Tea for Two
Min Gui Wen slowly walked down the stairs to the basement of X University where he taught literature to a very lively group of university students only a few years younger than himself. He enjoyed his job very much, but he always felt tired at the end of each school day. When he bought his computer and received his free copy of Second Life from the obnoxiously enthusiastic store clerk who seemed determined to invade his personal space, he had never imagined that he would be forced to juggle his teaching job, a training schedule, band practice, and city management responsibilities. Not that he would change anything if he had a choice. Even with the stressful life he was leading, he was still happier than he could ever remembered feeling.
Sighing softly, he reached the bottom of the stairs and made his way down the deserted hallway. Since the school hours were over, the building was much more quiet and peaceful than earlier in the day. Only a few faculty members and straggling students were left on campus. It allowed him a much higher level of concentration than if he kept getting distracted by the noise of people who happened to pass by. Not many people went down there, anyway. One of the university’s buildings had recently been renovated, and many of the classes which were held down in the basement were moved to the newly remodeled rooms of the other building. He came to a stop outside one of the doorways in the dimly lit hall. Shifting his bag to one side, he pulled a key card out of his back pocket and ran it through the lock on the door, causing it to flash a green light and give a satisfying click as the locking mechanism shifted out of place. He twisted the doorknob to swing open the door and step inside the vacant classroom.
He used to try to work on things in his classroom when all the students had left, but he was interrupted far too frequently. Shortly after that, he discovered that even his office wasn’t a very quiet place to do his work in. Home was out of the question. Whenever he was there, he was distracted by the sweet pull of his Second Life headset which was far too tempting. After a bit of exploring, he’d found this area under the university where no one could bother him. Especially those girl students, Gui thought to himself as he securely locked the door. They never take a hint to leave me be. Being too handsome is troublesome. I understand why Prince always has his Masquerade mask on hand for emergencies… A silly grin that he would never be caught wearing, unless he was in-game, spread across Gui’s face as he pictured himself chasing Prince around, not very unlike the hoards of fans that disrupted their time in-game. Though, unlike the fans, Gui knew where to draw the line. His reactions are so entertaining…
Gui flicked on the light switch, and walked across the small room to a desk in the corner. Running a hand over the cool surface, he brushed off the dust that coated the top. No one had used this room in a long time, much like a lot of the other classes down in the basement of the university. It was being used as a storage room for extra chairs and classroom supplies. Cardboard boxes littered the floor and stood in stacks around the room. A small electric keyboard was shoved haphazardly in a corner and had several guitar cases crammed underneath its stand. Beside the desk sat the main reason he had chosen this room to work in: a filing cabinet with each drawer labeled with a different music genre. The large amount of reference material he could take out of the filing cabinet, if he so needed, was there at his fingertips. Setting down his bag, he pulled up an old chair, dusted it off, and seated himself neatly in front of the desk.
He leaned over slightly and pulled open his bag with one hand. After rummaging around for a moment, his hand closed on a thick book and some loose papers. He arranged them on top of the desk, and flipped open the book to a chapter on guitar sheet music. Pulling a pen out of his pocket, he started humming to himself as he drew music notes on a blank sheet of music paper, glancing periodically at the book and an already-completed sheet of music in front of him.
Even though he had never written music before in his life prior to the Second Life concerts, Gui thanked his high IQ to guide him through the process. As difficult as it was for the rest of his team to believe, he was actually very intelligent. The simple matter was that he chose to act as a ridiculous person in game. He saw no point in playing if he behaved the exact same way he did in real life. The world of Second Life allowed him the chance to create a completely new person out of the pieces of his personality that he had hidden away under his mask of a polite and composed professor. Only in-game, and from time to time in his classroom when the energy of his students was most infectious, did he unleash himself from his restraints.
An hour passed and Gui decided to take a short break. The previously blank paper that sat in front of him had small black musical notes all down it in tidy rows. He quickly scribbled the name “Fairsky” across the top, and set his pen down on top of the book. His knuckles crackled noisily as he flexed his cramped fingers. He leaned back in the chair and stretched his arms over his head as he let out a yawn. Glancing at his watch, he noted that it was a quarter to five, almost time for him to head home for a quick dinner before grading students’ papers, taking a shower, and then logging into Second Life. He closed his eyes and thought of how much he and his team mates had progressed over the past few weeks in their musical ability. They had never even mentioned music before until it was decided that they had to make money to gain back what Prince had spent on his accidental trip to the Eastern Continent. Gui still felt a twinge of anger toward YuLian for being so difficult when it came to the money the team had. If they had sent Prince the 5,000 crystal coins for the return trip, Fan never would have torn up the city as he did. Well, maybe he would have torn it up either way, but I still would have seen Prince sooner. Wiping the smirk off his face, he sat up straight again, and picked up the pen. He twirled it once between his long fingers, and then pulled a fresh sheet of paper toward himself.
That evening, Gui placed his game headset over his eyes and arranged himself into a comfortable position underneath his fluffy blankets. As his breathing slowed down and his eyes closed, he dropped off to sleep and his bedroom faded out of his sight to be replaced by the noisy town square of Infinite City as it appeared before him. The sunlit square was rather hot, dusty, and filled with players busily walking past and chatting amongst themselves. Other people were materializing out of thin air around him as they logged in for their nightly game time. He scanned the crowd, quickly searching for any of his team mates, and spotted a familiar figure a few yards away, surrounded by a large group of players composed mostly of women.
Gui switched on his in-game personality as the corners of his mouth automatically turned upward.
“YOUR ROYAL HIGHNESS!” His yell echoed across the square and earned him more than a few looks of surprise from the players around him. He ignored them as he bodily launched himself across the cobblestone street causing people to jump out of his way in alarm. His long black hair and cloak flew out behind him, flapping in the wind as he ran through the crowd toward the figure of Prince who quickly turned around with inhuman speed to face the onslaught of Gui’s smothering love with a raised fist.
“PRINCE’S ATTACK SUCCESSFUL! GUILEASTOS -150 HP!” a loud voice from an unknown source suddenly blared through the air as the game informed everyone in the square that Prince had punched Gui.
A few moments later, Gui found himself on the ground with a large lump forming on his cheek where his face had met Prince’s mail-covered fist. Looking up to where Prince stood over him, Gui could see that he was wearing a cruel smile of satisfaction, red eyes narrowing dangerously as he readjusted the glove on his hand. The sunlight glinted off Prince’s white hair making it shimmer like the purest snow. His red Blood Tiara poked through his wind-swept bangs and contrasted nicely with his fair complexion. He had put aside his expensive set of armor that the team had bought him in congratulations for becoming the city lord, and donned his casual black outfit in a futile attempt to be less eye-catching. On the top of Prince’s head, looking very strange and out of place, was a large, white meat bun which was smiling and rapidly blinking his large eyes as he bounced around, excited to see Gui appear.
“Hello, Gui,” Prince smoothly said in an annoyed tone as he looked down to examine how effective his punch had been. “It’s about time you got here.”
Gui snapped back to attention and rubbed his cheek. “You are as amazingly strong as ever, your wonderful highness Prince,” he complimented energetically as he stood up and dusted himself off. “Your breath-taking poise as you drew your-” he looked up and his smile of delight at seeing Prince quickly turned into a look of disgust as he saw who was standing beside him. His glare was quickly returned with enthusiasm by Wicked; the elven team leader of Dark Phantom, a student at Gui’s university, and one of Prince’s closest friends. Gui hated him with every fiber of his being, and the feeling was clearly mutual.
“Gui-Gui!” yelled the meat bun in a high pitched voice as he bounced happily up and down on Prince’s head. Prince’s face showed no sign that he felt the repeated impact of the bun hitting him. Prince had long-since resigned himself to the fact that Meatbun regarded the top of Prince’s head as his exclusive seat. “Where is Fire Birdy?”
“Ah, just a minute, Meatbun.” Gui broke his staring match with Wicked to rummage around in his pack, and pulled out a large egg that had a flaming red and black pattern across the shell. After holding it in his hand a moment, a bright flash of light suddenly engulfed the egg – as well as most of Gui’s arm – and a phoenix appeared out of the flames and gracefully landed on Gui’s wrist. Gui remembered the first time he had done that after they had won the phoenix egg during the Champion’s Tournament. The egg nearly blinded Gui and the rest of the Odd Squad since they were all inspecting it very closely. The flash resulted in panicked screams of surprise from the team which frightened the other players in the near vicinity, and Gui had accidentally thrown the egg across the road, much to the indignation of the phoenix.
“Fire Birdy!” gleefully squealed Meatbun as he hopped off Prince’s head, onto the phoenix’s back, and happily snuggled into her warm, red feathers. “Fly, Birdy!”
The phoenix nodded in an amused way, “Alright, Meatbun.” They took off together from their perch on Gui’s arm, and flew in wide circles over the heads of their masters, ignoring the stares of confusion from random passerby.
“Sunshine, can you watch those two for us?” Prince turned to an Arabian-looking man beside him who nodded and smiled, his bright green eyes glinting energetically at the thought of having something to do besides wandering from shop to shop, drinking tea until Prince came to retrieve him.
“Where are you going, Prince?” he asked curiously.
“To practice singing,” Prince replied in a weary voice. Gui wondered how many other questions Sunshine had already asked this evening. Sunshine was well known throughout Prince’s close circle of companions as a person whose insatiable curiosity had the potential to drive even the most patient and kind-hearted person to contemplate murder.
“Why do you need to practice singing? You’re very good at it already!” Sunshine declared, looking at Prince eagerly. One of Prince’s eyes twitched as he stared at the Sunshine’s beaming face.
“Because I do,” he answered bluntly and gestured toward the phoenix and meat bun who were flying above them, noisily singing to one another. “Go ahead and let them fly around outside the city if they want. Follow on your carpet, just keep them in sight. Ah, and take these with you,” Prince felt around in his pack for a moment and withdrew a small cloth bag. “They’re meat buns for Meatbun if he gets hungry,” he explained as Sunshine opened his mouth to ask.
Sunshine nodded with a suddenly serious face as he took the bag, tied it securely onto his belt, and whipped a large golden rug out of nowhere. Prince stepped back hastily as Sunshine shook it out enthusiastically, almost whacking the people standing nearby who hadn’t gotten out of the way in time. Letting go of it suddenly, the carpet hovered in the air instead of falling to the ground. Sunshine nimbly hopped on top of it and sat down cross-legged as he tied back his pale silvery-purple hair to keep it out of the way while flying.
“Kenshin,” Prince muttered to another man beside him. “Go with him and make sure he doesn’t lose them, or let them get eaten by something…”
Kenshin brushed his long red hair off his shoulder and silently inclined his head in acknowledgment to Prince’s request. He pulled a katana out of his belt and jumped onto the carpet behind Sunshine and settled down, laying the sword in his lap and arranging his red robes around his newbie armor that Prince had given him. He stared pointedly away from Sunshine as the bombardment of endless questions started as they flew away.
“Your pets sure are something, Prince,” Wicked said quietly as he watched all four of the pets go flying toward the city walls, Sunshine still animatedly asking questions to the annoyed-looking Kenshin who was fingering the guard of his sword in a contemplative way.
“So people have told me. See you later,” Prince said with a small chuckle. Gui gritted his teeth as Prince patted Wicked on the shoulder and strode past him. “Come on Gui, we have to practice that song.”
“Yes, your highness,” Gui forced out, and tried to stop glaring.
Wicked sent one last look of hate at Gui and reluctantly turned away to attend to his teammates who had begun to gather nearby.
Prince led Gui away from the square toward the center of town. Various occupants of Infinite City called greetings to Prince, who had slipped into his facade of the merciless Blood Elf and was sending them all sparkly smiles in return, but quickened his pace to avoid any approaches. Even so, many people started to gather behind and chased after them. Prince darted into an alleyway, and Gui followed closely behind giving Prince random, useless advice on how to escape stalkers which mostly involved Gui heroically rescuing Prince in some way or another. After a few minutes of taking shortcuts and some carefully-planned hidden escape routes, they lost the pursuers and reached the tower in the middle of town which contained the city lord’s private chambers, various meeting rooms for the ranking players of the city, an information center for the other city members, and the magical crystal which the city’s military protected to keep the ownership of the town in Prince’s hands. The only place where Prince and Gui could practice uninterrupted by the mobs of fans was in Prince’s own rooms which, next to the tower’s crystal, had the highest level of security.
Prince swung open the tall wooden double doors to the entrance of the tower, and allowed Gui to step through before he shut them again with a dull thud. The air inside was considerably cooler than the warmth outside. The difference in lighting made Gui stop to blink a few times before his eyes adjusted to the dimness. The round room was richly decorated with thick rugs, tapestries, large potted plants, and small squashy-looking chairs. Doors with metallic name plates on them ran along one side of the room, and a small cluttered desk was placed beside them. A woman sat behind it, head bent over a pile of papers as she swiftly took notes while listening to a man speak to her from in front of the desk. A small fire crackled in the hearth nearby, giving the chilly room a slightly welcoming feel. Several players who were seated around the room looked up and waved heartily as they greeted the pair when they entered. Prince smiled and airily returned their greetings. Footsteps quietly echoed through the tower as Gui followed Prince up the twisting staircase toward his rooms above the office area. The low buzz of conversation could be heard from the room below as people looked up and pointed at the eye-catching duo.
“Second Life needs elevators,” mumbled Prince, more to himself than Gui.
“Your highness, if the stairs are too difficult I can carry you up the rest,” Gui offered, already knowing the response he would get.
Prince glanced back at Gui and gave him a disbelieving look before speeding up his ascension, leaving Gui a few steps down with his arms outstretched in a hopeful pose. “Yeah, right.”
Gui lowered his arms with a sigh and laughed to himself as he followed Prince, feeling somewhat relieved that he hadn’t been kicked down the stairs, as had happened in the past on more than one occasion.
Stopping at the first landing, Prince turned to a thick door that had metallic reinforcements threaded through the wood, and a large lock. Prince pulled a key out of his pouch and twisted it in the lock so it fell open. He yanked the heavy door open wide enough so they could both squeeze through, and they entered the outer chamber of Prince’s living space. The room was fairly large, a smooth, polished dark wood floor glinted in the light that came in through the doorway before Prince shut and locked the door behind them. He unzipped his black jacket and shrugged it off to place it on the coat rack beside them. He also removed his gloves and placed them on the small table beside a trailing vine-like plant in a decorative pot. Bending over, he unbuckled his boots and slipped his feet out of them with a satisfied sigh. He stepped quietly past Gui and passed through an elegantly carved door frame that had deep red curtains partially covering it.
Gui always felt extremely nervous every time he visited, though usually he was with the rest of the Odd Squad. Instead of using a conference room downstairs where they were frequently interrupted for ridiculous reasons by other players, they hid out up here where they could relax and discuss things without any outside interference.
“Hurry up and get in here,” called Prince from the other room. “We have other things to do after practice, and you’re being really slow.”
“Yes, sorry. I’m coming.” Being alone with Prince only made Gui’s already maimed nerves shred even further. Gui slipped off his thick cloak and soft purple slippers, and straightened his sleeves before entering the main room.
Though he had been here many times before, Gui always admired the room as if he’d never seen it before. He felt as if it was the only place in the world which had the elegance and glamor to accurately mirror Prince’s. It was lavishly decorated in traditional Chinese style, and caused anyone who stepped foot inside it to forget that they were inside a stone tower. The walls were covered in dark wood paneling which matched the glossy floor. Intricate designs were carved into the upper half of each panel, while landscapes and floral patterns were carved into the lower halves. Large fans, masks, and skillfully painted works of art which depicted beautiful scenery hung about the room. A large armoire stood by one wall. It was painted red with small delicate designs painted on in gold paint. Gui knew that inside was Prince’s large and extensive wardrobe used for concert performances and the photo shoots that Lolidragon had him participate in as Second Life’s spokesperson. Beside the armoire was a stand that held Prince’s set of armor. A wide, silk floor screen stood to one side for Prince to dress behind. The cranes and blossoming trees that were painted on the sides in pale colors were partially obscured by articles of clothing Prince had carelessly hung on top of the screen’s wood frame instead of putting them away after their use.
A low bed was huddled against the wall across the room, near the large windows which were wide open, letting in the bright sunlight and a warm breeze. The bed was covered in many embroidered blankets of red, green and gold, as well as numerous tasseled pillows and cushions of matching colors. Curtains like the ones that surrounded the door frames hung loosely around the carved headboard. A bench stretched across the foot of the bed, set on top of it was an unlit lamp and a small, decorative stone censer. Small streams of smoke were floating lazily out of holes in the censer, and filled the room with a spicy, cinnamon scent.
Through a wide doorway near the bed, Gui could see a stone bath tub built into the floor. Small cakes of soap and bottles of bath oil and scented salts were placed around the edge of the tub. Piles of fluffy towels and robes littered the floor near the doorway. Light reflected off puddles of water which were splashed all over the bathroom and cast glittery lights on the walls.
What did he do, have a water fight with himself?
Beside the doorway where they had entered stood a large desk that was covered in tall stacks of paper. A feathery fountain pen was perched precariously on one edge, and a wooden stool was set on the floor nearby. Gui saw that many of the papers were official documents and inquiries about the town, and from its inhabitants. Looking at all the work Prince had to do, Gui felt a pang of guilt at having tricked Prince into taking the most difficult job when they first won the city. But he didn’t think any of their other teammates, himself included, were more suited for the position than Prince. And Prince seemed to enjoy himself, anyway.
In the middle of the room was a round wooden tea table surrounded by cushions placed on the floor. A circular lamp that matched the design of the one on the bench was hanging down from the ceiling over the table, unlit due to the sunlight coming in from the window. Prince had seated himself on one of the cushions, and was fiddling with a gray tea set on top of the table. Beside the empty cups and pot of tea leaves sat a platter of wrapped dumplings. Gui walked over and eased himself comfortably onto a cushion across the table from Prince.
Gui leaned over the table and rested his chin on one hand. “What are you making?”
“Dong Fang Mei Ren,” Prince answered, carefully scooping spoonfuls of dark purple tea leaves into two small teacups. He picked up his teapot and poured hot water into each cup, and passed one to Gui after setting the pot down on the table again. The water in the cups slowly turned orange, and a sweet, fruity scent mingled with the cinnamon in the air. Prince reached over the table and took a dumpling from the platter, and started to unwrap its bamboo leaf covering.
“Help yourself,” he gestured with one hand to the platter as he bit hungrily into the sweet rice and bean paste of the dumpling. After a few moments, he picked up another and started unwrapping it, staring into space with an expression that was bordering on bliss.
“Thank you, your highness,” Gui smiled at Prince as he took a dumpling from the platter as well and started to unwrap it. “What are we practicing today?”
Prince thought for a moment as he chewed on yet another dumpling and swallowed. “I think only the one song that yesterday you said needed work. Everything else that’ll be included in the performance we’ve already done tons of times, so we only need to go over those with everyone else during rehearsal.”
“Okay,” Gui looked down at his seeping tea with increasing disappointment that they would only be working on one. No matter how much time he spent with Prince, it never felt like enough. Other than these practice sessions, he was never given the opportunity to be alone with Prince. He already had very little time to spend with him since they both had duties to attend to separately throughout the city, but no matter if they were together in a meeting, walking around town, or even in the middle of a crowd of monsters, there was always someone else with Prince, whether a pet, a friend, or a fan.
Gui finished his dumpling and started to sip at his tea, trying to not feel sulky. “This tea is good.”
“Yeah, I discovered it in a shop in town a few days ago while I was walking around with Jing and Yun as they got writing supplies,” Prince said thickly as he downed the last of his fourth dumpling and took a drink of the tea. “The owner of the shop says he goes around picking leaves and things for tea while grinding mobs, fixes the leaves up in his shop and then sells them. This one had a nice scent to it.”
“I’ll have to go with you sometime to see this shop,” Gui said as he swirled the last of his tea around in the bottom of the cup and then hesitatingly drank it, silently hoping that the shop owner didn’t pick leaves that had pieces of dead monster or blood splattered on them. The things he ate and drank in Second Life wouldn’t effect his real body, but that didn’t make revolting things any less revolting.
Prince stared woefully at the empty platter and pile of creased bamboo leaves in front of him for a moment before sighing, “Okay, time for practice.” He unfolded himself and stood in one fluid motion. A few of his joints popped noisily as he twisted around. “Sat for too long,” he mumbled with a grimace before stepping lightly over to the desk. He shuffled through the papers, trying to not upset any of the stacks while he looked for his sheets of music.
“I hope the band meeting goes quickly,” he said as he sifted through the paper. “I want to go kill mobs afterward with Kenshin and Sunshine. This time Lolidragon better not force me to bring a bunch of useless baggage…” his voice trailed off and he started muttering to himself. Gui continued to listen, but could only make out words that sounded like “stalker” and “tree”.
“Ah, here it is,” Prince pulled a paper out of the pile with a flourish and stepped back toward the table. “I’ll sing it once, tell me if there are any changes that need made.”
“I’m sure your highness’ singing will be perfect as always,” Gui said with a glittery smile, trying to not feel irritated at Prince’s pets getting to train with him alone. They may have been NPC’s, but to Gui, they were men and rivals for Prince’s attention. However, since Gui had to check in with Infinite City’s design team and supervise the city’s fortifications afterward, he had no time to go with Prince and keep the two at a safe distance from his beloved. He attempted to remember everything he was supposed to oversee that day in a futile attempt to rearrange his schedule, allowing him time to go with them. His forehead got increasingly scrunched up with each new task he mentally listed.
“-ui? Gui…? GUI!” Prince suddenly clobbered Gui with his fist. “Stop day dreaming and pay attention!”
“I am, your highness,” Gui said softly, rubbing the new bump on his head and returning his focus to Prince.
“You better be, these concerts are really important,” Prince said huffily as he ran his eyes over the paper in his hand while muttering about how YuLian would murder them several times if they didn’t perform according to her expectations. Knowing YuLian’s terrifying reputation for ruthlessness, Gui didn’t doubt Prince’s worries. “Okay, here goes.”
Prince started singing, and Gui closed his eyes, leaning back on the cushion and placing his palms on the cool, smooth surface of the floor behind him. What a wonderful sound…
Prince finished singing after a few minutes and looked down expectantly at Gui who was dreamily staring at the ceiling. After Gui didn’t respond, Prince cleared his throat and loudly asked, “Well, any suggestions?”
Gui took a breath and blinked a few times, “Ah, well, I think you sang it a little too quickly. Slow down a little bit, and it will be fine.”
Prince nodded and walked back to the desk to make a note on the paper with the fountain pen that was nearly buried in the heaps of paper that he had shifted around in his search for the music. Gui watched, nearly in a trance, as Prince lifted his hand and tucked a lock of his silky hair behind one of his delicately pointed ears. There were few things Gui enjoyed looking at more than Prince’s ethereally beautiful face, but he also was very careful to watch for opportunities when Prince had his back turned and wouldn’t notice Gui’s blatant staring.
The urge to touch Prince’s soft hair grew with each moment as Gui continued to watch him. He lowered his gaze to Prince’s graceful neck, down his thin yet powerful arms, and over his slender back, until a tiny cautionary voice somewhere in Gui’s head made him look away as his face began to burn. After a few moments in which he spent regaining his composure, Gui straightened and stood up slowly. He rubbed his back slightly and walked over to the window to look outside. “You have a nice view out this window,” he commented randomly, staring at the rooftops of the buildings that stretched out around the tower. Nice going. That wasn’t lame at all. Of all the things to pick for a conversation…
Prince made a noise of agreement from behind him.
Movement on the horizon caught Gui’s attention. Staring at it for a moment, he realized that it was Sunshine and Kenshin flying around on the magic carpet. They were zooming up and down as if the carpet were on a roller coaster track. Gui felt extremely grateful that Sunshine had not done that the few times he’d been riding on it.
“Hey, I see…” Gui paused mid-sentence as he watched the carpet attempt to loop upside down, which caused one of the passengers to fall off. A faint yell of terror echoed through the air. He quickly turned away from the window and put a hand on his forehead. Whatever the hell they’re doing now, I don’t even want to know…
“See what?” Prince questioned.
Gui cleared his throat. “Um, never mind.” He paused a moment and watched Prince study the music. Aside from the last practice they would have alone together the following evening, Gui knew he probably wouldn’t get another opportunity for a long time to speak with Prince alone. He took a steadying breath and called, “Your highness?”
“What is it?” Prince responded distractedly.
“Are things okay? I mean, outside of the game. I know the paparazzi is still going wild over our concerts, and Wicked told me a while ago that you hadn’t been found yet, but I still… worry about you…”
“I’m fine. They haven’t found me, and I am confident that they aren’t going to. I’ve taken precautions and also I doubt they would ever suspect a person like me to be Prince.”
Gui looked over his shoulder with surprise at Prince who noticeably flinched as if realizing that he had just said something he hadn’t meant to, “Why wouldn’t they?”
Prince stopped writing on the paper and straightened up to face Gui with a guarded expression. “I have my reasons for knowing they won’t.”
“But you can never know for sure, the media can be very resourceful and-”
“They aren’t going to find me out. Stop worrying.” Prince bit his lower lip and went back to writing on the paper with an annoyed look on his slightly flushed face.
“Why do you do that?” Gui asked, feeling hurt at Prince’s constantly defensive replies.
“You never let me help you. You always tell me to leave you alone, you never tell me if you’re worried or if you’re in trouble. I just want to protect you.”
“I don’t need your protection. I told you, I have-”
“Your reasons? Well, why can’t you tell me? You tell everything to that damn Wicked, but you never speak to me about anything. For as long as we’ve been friends, you’ve never confided in me at all,” Prince looked up in alarm as Gui continued with increasing anger in his voice. Gui couldn’t blame him for being surprised, since Gui rarely got angry, and it was never directed toward Prince. But Prince’s cryptic answers were taking their toll on Gui’s patience. “You even talk to Lolidragon about your problems, but you never come to me with anything! I hate that you keep me in the dark.”
“Gui,” Prince returned the pen to its base and took a breath. “I just… It isn’t that I wanted to keep you in the dark. I don’t want to trouble anyone else with my problems than is necessary.”
“Is that to avoid troubling the people around you, or to protect yourself?” Gui asked heatedly as he crossed his arms. Damn it, why am I yelling at him?
Prince’s eyes widened and they flashed angrily. Gui could almost see his temper rising with his bare eyes, and immediately regretted saying anything in the first place.
“Stop talking as if you understand everything,” Prince snapped, causing Gui to take a step back. “I don’t go around telling everyone about my problems because I don’t want to cause even more. If I confided in you, or anyone else on the team, that would only draw other people further into this nightmare with the damn media. You’re already bothered enough for simply being on the same team as I am.”
“Prince,” Gui sighed, calming down slightly. “I never have, and never will think of you confiding in me as a problem. To be honest, I couldn’t care less if the media tried to bother me even more than they already have. They may be annoying, but it isn’t like my life is hell just because they’re there. In a way, I’d be happy if they interrogated me based off the fact that I’m close to you…” Gui ended softly, and he turned back toward the window.
Prince walked away from the messy desk and sat on the edge of his bed, sinking slightly into the mounds of blankets. Rubbing his temples, he closed his eyes and fell backward with a soft plop. “You may think that way, but I still don’t want to cause you trouble. That would only make me worry about your situation at school more.”
“My situation?” Gui looked at him suspiciously. “You mean the press hanging around outside the classroom? How do you know about that?”
Prince abruptly opened his eyes, looking horrified. “Ah, well, um… I don’t.”
“You know,” Gui said quietly as he paced over to the bed, shifted some pillows out of his way and sat down next to Prince’s rigid form. “I asked you before, months ago, if you were a student at the university I work at. You denied it,” he turned to Prince. “Yet now you know what only someone who attends my lectures would know.”
Prince turned his head away from Gui and closed his eyes defiantly as strain distorted his features.
“Did you lie to me?”
“I don’t want-”
Gui suddenly stood up and took a few steps away, cutting off Prince’s sentence. He turned and watched Prince sit up. He slowly unclenched his fists, trying to beat down the frustrated screams that he wanted to let loose. After a moment, he smiled sadly and looked away from Prince’s cautious face. “I know. You don’t want to tell me, right? I guess Wicked is enough for you that you don’t need me.”
“It isn’t like that,” Prince whispered.
“Then what is it like?” Gui asked, starting to tremble slightly as he fought back the rising hysteria that was threatening to boil over.
“W-Wicked doesn’t… he doesn’t know about me because I wanted him to,” Prince said slowly, his voice rising as he glowered upward at Gui. “He found out on his own. I didn’t mean for it to happen, I don’t tell him everything like you seem to think.” He gave a shaky breath and continued, “You’re a very important person to me, so don’t think so lightly that I don’t care. And it is because you’re important that I don’t want you to know who I am.”
“I already told you, I can handle the media,” Gui grumbled.
“No. I mean…” Prince lowered his head. “Would you believe me if I said…” he said and paused a moment as he stared at the floor. “If I said that I didn’t want to tell you because I’m afraid… your feelings toward me might change?”
Gui slowly blinked his purple eyes and brushed some hair out of his face. Whatever he had been expecting as a reason, it hadn’t been that. He looked away for a moment, feeling ashamed that he lost his temper. “That would never happen. Prince, I love you no matter who you are. I’ve told you before. Why do you not trust me?” He returned to Prince’s side and grasped his hands. “I promised you…”
Prince’s hands tightened momentarily around Gui’s grip, but then fell slack. He slowly looked up and met Gui’s gaze steadily. His breathing slowed down and returned to normal. He slowly pulled his hands away from Gui and rubbed his eyes. Standing up, he went to the front room, scooping up his sheet of music as he passed by the desk. Gui stared at the spot where Prince had been sitting, listening to the rustling noises of Prince putting on his jacket and boots.
“I need to think things over,” Prince said quietly from the doorway. “I’m going to head to the meeting, I’ll leave the key here on the table. Please lock the door when you leave.”
Gui nodded silently and heard Prince set down the key, and then leave, slowly shutting the door behind himself. Once Gui couldn’t hear Prince’s footsteps any longer, he sighed deeply and swore at himself furiously. He stood up and rubbed his face with one hand, he stopped a moment to close the window and lock it, then strode into the front room. Pulling on his cloak, he stepped into his slippers and picked up the key and heavy lock, and then left the room in silent anger.