A/N: The other day, I re-discovered Sarah Bareilles' King of Anything and it prompted this one-shot to form in my head. Now, granted, that song is more about a guy with correctile dysfunction aka mansplaining syndrome but it's not about that. It's specifically one line in the song that inspired this story. Well, just go with it.
If you're on Insta and are curious how I imagined Merle, go you to 'angelganev' and look for a pretty recent drawing of a super adorable pink-haired girl with two buns.
This is meant to be light-hearted entertainment. Don't take it too seriously.
[Edit 09/16/18: Couldn't have been more wrong about this being a one-shot. I have decided to pick up this story again and am in the process of creating an outline. Stay tuned!]
[Edit 12/30/18: This story now has a beta! The lovely OfSilverRaindrops has spent some of her valued time to give my writing a thorough check. Mostly grammar and some tweaks when it comes to word redundancy or how to make everything flow better. Thank you so much!]
I'm just playing in Shoji Kawamori's sandbox again, making zero coin off this story.
King of Anything
Act 1, Chapter 1
In which Van opens a door and Hitomi drops something.
It was dumb. Dumb and boring. Dumb because the physicians were still, after a whole damn week, refusing to allow him to leave his bed, and boring because of, well, being stuck in said bed without any sort of entertainment whatsoever. It was a just cause for slow but gradual declivity into insanity. He had been told numerous times that he still needed rest, and even though hotly contested by himself, there was absolutely no debate about it.
Van Slanzar de Fanel, heir to the throne of Fanelia and soon-to-be-crowned king was, until further notice, strictly ordered to rest. To say that he was miffed about it would have been an understatement. If he had to swallow so much as another drop of the bitter, medicated tea the staff brought twice a day, he would most definitely hurl. If he had to taste it even one more time, he couldn't be held responsible for what he was going to do.
Oh, how gladly he'd instead fight that bloody dragon again. All the dragons in Fanelia, no scratch that- all of Gaea, actually- just to get his hands on a freshly brewed, delicious cup of hot, steaming coffee. The lack of caffeine was another, very undesirable, side effect of the bedrest they still had him on. Not even his younger sister, Merle, could be convinced to smuggle a cup out of the kitchens for him, and she would darn well do nearly anything for him under normal circumstances.
At present, said younger sister was still in her usual post on the floor next to his bed, holding onto his hand and napping with her head resting on the mattress, legs curled up by her side. Pink hair, which she liked to carry in two small buns on top of her head, had become disheveled from moving around and was beginning to spill onto the crisp, white sheets near their arms.
Of course, Van had told her already days ago that spending every waking hour with him was not necessary. As it was, however, they were the only two remaining members of the royal family, so her protectiveness towards him was not entirely unfounded. Besides, it wasn't like he wouldn't act in a very similar way if their roles were reversed.
Funny, Van thought as he stared at the fresco on the ceiling above his large four-poster. Funny how Fanelia's capital was protected by tall, metal walls topped with electric fences to keep out the land dragons native to the kingdom, but when it came to traditions, they had no qualms whatsoever about sticking the last male heir of their royal family into an ancient, primitive armor and pushing him out the gates, armed with nothing but a sword and a shield. Not to forget, that was after his brother had already failed at the rite of dragonslaying years ago.
When Merle finally woke from her early afternoon nap by his side, she stretched and fixed her hair before popping some gum into her mouth. She loved gum. Even though the governesses, who were supposed to educate her in proper behavior and etiquette befitting a princess, kept taking it from her at every possible chance, she always somehow had a piece in her mouth again mere minutes later. It was pretty likely that she had a secret cache somewhere in her room. Clever. Van could really learn something from her in those regards.
"Van, I think it's time for your tea again soon," she announced while getting to her feet and smoothing the wrinkles out of her favorite yellow sundress in the process. "I'll go grab a snack from the kitchens and bring you a cup myself."
Van's eyes widened at her words, but he said, "Sure. Thanks, Merle."
One of his eyes involuntarily gave a nervous twitch. There was no use in arguing about it. His health was her top priority, and it had made her unsympathetic to any and all of his complaints about the foul-tasting brew.
Over my dead body, was what Van actually thought after the ornate door clicked shut behind his sister. In the blink of an eye, he was out of his bed and across the room, stripping off his black, silk pajama shirt with a few quick movements on the way. He winced a bit when his right arm protested. Ah, yes, the injury. It was the very reason for his much abhorred, mandated bedrest and the sole justification for why they were still keeping him quasi-locked up in his own royal chambers.
Van had managed to slay the dragon but not before the beast, in return, had wounded him with the sharp, bony protrusion at the end of its tail. In hindsight, he had been lucky to get away with only a deep gash on his sword arm considering the beast could have roasted him to a crisp in a matter of seconds. Sure, it hurt, but he seriously doubted that a flesh wound warranted anything more than three days of bed rest. They had stitched it together pretty well, after all.
What he really, really needed right now was a good cup of coffee to satisfy the craving and lift his spirits after quasi vegetating in the same spot for days. Enough was enough. He needed to get out of here. Only for an hour or two at least, before he'd lose his mind completely.
Luckily, there was a pair of ordinary denim pants way in the back of his closet, behind the suits with the royal crest and the scratchy embroidery around the tight collars he usually wore when going about his duties. No, going out by himself and enjoying some much-needed freedom would only be possible incognito. Fortunately, the pants still fit and comfortably so, although he couldn't remember when he ever had the chance to last wear them.
Probably sometime before Balgus insisted on upping the sword training to make sure Van wouldn't suffer the same fate as the oldest Fanel offspring. The combat training had eaten up a good chunk of his free time. It was fine, though. Really. He never complained about it. If anything had happened to him during the rite of dragon slaying, all the uncomfortable responsibilities would have fallen upon Merle. Not a royal by birth, his adopted sister would have had to marry some foreign aristocrat to be able to even stake a claim to the throne, and Van just couldn't leave her to such a fate. He didn't consider himself particularly fit to rule even now, but at least he had received some formal instruction alongside Folken since their father had passed years ago.
Van hastily picked a button down shirt from the endless pile of fresh laundry and yanked the sleeve up his sword arm where the thick bandage was. He rolled up the cuffs to just under his elbows, hastily fastened the small buttons, and haphazardly tucked it into his pants. Wait, what was he doing? He didn't have to do this. This was incognito Van. He tugged the slightly wrinkled shirt out of his pants and let the back hem hang comfortably loose.
Unfortunately, the royal wardrobe almost exclusively offered a wide array of polished dress shoes. A pair of soft, brown loafers meant for traveling in the summer was the least fancy thing he could find. Perfect. Who needed socks, anyway?
When looking into the large full-length mirror, Van noticed that his hair was in a state of complete disarray from the restless tossing and turning he'd done in bed all day. How convenient. It was a far cry from the usual, slicked back style which had become his signature look over the past years. A faint smile formed on Van's lips when he combed his hand through the mess. He dragged some of it across his forehead to cover more of the dark skin and trademark garnet eyes he could easily be recognized by.
Drat. This was indeed a dead giveaway. Looking around… Ah-ha! The royal wardrober's least favorite pair of sunglasses just so happened to be Van's favorite. He usually sported them during sword lessons in the relentlessly hot afternoon sun, and that was pretty much the only reason they had not yet mysteriously disappeared from his wardrobe. The lenses were mirrored, framed by a thin, metallic wire and would completely hide his eyes from anyone. Dressed like, perhaps, a preppy-looking university student, he would be able to roam the streets freely. Just so long as he got out of here before Merle was back, of course.
This was, without a doubt, the worst day in Hitomi Kanzaki's life. It wasn't enough that she'd been soaked from head to toe by a surprise rain shower this morning, torn a lace on her favorite pair of sneakers, and walked in on her two roommates making out with each other in their apartment living room. No, she had also just dumped a whole, fresh carafe of coffee onto the floor behind the counter of the little coffee shop she worked in. It was a good thing there weren't any customers in here at the moment. This was still a slow time of day with it being a bit after lunch but too early for people to stop in for a pick-me-up on the way home from work.
Perhaps, if she had known that it was about to get even worse, she wouldn't even have left her bed this morning.
Of course, right then, while she was still kneeling on the floor to take care of the mess, the bell on the door chimed behind her to indicate that somebody had entered. Hitomi plastered a fake smile on her face.
"Hey! Welcome! I'm sorry I had a small mishap. Will be right with you," she announced while scrambling to her feet from her kneeling position on the floor and gingerly dropping a handful of glass shards into a nearby trash can.
The tall guy who was passing through the doorway at first appeared to be unusually nervous for a customer. He was checking first left, then right over his shoulder to perhaps see if he was being followed. Then, seemingly more relaxed, he casually sauntered up to the counter where Hitomi was still standing in a puddle of lukewarm coffee, the soles of her sneakers squeaking as she shifted her weight.
"Afternoon. I'll have a cup of coffee. A very large cup of coffee. Black," the man said upon arriving at the counter. Hitomi eyed the dark-skinned stranger more closely before replying.
His clothing was a bit disheveled, the dress shirt wrinkled at the hem, and his face accessorized with a pair of mirrored shades which completely hid his eyes. He didn't seem to be planning on taking them off like anyone else would have by now.
An ebony mess of hair covered his head and fell across his forehead in charming disarray. He could be handsome, but it was hard to tell without seeing his eyes.
"Sorry, I just dropped the carafe a few minutes ago and need to clean up this mess before I can get a new one from the storage room in the back," Hitomi apologized, visibly annoyed at her own clumsiness. "If you don't mind waiting a little, I'd be happy to make fresh coffee."
The guy scratched the back of his head while turning again to look through the large glass windows on either side of the door through which he had just entered. "Sure. No problem."
Hitomi nodded and crouched down on the floor again to pick up some more of the many glass shards that littered the immediate area. Before she could proceed, however, the guy had come halfway around the counter. What in the world was he doing?
Van saw an unmistakable hue of scarlet pass by the storefront. A royal guard. Damn, they were fast. Surely his sister had alerted them immediately after she had returned to his room and found him missing. With nowhere else to hide, he quickly stepped around the counter to where the young woman was kneeling to shield himself from view.
"Let me help you with that," Van mumbled and moved to reach for a piece of glass near him.
"Wait, what are you doing? Don't cut yourself!" Hitomi exclaimed in alarm. It most definitely wouldn't do to have a customer get injured while picking up broken glass.
Hitomi's hand shot out and grabbed the dark-haired guy's arm. Her fingers wrapped around it firmly, pulling him away from the glass and catching him slightly off guard with her reaction. His head moved up and the lenses of his glasses reflected Hitomi's own face back at her. "I don't want you to hurt yourself," she said, a bit annoyed but meaning well.
She was pretty: no make-up, short hair, and with a few freckles across her nose from being out in the sun.
"Fine then. Do it all yourself…and let go. That hurts!" The stranger replied, clearly irritated, and winced a bit while readjusting himself and attempting to get back up.
Hitomi's eyes widened when she released his arm. "By the gods…did…did I do that?" she uttered in horror upon seeing that, where her hand had been only a moment ago, a scarlet splotch was beginning to bloom on the white fabric of his shirt.
"How in the…was there glass?" she stuttered before scrambling to her feet too, the mess completely forgotten. She checked her hand back and front to see if a stray shard had caught itself on there without her noticing.
"Oh dear. I'm so very sorry. I don't know how that happened! Please let me take care of that," she said with a horrified expression on her face, motioning towards the guy's arm which he was cradling protectively by the elbow. "Your coffee is obviously going to be on the house."
Van couldn't help but be a bit amused despite the accident. The young woman, probably around his age, had not the slightest idea who he was even though the news about his injury had spread like wildfire. When she took his hand, he noticed that it was much smaller than his and soft, not calloused from holding a sword nearly every day over the last five years or so.
He was used to being treated with respect and a sort of standoffish care by the staff. Certainly he'd never been dragged around the counter of a tiny coffee shop and maneuvered into a worn, wooden chair next to a square table by the wall.
"Wait here. I'll get some first aid supplies," the woman said while she hurried towards the back, skidding a bit through the spilled coffee near the back counter on the way. She was athletic looking, dressed in tight khaki shorts and a green polo shirt under the short, brown apron that was wrapped around her waist.
When she came back, she was holding a white plastic box with a red cross on the lid. "Don't worry. I know what I'm doing. I'm in nursing school. I just work here to make a bit of money on the side," she said while depositing the container on the table.
"Really, I'm so sorry. I don't even know how that happened." Hitomi looked at her hand as if to check again whether she had perhaps spontaneously sprouted a pair of sharp talons without her own knowledge.
Van didn't have the nerve to reply. What was he supposed to say without giving himself away? He was currently also busy staring at her face again. As flustered as the young woman with the short, honey blonde hair was, she was becoming prettier by the minute. Maybe it wasn't just her looks but also her naturally endearing demeanor. He didn't really protest either when she investigated the sleeve of his no longer completely white dress shirt.
No cuts or holes were to be seen, of course. A bit bewildered, Hitomi scrutinized him, her face so close to his that Van was afraid she would see right through the lenses of his mirrored shades. "I can't get to your upper arm. Would you mind just taking it off?"
Van only stared at her while his eyebrows traveled far above the metallic rim of his shades. Was she serious?
"I see shirtless male patients during my rotations all the time. It's not a big deal," Hitomi assured him, the professional through and through.
Quite serious, so it seemed.
Fine then, Van thought, slowly becoming extremely curious and also a bit uncomfortable due to the freshly leaking wound. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea after all to at least have it wrapped up. Walking down the street with a bloody arm would most certainly draw a whole lot of unwanted attention.
He fumbled with the buttons of his shirt a bit, the stinging pain in his injured arm making his fingers slightly clumsy.
"Here, let me help with that," the woman immediately offered when she saw that he was getting nowhere. Her hands gently pushed away his and deftly undid the button row in mere seconds. If it hadn't been for his naturally dark complexion, the faint tint of red on Van's cheeks would have been blatantly evident. It wasn't every day that a woman undressed him.
Okay, maybe she shouldn't have so vigorously insisted on helping, because this...this was most definitely a first. Normally, Hitomi's professional attitude surpassed any and all awkward situations. But the arrogant guy with his ebony hair, the sunglasses he didn't feel the need to remove, and the wrinkly, bloody shirt looked a lot more built- no, let's call it "healthy"- than the average guys who came by the teaching clinic to get free urgent care. This wasn't even a guy. This, most definitely, was a man.
A man who was quite a sight to behold. Hitomi realized that not only was his facial complexion a lot darker than hers, but his skin was tan, no, bronze all over, making it ostensible that he was a native Fanelian, unlike her who had moved here from Northern Asturia a few years ago.
His dark skin spanneda slim, well-muscled stomach; a broad, equally toned chest; and nicely shaped shoulders and arms. Hitomi gulped and only somewhat regained her composure when the man carefully peeled the blood-soaked sleeve down an already bandaged upper arm. The bandage, of course, was soaked too.
It seemed like a fairly serious injury, and this finally caused Hitomi to snap out of it and back into professional nursing mode. "Good grief, where did you get this injury?"
The dark stranger froze in his movements for a second before answering. "Don't worry about it."
His evasive reply rubbed Hitomi the wrong way, but she decided not to question him any further for the moment. Getting his arm cleaned and wrapped up was more important right now.
Van was relieved by her reaction but then winced when she removed the dripping bandage. Her hands were quick and careful, but the sticky fabric pulled uncomfortably on the wound, making Van hiss and squirm in his seat. The injured arm jerked away by reflex.
"Hold still. You're only making it worse," she admonished him, pushing down on his shoulder to prevent his arm from moving out of her grasp again. The royal physicians, as dedicated as they were, usually apologized profusely at any small sign of discomfort from him when changing the bandages. Not her, though. How irritating and refreshing at the same time.
"Looks like a few stitches have come loose," she said, full of concern. "Obviously, I can't fix them with what I've got here, but I can use a taping technique that will hold that part of the wound together. It's likely going to scar a bit more at this point, seeing as how the healing process already started. Around a week ago, I'd judge?"
A pretty darn precise estimate. An estimate that would have maybe given him away anywhere else, but this woman was clearly not one to follow the news very closely.
"I don't care," Van replied finally.
He really didn't. It wasn't like many people would see it anyway, what with him being stuck wearing these awful formal suit jackets all the time. By Escaflowne's scaly hide, one of his first orders would be to completely re-design any and all of these damn suits. For the past years, Van and his sister had still been bound to the etiquette and traditions set in place by the long line of royals before them, but things were about to change drastically.
"Okay then," the woman replied and began rummaging through the box to retrieve a bottle of antiseptic. When she began to clean the bloody gash, a crease appeared between her eyebrows.
"How on Gaea did you even do this?" She couldn't help but inquire again. "The edges are all jagged and torn. Not something you'd get from anything I can think of except-"
She shook her head now, the thought being too silly to finish.
"Except from what?" Van couldn't stop himself from asking.
"Except from…being outside the walls, fighting a wild beast." Hitomi exhaled audibly after saying it. "But that's madness. Who would be idiotic enough to go out there?"
Who indeed? Van had to wholeheartedly agree with that last part, albeit quietly so and in his head.
This man, dressed in a once crisp button-down shirt, certainly didn't seem like the kind who would willingly head out for an adventure beyond the walls and make it back alive to tell the tale. Then again, he did look fairly strong. Hitomi couldn't help but be reminded of that fact as her eyes wandered back across his exposed upper body.
Nope. This was not the time for wandering thoughts. Most definitely not.
"I'm going to need you to push down on the dressing for a moment while I look for something," the blonde woman instructed him while rummaging around the box for more materials with one hand, while still applying pressure to the wound with the other.
Van wordlessly and obediently complied. It was truly something to behold. The temperamental prince of Fanelia normally did not like to follow anything that sounded like an order, especially not from physicians, and if he did, then not without making his extreme displeasure known.
He numbly reached around with his hand and placed it on the woman's smaller one which was pressed onto his upper arm, compressing the wound with a piece of thick gauze. His larger hand had firmly trapped hers in place. In response, her face immediately flushed a charming shade of red, and they stared at each other for the duration of several heartbeats.
"N…n…no, I mean…I need my hand," she stuttered charmingly.
"Oh, right. I'm sorry," Van replied, equally flustered, and let her retrieve the appendage from his hold.
She quickly claimed it while averting her face to go through the box again instead. "My name is Hitomi, by the way."
"Hi-to-mi," Van tested out her name slowly. It definitely was foreign. She likely hailed from one of the other kingdoms.
Her name sounded very different when he said it, and it somehow had a nice ring to it. The thought made Hitomi's heart beat oddly fast for a moment.
"What's yours?" she asked the man to distract herself from the feeling.
Shit. "Uh…never mind that," Van replied evasively. It came out a bit ruder than he had intended.
Hitomi pursed her lips at the answer. She had just begun to think that maybe he wasn't so arrogant after all, but clearly, she was mistaken.
"Suit yourself," Hitomi replied as she finally found what she had been looking for. What a weirdo. Undoubtedly good-looking but definitely weird. It would be best to get him out of here asap after making sure that wound was taken care of properly.
Hitomi unboxed the flex tape and cut a few strips off the roll while a strange silence lingered between them. The dark-haired stranger pulled a bit of a grimace again when she asked him to remove his hand and began to tape the top edge of the long gash. He groaned in response to the intense discomfort.
It obviously hurt, and no wonder since the wound was deep. Any sane person would be resting and taking it easy instead of wandering around buying coffee. Hitomi's eyes darted to the man's face right next to hers. He was watching her intently, probably to make sure she wasn't going to botch the job.
She finished stretching the last piece of tape across the wound and smoothed it down as gently as possible. Van's face tensed once again. "Just making sure it's sticking well to the skin. I stretched it pretty good, so the tape trying to revert back to its original length will pull the wound together.
"Ok, great," was all Van managed to say when he regarded her big eyes from behind the privacy of his shades. They were green, he now noticed. Her eyes. So green. At that moment, those green eyes flickered over to the side, distracted by something she saw outside. Van quickly turned his head to follow her gaze.
Damn. A royal security guard was right outside again, scanning the immediate area for any trace of him.
Van panicked. What if they saw him? Would they recognize him despite the hair and the sunglasses? In a desperate moment of sheer lunacy, he reached for Hitomi's shoulder and pulled her around to the other side, effectively shielding himself from view.
Hitomi shrieked a bit when he grabbed her with gentle but deliberate force and moved her. In her still slightly bent-over position, she lost her balance and nearly stumbled over her own feet, but Van caught her around the waist so that she landed on his lap instead.
Arms flailing briefly, Hitomi supported herself on the next best thing she could reach- a muscular shoulder and a solid portion of pectoral. If she hadn't been so shocked, she would have immediately scrambled back to her feet, but the guy had his one arm wrapped tightly around her waist while the other rested on her bare thigh, halfway under the short apron.
Color and heat tinted Hitomi's cheeks once more when she noticed how close their faces were. So close she could feel his breath brush across her face and feel the warmth radiating off his broad chest. What in the world was happening? Why was she not getting up right now?
Van gulped when he felt her slender form against his. She was clearly some kind of athlete, he decided when his hand on her bare thigh felt lean muscle there. This was most definitely more than he had bargained for. His eyes briefly darted back to the window on the side, taking note of the security guard who was now all too close to the storefront, attempting to look inside past the cursive writing that decorated a good part of the window with the coffee shop's name.
That's when the usually dignified, but stubborn prince of Fanelia panicked even more. For a lack of time to come up with a smart plan and to save his hide from being found, he unwrapped his good arm from Hitomi's waist, reached around the back of her head, and pulled it across the short distance between them.
Without much warning at all, poor Hitomi found her lips crushed against those of the man whose lap she was presently still trapped on.
Hitomi's grip on his shoulder and chest immediately tightened, her fingers digging into the muscles mass in either location. Van's eyes rolled back to the window nervously while his lips were locked with hers. The royal guard was turning his head away, seemingly embarrassed at having caught two lovers in an intimate moment.
He left only a moment later, but Van's lips didn't seem to want to detach themselves from the woman's silky, soft counterparts. Relaxing a bit, his eyes became half-closed, matching hers. This was exhilarating and just probably the most scandalous thing he had ever done.
Van couldn't resist and carefully moved his lips against hers, eliciting a small, muted noise from the woman who seemed to be resurfacing from her state of stupefaction. Just as fast as it had begun, it was over. A bit delayed, she finally recoiled in complete and utter shock and scrambled off Van's lap. His hands fell away, although a bit reluctantly, in the process.
"What on Gaea do you think you are doing?!" she exclaimed in a much more high-pitched voice than before. She touched her lips with the tips of her fingers before using the same hand to slap him so hard across his left cheek that the stupid sunglasses finally fell off his face and bounced onto the floor.
"You can't just do that!" she yelled angrily while taking another step away. "Who died and made you king of anything?!"
Van's head was still turned to the side from the force of her mighty slap. Hitomi stood across from him, panting a bit from anger and confusion while her hands were balled into tight fists. He slowly rose from the chair and retrieved his beloved shades, which had landed not too far away.
Straightening himself, a single chuckle filled with dark mirth escaped his mouth. He just couldn't help it right now. "My father," Van finally replied with a single, raised eyebrow as his garnet eyes caught her angry green ones.
That's when it hit Hitomi. The man's dark, native look, his wound which seemed to have been inflicted by a wild animal from beyond the wall, his reluctance when it came to telling her his name, and then those uncanny, garnet-red eyes. Of course. She had heard about it last week on the news but not really paid attention. The council of advisors had finally decided to send the youngest male heir of the royal family beyond the walls to complete the rite of dragon slaying. He had returned successfully but sporting a pretty gruesome wound.
Prince Van de Fanel undoubtedly looked a lot different in person than on a TV screen or in newspaper pictures. His hair was normally always impeccably styled, combed to the side or slicked back while dressed in expensive, tailored suits featuring the Fanelian crest and fancy embroidery.
It, indeed, was the worst day in Hitomi Kanzaki's life. Not only had she been soaked from head to toe by a surprise rain shower this morning, torn a lace on her favorite pair of sneakers, walked in on her two roommates making out with each other in their apartment living room, and dumped a whole, fresh carafe of coffee onto the floor behind the counter of the little coffee shop she worked in. She had also just slapped the heir to the throne of Fanelia. Quite hard.
Hitomi felt hot, then cold, then hot again for a whole array of reasons. Embarrassment, confusion, but most of all, anger. She gritted her teeth.
"You!" she hissed, eyes glinting with agitation. "You-" A slightly different expression on her face, her brows twitched, and she pointed a finger at Van across the distance as if she wanted to impale him with it.
Van could nearly see the gears in her head turning. "You?" he supplied dryly while Hitomi was still processing the events.
She sucked in a deep breath and repeated, "Y…you…your majesty...my…my most sincere apologies." She finally finished but crossed her arms in front of her chest defiantly, averting her gaze. "I had no idea it was you."
Her reaction then was somehow a bit disappointing but understandable given the circumstances. Van continued to be amused nonetheless.
He sighed and took a step closer to her, completely ignoring the fact that he was still shirtless in this establishment with very large windows. What she had settled on saying was betraying what she felt on the inside. Of course, she had every right to be angry after he had forced himself upon her out of the blue. Future king or not, such a behavior was unacceptable, and it was only due to a momentary lapse in judgment that he had allowed himself to act in such a despicable way.
"No," he finally sighed regretfully. "It's me who should apologize. Please forgive me. I was…only trying to escape the palace to spend an hour by myself. I've spent every day since returning from beyond the wall in my bed, being treated like some gravely wounded invalid. Next week, I'm supposed to be shouldering the burdens of an entire country, and all I wanted was a cup of coffee."
Why was he suddenly saying all these things, trying to justify himself in front of this woman? Why was he pouring his heart out to her? What nonsense was he blabbering? She finally looked back at him again with an expression he hadn't expected from her: pity.
This time it was him who almost recoiled in shock when Hitomi's gentle hand reached out for him. With a feather-light touch, she grazed his offended cheek, about to reply when her words were cut short.
The small bell above the door chimed violently as it opened. Only one individual Van knew could open a door with such panache. "Lord Van." His sword master's deep voice boomed across the small room.
Van's shoulders slumped when Hitomi's hand immediately pulled away from his face. She latched the other one onto it and began to knead her fingers awkwardly.
"You have had the whole palace going wild for the past hour. Everybody is looking for you," Balgus said in a calm but tense voice. His intimidating appearance doubtlessly was the reason for Hitomi's new, fearful facial expression.
Van rubbed the bridge of his nose before replying. "I know. Please give everybody my apologies."
It took a bit of convincing to ease Balgus' mind, and Van had a feeling that the man was making it difficult on purpose to make up for the trouble he had caused with his disappearance. No, Hitomi had certainly not harmed him. She had merely taken care of his wound after he had carelessly overexerted himself while out and about. It had been solely his fault for putting a strain on it, which had caused some of the stitches to loosen.
A month later, King Van Slanzar de Fanel rested his forehead against the heavy doors of his chamber. Finally, a moment of peace on this otherwise busy afternoon. It was as if everybody had done a complete 180 on him in the weeks following his coronation. Nobody lectured him anymore but instead offered council with bowed heads, seemingly bending to his every wish. It was fake, frustrating, and fodder for fury. Then he remembered something.
A small smile tugged on his lips when that particular thought came to mind. His fingers were still wrapped around the door handle of his chambers. Before re-opening it and slipping out, the king hurried over to his dresser to find his favorite shades while raking a hand through his hair in an attempt to mess it up as much as possible. Somebody still owed him a coffee.
A/N: Oookay I obviously took a lot of artistic freedom here, not explaining every detail but like I said, just roll with it for the sake of entertainment.