Co-written with miss mika namariya. We own nothing!

"Your Highness:

I hope this letter finds you in good health. Their most Royal Majesties have relayed to me, in quite lengthy detail, the rather unfortunate circumstances surrounding your present need for a person skilled in the arts of combat and defense to ensure the safety of your esteemed personage.

Therefore I have the honor and utmost pleasure — excluding, naturally, those unfortunate circumstances which precipitated your need for a guard — in sending to your Royal Highness the young lady who bears this missive. I cannot impress upon Your Highness the strength of my recommendation that you take Kyoko into your service, with all possible haste, for the sake of Your Highness's future safety and wellbeing. Though I know my words shall fail to fully relay to you the true value of the one whom I have sent; nevertheless, I shall endeavor to enlighten you. Though I am sure in time you will come to understand her true worth as I do, or I imagine, perhaps even more.

Kyoko Mogami has been under my guardianship for the past eleven years. She tested into the Academy at a young age and was the top member of her class when she graduated — two years before her peers, I must add. I have personally overseen her training and work in the time since, and can assure you personally that she is a credit to both my name and the Academy. I think you will find her physical stamina more than adequate for any purpose you may need, and her agility and stealth is quite unparalleled. But beyond her proficiency in a wide range of weaponry and combative techniques, a list of which I have enclosed for your perusal —" Kuon checked, and indeed there was a separate sheet with an impressively long list that the Prince skimmed before returning to the letter, "— Kyoko possesses a myriad of other talents. I have no scruples in venturing to guess that her many other qualities will be quite indispensable to a person such as yourself. Though I have known her for many years, I must admit I should not be surprised if I had yet to discover the full range of her abilities. In all my years of instruction I have never seen another student so determined to master new skills.

For my own part, I must confess that it is with a heavy heart that I must now part ways with the remarkable young woman who has served me well and faithfully for so many years. Her professional dedication and sense of duty are quite unmatched, and she has proven herself time and again to be a trustworthy, loyal, and compassionate soul. She is a credit to my humble Academy, and I believe that I do not boast, but indeed speak the truth when I say that you will find her an invaluable asset to the Crown. And though I shall miss her dearly, as a most loyal subject, I console myself by knowing that her presence in the castle shall bring Your Highness the security and comfort their Royal Majesties so desire.

I have the honour to remain Your Highness's most humble and obedient subject.

Yours, Etc.

Lory Maximillian Erosatius Takarada

Duke of La'Morei tou Segia-Jikoson

Headmaster, LME Academy"

The Prince held in an undignified snort as he finished reading. Lory Takarada was one of the least humble men Kuon knew, and obedient not a word he would use to describe the Duke's mischievous, meddlesome personality. Not in a malicious way, of course — the Duke's annoyingly interfering manners were a direct result of the man's deeply unshakeable and sincere belief in the power of love. Which Kuon thought was rather odd for a man who trained elite spies and mercenaries for a living.

Kuon re-read the letter. Lory's signature fluorescent magenta ink was irritating, but not nearly as irritating as the overwhelming feeling of certainty that he was being mocked. The Prince could practically see the Duke's gloating face as he read it. Kuon glanced at the woman in front of him, and frowned. There was no way this tiny slip of a girl — who barely reached his shoulder! — was qualified to be a bodyguard. Clearly, the Duke was playing some kind of joke on him. One that only Lory Takarada found funny.

"There must have been some kind of mistake," Kuon announced at last, folding up the letter and holding it out to her dismissively. But the young woman made no move to take it.

"I don't believe there has been a mistake," she replied politely. Her voice was perfectly deferential, the polite tone of someone used to interacting with noble clients and customers. And yet there was nothing submissive about her tall, straight spine and rigid posture. Her hands were clasped politely in front of her, and she did not so much as fidget an inch.

Kuon swallowed a sigh. The girl must be an actress that the Duke had hired to play some sort of elaborate prank on the Prince. She looked quite young, and Kuon was surprised by her self-assurance. Most people tended to be incredibly nervous around royalty. He thought about complimenting her on her composure. But unfortunately for Kyoko (if that was even her real name), Kuon didn't have the patience for the Duke's shenanigans at the moment. And since Lory was not here, she was going to get the brunt of Kuon's irritation with the older man in his stead.

Kuon squinted at her. "You cannot be more than… what, sixteen?"

"Seventeen, your Highness," she corrected in the same polite, composed manner.

"Please inform Duke Takarada that next time, if he wants his stupid joke to work, he needs to hire an actor who at least looks the part." Kuon rolled his eyes. It was frankly worrisome the girl had managed to make it past the guards into the palace, with such an obviously fake pretense. Kyoko barely came up to his shoulder. "A teenage girl? Really, Lory, I'm not that stupid… " He muttered under his breath.

There was the tiniest purse of her lips, and then it was gone.

"Perhaps there has been a mistake," she agreed smoothly. "His Grace mentioned that you were stubborn, but he had not informed me that I would be met with such skepticism regarding my employment here." Her tone was still perfectly even. But despite her unfailing politeness, Kuon knew annoyance when he sensed it. It made the Prince even more irritated, for some reason. This girl was a very good actress. Too bad for her, he wasn't in the mood for a performance today.

"I don't need a personal guard," He said firmly. "You may go."

"It was my understanding that my employment has been decided by their Royal Majesties," Kyoko said lightly, as if she was making harmless conversation about the weather instead of questioning his authority to dismiss her.

"My parents are overprotective," Kuon said in a clipped tone. "I do not require security. I am perfectly capable of looking after myself."

She looked at him. He didn't know how she managed to convey so much disdainful skepticism with a blank face, but he was, begrudgingly, impressed. But only for a second.

"This has gone on long enough, I have important things to attend to." Kuon pointed to the door. But instead of scurrying from the room, the girl remained like a statue in the middle of the carpet. Kuon finally walked forward, using his height to tower over her. "Even if I did need a guard, which I do not, I seriously doubt that someone half my size would be up to the job."

"Size isn't the only determinator of strength," Kyoko said evenly. She kept her face calm, but inside she was ready to boil over. This stupid, arrogant, jerk. "Sometimes, a big head is just a thick skull and a tiny brain."

Kuon gave a surprised bark of laughter. "You've got guts," he admitted, smiling. "Is that how you're going to protect me?" he teased. "With your sharp wits? Or, I know!" Kuon's voice was bright with mockery as he made an exaggeratedly surprised face, "Perhaps you can stop an attacker with your parasol!"

Kyoko had had enough. So she punched him.

Lightly, of course. She wasn't trying to get fired on her very first day. She took a half step back, smoothly pivoting on her left leg around to Kuon's side, hitting him with a solid strike just below his ribs. Her fist connected solidly. Not hard enough to bruise, but fast and with enough force that Kuon stumbled back awkwardly, letting out an undignified grunt of surprise. As if she had anticipated his backstep (which, in fact, she had), Kyoko swiftly stepped around to Kuon's other side, delivering another two punches, sending him stumbling back further. Then like lighting she was in front of him, expertly placing a strike to his liver (that she very kindly pulled, mostly) that Kuon felt before his brain even registered her movement. Kyoko's left foot delivered the final blow (again, somewhat softened), right at the crease of Kuon's hip joint, pushing him back another foot until the back of his knees collided with a chair, and he landed awkwardly in the seat. Kyoko loomed over him. Her knee rested dangerously between his own on the seat of the chair and the fingers of her left hand dug into the soft inside of his elbow, pinning him firmly in place. Her amber gaze was cool as she looked at him levelly from above the tip of the long knife that was less than an inch from his throat.

Where had the knife come from?

She had moved so fast he hadn't seen her draw it. He met her eyes, and felt his face flush. She was suddenly so close to him, he could admire the golden flecks in her irises and the small wisps of auburn hair around her face. Her pink lips were slightly parted as she exhaled evenly, keeping the blade in her hand perfectly steady, as though it was frozen. Kyoko's striking hair and eye color combined with the deadly grace of her movements made Kuon feel as though he was pinned down by a tiger. And yet instead of fear, he felt… excited. Entranced, and completely forgetting the blade at his throat, Kuon started to lean forward, wondering what her pink lips would taste like if he kissed her.

Thankfully, Kyoko dug her fingers further into his arm and he jerked to a stop, suddenly realizing that on his quest to discover how her soft mouth would feel against his own, Kuon had accidentally almost slit his own throat. He swallowed nervously.

"P-point taken," he whispered.

Immediately, the girl seemed to teleport back ten feet. She bowed. "Thank you."

She tucked her knife away with such speed Kuon couldn't say for sure where she had put it.

He felt colossally stupid. The room was suddenly much too small. Kuon was unbearably hot, and, he realized with deep mortification, he was hard. He shifted uncomfortably on the chair "I, uh, look forward to…" he trailed off awkwardly, risking a glance up at her.

But Kyoko was gone. Only the click of the door as it latched shut betrayed that she had left through regular human means of travel. Without that, Kuon could have been persuaded that she simply disappeared into the air.

Kuon slumped forward in the chair, holding his head in both hands as he let out a long, heavy sigh. He was such an idiot. She was his new personal guard. His distractingly attractive, mesmerizingly pretty, frighteningly well-armed, definitely deadly, terrifying, personal guard. Who probably thought he was a stupid jerk — which he couldn't fault her for thinking, since he had been rude and dismissive. Yup, he was definitely an idiot. A massive, stupid, fucking blockhead. He had mocked her for being a weak teenage girl. And in response, she had held a blade to his throat. And he had found it hot.

Kuon was in trouble.