Chapter 1

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Makoto was in the courtyard, again; a large expanse of space covered in carefully laid concrete slabs, and no walls, only shrubbery and the occasional tree separating it from the rest of the world. She was watching members of the kingdoms guard from behind a rose bush manoeuvre and charge towards each other in mock battle, as she had done almost religiously since she turned 4. The way they moved was poetic, almost like a dance, despite the bitter coldness of the spring morning, which never failed to make Makoto gasp in amazement or cheer in excitement as she watched. The fighters used artfully carved swords that glinted in the golden rays of the sunlight, causing her to turn and wince every time a particularly bright light was reflected her way.

Makoto was 5 (although when speaking to others she would adamantly insist that it was 5 and a half), and whenever she was away from the Castle with her sister or mother, this is where she would be. Did I mention she was daughter to the queen?

Yes, Princess Makoto was everything expected of a Prince, not a Princess, however much she tried to prove them otherwise. 

On the other hand, Yukiho, her only sibling, (the youngest, at 4, less than a year until she reached 5, like her sister) was the embodiment of grace. If you only observed her from afar, and never ventured to talk to the girl, you would assume that nobody was more perfect for the role of a princess, from the way that she stood, to the way you could always tell she was quietly absorbing her surroundings, learning everything about her environment.

In actuality, Yukiho rarely ever got anything done, due to her fear of not being good enough for the task, or for the fact that her shy nature prevented her from talking to strangers. She almost never left the castle because of her fear of the unknown (and of course, there were so many dogs outside the castle walls!), so of course Makoto found it impossibly strange and unnerving when she caught sight of the white dress she was so fond of wearing.

Makoto turned to find her walking behind one of the castles many butlers - albeit the one both the children were most fond of; a reserved yet charming man named Hokuto - clutching his hand as if her life depended on the contact. She walked close behind him, so close that every few steps she tripped on the back of his shoes and fought to regain her balance before Hokuto got too far ahead. She had grown to just below his knee now, though Makoto was definitely taller. 

"Makoto," the butler cooed. He always used this tone on the siblings, which annoyed Makoto to no end. She wasn't a child! "You need back to come to the castle now, I've-"

"But I'm not finished watching yet!" Makoto whined, gesturing towards the guards still in their fake fight. The noise of the scraping swords and grunts of exertion echoed around the courtyard, a much more alive soundtrack than the gloomy silence that almost always haunted the wide halls of the castle.

"Come home, Makoto." Yukiho whispered. Around her sister, she was normally so vibrant, and Makoto put her nervousness down to her being in such a crowded place. "Mommy is sick. Sicker than before. Daddy says we all need to come to her quarters and give her strength to keep fighting hard."

With a nod of agreement from Hokoto, Makoto shot a glance back to battle that was still raging behind her. It has turned into less of a serious practice now, one man pushing his sword between the gap of his partners arm and chest, who proceeded to let out a laboured cry and fall to his knees. It earned a laugh from those around him, and from Makoto. But with a sigh, she took Yukiho's hand and was led back home.

It was a short trip back to the castle, though still being long enough to observe the darkening clouds cover the sky. There was going to be a storm, Makoto feared. She would spend the night in Yukiho's room, then-

the younger sibling was terrified of thunder. After a short while longer they were sheltered by the walls of the castle; covered in only a few raindrops that had begun to fall. They took a left at a top of the main hallway, then went straight up the winding staircase that led to their Parents room in the most extensively decorated part of the castle. Gold thread lined the tapestries covering the walls and was artfully sewn into the carpets, a little like it did on the corridors leading to Makoto and Yukiho's rooms. Hokuto stopped at the guarded mahogany door that led to their parents room, and took the handle.

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