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    lilansui
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Crown Prince Yoshi - 2. Chapter 2

2

The village Telia spoke of was in a deep valley surrounded by the Furian forest. Yoshi had exchanged horses with her in case someone else recognized Senbon. When they reached a path leading to a bridge, a girl appeared from the bushes with a black horse following her.

Telia stopped Senbon and jumped to the dirt road. Sando looked at him with a raised brow when Telia hurried to hug the girl. The young girl had short spiky red hair, wore burgundy leggings that disappeared into soft leather boots and a warm red sweater that she tied at the waist with a black belt.

Telia ruffled the girl’s short locks. “Your Highness, I apologize for using the title, but I must to make this introduction. My sister, Hinna, is going to be with us.”

Yoshi met light-green smiling eyes, “Nice to meet you, Hinna. I hope you weren’t waiting long.”

“Is it a good idea to bring a child along?” Sando demanded of Telia. “We’re in danger here.”

“Hinna is a Furian,” Telia said as though that was the only explanation needed. She nodded to Hinna who mounted her horse. “We’ll follow her; she has found us a place to stay for the night.”

Yoshi gave Sando a warning glance.

They followed the two women along the dirt road into the village in the valley. A cluster of houses filled the bottom of the gorge. Tiered farming patches made up the land to the tree line. He wondered if their harvest would last the villagers through the coming winter months. The first buildings they passed were made of mud with thatched roofs. Curtains covered the windows. A girl dressed in a plain rough tunic and pants led an old ox into an adjoining barn. She waved at them in greeting. Hinna returned the gesture with a slight smile.

“We’re staying at her grandmother’s house,” Hinna explained.

Where he slept didn’t matter anymore. Yoshi sighed, his thoughts centered on his mother and the assassins. He glanced at Sando and wondered if his chamberlain could return to the palace unnoticed to tell his mother that he was alive.

He’d be left alone with Telia…he bit his lip.

Trust was important right now, and he didn’t know Telia. She could be part of this treasonous plot. How many in the palace were involved? What of the Imperial Army? If they hadn’t relieved Princess Naria in the north, where had they gone? Who had the power to control the Imperial army?

“Yoshi,” Sando called.

He looked up to find they’d arrived at a modest compound. The houses were made of mud bricks, the roofs tiled and the entrance was lighted with two lanterns. An old woman stood there waiting for them.

Telia, Hinna and Sando dismounted. He sighed and got off Telia’s horse. Sando took the reins out of habit.

“Welcome, I was worried young Hinna got lost. She told me she’d wait for you in the forest.” The old woman smiled wide. “The horses can stay in the barn. The young serf can take care of them. I don’t have anyone else working here.”

Sando started reaching for the reins and the old woman frowned. She gave Yoshi a hard disapproving glance.

Yoshi glanced at his clothes and sighed. He’d forgotten he was still in the clothes he’d borrowed from the serf. With a pained frown, he bowed and called out to Sando.

“Master Sando, I’ll take the horses. Why don’t you go have a rest?”

Sando froze in his tracks. Yoshi hid a smile and nodded to the old woman. Sando handed him the reins while Telia chuckled under her breath.

“Brush them, check for injuries, and give them water,” Sando murmured.

He smiled at Sando as he urged the horses toward the barn the woman indicated. He was keenly aware of Hinna, Telia and Sando watching him as he disappeared into the barn. An ox stared at him as he got the horses settled in their stalls on one side of the barn. He found a brush on a worktable in the corner.

He worked steadily for the next hour, brushing the horses, making sure there were no injuries or swelling joints. He got fresh hay and water from a pump outside the barn. It was dark out when he finally settled Senbon. He stood in the stall petting Senbon’s mane, his thoughts on his mother at the palace.

He’d be preparing to have dinner with his mother if he were at the palace. He’d always thought it tedious to dress in the evening for a meal, but now he missed the routine. Was his mother seated at the dining table worrying for him?

“That is a magnificent horse,” an appreciative masculine voice interrupted his thoughts.

He jerked his head up to stare at the tall dark figure standing right outside Senbon’s stall. His hand moved to his waist, a curse escaped as he realized he didn’t have his sword.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you, serf.” The stranger shifted at Senbon’s trough. “Who is your master? I must compliment him on such a magnificent creature.”

Yoshi bit his lip and lowered his head reluctantly. “My master is inside, my lord.”

“What is your name?”

“Yoshi,” he said, lowering his head farther in case the man took a closer look.

“Your parents named you after the Prince. How ambitious. They must have wished you well.”

He didn’t think the statement required a reply. The man’s voice was deep, thrilling, and mysterious.

The stranger walked into the stall moving closer to Senbon. The white stallion shifted, nervous. Yoshi laid a hand on the stallion’s mane to calm him. The stranger smiled and reached out to touch Senbon’s mane too.

“Tell your master to take care; I might want to buy his horse.”

As if he’d ever allow that, he scoffed with a frown. He couldn’t stomach the idea of selling Senbon.

The dark stranger stunk of sweat from days of not bathing. He lowered his head, hoping to bury his nose into his tunic but the scent assaulted him as the stranger continued to pet Senbon. His gaze fell on the black leather military boots the man wore.

He frowned.

The dark leather was stained with dark mud and splatters of…blood?

His head came up fast, his frown deepening when he saw the sword sheath. Red and gold tongues of fire decorated the carefully crafted wood. The man was from Fier.

“I came to ask you to look after my horse. He’s in the next stall. Be careful, Midnight is spirited. You have to be gentle with him.”

Yoshi bit back a groan before he bowed lower. He froze when a callused hand caressed his jaw.

“If you do a good job, you could make extra money later tonight. I’ll look for you after dinner.”

The hand dropped away and he breathed out in relief.

The man left the barn in quick strides. Yoshi straightened up wondering what that meant.

Make extra money, how? He looked at Senbon.

“What do you think he means?” he murmured to Senbon.

Afraid the dark stranger might return, he rushed out and made short work of the large dark stallion. He left the barn once he finished and was glad to see Sando waiting for him right outside the main house.

“What took you so long?” Sando asked, a frown dancing on his forehead.

“A rider from Fier wanted my help. He also told me he’ll look for me later, if I want to make extra money.”

Sando gasped and closed his eyes in anguish. “If she finds out, she’ll have my head. How dare he ask you such a thing?”

Yoshi patted Sando’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry, Sando. I won’t tell if you don’t. Besides, I doubt the rider will remember. He didn’t see my face.”

Sando scoffed. “Have you seen your face? Don’t forget you’re the only serf on the farm. I need to find a better clothing solution for you. I asked the old woman to bring food to our room. There is a bathhouse near the river behind the main house. I ordered hot water for you. We must get you a change of clothes. I won’t have others mistaking you for a serf.”

“The Fier Officer, did he introduce himself?” Yoshi asked as Sando led him to the bathhouse.

“He didn’t.” Sando opened the door into the simple large room built with wood. Warm yellow light from the lanterns on the wall brightened the bathhouse. “I will go find you new clothes while you bathe. I'll ask Telia to talk to the Fier Rider.”

Sando led him to the middle of the room where a large copper bathtub stood filled with water.

Yoshi pulled off the serf’s tunic and trousers eager to enter the heated water. A soft appreciative moan escaped as he sunk into the moderately hot water.

Sando reached for the turban on Yoshi’s head and removed it, undoing the braid he’d made in the coach earlier in the day.

Yoshi’s long dark hair tumbled down his back and he sighed as the pressure from the tight braid eased.

“I’ll be right back.” Sando patted his shoulder gently. “You have a few minutes to yourself.”

Yoshi murmured his thanks and ducked his head under the warm water. The heat soothed his aching muscles. Small stings on his arms reminded him of the scratches from branches in the forest. When he couldn’t hold his breath anymore, he sat up wiping water from his eyes with his right palm. He blinked a few drops out of his eyes and pushed his hair back pushing it to one side to squeeze out the water.

A gasp filled the room and he turned fast to find the tall man he’d met in the stables standing behind him. Panic brought him to his feet in the tub, his hair dripping water to the floor as he turned to face the intruder.

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to bathe, obviously, you’re no serf. Why did you let me think you were?”

Yoshi stared at the tall man, his gaze lingering on a flat defined chest, a washboard stomach. Silk drawstring trousers tied low on slender hips. Delicious body, he forced his gaze back to knowing dark eyes.

“I didn’t let you think anything. You assumed I was a serf on your own.”

The man laughed.

“The fire in your eyes certainly proves your point. No serf would dare look at me as you do, Yoshi. Will you tell me who you are?”

The warm yellow light did nothing to soften the harsh chiseled jaw or the hard dark eyes studying him. The stranger’s dark hair fell around his shoulders in wild disarray. A white cloth was thrown over a broad shoulder in preparation for a bath.

Yoshi found he couldn’t look away from the stranger’s lips delicately framed by a trimmed thin beard. Hating the attraction, he scowled.

“I don’t like being at a disadvantage. Tell me your name, Fier Rider.”

“How do you know I’m from Fier?”

“The sheath of your sword, and your boots,” Yoshi said meeting amused dark eyes.

The man nodded with a small smile, “My name is Midori.”

Midori came closer and walked around the tub. Yoshi started to turn with him, but a soft touch on his right shoulder stopped him. He tensed as that hand pushed strands of his long dark hair over his shoulder. Callused fingers traced gently over the curve of his neck, skimming down his spine, stopping at the small of his back. He closed his eyes afraid those exploring fingers would stop.

A finger caressed the small of his back. He felt it trace over the jade vine that stopped at the curve of his buttocks. Midori's fingers skimmed up his back, drawing the vibrant red phoenix perched on the jade vine on his back. He’d cried hours when he’d gotten the tattoo. He’d been ten years old, lying on his stomach while his mother did the tattoo.

“What does it mean?” Midori’s hands circled his neck gently.

He felt mesmerized by those strong fingers on his skin.

“It means nothing,” he managed when those exploring fingers rested on his shoulders.

He shivered when Midori came around to stand in front of him and he decided it was because his bath water was getting cold.

“Your hair is beautiful.” Midori got closer, so close he could feel the brush of Midori’s chest against his. With every breath, he took in Midori’s scent. He swayed when Midori leaned in to whisper in his left ear. “I want you.”

“No.” Yoshi opened his eyes and stared at Midori's golden skin. “It’s forbidden.”

A husky laugh had him tensing. He looked into dark eyes in surprise when Midori’s hand ran down his stomach and slid lower to capture his hardening erection.

“Your body doesn’t think so.”

“Even if my body wants its,” he managed to say conscious of Midori’s heat, that hand stroking him slowly. He bit his lip to keep from moaning. “It’s still forbidden.”

A sword appeared at Midori’s neck. Midori let go of him slowly and raised his hands. He turned to find Sando standing a few feet away a bundle of clothes and wooden sandals in one hand, the other holding the sword.

“Get out of the water, Yoshi,” Sando ordered, his grip steady, the tip of the sword against Midori’s vital vein at his neck.

“Sando, relax.” Yoshi got out of the water.

Sando held out a black robe, he took it and pulled it over his wet body. Sando dropped the sandals on the floor for him and he jammed his feet into them.

“You have a body guard?” Midori raised a brow when Sando growled a warning. “You should have told me I needed permission to touch you, Yoshi.”

“I warned you, you didn’t listen.” Yoshi tied the belt on the long robe and smiled. He gave the taller man a short bow. “Have a good bath, my lord.”

“I’ll see you around.” Midori looked at Sando. “Take him with you. I like my privacy.”

Yoshi left the bathhouse aware that Sando wouldn’t withdraw his sword until he was out of sight. Sando caught up with him a few minutes later still carrying the bundle of clothing.

“You have no sense of preservation.” Sando admonished walking fast. “I leave you alone for a minute, and you get yourself in trouble.”

“It’s not my fault. He came to bathe. I can’t control what other’s think. You looked very convincing with that sword.”

“I was going to chop his head off, but you looked like you wanted his touch.”

“Did I?”

Sando led him into their room. The room was large enough to hold two beds and a small sitting area. Telia and Hinna sat at the small table talking. When they saw him, they started to stand but he waved them down. Sando closed the door behind him.

“I have news,” Telia said as he sat on one of the beds by the wall. “The army is headed for Fier.”

“Are you sure?” Sando frowned dumping his load of clothing on the other bed. “The Princess is not in Fier. Who gave you this information?”

“We have contacts in this village.” Hinna held up a yellow token. “One of the merchants in the village was paid with this by a sentry. The army is headed for Fier.”

Yoshi closed his eyes in disappointment.

Four Quads made up the Empire of Amana. The Fier quad was to the north of the Empire. Fier was vast with rich red soil that came from the volcanic mountains at the heart of the quad. The Furian forest bordered Fier’s south side. The Sanori clan had ruled Fier for millennia. Namik Sanori was the current head of the clan, a son in his mid-twenties was to succeed him.

Yoshi frowned; he couldn’t remember the name of the son. His mother was always talking of Namik, it was difficult to remember he’d die one day and another heir would take over. One thing he did know was that Namik was no friend of Almira Taimeng. Namik hated the Empress. Yoshi was sure Namik would love to see him dethroned, to spite Almira.

“What are you thinking about?” Sando asked him.

“Two weeks ago, Namik Sanori sent two of his officials to request the Empress’s presence in Fier. He claimed concern of high tensions between the rebels and his soldiers. He claimed the rebels were attacking the small villages surrounding Fier. Namik suggested making a peace agreement with the rebels. The Empress promised to make the trip in order to show stability to the people.”

Yoshi looked at Sando, a frown dancing on his forehead.

“It could have been a trap,” Telia said shifting in her seat to look at him. “They must have known the Empress wouldn’t make it and would have to send you.”

“What does Namik hope to gain from having my cousin on the throne?” Yoshi asked. “If the Imperial Army is heading to Fier, Namik will be unstoppable. He’ll raid all the lands around him, including the Furian forest and move on to the capital city. He’ll destroy, leaving nothing to rule over.”

Telia stood up and started pacing the length of the room. “We have to find a way to make sure the army doesn’t get to Fier.”

“The Chief General does not deviate from the orders given by the Imperial Diet.” Sando turned to Yoshi, “unless an order comes directly from a Prince or the Empress.”

“No one can know he’s alive until we understand the situation.” Telia protested shaking her head. “It is better to let the army go to Fier. We can head west. We need allies, Your Highness, people loyal to the House of Taimeng.”

“We can’t allow the army to reach Fier,” Yoshi said shaking his head. He couldn’t imagine what Namik would do with the power of the Imperial Army. “That‘s too much power. The Princess Naria can’t handle three times the enemy no matter how good she is.”

“She can handle herself.” Telia responded her eyes flashing a bright red that had Hinna running to her side.

The Furian temper was always so close. He watched her reign it under control a bit unnerved by her outburst.

“We head to Earith in the morning,” Telia said, her tone rough. “We need to start creating an army of our own. If Earith's army joins forces with the Princess Naria, we'll be able to fight against Fier.”

Yoshi narrowed his gaze, noting the moment Telia regained control. “Very well, Earith’s army will help me save my mother.”

“You must consider the possibility that your mother might already…” Telia stopped when he jumped off the bed his eyes blazing with anger. She bowed her head quickly. “Forgive me, Your Highness. I pray for the Empress's good health. Please have a good night.”

She and Hinna hurried out of the room and he was left standing with his fists clenched tight. He had to believe his mother was alive. He had no choice.

*****

Amana Palace

Almira Taimeng ran a long finger over the delicate clear bowl, her gaze fixed on the golden tips on her fingers. Her head hurt, the flower pins stuck into her hair felt tight. The richly embroidered yellow robes felt hot, she wished she could rip them off.

Yoshi would have teased her about her ceremonial clothing by now. He hated formality always chafing against the palace rules.

She pushed the bowl away, refusing to sip the water her chamberlain had poured for her. Yoshi, she fought to keep a calm facade. The room had eyes in the walls, watching, always watching.

“Your Majesty,” a taunting tone said into the large dining hall. “You must eat your dinner. You must look after your health.”

She held her tongue refusing to look at the man standing at the other end of the table. It was difficult to think of him as her cousin. She'd spent most of her fifty years searching for something to love insider her younger cousin.

Her parents had been sage rulers of the Amana Empire. As such, she'd gained the birthright to rule the Empire the moment she'd taken her first breath. She was an only child and had spent her youth training to be the Empress.

Her cousin however, she studied her dinner plate; he'd always chafed against their different statuses. Tailen wanted the chance to take the crown from her, to the point of urging the Imperial Diet to change the rules so that only a man could inherit the throne. Being an only child, had that rule passed, he'd have been next in-line for the throne. The bill had fallen through but it was the first time she'd truly realized how much Tailen Meng hated her. She should have known her cousin's jealousies would only deepen with the years.

She considered Tailen Meng evil. It was a sad thing to think about a member of her family, but he'd committed too many atrocities in the past forty years for her to forgive him. He enjoyed torturing people especially if he knew she would get hurt in the process. Lately, his agenda to gain power had intensified and she now worried for her son's safety. He was unable to remove her from power but assassinating Yoshi would give him power by birthright. The Imperial Diet’s rules stated Tailen’s son was next in line after Yoshi. She fought her shudder. Why hadn’t she forced Yoshi to get married sooner? He’d have an heir to take his place….

“Your Majesty,” Tailen said.

She sat back in the large chair slowly and feigned indifference.

“What brings you to my palace, Tailen?” she asked deliberating leaving out his title. He hated it when she did that. She noted the wince on his face immediately. “Don’t you have a house of your own?”

Tailen gave her a mock bow. “I have news, Your Majesty. There is a terrible rumor in Lexin city. The Court Ministers won’t share it with you until they have proof, but I think you should know.”

“Do share, dear cousin. What is this rumor that I must hear?”

“The Prince Yoshi is dead.” Tailen gloated as he declared his news.

Almira ruthlessly controlled her panic. She held on to her calm façade not moving a single muscle. Tailen never gloated without proof. She wondered if her plan had failed.

“Prince Tailen, thank you for your consideration.”

“This is such a tragedy, isn’t it?” Tailen paced along the dining table coming toward her slowly. “You were just about to formally declare him the successor to your throne. Such a young age to die, twenty-one, perhaps you should have done it sooner.”

She gritted her teeth and stiffened every muscle to keep from scratching his eyes out. How dare he come to gloat? Yoshi was alive. Tailen stopped right before her and gave her another mocking bow.

“I promise to be at your side, Your Majesty, through this difficult time.”

“We shall remember your offer, Prince Tailen,” she said with a small dismissive nod.

He scowled when she didn't give him a larger reaction. His gaze narrowed on her and then he turned and left without a backward glance.

She watched him leave the dining hall. Once the doors closed, she waited a few minutes before she stood up and left the hall through discrete doors behind her chair. She headed to the inner palace, her only current sanctuary. She’d needed to be at the dining hall for appearances. Guards stood in intervals along the corridors; she schooled her steps, fighting the urge to run to her rooms.

She entered her suite and waited until the doors closed before she allowed the trembling. She held on to a flower stand and closed her eyes.

Yoshi, she mourned.

A soft knock on her door had her taking a deep harsh breath. She moved around the flower stand to a bench and sat down.

“Enter,” she ordered her voice strong.

The doors opened and her two trusted confidants entered her suite. She braced for the truth. They closed the doors and came to stand before her. Zia Sayu and Tai Migi were twins she’d saved from a raided farm in the South of the Empire.

She’d brought them back to the palace and raised them along her son as royal guards. These past three years, the twins had become her most trusted servants.

“Tell me,” she ordered, her gaze fixed on Zia Sayu.

Zia kept her hair in a tight bun on top of her head. Her dark clothing hid her figure and the double swords she preferred.

“He is safe for now,” Zia said, her tone low, wary of eavesdroppers. “The Furian found him on time but there is a complication.”

“Complication,” Almira frowned. “If they don’t have him, they can’t force me to choose that stupid brat. They must have proof to convince the Imperial Diet and the people.”

“They have a body dressed in The Prince’s travel clothing and a ring.” Tai bowed lower. “It is my fault. I should have gotten to the carriage sooner.”

“What do you mean?” Her cousin's excitement made sense. If he had a body, gotten from the Prince’s carriage—

She got to her feet. “The moment I declare that body is not Yoshi they will send more assassins after him. Prince Tailen wants his son, Saki Meng, on the throne. He has planned for this. I have no choice but to announce the death of my son in order to protect him.”

“Then we must get the Prince back to the palace.” Zia consoled her. “Let us go and get him.”

“He is safer out there. If he returns to the palace, it will be easier for them to kill him. We have spent the past month protecting him from assassins. Opposition has strong allies in this palace and with the Imperial Diet. I can’t watch my son poisoned.” Almira stopped pacing. “He must remain out of the palace until I find a solution. I need to clean out the Imperial Diet. I need to remove the ones Tailen has corrupted.”

“Give us your orders,” Tai asked.

She paced the length of the bench.

The Princess Naria was fighting rebels to the North of the Furian forest. Her son was lost in the Furian forest. She suspected the Imperial Army was under her cousin’s command. The way they’d left…she frowned. She didn’t like it. The House of Meng was controlling the Imperial Diet. Tailen was pushing her into a corner, he wanted her to roll over and allow his son to inherit the throne.

She hurried to a writing table a few feet away and pulled out a small box from a drawer. She poured wax from a red candle on to blank rice paper and rolled it. She tied the paper with a red ribbon from her desk, took the ring and walked back to Zia.

“Take this to Terra in the south.” She handed Zia the rolled letter and slipped the ring deftly into Zia's palm. She met Zia’s gaze. “Be safe.”

Almira turned to Tai. “Find the Phoenix. Guard him until he returns to the palace.”

“What about you, Your Majesty?” Tai asked worried.

“I have Sayuri. I will be fine. The Phoenix is more important, bring him back to me.”

****

2012 lilansui
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  • Love 7
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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On 10/17/2013 03:34 PM, Ashton said:
Love the story!
Thank you, I will update this as soon as chapter 4 is finished.
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