Hime x Hime
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I'm not like most girls my age.
Thinking back on it, I never really was. Growing up on the castle grounds, I was surrounded by all the finest high Aurelian society had to offer.
I went to the best academies, associating myself with the most notable people in the capital. The war with the demon kingdom was worlds away for the most part. Life should have been easy for the next Queen of Aurelia. Only, it wasn't. Because...
I'm part demon.
I was born Amber Aurelia Davenport to the current Queen, Veranda. My father, King Raymond married into the family shortly before I was born. My father was an important figure in the Demon Kingdom of Dagon's government. He was a lord with many parcels of land, and widespread influence in their capital city of Darkspire.
He was sent to Morningstar for an international peace summit in place of the widowed Demon Empress Lucia IV, his sister. She refused to entertain such talks, for fear it might be a trap to lure her in and end the conflict with her demise. In hindsight, that turn of events may have been best for everyone. When you consider all that's happened since.
Neither of my parents knew it at the time, but her refusal to attend the summit would be the catalyst that brought the two of them together as a couple. After their first meeting, they fell in love. Mother soon initiated the Engagement Ball, because she was hiding a small secret... Me.
At the time of their engagement, it was a shock that sent ripples throughout the kingdom. Never before had a demon married into the royal family, let alone taken up a position amongst any of the nobility. The historical relationship between our two societies was simply that poor going back many centuries. And yet, the gossip didn't start immediately. Or even until years after the fact.
My father was a warrior of high renown in his homeland for his role in helping my aunt rise to power in the Great Civil War of Dagon. Both his fighting skills, and leadership ability were off-the-charts. The overwhelming presence, and respect he commanded prevented any murmurs from entering the castle walls. At least they made certain that neither he—nor I—heard them.
However, my parents' marriage did little to broker peace between our nations. Quite the opposite, in fact. Enraged, Empress Lucia launched a full-scale attack from the sea to avenge what she called the greatest betrayal in losing her most trusted general to the ruler of another nation.
Against my mother's cries, my father joined Aurelia's soldiers on the front line to put an end to Dagon's advances for good. He felt personally responsible for what was happening, and wanted to be the one to make it right. They succeeded in thwarting Lucia's plans, but it came at the ultimate cost. My father's cruiser went down in the final battle, and even to this day...
He hasn't been found. Not yet.
That was right around the time when the whispers began.
It started out harmlessly enough. Quiet mumblings in passing, enough to ignore on their own. But soon... the verbal abuse became intolerable. I was only nine years old at the time, but I understood every last bit of their loathing words, cleverly disguised as pity.
"You unfortunate child. Your father was killed by your own aunt? I can't imagine what you must be going through..."
"King Raymond probably fled to be with his own kind. He should have taken the First Princess with him, poor girl."
"Look mommy, it's the demon princess!"
"Don't stare, honey. She'll turn you to stone."
"It's too bad Princess Mavis is an infant, and not in line to lead. She might have demon blood, but at least she isn't like the other one."
Even when they didn't say those things outwardly, my ability made it so that I always knew their intent. Some days it felt like only Poppy, and the other maids treated me with any real kindness. My mother was busy grieving, and trying to lead the county. And so, I began to ignore those around me. I cared less about keeping up appearances with the nobility.
I became violent, angrier, and less princess-like with each passing day. I decided that I would build an internal wall so thick that nobody could breach it. Their criticisms, and their faked concern. I would shoulder it all, and become the demon they claimed I was. It was for my sister's sake too. As long as their attention was on me, no one spoke ill of her.
As time went by, I got used to my new life. Although, the loss of the only person that truly understood me made it hard to connect with anyone. That was until one particular day, when I made my first friends in the castle...
TEN YEARS EARLIER...
"I said, give it back!" A small beast girl hopped on her tippy toes for a book that was held just out of her reach. "Please, that's the only one left in the library. I just want to know how it ends."
"Awww, you mean this book?" An older boy—and a noble judging by his frilly outfit—tossed the book around in a circle between his buddies as they surrounded the girl.
"Keep away from the peasant girl!" One of them shouted with glee.
"You lost, or something? What are you doing in the castle courtyard without a broom in your hand?" another teased.
I had just finished giving myself a haircut, a rather short one by my usual standards. Walking outside the castle doors, I noticed their little game from a distance. I tended to avoid situations where I would have to interact with children my age, but the girl was badly outnumbered.
"My mother is a maid in the castle. Sometimes I read out in the courtyard while she's working. Now please give it back." The small girl's slender tail waved around in annoyance.
"Who's going to make us?" The leader of the group sneered. He pushed the girl onto the ground as she yelped in distress.
Now you've done it...
"I know you're not planning to—OOF!" Before they could sense my presence, I launched the full weight of my fist into the leader's unsuspecting face. He landed on his back with a satisfying thud.
"Who the hell do you think you are!? One of them shouted at me as I shook the pain away from my right wrist. I smirked in response.
"Get that boy!"
Boy? I guess I did cut my hair pretty short, and the overalls probably don't help. Wait... If they don't know who I am...
"Anyone that wants to get to the girl will have to go through me." I purposefully made my voice deeper.
I've always wanted to say a cool line like that!
If they didn't know I was a princess, I figured I could probably smack them around a little bit without getting in trouble. Just a little though. Five boys in total circled me, including their leader on the ground. A sixth stood just a few steps away, shaking at the knees.
"So, which one of you punks is first?" I puffed out my chest, feeling a lot like one of the adventurers from the many guilds across Zephyr.
"Don't get cocky over a cheap shot, kid!" A hefty boy with a bowl haircut charged in first, earning himself a spinning kick to the chin. "URRRF!"
He did a pirouette like a dancer, before taking out two of his own friends in the process. The next to rush in was an extremely tall, slender boy with the facial features of a fish. He was much nimbler than his friend, and dodged my strikes with relative ease.
Despite his proficiency in dodging, he would have to attack eventually. I counted on it. Having long arms meant that your wind-up time for a strike would increase. Perhaps just enough for me to find an exploit. At last, he made his move.
Sorry dude, but you should really work on your offense.
I landed two sharp jabs in the boy's stomach area. That was all it took to topple the giant. Falling to his knees, he held his ribs without saying a word.
The final attacker pulled out a wooden stick, and began chanting something under his breath. The wind started to pick up around me.
Before he could finish his spell, the small girl—who had finally stood up—snatched the wand from his hand and tossed it to me. I promptly snapped it in half, much to the boy's horror.
"Come on, guys! It's not worth it!" Their leader finally came to his senses, and called for them to flee.
I guess he's not a complete idiot, after all.
They scrambled out of the courtyard, leaving me alone with the girl I just rescued, and their sixth cowardly friend.
I walked up to the boy first, preparing to give him the same thrashing I handed his buddies. He surprised me by crumpling to the ground before I could even touch him.
"Please don't hurt me! I had no part in picking on this girl. My father told me I should spend more time with the other nobles' children." The boy stared back at me with his bright blue eyes. His silky blonde hair, and delicate features nagged at my memory.
Don't I know this kid from somewhere?
"What's your name, blondie?" I grabbed the boy by the collar of his vest.
"Uh—Charles! Charles Cleishay!" the boy stammered.
"The Duke's kid, huh..." I muttered.
So that's where I knew him from.
"Umm..." the small girl looked at me a bit sheepishly. "Thanks for saving me back there."
"Don't mention it...?" I handed the girl her book, but I still hadn't got her name.
"Jewel." the girl blushed, accepting it back. "You can call me Jewel. And you are?"
"Nice to meet you, Jewel. Your mother works in the castle, right? I'll have to thank her for all her hard work, because I'm—"
"PRINCESS AMBER!" An angry elven man came stomping out of the castle.
Ah no, it's Cedrick...
"I've been looking everywhere for you, and where do I find you!? In the courtyard, bullying the Duke's eldest son! I take it the silver haired boy those other children were crying about was you as well?" Cedrick put his hands on his hips, looking extremely disappointed.
"Wait! You're the—the—Princess!?" Jewel squeaked, her eyes wide in surprise.
"But I was just—" I began to make an excuse for Cedrick.
"I won't hear another word of it, young lady. And what happened to your hair? You were supposed to attend an event next week with your mother." Cedrick sighed, exasperated. "Let's go meet with the Duke, and beg for his apology. Immediately!"
"Uh... Excuse me, Cedrick?" It was Charles that spoke up before we could leave.
"Yes, Count? I'm terribly sorry for the way the Princess acted. I do hope you'll forgive me for losing track of her." Cedrick was my mother's lap dog at heart, but he wasted no time in sucking up to the other nobility whenever possible.
"Oh, don't be! It was my companions that started the quarrel, and Amber was simply protecting this girl. Jewel, was it?" Jewel replied to Charles' question by nodding her head vigorously.
"Is that right...?" Cedrick thought on it a moment before sighing. "Very well, then. I have other matters to attend to. Do meet with Poppy whenever possible, and she'll help you pick out some wigs to wear for next week. We must keep up appearances, even if you don't see the merit in it."
Cedrick shot me a glare, before taking off in the direction of the castle.
"What a pompous ass..." I grumbled. "Hey, Charles!"
I turned to the shivering boy. His eyes darted back-and-forth between Jewel and I, like we were going to eat him at any moment.
"Y-yes, Princess!?" he stuttered.
"Thanks for speaking up for me, blondie. You know, you're not so bad!" I held out my hand for him to shake, and he cautiously accepted. After that, the three of us exchanged goodbyes before going our separate ways.
Thinking back, I started to change a little at that moment. The wall I had built to keep others out lost just a little bit of its thickness. I was even able to make some new friends when I joined Morningstar Academy.
Charles and I remained close acquaintances for quite some time after that brawl, but as it often does... Time drove us in completely different directions before too long. He eventually became the spitting image of his scummy father, and Jewel started working in the castle as a maid like her mother.
If I didn't know any better, I would say she has quite a bit of a crush on me still.
I could tell back then that she thought I was a boy. The disappointment in her eyes was evident when she learned otherwise. Speaking of crushes, Sakuta fell asleep immediately after taking the Dreamers Draught. I still clung to him, our first kiss still fresh in my mind.
I couldn't fight the smile on my face as I looked at him. I placed one more kiss on his forehead, and removed his glasses so that they wouldn't hurt him in his sleep.
The potion affected me a bit slower, causing me to feel nostalgic and remember that stuff from the past. Eventually the drowsiness did hit though, and I finally closed my eyes.
To enter the Garden of Dreams, you must first pass the trial of the guardian. Face the potential future that you fear, and prove your strength! Best of luck, Amber.
Alright trial... Give me your worst!