Actions

Work Header

All was Golden in the Sky

Chapter Text

-----

Alfred sighed as he placed the pen beside the stack of papers. He had finished most of his work for the day but he was sure Artie would still be against any sort of fun. He wanted to go outside, to go and see the bustle of the capital’s downtown market. There was always a chance of something amazing happening in it and the food never fails to impress Alfred.

He thought that he would also prefer to personally supervise the construction of the new school whose permit he had just signed for. It was his own personal project and as prince, he wanted to know what the people thought of it, what improvements he could make.

But, Artie believed it was still too dangerous. It was stupid. Alfred could take care of himself. He’s had the best mentors when it comes to combat. He doesn’t need some stupid guard or knight following him around and restricting his movements when he could do so much more alone, without having to discuss every little action with someone else.

Alfred groaned and allowed his head to fall over his folded arms on the table. He buried his face in his arms with a sigh. It was definitely so frustrating.

With a sigh, Alfred stretched his arms up and stood from his seat behind the desk. He might as well deliver the papers and proposals he’s finished to some of the masters of the Royal Academy by himself. He was sure Artie wouldn’t be so against that. At least, he hoped so.

Alfred avoided the crowded hallways where servants or nobles may stop him anytime for pleasantries. He’d appreciate it some other day but with the idea of the stifling sentence he’s had since the last attempt on his life, he didn’t think he wanted to bother with smiling and acting polite with anyone and everyone.

Alfred jumped over the low railing in the hallways surrounding the courtyard, tucking the documents he was bringing under his arm. He raised his arms and waved with a grin when the knights and soldiers training on the courtyard caught sight of him. He glanced around and tried to see if there was anyone he could bother for some fun but there was no such luck.

He sighed and shrugged, continuing on his way to the Royal Academy, crossing the courtyard with long quick steps. He was about to hoist himself over the low wall that separated the palace courtyard from the Academy’s grounds when he heard someone clearing their throat.

The prince turned and found the source of the voice to be another young man in the Academy’s dark uniform, leaning over the wall by Alfred’s left. He seemed to be taller than Alfred with blond hair lighter than his. He had a long tan scarf wrapped around his neck over the Academy’s uniform. The stranger approached with a chuckle. Alfred noticed that the other’s eyes were violet, reminding him somehow of his brother. He remembered Artie saying that there were old stories of people gifted with great talent in magic having that eye color. He wondered if that was true. Matthew and this stranger, after all, were both students of the academy.

“What?” Alfred crossed his arms over his chest and gave the other a challenging look. “Do you have a problem?”

“The gate is just a few meters away in that direction,” the stranger said, nodding at the direction from which he had just come from.

Alfred glanced at the same direction then looked back at the stranger with a grin. “But, this is more fun, isn’t it?”

“Is it?”

“Here,” Alfred thrust the documents he was carrying at the stranger before turning around and walking a few feet away from the low wall. The startled stranger couldn’t do anything but do as asked and hold on to the documents as the prince crouched, readying himself for a run. Alfred took every bit of the momentum provided by the distance and the running start to leap over the wall, landing on a smooth roll.

“Impressive?” The Academy student spoke, uncertain as he approached Alfred.

Alfred laughed. “It’s stupid but give me a break,” he said. “I gotta amuse myself somehow.”

“By jumpin where you should not?” The student chuckled. “I have never heard of such an amusement.”

Alfred cocked his head and grinned. “Well, we’ve never met before, have we?” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Alfred.”

The student looked at his hand and with a small smile placed the documents he’d handed him before on it before answering. “Alfred? Like the prince?”

Alfred pouted before tucking the documents back under his arm. He shifted on his feet and looked over the palace with a frown and a shrug. “Exactly like the prince. Is that a problem?”

The stranger shook his head. “Not at all. My name is Ivan,” he said. He shook Alfred’s hand this time, bowing to almost place a kiss above it. It was as if they were meeting at a formal court function instead of Alfred’s clothes and skin being dirtied by his wall jump, looking more like a commoner than a prince. It made Alfred realize that Ivan was likely the scion of some noble house, most Royal Academy students were. Ivan looked at him with an innocent smile. “It is a pleasure to meet you, your highness. I hope we can be good friends, yes?”

Alfred laughed nervously, suddenly feeling embarrassed of his behavior after Ivan’s more formal display. “That’s fine, dude. We’re not like at court or anything, you don’t have to do that. Hey, if you’re not busy, maybe you can help me out with this administration stuff? I need to go see the Dean of the academy.”

“Of course,” Ivan waved his hand in the direction of the Academy building. “Shall I escort you?”

-----

“But, I’m not wrong, am I?”

“I don’t know, Al. You did almost die the last time you went out without a guard. I think Arthur’s just worried,” Matthew said, gently nudging him with an elbow.

“Worried?” Alfred scoffed and leaned back on his chair until it was balanced on its two back legs. He laughed and let it drop down again. “Artie is just being an ass.”

“He’s regent,” Matthew said, turning the pages of his book and making some notes on a piece of paper. Alfred idly ran his fingers over the spines of the books strewn about their tables, books on magic and military history. Alfred has abandoned his work on a research assignment for one of his tutors out of boredom but his brother seems to be soldiering on for his own work, diligent as ever. “He’s supposed to do his best to protect the kingdom.”

“I’m not the kingdom,” Alfred replied with a pout.

Matthew shrugged, peering from his work to his brother beside him. “But, you are the heir, Alfred. That counts.”

“He’s not as strict with you!” The sudden outburst from Alfred earned them a scolding stare from one of the librarians wandering around nearby. Alfred answered with a sheepish and apologetic smile before turning back to Matthew. “Mattie, he let you go to that school trip, didn’t he?”

“School trip?” Matthew frowned in confusion. He adjusted his glasses and pushed his hair back behind his ear as he thought before smiling as he remembered. “Oh, you mean the lesson on crystal magic, eh?”

“I’m not sure,” Alfred scowled. “Was that the one last month?”

Matthew laughed. “Yes, and I didn’t go alone. There were other students there and the masters of the Academy. That’s why Arthur agreed. You know he would agree if you’d let some knights follow you around too.”

“But, that’s boring,” Alfred said. “I’d have to keep checking if I’m allowed to go places instead of just going there. It’s a waste of time and effort and I could get a lot more work done if I don’t have to constantly check in with a babysitter.”

“They’re not a babysitter. That’s just rude, Al!” Matthew insisted, giving his brother a disappointed look. “I know you don’t like restrictions but they are good. Most knights even have some mastery of magic from the Royal Academy, you know. They’ll protect you.”

Alfred sighed, covering his books with his arms and head. “It’s just so suffocating.”

“You’ll get used to it. Just give them a chance, Al, really,” Matthew said.

“Yeah, whatever,” Alfred grimaced. He straightened in his seat and began stacking up his books. He glanced over his brother’s shoulder after a while, watching the neat lines of runes on parchment. The dark ink that stained Mattie’s fingers reminded him of something else, someone else. “Hey, Mattie?”

“Hm?”

“Do you know anyone named Ivan from the Academy?”

“Ivan?” Matthew’s handwriting faltered, a smudge ruining the elegant lines of the document. Matthew clicked his tongue before wiping the ink from the nib and placing it back down beside the documents. “You don’t mean Ivan Braginsky, do you, Alfred?”

Alfred drummed his fingers on the dark leather covers of the book, watching his brother’s strange reaction. “I don’t know. I met him by chance. Maybe, maybe not. Heck, maybe I won’t see him again. I don’t why I’m asking.”

Matthew pressed his lips into a line, staring thoughtfully at the stack of books in front of Alfred. “I’m just not sure if you should be spending time with him.”

“Why not?” Alfred scowled and set his jaw stubbornly. “You’re not being like Artie, are you?”

Before Matthew can give his reply, a courier stepped around one of the shelves and stopped by their table. The courier bowed and looked at both the princes. “Your highnesses, good day,” he said. “I am sorry to interrupt your work but the regent asked to speak with Prince Alfred. I was told to fetch you as soon as I found you, your highness.”

Alfred rolled his eyes and smirked at Matthew. “What did I say? See, Artie’s nagging again. Time to see what he wants.”

“Stop fighting him, Alfred,” Matthew chided. “Seriously.”

Alfred took his jacket from where he had hung it on the back of his chair, shrugging it on as he stood. He straightened it out and adjusted his glasses before looking over his shoulder at his brother. “No promises,” he said. He nodded to the courier to lead the way. He raised his hand to wave goodbye to his brother. “Talk to you later, Mattie.”

-----

The bells that hung over the doors of the solarium rang as Alfred entered, filling him with a sense of comfort and relief. He glanced at it and smiled, remembering watching Arthur carve the runes into the metal of the small bells when he was a child. Alfred looked around the green plants and the clear rushing water of the stream that went around the room. He took a deep breath as he moved further into the room, fingers brushing over the brilliant green leaves and his eyes roving over the colored glass ornaments that painted the room with different hues when the sun managed to hit it just right.

He smiled. The palace solarium had never failed to impress him, never failed to take his breath away and make him think of magic and its beauty. Alfred broke off a flower from a shrub as he passed it, sucking the sweet nectar from its stem before tucking it away in his jacket.

The bells were already silent as he brushed a curtain of vines away to step into the solarium’s central area. Arthur was seated reviewing some documents. A cup of tea beside his papers had a spoon slowly stirring without anyone to hold it. Alfred had to wonder if it was one of Artie’s familiars that he couldn’t see or some levitating spell that the regent was using that allowed it to happen.

“Take a seat, Alfred,” Arthur said, barely looking up from his papers. He signed one and placed it aside just as Alfred pulled out a chair and slouched in it.

“So,” Alfred drew out the syllable as he said it, peering at the colored glass ornaments around the room. “What’s this about then?”

“I found someone to replace your guard that quit,” Arthur said as he took his tea to drink.

Alfred gaped at him. “You’re kidding,” he said, staring at Arthur with a look of disbelief.

Arthur sighed and placed his cup of tea on back on the table. “This is for your own good. We’ve talked about this, Alfred. Do not be difficult.”

“I’m not being difficult! You’re just not listening. None of you or the guards you’ve given me ever listen,” Alfred slammed his hands on the table and stood. He started pacing around the area, a captive animal in a cage. He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration and turned back to Arthur. “I’m not gonna let you do this.”

“I am your guardian,” Arthur set his mouth into a thin line, his words laced with his displeasure. Alfred answered it all with a sneer before turning to leave. “Alfred!”

“Shut up, Artie!” Alfred shouted. “If you’re not going to listen to me then I’m not going to listen to you either.”

He turned away and ran towards the exit, ignoring Arthur’s indignant shouts. He runs through the palace, barely acknowledging anyone, still in thrumming with anger, frustration, and disbelief at Arthur. Alfred chafed. He needed to get out, needed to be free. To hell with Arthur, to hell with the rules.

Alfred was going to do what he wanted. He was going to see the very people he’s supposed to know and rule.

-----

The capital of the kingdom of Atlas was a bustling city and its market place wasn’t any different. Alfred weaved through the crowd, keeping the hood of his cloak up as he looked through the items on display for each stall. Merchants hawked their wares and Alfred would smile and start a conversation, asking about their trade and what they thought of things.

It felt freeing to be outside, unknown by anyone and surrounded by a crowd. It felt good to be nobody for just a few moments.

Still, Alfred couldn’t help but tense every time he encountered one of the city guards on patrol. He wondered how long it would be until Arthur sent guards after him. He sighed as he paid for his purchase of a burger. He bit into it, chewing slowly, letting the grease stain his lips as he tried to craft an apology for his guardian in his head. He knew Matthew was right. Arthur was simply trying to protect them but Alfred still couldn’t help the feelings of frustration from the restraining idea of the orders.

“Maybe we can compromise,” Alfred muttered to himself. He was so deep in thought he hadn’t realized that someone had stopped in front of him and ran into someone. Alfred stepped back with a frown. “Oh, dude, I didn’t see you there.”

The prince looked up and blinked in surprise at the familiar figure in front of him. Ivan smiled at him and Alfred found himself flushing in mortification. “I’m sorry. That may have been my fault, your highness. I noticed you a while ago and decided to greet you but you seemed to have been distracted.”

Alfred laughed nervously. “Yeah, that’s embarrassing, huh? I’m just thinking of something. Sorry, my bad, Ivan,” He grinned at the other, his expression brightening. “It’s good to see you though. What’cha doin’?”

Ivan chuckled and raised the paper bag in his hand. “I was buying some supplies for myself. Some parchment and ink, ingredients for a spell, and other odds and ends. And what of you, your highness?”

“Alfred’s fine,” Alfred said. He bit his lips and shrugged. “Especially since I’m really not supposed to be here.”

“Ah,” Ivan nodded. “Am I to assume this is another one of those amusing things?”

“Yeah!” Alfred laughed. “You wanna come with?”

Ivan inclined his head and smiled. “I’ll be glad to, your high--Alfred.”

Alfred pumped his fist in the air. He grabbed Ivan’s hand and started pulling him to another line of stalls in the market, steering them away from a couple of city guards he’d seen. The guards had looked frantic and was asking around the throng of people. Alfred figured Arthur had finally realized Alfred had actually left the palace itself and had finally mobilized the city watch to look for the wayward prince.

“Come on,” Alfred said. “I want to look at something.”

They spent the next few minutes wandering from stall to stall. Alfred bought more snacks for both of them, indulging himself with anything good or interesting that he could get his hands on. They stopped by a stall selling various plants and herbs with Ivan pointing out interesting tidbits about them before purchasing a bunch of sunflowers.

“Sunflowers, huh?” Alfred glanced at the golden yellow blooms on the other’s hand. “What’s it for?”

“Oh, nothing,” Ivan said. “I simply enjoy how they look, da?”

“Dude, they look awesome,” Alfred grinned, giving the other a thumbs up gesture. “We have lots of them in one of the palace garden. I’ll show you next time, yeah?”

“Would that be allowed?”

Alfred shrugged. “Why not?” He stopped at a townhouse just outside of the traffic of people coming from the market on the main street. He removed the cloak he wore and adjusted his jacket. “Okay, here we go.” He draped the cloak over his arm and took a deep breath.

“Where is here exactly?” Ivan asked, cocking his head curiously.

“Oh, dude, it’s awesome. I have this project with one of the families that manage the academy, yeah? Francis is helping me with it. We want to make another school that’ll be more accessible to everyone in the kingdom. If not, the plan is to develop a program to allow more commoners into the Royal Academy. The problem is my guard quit ages ago because, uh well, I guess that was my fault but it was totally called for, you know.” Alfred said, rambling with big hand gestures and expression. Ivan watched with a small amused smile even as the prince took a short pause for breath. “Anyway, I haven’t been to see Francis in a while to talk about it and he hasn’t visited the palace. I think he’s fighting with Arthur or something. So, I had the brilliant plan of coming here on my own. What do you think?”

“It certainly seems ambitious, da?”

Alfred paused and sighed. He placed a hand over the knocker, tracing the unfamiliar runes on it. A part of him wondered if it was Arthur’s handiwork. He flicked it with a finger and turned a brilliant grin to Ivan, the moment of melancholy disappearing like a mirage. “Well, a king’s got to be a hero too, you know?”

“I’m sure you’ll make a great king, your highness,” Ivan said.

“Yeah? I mean, of course, right? I’m a hero,” Alfred nodded, suddenly determined and confident. “Gonna do my job right. Show Artie he’s wrong.” He raised the knocker and knocked thrice. “Hey Ivan,” he said as they waited for the door to open. He stared resolutely at the dark wood of the door. “Stay with me?”

“Of course,” Ivan nodded. “We are friends, yes?”

“Oh, man, definitely,” Alfred grinned. “Today was great, Ivan. Thank you.”

Ivan stared at him with a frown and Alfred almost faltered in his smile, thinking he’s done something wrong, said something offensive without thinking. He was replaying the last few seconds of their conversation when Ivan tucked one of the sunflowers he’d bought into Alfred’s chest pocket. The frown had disappeared from the mage’s face and was replaced by a fond, contented smile. “No,” Ivan said. “I thank you, your highness.”

Alfred was about to reply but by then, the door had opened and they were ushered in by Francis’ valet. Alfred touched the sunflower gently, as he organized the thoughts in his head. He can feel a strange energy buzzing underneath his skin, almost like the surge of magic whenever Arthur performed a powerful spell around him. He placed his hand over his chest, over the flower and the pendant that hid underneath his shirt, and his heart, steady and strong, and perhaps just a bit too fast.

A part of him felt like he could have done anything and everything. He grinned. A friend, he thought, yes, a friend would be nice.

-----

Alfred watched the flickering magelights of the carriage disappear behind the closing palace gates. Francis had brought him and Ivan to where they each needed to be after the meeting in the Bonnefoy’s city estate. A servant waited to escort Alfred into the palace at the top of the entrance stairs but Alfred still stood at the bottom until the gates finally closed, shutting him back in the palace from the outside. He sighed and turned away from it, momentarily brushing his fingers over the bright yellow flower still adorning his chest.

“Has the regent retired for the night?” Alfred asked the servant waiting for him.

“I believe Lord Arthur is still working in his offices. A message will be sent to inform him of your arrival, your highness.”

“That’s not necessary, I’m going to see him,” Alfred said, already climbing the grand staircase in the entrance hall two steps at a time. He called out to the servant that had stopped following. “You can retire for the night.”

Once he reached the doors of Arthur’s office, Alfred only had to knock once before he’s hearing Arthur calling out for him to come in. Alfred opened the door and caught a glimpse of Arthur pacing by the windows before the man stopped by the desk and turned. Arthur’s eyes were full of fury and Alfred gulped, wondering if it was too late to turn back.

Alfred shook his head and steeled himself. He can still feel the earlier energy of the city thrumming in him and he’s already resolved to compromise with Arthur if necessary. They both just needed to calm down, he thought. He almost laughed. That was easier said than done.

“Well?” Arthur asked, crossing his arms over his chest and looking at Alfred with that look of disappointment that always had Alfred confessing all his misdeeds as a child. “I assume you’ve come here with a good explanation your actions?”

“I didn’t do anything wrong, Arthur,” Alfred said. “I’m sorry for being angry a while ago but I’m not going to apologize for actually trying to do my best as prince of this kingdom.”

“It was irresponsible, Alfred!” Arthur exclaimed. “It was irresponsible, reckless, and thoughtless. Your actions was a distraction for the city watch and it was an unnecessary risk. You’re no longer a child! You should be thinking of the consequences of your actions. You should be more aware of the fact that you’ll eventually be the king of this kingdom. I know you want to be free to do what you want, Alfred, but that is no excuse--”

“I’m not making any excuses!” Alfred cut him off, his own voice rising over Arthur’s scolding tone. “I did think about it and I’m no longer a child. I can take of myself and my kingdom, Arthur. I’ll be king soon and I won’t be a king that hides from his people. If I have to risk myself for the kingdom then I’ll do it. Can’t you try to understand that?”

“Stop it,” Arthur said, gritting his teeth. “You’re still not listening. You were selfish and have caused unnecessary trouble today, Alfred. That itself shows that you’re not ready. Bloody hell, Alfred, do you know how worried we were!? I swear, you were taught better than this.”

“I was doing my job! I was doing the right thing,” Alfred stepped forward and stopped, flinging his hands in frustration. “Stop treating like I don’t know what I’m doing!”

“You could have died! Do you know how many people want you dead? Do you want a repeat of what happened before? I’m trying to stop you from these stupid, thoughtless, selfish thing you’ve convinced yourself, you needed to do,” Arthur closed the gap between them. He pointed a finger at Alfred’s chest and Alfred can feel the his heart racing with anger, feel the suppressed surge of energy under his skin. “You’re the heir to the throne, Alfred. You can’t just sacrifice your life like a hero. You need to stop acting on impulse and start thinking.”

“Shut up!” Alfred pushed Arthur, pushed away the suffocating feeling that gripped his chest, and Arthur didn’t just stumble back. The force of Alfred’s hands sent Arthur flying across the room, colliding with the closed windows with a clatter and a hiss of pain. Many other items in the room were torn from their positions by the energy that radiated from Alfred and Alfred covered his mouth from horror, taking a sharp intake of breath.

“Alfred,” Arthur murmured, stumbling to his feet and holding his hand out. “It’s alright. Everything’s going to be alright.”

Alfred choked and swallowed back his fear as he rushed to his guardian’s side. “Are you hurt? The-the infirmary, I need to bring you to the infirmary, Artie.” His hands fluttered all over the regent, shaking and uncertain. “What do you need? What can I do? I’m so sorry, Arthur. I didn’t mean to.”

“It’s going to be fine, love,” Arthur said, taking Alfred’s shaking hands and squeezing them for comfort. He smiled at the worried prince reassuringly and clapped a hand over Alfred’s shoulder. “I’ll be fine. You’re safe. We’re safe. It’ll be alright, Alfred. You didn’t hurt me. You didn’t hurt yourself either, did you? It’s just your magic. It wasn’t your fault. It’s going to be fine.”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t control it. I thought, I mean, I could have hurt you.”

“But you didn’t,” Arthur sighed and he squeezed Alfred’s shoulder comfortingly. “We both need to calm down. I’m just glad you’re safe. You should get some rest. We’ll talk in the morning.”

“But--”

“It wasn’t your fault, I promise,” Arthur smiled, gently pushing Alfred to the door. “Get some rest. Calm down. Good night, Alfred.”

“And you’re sure? You’re not hurt?”

“I promise,” Arthur said.

Alfred nodded, distracted, his head hung in shame. “Alright,” he mumbled. “Good night, Arthur.”

-----

“Alfred,” Matthew stopped his brother with a gentle hand on his elbow. “Where did you go yesterday? Arthur was really worried.”

“The city,” Alfred said. The two continued walking on their way to the dining room. “I needed to get out.”

Matthew smiled. “Nothing wrong with that now and then, eh?”

“I don’t know, dude. Artie and I fought again last night.”

“And?” Matthew asked, his brow creased in worry.

“And I don’t know. He said we’ll talk about it today,” Alfred said with a shrug. He yawned, still feeling the mess that was yesterday and in his sleep following him to the waking world. He blew out a breath and grimaced. “I messed up, dude. I’ll probably just agree to the whole guard thing.”

“It’s not so bad,” Matthew reassured him. “Tim isn’t just my guard. He’s also my friend. You’ll be fine, Al.”

Alfred hummed instead of answering. He was still lost in thought when they entered the dining room that he didn’t notice their guest until Matthew exclaimed, “Francis.”

“Ah, Mathieu,” Francis greeted. “Good morning. Alfred, you too.”

Alfred blinked at the other in surprise, looking from Francis to Arthur who sat at the head of the table, calmly sipping his morning tea. “Francis? Why are you here?”

“Arthur asked me to come,” Francis said. “After all, we still have business to discuss, no?”

Alfred took his seat, loading his plate up with ham and eggs. “What? Did you come here just for that?”

“I asked him to,” Arthur scowled at Francis.

Francis chuckled. “Ah, yes, a royal decree.”

Alfred snickered and Matthew hid a smile behind his cup of coffee. “Are you staying the whole day then?”

“He should be,” Arthur said, rubbing his fingers over his temples with a frown. “Before you go about your business though, Alfred, there is something we must discuss.”

“Right,” Alfred said. He took a gulp of his drink and placed his utensils beside his plate. “I guess I’ll, well, I’ll be fine with a guard, okay?”

Arthur looked surprise, mouth gaping like he meant to continue talking. He cleared his throat and raised a questioning brow at Alfred. “You’re agreeing to having a guard follow you around?”

Alfred sighed and he rubbed the back of his neck. “You’ll do it anyway,” Alfred said. “And as long as they’re not too annoying, okay? You said you had a suggestion, right? Can I meet them first before I decide? If I don’t like them, can you let me choose one on my own?”

Arthur smiled. “Yes, of course,” he replied. “I invited them today to meet you, actually. I wanted to ask you to give them a chance before refusing outright, Alfred. If you truly think that they would not be a great fit for your needs, we can find you someone else.”

Alfred grinned. “Great, thanks!”

Alfred shoveled some of his food into his mouth. He can still feel Arthur’s questioning gaze on him and thoughts of last night were still very much present in his mind. He wondered if Arthur really was okay and if he should ask about it. He blinked and cocked his head as he realized that Arthur was trying to get his attention. “Huh?”

“I asked if you wanted to him right now,” Arthur repeated, a tone of fond exasperation in his voice.

“Right now?”

Arthur nodded and folded his hands over the table. “I told you, I invited him to meet you today for this very purpose.”

Alfred shrugged. “I guess that’s fine?”

Arthur signalled to a courier waiting on him and Alfred watched the courier disappear around the door. They returned a few moments later followed by a young man in a familiar dark uniform, a long tan scarf wrapped around their neck. Alfred thought of the sunflower still on the bedside table in his room, thought of a crowded market and a hand in laced with his.

“This is Ivan Braginsky, Alfred,” Arthur was saying. “He’s one of the top students of magic in the Royal Academy and he has also completed his knight training. He’s heir to the Braginsky Barony. Alfred?”

Alfred stood, staring dumbfounded at Ivan’s innocent smile. His heart beat wildly in his chest and he pressed his hand over his chest, over the pendant meant to keep his magic in check under his shirt, thinking of the night before and the feeling of invincibility. “He’s my knight?”

“He’s not a knight yet,” Arthur said. “He will be knighted soon but for now, he’s your guard. Is this acceptable, Alfred.”

Alfred stepped around the table until he stood in front of Ivan. He looked the student up and down before smirking. “You knew,” Alfred said, more a fact than accusation.

“I did,” Ivan said with a nod. “It was not a certain thing yet, your highness.”

“Alfred?” Arthur prompted.

Alfred waved his hand in the air. “It’s fine, Artie,” he said, laughing. He stared at Ivan’s strange purple eyes again and grinned. “He’ll do.”

Like an echo of their first meeting, Ivan bowed and kissed the signet ring on Alfred’s finger. “I am grateful for your approval, your highness.”

-----