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❚❙❙ {Project 01} The Devil and The Princess (ENDED)
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Posted 3/8/14 , edited 5/15/14





Our first project
"The Devil and The Princess"

This is the debut project,
purely by hummingkkuma x hyukiko
aka
AkutoHime

with the story features largely in RoseWood
(Join the group to read)

Characters guidelines:
Guidelines


♡ Other writers should not write in this forum as understood that this is hummingkkuma x hyukiko 's main project. However if you wish to roleplay with Shu and Snow, do make a request in the first forum, and we'll bring in Shu and Snow into your story / to role play with you ♡




Do leave us comment / feedback ^^
COMMENTS/FEEDBACK


Yuki
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Posted 3/8/14 , edited 4/4/14

"Welcome back, my Lord," a young maid curtsied as Shu pushed the doors open lazily.

His lanky build made him swagger a little but his above average looks and cool mannerisms had his maids swooning. He merely nodded to her and requested a hot bath. She nodded meekly and disappeared behind the stairs.

Shu flung himself on the green velvet couch in his sultry yet dark Victorian styled home. It was smaller than most mansions but he liked it cosy. It made loneliness seem less of a hindrance to his world. The walls were painted rusty red with dusty portraits hanging on gold frames. The mansion had an ominous feel to it - even the gardens were filled with blood colored roses.

He closed his eyes and started counting. He was expecting a guest.

Snowaphina knocked on the door and entered gracefully. She looked around the room before settling her eyes on the gorgeous figure on the couch.

"Why, you looked much well than the last time we met at His Majesty's burial ceremony", she commented. She had always called her biological father as 'His Majesty' rather than 'father' or 'Papa' as she wasn't raised by the late King directly.

He merely opened one of his eyes and closed it again.

"Ah...Princess...what brings you to my humble home," he drawled.

Snowaphina smiled and walked towards the portrait that hung proudly on the wall.

"I was passing by, and remembered you mentioned you lived here so I decided to pay you a visit", she said as she examined the man in the portrait.

"Why? You don't welcome me?" she said, turning back to him in a swirl.

Shu never liked women. Even less so, when they are lesser nobles seeking fame and wealth from a handsome prince. But offending the 'Princess' would prove fatal to him.

So, he turned over to face the couch.

"No. The door is open anyways. I am expecting a guest so go and disturb the Chef for pastries," he yawned.

Snow looked away from what she thought a snobbish prince. She thought this time she could get along well with him but she was wrong. He acted just as the last time they met. She knew that none of the royalties could treat each other with true love, but she knew she had to try. She was naive to think that he will open up to her and accept her as a sister as well, since he is also a prince and related to the late King.

"Very well, to think that you didn't really change since that day", she sighed as she turned away from Shu.

Shu barely paid her attention. He was awake but his mind drifted off. He winced as he recalled a bad memory. Of all times, now....

He got up abruptly and swung his long, lean legs over to sit facing his new guest. He stared hard at the floor, as if something dirty on the floor would be erased by his death glare.

"Trianna..." he muttered and a big bosom young woman brushed past Yuki to get to her Master quickly.

"My Lord?" she asked in a gentle tone, hoping to gain his full attention. After all, she is trying out a newly modified maid outfit for him.

"Don't do anything to things I give to my servants," he spoke evenly, not bothering to face her. "Now, serve our Princess with some courtesy. My household should not fail in this."

The maid flushed in embarrassment and retreated quickly. She walked to the Princess and with a slightly irritable tone; she asked to show her to her room.

"Master is inviting you to dinner. Can we offer you a warm bath?" she asked with a little pride.

Snow was stunned at the way Shu and his maid communicates. In fact, she was surprised that he would be kind enough to show some 'warmth' to Snow. Not wanting to trouble the maid, Snow nodded in acceptance and followed her to her room.

Once at the guest room, Snow was amazed with how sophisticated the room was. It wasn't exactly big or grand, but it had a great feel of high-classiness. One thing was playing in her mind - who was the person that Shu was expecting. Turning to his maid, Trianna - she asked: "Who is the guest that your master is waiting for?"

The maid sniffed haughtily as she prepared the warm bath in the adjoined toilet.

"That is none of my concern as long as Master is - OUCH!" the maid was hit hard on her neck.

A young, neat man was standing over the currently unconscious maid. He carried her like a sack of potatoes in his left arm. Turning to Snow, he bowed at the rare 90 degree accustomed to lowly servants of the past.

"Please accept my apology for this maid's behavior. Master Helusen had to make sure your stay here, albeit brief, would be a pleasant one. Please wait while I send for a new maid," said the man with his silky black hair brushed back to reveal his high cheekbones.

Snow is more than surprised seeing such an odd scene. She thought to herself, that although everyone in this mansion is a bit of a weird attitude, but they are pretty loyal to their master. Although extremely weird, she laughed a little to that scene after the man left. She had never seen such 'drama' back in her mansion where she was raised, nor the palace where she was supposed to be living now.

She found those lives really meaningless and worthless. Back in the palace, she couldn't trust no one - everyone doubted each other, there was no trust and love among one another. Even at the mansion, the Earl would find any way he wanted to use of her. In fact, she'd gotten really tired over the years and wished she had the courage to kill herself.

She looked out of the window and sighed.

The manservant left her to her thoughts as a new maid came bustling in. The newcomer was older and clearly experienced as within minutes of her arrival, the warm bath was prepared and a dinner dress laid out on the crimson velvet bed sheets.

"My Lady..." the motherly maid ventured.”Do you want me to help you with your clothes?"

Snow was too absorbed with her thoughts that she didn't notice the new maid had been around for quite some time. The voice of the maid brought her back to reality and in fact, gave her a little jump at that.

"Why, yes of course", she said as she turned to the maid and something on the bed caught her eyes - it was the dinner dress.

It was rather simple, but beautifully handmade in detailed. It caught her attention as it was a dress she never wore before, something she had always been dreaming of wearing but not given the chance to.

The maid waddled towards her as her stout figure began to methodically release Snow's dress. Following her line of sight, the maid gave a warm smile.

"Master personally handpicked the dress for you. he is particular about appearance and we have a storeroom for female clothes. I had the length of skirt slightly altered for you. My, my you are so thin! You must eat more! Come, come," the maid nagged gently as she pulled Snow to the bath. "I must get you ready quickly so you can treat yourself to some appetizers. Tonight will be a special night!"

Snow blushed as the motherly maid helped her to the bath. She had never had any motherly or nice maids back there and bathing time was just as tension as any other activities laid down in her schedule. Her mother, the Queen's twin sister had been really strict in grooming her as one of the King's heir. Snow actually like the feeling this maid gave.

Nevertheless, hearing that Shu actually handpicked the dress left her in puzzled. Just a few moments ago he was still the same snobbish prince she knew from that day and did he just suddenly changes? She shoved those bothering thoughts aside as the maid washes her hair gently. Then she realized something.

"Wait, tonight will be a special night? By any chance do you know who is the guest that S- erm your master had been waiting for?"

"My lady, you are a noble! You may address him as you like. He is my Master and he does not like loose lipped staff here," she laughed as she scrubbed the princess's delicate body hard. "Now, wrap yourself in warm towel while i get your dress."

And the maid bustled out of the bathroom to prepare the dress and call for help. Soon, two other maids rushed in with flowers and shoes to adorn her hair and dress.

Snow wrapped herself in the warm towel - stunned with such warm household treatment from Shu's. She hate to admit it, but she's feeling nice being here and that she could stay here forever - but she knew she can't. She had heard rumours about Shu - that he hated women and all. However, all these somehow made Snow felt that Shu wasn't at all that bad, maybe he was just as deeply hurt as she was - well who wouldn't.

"But she really enjoyed scrubbing my body hard", Snow mumbled softly to herself as she felt aches on her back - thinking how nice it would be if the maids back in the palace could be just as lovely as her. Although she felt pain, she also felt a huge relief.

As the maids that dolled her up increases in numbers, she can't help but thinking about what will happened over the dinner.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Meanwhile, Shu was busy checking on dinner arrangements. His manservant approached him cautiously. Shu hated being disturbed when he was preoccupied.

"My Lord...our Princess has been attended to properly. She will be arriving soon."

Shu walked way and pushed the kitchen door opened. before entering, he narrowed his eyes at his manservant.

"Don't make her feel too welcome. I am not used to keeping females in my house for more than a night."

Once the maids could leave her alone for some privacy before the dinner, Snow took the time to look at herself in the mirror. She was more than happy that she could try the dress/look she had been dreaming for her 18 years of life - something that her proud mother would called it as 'not for a princess'.

She liked how she looked like, and secretly wished that she could be like this just the way she liked but she knew that nothing in this life goes the way she wants. She will always be the puppet of the Earl and her mother, and never getting anywhere with what she really hoped for.

"But why am I here?" she asked herself.

"I wanted to ask you the same thing,” a low male voice came from the door.

Shu wan leaning casually on the door frame and nodded to the maids - a signal for privacy.

Hands behind his back, he walked in stoically. He glanced at her dress.

"I must commend the staff. The dress fits you perfectly,” he complimented. He was playing the perfect gentleman.

"Now this is what I want from you in return," his cool demeanor returned. "You are an unexpected guest at my parent's dinner tonight. You will be grilled with questions about your presence and you are to answer them honestly. Any questions about our relationship will be answered by me. Am I clear?"

Snow jumped at his sudden voice, and pretended to be cool - she was good at this, she was trained years to be a poker face. She stared into Shu's eyes and had her guesses correct. He was still the snobbish, cold hearted prince - just maybe a little better judging from the way that he can pretend to be nice.

"You should probably do so. I must say you do have really good servants, they do their job very well for a master like you", she said as she looked away from him.

She looked back into the mirror, at the gracefully standing woman who she could had been if she hadn't been the late King's daughter. Her thoughts shifted to what Shu said. She didn't expect to visit on such an awkward day like this - wait the visit was fine but the offer for dinner and staying overnight was unexpected. She purely thought that Shu was trying to make up for being so 'rude' that he invited her.

Now that she knew that Shu's parents - the previous king and his second wife are coming, she finally realized what the maid meant by 'special' night. Snow took a deep breath and nodded.

"Yes", was all she replied as she looked at the Shu in the mirror.

"What is that supposed to mean?" He narrowed his eyes at her mention of "Master like you".

"Never mind," he continued when he heard the bell ringing.

They are here...

"Harry," he nodded to the manservant from earlier (who appeared as quick as magic). "Will show you to the dining hall. I hope you remember your noble etiquette...."

As he left the room, he paused, “I do hope the weather clears up tomorrow for your safe trip home."

And he left without turning back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Ah Raizier, my dear son. It's been so long since I last saw you. The weather is simply horrid," a female voice chimed from downstairs. Shu didn't reply. He simply bowed respectfully (albeit tiny reluctance) and led his guests to the dining hall.

"My own son treating me like a common stranger now..." the lady muttered sadly to her husband.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Snow stumbled to the floor as soon as Shu left. She always end up like this after a tension moment with the other royalties, in fact she hated it. She wanted to be friendly with them but they are somehow too proud to accept - and too doubtful with one another.

"He's the same like my other half-siblings", she said to herself softly. "The only difference is he has really good staff - he trained them well"

Snow smiled a little and secretly thanked the God that she put on a well show as a noble to him just now, and is hoping his parents wouldn't ask too much.

Harry quickly rushed to her aid.

"Are you alright, my Lady?" he asked with great concern.

--------------------

"I see an extra chair, son," his father asked as he sat down heavily on the golden embroidered arms chair.

A servant rushed gracefully to help the nobles to their comfort.

"We have a guest tonight. She may need some time to get ready," She replied evenly.

"My, my. Raizier. You brought a friend and it's a she?" his mother asked, piqued with interest.

Shu ignored her and glanced to the staircase with a little concern.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Seeing Harry, Snow quickly stood up - she didn't expect him to be around.

Really good staff , she thought to herself and turned to Harry.

"I'm ready", she said as she reminded herself to act gracefully.

Harry was worried. If anything happens to Milady.... he shivered slightly at the thought of his Master's family.

The ex royal couple chatted happily despite no response from Shu. He kept glancing at the staircase.

Where is Harry? Did the girl get cold feet?

Following Harry's gesture, Snow walked down the stairs gracefully with a kind smile on her face. She believed that smile is always the best accessories.

Reaching the end the stairs she took a look at the ex royal couple and bowed at them.

"It's an honor to meet you, I'm Princess Snowaphina, the daughter of the late King", she did a little introduction - although she disliked introducing herself as the princess, she thought it was a disgraced to be an illegitimate child.

The couple quickly stood up. The Lady was the first to speak.

"Of course. of course! How could we not know you? Princess dear, do come and join us! Raizier has surprised us with such a lovely guest! Not that he has any friends..."

Shu cut her sentence short and strolled to the Princess. He led her to a chair beside him, facing the royal couple. He pulled out her chair and looked at her expectantly.

He hardly spoke a word.

Snow just smiled at the couple. He surprised me too ... , she thought. How can he have any friends if he acted such snobbishly?

Snow followed Shu's gesture to the chair and sat down. She placed her hands on the chairs arm and realized it was a mistake to do so. She felt her hands were slightly trembling - she quickly put down her hands to her laps and cooled down. She told herself that she can do it - she had been in such situation before and she mustn't act out of class.

But this was the snobbish prince's parents she's dealing with - and she wasn't given a warning or knowledge long before. She had never been to any occasion after being told just minutes ago.

Shu smiled inwardly at her awkward reactions. This is getting interesting...

He sat silently beside her.

Dinner is served.

"So, Princess, how exactly did Raizier drag you into this house?" the older lady teased her, but not unkindly.

Instead of the rigid queen of the past, the woman has become softer and warmer to the guest.

The old King was like his son, silently devouring his food, not paying any heed to the women's conversation. His beady eyes were set on the steak palate and his presence were diminishing in the presence of his talkative wife. Not that he mind. He felt he had lost everything since then.

Snow looked at the woman, kind of expecting some questions from her but didn't expect it to be so soon. She put down the fork and knife and wiped her mouth before attending to her question. Snow had always disliked questions over meal as there are too many unnecessary etiquette to follow but she had to follow anyway. Shu was expecting 'some' noble etiquette from her and she was proud to show him that she will never forget, she had been trained very strictly at that. No matter how much she hated it, her body had reacted in a reflex.

"I was actually on my way back from the circus when I passed by Shu's mansion and decided to give a little visit", she said - still wondering if calling him 'Raizier' would be better. She hoped with a smile, that her answer satisfied both Shu and his mother.

"What kind girl. And you are growing ever so beautifully," the mother complimented. "Ho ho ho. And you are on first term with Raizier? He never liked me for calling him Raizier or Shu."

Shu placed down his fork loudly. His mother took the hint and moved on.

"I hope you staying the night. I have so many questions for my new daughter-in-"

"Mother," Shu's voice rang like the G minor on the grand piano. It sent chills down anyone's spine. "She is a guest. Show some respect."

He spoke to her without much respect. The dinner atmosphere went cold. Snow blinked at his mother's compliment and stunned a little at the next thing she said, but still putting on a poker face. She couldn't react to whatever that was happening - she was a bit slow sometimes, which her mother always find it one of her great weakness. Just then, Shu decided to speak up in a rather 'rude' manner.

Where's your etiquette? she wondered to herself, but secretly admired the way he could treat his parents like that - something that she won't be able to do to the Earl and her mother. But thanks to him, I can enjoy the meal.

Snow continues her course and waited with much anticipation for the dessert. The dessert was served and they ate in silence. The mother smiled apologetically at Snow.

"Princess, we should leave the men to their own and do join me in the study. We can have a cup of tea over our cheesecake," she motioned to the maid-in-waiting.

Shu made an indiscreet noise. He hated how his mother of made it clear that she still owned this house as well despite the deed being signed under his name.

Snow was secretly enjoying the dessert - it had been forever since she last ate something really nice. Shu's mother's voice brought her back from her little enjoyment.

What she said made her a little shocked inward. She gave her a smile and agreed to it, and turned a little to Shu while the woman got up from her seat. She didn't expect for a little 'lady' meeting with his mother - she wouldn't mind if all four of them would be in, but being with her alone would probably be odd. Snow stood up and gave Shu another look.

The older woman walked gracefully to the study room, leaving the three odd people behind. She could feel her glances but he chose to ignore it. The old King looked at his son and sighed.

"You may stay here, princess. I will take care of it." and the old King left his dessert untouched as he headed to the study room.

Shu scraped the last bit of dessert and disappeared into the kitchens with his bowl. Snow was devastated beyond words. She didn't mean to break this family any further apart, although it already was. She thought a while and decided to continue playing the card, she was just the guest after all - an extra entertainment for the night and the woman mean no harm. She wouldn't be staying here forever anyway - in fact Shu was pretty much waiting for her to leave. Plus, Shu's reaction towards this was normal so she thought that it should be okay then for her to chat with his mother.

She had no idea what on earth was in his mind when he invited her. Snow thought about it and concluded that he will just be the same as her half-siblings and the Earl, all pretended to show some kindness and ends up using her as puppet. She turned around to find Harry, who was right behind her and was kind enough to gesture her the way to the study room, without needing Snow to tell him where she wanted to go.

Upon reaching the study room, Harry disappeared into the hallway and Snow was greeted by the woman. The old king, surprised to hear the princess' arrival muttered to his wife and left the two ladies alone.

"Well, well. The Princess decided to turn up after all. My husband was just trying to pacify me. I understand that you may be frightened to be called to such an unexpected meeting. I apologize," the old queen's apology was unexpectedly sincere considering her past.

"I am beginning to understand why Raizier invited you to dinner. Please don't be mistaken about him. He may seem full of pride but he does take care of his guests."

Eyeing the princess, the older queen added: "And he is a good judge of character."

Snow smiled as she walked over to the table with tea and cheesecakes and lead the old woman to sit first. Despite the different rank - the fact that princess was supposed to sit first doesn't matter her at this point of time. It was just her and the old woman; she preferred to have the elderly to sit first.

"Well, I shouldn't have kept Madame waiting for too long", she said over the table. "Well it was unexpected but I did have no plan for later on so I am very much delighted upon your invitation".

Snow said them with a smile. She took a sip of the tea and wondered if the old woman really know Shu well. She barely knows Shu but she was confident that Shu doesn't really like her - not even as friends. The lady patted the cushion seat beside her.

"Please. There is so much we can talk about in this awful storm."

On the cue, a lightning flash behind her, illuminating her wrinkles and for a moment, a sinister shadow cast across her face. Maybe it was a trick of light.

"My dear, the tea is getting cold. We would need a new pot," she signaled to a maid hiding in the corner of the room.

"So tell me, how have your family been?"

Snow understood the body language, and just stood up as the lightning flashed. She thought she saw something really different on the woman's face and blinked a few times, but the woman looked just as fine.

What was that I imagined? Snow thought to herself before taking the steps towards the cushion seat.

Looking at the maid clearing the pot, then leaving the room - Snow turned to look at the woman and smiled. She was thinking of what she could tell her - her family was complicating and there was nothing interesting to tell at all. She wasn't very sure of which family she's asking of - the family that raised her or the royalty.

"Well, I'd just met one of my half-brother earlier today, Prince Isaac and he seemed fine to me", said Snow.

"Hmmm Isaac..." the woman was lost in thought to not address him respectfully.”No no darling. I was asking about your true family. I have not met them in ages..."

Another flash of lightning and her face was covered in darkness again, but momentarily.

"Oh, well...", Snow thought for a while. True family? As in the ones that raised me?

The lightning caught her off guard as she she saw the illusion again but the woman's eye held her still. Snow blinked again and shoved the imagination off.

Hadn't I took my medicine? she thought to herself a while, before looking back at the woman.

"The Earl was fine, the last I met him about last month before he departed for another business trip to the opposite land", Snow said as she recalled the memories - she wasn't taught to call the Earl as her 'father' even if he was the one raising her. "As for mother, she's fine too. I hadn't been seeing her for a fortnight now".

The older woman observed carefully throughout the conversation. She turned to look out at the bleak weather in deep thoughts.

"You may leave," she spoke quietly just as a new pot of tea arrived.

Snow looked at the maid who just came in - she was so quiet that Snow didn't even know she was in. The maid then silently retreated out into the dark hallway.

Snow looked back at the old lady as she looked out of the window. She seemed occupied and Snow decided to then ask her a question.

"You mentioned you haven't been seeing them in ages...were you a family friend?" Snow asked, hoping it could lightened the tensed woman a little. She didn't want the woman to think that she wasn't enjoying the little chat time. At the same time, Snow couldn't recall meeting her before.

The woman closed her eyes and a crease formed on her forehead. With a forced smile, she replied, "of course not, dear. I have no status to be close to someone of the royal family. Now leave. I am tired."

Her words were final. Taking a hint, the maid returned to the Princess' side.

"Please follow me, my Lady," the maid asked courteously, blocking her view of the old mistress.

Snow saw that in her eyes, but still smiled at her - thinking that it had really been a tiring day for the old lady. She stood up and bowed at her - also hoping that she could apologies in case she offended her but decided not to.

Snow followed the maid out of the room - as she thought of the dark illusions she saw on the old woman's face earlier. Was I illusioning?

Shu was standing outside the door. His eyes were closed as he listened intently to the music played by the recorder beside him. He looked up as Snow exited the room. he made a small hand gesture and the maid disappeared back into the study room.

Both of them stood alone in the hallway.

"Did she..." he tried, his eyebrows almost forming a V. "Never mind."

He held out his right elbow, waiting for her hand.

Snow was actually trembling deep down her heart as she exited the room, and thinking about the weird illusions that she'd seen. A part of her felt attracted to it but she didn't know why. Finding Shu outside, she couldn't help but stared at him.

Snow raised an eyebrow when Shu was about to ask her something. But when he dropped the question, she thought maybe there was something after all - maybe she hadn't been hallucinating.

Seeing him being such a gentleman, it left her in puzzled. She looked at him, then at his elbow before putting out her left hand to him.
He placed her hands gently on his right arm and led her to the kitchen in silence. It wasn't an uncomfortable silent. He did it out of respect for her unexpected meeting with his strange mother.

No...I will never admit any woman as my mother. The blood that runs in my veins are dirtied because of her.

He sighed as he led Snow to a high chair near the wooden counter standing in the center of the room. He took a long glance at her face.

She looks a little shaken. Girls...so weak..

Putting a pair of earmuffs over her head, the thunder was no longer audible. rain pelted heavily on the kitchen windowsill and lightning flashed every few minutes. But they were all just images in the silent world. he turned to a wooden table facing the wall. It was packed with yeast, eggs, condiments of various sorts and baking equipment. He rolled up his sleeves and began to knead a dough.

Shu's sudden gentleness surprised Snow, she didn't expect for him to treat her nice - she was not expecting this coming at all but he's still a well-known Duke and thus, explained all his well etiquette. She had no idea where he was bringing her to as they walked down the hallway in an awkward silence - not that she didn't like it.

Entering the kitchen for the first time, Snow was amazed with the beautiful interior design. It carried a heavily Victorian style and was very classical albeit a little small, but it was warm and comfortable. As Shu led her to the high chair, she took a seat and continued to look around, despite still a little shaken from what had happened. When she noticed that Shu was staring at her, she decided to stop looking around and just focus on the oven.

Snow's heart jumped a little at him putting a pair of earmuffs over her head. Her heart jumped fast, and she tried hiding her blushing face. She was never easily blushing at anyone - the princess of poker face she is. But as the earmuffs mute all voices out, she felt calm and finally felt at peace. Just when she closed her eyes and felt happy, a sudden surge in her arose.

Kill them, the little voice in her said. She flung open her eyes. She hated her parents - the Earl and her mother but she had never found the courage to even think of killing them.

Shu's actions distracted her from her thoughts. Her eyes widened as he was preparing some ingredients and started to roll up his sleeves. That surprised her.

Shu bustled around the tidy kitchen (which soon became messier). Three eggs -plop- He lifted a sack of flour and pour indiscriminately into the mixing bowl. some sparkly brown particles were added and he stirrer in big motions. It was late in the night, and most of the staff were asleep. The chef snored in the next room but Shu paid no heed. He occasionally checked on his guest.

Her earmuffs are still on her head...good...

He went back to adding some lightly colored ingredients. like magic, he worked his way through the one hour of intensive preparations.

Wiping beads of sweat on the back of his left arm, he bent over the coal-powered oven and placed a tray of round dough. He busied himself at the stone stove and sweet fragrance of berries and spring herbs filled the room.

Snow looked with interest at Shu baking. She had never expected he would be kind to her, not to mention baking right before her eyes. She had never seen the staff works in the kitchen before - so to see Shu, of all people was an eye opener. She felt like watching a magic show as Shu busied himself with the dough and all.

Soon the kitchen was filled with such sweetness that could not be explained by words alone. Getting off the high chair, Snow walked towards Shu to take a closer look . However, the droplets of sweat on Shu's forehead held her sight instead. Thinking to at least be of a little help, she took out her handkerchief and wiped the sweat on Shu's forehead away as he bent over the hot oven.

Shu was used to women kissing up to him but her gentle touch surprised him. He took a step back immediately and stared at her. he quickly recovered his composure and covered his face with his floury hand.

"Get back to your chair," he ordered, forgetting about the ear muffs.

His face was covered in specks of flour and sweat.

Snow was surprised when he suddenly stood up and backed off. She wondered if she had done anything wrong or offended him in any way.

"Y-yes...", she obeyed obediently, not wanting to offend the master of the mansion but she trailed off looking at Shu's floury face.

She tried to hold it in, but ended up laughing at him. It was her first time in forever to laugh happily from the bottom of her heart. "Look at you", she said as she held out to wipe his floury face.

"You're all floury", she said as she giggled.

He was confused at her sudden change in behavior.

First she was moody. Now she is happy? I really don't get them...

He cleaned his face with a hand towel and pushed her away. Bending over the stove. He poured the sweet smelling liquid into a cup and served her. leaning over the oven, he was just waiting for tomorrow's breakfast to be ready.

As Shu pushed her away, Snow felt a little pain to the heart. What is this heart pain?

But she then came to realization that she had let that character of her to slipped out of her. She hurriedly got back to the high chair and scolded herself internally. She had stopped being the happy girl she used to be when she was young ever since her real identity surfaced.
Ever since then, it had been nothing but a perfect living puppet that does anything her mother wants.

I am have embarrassed myself right in front of man! But thank goodness he wouldn't care much about me.

Looking at the drink he'd just served her - she looked up at him. "What is this?"

He removed her earmuffs and whispered in her ears, his warm breath tickling.

"Wild berries soup."

He didn't bother to explain much but the viscous liquid was warm to touch in the ornamental glass cup. He returned to the oven and soon, he removed some freshly baked custard buns. He laid them to cool on a metal rack, his long fingers delicately placing them evenly.

Snow moved back abruptly at him whispering in her ears. Her reactions was so big that she nearly fell off the high chair. No man had ever gotten the change to be so near to her. She eyed him as he returned to the oven. She looked at the so-called 'Wild Berries Soup' . She had never tried them nor heard of them, not even once. It looked more like warm berry juice to her.

As her hand reached out for the cup, she felt dizzy. Putting her right elbow on the counter, she supported and massaged her forehead with the same hand. She suddenly realized she hadn't take her medicine. Encountering Isaac earlier and all these caused her to forget about her medicine. She sat there quietly, not wanting Shu to notice her. She didn't want him to know that she was suffering to kill herself so much, and that the medicine which she must take once a day controls her urge.

She clearly didn't want him or anyone to know she has split personalities.

Shu quickly helped her up. "Are you alright?"

Something’s not right....maybe that is enough excitement for the night.

"You should go back to rest. A carriage will arrive for you tomorrow."

From between the fingers that was supporting Snow's head, her sharp, cold estranged eyes caught his. She sat up straight, acting as if nothing was wrong.

"I'm fine", that beautiful melody that always catches everyone's attention when Snow talks disappeared. She pushed the cup, containing the Wild Berries Soup onto the floor and it spilt everywhere. The ornamental glass cup broke into pieces.

She remained seated quietly on the high chair. Her split personalities has Snow constantly afraid to be close to strangers, but having the medicine helps her to overcome the fear. Even so, Snow struggled everyday to keep the other personality hidden away. She had no recollection of what happened when the dark side of her overtakes her. Even worst, Shu's mother's illusions - her proudest spell had worked itself up to her dark side and gave her all the courage she needed.

She eyed Shu in a manner that she wouldn't have do so if she was conscious.

"Shu, is this how you treat Snow?" she asked. "That is not any normal soup, it's to neutralize your mother's spell isn't it? Well it's too late"

She smiled. "Now that you've seen the most of Snow that even her mother doesn't know of...what are you going to do?"

Ah....I get it now...Two can play the game, Shu thought.

He let out a proud 'hmph' and grinned inwardly. Assuming authority now, are we? He leaned back comfortably on the kitchen counter.

"You finally reveal yourself, Princess," he stressed on her title. "I was wondering how my competition would be like. Honestly, I was sorely disappointed when you showed up with that humble facade. Such weak personality. But now I see why your family is putting their betting chip on you."

He was trying to insinuate her. He smirked and continued, "But it seems i have nothing to worry about. The future Queen can't even handle a simple task of food etiquette while in the kitchens with undesirable quality of food. Snobbish and childish. We are two of a kind."

With that, he picked up the pot with what little soup and dripped it over her silver hair.

"Food should not be wasted on the floor, princess," he whispered in a dangerous tone and pushed her on the hard ground.

"But your dress can be used for cleaning the mess," he said in an undertone.

Snow ended up hitting her butt hard. She was surprised at the attack, but as fast as lightning; she stood up and tore the dress apart - leaving her in only her undergarments. She threw the torn dress onto the floor, and quickly grabbed whatever knife that was on the kitchen counter and cut a lock of her precious hair that was dripped over by the soup.

Her hairs fell onto the floor like silver feathers. She looked like a fallen angel now - she had never been forced to such a blunt end.

She recovered her composure and stood straight in only her corset and drawers as she looked at Shu. No man can ever see a princess in only her undergarments.

"You're not bad yourself, snobbish duke" she said in a sinister tone. "You're the first and only person to treat me with such disrespectful manner. Have you forgotten about where you stand?"

She walked towards him, knife still in hand and stopped right in front of him. She smiled - it wasn't the usual smile she gave, it was a wicked smile or rather a smile of triumph. "Those...are definitely not of the finest quality - but as a royalty, I can't but put on a poker face - pretending it was just as good. It was a little respect for the snobbish master of this mansion.......and the chef that served you with pride. But of course you wouldn't know how to define respect because you're Shu".
Yuki
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Posted 3/8/14 , edited 5/4/14

"But remember, you're nothing to me. Even if I don't get my hands on the throne, I can still eliminate you anytime I want", she whispered - her voice as cold as ice. "That marks a difference between you and I".

"Hmph. Think what you like," he replied lazily, unfazed by the sudden change in events.

Closing his eyes, he laughed. He covered his face with his left hand and tilted his face backwards.

"A bit rich coming from a woman in rags," he snorted. "Lost dignity. I am sure you don't want to be found in this state by any of my household or my parents. I will leave you to the cleaning."

Still sniggering, he walked away. That was enough excitement for the night and he headed to his private bathhouse.

Ah....I am starting to feel dizzy...Is it time?

Snow stood there like a block of ice, she didn't move nor say a word as Shu left the kitchen, sniggering. When it was only her, the breads and the mess left in the room, she clenched the knife hard. Drops of blood dripped onto the floor - without realizing it that she had cut herself.

After a what it seems as a long moment, she dropped the knife and looked at the cut on her palm. Without feeling a pain, she washed the wound and quickly put a handkerchief over to prevent them from dripping. She turned around and cleaned the mess away. She managed to find the broom around the corner and sweep away the mess on the floor - threw the dress into the garbage bin and wiped away the stain of blood.

Just as she finished cleaning up, her handkerchief was stained full of blood. She walked out into the dark dining hall and slowly find her way back to her room in the dark hallway.

The mansion was quiet as the storm outside echoed through the hallways softly. The walls of the mansion was thick enough to block out the terrible cries of the freak weather. But it was as if the mansion fell into a nightmare as the hallways looked the same on each level and only visible whenever the lightning flashes at the window. Otherwise, the dead silence pierced any mortal skin without a flicker of light to show the way to the guest's destination.

Even the staff seemed to have disappeared without a trace. In the distance, the old grandfather clock chimed the eleventh hour. The sound echoed past the now vacant study room.

On the third level of the mansion, each door led to exquisite yet gothic bedroom with fitted bathroom. But the doors hardly squeaked as it was locked shut. As the time passes, the lightning faltered and the length of the shadows became indistinct. Snow stopped as she thought she had took longer than it should to return to the guest room. She thought she had remembered the way but it now seemed that it was wrong.

She turned around and looked down the dark hallway. All she could hear was the sound of the grandfather clock chiming breaking the silence apart. She looked towards the direction where she was heading to.

It was pure darkness. Her right hand ached with pain - but she couldn't see the blood dripping off her palm again. It was too dark but she could feel the blood wasn't clotting. She continued to walk on and finally came upon a room with the door slightly opened with light inside. She went to the room, in hope that she had found her room. She was already chilling in cold with such limited pieces of cloths on her.

The window on the next corridor suddenly burst open. The wind howled through the house but was disappointed by the lack of response as it died. The window swung hard on the frame and kept hitting off the walls - cracks began appearing on the glass which grew like branches of the tree. The wind entered again and again, hoping to fill the house with its chilly self. It followed the corridors but hit the wall at each locked door. Not too far away, the wind managed to find an exit - an old panel in the wall has a slight gap beside the portrait of a classical war pictorial.

Snow was shocked at the sudden in burst of the wind. She was about to run into the room when she heard a crack. The wind oozed pass her and beautiful melody of the wind could be heard. She looked around to find where the wind had headed to - an old panel in the wall.

Fighting against the cold chilling wind, she walked towards the wall, to find a slight gap beside a portrait. She gave a little push, and the old panel opened with ease, revealing a series of staircase down to the basement. The wind gushed in - as if they're telling her to get in. Despite the goose bumps and the chill she was feeling, she can't help but walked down the stairs. There was a maddening desire inside her that tells her to walk down to the basement.

The rough walls of the staircase were cold to touch. And a little moist. The staircase were uneven, as if owing to age that they were falling apart, imparting an impression of instability. It ended in front of a tall replica.

It seemed like the end of the road but the wind continued to invite the guest towards the portrait. It seems the wind was being sucked into the picture. Close up, the images of sinful humans and their hell counterparts were so alive with the wind howling behind her like cries of man.

It was the map of hell.

Snow followed the wind and walked closer to the portrait. There was a strong attraction from the portrait - one that she couldn't resist.

She took a good look at the map. It looked so beautiful that she felt like touching it so much. Just as she was about to touch it, she heard footsteps behind her. But there was no one whose footsteps could claim to. The footsteps got increasingly nearer as she noticed its presence. Suddenly the portrait went up in flames. As the fire licked the [portrait away, there was a high pitch whistling, similar to the screams of burning victims.

The whistling cancelled out all other sounds. Even the footsteps were gone. As the portrait was reduced to a pile of ashes, the panel (which she entered the hidden basement) slammed open. Light from the candlelit corridors illuminated the previously dark basement. However, there was a strong negative aura coming from the light source.

Shu stood at the panel with a killing expression as he looked down at the intruder.

Snow watched in horror as the flame started burning up the portrait. She could hear the cry of burning victims and tears rolled down her eye. She had no idea as to why she started crying but it was a silent tear. Just then the slam of the panel brought her back to reality.

She turned around and looked up at the figure standing on top of the stairs. She could feel the killer stare Shu was giving. She knew she'd intruded into his private territory.

Forming a small smile, she looked away.

"Get. Here. Now." he managed through heavy pants.

His emotions were getting the better of him that he could hardly contain his anger to speak properly. Snow looked up at him, uneasy at his tone.

"No", she answered. "I know I'm not supposed to be here but who are you to talk to me in that tone?"

She wasn't exactly in her good mood - she was all ripped off , her blood continue to drip.

Multiple veins popped on his forehead. He was close to breaking point.

"You insolent child! Get out of there now!" he screamed in an uncharacteristic tone.

Snow raised an eyebrow. She wasn't sure if Shu was being mad at her for intruding the basement or was afraid of it. He hadn't moved an inch from where he was standing.

Snow suddenly feel a chill from behind her. It was getting colder by the second that she felt something was wrong. She wanted to give in to Shu, and listen to him for once but the maddening desire inside her stopped her. It was as if she had planted herself there. Her blood was dripping faster than it was before.

She looked at Shu, with her eyes as clear as water.

He shouted again. But his shouts were hardly reaching her.

Oh no....

He swooped down, ignoring the danger of crumpling staircases and picked her up like a doll. He felt something grabbing his leg from the ashes behind but with a quick hard pull, he got free and raced to the top of the staircase without looking bad.

He threw the Princess on the ground and slammed the panel shut. Shouting for his manservant, he tried to seal the door which the wind tries to re-enter.

But the corridor was no longer pitch black. Warm candle lights lit the place up and comfort soon came creeping back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She couldn't hear Shu's voice. The chill was getting to her - and the maddening desire inside her was celebrating with joy. She could see Shu coming towards her but she couldn't react to it. It was as if her sense of time and motion was put on freeze by these chill. She felt being carried away from where she previously stood. She could hear Shu's breath as he ran up the stairs.

She felt being thrown onto the floor - but she was numb to react. The wind's cry had finally left her alone and she felt warm again. Hearing Shu shouting for Harry, Snow came to realization that she mustn't be seen in that form. She was wearing only her corset and drawers! With all the energy she had left, she crawled to the room earlier.

She crawled into the room, unaware that the large stain of blood that she left behind - was turning black , and hid herself inside a wardrobe. The pain of the wound was getting to her but she had her dignity as the princess to care about. For Shu to see her in such a disaster was more than enough - if his manservant was to see her in that, her dignity as a woman would wash down the drain. She's a woman to begin with - one that didn't think she will show herself, in only her undergarments to any man other than her husband, or future husband.

It took only a few minutes for the efficiency of his household servants to show off. The panel was sealed and none of any traces of the nightmare could be found. The servants dared not to question their Master's will. He was cold but eccentric in regards to this house. In their eyes, the mansion was completely normal but Shu seemed to find cracks and nooks in any place.

He turned around to check on the Princess.

"Where is she?" he demanded. A manservant bowed low and explained the situation.

"What? And none of you helped her?" the fury in his voice became more prominent. The younger maids quailed while the older ones stood rigid, readying themselves for harsher punishments.

"Clean up the kitchens and all of you will have your sleep hours cut by half for the week," he sneered and followed the trail of blood.

The servants bowed and heaved a sigh of relief at the lighter punishment. It was a month of hard labor the last time when someone miscataloged his books.

Shu arrived outside the guest room. He raised a hand and clenched his fist before hesitating a knock. Remembering the events from before, he walked away with an unexplained emotion deep in his chest.

No...she is not my priority now. Nor anymore. She is an adversary.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first ray of morning shone brightly into the room as the storm ran away, leaving no trace behind. The mansion was in its full vigor as the servants bustled around for their morning duties. Windows were opened to welcome the spring breeze. No traces of havoc from last night remained.

As the ex royal couple prepared to leave, a maid knocked on the door of the guestroom.

"My Lady, breakfast is ready. Do you need help?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Snow was still hiding in the wardrobe - she was suddenly feeling very hot, so hot that that her breathing started to get heavier. As her panting got faster and faster, her thirst was suddenly so overwhelming. She was so thirsty that she couldn't stand it anymore - she pushed open the wardrobe door.

Unable to carry her own weight, she fell onto the floor hard. She crawled towards the table with a jar of water. As she reached up to get some water, she broke a few glasses in the process. And that's when she noticed it - her black blood staining the handkerchief on her right palm.

She put her left hand over her mouth, not allowing her scream to escape. Her eyes widened in horror - and in excitement as well. Never before this she had ever feel so excited. There was a weird maddening desire deep down her that was celebrating with joy. She removed the handkerchief - and she was surprised, to find the would healed completely. There was not a scar left at all.

She climbed up to the bed - her expression as pale as the snow. She had lost too much blood but she felt tired at the same time. She laid down on her bed, still struggling with the hotness that was burning from inside her. She clung to herself in struggle. She was crying at the same time - but she wasn't afraid at all.

"Please..don't...leave...me...", she said in a soft whisper before she lost her conscious - knowing that it will somehow reach the devil.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was a quiet morning, the sun was shining into her room - as if it was welcoming a new life. Snow sat quietly in front of the makeup table - her eyes closed as she listened to the beautiful morning singing her song, not that there was any sound that could be heard in the first place.

A knock on the door broke her song and Snow looked up from the makeup table. She walked over to the door, and as she opened the door - she looked into the eyes of the maid that greeted her.

"Sure, why not?" she said with a smirk.

The maid had a fresh face. She was one of those who worked the day shift and hence, unaccustomed to the Princess' strange attire.

"My lady," she exclaimed. "What happened to our dress? No no! You cannot be seen like this!"

The maid (despite her small stature) pushed the underdressed princess into the bathroom and tore her torn undergarments away.

"What are all these black stains?" the maid was horrified at the stained white garment. "And look at you! Oh my! This is not good! You cannot present yourself like that!"

With that, the Princess was thrown into a bath tub of hot water and scrubbed till redness.

Snow followed the maid and let her do her duty. Snow didn't have other dress to wear anyway, the one Shu handpicked for her - was eventually 'destroyed' by himself.

Snow kept quiet throughout the session. After the maid was done with bathing her, they walked out into the bedroom. Snow looked down on the new dress placed on the bed.

"That is?" her cold voice tingling as she spoke to the maid without looking at her. The maid could sense the cold aura and refrained a little.

"A dress, my Lady. Your attire from yesterday is not dried yet," she spoke with a quiver. "The breakfast table is ready and I thought to bring out a color of the dress to match the day."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Downstairs, Shu bowed respectfully to his parents as they left by a hired cab.

"Do take care of your lady guest. I have yet to see her at all this morning. Did you chase another away again? My, my, what am i going to do to an unmarried son of a noble?" his mother spoke sarcastically with her fan over her face.

Shu said nothing. He simply maintained his position until the cab was gone.

"Hmph. How different are we?" he thought aloud. "Harry...I am leaving for my morning walk. Make sure the lady is gone before nightfall."

The manservant bowed and returned to the mansion in swift steps. A man in his late fifties took over the younger manservant's place.

"My lord...you called?" the old man asked evenly. Unlike the other servants, he treated Shu as an equal. Even the respectful tone was lacking.

Shu liked the old man better than the rest. His frank attitude reminded Shu of his position in the royal line.

"Ahh Uncle...care to join me?"

"I am only but your butler. I have morning duties too."

"You are my butler. That is why we will be leaving now. Hail a cab for us."

The old man sighed in exasperation and gave orders to the other servants before carrying out his Master's selfish wish.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Snow turned a little at the maid, and gave her a smile.

"It's okay", Snow said as the maid prepared her with the dress and all. "You don't have to return me the dress. Shu wouldn't mind if I take one of his dress, I supposed"

She went down to the dining room, expecting that she will be dining alone. Shu wouldn't want to see her anymore - she can sensed it, after all that happened yesterday. She had caused unnecessary trouble to him, which - she thought, will make him hate her more, since he doesn't fancy with any woman in his life.

As she was left alone to her breakfast, she cut her finger with the fruit knife and looked at the wound. The wound healed within seconds - and she felt no pain at all. She couldn't feel the kind-hearted Snow anymore either. It was as if the both Snow - the positive and the negative had combined into one.

She looked back at the breakfast that was served. It was the bread that Shu baked right in front of her eyes. Unconsciously, tears rolled down her eyes. She wasn't crying, she wasn't even feeling sad - but her heart ache with undeniable pain. Without eating the bread, she stood up and called for the maid.

"I will be packing now to go back", she told the maid. "Please call a cab for me....."

Her tone was clearly a sad, cold one. The maid could see her tears - but she ignored it as requested by Snow. The maid looked after Snow as she returned to the guestroom, not wanting any escort from any of the households.

All the servants in the mansion lined up to send their regards with a courteous bow.

"My lady," Harry, the manservant from last night stepped forward boldly."Will you be coming to visit again soon?"

His yearning for her presence in the house was unmistakable.

One of the loose-lipped maid slipped up. "Yeah! It's been awhile since Master showed any emotions!"

Snow looked up at them. She smiled at them, hiding the sadness inside of her. She had come to love everyone here a lot - despite how short the time they spent together.

Harry's question caught her off guard as her eyes widened in surprise. What the maid said added more sadness to what she was already feeling. Controlling her tears, she looked up at Harry.

"Don't be silly, your master wouldn't want me to ever come again" she said. She looked around and caught herself staring into the mirror nearby. She had tied her hair up - an action she never did before. Everything from head to toe was from Shu's. She was still hoping to see Shu, hoping he will stop her and ask her to stay, but she knew he wouldn't do that. She had fallen in love with a heartless devil.

"Tell him....I say thanks" she walked out, heading towards the carriage.

Harry hurried after her. He pushed a letter into her hand. It was sealed with the noble crest of Helusen Family.

"Uncle...I mean our Family's butler wanted you to have this," he whispered with a look of mystery.

He bowed courteously and returned to the household hurriedly to put the house back in order. With the Master and his mysterious butler gone, Harry was the temporary chief of staff. The horseman waited for the Princess to board.

Snow was surprised with the letter handed to her by Harry. She entered the carriage in puzzled.

"Princess...the Earl is back in town and demanded for you to quickly get home", said the horseman. Snow simply nodded to him, as she slowly opens the sealed envelope. "Earl said once princess has come of age he will reveal to you your fiance"

Snow looked up at him. She had completely forgotten about the order the Earl gave her. She was to marry a duke of Far Far Away - someone she had never heard of. She had other thing to take care of now - and kept the letter inside her bag as the carriage pulled to a stop in front of the her grand mansion.

Walking in, she was greeted by the Earl and her mother - who both looked very much fine. They were delighted to show to her her fiance, which to Snow was someone who wouldn't give her true love as she believed that he will very much be interested in her status than her.
Walking into the grand waiting hall, Snow's eyes widened to find Shu.

Shu clearly did not have any hint of surprise at being introduced to his fiancee. As the nobles chattered away about how they complement the other's looks, Shu approached her gently.

"My lady," he paused to kiss her non-outstretched hand. "My name is Raizier Shusuke Helusen. It is my pleasure to be in your graceful presence."

Although hardly noticeable, every syllabus of the word was forced. His stern glance and formal introduction did not help the situation. Bending over the Princess, he whispered in cold breath, "This will be our first meeting. Never mention about last night. Ever. I am sure we don't want to expose your other persona, do we?"

It was not a request but an order. His charismatic smile to the Earl was entrancing. It was as if only Princess could see behind his mask of feint gentle noble.

Snow had least expected that. All these while she would think her fiance would somehow turned out to be some greedy duke who will just marry her for the sake of status. Marrying a true blood - her father being the late King and her mother, a princess from a faraway country was everyone's dream - and this of course made Snow the center of attention of every suitors.

Snow looked at Shu, deeply amazed by how he could react with such an attitude. He showed emotions? His staffs definitely do not know him well, she thought.

She could feel that he wasn't too pleased at all to face her once again. It suddenly occur to her that she rather marry a man who doesn't love her than marrying a man who hate her.

"It's an honor to meet you too, Raizier", Snow replied with a fake happy look. "You must have known who I am, so just call me Snow".

As the Earl turned around and talked to Shu, Snow put on a fake smile and faced the Earl.

"The both of you matches each other very much - just like the Prince and the Princess", the Earl complimented.

Snow smirked inwardly. More like the Devil and the Princess , she thought. Just about then, Snow's mother planted her eyes on Snow - with very much look of disapproval.

Forgetting about Shu's presence, her mother gasped in horror. "What on Earth is wrong with your attire, Snowaphina? What happened to your hair?" she asked in a very disapproval tone. She narrowed her eyes at her, adding: "Did you cut a lock of your hair?"

Snow took a step backward and held on to Shu's sleeves. Both the Earl and her mother, surprised at her actions and looked at each other - thinking that Snow really like the man they chose for her.

But they were wrong. In fact, there was sudden urge inside Snow to slap her mother when she provoked her. She only held on to Shu - since Shu was the only one who had seen the other her - to calm down. She looked up at her mother again, before exiting to her bedroom to get change.

After Snow exited from the scene, the Earl looked back at Shu. "So what do you think about Snowaphina?"

"My noble father, it feels like a dream. Marrying your enchanting daughter seems surreal. I must thank you for this opportunity to fulfill my miserable life," he spoke humbly, giving away his gentle aura.

The Earl was pleased. Though the Helusen had fallen from grace, their rumored wealth amassed through their reigning years did not go unnoticed.

"Well, I guess it all falls perfectly in place," the Earl spoke pompously.

Shu continued to flatter the Earl's mistress with sweet words and the Earl challenged Shu to a friendly hunting game.

"My, my. You boys really had it going. I will send my daughter to find you men at the edge of the woods. I must look into the picnic preparation now," the mother spoke pleasantly, blushing a little in Shu's presence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Snow was taking a while in her bedroom, with her personal maids dolling her up. They had to restyle her hair again, since she cut a lock of her hair without much consideration - and it made her looked awfully disastrous.

During the whole preparation, she can't but keep thinking about the unexpected Shu being her fiance. She needed to be alone with him for a while - she needed some answers from him.

"Princess, the Earl and the Duke will be hunting in the woods. Lady has ordered princess to meet them over at the edge of the woods", one of her maids said.

Snow simply nodded with an uninterested face. The maids looked at one another - they felt a different aura from the princess. In fact, the princess was never emotionless.

Snow departed into the woods alone. She was used with the pathway inside the woods - she grew up playing here with a boy she once knew, but as her identity as the late King's daughter was revealed to the world, she never see him again.

As she walked towards the edge of the woods, she heard a laughter - an evil laughter echoing inside the woods. She looked around, thinking maybe it was the Earl or Shu, but she found no one. The laughter got louder by the seconds - she had never hear this before in her life. Afraid, she ran as fast as she could towards the edge of the woods.

Shu sense a strange imposing presence from behind and spun around to see the Princess running rather unladylike towards them with a serious expression. Strong emotions were radiating from her. He raised an eyebrow.

"My dear daughter," the Earl spoke disapprovingly of her entrance. "Have you learnt nothing from your etiquette lessons? I must apologize for the appearance of my daughter, Helusen-san."

The earl gave a half bow. It was not his position to bow to someone of lower birth right.

Snow gave the Earl a killer stare as he bowed at Shu. Although the Earl did not see her expression, but Shu saw that stare. Something from last night had changed her.

The Earl turned back to the princess, and Snow was immediately smiling at him. Although unnoticeable to others, the Earl's facial expression - albeit normal - was demanding the princess to regain her composure and apologise to Shu. The Earl clearly didn't want Snow to give any bad impression to Shu - though Snow knew she already did beforehand.

Snow walked towards Shu and curtsied. "I am so sorry for my rude appearance since today".

Turning back to the Earl, she held up the basket of food. "Mother asked me to bring these to you. She won't be joining us since she didn't like outdoor activities"

The Earl laughed a little, before saying: "We'll be hunting inside the woods, why don't you join us by the side?"

He looked up from Snow, and smiled at Shu - expecting him to take over.

Shu looked at the feisty Princess. Quite unlike other ladies-in-waiting...I don't think I should let her off easy...for all the trouble she caused me...

Shu nodded to his butler who disappeared to get some riding gears fitted for the lady.

"Please give us a moment, Earl. I would like my future fiancee to join us in the hunt. I was hoping she would enjoy the game together with us."

"Ho ho. And you will be responsible for her safety? You do know this is a dangerous contest," the Earl challenged with narrowed eyes. "Winning means everything."

It was no longer a friendly game. It was a battle of pride and the Lady's high opinion. In the meantime, the butler returned with riding gear for the maids to fit Princess in. Shu mounted his chestnut horse who snorted proudly. He extended a hand in Snow's direction.

"My lady," he encouraged her. (to mount his horse and hunt with him)

Snow looked at him, still amazed at how well Shu masked himself as the perfect duke. His invitation was warm but she sensed that Shu was somehow up to something.

Looking up at him, Snow took his hand and helped herself up to his horse. This is her first time riding the horse with a man other than the Earl. She had to admit her weakness at riding a horse - she held onto Shu, her arms wrapping around his waist.

Once the Earl was assured that she was comfortable with the situation, he started off into the wood on his black horse - it was a rare breed. Shu followed right behind. As they strode on, Snow found the opportunity to whisper to him.

"How long have you known about this?" Snow asked him - in relation to their arranged marriage.

Shu looked on ahead in silence. As they close in to the starting line marked by the Earl's servants with white painted tree branches, the horses paddled the ground slowly. As the Earl busied his servants with final arrangements of his safety and his acclaimed hunting rifle, Shu checked that his common rifle was fully loaded.

Such pompousness for a mere hunt, he thought to himself as he glanced at the Earl. Skill is the basic judging factor.

The butler brought him extra gunpowder and they waited for the bell.

"It was an unexpected twist of fate for me too," he replied shortly.

And the bell chimed high in the air. The Earl had a head start, laughing.

"I will be going on, Son-in-law," he shouted in a jeering tone. "See you in 2 hours' time"

Armed with a map in his mind, the Earl knew he had a vast advantage - he alone was most familiar with the forest layout. And he was not going to give up this advantage by speed either.

Fool...the Earl thought. Why do you want to compete with the undisputed champion who lived by this forest all his life?

Shu watched the portly man disappear in the dark greens. He looked down at his companion and checked for their safety.

"Hold on tight," Shu spoke in an orderly tone. "Your hands are your only safety straps from now."

With that, he gave up supporting the Lady with his arms and used both his hands to drive his horse and his line of shots. It was going to be a wild goose hunt this season. Shu knew that snakes don't lie. He could hardly sense them in this time of the year. His preys were yet to be out of hibernation.

I might as well catch sleeping wild bears.

As the Earl strode off and disappeared from their view, Snow remained quiet throughout the journey. She held on tight to Shu, not sure if following will burden him or help him.

After a moment of a long ride, Snow decided to spill the beans.

"You won't win, if you're hoping to ... since the Earl knows his way around here...well mostly", she said. She had no idea that she was the item of winning. She had no idea that she's in fact selling herself. The fact was, if Shu wins, he gets to keep the Princess with him - in other meaning, they can live together until the day of marriage. "But there's a certain part of this wood that he can't, he had never entered"

Snow looked up at Shu, waiting for his reply.

Shu looked at her intently. "How would a caged Princess like you know about that?" he asked frankly.

His face betrayed no emotions of surprise. His sharp hearing picked up a scuffle in the bushes. He put his finger to her lips and prodded his horse. The horse got its rider's intentions and like a young spirited foal of its time, it sprinted as fast as light to its destination. Shu steadied his rifle without care of the rough riding through the terrains nor the fact that Snow is clinging for her her dear life. When his mind was set on something, he would give his all to obtain what he desired. In this case, it was his first big prey.

The horse appeared abruptly from behind a tall shrub like a flying Pegasus soaring through the bright blue skies of a fine spring day to startle an alpha mule deer. Within minutes of bolting, the mule received a kind gesture of dying without pain. It collapsed on the hard grounds of the thawing forest with blood flowing between its eyes. The horse stopped in front of the carcass and barely flinched when Shu fired a smoke gun in the air for collection of his prize. He scanned the area with his serious expression and pressing Snow's ears against his chest with one hand covering her other ear, he fired a few more shots at what appeared to be still canopies of the trees. A few fowls fell to the ground.

"I suggest you address me more devotedly now, my future wife," he said in a softer voice amidst the silence of the forest. "Where shall we go now, my wife?"

Snow looked away as soon as their eyes met. She didn't like the way he called her a 'caged' princess - despite it being the truth. She held on tight as the riding went rough and fast. She had never experienced such a wild ride in her entire eighteen years of life, even with the Earl. The Earl had always bring her about in slow motion - as she's a very precious treasure to both him and the country.

Snow closed her eyes and clamped tightly on Shu. She was, to be honest, afraid that Shu wouldn't care about her safety - even though he'd agreed to be responsible. She jumped in surprise, and blushed as she felt his hand covering her ears firmly as he brings her close to his chest. She could hear hid heart beating - it was the sweetest melody that she'd ever heard of. The sound of his beating heart melts her heart.

She looked up, at the fallen fowls. This is the first time she see a man other than the Earl hunt - and she was amazed with his skills. His words flushed in a series of unexplained emotion inside her. Hearing him calling her "my wife" , as if she was now a property belonging to him made her blushes hard. She didn't bother to look up at him, she didn't want him to know she's blushing.

Snow knew her way around the woods very well - even better than the Earl since there is a certain district of the woods that only she knew. She had been secretly embarking on a adventure in the woods when she was younger - when everyone else were asleep in the mere midnight of a bright full moon.

She pointed straight. She directed him into the deep of the woods, and by the time Shu realised, they were right in front of a cave. They got down the horse, as Snow walked in slowly until they reached the end of the cave. It didn't seem to have another way out, aside from where they came in.

Snow took out her pocket knife, cut a wound and let a drop of her blood to fall onto a rock with a goblet shape. Her cut healed immediately.

"I came upon here when I was younger - where His Majesty shown to me this place, as a secret that only His Majesty and I should know", she said. "And of course......you...... ".

She trailed off. A part of the cave opened up, revealing another part of the woods that was never exploited to its two new guests.

He winced slightly as she offered her own blood. That could be better use for that blood...no..I must not lose focus.

He was afraid the ringing of his rifle shots would scare the fragile princess, especially after last night incident but he whisked away in his hunt anyways, partly to scare her into submission. His heart was more into the hunt than he knew as he rode into the woods full of anticipation to catching his prey. His heart was racing at the challenge with the Earl. However, she revealed something extraordinary to him - a new wave of emotions hit him.

Standing in awe of the untouched nature. He put a tentative foot forward and then stepped back. Giving her the benfit of doubt, he turned to her with a stern expression.

"What is the meaning of this, Snow," he spoke in a low, dangerous tone (forgetting to address her formally). "Is this another of your threat to put me down? This unknown cave is not catalogued in the kingdom's map. How would I know what you plan to do with me without my attendants to check on us?"

He was careful around this princess after she showed him her merciless side.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Snow raised an eyebrow at him. She didn't expect him to be afraid of her - or at least that was what she thought. She looked around and turned back to him.

"Amuse me, how am I to do anything to you? " she asked. "Even if I do plan a plot against you, you're obviously able to stop me. Plus, I'm a princess - I am not groomed to kill my fiance, why would I do that?"

She looked away, a little blushing at this moment - which Shu can clearly sees. "Plus.....you saved me....last night. I....I should repay you by winning over the Earl".

She held the pocket knife to him. "If you don't trust me, you may keep the knife to yourself. That's the only weapon I have....or do you need me to strip to my undergarments again to prove my innocence?"

Snow had nothing to lose. She'd lost most of her dignity to him, she had nothing in her to be proud of anymore.

Feeling threatened, he raised his personal wall. The aura he gave off started to feel more dangerous and its intention was clear - stay way.

Me...Afraid of a little girl. Tsk I am a joke.

He looked down on her and turned on his heel. That place would be a labyrinth for the him now. He ought to return later.

"I will be leaving you behind," he called back as he mounted his chestnut horse. The sun was setting. His time is almost up. Can he perform a last minute miracle to win the game?

Snow moved back and stood by the oak tree. She was somehow getting used to the way Shu treats her. She wasn't worry about him getting lost, as this part of the woods will lead him back to where she stood. She never got lost inside - she believed Shu would make good use of the advantage she'd given him.

As he disappeared from her view, she sat down below the oak tree. She had always thought her fiance to be someone greedy and wanted her just for the sake of status - she had prepared herself to deal with fake love. It was least expected for her fiance to be Shu instead - the cold hearted devil whom she can't seem to understand. Snow didn't prepare herself to marry a man, whom she think will hate her for the rest of her life - but it was an undeniable truth that she had fallen in love with him - her devil.

Is this my punishment? , she thought as she was aware that she was slowly being consumed by the darkness Shu's mother casted on her. That I won't be loved for the rest of my life?

Wrapping her arms around her legs - her head to her knees, she waited with patient for Shu's return with his snobbish smile. She drifted off in her thoughts, and later did she know - she'd fallen asleep.

She had a dream during her short nap. In her dream she saw a young boy - about 10 years old who was staring out of the window. The boy was quiet, nothing seems to interest him. It was as if he was waiting for something, or even someone. He muttered something to himself, but she couldn't hear him. The boy turned around - and Snow was more than surprised to find his resemblance was so much like Shu's.

And the dream went pitch black.

Snow felt like she was falling. Struggling at first to grab on something in this nothingness, she soon gave up. A dim light shone from below. She tried to turn and see the source of this welcoming intervention but she hadn't had the strength. Soon, portraits were floating beside her. There were moving images of Shu at different ages. She couldn't find one that had him smiling. The fall was too fast for her to watch any of the stories in each portrait. Out of the blue, a hand came from the side and broke her fall. She was dangling in the middle of portraits of 12-year-old Shu. There were flashes of red in each portrait as scenes rapidly changed. A blindfold fell over her eyes.

"It is not time yet," a crystal clear, smooth voice of unknown gender spoke in melodious tone.

Suddenly, Snow was yanked backwards onto cold hard wall - out of the dream. she opened her eyes. Shu was standing over her, as if he was guarding her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shu turned back, expecting to see Snow tracing his footsteps but she was in the most ridiculous position - she was sleeping under the oak tree! He was contemplating the idea of leaving her behind to finish his game but the entrance to the strange woods seemed to attract certain curious wild beast. In this world, the ebast was known as the Great Grey Wolf. Larger than a regular siberian wolf with matching set of large sharp teeth, it was not to be underestimated. The wolf seemed to be entranced by the cave and had not noticed the vulnerable princess in her beauty sleep. Shu crept as quietly as possible towards her. He was almost congratulating himself at reaching her side when the wolf picked up a new scent - it immediately turned to face the intruder.

Snarling, the wolf approached the couple cautiously. It was familiar with the machinery Shu held but it did not know this - Shu had yet to reload it. The two alpha males stared daggers at each other. Shu welcomed death with open arms in any situations but this - he had something valuable to protect here.

The wolf pounced as Shu put down the rifle and the two got into a scuffled fight. In a moment of hesitation, the wolf sensed an opening and bit Shu's left shoulder. Shu summoned his last strength to kick the wolf away. Strangely, the wolf began howling in pain and swayed at its spot, losing focus gradually.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Snow looked at Shu, as she wondered why was he standing here when he was supposed to be hunting deep inside the new heart of the woods. Her eyes followed his line of sight - and found the wolf staring at them with hunger.
Yuki
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Snow gasped, she had never seen a wolf around this area, especially inside here. Shu hadn't noticed that Snow was awake, it seems that he was very immersed with the new predator.

Shu had his eyes on the wolf - and Snow was praying then, not that she believed in God, but she didn't want Shu to get hurt. She watched in horror as the moment Shu placed his rifle down the wolf sprang at him. The two got into a fight - it terrified Snow very much as Shu was weaponless and his opponent was the wolf!

Snow was panicked, she headed over to the rifle and poured out the gunpowder to reload the rifle - but her hand was trembling. She couldn't contain her fear of losing him - even if he hated her, even if he was to treat her as a puppet as well. She couldn't help herself when she saw the wolf bit Shu's left shoulder. Without much consideration, she ran towards the wolf - with the knife in her hands - and stabbed it, deep into its heart. The wolf's blood smeared across the princess' dress. Shu kicked the wolf away - Snow stared at it howling in pain, before running towards Shu in tears.

"Are you okay?" her hands were trembling and her voice shaking as she held out a hand to touch Shu.

Shu was shocked. The Princess was soaked in the wolf's blood! Shouting curses regardless of the danger they were in, he tore her soaked dress away and carried her hurriedly to the cave's entrance. He rushed around the strange forest to find a pool of water to soak her in. He paid no heed to her protests nor her nudity. He was scrubbing any remains of the wolf blood of her. He made sure to scrutinise every part of her body for open wounds.

"What were you thinking?" he screamed in fury. "Haven't you heard of dirty blood and contamination?"

He continued to scrub her hard with a piece of handkerchief previously tucked away in his breast pocket.

"What would you do if the poisoned blood of the wolf entered your body?"

Snow was more than surprised when Shu abruptly tore her dress off, and carried her off. She was struggling as hard as she could - beating him with her fists, asking to put her down. She was so shy that she wanted to die straight away - she's a princess , for God's sake and she was stripping nude in front of a man, although him being her fiance.

She was still protesting as he soaked her into the cold icy water of the nature. Shu scrubbed her body - every part of her body. She struggled hard to his touchings, but he was too strong for her. When she reached her breaking point of over-embarrassment, she splashed the cold water onto his face - and succeed in making him to free her off. She quickly got out of the pool and hid behind a big rock.

"And you!?" she was almost shouting. "You're bitten yourself! Your condition is way more severe than mine!"

She hid behind the rock, putting only her head out looking at him in embarrassment - her silver hair was wet with water dripping off her hair - revealing her natural beauty without any cosmetics on her face.

"I don't care if I die anyway! No one loves me - everyone treat me just like an accessory, even you!" she said. "Who are you to ...to...to see me in this condition!?"

Soaking wet from the struggle with a rather ferocious kitten, Shu slowly came to realisation of the embarrassing situation for the lady. He coughed slightly to hide his grin despite his conditions. He took off the top of his hunting suit and squeezed them dry. Throwing it in her direction, he strolled away with his bare chest. The injury on his left shoulder was missing.

"I will be waiting by the cave's entrance when you are done. This place tells no time," he called out to her.

Her youthful energy does not seem to indicate any poison....I hope it stays that way.

Remembering the soft, smooth touch of her skin instantly, Shu wobbled towards the tree near the exit. He had touched many ladies in his lifetime for dancing purposes but this young girl was beyond his imaginations. Remembering her flushed face and quick scamper to her hiding spot, he laughed hard. It was oddly satisfying. Then, he stopped abruptly. This behavior was uncharacteristic of him.

What has happened to me?

Looking at the red glow of the sunset, he remembered the hunt and tied the wolf to a makeshift sled of branches and fallen leaves. He whistled for his frightened horse.

I hope we make it back in time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Snow came out of hiding as Shu walked off. She took the hunting suit and wore it. It was big for the princess' size but the length was just right - although slightly below her knee. She took time to squeeze dry her water dripping hair and slowly walked towards the cave's entrance to meet up with Shu. It had been a really awkward weekend with Shu. She couldn't help from feeling embarrassed.

As she saw Shu from afar, she suddenly noticed the missing wound on his shoulder. She stopped and looked at her palm - her wound had been healing on its own without leaving any scar since her encounter in the basement last night. Shoving the disturbing thoughts aside, she walked towards Shu - with her head down.

They walked out of the cave, and as soon as she left the cave - the door to the secret woods closed on its own.
The horse returned in jubilee when it saw its master safe but edged away from the wolf carcass. Shu patted the horse endearingly.

"Silly girl. Getting all happy when you left me."

He mounted the horse with ease and pulled Snow to settle her in the front. They prodded away with the carcass in their wake.

The Earl paced the finishing line impatiently. The time is almost up when he heard the familiar gallop of a certain chestnut horse.

"What is the meaning of these?" he spluttered in horror at the sight of the Princess state and the giant wolf tolling behind.

Thousands of horrible thoughts of Helusen and his Princess began forming in his mind.

Snow kept quiet during the ride back to the meeting point with the Earl. Meeting up with the Earl, and seeing his obviously surprised expression - Snow looked away and sighed.

"There was a little.....", she trailed off. "Accident"

The Earl eyed the princess and Shu with eyes that obviously stated that he don't buy the story.

"Shu saved me from...the wolf", she added as she looked over at the carcass.The Earl followed her line of sight and after a long moment, he nodded at them - a sign that he lost the bet. He was more surprised at Snow calling him "Shu".

"Very well, Helusen-san", he finally said. "The dinner is ready and I've got your room ready beside Snowaphina's. Your butler will also be staying the night here along with Steven, our family butler. As for Snowaphina.....it's best you get straight to your room to get changed. You wouldn't want your mother to faint".

He gave Shu a stare before they strode back to the grand mansion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Disapproval. It was disapproval. All the hard work I had done to keep that stupid smile on our masks gone in a flash.

Shu sighed and had his butler led to his guestroom while he was still in deep thoughts. Granted that he had attained the ability of charisma, he must exercise control over it. The last time he went all out, he had a lady stalker who wouldn't give up until she disappeared mysteriously. Dinner was going to be a battlefield between his future father-in-law and him.

That is if he still has a future marriage.

I need this family's honor and name.

"Yes you do," a voice whispered in his ears, giggling.

Shu knew he had lost conscious.

The butler sighed and carried his sleeping master to his room. This happened before but he had yet to explain the situation.

"Looks like dinner is going to be late," the butler mumbled to himself as he heaved the bulk of muscles onto a queen sized bed in the cheery house of Snowaphina's family.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was a tough time for Snow to get bathed and dressed by her maids - without recalling what Shu did to her. The Earl had bought her the finest dress from the land opposite - and ordered her to wear it for the dinner. She had no other choice but to obey his order, even if she ranked higher than him. Looking at herself in the mirror - she found it an odd view to find herself wearing a blood red dress.

"Your fiance likes blood red", she recalled what the Earl had told her just a moment ago. She looked at herself again - trying to get used to it. Her hair were tied up to a bun behind - it was rather sophisticated with a red rose clipped onto it. Her fringe remained - Snow had always loved her fringe.

She hated to admit that she wants to dress well in front of Shu, but nothing seems to impress him - he kept tearing them off. She shoved the disturbing thoughts away - she guessed that Shu had all the women he wanted in the world, and she wouldn't mean anything to him. However, what happened in the woods makes her heartbeat went faster. She mustn't allow him to get off easily after snatching her dignity away. He had to be responsible.

She walked out of her room, and found one of the servants knocking on Shu's door. The grand mansion had four floors all together. Located on the ground floor are the waiting hall, grand dining hall, kitchen, grand ballroom and some other grand halls for multipurpose. The Earl and Snow's mother stayed on the second floor - they both had a separate bedrooms, since they were just a married couple on paper. The whole of the third floor of the mansion belonged to Snow. Every room on the third floor belonged to her - the music room, the library and the dancing room. No other guests had been allowed to stay on this floor - all except Shu. Raising a hand to the servant - a sign for her to retreat, Snow knocked on the door herself.

"Dinner's ready...are you there?" She trailed off as she found the door unlock. She entered the room and looked around but Shu was no where to be found. Just then her eyes found Shu, who was lying on the bed. Closing the door behind her, she walked towards the bed - surprised to find Shu asleep. Sitting on the side of the bed, she tried to wake him up.

"The Earl wouldn't like to have the guest not attending the dinner", she said. "Shu?"

Shu didn't respond - he seemed to be deeply asleep. Well..after what happened last night and today...he must have been tired , she thought with a fade smile. She patted his hair.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I met her...A melodic voice prodded his mind with slight cheekiness.

In the depth of his mind, Raizier Shusuke Helusen was a man of no desire. He preferred the plain environment to the austere Victorian styled decor of this time period. His unconsciousness would reveal a world of plain night skies with occasional shooting stars to which he made no wish. He always found himself sitting on invisible grounds of this empty space. There, he will find his uninvited guest.

"Ember eyes...you seek me again on what matter? And who are you referring to?" Shu replied serenely. Space and time are lost in this world.

A face came into view from the starry skies. The face was almost translucent with its white skin but dark red eyes stood out from the otherwise peerless face. The facial features were gentle and almost ethereal except for the playful set of eyes which twinkled with excitement.

Your new girlfriend, the high pitched voice chimed. Although I am surprised at her age...aren't you a man appealing to older women?

The face began spinning as a wicked grin cross its face. It was hard to tell the gender of the strange speaker.

Shu's eyes flashed at the mention of 'older women' but he let it slide at the look of silliness of his guest.

"Stay away from Snowaphina," Shu replied shortly.

What? Is this how you treat your benefactor, the face spoke crossly. That girl almost had access to your past memories!

Shu looked up sharply, his full attention on the face now.

"Explain yourself."

Hmph, the face had a look of triumph. Now I have something you want....till then...

"EMBER!" but the face disappeared into the constellations.

He felt his starry world fading. Someone was disturbing his sleep. Irritable, his instincts kicked in.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shu's hair felt soft to touch yet voluminous. It was too curly to comb but not messy like a beggar. As Snowaphina felt more fascinated but the hair texture, Shu's body reacted on its own and grabbed Snow's waist, pushing her face down on the mattress. The movement was too quick and Snow found herself pinned at her hands with Shu on all four above her. She had no room for man oeuvre and his grip was too tight for comfort. He opened his eyes as if awakening from a long dream and checked her identity.

"Oh it's just you," Shu released her limbs slowly.

Pushing her off the bed, he sat up and glanced down at her.

"What are you doing? Trying to find my weakness as you trespass my room?"

Snowphina gapped and before she had time to reply a ear-splitting shriek came from the door. The couple looked up to find a horror-stricken Mother of Snow.

"What...What is the meaning of this?" she continued screaming, stamping her foot painfully. "I heard the maids talking about you waking the noble up but you are not even at marriageable age! And you are together! Near a bed!"

Shu quickly stood up and tried to pacify the mother but she held up a hand and regained her composure.

"You have no right to be in this house any longer. And you," she pulled Snow up from the ground with a firm grip on her wrist. Snow winced at the harp strain on her wrist muscle. "Wretched little girl. The Earl has told me about your misadventure in the woods. How can we ever show our faces in public again! I will see to your punishment. Now, Helusen, get out of this house right this instant."

The last sentence rang shrilly in Shu's ears but he bowed courteously and left speedily with his butler.

The mother turned to her daughter with a menacing stare. "Now what should we do to tame you?"

"STOP!", Snow shouted abruptly - clearly it was addressed to Shu and his butler, as well as everyone in the scene. None of them had ever seen the princess losing her temper. She was always gentle and elegant but she had enough. The Earl and her mother had always had their way to use her - they had never paid attention to how she really felt. She grew up, having very obvious split personalities - one side where she had to act the way she was expected, and the other side where she was in desperation to escape from the life she'd been living - she had always wanted to die - but she couldn't find the courage to. Just when she finally found the courage, something caught her attention instead - something she found worth living for. How could them understand her feelings?

The Earl rushed up to the third floor, sensing that something went wrong. When he got hold off the situation, he walked over to Snow's mother - trying to reason with her. To him, even if Shu and Snow were acting out of class, as long as Snow is happy and continued to stay by his side - he would allow them to get marry as soon as possible. The Earl had always regard Snow as part of his wealthy precious collection - in fact she was his favourite . Snow's status can bring him more wealth and higher status than the late King had given him.

He wanted to be Snow's hero - saving her from her mother's unreasonable punishment and allowing her to be with Shu, and gain her trust for the rest of her life. The last thing he want was losing her trust, losing her would bring an end to his empire .

"Snowaphina! How dare you treat m-" her mother trailed off as Snow threw a pillow at her. Shu watched in amusement - although it wasn't shown on his face.

"Have you ever think who has the most power in this house?" Snow asked - she wasn't the nice girl her mother knew. "I do. I am the princess of this country and you? You're nothing but the wife of the Earl - the mistress of the late King. You're not even anywhere higher than me"

Her mother was shocked. She had devoted her life in grooming Snow into a wonderful princess - just so she could snatch the throne away from the hands of the Queen, her twin sister.

"I have my limits. All these while, I have been really patient with the both of you", Snow added. "I am treated like a puppet - pleasing the both of you doing matters that clearly I don't benefit from. This marriage was arranged by the late King - by father! The both of you are just simply carrying out what was stated in his will for me. This marriage doesn't benefit the both of you, am I right? Is that why you challenged him to that hunting game? Is that why you allowed him to sleep in my second chamber!? Since this marriage does not benefit you both - so you both had to find ways to call it off, am I right?"

The Earl and her mother kept quiet - Snow had got their intention right.

"Can't you do something that is good for me - not for the both of you?" she asked. She looked straight at them, adding: "Raizier Shusuke Helusen is my fiance - as per chosen for me by the late King. If any of you are to object, it will means you objected to His majesty's order."

Snow walked pass them, and towards Shu as she handed him a small box - inside was a pendant carved beautifully with the Princess' seal. The late King had made it and passed it over to Snow when she was younger - he mentioned to give it to her fiance one day.

"If the both of you want him to leave this mansion, so will I then", she said as she nodded at her personal maids. Snow had decided to move out of the mansion that had caged her for her entire life. She had nothing to lose - she had many other estates to stay in, all belonging to her.

With this, she walked out of the mansion with the maids bringing the luggage. The Earl and the mother didn't bother to stop her - they knew they had offended her. They should have known that they can't cross the line.

Reaching the carriage, Snow turned to Shu.

"Disappointed?" she asked.

Shu could no longer contain his laughter. His laughter came out like humming sounds of a pigeon and continued throughout the journey in their hired cab. Even the butler shared the in silence. No words were exchanged then.

Upon reaching the front gate of the mansion, comparably smaller than Snowaphina's home, Harry the manservant rushed out to greet his Master's unexpected return.

"My lord, I am afraid your return was quicker than we thought. The household is not ready..." his voice trailed off at the sight of Shu's outstretched hand.

"Your thoughts do not matter. I will deal with you later. Now, get the lady a warm cup of milk and light supper. Prepare her room. She will be staying for awhile," Shu's cold demeanor had returned.

Harry bowed low, afraid of repercussions. He hurried the maids-in-waiting to give the Princess a royal treatment. Shu turned to speak in low voices with his butler. Their conversations were clearly intense at the look of their expressions. It was close to midnight. The manor has fallen in its mysterious stupor again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"My lady, I will leave your meal on the oak chest table beside the cupboard. I am afraid I must retire early according to curfew," a maid called out to Snow as she took a warm shower.

Snow came out of the shower - as she caught a glimpse of the meal on the table. She had forgotten that she hadn't had any meal since breakfast. She sat down on the bed - as she thought about her future. She had finally freed herself from the grasp of the Earl and her mother, but had gotten herself trapped here, with Shu instead.

She fell asleep soon after the meal. She had a dream again.

She was standing on a pond - floating to be more exact. She was in her white nightgown as she looked around. It was cold and she could feel herself freezing. Just then she felt a kiss on her left cheek - although there wasn't anyone else there beside her.

"Who is that?" she asked - she didn't expect to have any reply in return but a melodic laughter break her expectations.

Raising an eyebrow, her hands closed to her chests - she looked around again. "Shu?"

The voice chuckled, and a figure walked out of nowhere towards Snow. From a far, Snow recognised Shu. As she ran towards him, she sensed a different aura - it wasn't Shu, although he looked the same.

"You're not Shu, who are you?" The princess asked. She took a step back - she was cautious.

The guy chuckled, "So you realised after all....My disguise doesn't work with you, you're really different than the rest. That's interesting".

Snow took a few steps back, but before she could turn and run away - the guy was suddenly appearing right in front of her, and later did she know he kissed on her lips. Smiling at her, the guy put a rose in her hair.

"You're something to him and now I see why......" the voice differed from Shu's. It was genderless yet beautiful and mesmerizing. "I won't allow that though...."

He ran his fingers softly from Snow's back neck down to her collar bone as he held her deep in his mesmerizing eyes.You will be the best pawn I'd ever had...

"I won't allow Shu to get any closer to you, he's just using you like how he'd used every other women...but I.....I will love you", he said, making good use of her weakness as he closed in towards her neck.

The flat-chested figure was erotic in love but the gender was unclear. The voice could reach the high pitch of a soprano and movements gentle like a deer. If mystical creatures do exit, the figure could be a noble Elf.

"Tell me what do you wish for?" the elf whispered seductively, lightly slipping the straps of her dress of her shoulders. They were no longer in the dreamy woods but on her bed in Shu's mansion.

How did the scene changed so quickly? Snow could clearly see the maroon Victorian wallpaper and her four poster bed with drapes hiding them from plain sight. The elf's voice captivated her. It sang of sweet melodies and dreams of paradise. The elf could promise her something powerful and magical!

Snow couldn't get control of herself. Something in this creature captivated her attention and held her deep in his beautiful eyes. Even worst, he was disguising himself as Shu.

She couldn't move as the creature slipped off the straps off her dress. She wasn't held on tightly onto the bed, but she just couldn't move. She felt weak physically, and she was losing mentally as she felt something disturbing her thoughts. She didn't want to lose what was important to her - she knew she'll say love and affection , she could guessed that the creature had peeked into her thoughts as well.

"I want to die", she said out of force, tears rolling down her cheeks. She used up her last conscious to protect her only happiness - Shu.

The elf simply smiled.

"Is this your one true request? It's too easy. You do know that if I grant that now, you will never see Shu again right?"

What is this girl thinking? What a strange request this human made of a genie. Killing her is such an easy task but she wants nothing in return!

The elf sat up and pulled Snowaphina into a passionate embrace.

"Is this what you truly wish for?" he asked in a low whisper. However, it hinted a deeper meaning and despite the illusions, she could feel herself falling into abyss.

Snow kept quiet as the elf talked to her in such a way that anyone hearing that would fell in love with him. Her tears are rolling down her cheeks, but she couldn't help blushing to his low whisper. She knew she can't give in, but she can control no more.

The embrace stirred up her heart - it created some confusions in her. She was still struggling inwardly to kick the intruder away - but it was effortless.

"Please stop....." she begged him, unconsciously - her watery eyes staring into him, as if she could see through his real look. "Shu......love...."

She lost.

"That's right, my sweetheart. Be the sweet doll in my arms and i will carry your soul away on swift wings. What do you say? Will you die and let me have your body?" the elf laughed quietly.

The storm outside the window was brewing. The elf scowled.

"Tch. Of all times," the elf spoke irritably but quickly reverted to its gentle demeanor. "Until next time, sweetheart. I will be back when you wish for it. Until next time..."

The elf's voice trailed away as it disappeared into oblivion. The storm faded with its master and the chilly, windy night returned to howl through the corridors. Moonlight shone shyly into the bedroom as Snowaphina lay on her four poster bed. There was no sign of a visitor. Was it a dream?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You called?

Shu was back in his deepest part of his unconsciousness. He looked up at the constellations for a face but it remained hidden.

"Stay with me tonight."

A child with long blue hair appeared, smiling serenely. Shu was not fooled by its appearance. The angel, after all, comes in many forms. The child sat comfortably in his lap. Shu combed the angel's hair and they wound up in tight embrace. Angel or not, Shu was always reminded of a temptress but he was glad the angel took up no gender. His hatred for woman could maintain in this world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harry prayed hard the guest was not awake. He could not ignore his Master's order but he feared the repercussions of entering a woman's room unannounced. He pushed the door lightly to peek in at Snow.

Harry gave a sigh of relief as he saw that the princess was laying still on her bed. As he was about to get in and clean up the tray of meal when Snow suddenly sat up - surprising him, and secretly wished she wouldn't catch him peeking into her. He didn't mean it anyway - it was his master's order to check on the princess.

She was staring towards the window, where the moonlight shone into the room. She seemed immersed in it - she looked like she was expecting someone. Harry kept quiet - his duty was to make sure the princess was asleep soundly. As the moonlight shone brighter into the room, Harry could see tears rolling down her cheeks. The princess was crying in silent.

She got out of her bed, walked towards the window and looked up at the moon.

"What have I done?" she said - recalling at how easily she revealed her weakness to the elf. She sat by the window, thinking over it before a smile came visible on her. She couldn't believe herself that she had to look for love and affection from a devil instead. The elf had made it through to break apart the relationship built between Shu and Snow.

"As long as I can be loved.....even if it turns out to be an exchange for my soul and body....", she said to herself - unaware that Harry was there and he heard it. "It should be worth it.....if I can bring back the smile on Shu's face"

She smiled faintly as her heart aches at the thought of giving up her love for him. She thought she was a burden to him, that he hated her and that she wouldn't get his love. She was thinking to sacrifice herself to the elf after the marriage - after giving what Shu wanted: name, title, status and all. No one will suspect if she were to die after that - he will be able to come up with any excuses: disease and all. After all, all she wanted was just love, and it was something Shu wouldn't be able to give wholeheartedly. He hated woman, she had heard a variety version of how much he hated the females. It will be a win-win situation for both Shu and her upon the marriage, where Shu will gain the title, status, and her power .... and Snow will finally be loved - even if it was to come from the devil, and not Shu.

Meeting Shu made her realised how to love someone again as well as learning how meaningless it was for her to live on. She had dreamt for her entire life to be loved by someone she loves. It was a mistake to fall for Shu, but she couldn't turn back anymore.

"Shu will thank me for leaving him in peace, I supposed", she giggled to herself in tears - despite the heartache she felt. She was crying uncontrollably by then, her hands on her chest - grasping the neck of her dress as she was really in pain.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The elf broke into a laugh of triumph. He felt the pride in victorious as he could feel that Snow is giving up on Shu. He was glad that the princess came to realisation that no matter how much she do, she can never get Shu's love - but instead he will. He was excited for the next encounter with her, he need to finish her off before she gets any important to Shu - she was a irresistible temptation to him. He couldn't resist the temptress as well as to contaminate her. The elf was genderless, in fact no one from Shu's could satisfy his maddening desire - except the new intruder. Her position in Shu's heart made him wanted to snatch her away faster from Shu.

She will soon disappear like how snow always do once spring emerges.....

The abrupt knock on the door of Shu's room broke the serenity of his secret world. He broke away from their tight embrace and stood up, straightening his shirt. The angelic creature sat up, annoyed at the interruption.

Shall I make it go away?

"Stay out of it," Shu reminded the angel. Noticing the angel's changing expression, he quickly added,"I will give you a good show."

You better have a proper plot...I am getting bored...maybe I will start reaching to a certain frail princess...

Shu shot her a deadly stare. The angel knew better than to push him further and disappeared like an illusion. He reached out a hand to the starry skies and-

"Come in," Shu commanded his manservant Harry as he sat up from his luxurious sheets of silk.

Harry closed the door gently behind him to avoid rousing the other occupants of the mansion.

"My Lord, the Lady is..."he paused awkwardly. "The lady is in a state of breakdown."

Shu made a dissatisfied sound but was not surprised. It had to be the interference of a certain bored ethereal being. He dismissed his manservant who left quickly. There is no telling what a irritable master would do to quell his inner storm. Shu lay back down on the bed.

Perhaps, it's best to meet her in the morning...

Shu fell asleep with a doubt.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was a dim cloudy morning. The sun could not be seen, it was hiding itself somewhere behind the clouds. The households busied themselves with the chores their Master set for them. It was a rather quiet and peaceful morning - almost as if nothing different took place in this sophisticated mansion. Everything seemed to be as usual, however they all knew that things weren't the same. For the first time in forever, there's a lady in this house - as everyone now had known that their master's engaged to the Princess of the country.

As everyone continued their chores, the princess stared out of the library window at a few of the gardeners that were watering the blood-colored roses. She had found herself a comfortable spot by the window, with minimal light, in the library to read. She was glad that the family butler allowed her to enter the quiet room - which was supposed to be Shu's personal chamber. She wasn't in the mood to meet up with anyone of the household as she hadn't really gotten enough sleep from last night's incident.

Sitting by the window in the cream-white dress, the light shone on her pale skin and gave off some glow on her. She was reading a book on constellations. From a far, her pale figure and silver hair made her look akin to the snow queen. She looked calm, but deep down her heart - she was very much disturbed.

She sighed as she touches her lips with her fingers - remembering her stolen first kiss. She started to ponder if those were dreams or reality - the elf seemed surreal enough for her, but no proof that he existed. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn't realised someone else was in the room as well

Shu watched the girl who was to be his wife. He contemplated telling her about his new plot. But it might be too soon...

He approached her cautiously, like a cat waiting its prey out. Snowaphina turned unexpectedly at the intruder of her thoughts. Both of them had a moment of silence between them. Shu was the first to break it.

"I do hope you are feeling better today. Shall we head to town for awhile? There is a quiet restaurant which served superb ribs."

The townsquare was a two-hour ride from his mansion in the quiet forest of the suburbs. However, Shu was a calculative man. Each step he took was not to be wasted. He often liken his life to be at the edge of a high cliff. A trip to town was trying since they had to be in carriage for two hours. He always planned to ensure the trip is not wasted with simple pleasures and whims.

Snow felt something was moving from the corner of her eye. She wasn't in the mood to be a princess - she had already told the family butler to not disturb her as she rest in the library. Turning her head, her heart jumped at Shu's presence. Snow eyed him. She had no idea when he entered the library.

Looking at his face, she remembered the elf from last night. She wondered if he knew anything about that mysterious creature, but decided to drop the topic since it was out of Shu's character to share anything with her.

Shu's invitation to the town broke her thoughts away once more. Raising an eyebrow - she was struggling hard with her feelings. She thought a while. She had never been smiling to him, not even once - not even back when they first met during the late King's burial ceremony. She didn't think Shu will love her - but at that moment, something occurred to her to admit her feelings - since her number of days are marked by the elf.

She wouldn't mind if Shu hate her like how he hate every other woman, she just hope for him to know if there is be a normal human in the world who will love him wholeheartedly - and despite how hurt she'll get - that person will be Snow. She decided to leave some nice memories for him before she leaves him, before her soul is to be taken away by the elf.

"Yes I am", she lied, looking away from Shu and down at the gardeners. Snow stood up after and put the book back at its original place. "And yes sure..."

Snow walked to Shu and stopped right in front of him. She handed him an opened envelope - with the letter inside.

"The Earl had sent a messenger today. Mother and him regretted over what happened last night and they seek for your forgiveness. They are looking into our marriage now...and so I would hereby congratulate you", Snow looked at him with a faint smile. "You are close to your goal...I supposed?"

Shu's expression didn't hint a surprise at all. She smiled - thinking he wouldn't be sad either if she die one day.

"So since everything is falling into its places, I will follow your suggestion to address you more devotedly....dear", she added - with the last word said in a rather shy tone. "I don't think I should be asking more....but I wish you could smile at me - wholeheartedly, at least once".

At least before the elf takes me away from you.... , her monologue added.

With a smile, the princess tiptoed and kissed Shu on his right cheek. She felt guilty not being able to give her future husband her first kiss on the lips - but since it's only Shu, she thought he definitely wouldn't mind it.
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hummingkkuma wrote:

Shu stood rooted to the spot. His face betrayed no emotions at the sudden gesture of tenderness. Instead, he stared blankly into the sun rays which did not blind him. Conquering a woman's heart was easy - his powers of charm worked flawlessly.

Only this time, he never once used on the Princess, fearing repercussions from the Royal Family.

This girl...she is no longer in control...

Shu turned to her slowly and looked in her eyes intently. The princess blushed furiously and wanted to avert her glance but his hands cupped her face in his face. Slowly but methodically, he parted her lips with his own. What organ he used for speech and articulation was now seducing the Princess' deepest senses with his deep, rotating movements in her mouth. He gently worked his way to the deepest part of her mouth and licked the top of her mouth wall before proceeding to intertwine with her tongue. He wouldn't let her breathe until he was done with her. Feeling her weight on his increasing, they parted lips and he supported her weight firmly until she gains control of her grounds.

"Now, my princess. This is what you call a kiss. And my future wife must be able to withstand more than just this. Get changed."

He nodded to his manservant (who stood watch but averted his glance out of respect).

"Get this frail lady into a summer play dress."

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hyukiko wrote:

Snow stood still - her heart was racing very fast, almost as if it was to run out of her anytime. Shu's sudden kiss had caught her off guard. She couldn't feel her feet, nor her breath. As he kisses her more, she felt more intertwine with him. It was as if Shu wanted her so badly - but not at all. As is there was something - but she couldn't tell what it was. The kiss got more intensed. It felt as if Shu was getting deep into her. Apart of her wanted more, she could feel herself fighting the urge to kiss back. As Shu let her off, finally gaining control on her own weight - she looked up at Shu with very shocked eyes. She couldn't find the words she wanted to say - but her body reacted in a reflex. As quick as she can, she pushed Shu away. She was blushing very hard - anyone can just see the redness on her cheeks.

No! You mustn't, Snow! You can fall any deeper for him! , she reminded herself as she looked away from Shu. Don't close in the gap...He's just using you....

With that she ran out of the library - Harry tagged along behind. She reached her bedroom, expected to see her summer play dress laid out on her bed as usual. She took a while to clear herself in the bathroom - before changing into the dress. The summer play dress was rather simple - it reminded her of the sunflower. The maids then tied her hair into a big plaid - much to Snow's liking.

She didn't expect to have two Shu kissing her lips - although the real Shu's kiss was more breathtaking even if there was no love. Harry came back to her, once she was ready to bring her down to the hall. What Shu said - about how a kiss should be reminded her of the her stolen first kiss the night before. It was as if Shu was hinting that what the elf did can't be considered as a kiss. If so, that would meant that the Princess's first kiss was indeed taken by Shu.

Touching her lips - blushing red with racing heart, she felt completely used in and out by Shu. He saw her split personalities, he saw her nude - even touches everywhere he could reach, and now her kiss.

How could Shu do this to the woman he never love , she thought. She wondered how many women had Shu kissed with such intensity.

Shoving the thoughts away, Snow followed Harry down to meet up with Shu - praying that he would pretend nothing happened.

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hummingkkuma wrote:

Shu stood in the library, pondering.

"Are you planning something again, Young Master?" a deep, wise voice cracked the silence.

"Ah Uncle...unexplainably good timing as always," Shu smiled. "I need an immediate reservation. In that restaurant."

The butler raised an eyebrow. "That restaurant? Are you sure? It's...Yes, My Lord."

The butler bowed his way out and immediately send for a messenger. The next step in attaining the throne require some of his charismatic skills as well. And possible danger hints use of violence. Shu headed to his bedroom to get his antique pistol and a dagger. He was cautious. His experiences made him lethal. And he was going to use them to his advantage. A wronged move could be disastrous.

He hailed a cab and waited for his cover to be complete - Snowaphina was showed to the cab by Harry. Harry's eyes were solemn. Crows have started gathering around the manor like flies to sweet pies. The raging storm was approaching. Shu maintained his composure and outward look of a gentlemen at ease. He tried a small smile and held out a hand to help Snowaphina into the cab.

In the cab, he stayed silent and looked out of the window. The butler joined them again for this ride. He nodded kindly to her with his fatherly face and asked her some basic questions regarding her state of health and interests.


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hyukiko wrote:



Snow kept quiet although the family butler tried to make her feel comfortable during the two hour ride to the town. Snow wasn't at all uncomfortable since she had always been in and out of everywhere, including the circus to please the Earl.

She wanted to answer to the butler, but she wasn't really in the mood to do so. She didn't sleep well last night - the elf disturbed her sleep, and Shu's invitation to lunch disturb her plan to rest a day.

"I am healthy...", she decided to answer then. ".........and I don't have any health problem"

Looking at the butler, she wondered why such questions were asked. "Why?"

Her eyes flickered to Shu - thinking he must had planned something else in terms of 'lunch'. She sighed, knowing he's either using her for his benefit or as a tool of leisure. She was suddenly looking forward to meet the elf - at least when he's around she felt calm at heart, where she can't feel the elf's real motive.

It got to her then. Why is she in summer play dress when they're going out for lunch in a restaurant ?

"Where are we going?" her voice alert and clear - looking straight into the butler's eyes with killer stare.

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The carriage rode through the glamorous upstart of the Townsquare. It was a stone throw away from the capital and it maintained its image as the upcoming new fashion streets with wealthy families visiting the store. However, the carriage passed many chic restaurants and turned into an alley. Slowly, the scenery changed. They were entering the shamefully hidden site of the Townsquare - Backwards Alley was a place where commoners frequent and set up stores imitating the style of the nobles rather unsuccessfully.



The carriage pulled short of a rundown restaurant. Shu took off his expensive jacket and vest. He unbuttoned the top of his shirt and ruffled his hair, making it messier than usual. The butler helped the lady out of the carriage and Shu followed with an uncharacteristic swagger. He flipped a few coins to the horse handler and the butler left without a word.

The restaurant owner was waiting expectantly for them, his nerves breaking. He rushed forward to give the couple a welcome and Shu exchanged formalities with the restaurant owner. They were quickly ushered into an airy interior which did not match the exterior.



"I had the whole restaurant vacated for you, my Lord," the owner spoke with exceeding politeness for the young Master, beads of weat appearing on his forehead.

Shu put a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you. You are a good man," he replied simply in accented tone and signalled for the menu. Seeing Snow's slight surprise, Shu loosened up a little more and smiled casually.

"I often come to this part of the town to connect with my people. I need to understand their livelihood in order to rule them. Also, I don't have to be so caught up in noble etiquettes."

With that, he sat on the chair with one of his legs stretched out. He hung his other arm at the back of his chair as he receive the menu.
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Snow kept quiet as her question left unanswered by anyone on board. The carriage went through the part of the town that she recognized - she'd always visited this certain part of the town. As the carriage turned into a hidden site if the townsquare, she was surprised. Her eyes widened as flashes of shops passed by before her as she looked out of the window.

Stopping in front of a rundown restaurant made her really curious.

What is he up to?, she thought as she got down from the carriage. She looked around the area - it was almost similar to the lower town where the poor lived. She had never came upon this area in the sophisticated part of the town, though she had the habit to often donates to the needy.

Snow followed Shu into the restaurant - and was surprised at the interior design. She looked back at Shu as they sat down - managed to see his slight - kind of snobbish smile.

"And you bring me here for?"
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Shu continued to smile as he placed orders for both of them with a nervous waiter. His smile was enigmatic. When he was done ordering a steak set meal of each of them, he turned to glance around the restaurant.

"Tell your manager this; You have kept the restaurant in good conditions."

The waited bowed and scurried off. Shu closed his eyes and listened to the birds chirping as they fluttered to man-made nests at the top of the pillars. The restaurant had tried to induce some nature by having vines climb up walls and feeding stray animals.

"Can you hear it, Snow? The chimes of a distant bell, laughter of common folks outside these thin walls, the flutter of sparrows and warblers alike. How can peace of mind not thrive in places like this?"

Shu was in a thoroughly relaxed posture. There was no better place to inspire than in this part of the town which he funded secretly. He wanted to keep the Old World charms which was dying in the next street of high fashion. The restaurant broke his peace when he displayed a fantastic show of his gratitude for Shu's praises. Shu ignored the groveling man. It was people like him who Shu could easily keep under his thumb.


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He's smiling....something is weird... , Snow thought as she looked at him, while sipping some water from the glass.

Snow stared at him from time to time - not sure if she should smiled back. It didn't occur to her that this is like any other normal date - in fact it was oddly fascinating. Snow had never had the chance to dine at any other place besides the regulars that she always attend back in the main street. There, everyone knew her as the princess - and looked up to her, pleasing her to get something from her. But it seemed like the man here did not have the knowledge of her identity. She smiled sweetly at the thought - she could feel a little freed from being a princess for once.

Shu's words brought her back to reality. She turned to him - wondered if he'd peeked into her thoughts. Snow closed her eyes and listened to the nature. He was right, for once. She smiled to the peace she was feeling.

When the man interrupted her peaceful moment, she looked at him as he grovelled over Shu. It was an oddly satisfying view that she was not the center of attention - but Shu was. Her eyes turned to Shu - setting them firmly on a relaxing Shu. This was the first time she'd seen him in such a relaxing posture.

Just why is he showing me these? , she thought.

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The steak meal arrived but it looked a little overcooked. Shu ate it without complaint. The restaurant owner hastily hurried everywhere to fulfil Shu's small needs. Getting tired of the over formality, Shu chided the owner for not having dignity and insisted on privacy. The restaurant owner was only too happy to get away from the couple.

Shu sighed and explained in a low tone, "I bought over this place at a high price when his restaurant almost collapsed with the extraordinarily high taxes. The owner felt indebted to me ever since. But, I wish he would treat me less like a noble. I..."

Shu's voice trailed away as he stared dreamily at a nest of hatchlings trying to fly with their new grown wings. He clenched his fist tightly and frowned. He started appearing more like the Shu of their first meeting - cold, distant and impervious. He did not bother to finish his sentence as he called for the bill. They left the restaurant after desserts and Shu brought Snowaphina to see the town. Most of the commoners seemed happy to chance upon a rare sight of their noble and his obvious attempt to fit in led them to approaching him without hesitations.

"My lord, please come by my bakery. We have much to learn from you."

"Sir, please do stop by my bookstore. I have a few books to recommend."

"My lord, please bless my child. She was born last week."

Shu offered merely congratulations and short conversations as more swarmed to him for attention. Soon, the couple was surrounded by the entire town.

"My lady, please accept these flowers," a wrinkled face appeared in front of Snowphina, trespassing her personal space.

A bouquet of daisies were forced into Snowphina's hands. And the old lady disappeared in the sea of commoners. The daisies were strangely colored - the ends of the cyan colored petals were outlined in red.
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Snow ate a few bites of the steak without much complaint - she didn't think it was of a class but it was still food anyway. She had to appreciate the chef over the meal - at least their effort. When Shu finally dismissed the owner of the shop, Snow was very much happy. That man was getting overboard - he talked way too much.

Snow listened to his explanation in silent. She hadn't been speaking since her questions were all left unanswered anyway - Shu was not really the kind of man to answer her question. His abrupt pause to the explanation had Snow looked up at him from the meal. Following his line of sight - she looked out at the nest of hatchlings. Seeing their attempt to fly with their new grown wings, Snow rooted for them inwardly. She watched with much anticipation - until Shu came back. She sighed, as he paid the bill and walked out the restaurant with him.

She was amazed with the warm welcoming by the commoners. Shu was well known around here - he got her amazed. His impressive skills were getting her full attention, as well as approval.

Show off.....must be it... , she thought.

A bouquet of flowers was suddenly forced into her hands. Snow looked up, trying to search for the woman who gave her the flowers but she disappeared into the sea of commoners. Looking at the daisies - she can't help but smell the flowers, there was a strong attraction from it.

And her vision suddenly blurred. She wobbled as she held onto Shu, still holding the bouquet of daisies.
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Shu felt her weight fully and quickly turned around to support her. He looked confused for a moment but noticed the red rims of her flowers.

"Ah. It has finally started," Shu grinned to himself despite his fainting fiancee. "Everyone, my fiancee is feeling unwell. Please excuse us."

His vocie resounded powerfully in the crowds' minds. The crowds parted obediently, still enraptured by Shu's voice.

Shu carried Snow in a bridal style and won over the hearts of young maidens and the elderly. In this era, a gentleman was highly regarded for. Despite the grand departure show, Shu threw the unconscious body of Snow into his carriage which arrived promptly. The butler stepped out to receive his master.

"Young master," he spoke with disapproval. "This is not how you-"

Shu held out a hand to interrupt his butler. "Save it for later, Uncle. See the flowers? No doubt a message from beneath. get me there immediately."

The butler put an arm in front and bowed. Soon, the carriage was riding swiftly out of town and into a forest not too far away The horse bagan to have misgivings and neighed nervously as they passed rotting trees and sparse undergrowth. Suddenly the horse reared - a crow came flying past its nose and unsettled the horse. The carriage was pushed backwards and upwards with the horse man thrown overboard. Shu was thrown forward as the carriage tipped backwards on its wheels. The butler held on to the window frame for his dear life as his master almost collapsed on the unconscious princess.

"Get out! OUT!" Shu shouted forcefully.

The butler did not need to be told twice to kick the carriage door open and jump for his life. Shu followed the butler out, carrying Snow over his shoulder and braced himself in the unstable carriage balancing on its back wheels. He kicked off the sides of the door frame and escaped before the carriage overturned. The horse and his handler had escaped back to town without much of a backward glance.

"Tch. Some helpful driver we hired," Shu spoke bitterly.

The old butler got up with the energy of a youth and swept dust off his specially tailored suit. He glanced calmly at the trail ahead. It curved into an archway formed by intertwining dead branches of pillars of trees.

"Young master. Are you sure..."

"Yes. Take the Princess back to town. She should wake up without much harm. They don't plan to hurt her. They just wanted my attention. And a quick one at that."

The butler cradled the princess carefully and strolled back to town, a little worried. Shu took a deep breath and approached the arch. As soon as he took his first step into the darkness, the ground gave way to a large hole and Shu fell. It was a long fall but he was determined not to die.

Hours later, the town was lit by oil lantern as the night approaches. The butler and the princess had settled in a rented inn. Unliek his young master, the butler waited patiently. A dirty Shu entered the room with a basin of cold water. He was sorely tempted to throw the whole basin of water on Snow.
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