The next morning, the shouts and screams of pain that filled the air seemed to cause no attention from the occupants of the palace.
Keigo would dash down a hall, begging for mercy, and dashing after him with a spear or sword, or whatever he could get his hands on, was Zalair.
“You’ll pay for laughing that much last night!” Zalair shouted.
“But it was so funny! I’m a marshmallow!” Keigo laughed, ducking and dodging Zalair’s attacks.
“Shut up!” Zalair shouted back, “You’re so dead!”
By seven in the morning, Keigo was stuffed into a iron vat, and four more of Zalair’s precious rubies were broken. The only one left now was the one sitting at the very center, on his collar bone.
Still mad, Zalair got into the carriage and ordered it quickly away.
Keigo struggled for a bit to get out of the vat. Once he was, he made certain to gather up any shards of the rubies, and tucked them safely away into the carved box.
Zalair held his forehead, feeling a spell of fatigue coming onto him.
Not only that, but shame and stress was weighing equally upon him. If it wasn’t enough that he insulted Keigo by calling him a marshmallow the night before, and had to hear the Prince and the King laughing all through the night, but nine of the ten rubies were broken. Zalair had been too furious at the time to try and gather any of the pieces, but he was sure it wouldn’t matter soon enough.
“Saiph…” Zalair sighed, finally at home.
He had quickly hurried into the palace, down the halls, and locked himself up in the astrological study. He sat in the comfy leather sofa of the warm room with a book about constellations in his lap. The open page was Orion, and a listing of all his star’s names. There were more than just ten stars in Orion’s constellation, but the ones that made his most predominant shape counted up to at least ten.
“Saiph…” Zalair smiled a bit, his fingers gently rubbing the last ruby. “My favorite star in the sky… The sword of the giant.” He sighed longingly, starting at the constellation.
Ignoring any knocks on the door, Zalair just looked out the large glass dome above him, waiting for the night to fall- when the comfort of Orion returned to him.
Then, as night had crept into the sky, a knock came at the door. “Zalair, sweetheart?” came Queen Rose’s voice. “You’ve been locked in there all day. Did something happen?”
Not wanting to ignore his mother, Zalair actually opened the door. He couldn’t look her in the face. She smiled at him, then frowned as she saw all the empty sockets in his garb.
“What… happened?” she asked, stepping into the room, closing the door quietly behind her.
Zalair slowly walked back to his seat. “I’ve lost ninety percent of myself, Mother…” He sighed, looking up. “And even though I can see him now, it does me no good… Orion… He must be ashamed to have ever comforted me before.”
Queen Rose sighed, sitting herself in a large chair near the center of the room. “Do you say that because all the rubies are gone?”
“Dear… The mark of the gods is still upon you.” Queen Rose said, not sternly, but in her kind motherly tone. She was trying to cheer her son up.
“Eh?” Zalair looked to her, confused.
She smiled, “Or have you forgotten? On your forehead is the mark of a star with two long tails stretching out from it- a wing in many’s eyes.”
Zalair sat up, touching his hand to his forehead. “Yeah… But… What good’s that?”
“Green eyes and a star that looks like a wing on your head,” she smiled. “You, sweetie, are my son… And even though you shut everyone out, you long to have your companion with you.”
“Companion,” Zalair scoffed, not wanting to hear this. “What companion? I’ve lived alone ever since that blasted day… What I did that day – it can’t be undone and it can’t be forgiven.”
“Zalair…” she tried again, “Somewhere in the world is your soul mate. Why not try to have a little faith?”
“Faith?” Zalair glared at her. “You sent me back to that god forsaken place knowing full well who lived there! Keigo tried to kill me countless times there! He doesn’t want me alive at all!”
“Are you sure?” she asked, thinning her eyes. “Perhaps… He’s just…”
Zalair stood up suddenly. “Just what? Insane? Mentally disabled? Dropped as a child and hit his head?” He paused, “Any kindness there ever was in him dried up!”
“So, what did happen, thirteen years ago?” Queen Rose asked, crossing her legs and leaning back for a serious listen. “On that god forsaken day that you hate so much.”
Zalair froze. He’d never told anyone. It was his and Keigo’s secret plan. A secret Zalair planned to take to his grave after Keigo was so cold to him that last time.
“…We…” Zalair didn’t want to give in his full secret, but maybe a little would be okay. “We were stupid kids… We wanted to know what a kiss was like, so we kissed.”
“You kissed?” his mother was in shock, but she didn’t show it. She sat there, very composed, ready to listen to her son.
“Yeah…” Zalair’s face flushed, “But it wasn’t at all like I thought! It was…” He tried to think of the word for it. Surely good, sweet, unique, sensual, and exciting wouldn’t fit. Not that kiss. “Pathetic.”
And with that, Zalair strode past his mother and left out toward his bedroom.
She smiled a bit, saying to herself, “His feet were more red than usual… That blush traveled so far.”
Zalair sat himself in his warm bedroom, on his warm bed. He took a moment to remove his clothing, then fell onto his soft blankets in the nude. A sad sigh came from him as he glanced down to the last ruby.
Annoyed, and not wanting to look at it, Zalair turned the shirt with one swift movement so the ruby was covered.
Then he lay there thinking about that childlike kiss.
Prince Zalair fell asleep that night, curled in his warm blankets, thinking of nothing but that shy sweet kiss he shared with Prince Keigo when they were children.