The young man stood rigidly before the Royal Throne in the empty main hall, his hands hanging limply by his sides as he sank to one knee and bowed his head.
Father…what would you have me do? So much trouble has come with your passing, and I, whom you have nurtured, feel helpless to act. Yet I know it must not be so.
The Coronation will be done in three days, Father. Watch over me.
With that, Crown Prince Rukawa stood, his gaze fixed far away on a memory of long ago, where a small boy roamed in the lush green meadows of the Imperial Garden, and a king watching his son, laughing in the shaded doorway of the palace. Then he turned and left.
The captain of the Prince’s Guard stood at a respectable distance, watching the young man he had sworn to serve. The prince walked with his head held high, his steps regal and betraying none of the internal turmoil Maki knew he was going through. The prince had been exceptionally close to the king, for the queen had passed on when the boy was a young age, and the only family he had ever known was his father.
Maki remembered how, eleven years ago, he had come to the courtyard of the palace with his mother, then a kitchen maid. He remembered watching the king, then newly crowned, practicing his sword craft in the deep of the garden one summer night. The young boy he had been then, only nine, had been discovered by King Anzai when he had backed away and tripped over a twig.
The king walked over to the young boy and knelt in front of him, the clear edges of his sword glittering dangerously in the moonlight. However, his smile was kind, his eyes gentle. Instinctively, Maki stopped being afraid.
"Do you like to fight?" the king asked.
Mute, he nodded furiously. He knew however, that he would never be one of the noble-bred, trained warriors. He was from a peasant family. His destiny was to serve in the fields of the people. Yet knowledge could not quite quench the excitement and dream of a child.
The king had rose, smiling at him, his eyes shaded slightly as a cloud drifted over the moon and hung there in the windless night. "What is your name?"
He stared up at the figure towering over him as the king sheathed the sword and brushed his robes. "Maki."
"Maki," the king repeated, reaching out to put a hand on the boy’s shoulder, steering him back towards the lights of the palace. "Yes, well. I will send to you shortly."
*End of Flashback
That had been the start of his career. With the king’s personal favor and his own noticeable talent, he had trained under the best of the teachers, learnt quickly, and had advanced himself in rank by the end of three years. He had joined the Prince’s Guard when the future heir was a mere five years old, and he himself at the young age of twelve. And now, eight years later, he was captain, sworn to his liege.
Now, his eyes fixed on the figure retreating to the royal chambers, his own determination was at its strongest.
Your father gave me a chance at the kind of life I wanted, Your Highness. I will protect you, if only for his memory.
Suddenly, a dark shadow flitting across the very corner of his vision made him spin, his hand flying to the hilt of his sword. The night was peaceful, quiet, yet there was a whispering danger in the darkness. Maki knew there were many out there who were eager to take this opportunity to murder the prince, and usurp the throne. He began running towards the prince’s chambers.