"I'm leaving tomorrow…"
There was hesitation in his voice when he broke the news to her. He diligently waited for her response but she quickly turned her back on him and pretended to be more interested in the view through the window than his surprise news. It wasn't the kind of reaction he was expecting from her. He was waiting for her to scream and berate him for notifying her of his sudden departure after two weeks of not showing up in the palace. However, she remained silent and this had made him feel uncomfortable and a little scared.
"It was the king's orders…." He tried to explain. He wanted her to know that the decision was not made by him but by his persistent father. There was no way he could disobey his father's wishes. After all, he had threatened him that he would lose his right as heir if he would not agree to his terms. His father always got what he wanted. He was the sort of man who would force his own daughter to marry a stranger just because he didn't approve of her lover.
"I'm sorry for not telling you sooner. I had to prepare for my departure…" It was not entirely a lie although the palace servants were the ones who did the packing. He just dreaded this day that he would have to say goodbye to her. They had been friends for more than seven years so this separation would take some time getting used to. It took him two weeks to also gather up enough courage for he was planning to confess to her about his long-kept feelings before he leaves for the academy.
"When will you be back?" she finally spoke without facing him.
"After four years…" These words brought a feeling of homesickness to him even though he had not yet left. He just realized how long he would be away from the kingdom and from her. "… I'll be back before father formally bestows on me the right to the throne."
"Have you got anything more to say?" she asked as if implying that she was getting bored with their conversation already but the prince took it as an opportunity.
"Well, there is something…" He whispered before hesitatingly enclosing her in an embrace to which she let out a silent gasp. Her shoulders tensed and she stood enveloped in his arms as stiff as a stone statue. He did not care if she did not even bother to turn around to face him or return his embrace. His mind was made up. He was going to tell her now that he had been secretly in love with her all these years.
His heart pounded, his cheeks were flushed and his hands were clammy when he took one big breath before uttering...
"I'm going to miss you."
Those were not the words that he wished to say although in all honesty he was surely going to miss her. He cursed himself for becoming weak in the knees all of a sudden. Perhaps it could be attributed to his fear of rejection. He did not want to leave the kingdom feeling miserable because his best friend broke his heart. He was the son of the proud King Yuan Tao after all.
The princess quickly pulled herself away from his embrace and stared at him with piercing eyes.
He was slightly offended by her gesture. "It was just a small hug, Anna. It's not like we never did it before. Why are you suddenly so angry?"
"Why won't I be? You stopped coming over for two weeks for no apparent reason then all of a sudden you're saying goodbye because your father told you to leave."
"I had no choice." He tried to control his temper. "Please Anna… I don't want us to part with ill feelings toward each other."
"You always have a choice Ren and you chose to leave so GO," she pointed towards the door. "But if you leave now, I won't speak to you anymore!"
It was pointless to reason out with her when she's angry. He knew this too well. With a heavy heart, he slowly paced towards the door and reached for the knob. This is not how he had imagined their meeting to end.
"Believe me Anna. I would choose to stay but the whole kingdom depends on me. I hope you'll see me off at the Kaminari port tomorrow morning," he muttered to her but he was certain that she won't come. She was too furious at him to grant his simple request.
The princess' air of indifference dissipated the instant her best friend had closed the door behind him. When she can no longer hear his footsteps, she dropped down to her knees and released all the bitter tears that she had been trying to control.
"Don't leave me… Don't go Ren.."
Anna opened her eyes and found herself in a spacious elegantly furnished room. If not for the brunet who was snoring from a chair by the bedside, she would have thought that she was back at the Kouku palace for she was comfortably lying on a large fluffy bed with a golden chandelier hovering above her. The prince's chamber began to dim with the setting of the sun. Just how long had she been in there? The last thing she remembered was asking the prince to do fifty rounds of jogging as a punishment.
I must have fainted and have been carried by the prince into his room. The long sleep had brought back her health. Her fever was almost gone and she felt completely reinvigorated. She turned her gaze to the boy who was drooling on the bed cover. More than his stupid facial expression, it was their intertwined hands that had caught her attention. A blush crept to her cheeks. She tried to pull her hand from his but he had held on to it more tightly.
"Wake up, wake up, Yoh!" she shook his shoulders forcefully with her other hand but the prince only grunted and continued sleeping. It seemed that he got too tired from what she had ordered him to do earlier.
"Fine, you may rest for a few minutes more." She removed a piece of leaf that was sticking on his raven head and gently smoothened out the wayward strands of his hair. "Thank you Yoh… for staying by my side."
Suddenly the door burst open and a heaving pink-haired girl excitedly appeared, "I'm back Yoh!"
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