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Title - Unintended: A Tale of Clumsy Matchmaking and the Value of Custom Boots
Rating - T/PG-13



Chapter 8 – Missing


Four days after Kurogane agreed to postpone his evening meeting with that nobleman, he spotted the idiot at the end of the hall headed toward the royal audience chamber. The man was dressed like even more of a fool than he did for the Council’s monthly entertainments and, most distressingly, he was surrounded by foreign guards.

This was obviously some kind of mistake. No doubt it was the guy’s own fault. The thought pissed Kurogane off. Damn fool needed to be more careful! Should pay attention! Kurogane had warned him not to do anything stupid – more than once!

He strode down the hall at a quick pace in order to catch up. He was so busy envisioning the kind of scenario that would have led to this outcome that he started to speak before realizing his mistake.

“Just what the hell did you do this ti—” He cut off his reprimand as soon as he noticed, but it was too late.

The startled man looked at him as if he were crazy. Half the guards had their hands on their sword hilts; the other half were bearing steel.

Kurogane had never been good at properly addressing foreign nobility, but he made a good attempt. “Err, my apologies.” He left off the standard ‘my lord’ because this man wasn’t his lord and he refused to address him as such regardless of what etiquette said. “I’ve mistaken you for someone else.”

He made a passable bow and turned to leave.

“Wait.”

Kurogane paused, already two steps away.

“Please tell me of this person you mistook me for.”

If Kurogane ignored the foreign accent, this lord’s voice sounded a fair deal like Fai’s. Slightly off pitch though, deeper, softer, and not marked with the standard amount of excessive cheerfulness that Fai so often employed.

“Does he look a good deal like me?”

A good deal? Kurogane turned back around to face the doppelganger properly. This new nobleman had longer hair, fuller cheeks, and by the way he held himself, he was more of a bureaucrat and less of a warrior than the man he knew, but it was impossible to deny the resemblance.

He would say they had to be closely related except Fai didn’t have even a trace of a Jashari accent and it didn’t make any sense for a foreign noble to be living here playing father to a local girl.

He deflected the question. “He works for one of the minor noble houses.”

“You know him well then?”

“Better than I’d like.”

“Then please. Would you tell me his name?”

He was about to respond, the name on the tip of his tongue, when a white streak came bounding into view out of the corner of his eye and an annoying voice began frantically repeating his name. A split second latter, the pork bun was hopping up and down on his shoulder.

“Kurogane! It’s Fai!”

“What about him?”

“He’s missing!”

“What do you mean, ‘missing’?”

“Sakura and Mokona haven’t seen Fai for days! And just now, Fai’s horse came back to the manor without him! Mokona worries something really bad has happened.”

“He’s gone?”

“Un!” The pork bun marked the vocalization with a curt nod.

Mutters of “Lord Fai!” came from the foreign guardsmen.

“This is just the kind of thing I warned him about!”

“Are we going to go look for him?”

“Of course we are!”

Kurogane took off down the hall with no regard for how rude the behavior would appear to the visiting noble. It hadn’t occurred to him that the lord or duke, or whatever the hell he was, would actually follow him. He should have noticed the sounds of footfalls, but he was too distracted. Thinking thoughts like, “idiot!” and “fool!” and “liar!”

It was in the stable yard, saddling his horse with the help of a young stablehand he suspected of several high profile thefts (the boy was still employed in the king’s stables only because there was never enough evidence to prove he was responsible) that Kurogane finally noticed. The lord’s guards were only now reaching the stables but Kurogane didn’t wait, as soon as his horse was saddled, he and the pork bun were off.

“Was that idiot’s horse injured?”

The pork bun had wormed its way under his shirt as a way to avoid flying off the back of Kurogane’s horse as they galloped down the street. The thing’s muffled voice barely managed to make it through the fabric and over the rush of air and clattering of hoofs.

“Mokona doesn’t think so, but horsey seemed scared. Mokona understands. Mokona is scared too!”

“We’ll find him. We’ll follow the horse’s trail back to where they were separated.”

Kurogane knew vaguely where he was going seeing as the kid had found it necessary to tell him all about his sweetheart’s home. He only had to ask the pork bun which way to turn once.

When he skidded to a stop in front of the manor gates, Sakura was already there waiting with what he assumed was the runaway horse.

He was dismounting when the foreign lord and a single guard came to a stop a few feet away.

Sakura gasped, studied this new man who looked so much like her guardian, and looked at Kurogane as though expecting an introduction. That presenting a problem.

“I didn’t ask before, but just who the hell are you?”

“You’ll show L—“

The guard cut what was sure to be a demand for respect short at the indication of his lord.

“No need for that, Kyle. This man is a friend and I will answer his question.” The lord turned to address Kurogane. “I am Yuui, son of Òdr, High Defender of Jashar.”

High Defender. That was what they called their king in Jashar. It was a fitting title for the ruler of a kingdom who had seen nothing but war for as long as anyone living could remember. Until recently anyway when the current Defender had inherited from his war monger uncle and negotiated a cease of hostilities.

All those rumors floating around town that Kurogane has been ignoring for months came to mind. If this man was telling the truth, he was the prince some of those rumors were about. The ones about the heir to the Jashari throne who ran off for reasons unknown.

“I’m looking for my twin brother, with whom I suspect you are acquainted.”

So much for the low born noble theory.

“Acquainted?” That must be the proper term for a person who fails to mention they are in line for succession to a foreign throne.

If one rumor can hold some truth, how accurate was the rest of the gossip? The Jashari king was said to be very ill.

Successions always have a way of getting messy…

“Why should I help you find him? It seems a bit obvious that he doesn’t want to be found. How do I know he isn’t the one named to take power when your king croaks?”

“Kurogane-san!” Sakura was wide eyed at Kurogane’s blatant disrespect.

“How do I know you’re not here to eliminate your competition for the throne?”

The lord – prince – smiled then. A smile wholly unlike his brother’s. “I’m glad Fai has found such a devoted friend.”

Friends now were they? Devoted?

“Please, put your mind at ease. Though he is older and would usually be named successor, my brother never had any desire to be king, not even when we were children.”

The description sounded like the man Kurogane knew, the man who cared nothing for his titles.

“Father promised him I would be put ahead when it came time to name a successor. In a few months, maybe less, I will become High Defender. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need him. He came on this fool mission against my better judgment, but with Father’s blessing. Now that things are as they are, I’ve come to bring him home.”

This was more information than Kurogane could process at the moment. Mission? Leaving the country? A prince! He could sort it out later. After he’d found the man in question, alive and well.

“We have to find him first. Everything else can wait.”

“Agreed.”

As he remounted, Sakura spoke up. “Kurogane-san, please bring Fai-san ho—” She cut off abruptly and changed what she had been going to say. “Bring him back safe.”

“I will.” But who would he be bringing the man back to? Sakura wanted her guardian back. The future Jashari king wanted a brother and political ally it seemed. And Kurogane, he wanted…

Everything else can wait, he reminded himself. That included Kurogane and whatever that sick feeling was that made him hold his reins with an iron grip.


Check the Cameo Master List?
Proceed to Chapter 9.
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