Yanira Castleheart, a four-year-old red-head girl, roamed the castle halls that seemed to be empty of any life, except her own. She skipped down the hall humming a lullaby her mother always sang to her before she laid her head to sleep, but her cheerful like stroll came to a halt when she heard her fourteen-year-old sister, Xema Castleheart, calling out a name that she had never heard of before from the main castle garden. Yanira peeked from the balcony of the castle that hung directly over the garden and peered down at her beautiful brown haired sister, who had a look of distress as she looked in every direction of the garden.
“Big Sister?” called Yanira folding her arms on the edge of the balcony on her tip toes; “What are you doing?”
Xema flinched at the sudden sound of her sister’s voice and glanced up at the balcony looking straight into Yanira’s golden eyes.
“It doesn’t concern you Yanira, so go play somewhere else,” stated Xema and immediately ran under the balcony, escaping Yanira’s sight. Yanira puffed her cheeks in annoyance wondering why her sister was being difficult when she was just curious.
Yanira prepared to leave the balcony, but then her gaze landed on a patch of black near the rose bushes. Yanira adjusted her eyes and saw that the patch of black was really the top of a man’s head. Yanira leaned over the balcony focusing her gaze on the man.
“Hello?” Yanira called down, but the man didn’t move. Yanira huffed and yelled out, “HELLO!” This time the man jerked and looked up at Yanira with his emerald green eyes. He looked around sixteen or seventeen based on his masculine body and young face. He wore navy blue overalls with silver lining making it clear to Yanira that he was of royal blood.
Their gazes met as the man stood up nervously and then the man stated, in an uneasy tone, “Hello?”
Yanira smiled, feeling glad that the unknown man responded, but her feeling of gladness faded when her small arms slipped and her whole body flipped over the balcony darting toward the pavement of the garden ground. Yanira shut her eyes awaiting the impact of the fall, but instead felt strong arms wrap around her and pull her into a warm chest.
Yanira lifted her gaze facing the man’s emerald green eyes once more. She glanced at his arms that wrapped around her small form and then back at him showing a dazzling smile saying, “Thank you, dear sir.”
The man turned red in the cheeks as he lowered Yanira back on her feet on the garden ground. Yanira dusted off her violet dress and then curtsied to the man.
“Sorry for the rudeness. My name is Yanira Castleheart, second princess of Balwar Kingdom,” introduced Yanira and then added, looking up at his tall form, “May I have your name?”
The man cleared his throat before bowing to Yanira saying, “My name is Shuyu Sou, first prince of Azseldo Kingdom.” Yanira giggled and stepped closer to him with her hands folded behind her back.
“I see, so you’re the prince that came to visit our Kingdom three days ago,” stated Yanira. The man, Shuyu, nodded and stated, “That’s correct, but I haven’t seen you roaming the castle till today.” Yanira giggled running her right hand through her short red hair.
“That’s no surprise. I became ill before your arrival, so I was bound to my quarters by father’s orders. I just got better today and decided to enjoy the fresh air,” chirped Yanira.
Shuyu seemed ready to say something, but paused in his words when the voice of Xema echoed from the castle calling his name and got closer to where he stood. Shuyu gulped and glanced at Yanira, grabbing her at the same time, and dragged her to the maze of the garden making Yanira puzzled.
Shuyu’s strength was tremendous for Yanira didn’t have the strength to even pull away as she was dragged through different paths of the maze, going deeper into the castle garden to the point where it was almost impossible to hear Xema’s desperate voice calling for Shuyu.
In a matter of moments, they had reached the end of the maze revealing a huge thick Chestnut Tree. The chestnut tree in Balwar Kingdom’s garden was the only tree that had the color of cherry blossoms and white snow. It was a marvel to look at and only the royal family knew the location of the tree that never withered.
Shuyu sat under the tree still holding Yanira’s outstretched hand and gave out a sigh of relief. Yanira glanced at Shuyu, sitting next to him and asked, “Are you hiding from Big Sister?” Shuyu glanced at her leaning back against the trunk of the tree.
“Xema isn’t a bad girl, but she has boundary issues. She hasn’t left my side since I got to this kingdom and it is becoming quite an annoyance,” stated Shuyu and then glanced up at the falling leaves of the chestnut tree adding, “There are times when I want to be alone.”
Yanira pointed to herself saying, “But I’m here with you.”
Shuyu chuckled saying, “You’re different since this is our first meeting.” Yanira giggled with a smile and then stood up circling around the chestnut tree.
“This chestnut tree is beautiful right?” stated Yanira. Shuyu nodded staring at the tree.
“This is my first time seeing it in person. I only ever saw paintings of it,” stated Shuyu. Yanira began to climb the tree making Shuyu shot to his feet with wide eyes.
“What are you doing?” exclaimed Shuyu. Yanira sat on a tall branch she reached and glanced down at Shuyu saying, “I’m going to grab a Chestnut.”
“But that’s dangerous!” exclaimed Shuyu, slowly beginning to panic. Yanira plucked a chestnut from a single branch and smiled down at Shuyu.
“I’ll be fine,” stated Yanira and then began to descend down the tree. Yanira jumped to the ground before Shuyu and held the chestnut to Shuyu saying, “This is my gift to you.” Shuyu picked the chestnut from Yanira’s extended hand and sighed, saying, “This isn’t very special you know.” Yanira puffed her cheeks crossing her arms on her chest.
“It is special. Don’t you know the legend of the Chestnut tree?” demanded Yanira. Shuyu shook his head. Yanira sighed and then began to tell the legend of the Chestnut tree.
“Many years ago at the time when Balwar Kingdom was first established, there was a princess named Rena, who fell in love with a stable boy named Sparrow. They were both deeply in love meeting under this very Chestnut tree every new moon to express their love, but the king and queen were against their love and forced the two lovers apart. In her grief stricken state, the princess died of a broken heart. Sparrow was saddened and ended his life under the Chestnut tree where they had first fallen in love. Ever since the princess and the stable boy’s death, the chestnut tree never withered and revealed colors representing the lovers: cherry pink for the princess for her lips were cherry pink and snow white for the stable boy whose hair was white as snow. The legend says that one of the chestnuts of the tree holds a precious stone with hues of white and pink and it says that whoever finds this stone will find true love.”
Yanira smiled asking, “Romantic isn’t it?”
“It sounds more like a tragedy,” stated Shuyu honestly. Yanira pouted.
Shuyu examined the chestnut saying, “So this chestnut might have a stone in it?” Yanira nodded adding, “No one in the royal family has found it yet. Big sister and big brother have plucked a chestnut from this tree once and never found a stone, only yummy chestnuts.”
“Why not pick more to find the stone?”
Yanira shook her head saying, “We can only pick one chestnut in our lifetime as per the tradition of our royal family, so the tree won’t wither.” Shuyu rose an eyebrow asking, “Then what about you?”
“This is my first time plucking a chestnut.”
Shuyu frowned holding the chestnut to her saying, “Then you should keep this.” Yanira shook her head pushing his hand away gently.
“It is my gift to you to mark our first meeting. Besides, I don’t think a chestnut I picked would have the legendary romantic stone, but the chestnuts from this tree are yummy, so please let it make you be happy.”
Shuyu stared at Yanira in awe and then smiled clenching the chestnut in his hand.
“I will cherish it then,” stated Shuyu making Yanira giggle in delight. The sound of her voice and the smile on her face made Shuyu’s heart race.
“Yanira!” called a male voice familiar to Yanira’s ears. Yanira perked up smiling saying, “Big brother is calling.”
At the sound of her voice, her seventeen-year-old brother, Zuriel Castleheart, appeared from the exit of the maze with his long blonde hair in a ponytail swaying behind him. He wore white clothing with red lining and a sheathed sword tied to the left of his hip.
Zuriel had a look of relief as he approached Yanira. He knelt before her and stated, “I had a feeling you would be here.” Yanira hugged Zuriel around his neck saying, “Hello big brother.” Zuriel chuckled picking Yanira up from the ground.
Zuriel took notice of Shuyu and asked, “Why are you here, Shuyu?” Shuyu smiled saying, “I just wanted to see this legendary chestnut tree and ran into this charming young lady.” Yanira giggled at Shuyu’s words hugging her brother tighter.
Zuriel held Yanira slightly tighter facing Shuyu.
“Was the chestnut tree to your liking?” asked Zuriel. Shuyu nodded hiding the chestnut from Yanira in his pocket.
“It was very charming,” stated Shuyu. Zuriel smiled saying, “I’m glad to hear that.”
Zuriel turned away with Yanira still in his arms and stated, “Yanira is still recovering, so I better bring her back in her room and I believe Xema is looking for you, so please grant her your presence before you leave our kingdom by the end of the day.”
Shuyu nodded frowning slightly.
Yanira glanced at Shuyu from over Zuriel’s shoulder and showed a dazzling smile saying, “Goodbye Shuyu, I hope we meet again.”
Shuyu smiled back just as Zuriel walked out of Shuyu’s line of sight.
Shuyu removed the chestnut from his pocket and cracked it open with both hands. Within the chestnut was not a nut, but a stone with hues of pink and white. Shuyu smiled with a light blush on his cheek clutching the stone to his heart.
“I hope we meet again too, Yanira.”