His mind felt like it was shrouded in fog, his body like lead. He felt like he was sinking toward the sky floor. He desperately fought to stay conscious, but his vision faded to gray before complete darkness took over him.
It was darkness once again that greeted him when he opened his eyes, finding himself staring into very dark pupils. The young man watching over him recoiled as if in fear and ran, nearly tripping on his way out.
He looked up to see a white ceiling. It was a vision that felt familiar to him at first, but…
No. It wasn't the same. It was not a cold, sterile white, but more like a creamy, warm hue. Warm like the blankets covering him. He was in a soft bed, but stretching his hand out he met with some rough carpeted floor, a texture he had never felt before. He was in a completely foreign land - or was he? His head was throbbing and he couldn't remember how he had ended up here.
Footsteps could be heard getting closer as well as voices, but he couldn't make any sense of their words. They were talking quickly in hushed tones, but even as he forced himself to listen, he couldn't even begin to decipher their language.
A severe-looking older man entered the room, shadowed by a small boy- the person who was watching over him. Another man, carrying some bag, followed right behind them but remained by the door. The stern man glared at him, as if trying to scrutinize his very soul. The other one looked as if he couldn't look him in the eyes. Looking at the two of them, from their black hair and dark eyes to the shape of their eyes and nose, he could guess they were father and son.
When the father spoke he could only assume he was speaking to him, picking up the harsh, wary tone. The son spoke in a softer, more trembling voice. His gaze alternated between the two of them; there was fear, worry, and caution in their tone and yet he was in a bed, his bandaged arms more proof that he was cared for. He gathered up the strength to try and speak in the common trade language his mind could remember.
"I'm sorry… I do not understand."
The boy couldn't have looked more different from him.
His skin was a pale pinkish tone, and his nose was fine and straight. His hair was a snowy white, setting him apart amongst the dark hair of the Yafutoman people. Muraji had watched over him, a mix of fear and curiosity. What kind of eyes could someone like this possess? He almost expected to meet blood red pupils, like one of a rabbit - it would certainly match the foreigner's look.
For a brief moment Muraji wondered if that mysterious stranger came from the moon - a thought that accidentally left his mouth.
"Don't be stupid," Kangan admonished him.
It was most likely a Westerner. They hadn't set foot in the lands of the blue Moon in centuries, but it was more likely.
Still, that raised more questions. Should they warn the King? It seemed he was alone; with his poor landing and his visibly young age - he couldn't have been much older than Muraji - it indicated this was more an unfortunate accident than invasion.
But Kangan remained cautious. He did not give his trust easily, especially not to foreigners. Though he had never met one himself, his forefathers did and the tales always ended bloody. Westerners were remembered as barbaric colonialists.
The stranger's eyes fluttered open, and Muraji was surprised to see gentle, dark green eyes. He had never seen such beautiful eyes, even on the fairest maidens of the country.
He broke into a run before he could even analyze his own thoughts. When his father confronted their uninvited guest, the foreigner only met them with confused silence - until he spoke the old trade language of the skies, which only confirmed Kangan's initial suspicions.
While it was not the case for most common people in Yafutoma, any member of the royal court was taught the language, if only for personal culture. The royal library held some rare books from the West - spoils of past wars. The first goal was to know as much as they could about possible enemies, and the second was to be able to trade and negotiate, although Kangan remained a firm believer that Yafutoma should remain isolated.
"Where do you come from?'' Kangan nearly spat those words as if just speaking them was a humiliation.
The white-haired stranger recoiled, his eyes not meeting theirs. Seeing him looking so nervous and helpless made Muraji feel like they were not a threat. For once, Muraji spoke up against his father.
"Father… Shouldn't we have asked for his name first?"
He could tell, as much as anyone, that the foreigner looked confused and scared.
"Silence, Muraji. It is my duty to determine what kind of threat this Westerner poses. If he refuses to reply, I'll have no choice but to-"
Kangan had briefly returned to their own language to address his son, leaving the stranger in the dark.
"...I do not know."
Kangan and Muraji both turned their attention back to him, the young man meekly lowering his head in response, as if in shame.
"I don't remember… My home. My name."
He shook his head. He was frowning as if desperately trying to recall.
"If I may, Lord Kangan."
The physician who tended to the stranger's wound, quietly standing to the side, spoke up.
"While his injuries are superficial, he has hit his head, and the shock of the accident may have caused this amnesia. I assume it's temporary and that he will recover in a few days."
Kangan frowned as he ran his hand through his beard.
"If… I am causing trouble, I will leave," the foreigner said.
Muraji raised his eyebrows. Leave… The machine they determined was the foreigner's ship was not in a state to fly. Even their best engineers couldn't figure out how to even make it work. That, along with being in such a confused state…
"...We shall be magnanimous. Never let it be said that the Monzeki family abandons the weak."
Muraji quickly turned toward Kangan, his eyes widening.
Kangan had seemed to mentally debate the pros and cons but once his mind had been made up, he nodded once more to clarify his intentions.
"He can stay until he makes a full recovery."
Once again, in their language, he added to his son.
"You will watch over him. If he remembers anything at all or mentions something noteworthy to you, you will report it to me."
Muraji nodded obediently, although the feeling of having his father make him in charge of a vital-sounding task was weighing on his shoulders.
Kangan turned and addressed one of his rare smiles to their guest, as if to ease his tension.
"I am Lord Kangan, and this is my son, Muraji."
He finally introduced himself and Muraji, taking on the act of the benevolent caregiver. Muraji attempted a shy smile at the foreigner as well, but he did have the nagging feeling that his father did not do this out of the kindness of his heart.
Their guest slightly bowed his head in polite response.
"Thank you for saving me and for your kindness. I am in your debt."
The answer seemed to please Kangan enough for his lip to curve upward once again.
"At least he shows some semblance of not taking our generosity for granted," Kangan said, moving to leave, "I shall report to King Mikado; Muraji, you stay over here and watch him."
"I shall excuse myself as well. Please alert me if the patient's condition changes." The physician bowed and left the room.
Muraji could only watch, his eyes wide and mouth agape, as he was left alone with the foreigner. His heart was still pounding in his chest and he could feel the stranger's eyes on him.
"Where am I?'' He spoke up, making him jump.
"You are in my family's domain, in Yafutoma, the country under the blue moon." Muraji stated this trying to sound as confident as his father did whenever he asserted his authority as lord.
"Blue moon…" the stranger murmured, frowning as if lost in thought, "I remember the...silver moon."
"You really are a Westerner, then… I don't know much about the countries under the silver moon."
Muraji cupped his chin in his hand in a thoughtful pose as he recalled what he had read about the western world.
" I know the closest kingdom… relatively speaking, is the green moon one. Our old maps refer to it as Montezuma. ...I don't know how accurate they are though."
Muraji was surprised to see himself so talkative to their guest - he was usually reserved with strangers. Perhaps he was trying to show off his knowledge, though as he spoke he realized he was very limited in what he knew about western countries. Moegi was the one to ask, considering she had full access to the royal library.
Thinking about her again made his heart twist.
Suddenly, he remembered who he was supposed to be, what he was supposed to become. The stranger arriving was nothing but a distraction in all of this.
Muraji bit his lower lip. Moegi had mentioned before that she wished she could see what the west looked like. While Muraji did not share her fascination for it, he could now understand the feeling of wanting to get away. Perhaps if he went to the country under the silver moon, he could be far away from his Father's influence, far away from all this.
"Are you all right?"
Muraji raised his head to notice the foreigner looking at him with deep concern.
"I… Yes, of course. I was just...lost in thought."
The foreigner's eyes were soft but his brow was furrowed with worry
"You look… lonely."
The way the stranger looked at him was the very picture of sincerity. It almost reminded him of the concerned looks Moegi gave him when he was sulking as a child.
That was not what he needed.
"I am not!" Muraji snapped back, stamping his foot, before adding in a weaker tone, "...I am not… It's okay."
He repeated for good measure. This time he was hoping he would convince himself.
The white haired boy slowly nodded. He looked unconvinced but decided to drop the further queries.
"If you say so, Muraji…"
That snapped him back to attention. Muraji frowned severely. He didn't like the feeling of having that foreigner patronizing him, and especially not his familiarity.
Maybe that was what put him on edge, the point of giving him palpitations.
"You sure have some nerve, crashing into my home and being so familiar with me," Muraji spoke in an annoyed tone, looking down at the stranger.
He would not admit it out loud but he did like the apologetic look on that stranger's face. It felt like he had some kind of authority.
Now that he thought about it, the foreigner knew nothing about him. It was a full blank slate. He would not be the clingy younger brother figure to him. This foreigner wouldn't look down on him and make him recall embarrassing stories. To him, he would look like the dignified lord Muraji Monzeki.
If he really was to grow into the role his father forced upon him, this could be good practice. Muraji still felt no enthusiasm for it, but if his father could throw fake smiles, maybe he could show some semblance of confidence.
"Forgive me… What should I say then?" He replied, earnestly, waiting for an answer as if eager to please him.
Such a submissive look on a boy older than he was made Muraji feel like he was suddenly important. He scoffed, deciding to test his newfound authority. "We're close in age so I'll be lenient… You can call me Lord Muraji, or Muraji-dono in our language. If you're here to stay a while, you should have some grasp on how to speak Yafutoman."
The young man nodded. He was not mocking him or refusing. If this was Daigo or Moegi, he would have been ridiculed or gently scolded for his arrogance.
"I understand, Muraji-dono. I did not mean any disrespect."
The way he said it made him feel on edge for some reason. He could feel his face heat up and suddenly he only wanted to be Muraji for him. He pressed his lips together, holding his tongue to avoid looking like an indecisive fool, and coughed to clear his throat.
The stranger kept quiet and for a while they both sat in uncomfortable silence, allowing Muraji an uninterrupted opportunity to observe. Even from his sitting position, Muraji could tell the foreigner was taller than he was. He was also, objectively speaking, better-looking than he was. Still, looking at him, he did not have that arrogance that people better than him tended to have. He did not sit straight up to assert his confidence; instead, he was slightly bowing, as if he already accepted Muraji was his superior. It was an odd and unfamiliar sight, but one that sent a pleasurable thrill through him.
"What would you call me?"
That brought Muraji back to reality.
"You...really don't recall your name, huh?" He looked at the white-haired foreigner thoughtfully.
Not just his skin, but his clothes, even his hair was a pure white. It felt like he was shining amongst them.
"I don't… I'm sorry," he replied meekly.
Muraji shook his head slightly as if in annoyance. "It's not like it's your fault…"
Or maybe it was, he thought with a sour note. If he knew how to sail properly, he wouldn't have landed like this in his father's courtyard. Looking at the Westerner, he recalled what he first reminded him of.
"You need a name… So…"
The foreigner looked at him, eyes wide and attentive.
"Yuki," Muraji decided.
The stranger repeated the name. "Yuki?"
"Because you remind me of snow."
It was neither an insult nor a compliment - simply a statement. But the newly-named Yuki was positively beaming as if he had received a great honor.
"Yuki… Yuki…" He repeated the name softly, as if getting used to pronounce the foreign name while smiling softly.
Through it all, Muraji realized his heart never calmed down.