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No classes on the first day? His father would be disappointed. The general did not send his son on a vacation, but to be turned into a somebody who would carry out the king’s ambition. He sent his son to the academy not to mingle but to bruise faces, cut flesh, make enemies, and then crush them. It was a good thing, therefore, that the general was not present to hear about the leniency of the Academy he was so proud of. Although the younger Kampf couldn’t help but compare his first day at the Academy to his first day at training camp at home, he was not his father. Maybe one day he would be as strict as the old man, but not that day.

A small smile graced his face as he nodded in understanding to the professor’s instructions. One more day of vacation couldn’t hurt. Then perhaps tomorrow they'd ask the students to break each other's noses. Just imagining the new world he was in made the egdes of his nerves sing in excitement. Yet, he did not get on his feet ahead of the crowd. Gus waited for a generous number of them to start moving before he did. It was unfamiliar territory. Experience taught him that blindly leading the troops would only end in disaster, therefore he chose to be a follower. One of these fresh faces ought to know where the kitchen was.

So, he followed the crowd like sheep being herded to the slaughterhouse. Hands in his pockets, he walked with them, not initiating conversion, but open to one. He patiently waited for his turn to check out the dorm assignment then the class schedule before walking away and jotting down what he remembered. Checking out his room could wait. There was the academy waiting to be explored, and he was not about to pass the chance to get to know it. At least by the end of the day, he would have gotten something productive done on the first day.
In The Betrothed 15 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
Anelle paused at his words. She held her breath and would have staggered a step back if she had not known the prince to have the tendency to be dismissive. As if everyone around him was a slave whose soul his mother bought for him to order around. The enthusiasm which made her eyes shine dimmed and she was left wondering if Luke had always been that indifferent. He had been nodding and mindlessly agreeing to the day’s plan while he checked his mail while she narrated the plans for the day. The computer was still in Rhiane’s room, though it was not a problem since he already asked Nolan to instruct Tobias to take it with him when he left the house.

It was only after a few seconds of silence did Luke glance up from his device. In his blue eyes was a profound question what on earth was the woman still doing inside his tent. He told her to leave, but the Anelle was frozen where she stood, regarding him with narrowed eyes and pursed lips. Was she going to yell at him like Rhiane did because he was not the person she wanted him to be? Well, he was not about to become her ideal fiance just because his betrothed shoved him out of her room.

So, Luke stared at Anelle and she did the same. Both were Thankfully, a couple of female staff bearing the food were let into the room. “Over to the table,” Anelle instructed, breaking the silence. She moved away to allow the ladies to set the table in front of the prince. “You’ll feel better, Luke, once you had your breakfast.” He knew she meant the pain killer he asked her to prepare for him, but didn’t say a word. Instead, he went back to reading correspondences. Anelle herded the staff out of the tent, leaving the crown prince on his own. She knew better than to be around Luke when he was in that mood.

His peace and quiet did not last long though. While he was finishing his cup of coffee, Nolan announced Sebastian’s presence. Honestly, not the person Luke wanted to talk to – actually he was not in the right state of mind to talk to anybody. Sebastian found the crown prince already dressed in designer gray button-up long-sleeved shirt with mandarin collar. It was not completely buttoned, giving a glimpse of the skin at the base of his neck. His coat still hung from a rack, but his hair was fixed, parted to the side and pushed away from his face like he was about to attend a formal function. There was no more trace of the man who plowed the fields or drank with the peasants a day ago. This was the future king of the nation sipping on his coffee and inviting Sebastian to join him.

“Have a seat. I hope that there is enough food prepared for the entire family.” Luke wasn’t trying to be friendly, just civil. It was evident in his voice and the formality of his gestures. If Sebastian came to convince Luke to apologize to Rhiane, it was not going to happen. How could a man apologize for a sin he did not commit? If anything, Rhiane owed him an apology for shoving him out of her room without giving him a chance to explain himself or even talk to her about what was wrong. But then, Sebastian continued what he was saying and the prince was left staring back into the foreigner’s eyes, puzzled instead of enlightened about what was happening.

“No, she’s never told me anything.” It was true. Rhiane never told him any of her fears, the pain she carried with her even when it was obvious. On one of their conversations, he said that she did not need to fight his battles for him. He meant that she should care for herself above his wishes, his whims, and his life. It included this. If it was too much pain to visit her late mother’s and brother’s graves, then he was not in the position to forcer her into it. No amount of popularity could compensate for pushing Rhiane in that blackhole of grief. He knew, because he had been there a few times when he was a kid. It was a distant memory. He barely remembered how it was because of medical interventions, but he had a vague recollection of desperation, of wanting to give up on his life. Maybe it was what Rhiane was still going through, why she always seemed to have a death wish.

“I don’t understand.” Luke finally admitted after a pause. “I lost my father when I was ten. It’s difficult losing him, but it’s even more difficult not being able to visit his grave on special occasions. Why doesn’t she--?” But it was a question Sebastian might not be able to answer. Rhiane was difficult, Sebastian was right about that, but she did care for Luke. Knowing that it was the first time that she would brave the emotions attached to the grave made him want to march back to the door to demand audience. “Tell her that her request is as good as done.” Anelle would not be happy. Between the image manager and his fiancee, though, Luke would choose Rhiane. It was personal for the latter, while the former was doing it for her career.
In The Betrothed 19 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay
Luke was too stunned to react or to fight back. Though it was true that he was taller and heavier than his fiancee, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. That fury saw him outside her bedroom with the door slammed to his face. But what had just happened? For a moment, he was left dumbly staring at the door, wondering what was it that he said that set her off that way. Did he, by any chance, imply that her artworks were shameful? He remembered specifically telling her that it would not embarrass him, because everybody knew he was not a connoisseur of art. Definitely not by a long shot. Was he not supportive enough by offering to bring everything back home and turn her old bedroom into a studio? Did he say anything that might have sounded like he was assuming that she as an ignorant idiot?

Fuck, his headache was getting worse just by mulling over what just happened.

He raised a fist and knocked. “Rhiane. Open the door, let’s talk.” He repeated the action, repeated her name as well, but no answer came. It was just like their first argument over again, except that she had mustered the courage to push her out of him room instead of keeping him inside as a prisoner.

The entire household must have heard her outburst. Tobias, who was at the top of the staircase then, certainly heard what she said, how she compared Luke to his cousin. Tobias heard how Rhiane preferred him over the future king. Well, it shouldn’t matter, really. Rhiane was in her position to serve a single purpose, which was to carry his heirs. In her mother’s words, she was a breeding mare that he had to go through in order to satisfy tradition. After her purpose, he had to get rid of her and only then can he marry whoever he pleased – a true queen who would rule by his side until his reign was done. It really shouldn’t matter what she thought about Luke, who she preferred to be with. This was all just a ruse meant to distract the public.

Yet, as his cousin wordlessly slipped past Luke, he stopped the former. “Tobias,” the prince’s voice was formal and stiff. “Make sure she is finished getting dressed in fifteen minutes, then escort her outside.”

He left without waiting for a response. Sebastian was at the base of the stairs looking at him with questions in his eyes. Rhiane’s brother was a different story. Luke decided against uttering a word to either of the men. He was not in the mood for small talk. Barefoot and all, he walked out of the house.

A servant was at the door, waiting for the couple. She seemed surprised to see just one of them, then the surprise escalated to shock when she noticed that his royal highness was barefoot. Yet, she did not dare point out the obvious. “Your highness, breakfast is served in the dining area.”

“I am going to have breakfast in my tent.” It was visible from the doorway of the house. There were two white tents at the drive way outside the estate. One was for Rhiane and the other for him, so that both would not be bothered while doing their preparations for the tour.

The morning sunlight was too bright. He wished he had sun glasses, but it was too late to ask for that. He braved the distance between the house and the tents. Halfway through, he was met by Anelle in her high heels and perfectly curled locks. Her smile was bright and big as she asked why he was alone and out so soon. A mixture of joy and malice shone in her eyes as she assured him that his meal would be served in the tent. The painkiller he asked for was available as well. All he had to do was wait a bit. And while he was waiting, he should change into something more princely. “This shirt and pants don’t nearly make the cut, no offense to your stylist.”

She briefed him about the itinerary for the day and the roles that each was going to play. The theme would be all about Rhiane. Luke was going to be just a supporting character. He should let her talk as she showed the camera and the people around her hometown. The team picked locations which looked good on the camera, avoiding the poverty-stricken streets and focusing on the more progressive side of the town. The selection, however did not cut off the location of her mother’s and brother’s graves. It was going to be one of the highlights of the day and Anelle hoped to capture a heartfelt scene. “Tears would be good. The viewers love raw emotions and drama.”

Luke resisted the urge to snort or roll his eyes. He was fed-up with all the drama, Anelle included. “I don’t care. I heard enough of the plan. You now may leave.”
Luke turned to her and paused. He was standing at the foot of the bed, ready to step outside of her room and face the world save for the sneakers he had yet to put on. Rhiane, on the other hand, did not seem to grasp the urgency that necessitated them to act fast. Though he understood that ladies took time to prepare themselves, he thought her behavior was either sabotaging his schedule or showing her lack of care for precious time.

“I have no use for apologies and I certainly did not ask for one.” His blue eyes were cold, his face the same emotionless mask he used when speaking with a subject or a business partner. It was true. Hearing her say what she was sorry and not sorry about would not solve his problem, or the problem of anybody in particular. It would just eat up time that was never his in the first place. The fact that he stayed up late, got up early, and sacrificed sleep was testimony that the world was not about to wait for them. They had spent enough time fooling around and pretending to be people who they would never be. It was just proper to set their feet back to reality, wear the crown, and be responsible future leaders. But he just had to add, “It is the rational thing to do. Every household must have a stock of basic medicine and first aid. You run a farm. Your brothers or your father may get hurt in operating the equipment, or they may experience muscle pain from too much work, or they may get sick. These are normal occurrences. People get sick. People feel pain. People bleed. Is it not common sense or must this be turned into a law?”

He was pushing her, he knew that. The issue was really a trivial matter. Either him or her could have let it go so they may both move forward. He didn’t need an apology and he would also not apologize for the choices his mother made that disagreed with Rhiane. It was her problem.

Not wanting to stand in awkward silence, he called Anelle again. That time it was to do Rhiane’s family a favor. The disdain for being asked to do an errand for the peasants translated through the line. Her words were clipped and sharp. She tried to reason that they were busy and buying basic medicine was easy enough that the men of the Black household should be very capable to handle the errand, but Luke insisted. When the crown prince gave an order, it must be done. But if he was aware that he overstepped his boundaries in making decisions for the family, the short answer would be no.

“Rhiane, you need to get dressed. The food is on its way and we need to finish the filming today,” he said after the line was cut. Yes, he said we even after she offered to do the filming alone. As if on cue, there was a gentle rap at the door and a voice telling them that breakfast is at the dining room. Luke assured Sebastian, he assumed it was Sebastian, that they would be joining them in a bit, then turned back to Rhiane who still kept sitting on the bed.

“If I could ditch this damned tour, I would have done it from the start. However, it is not what the queen had in mind. It’s you and I both or nothing at all. Didn’t you promise her at the start that you will cooperate?” He raked his hair with a hand in exasperation. “I know you’re tired, but it will all be over in a few days.” Luke would be leaving for the summit and she would probably be attending classes on etiquette, protocols, basically preparing her to be a lady that would not embarrass Luke and the queen. Princess Callista would most likely drag Rhiane with her to social and official functions, but it was not as tedious as traveling from one place to the other day in and day out.

“We will bring the paintings and whatever it is that you wish to bring with you to the capital. You may turn your old room into a studio, keep the paintings there, or hang a couple of your favorites in my room. I don’t understand why you feel embarrassed about your passion. If you did not think the artworks were good enough why did you keep a collection of them and why are you giving one away to Tobias?”
“That’s not true.” Luke was staring at her in an expression that was both confused and frustrated. “Basic household drug for headache, stomachache, colds, cough, fever, plus a first aid kit cost less than the furniture you bought yesterday. Of course, your family can afford it.” He was leading them back to the argument about the intrinsic addicting property of poverty, which she and her family and a percentage of those who called themselves poor was guilty of. “You are no longer poor. Your father has been granted a noble title. It would have already been ratified had he shown up at the capital to sign the papers and formally receive the title.”

He crossed the bedroom and sat at his side of the bed with his back to her. Under any other circumstances, he would have been tempted to delay their morning appointment just because she was looking unfairly beautiful as the soft morning light reflected on her smooth skin. It felt as if she was doing it on purpose, that she was tempting him to make up for the time they lost the night before. Yet, her words and the uncomfortable throbbing in his temples made him more aware of their differences. Luke picked up the communication band, procured an earpiece from his trousers’ pocket. He keyed in the name of the appointed image manager.

Anelle answered on the second ring. If she was annoyed at the couple who were taking their sweet time, it did not show in the way she said his name. “Your breakfast is on its way. Will you be quick? We have to wrap everything up today.”

He did not need her reminder. They plotted the itineraries, shaved-off unnecessary visits and talks, and had to come up with an efficient logistics plan in order to make it to the deadline. In the end, the tour would be a few days shorter than what was originally planned, but it would give Luke time to concentrate on actually running the state than being a figurehead that the public celebrated about. “Is there a first aid kit with your team?”

“What’s wrong? Are you hurt?” It doesn’t answer his question, but her anxiety was palpable even in the distance between them.

“No, I’m fine. Just a little hangover. Get me a painkiller with the food.”

“Is it not the same as --”

“It is not,” Luke answered with finality. Anelle was one of the persons who knew the defect that ails the crown prince. His migraine, though it was a common ailment and not at all life-threatening, was a handicap which stopped him from functioning in several occasions. Her sigh sounded like an exaggeration of the relief she might or might not have felt at that moment. Then again, she promised to slip pills for the headache. Luke cut the line without as much as a thank you. To Rhiane, he said, “Food is on its way. Please get dressed.”

The shirt he wore to the farm yesterday was still lying where he left it. As if to set an example, he picked it up and threw it over his head. “I will ask the staff to load your artworks into the vehicles. We are bringing all of it to the capital,” he said as he was pushing his arms into the armholes. “Your paintings will not embarrass me more than you did the other day.” It was when she exchanged her designer clothes for a commoner’s worn-out garments. “Besides, the whole world already knows that I have no artistic side. A third grader can paint better than I ever can. Go ahead and bring everything to the palace. Tell me if there are other belongings that you wish to bring as well.” As if she was leaving for the last time, never to return again. Maybe that was the case. Her hometown was far enough from the capital. It was doubtful that there would ever be a need for her to visit.
The disappointment on her face made him chuckle not because he enjoyed her pain, but that it showed how much she must enjoy his morning ministrations. “They are the morning appointment.” His voice was laced with amusement even as the throbbing in his head wouldn’t stop. Pretending that he was alright was an act that the prince had perfected over the years. A person in his position was not allowed to be seen as a human who suffered from multiple weaknesses, because the upper-class society was like a pool of piranhas waiting for him to commit a slight a mistake as to dip his toe into the water. Luke was too smart for that – he hoped.

Luke slipped one hand under the covers, unwilling to let the sheets separate him from her warmth while she held a loud conversation with Sebastian from the other side of the door. At the topic of her paintings, his gaze fell at the spot where he found the canvasses stacked in front of one another. It was gone. Tobias helped her clear the space in her room while he was with Anelle inside the car the night before. He wondered how long had his cousin stayed inside his fiancee’s room and how much time they spent talking about Rhiane’s hobby. “Don’t trash your work. There are good pieces in there. Why don’t you bring everything back to the capital,” Luke suggested before his mind explored the jealousy budding in his chest. “You may convert your old room into a studio. Nobody is using it anyway. Should I ask the staff to load it to the service vehicles?”

He rolled to his side and sat on the bed, slouching as he leaned his weight on the elbows propped on his knees. That liquor was indeed something. If he had known how bad the morning after was, he might have reconsidered gulping liberal amounts of the devil’s poison. But at least his vision was not blurring and there were no black spots. He grudgingly pushed himself to his feet and padded to the bathroom hoping to find a medicine cabinet. There has to be something he could use against the headache and the sick feeling in his stomach. Even a farmer’s home needed a stash of medicine for common ailments. The door was left open behind him as he searched the counter and storage spaces for anything that resembled pills. Finding not even a shadow, he resulted to washing his face and brushing his teeth using the spare toothbrush. Even the refreshingly cold water helped very little to distract him from the troublesome hangover. His parched throat wanted water and maybe a hot soup and noodles. His headache wanted a pill that would stop the signal of pain from being interpreted by his brain. But maybe it was not in her room. Maybe he was looking at the wrong place.

Luke strolled back into Rhiane’s bedroom, one hand in the pocket of his pants, thumbing the drive that Sebastian gave him the previous night. Because of the urgent meeting with the queen and Anelle, the crown prince had yet to examine the contents of the drive. He may have some time while waiting for Rhiane get ready, but he would not dare risk exposure of such sensitive information around civilian, not even Rhiane. Maybe after they got to the plane, after Sebastian finally told him the password.

First things first. “Where do you keep medicine?” He didn’t say what was wrong or why he needed to know, just asked where he could find what he needed. But her answer or the lack of it was not what would stop him from going forward with what the day had in store for them. Luke picked up the neatly pressed shirt, which Sebastian brought to the local dry cleaner the night before, and pulled it over his head. He tamed his hair to a semblance of decency.
“I was at the top of my class – naturally,” the general’s voice brimmed with pride inside the carriage as he recounted the years spent within the walls of the fortress. It was a story that he had told his son on several occasions. Actually, on more occasions during their journey to Estermere than the years before that. But Augustus had to pretend he was as interested as the first few times his father brought up the topic.

General Marcellus Kampf didn’t need to come with his son on the first day to Estermere. Naturally, he had duties as a lord and as one of the king’s general, but he told a rather deflated Augustus that it was an event that the general would not miss for the world. Then Marcellus started telling the unforgettable story of his first day at the academy. Again. Surprisingly, the story started with a carriage ride and Marcellus’ father, Augustus’ grandfather, giving the young Marcellus pointers on how to excel. Apparently, his family did not tolerate mediocrity. A Kampf must always hold a position of power. There’s that.

Which was why a small smile tugged at the corners of Augustus’ lips when one of the guards at the gate stepped up and told the general that only students were allowed entry. “He’s an alumnus, can we not make an exception?” Gus asked, if only for appearance sake. As if he was not too happy to finally experience a taste of freedom in some piece of land which his father’s influence could not reach.

Marcellus, whose expression, clothing, and poise reeks of nobility stood looking down his nose at the lowly guard. Gus knew that look. It was as a warning, a few moments of calm before the storm. His father was a general. Of course, Lord Kampf was an expert in barking orders and looking down at mere footmen. Gus had to step in. “He’s just doing his job. It’s alright, I can manage from here.” He grabbed a suitcase from his father only to set it on the ground beside himself. The general started to argue, no longer used to being denied, but Augustus reasoned that he would be late if they pushed the argument.

A few minutes later, Augustus Kampf was walking the paved walkway of the fortress. Hands in his jeans’ pockets and a stupid grin pasted on his face. At last, a chance to live outside his father’s shadow.

“Excuse me, is it your first day?” Somebody. A girl, his senior, approached. Her black hair was pulled back in a tight bun at the nape of her neck. He looked to his left then right, then those amber eyes returned to a silent question to the stranger. “Yes, I am talking to you,” she giggled, perhaps because of the look of utter confusion on his face. He had barely nodded when she politely pointed the other direction. “That way to the dining hall. Good luck.” She waved, smiled, and ran after her group without saying her name or asking for his. He didn’t even get to say thank you.

But whatever. Gus traced his steps until he was at the top of a grand staircase, walked further following the same direction, following a light stream of individuals, until he found the hall. Rows of dining tables were occupied by people around the same age as he was. He casually took the closest empty seat he could find and relaxed. It was going to be a great year.
Interested. I'll be watching this one.
“I’m sorry,” he sighed against her hair, because there was nothing else to say but that he was sorry for making her wait, for making her entertain thoughts about the possibilities between him and Anelle, for making her suffer alone in her room as she fought off the demons that plagued her restless sleep. The prince gathered the peasant closer into his warmth and comforted her the best way he can until she drifted off to sleep. And somehow it comforted him too to know that his presence chased away her fears, that perhaps deep inside, though they were equally stubbornly independent individuals, she needed him. What scared him was the slow realization that she needed her as well.

The Luke his mother raised was not like that. He would not say that he was sorry, he would not keep a woman with so much baggage, hell, he would not share a bed with a woman only to literally sleep the night away. What the few weeks with Rhiane had done to him was terrifying. Without her knowing, she was slowly peeling off the layers of the prince that hid the man that he was – not a royal, but a person. It made him weak, and yet just like the few hours at the Late Night, he enjoyed the freedom of being able to truly live without rules and without expectations. The flings he had in the past, though it distracted him from his royal obligations and the pressure his title carried, expected him to be the crown prince and not Luke. His clothing, his posture, his hairstyle, his perfume, his manners, his words – it had to be fitting of the title. It was how he knew to live his life until that night. Until the careless betting and friendly banters, the drinks they offered freely, with strangers who expected nothing from him, because they had next to nothing compared to him.

But the night was ending and soon it will be dawn. The alcohol in his veins pulled him closer and closer to the edge of consciousness until he could no longer hold on to his musings. Lying on the cheap mattress with a peasant girl in his arms, the future king contemplated what could he have missed all his life.




A soft knock and a gentle voice roused Luke form his slumber. His brows furrowed; eyelids still heavy. It felt like sands were in his eyes and a jackhammer in his head. He did not get roaring drunk, but enough of the substance in his system made his head hurt like a hangover but not really. He groaned and rolled over so he was lying on his back. A weight pressed against his shoulder stopped him from rolling himself to a sitting position. Then he remembered where he was.

Luke forced his eyes to crack open. Shafts of the morning light slanted from the shuttered window. He surveyed the room, which was nothing like the room she briefly had in the palace. This was a reflection of her personality, of the things she liked and the things that pleased her eyes. Her old room in the capital had no such thing. Not even a photo of her as a child. Then his head turned to the weight that kept him on the bed. There she was. Rhiane was still curled against him, her head resting on his shoulder, her hair fanned around her.

“Rhi,” the voice from beyond the door tried again. “Rhi, your staff is waiting outside.” The team must have headed out early in the morning knowing that the prince and his betrothed didn’t have decent clothing with them. They had to dress Rhiane, put on her make-up, do her hair, discuss the itinerary, among other preparations. Luke wouldn’t want any assistance, as usual, except maybe with his hair. But the new day had come and they had better get up to greet it or Anelle would demand it from them herself. The plan was to setup tents outside the property since neither her nor Luke had gotten express permission from the family to use the barn or the vacant area of the farm as their preparation area. Although he had the power to demand it, doing so would make his image unpleasant for Sebastian. Luke had yet spoken with the foreigner about the password of the drive.

Luke turned on his side once more. A finger beneath her chin gently lifted her still sleeping face up at an angle that satisfied him. He brushed a kiss on those inviting lips, pulled away and whispered her name. Then he dove in again, unable to resist nibbling lightly on her bottom lips as his arm draped over her curves. “Good morning, princess,” he whispered against her lips.
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