"End of Eden" by Mao

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To readers of The Blind Year: I've had bronchitis for three weeks (I still have it...), and then ended up writing the wrong story when I finally started getting my energy back. (ιยดД`)ノ Sorry!!!

Anyway, this is kind of a weird series. All the chapters are actual drabbles (almost). I don't think it'll be long. Normally, I'd finish it all and post it as a one-shot, but I guess I'm lazy these days. Hopefully I can finish this!

- Since the Kou Empire is based on Imperial China, that's where I get my cultural inspiration for world-building.
- The animators seem to suck at being consistent about Hakuryuu's eye colour, so I'm just going to say that they were originally blue lol
- There's gonna be so much fluff in this damn fic help me lord because I suck at that genre

Volume I


1. Petals

The first time you meet him, he is the Third Imperial Prince.

He is a young boy with rich, blue eyes and small hands. His gaze is wide and colourful, reminding you of the petals of the forget-me-nots in your homeland. His hands look soft, and they clutch at his older sister's robes as he disappears behind her. He is not much younger than you, but he is far shyer, it seems. The only thing keeping you from feeling jealous of him, envious of his free wrists and bright Rukh, is the fact that your place has already been beaten into you.

Still, you do not comment on his mannerisms when you are finally introduced to the Imperial Family, only bowing your head low when Hakuyuu Ren's gaze sweeps across your form. You are only a chlid, but you know that you have no business of meeting his slim, steel eyes: after all, your shirt is an ugly brown, whereas his silk robes are a brilliant white-and-grey, gleaming in the sunlight like the scales of a dragon. Even without looking at him, you know that the gleam of his Rukh must make your own look like dingy little things. Your forehead almost touches the dirt, and you only lift it when the Crown Prince commands you to rise.

"Is this what you call a gift?" He seems angry, you think. He doesn't let his voice show it, but there are lines between his brows when they look at the man behind you, and his large fingers are curled up into a ball. They remind you of your owner's hands, the way that they look before they hit you. You want to wilt at the angry expression, but you school yourself into stillness. Trembling will only bring pain; trembling will only bring pain. The mantra has already been engraved into your skin, leaving paper-thin scars on your back.

And anyway, the man behind you does not seem worried, only spreads his hands out as he talks excitedly.

"Not just a gift, your radiance. This is a great spoil of war from lands west of Kou, a present from one of the greatest slavers in this kingdom." You could hear him licking his lips. "This girl is young, but she has a great talent in the arts of magic, and we have trained her well. If she does not cooperate, she will respond readily to the whip. As an attendant, she will be a great asset and protection to your family. And of course, she will not protest to other uses..."

You do not know what he means by "other uses". Your owner has only ever told you to focus on speaking with the Rukh, making them dance with your wand. But at the words, Prince Hakuyuu's eyes narrow even more.

"Very well. We will accept this gift." His voice is hard. "Hakuei! Hakuryuu!"

At that, the girl and the boy behind him stand to attention. The little boy with the petal eyes, the one who had been hiding, does his best to straighten his back and look his brother in the eye. He almost seems brave like this.

"This girl is the closest in age to the two of you, so I will leave her in your care." He pauses, then looks at you. Almost instinctively, your gaze drops to the ground again, focused on your bare feet and chains. You almost don't realise it when he addresses you. "Look at me."

It is difficult to raise your head, but you do it eventually. The lines around his eyes are gone when you see him, and his mouth seems softer, somehow. Like this, the crown prince is not so intimidating, and you wonder if this is what kindness looks like.

"What do you call yourself?"

You hesitate, glance around. Your owner is not here to introduce you, to name you as he announces that you are one of his finest objects for sale. Unsure of what to do or say, you sweat under the weight of the prince's gaze until you finally manage to squeak out your name.

Your voice is soft, but he still nods when you answer. "I think you are of similar age as my youngest brother." He gestures to the curious boy, who is now staring at you with his forget-me-not eyes. "His name is Hakuryuu Ren. For now, you will be his personal servant."

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