let’s all love ourselves like Setsu loves himself this year <3
Author: Kiyo Date (伊達きよ)
Your hair, your eyes…
“Master Xiao Ya is a Master of Sorcery. He is a Master of Wood Sorcery. He has black hair, and his hair is short. His body is… uhm, he is long?”
“We say ‘tall’. He is ‘tall’.”
“He is tall.” Setsu corrected himself, nodding.
Li Huang grinned at Setsu from across the table.
Lately, Setsu was receiving language coaching from him.
They frequently met on the Lu Huang’s river banks, to take strolls after breakfast. Li Huang seemed to visit the river often in his spare time. Each time they met, they ended up talking in the pavilion, even if just for a short time, and before long, Li Huang had found himself keeping Setsu company for little study sessions there. They weren’t using any textbooks or other materials; instead they simply had prolonged smalltalk to practice ordinary conversations.
Today for example, they were practicing to introduce oneself and others.
“Okay, why don’t you try introducing me next?”
Li Huang had pointed at himself and Setsu nodded with a smile.
“Lord Li Huang is His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince. He has black hair, and his eyes are golden. His eyes are very pretty. Um.. like two moons lining up.”
“Ha ha, thank you very much.”
Even though the way he did it was a little clumsy, it was still nice of Setsu to squeeze in the compliment, and so Li Huang expressed his thanks. He took the opportunity to try to put his feelings into words.
“Your hair shines like the rays of the sun. It’s beautiful. Your blue eyes make me think of the sky on a sunny day. It’s as though just looking at you can give me the strength to…”
After saying that much, Li Huang abruptly cut himself off. So far he had basically only spoken about how much he liked Setsu’s looks.
When became flustered and evasively stopped speaking, Setsu nodded in agreement. He probably was thinking something like “Yes, yes. That’s right.”
An ordinary person would feel embarrassed at receiving praise like this, and the moment would have gotten awkward, but of course, this was Setsu we were talking about. He didn’t feel it was weird at all. Too bad, Li Huang thought… Li Huang didn’t know why he felt that way. He decided to ignore this inner confusion and cleared his throat.
“But anyways, your hair is truly a sight to see. Does everybody have hair like that where you’re from?”
Among the people of Lan Huang, black hair and black eyes were the most common, next came dark and light brown, and also red hair. People with blood from other countries might still have different colored hair and eyes, so it wasn’t a set rule, but hair color in Lan Huang was predominantly of a dark pigmentation. So he had assumed that the people in Setsu’s country all had blond hair too, but when he asked, Setsu’s face turned pensive, and he shook his head.
“In my country, most people, black hair and black eyes. My mom, uhm, foreign country? Abroad? She was a person from a different country.”
“Oh, I see.”
The story they had made up about one of Setsu’s parents coming from a foreign country had some unexpected truths in it. Only in their story, Setsu’s father was the foreigner.
Li Huang nodded at Setsu’s words. Apparently Setsu had inherited his eyes and his hair from his mother then.
“Your mother bestowed some wonderful gifts upon you.”
Of course, Setsu with black hair and black eyes would still be the same Setsu, but the blond hair and his blue eyes suited him very well. Since he didn’t mean anything bad by it, Li Huang had said as much, as if it was obvious.
He had expected Setsu to give a big pleased laugh at the words of praise, but Setsu only smiled. That was an unusual reaction, and so Li Huang tilted his head in confusion.
“Is… something wrong?”
At Li Huang’s question, Setsu’s face just looked vacant. This was a rare expression on his face. It seemed like he was preoccupied by something else, like his heart wasn’t really in it right now.
After staring motionlessly for a moment, he smiled again. He’d returned back to his usual self. But Li Huang sensed some discomfort within him, and so he looked at him again to be certain.
“…Do you dislike your hair color?”
Setsu tilted his head in a puzzled gesture and laughed sweetly. He made a face as though he didn’t understand the question, but he must surely have understood the words. However…
Li Huang wanted this conversation to end for some reason. Setsu had been pleased by the compliments about his hair and eyes, as usual. But when he had been asked whether he liked or disliked that same hair and those very eyes, Setsu hadn’t been able to reply anything. He was self-aware of his beauty, but he wasn’t able to say whether he liked it or not. This was clearly a topic Setsu didn’t want to be asked about.
Li Huang could somewhat understand Setsu. He himself had to listen to what people around him had to say about his childlike body, and he knew the pain that could cause all too well. Everybody had a topic or two that they just didn’t want to have brought up.
But watching Setsu now, acting so different from his usual self, had him overwhelmed with a desire to talk to him. Maybe Setsu really wasn’t thinking about anything, but Li Huang still wanted to cheer him up somehow. He didn’t want to say something clichéd like ‘You may not like your looks, but I do’, though. That was something a lover might say, but the two of them had just met, so it wasn’t something that was appropriate.
After thinking for a little while longer, Li Huang idly turned to watch the Lu Huang, and addressed Setsu again.
“Your hair and your eyes have a pretty color, but that’s all. It’s decoration, just one part of you.”
Setsu turned to peer Li Huang’s face, intently looking at him head on. The words couldn’t have been too difficult for him. He must have understood him. Even though he was getting a little insecure now, he hoped that his thoughts would get through to Setsu, and so he kept on talking.
“I said that your mother bestowed gifts on you. I take that back. What you have belongs to you alone. Your hair and your eyes are beautiful because they belong to you.”
When he had finished speaking, he felt like he had just said something gravely embarrassing again. He hid his embarrassment with a forced cough. He turned his gaze away from Setsu’s face and started to tuck his hair behind his ear, like he always did, only to notice that his fingers were grasping thin air. Recently he had been doing up his hair. It was pulled together at the back of his head, where it was held together by the wine red hair tie that Setsu had given him the other day.
Why he had started to wear it like that was a question he couldn’t really answer himself, but he had sort of come to like the hairstyle now.
Next to him, there was a sudden loud laugh.
It was spontaneous and joyful, and sounded like its owner hadn’t been able to keep it in. Aside from his blood relatives, there was only one person who would dare to let out an unrestrained laugh like that right in front of Li Huang: Setsu, of course. Let him laugh if he wants to. At least he’s not upset anymore, Li Huang thought, and chose to look away. Slowly the laughter became more quiet, until only a giggle that Setsu seemingly wasn’t able to fully suppress was left. Setsu caught his breath.
“…Ha ha… His Imperial Highness, good person. Very good person.”
Setsu’s light voice muttered after a while, still smiling. Hearing the unusually quiet tone of voice, Li Huang turned his head back to look at Setsu.
“I like the Crown Prince.”
Li Huang’s heart did a somersault when he heard those words. Setsu’s “like” was used for friendships and affection amongst relatives. The type of “like” that someone might whisper to a lover was another thing. He understood that. He did. So why wouldn’t his pulse calm down?
“Th-, thank you. I uh, I like y-… I don’t hate you.”
He had wanted to return Setsu’s words, but it had only come out as a roundabout “I don’t hate you”. He wanted to lie down face first out of frustration at his own nonsense! But Setsu only seemed like he was enjoying himself, not minding Li Huang’s ambiguous behavior.
Li Huang, who – in 150 years – had never been in love, couldn’t know that his heart was racing due to lovesickness.
Gossip about Li Huang being in love with a foreing young relative of the imperial family’s Master of Magic spread like wildfire around the castle, and everybody that saw the two together agreed that Li Huang was “definitely head over heels”. What had started as a lie had turned into a truth: Li Huang had fallen for Setsu.