replied.
“I’m so very happy that you are getting better, your father and I have been so worried about you. Did you enjoy the ball? It looked like you and Princess Ebony had a lot of fun; does that mean you may have found the future Queen of Newcara? Princess Ebony is somebody I wouldn’t think you would pick as a potential wife; do you not find her a bit too strong willed? I thought you would find Princess Lilly more to your liking.”
“Mother it was only a couple of dances and I thought that I wasn’t choosing a potential wife as of yet, not until after school?” Kiyoshi replied, his cheeks starting to burn.
Queen Annabelle patted Kiyoshi on his knee,
“Yes you are right, but I want to prepare a list of the Princesses who have taken your fancy and go over them with your Father. We want to know if they are suitable for you and to find out if they have what it takes to be Queen. Also, you haven’t met all of the available Princesses yet so I will add another ball to the agenda and invite the rest. That is after you complete your schooling of course, and we will go from there. I will add Ebony as the first name on the list. Will we see you for dinner, Son?” Annabelle queried.
“Yes Mother, I will be down for dinner.” Kiyoshi replied.
Annabelle smiled sweetly and arose from his bed,
“I’ll let you have some more rest, and I will send Veronica up to prepare you for dinner, when it is time.” She said cheerfully.
She left in a flurry of skirts and a trail of sweet smelling perfume, closed the door behind her, and once again it was peaceful.
That same afternoon, Ronin had wandered around the castle hoping he could run into Kiyoshi to say goodbye before he left for Eastwood. He tried everywhere but couldn’t find him, and had to give up when he heard his mother’s shrill voice calling his name. Ronin knew he would be back to visit Kiyoshi in a few more days; he knew they could talk more when he came back to Newcara. Ronin exited through the castle doors and stepped into the carriage with his parents. The ride home was long and boring, but all Ronin could think about was seeing Kiyoshi again.
When they finally arrived home, Ronin and his parents were greeted by his second oldest brother Jirou. His mother jumped out of the carriage and raced over to Jirou and threw her arms around his neck. Ronin sighed and rolled his eyes, exited the carriage and walked past the family reunion and straight into the castle.
Ronin hated family reunions. He detested his two oldest siblings as they were arrogant and conceited. Ronin hated being in the same room as them. However, he got along well with the other two, although he wasn’t close to them.
He climbed the stairs and entered his bedroom. He needed a bath, so he stripped, leaving his clothes in a pile on the floor, wrapped himself in a robe and went into the bathing room.
The bath had been filled with warm water. He let the robe fall to the floor and stepped into the bath, and as the water rushed over his body he started to relax.
A little while later the door to the bathing room opened and a young servant boy entered. He looked to be aged around 13 years old. He had long raven black hair pulled back in a neat braid that reached down to the middle of his back, and large green eyes, which became wider when he realised that he had interrupted someone as they bathed. He let out a yelp of surprise, then fell to his knees, and said in an urgent and slightly fearful tone,
“I’m very sorry Sir, I was not aware that anybody was in here. I apologise sir, I will take any punishment given to me.”
“Boy, come over to me and hand me that robe.” Ronin replied,
The servant boy obeyed and handed Ronin the robe. Ronin stood in the bath and wrapped the robe around him. The boy blushed and looked away, embarrassed by Ronin’s nakedness. Ronin chuckled and said,
“Servant Boy what’s your name? What are you doing in the bathing room?”
The boy still looking away replied,
“Sir, are you decent?”
“Yes.” Ronin replied.
The boy turned around and looked at Ronin with his innocent green eyes.
“My name is Imre, Sir, and I was sent to the bathing room to get some perfume for my Master, Prince Jirou.”
“Ah, my brother, how is he going these days?” Ronin questioned.
Imre then knelt on the floor and said barely making a squeak ,
“I ’m sorry I did not use the proper title for you, Your Highness. I was not aware that you were Prince Jirou’s brother.”
Ronin stepped out of the bath and reached down and gently pulled Imre up from the floor and said kindly
“Imre, you can stop apologising now, I have no intention of punishing you, it was a simple mistake to make. But young Imre you have not answered my other question, how is my brother going these days?”
Imre relieved that he would not be punished replied
“He is going well Your Highness, he has come back from Norsika with very good news for the King and Queen, he will tell them at Dinner tonight. He has also decided to resume living in the castle again to help with running the Kingdom of Eastwood.”
Not really caring about the news that Jirou was so excited to announce at Dinner, Ronin continued questioning Imre,
“So, Imre, how long have you been the servant of my dear brother?”
“I have been serving your brother for 12 months now, he saved me from the slave market in Norsika.” Imre replied innocently
Interested that his brother actually had the ability to show some compassion, Ronin encouraged the boy to continue with his story. The boy complied
“I was born in a nomadic village in a faraway land, my people would live in different places depending on the season. We were hunters and gatherers, we roamed the land free and were ruled by no-one.
One day when I was nearly 12 years old, a group of men raided our village. They rode horses, and had long heavy swords and strong armour, we only had spears and axes. They set our homes on fire and killed the elderly, infants and young children. They captured the rest of us and dragged us to a strange village and put us in cages. We sat in those cages in our own filth, exposed to the elements.
For seven days, we were hardly fed and because of this we were weak; people would look in our cages and would ask our ‘owners’ if they could inspect us like cattle. They would make us stand naked in front of everyone, they would put their hands on us feeling for scars or any types of old injuries that could affect our usefulness for work. The women were stripped naked, their hair pulled back from their faces. They were stared at by old men who also put their hands all over their bodies “inspecting” them. I remember my mother being grabbed out of the cage. They pulled her long black hair back tightly as they stared into her face. She was unique looking for a person belonging to our tribe. She had bright green eyes the same as mine, while the rest of the tribe had brown eyes.
I had inherited her eyes; it was in itself a blessing and a curse. There was a lot of interest in my mother, she was still young and looked exotic, so she was especially popular with the wealthy. I could tell they were wealthy by the way they dressed and my suspicions were confirmed when I asked another person next to me why these men were dressed differently to the rest of the buyers. I also asked why they were only interested in looking at the young girls, young women, and sometimes young boys. I was told that they owned brothels and what brothels were. I lost my childhood innocence that day.
After being told about the brothels, I was scared, as I was a young boy and I had inherited my mother’s eyes. This in itself made me exotic and somehow desirable in their sick twisted minds. I was brought out of the cages and inspected by many brothel owners. Each time I would try and steal a glance at my Father or Mother. My father’s eyes would glaze over each time and a small tear would run down his cheek. I sensed his feeling of helplessness, and that he knew what would happen to me if I was sold to a Brothel.
My mother would scream and try to take their attention away from me, but it never worked. I don’t know how many brothel owners inspected me, but at the end of each day I felt dirty. I would cry, but my mother could not comfort me, she was in a separate cage, as was my father. I did get a little comfort from a man who was also a part of our tribe. It was not only our tribe in those cages - there were many different tribes crammed together.
Separated from my family, he protected me and provided as much comfort as he could considering the circumstances. He was also the one who had told me about the Brothels.
When Sale day came around, we were paraded out to a podium in front of a large crowd of buyers in groups of three, chained and half naked. Most of the men, including my father, were bought by mining companies or as labourers for the wealthy. About three quarters of the young women, including my mother, and most of the young girls, were sold to various brothel owners. A small amount of young girls and women were sold to wealthy families as farming slaves and house slaves. There were only 3 boys under 12 and me, and we were paraded on the podium last.
When my turn came, there was a bidding war between 2 Brothel owners and 1 single person, whom I could not place. He was not part of the mining companies, or a wealthy land owner, nor was he a Brothel owner. He was dressed in plain clothes but had a large amount of coin to spend, as he had bought 5 slaves already, including one of the boys that I was being sold with. I wished he would be the one to win the bidding. He seemed to be the lesser of two evils.
My wishing must’ve worked as he had won the bidding and had apparently paid a hefty sum for me. We were all locked in the cages after the sale waiting for our new “owners” to claim us. The Brothel owners came first they pulled the women and girls out of the cages, sometimes beating them if they protested. My mother screamed for my father and me, yelling that she loved us and that we will meet again. They pulled her away, tears burnt my eyes, I cried loudly and screamed for my Father, but my screams were muted by the screams and wailing of the others as their family members were also ripped away from them.
Next the mining companies came and claimed their workers including my father. He yelled just as my Mother had done saying that he loved me and that he will earn his freedom and when he does he would find us again and that we will live normally as we once did together. I screamed back hysterically, tears now rolling down my cheeks. I sat in the corner after crying for hours waiting to be claimed like a cow from a market. He didn’t come that night, but instead claimed us the following morning.
We were pulled out of our cages, and chains were put around our neck and hands. We were made to walk in a line with men on horses in front, back and to the sides of us. Treating us like we were criminals or livestock, we were then loaded on a ship and spent time out on the sea travelling to Norsika. The conditions on the ships were not much better than they were in the cages, however we were fed regularly as this would make us appear healthy. I found out later that I had been bought by a Slave broker who would resell us for a profit to people of another kingdom. So I was destined to be sold yet again, my safety not guaranteed.
We arrived at the Port of Norsika, we were unloaded like produce taken to a warehouse, hosed down with cold sea water, some of us had our hair cut and those with beards had them shaved. Then crammed into cages again, the auction was to be held in two days’ time. We were again subjected to inspections; this time I could not tell which buyers were brothel owners, and which were not. I became scared again, I was one of the first to be paraded on the podium, and again I had a lot of interest, I was about to be sold when your brother intervened and bid on me and he bid a price that no-one could match (or refused to do, as they knew he was royalty.) That was over 12 months ago and I am very grateful for your brother saving me, as the person I was about to be sold too, turned out to be a brothel owner.”
Ronin was shocked by the boy’s story hugged him. The boy pulled back shocked, bowed and politely said,
“I must go now Your Highness, your brother must be looking for me, and I don’t want to keep him waiting.”
The boy gave Ronin a final bow and left the room in a blink of an eye.