Princess Yumisa Hase barely had time to react before the two children bowled into her, knocking her to the floor. They started tickling her, and she began to laugh involuntarily under their assault. Then, before she could stop them, her younger sister grabbed one of her ears and began to pull on it teasingly, lovingly, yet violently. Meanwhile, Yumisa’s brother grabbed her tail.
Chiharu Yamashiro, Yumisa’s head handmaiden, grabbed the two by their ears and yanked them up.
“Ow! Ow!” the two kids cried out, batting at her iron grip.
“What have I told you two about attacking your sister in the morning?” Chiharu demanded angrily, glaring at each of them in turn.
“We aren’t supposed to bother Yumisa, especially after she gets back from a tour!” they cried, tears streaming from their young eyes as they feared having their ears pulled off.
“That’s right!” Chiharu tossed them both carelessly away down the hall, where the two crashed into the walls and ran off crying, not really hurt because Chiharu knew how to throw. Chihauru watched them run off and then smoothed down her skirt and extended her hand to her mistress. “You know how your brother and sister are, Your Highness—they’re rambunctious, especially when they haven’t seen you for a few weeks.”
“They’re terrors!” Yumisa said, accepting a hand up. “I haven’t even had breakfast yet!”
“Your breakfast is being prepared—Ado and Takē are seeing to that.” Chiharu dusted the back of Yumisa’s nightgown off. “I believe your parents are waiting to see you, my Lady. They will be very happy to know you are safe and won’t be going on tour anymore.”
“They’re the only ones,” Yumisa said bitterly. “I can’t believe they’re forcing me to marry a man I don’t even know!”
“He knows even less about you, my Lady—remember that. As far as he knows, you’re three hundred pounds and have warts covering every part of your body, instead of being the genteel, beautiful woman that you are.”
“Woman? I’m barely eighteen, Chiharu—I was hoping for another few years before I even thoughtof getting married.” Yumisa held her injured hip. “Ugh, I hope I don’t have a bruise on my wedding night.”
“We had all hoped you’d have more time, my Lady, but thankfully this long war is ending.”
“Lady Yumisa, Emperor Sunada and Empress Wakuni wish to see you in their room for breakfast,” Ruri Wakita said with a bow as she approached.
“It’s amazing how fast you two can turn off being rock stars and go back to being handmaidens again,” Yumisa said.
“It’s why you adore us so much, my Lady,” Chiharu said, giving her a polite bow. “Will you be needing my services for breakfast?”
“No, I’ll be fine,” Yumisa told her. “Though expected a summons from my parents because of your treatment of Yurichi and Satsu.”
Chiharu flexed her right arm muscle and held it firmly. “Nah, they like roughhousing with me! It helps build character!”
“And broken bones,” Yumisa winced.
“Those help build character, too,” Chiharu told her with a laugh. “If you won’t be needing us for awhile, Your Highness, we’ll go prepare your clothes for your travel to Vadora.”
“And find a few mementos to take with you,” Ruri told her. “After all, your bedroom with the Prince must also reflect you.”
Yumisa sighed and hugged them. “I love you two so much!”
“We love you, Highness—you won’t have to face this life without us.”
“I’m so sorry you had to end your careers because of me,” Yumisa told them. “It’s really not fair.”
“ZOO was just some fun we were having, and the time for fun is over,” Ruri told her. “Now is the time to get to the business of making sure you have a good life in Vadora and… whatever nation the Emperor and Vadoran King decide to call the new empire.”
“Now scoot!” Chiharu popped her on the bottom. “Your mother and father are waiting.”
Yumisa walked down the hall to her parents’ room. Just as she reached the door, her ears twitched, and she said “Don’t” while pointing fingers at her brother and sister, who were readying to pounce on her again from opposite directions. They both went “Aww…” and slinked off back to their rooms.
Yumisa knocked, and her mother answered the door.
“Misa! Welcome home!” Empress Wakuni said, hugging her daughter tightly. “Did you have a good tour?”
“I don’t think ZOO could have asked for a better goodbye,” Yumisa said as she came into her parents’ room. “The rugrats aren’t joining us?” she asked curiously.
“We wanted to spend the morning with you alone,” Wakuni told her. “We wanted to know if you had a chance to meet Prince Kiminobu like you had hoped.”
“Mmm… do I smell waffles?” Yumisa asked, her nose twitching excitedly.
“Ado just delivered them,” Sunada said as he sat down. “She figured you’d need something filling for the day ahead of you.”
“One good thing about a high metabolism is that I get to eat good stuff.” Yumisa piled her plate with the thick waffles and poured maple syrup all over them.
“Your metabolism might not always be high,” her mother warned her. “Just be careful.”
“Considering what I am, the doctors think I’ll always have to eat or I’ll waste away to nothing.”
Yumisa started chowing down.
“Honey, restrain yourself,” Wakuni told her. “You don’t want to eat like a wolf when you’re with King Nakamoto and Queen Harukichi.”
Yumisa sighed and put her fork down on her plate. “I don’t know if I want to meet them,” she said. “What if they hate me?”
“You met Prince Kiminobu last night, didn’t you?” Sunada asked his daughter. “What did he think?”
Yumisa sighed and let out a low growl. “I met him as Okami, ZOO’s manager, not as Yumisa Hase, Princess of Kareneth,” she admitted. “I was so afraid to tell him who I was. He seemed nice, though, and he didn’t turn away from me in fear or disgust. Then again, he probably assumed I was just wearing a costume, like the other girls. But he did say I was pretty.”
“We should send him a picture of you, darling—it would only be fair,” Sunada commented.
“No!” Yumisa said, and she slammed her fist on the table, rattling the dishes. She slowly pulled her hands into her lap. “No, he has to accept me when we meet. It’s the only way I’ll know for certain if he can love me. Love at first sight or not at all. I can love him, even if I’ll have to force him on a diet.”
“Diet?” Wakuni asked curiously.
“He’s a little pudgy—nothing serious, but….”
“Will you be able to love a man who has burns on his body as serious as his burns are?” Sunada asked her. “You don’t think he’ll love you because of your nature, but… he has problems, too.”
“I know… and like me, no one’s seen what he looks like under his clothes. I guess we’ll both be in for a surprise, one way or the other.” Yumisa shook her head. “I wish we could have helped him after the accident. It’s terrible what happened to him. That poor man!”
Wakuni reached over and took her daughter’s hand. “It’s too late now,” she said sadly. “The burn scars are set too long. You’ll have to… do your best with him.”
“If he even wants me,” Yumisa said, retrieving her hand. “If the rest of his guards are as pretty as that Shiori girl, he’s probably slept with all of them! I have nothing to offer him.”
“Don’t say that, darling—you’re more beautiful than any woman alive! And you are far more special, too.” She reached over and stroked her daughter’s ears. “You may have been born with recessive genes, but those genes make you so beautiful!”
“So beautiful that I’ve had to hide my entire life,” Yumisa said bitterly.
“That was a decision we made that we do regret,” Sunada told her. “We didn’t know what the world would think if they saw that you were… different.”
“I’m the black sheep of the family,” Yumisa said. “Or black wolf.”
“But at least that allowed you more freedom than your brother and sister have,” Wakuni said. “You were able to form a band, see the entirety of the Empire, and no one knew who you were!”
Yumisa smiled. “Yeah, I guess that did work in my favor. And spending time with ZOO has been a lot of fun!”
“And you did everything yourself—you had no help from us,” Sunada told her. “You took them to the height of popularity without anyone knowing you were a Princess. You should always be very proud of yourself for that!”
“I am. I did do a good job, didn’t I?” she said proudly. “And I made quite a bit of money for myself and my handmaidens, so we don’t have to rely completely on the Empire.”
“I always had a feeling you’d make a name for yourself,” Sunada told her with fatherly pride. “Even if it was under the name Okami.”
“Okami is me and I’m Okami,” Yumisa told him. “And I’m a-okay with that!”
The three of them laughed.
“It’s going to be weird not having breakfast with you in the mornings,” Yumisa said. “I’m really going to miss our times together.”
“You don’t have breakfast with us when you’re on tour,” Sunada said. “Just imagine you’re on tour when you’re in Vadora!”
“You’ll have your handmaidens with you, so at least you’ll have them,” Wakuni said.
“If they come with me,” Yumisa said. “I can’t ask them to leave their homes and move to a foreign city just because of me!”
“Sweetie, those five would go to the moons for you if you asked them to. You won’t have to live in Vadora alone!”
“I hope not,” Yumisa said. “I don’t know if I could do this without them there to guide me.”
“And we’ll be there for the wedding, darling.”
“But that’s three months away! And you won’t be there for the quick ceremony in two days, just to get things rolling! And why do I have to get married in two days? Why can’t I wait three months?”
“Because the treaty we agreed upon depends on a child, and you cannot get pregnant outside of marriage—people may say it’s okay, but for the Empire of Kareneth, it will not happen to our Princess! If you’re going to waddle down the aisle because you’re pregnant, at least you’ll be legally married in the eyes of the Empire beforehand!”
“Again, why not just hold the formal ceremony in two days? There’s plenty of time!”
“Because the formal treaty has not been fully agreed upon,” Sunada said. “What you and Prince Kiminobu are signing is just a formal ceasefire and an agreement that upon your wedding, all hostilities will be forgotten. Remember, you and Prince Kiminobu will not be the rulers of the new Empire—you will be Guardians until your child comes of age and takes the throne.”
“Yumisa!!” her mother hissed.
“I was going to say wolfbane, all right?”
Wakuni cleared her throat, not believing her.
“I know this is unfair to you, Child, and I wish it didn’t have to be this way,” Sunada told her, “but your mother and I are very proud of you for doing it. You could have run away at any point, but you came back. I love you so much.”
“I love you, too, Daddy,” Yumisa said, reaching over to take his hand. “I just hope Prince Kiminobu can love a mongrel like me.”
“You are not a mongrel,” Wakuni snarled. “You are Princess Yumisa Wakuni Hase, First Daughter of the Kareneth Empire, and you are nothing less than that—and if I have to tell you that again, I will spank you!”
“Mom, I’m eighteen!”
“I don’t care if you’re forty!” Wakuni said. “You will get that mongrel nonsense out of your head right now! Firing the servant who once called you that was not good enough for him! He should have been flayed alive!”
“Honey, calm down,” Sunada said. “Though your mother is right, Misa—just because you have a recessive gene from a long forgotten ancestor doesn’t mean anything. You will hold your head up proudly when you marry Prince Kiminobu, and if he refuses to accept you, we will continue the war and annihilate Vadora off the face of the planet!”
“No offense, Dad, but the reason we’re having this treaty is because you couldn’t destroy Vadora.”
“I don’t care—I will not have my beautiful daughter insulted!”
Yumisa smiled at her parents. She loved them both so much.
“My Lord, we have clearance from Vadoran Wall Command for two days from now,” a general in the Kareneth army reported to Emperor Sunada later that day. “They know we will have a military escort for the Princess, but they ask that only the carrier she’s traveling in and one mobile suit be allowed inside. The rest of our forces are to remain beyond the wall until after the ceremony.”
“Agreed,” Sunada said. “But in return, only the carrier that will be transporting the Prince and one Nexus Suit are allowed to come.”
“Apparently, Lord, Prince Kiminobu does not travel without his royal guards, all of whom pilot Nexus Suits,” the general said. “Even when he came to Kareneth last night for the concert, all five of his guards were with him.”
Sunada sighed. “I guess we have to start trusting one another somehow,” he said. “If we keep up this stance of one-on-one, we will probably never trust each other. Fine. But ask if two Kareneth mobile suits would be allowed, just for the Princess’ protection—after all, the Unbound Uprising did try to kidnap the Prince last night.”
“I will bring that to their attention, Sire. I’m sure they’ll agree.” He saluted sharply and left to make the call.
Sunada reached over and took his wife’s hand in his, and he brought it to his lips while they had a few moments alone. It would not last long. He looked around the throne room and smiled.
“What is it?” Wakuni asked.
“Just… remembering,” he said as he looked at the tall, oak columns gilded with gold leaf that lined the throne room. “Our wedding night, we asked for the throne room all to ourselves.”
“Don’t remind me,” she told him. “I still get embarrassed when people sit or touch somewhere we made love, even though things have been cleaned at least a thousand times.”
“And we did make love,” Sunada said.
Wakuni stood up and straddled her husband as he sat on his throne, and they kissed. She wrapped her arms around him. “And our sweet Yumisa was conceived right here,” she whispered. “In this very spot.”
Sunada laughed. “Or so we like to think,” he said. “Though it could have been anywhere.”
“A woman knows, my dear husband,” Wakuni said with a sly smile as she kissed him again. “Only a woman born to lead as Yumisa is could have been conceived in a throne room on a throne.”
“Ugh, I swear I will never be with my husband in a way that our child can walk in on us and see us,” Yumisa said as she approached the throne. “I love you mom and dad, but… ew.”
“At least your father and I still love each other deeply, young lady,” Wakuni said as she climbed off her husband and retook her throne. “And you will learn that love like that is hard to come by.”
“So you’re saying if Kiminobu doesn’t want to have sex with me everywhere, he’s not worthy of me?”
“Not in the least.”
Yumisa smiled. “Great, so now I have high expectations to look forward to.”
“Is there something you needed, darling?” Sunada asked.
“No, I’m just roaming the castle, remembering as much as I can since I probably won’t be back for awhile.”
“You’ll come back, dear—I’m sure your husband will want to see where you grew up!” Wakuni said. “Besides, your brother and sister will go nuts if they can’t tickle you and pull your ears and tail!”
Yumisa groaned. “Maybe staying in Vadora will be a good thing.” Yumisa held a small camera phone. “I should definitely take a picture of you two while I’m in the throne room. Smile!”
The Emperor and Empress assumed royal positions but smiled for their daughter as she took their picture.
“That would make a great painting,” she said, admiring the shot. “Maybe Kiminobu and I will look just as good one day—him with his burns, and me with my ears and tail!”
“Misa…” her mother said warningly.
“Sorry… just feeling sorry for myself. It’s funny, but I never feel this way when I’m on tour. I guess it’s because the girls always wear their costumes except when we’re in our room, so I don’t feel…
different… or alone—like I’m one-of-a-kind.”
“You are a precious jewel, Yumisa, a diamond so rare that you are unworthy of anyone—except your husband—remember that, always.”
Yumisa sniffed and brushed her nose with the back of her hand. “I will, Mom. And thank you.”
“Pardon me, Your Majesties,” Chiharu said as she came into the throne room. “I wish to speak with Princess Yumisa. I have an idea for her meeting the young Prince that I think all of you should hear—it will, I hope, prove how much he can truly love her.”
The next chapter can be read here https://creativewritingonline.com/prince-and-wolf-girl-4