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When he saw her in the castle garden, Fourier Lugunica came to a screeching halt.

His large scarlet eyes went wide with curiosity as the wind tugged at his golden locks. One of his pronounced canine teeth poked out like a small fang as the breath rushed from his mouth. The young boy, not even ten years old, leaned out of the open-air gallery to peer into the garden.

Fourier was very much in the middle of running from one of his tutors and had no time to gawk. He could already hear the man’s voice behind him in the hallway. If he was caught, he would be dragged back to his dangerously boring lesson—but even knowing that, Fourier couldn’t tear his eyes away from the scene before him.

The gardens at Lugunica’s royal castle were the work of crown gardeners who exercised every bit of skill and knowledge they possessed. The result was a fantastically rich tapestry, dizzy with flowers and different blossoms every season.

The leaves of the trees rustled in the cool breeze, and a shower of petals tumbled through the air, speaking to the world’s transience. It was in that enchanting garden that Fourier found a shimmering bud—a girl.

Her verdant green hair was tied back as she struck a posture both refined and beautiful. Clad in a dress the color of fresh grass, obviously of fine make, the young, self-possessed girl wore it perfectly. Fourier saw little more than her profile from where he stood, but the pale white of her neck and cheek along with the amber of her almond-shaped eyes hinted at her brimming beauty.

And yet, had that been all, she might not have made such a firm impression on Fourier. It would have been no more than a momentary affair, a glimpse of a gorgeous young lady in the castle.

But it did not end there.


The girl stood in the garden, casting her eyes over the array of colorful flowers. If she had merely been taken with the vibrancy of the blossoms, it would have shown that her disposition was like that of any other. But instead of looking at the flowers in the center of the garden, she was inspecting a single bud in a far corner. Staring at it intently, as though she believed it might open then and there…

“Your Highness Fourier! So you heed me at last!”

His tutor, breathing hard, finally reached the spot where Fourier stood in the hallway. He regarded the boy with relief written on his face, but that was soon replaced with an expression of puzzlement when he noticed how Fourier was staring into the garden.

“Your Highness?” he said. “What has caught your interest ou—?”

“Nothing, sir! Nothing! Not a thing! Surely not something for you to worry about!”

Fourier rushed at the instructor as the man tried to discern what had the boy so intrigued. The hand Fourier held out in hopes of hiding the scene collided with the tutor’s face, and the man stumbled back with a cry of “My eye!,” but Fourier had no time to concern himself with that. He was more worried that the girl by the flowers might have overheard the commotion.

Anxiously, he looked toward the garden. That happened to be the exact same moment the girl, who had heard something going on, turned in his direction. Fourier scrambled to lower his gaze.

“Th-this isn’t good. I feel really weird… Maybe I’m sick or something? My cheeks are all hot, and it’s hard to breathe…”

Noting an ache in his chest and how he had a difficult time breathing, Fourier concluded that this was a bad place for him to be. He grabbed his writhing teacher by the leg and began fleeing back down the hallway in tremendous haste.

“Y-Your Highness! Ouch! That hurts!”

“Just grin and bear it! It’s not like I’m strong enough to pick you up! But I can’t just leave you in such a dangerous place. After all, I’m part of the royal family—pride of the people.”

“I am moved by your concern for me, my prince, but—yow! Perhaps you could stop running and—ouch!” The tutor cried out, his head colliding with every wall and pillar they passed, but Fourier ignored him. He could still see that girl whenever he closed his eyes. She was clearly the cause of his pounding heart, yet for some reason he could not force her image out of his head, no matter how much time went by.

It was a mystery to Fourier why he felt so reluctant to leave as he dashed away from the garden.


Fourier Lugunica belonged to the royal family of the Dragonfriend Kingdom of Lugunica, a dynasty with more than a thousand years of history; he was the son of the reigning king, Randohal Lugunica. Consequently, he was a prince with the right of succession, and worthy of the highest honors.

“Yes, but I’m the fourth prince. My brothers all precede me. I don’t see the kingship passing to me anytime soon. Doesn’t it make all this effort, day in and day out, seem a bit pointless?”

“Ho-ho-ho! I see you’ve learned the art of impudence, Your Highness.”

Fourier had finished his classes and was seeking respite in his personal rooms, where he was conversing with a visitor.

Fourier screwed up his face at the word impudence. The one laughing was an exceptionally old man, his long hair and beard both white from age. Miklotov MacMahon—a representative of the Council of Elders who was considered the brains of the kingdom. Miklotov was the one who wielded all the real power in the government. Truly deserving to be called a wise man. Fourier was well acquainted with the rumors that even if the king were to disappear, the kingdom would continue running smoothly so long as Miklotov was around.

Fourier was not enamored with the rumors that made light of his father, the king, but Miklotov was a loyal subject who served the realm without ambition. And it was true enough that the elder did his utmost serving a royal family that left something to be desired in the way of stewardship—so Fourier was hard-pressed to condemn such talk.

“If my father and brothers aren’t up to the job, why don’t you become king?” Fourier said. “Things would be much simpler that way. Don’t you think?”

“You give this old man quite a shock,” Miklotov replied. “Those are not words that one of Your Highness’s station should speak so lightly. And in any event, it would be in violation of our pact with the dragon.”

“Our pact with the dragon, right.”

Miklotov gave a somber nod. Fourier laid his head on his desk and began to think.

The pact they spoke of was the reason the Kingdom of Lugunica was occasionally referred to as the Dragonfriend Kingdom: An oath sworn with the Holy Dragon Volcanica, whose protection had ensured the kingdom’s prosperity for hundreds of years.

“The dragon handles everything,” Fourier mused. “The kingdom’s harvests and safety. And the only one who can receive its blessings is a blood descendent of the first King Lugunica, who forged a bond of friendship with it. It all seems a bit too good to be true.”

“And yet we do have the dragon’s blessing. This makes His Majesty the King, to say nothing of Your Highness, people of the utmost importance to this kingdom.”

“So I’ve heard, enough times to make my head ache.”

“Mm. And I have said it often enough to make my tongue sore.”

Fourier pursed his lips, but Miklotov stroked his beard nonchalantly.

“That story is the reason I earnestly wish you would have a greater appreciation for your position, Your Highness.”

“Hmm, then I guess I have no—Wait! If it’s only our blood that makes me and my father so important, doesn’t it mean that all this study isn’t really necessary? What about that?”

“Ho-ho, impudence rears its head again. Think of it from your subjects’ point of view. They may be obliged to respect whoever holds the office, but do you think they would rather serve under an ignoramus or brute—when they could have a man of intelligence? And the intellect does not blossom without proper cultivation. Nor does the blood of the Lion King.”

“The Lion King? That dusty old name again?”

An unusual passion had entered Miklotov’s voice, but Fourier regarded him with a wry smile. “Lion King” was a term for the first ruler to make a pact with the dragon—in other words, the first person to establish what was now the Kingdom of Lugunica. He had been called “the last Lion King.”

“I understand how much you expect of the Lion King’s descendants,” Fourier said. “But it’s lot to ask of those of us born so far down the line of succession. The sages are all but unparalleled, whether you search the world over or look back through history. I don’t expect any to be born anytime soon.”

“So you may say, Your Highness, but the blood has not run thin. It is a fact that once every several generations, a true master appears in the royal line. Two generations ago…”

Miklotov had been speaking fluently, but suddenly he stopped. His wrinkled face darkened, and he shook his head and murmured, “No.”

After a moment, he went on: “My apologies. A slip of the tongue. Memory grows unreliable in old age.”

“You losing your memory is about the worst thing that could happen to this kingdom! Quit worrying about a delinquent like me and take care of yourself!”

“I hardly think Your Highness is delinquent…”

Miklotov put up some resistance as Fourier tried to hustle him out of the room. But his old bones were no match for a boy in the prime of youth.

“Now, then…”

Having chased off the garrulous elder, Fourier was alone. He began to strip off his clothes. He changed into whatever he felt like and wrapped his head in a bandanna that would disguise his conspicuous golden hair. Then, having prepared against every eventuality, he snuck out of the room.

No one was in the hall. Fourier set to running through the quiet castle in a great hurry. He was hoping to stay inconspicuous, it would not do for anyone to see him.

He was headed for the same place he had gone to every day recently.

—A gallery, where every day he looked out over the gardens, hoping to see that girl.


Fourier arrived in the gallery nonchalantly, making sure no one was around before he climbed up on the railing and began looking avidly through the garden for the girl he sought.

“Hmm. Not today, either, huh? I make such an effort to come here, and all for nothing. To do such a thing to a prince—that girl is fearless. Heavens.”

Unable to find the one he so longed for, Fourier was full of regret. Ten days had passed since he first saw her there. That day, he had run away because the drumming in his chest had seemed dangerous, but now he hoped to see her again exactly because he wanted to experience that feeling once more.

The ache in his heart had never really gone away. In fact, it was renewed every time he recalled her face. He was convinced that the only way he could find relief was to meet her.

Fourier had never doubted the intuition that guided his actions. He would on occasion sense an answer emerge, for no particular reason, from among countless choices. What he discovered this way always led him down the right path. It had been the same whether in arithmetic and history class, or when deciding a move in Chantrange, a board game played with pawns. As an extreme example, several years earlier, he had even foreseen that a wheel would fall off the dragon carriage his father, the king, rode in.

But all of these were dismissed as mere chance; simple guesses that could not be repeated. He told his teacher, but the man grumbled something about nonsense. Fourier was not so ignorant a child as to press the issue of a insight that made him different from normal people.

“No matter. The girl is what’s important now. If I only knew her name, at least, this would be so much easier…”

His only clue at the moment was that she must be the daughter of some family prestigious enough to be granted entrance to the castle. If he told them when and where he had seen her, the guards and serving girls might have been able to help him.

“But I hate needing things from people. I don’t know why, but I feel it would be rather inconvenient if anyone knew I was looking for her. Hmm…”

The palpitations, the unusual sense that what he was doing was not quite acceptable—all of this mystified Fourier. He didn’t even really know what he would do if he ever found her.

“I suppose I can figure out what I should do after we meet. I think I recall some important person saying that thinking too carefully is just another form of cowardice… Mm!”

As he stood there muttering to himself, suddenly something clouded the edges of his vision. Fourier leaned out over the railing, trying with his eyes to follow the silhouette of whoever was passing directly below the open hallway. He saw a hint of a sleeve the hue of fresh grass.

It was the right color, the one he remembered from that girl’s dress.


The moment the girl’s image floated through his mind, Fourier felt his foot slip from the railing. He had pitched too far forward, lost his balance, and found himself tumbling out of the gallery. The garden was paved with flagstones. If he hit his head on one, it wouldn’t be pretty.

He was going to pay for this little indulgence with his life…


But as it turned out, no such thing happened. He felt his body sinking into something soft, breaking his fall.

“Bff! Bfaaah! Pft! Bleh! What is this? Is this—dirt?!”

Extricating himself from the soft pile of earth, Fourier spat leaves and mud out of his mouth. He had apparently managed to land in a flower bed instead of on the flagstones; miraculously, he was unhurt.

Looking up, he could see the hallway he’d come tumbling out of. Perhaps it was sheer chance, again, that had kept him from hurting himself despite a fall of nearly two stories.

“Wow. That’s my luck for you. Just goes to show that a little good fortune can get you out of even the tightest spot,” Fourier said with a touch of awe, looking at his muddy palms. He ignored the fact that if he had really been blessed with good fortune, he wouldn’t have fallen in the first place. He jumped out of the flower bed and looked around, thinking that he would have to find a maid to ready a bath for him.


And there stood the girl, watching him with wide eyes.

She had the identical, beautiful green hair, still tied up, the clear amber irises he remembered, and she was wearing that grass-colored dress. She was exactly the same girl who had been burned into Fourier’s memory.

“Oh… Oh! Ohhh…”

No sooner had this registered than Fourier felt his cheeks start burning, and he found he had lost the ability to speak. His confidence that he would know what to say when the time came had left him in this sorry state.

While Fourier stood there unable even to think, the girl, her eyes still round with surprise, slowly looked up. She looked back and forth between him and the railing—once, twice. Then he realized that she thought he had hurt himself.

“Aw, no need to worry about me! See? I’m not injured in the least! I can see I’ve upset you, but you needn’t worry about it. My body is so tough it’s practically a weapon!”

Fourier was still confused, but he held out both arms in an effort to prove he was unharmed. The girl showed no reaction, but she must have at least understood that he was all right.

Fourier very much wanted to continue the conversation, but he was also all too aware that she had witnessed him in a most unprincely moment, and his feet had a strong desire to carry him far away from that spot. Perhaps he would have to be content with having met her a second time.

“Well, I’m quite busy with a great many things, so excuse me! I bid you good day—Huh?”

He waved and was about to step out of the flower bed, when he found his path blocked. The girl was standing in front of him and fixing him with a sharp stare. She spoke sternly.

“—You think you can weasel out of this with such flimsy excuses, intruder?” Fourier noticed how clear and strong her voice was, befitting her appearance. But astonishment soon replaced that feeling—thanks to the dagger glittering in the girl’s hand.

“W-whoa! A woman like you shouldn’t be walking around with a thing like that!”

“My father doesn’t like it, either, but as you can see, it’s good to have around sometimes. Don’t try anything funny. And don’t underestimate me just because I’m a girl. Just wait until you find out what they do to people who try to break into the castle.”

“Huh? Wha? Hrh?”

The girl’s voice had become razor-sharp, and she showed no sign of responding to Fourier’s attempts to calm her down. No hesitation appeared in her eyes. She really did think he was an intruder.

She couldn’t have been older than he was, and yet she had such courage. No, there was something else.


Her grip on the dagger hilt was so tight that Fourier could see her fingertips turning white. She had no experience pointing a blade at a person. This was simply what she felt she had to do, while trying not to shake.

Fourier had certainly not expected to be spoken to this way. He had never thought that when he met the girl again, it might be like this, or that this was the attitude she would take toward him. But there was one thing he hadn’t been wrong about—

“You are truly a good young woman, aren’t you?”

It was that he cared about the girl in front of him even more than he had imagined.

The girl’s expression wavered, thrown off by Fourier’s murmur.

“…You can’t trick me. My eyes can see right through lies and ruses.”

“An upsetting response, when I’ve revealed my true feelings. What is it you dislike so much about me? I should like to know!”

“…Do you think I’d trust someone who hides his face, just because he asks me to?”

“Hmm…? Oh! Oh, I see, I see! That was my mistake.”

Fourier finally realized that the reason for the girl’s suspicion was his own fault. He touched his head and found the bandanna he had used as a disguise. He hurriedly removed it, and his golden hair fell around his face. At that, the girl’s eyes grew even wider.

“I see I confused you,” Fourier said. “As you can tell, I am no intruder. I am the fourth prince of this nation, Fourier Lugunica! You may gaze upon my visage.”

Fourier wiped some sweat from his brow as he announced himself, trying to reassure the shocked young woman. Surely her suspicion would vanish, and that smile of hers would bloom like a flower…

“My deepest apologies, Your Highness! Even turning my own dagger upon myself would not atone for this!”

…but of course, nothing was ever that easy.







The girl with the dagger knelt in place when she realized who Fourier was. This would be an earth-shattering event for her. She had captured someone she thought was an intruder in the castle, and he turned out to be a prince. And she had even bared her blade—it would be too much for her poor heart.

“How could I ever ask you to take the blame? I disguised myself with the bandanna, well enough to make you suspect I was some dubious character. Am I a brute who would hold one of my subjects responsible for a misunderstanding that was my own fault?”

“But to have taken such a tone with Your Highness… It does not deserve forgiveness. Please, deliver judgment.”

“You are strangely stubborn, aren’t you? Your sense of duty is so demanding! Very well, then, do as I say. You feel guilt toward me and would do what you must to see my humor settled. Is that not so?”

Fourier was desperate to stop the girl, who seemed ready at that very moment to sheathe her dagger in her own belly. She replied, “Yes, my prince,” and handed him her knife. “Please, Your Highness, do with me as you see fit. I will accept any punishment.”

“Um—‘as I see fit’? ‘Any punishment’? Why is my heart pounding so…?” Fourier felt his heart racing in his chest at the sight of the severe girl before him. But he shook his head to clear his mind and took a deep breath to calm his heart. “Then I pronounce your punishment. You… Yes. I order you to help me pass the time for a while. Converse with me for my pleasure, until I have settled down some.”

“I… Your Highness, how is that a punishment…?”

“Stay your tongue! I shall entertain no protests! Did you not say you would abide by my wishes? Well, my wishes are plain. You cannot refuse so this matter is finished. Yes?”

Arms crossed over his chest, Fourier brought the conversation to an abrupt end. The girl stared at him for a moment and then touched her hand to the corner of her mouth.


A giggle slipped out, though she tried to hold it back. It was the first time Fourier had seen her smile in a way expected of one her age. A girlish and lovely lifting of her lips broke through her stiff and somber expression.

“I was worried for a moment, but all for nothing, it seems… Hmm?”

As he uncrossed his arms, Fourier happened to catch a glimpse of the dagger he still held in his hand. That was when he noticed it. The dagger was an exceptional piece of work, yes, but the hilt and sheath bore a distinctive mark. It looked like a lion with its jaws open, and it was very familiar to Fourier.

“This insignia—a crest in the shape of a lion baring its fangs. You must be a member of the Karsten house… Wait. You must be Meckart’s daughter! You are, aren’t you!” he said, pointing to the dagger after he suddenly realized who the girl was.

The girl gave a resigned sigh and a somber nod. “Yes. It is as Your Highness discerns. I am the daughter of Meckart Karsten, head of the House of Karsten. My name is Crusch Karsten. It was terribly rude of me to not introduce myself first.”

“It was my choice to give my name. And my choice to hide my face. There’s no need to start that again. But imagine my surprise—the daughter of the famous Meckart Karsten.”

Crusch. Fourier held the sound of her name in his ears, carved it into his memory.

Her father, Meckart, was a high-ranking nobleman of a ducal household. Though he gave a somewhat diffident impression, he was a thoroughly trustworthy servant of the royal family. It was simply hard to picture this girl as his daughter.

“Crusch. A fine name. It fits your gallant and noble bearing.”

“Your Highness is too kind. But I thank you.”

“D-do you take my words for flattery? Ah, yes. I must return this to you.” Unaware that he was staring enamored at the self-effacing Crusch, Fourier coughed. His cheeks felt hot. He passed the dagger to her in an attempt to focus on something else. She took it reverently, clutching it gently to her chest.

“It looks like something of a treasure to you,” he said.

“…It is a gift from my father. To celebrate my birthday, though he warned me to use it carefully.” Her voice was hesitant; perhaps she was still flustered at her episode of mistaken identity. Fourier deliberately tried to change the subject so they wouldn’t find their way back to that again.

“A dagger for his daughter’s birthday? Even for Meckart, that seems a tad tone-deaf.”

“I asked for it. Father asked what I wanted, and I said I wanted the crested dagger passed down by the heads of our house.”

“Hardly tone-deaf at all! Yes, a dagger is a fine gift. Convenient to have around, daggers!”

“You need not bother yourself to spare my feelings, Your Highness. I understand that my tastes are not quite like those of other young ladies.” She gave a somehow ephemeral smile at Fourier’s furious attempts to change his opinion in mid-conversation.

Most girls Crusch’s age might have requested jewelry with which to adorn themselves. It was indeed an unusual child who, given the choice, would pick the family’s heirloom dagger for a gift. But, seeing how tenderly Crusch held the thing, Fourier sensed it would be superficial to rush to such a judgment.

“What’s wrong with it? It might be one thing if a girl were fixated on the blade itself, trying desperately to obtain it. But that is not what was in your mind, was it? You were taken with the lion crest, weren’t you? And how can I bear any ill will toward a girl like that? After all, I myself am a descendant of the Lion King!”


“Is something wrong?” Fourier asked. He had been so confident as he spoke, but Crusch simply stared at him. This girl had seemed so stoic at first, and now he had seen so many of her varied expressions—although he wished more of them were smiles.

“N-no,” Crusch said. “It’s simply… This is the first time anyone has thought I might have been interested in the crest, and I was surprised.”

“Ah, I see. But is it not true?”

“Yes…it is.”

Crusch seemed to want to understand why Fourier had made this guess with such confidence. So he stuck out his chest proudly and said, “So you know, there was no particular reason I thought that. No proof. Just my own certainty.”

“…I can see Your Highness is serious. You surprise me more with every moment.”

“Generally speaking, I am always serious. My eccentricities are of a kind not often detected by the common people, however. Heh-heh! Are you afraid of me now?”

“No, my lord. Only admiring.” Crusch pulled in her chin, raising the dagger so that Fourier could see it. Her delicate fingertips ran across the seal, and her amber eyes sparkled. “Is Your Highness aware of the reason that the crest of my house—the Karsten house—is a lion?”

“Um—yes, yes, of course I am! But…just for form’s sake, I wish to hear it from your own lips. I must see if we share the same understanding.”

“Of course. As Your Highness knows, the lion crest was originally the insignia of the Lugunica royal family.”

That had been four centuries earlier, before the pact with the dragon was made and the nation came to be known as the Dragonfriend Kingdom. In those days, the Kingdom of Lugunica had flown the lion crest, and its ruler had been called the Lion King.

Wise and strong, these lords provided guidance to all the people. The title was lost when the last Lion King made his pact with the dragon, and dragons became more revered than lions in Lugunica.

“By the dragon’s good grace, the kingdom became rich and prosperous,” Crusch concluded. “And with the Lion King no longer needed, the lion crest gave way to the one we have today, which bears the dragon.”

“That’s right—I remember now! The lion crest was not lost but gifted by the ruler to an especially valued subject. And the lion bearing its fangs—”

“—became the symbol of my family, House of Karsten.”

Miklotov’s endless chatter and those classes Fourier was always running away from had finally come in handy. But he had rarely heard the ancient title “Lion King” more than he had today.

“The Lion King…” he breathed.

“Indeed,” she said, “the Lion King.”

It was a title that had been all but forgotten by many. Fourier tried to speak it freely but found himself unable. The smile that played across Crusch’s lips had brought him up short as she agreed with him. It was not the smile of someone faintly recalling an old and faded name from the past.

—Rather, it bespoke an admiration, indeed a fondness, for the forgotten king.


“Your Highness?! Wh-what are you doing to yourself?”

Fourier had been on the verge of breaking into a vacuous smile. To prevent it, he had given himself a forceful slap on the cheek, startling Crusch.

“Are you all right, Your Highness? Has something happened?”

“N-nothing at all. A trivial matter. A bug landed on my cheek. It is my burden to be loved even by creatures as small as that!”

Fourier’s cheek was red and his eyes were watering, but Crusch looked suitably deceived and said, “I see…”

Convinced that the pain had been worth it, Fourier privately praised his own judgment. Then he tried to turn the conversation back to the subject of the Lion King.

“Crusch. I see you have an exceptional appreciation of the Lion King. Why is that?”

“No special reason. And is this something we should be discussing in the royal castle…?”

“What, would it become an issue if anyone overheard? Then let it be our secret, yours and mine. I, for one, certainly shall not tell anyone. I never betray a promise!”

He sounded so sure of himself. After a moment’s silence, Crusch smiled again. She was speaking to one of the primary members of the royal household. There was no such thing as a secret. To her, Fourier seemed to have forgotten that he was of royal blood. She looked at him, a little stunned.

“I have a thought sometimes. Even though, knowing the meaning of my house’s crest, and knowing of the pact with the dragon that protects our kingdom, I think it might be too much for this small body of mine.”

“What thought is that?”

“In the time of the Lion King, we did not have the stability we enjoy now. But they did not have this stagnation, either. The dragon’s blessing makes our lives easy—perhaps too easy.”


Fourier found himself swallowing heavily at her words. Seeing him fall silent, Crusch’s lips curled into a smile again. However, it was not the affectionate smile of earlier but a detached expression that somehow seemed adult.

“Will Your Highness punish me now for disrespecting the kingdom?”

“In all honesty, I’m beginning to think it is best to keep this between us. You’re right that this talk ought not to be shared with just anyone. And yet…”

Fourier could not quite see what Crusch saw. Call it a difference in intellect or in way of life. The young prince had only just begun becoming acquainted with her nature, and he was unable to offer an answer to what she pondered.

When she saw Fourier agonizing over what she had said, Crusch half closed her eyes, the strength draining from her shoulders. “Forget what I said, my lord. Think of it as the foolish mumblings of a girl who knows not her place. I have no brothers, but it remains that I am a woman. I am unable to choose a life befitting my house’s crest…the path of a lion.”

She spoke the words unable to choose in a tone of profound resignation. There was something she desperately wanted to do and couldn’t. Surely that was what set the young woman Crusch distinctly apart from other girls. It was why she had captured Fourier’s attention so completely.

He felt a rush of heat in his raging heart. He opened his mouth, revealing a fang-like tooth.

“Foolishness? Let others call it that. But you must never concede so yourself.”

“…Your Highness?”

Fourier knew all too well the pain of misunderstanding and dismissals with words like foolishness or nonsense. It had caused him to give up in the past—but even if he had to admit as much, it was difficult to allow this. To see the woman who had grabbed his attention forsaking the very thing that had sparked his interest in her.

“I don’t know what desires you harbor or what you wish to do. But I am sure that the girl standing here before me today is the result of her efforts to achieve that goal. It seems you now regard that time as wasted, but…”

He had been utterly captivated by the sight of her standing there—her face, the sound of her voice, and the time they had spent together. And all these things he had fallen for had surely come about because of her constant striving to realize her wish, the wish she was now about to abandon. And so his pushback came from the fire of his own deeply seated passion.

—To let that wish go would be a grave mistake. This, Fourier knew with every fiber of his being.

“I’m convinced you are more intelligent than I. But intelligence has little to do with me. You are wrong! I know you are!”

“Your Highness…? You mean what I seek is wrong, as well?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know what is wrong. But something is.”

Crusch looked taken aback by Fourier’s blunt pronouncement. Her ideas had been amply criticized in the past. She had been repeatedly told she was wrong, different from those around her, until she had finally begun to doubt her own thinking. At heart, Fourier’s outburst was not the same as those other rejections.

“Don’t give me that resigned smile! Perhaps your words are foolishness, but they belong to you. I will not laugh, and anyone who laughs does not have the vision to see where you are headed. You never know what might come of it—what flower might bloom. You are still just a bud! And who can say what wonderful blossom might emerge before it has fully come into itself?”

Fourier was rather proud of having come up with this metaphor. He turned to the flower bed and pointed to the immature bud in the corner.

“I do not know what you were seeing, but when you looked at that sprout I knew your heart. Because, I am sure, it is the same as mine!”


“S-so… So don’t blame yourself for being different from others. It means nothing, and it is unimportant. We may have our differences, but if we see the same beauty in the same things, then all will go well for us!”

Fourier thrust his fist into the air, exclaiming, “How about that?” in a show of excitement. Crusch was wide-eyed, overwhelmed by his ardor. Silently, as if drawn along, she looked at the flower bed, too.

Then she said, “I came here today to see if that had flowered yet.”

“I thought as much. You were observing it with such interest.”

Crusch was confused. “Is this not the first time Your Highness has seen me here?”

“Oh! Uh, no, it is the first time! I was just…speaking on intuition! Yes, that’s it!”

Crusch didn’t press Fourier about these strange remarks, only smiled. Quietly, she said, “If you think we see the same beauty in the same things…” Her face relaxed. “Then, my lord, when this bud blooms, may I view it with you? To find out if someone as unusual as myself shares your sensibilities?”

“Oh? Oh! You may! You certainly may. I would enjoy that!”

Fourier answered in a fit of ecstasy, turning red from the neck up at Crusch’s smiling invitation.

Only the flowers—and a single bud—bobbing in the wind stood witness to this odd but amusing exchange.


“So the source of young master Fourier’s heartsickness is Crusch Karsten, is that it?”

In a room of the Lugunica castle lined with bookshelves, Miklotov was receiving a report. Standing in front of the old sage was the tutor tasked with Fourier’s education. The prince had always been capricious, but lately he had been even less able to focus than usual. When the instructor told him what the problem was, Miklotov nodded and stroked his long beard.

“Mmm. I see. The daughter of the honorable Lord Meckart. I’ve heard that she’s quite an odd girl… Perhaps that is precisely what drew His Highness Fourier to her.”

“I am afraid I don’t know, sir. But it appears to be fact that the young lady and His Highness are on familiar terms. The other day, I gather they went to the garden to look at a flower together…”

“How sweet. But if this causes him to neglect his studies…”

“Er, ahem, on that note, sir.” The tutor interrupted Miklotov. The sage raised an eyebrow. “If anything, His Highness has been more focused on his studies than before. Perhaps his acquaintance with the young lady has…”

“…moved him to present himself as his best? Yes, how sweet, indeed.” Miklotov finished the tutor’s reluctant sentence.

The mood was somewhat awkward, but immediately after, Miklotov’s gaze sharpened, and he straightened up. Fixed by the old man’s stare, the tutor felt his throat go dry. Miklotov asked:

“And the young lord…? Has he shown any signs of the blood?”

“Ahem, he—no, he doesn’t appear to… At least, not that I have seen.”

Despondence crossed Miklotov’s eyes. The old sage let out a long sigh.

“Is that so? …Perhaps the second coming of the Lion King is only a dream…”

He could not hide his disappointment. The tutor, not quite able to sympathize with either the elder’s thought process or his wishes, could only remain silent.

The sage wished for the second coming of a wise ruler who had held sway in the days of the Lion Kings. But the tutor wondered what meaning there could be in that. The kingdom was secure under its pact with the dragon and the blessings it provided. The royal family needed only to carry on the bloodline; no more was asked of it.

Thus, the instructor did not report to Miklotov the more peculiar aspects of Fourier’s nature. Sometimes the boy would be seized by an unaccountable intuition. But the tutor had dismissed his flashes of insight into board games and arithmetic exercises as mere flukes. He was too much of a realist to consider these events as signs that Fourier was qualified to be the sage king.

And if he failed to sympathize with Miklotov’s reasoning, he was also unable to understand Fourier’s resourcefulness. This tutor was a gifted teacher, but no more than an ordinary citizen of the kingdom. He had reached these heights largely because there had not been enough officials to fill every vacant position.

“In that case, I hope His Highness will at least spend his days in good health. I shall exercise these old bones a little longer to be sure it is so…”

Sage though he was, Miklotov was not a mind reader. He could not know that, in his heart, the tutor actually possessed the account Miklotov longed to hear. And Fourier lived in ignorance of what others hoped of him.

It was a species of tragedy, but also one of the great ironies of destiny.

—But it would be far, far in the future before the true meaning of this would come to light.


After that, Fourier Lugunica found his days ever more fulfilling, never realizing that those who looked to him expectantly saw their hope slowly give way to despair.

Several days after he had made his promise to Crusch, they watched the bud bloom into a great flower. Her smile at the moment she laid eyes on the blossom was fixed clearly in Fourier’s mind.

“—It’s beautiful, isn’t it, Your Highness?”

“Indeed, it certainly is! I believe I shall never forget this.” Fourier decided to keep to himself what exactly he would commit forever to memory.

Their garden rendezvous continued frequently after that day. Crusch would visit the garden whenever she arrived at the castle, and Fourier would always be there. But Crusch was different somehow, ever since they saw that flower blossom together. As they saw each other more and more, something about her began to change.

“You no longer tie your hair back,” he remarked one day.

When they had first met, her hair had been tied up, and she had worn a dress that was the very picture of girlishness. But lately, whenever he saw her, she let her long hair hang down, and the designs of her dresses grew more refined.

“I owe it to what Your Highness said,” Crusch replied with a slight smile. But Fourier couldn’t imagine what she meant. What had he said to her to inspire such change?

“You need not understand, my lord. But I thank you just the same.”

“Hrm! But how will I be at peace without knowing? It weighs on me so!”

Crusch said nothing in reply to Fourier’s outburst but only reached down to her hip. The dagger hung there, and Fourier realized she had developed a habit of touching the lion crest. He felt suddenly as though the Lion King had taken her from him, though she was standing right there.

“You’re quite enamored with the Lion King, aren’t you?” he said.

“You misunderstand, Your Highness. I’m simply proud of my ancestor, who diligently supported his country and was recognized as the greatest servant of the king…though I understand I do this quite often.”

Her flushed cheeks betrayed her attempted excuse after noticing the prince’s sullen demeanor. Less and less happy with the situation, Fourier eyed her dagger ruefully.

“But the Lion King is no more,” he said. “Think of him as highly as you like; no one else will ever…”


“Er—no! I mean—I was speaking figuratively! I didn’t—” His inadvertent words must have struck Crusch in the heart, for she retreated into oppressive and mournful silence while Fourier frantically tried to take back what he had said. Finally, he clapped his hands and said, “Very well! If that is what you wish for, then I shall make myself into the person you seek!”

“My lord?”

“Let us see whether your love for this kingdom approaches what the Lion King saw in your honored ancestor! Why not? The Lion’s blood flows in my veins, does it not? I have every right to be the judge of this!”

Crusch’s shock at these mental gymnastics gave way to a smile.

“Hmm! Do you laugh at me? I daresay, I’ve impressed even myself with my impeccable logic!”

“N-no, I…I apologize. It is simply… Your Highness is such an amazing person…”

“Ah-ha! You wonder, do you not, whether I am as worthy of a vow of loyalty as the Lion King? Very well. Watch me closely. I shall judge your loyalty as you shall judge my worthiness. Then, we resurrect once more the bond between the Lion King and his most devoted retainer!”


“Don’t laaaugh!”

But her amusement was like a flower blooming, and soon Fourier joined her.

No one knows whether the vow they exchanged was made in seriousness. But the two of them remained dear to each other long after, and in time another young man was added to their number. When that happened, Fourier would dream a dream, inspired by the bond this vow had started.

So this was merely the beginning of a dream—the dream of Fourier Lugunica.


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