Prologue

Dusk approached the country of Kuramori, the sky and the land basking in the sunset's celestial golden glow. The verdurous hills and sublime forest landscape slowly sank into the shadows of the approaching night. Villages, towns and their inhabitants fell into a peaceful evening stillness as gold melted away into darkness.

The sun had scarcely faded from sight when sudden screams of terror ripped the tranquility into shreds. Fires broke out, driving villagers from their homes. With a voracious appetite, the scarlet flames feasted on houses, structures and the woods that surrounded them. Throughout the country, inhabitants of villages fled the infernal destruction. They knew the cause of this catastrophe. They all knew.

Witches.

Although Kuramori had always been a peaceable country, some years ago, the ruling monarch had been compelled to outlaw witchcraft and exile witches from many of the lands. It was for neither fear nor hatred, but for the protection of the people; the witches would often use their powers to abuse and terrorise the ordinary people of the villages. For this reason a land was allotted specifically for the inhabitation of the banished witches and sorcerers.

In the years that followed, the populace of magicians grew immensely, and Ametani, the land of the witches, soon became crowded. Several mobs of witches went about destroying the villages in the neighbouring areas, demanding more land for themselves. The king had no choice but to agree, for the witches threatened to harm more of the people.

But the witches could never be satisfied, no matter how much land they possessed. That night, after storming many of the villages, setting them ablaze and impelling villagers to desert their homes, a mob of witches approached Kuramori Palace, the residence of the royal Kurokiri family. Overpowering the guards and servants with ease, the witches divided into groups and began to search for the king and queen. Using their magic, they burned and smashed any obstacle in their path.

One of the chief witches, Shirosagi, the name of whom was dreaded throughout the land, discovered the queen in the nursery. Within moments, the queen was captured and bound with magic.

Shirosagi spoke, her voice melodious yet venomous. "You should know why we're here."

Like the people, the queen knew the exact reason. "But the king has already given you land enough–"

"Enough? We are a growing people, and the land we have been given is far from enough!" spat the furious sorceress.

The queen trembled but answered as evenly as was possible when surrounded by a half-dozen witches. "I would grant you more land, but only the king has power to do that."

At that moment, a witch from another of the groups who had been searching for the king ran into the nursery. "Shirosagi-sama!" she cried breathlessly.

"What is it?" she snapped.

"The king is dead."

Upon hearing this, the queen was mute in shock. When she recovered, she could do nothing but weep at the loss of her husband. Her shoulders trembled and tears flowed down her pale cheeks.

"How did this happen?" bellowed Shirosagi.

"It appears he jumped from the roof or a window of the palace."

This was horrifying to the queen, for she knew the king had been melancholic for some time, but she never imagined he would do such a thing. Regretting she had not tried harder to restore his happiness, she sobbed harder.

In her rage, Shirosagi whirled around to face the queen again. She channelled her anger towards the forlorn woman, tightly winding her magic around the queen. The queen gasped for air, but Shirosagi tightened her magic until her victim drew her final breath, a choked gasp, and fell still. Her body crumpled to the cold stone floor, her dark hair fanning out around her.

The sound of movement from the cot in the corner of the nursery was heard. With an aura of malevolence, Shirosagi strode to the cot, under the watch of the other witches. Reaching into the cradle, she lifted a sleeping infant before her.

"So you are the next Kurokiri? You'll carry the name of your accursed father," she whispered in her fury. "To kill you now would be mercy, and of that I have none. You must suffer, as we suffer. This young prince will live a short life, knowing nothing but pain and suffering," she vehemently declared to her companions, who began to nod in concurrence.

To seal the effect of her words, she carved into the child's shoulder an elaborate image of a rose with her dark arts. Carmine fluid leaked from the infant's shoulder. The insignia glowed an ominous, poisonous violet, then faded to the colour of coal.

Though she had not achieved her aims, Shirosagi and her companions left the palace, joined by the other witches. She would return again to claim land for her people, but for now she was satisfied, for she enjoyed nothing more than the suffering of others.


The afternoon air was pleasantly warm. He was meant to be waiting for his uncle, but the young prince had fallen asleep in the cool shade of the trees. His pale skin was a stark contrast to his tousled dark hair. The young boy was an image of peace but for one thing: resting under his hands, two sheathed swords attached to his belt.

A slight prickling sensation in his left shoulder awoke him. His eyes opened to see a young woman, some distance away, passing by. Despite her youth, she had hair the colour of snow, and glittering emerald eyes. To his surprise, she turned and approached him.

She first grasped his shoulder tightly. The prince gasped as he felt the mark on his shoulder burn, but the woman only smiled. "It hurts, doesn't it?"

The boy nodded, his face contorted with pain. Then he realised she knew about the rose on his shoulder. "How did you know?" he asked suspiciously. He did not understand why this strange woman should seem so gleeful.

"Kurokiri, there are some things I should tell you," she responded, her unpleasant smile stretching wider. "Nine years ago, your father took his own life."

"My uncle has already told me," the boy replied flatly.

"And I killed your mother, and gave you the cursed mark on your shoulder." Her smile became more taunting.

For a moment, the prince was motionless, but he composed himself. "So, you're the witch of whom my uncle has spoken," he growled. "Shirosagi Meiyuu."

"You're an intelligent child, aren't you?" sneered the witch.

"You'll pay for your crimes," he said, his voice low but tremulous with anger.

The young boy rose from his place beneath the trees and stood before the witch. She only continued to smirk. He unsheathed the longer of his swords, but before he could do more, a sharp pain cut through his shoulder. The blade landed on the dirt road with a clang as the prince helplessly clutched his shoulder in agony.

Shirosagi laughed derisively. "Foolish child, you can't hope to injure me with such weakness." She stepped forward and whispered into the prince's ear. "There is a way to remove the curse." With that, she stepped back.

The prince, still pained by the mark, spoke softly. "How?"

She laughed again. "When I die, my magic will die with me."

Right then, the prince knew what he would have to do. But the witch spoke again. "There's more you should know, Kurokiri. Firstly, you will never see your twentieth year."

The boy's eyes widened; it was upsetting and unexpected to him, for it meant that he had already lived close to half of his life. Time was making a mockery of him. Time and this witch both were.

The witch continued. "And should you find the one you love before then, you must never physically show her your affection." She traced the prince's lips with her pale, slender fingers. "If you do, your curse will spread to her, and I'm sure you don't want that. Understand?"

He nodded. She smiled unpleasantly at him again, then continued on her way down the dirt path. The prince watched her walk away and stooped down to take up his sword again, but as he did, another surge of pain, more severe and violent than the first, coursed from his shoulder throughout his entire body. Although the witch was now out of sight, he could hear her crazed laughter. She took pleasure in his suffering, it was clear.

From that day, the prince vowed to rid himself of the curse, even if it meant tainting his own pure soul.


A/N: Former title: Black Mist Prince.

I don't normally write this much for prologues. The second part was originally going to be a separate chapter, but it wasn't that long, so I figured I'd include it in the prologue. Also, only the prologue will be in third person; the rest of the story will be in first person narrative.

Anyway, I'd really appreciate some feedback. Thanks =)