The Dark King might have rethought his plans that night if he knew what was happening in the castle at the same exact time of his meeting with the Wolf. He would have been persuaded to invade the castle at that very moment if he had known. You see, since Kita first entered the kingdom, a red streak across a shadowed land, her essence had begun to seep into the very fabric of that 'reality'. Her Color flaked from her and settled into the earth. And when the Wolf had drawn her blood, it had been the beginning of the change. The first heartbeat. And the earth drank it up and absorbed it.

Now, safe within the walls of the castle, Kita brought the change to the heart of the kingdom. It was slow at first, like sly mold growing in the shadowed corners of forgotten rooms. In the beginning it went unnoticed, until one day the kitchen maid saw a lonely apple hiding in a corner. She almost screamed when upon picking it up it shone a bright red. She brought it to the King and the Old King wrapped fearfully in a napkin. Again she would be shocked when the Old King snatched it from her trembling fingers and took a large, robust bite from it, his face radiating boyish happiness.

And so it went that the Old King was kept busy with teaching the new colors to every surprised maid, mother, father and child that eagerly brought some little trinket to the grand hall. Red roses from the garden, golden rings from the treasury, blue blueberries and purple dresses were all brought for the Old Kings inspection until every item in the castle had been brought and marveled over. The Color had fully immersed the castle in all manner of hues and tints. However, it did not go beyond the castle grounds. It was as if some invisible force kept it confined and blocked it progression into the rest of the kingdom.

And it was not just the rest of the kingdom that still rested in shadowed black and white, but the people as well. Even those who resided within the castle walls were still cloaked in the mysterious curse despite their vibrantly colored dresses and garments. All expect Kita. Her fiery hair and deep golden eyes shone in stark contrast to the black and white figures that flitted before her. It was no question where the Color had come from, and all who saw her gave way to her, bowing before her and calling her a Princess.

The night of the Old Kings ball had been deemed not only a celebration of the Old Kings long life, but also of the return of the Color. From all over the kingdom people streamed towards the golden gates, eager to glimpse the rainbow of colors within that they had only heard about. Upon first entering the castles grounds, the black seemed to drip off the clothes of those who entered and was replaced by vibrant blues, greens, reds and yellows. Inside the castle was a brilliant array of colors and light. Red and gold seemed to be the theme and bushels of red roses hung along the walls in honor of the first color to enter the castle. It was truly a spectacular affair with lively music and plates of rich food.

And yet...the dancers seemed melancholy, the musicians seemed morose and the King sat like a dark statue. Only the Old King had a smile on his face. For all the color, the people were still under the spell. They danced like shadows and though they were amazed by the vivid hues, their hearts were cold. And then she appeared.

She was late, the last to arrive, yet her appearance was not overlooked. As Kita strode into the great hall all eyes fell on her. The shadowed dancers parted from her like a dark sea and even the musicians became hushed as she approached the King and Old King.

"Your Highness's." She said, bowing before the two Kings. "You do me a great honor by inviting me to such a lavish affair." The Old King laughed and pranced almost nimbly down the steps to where she stood.

"I thank YOU." He said, drawing a gasp from all as he bowed to her. He stood and waved to the congregation of dancers. "We all thank you for bringing the color back. And we are honored that YOU would grace us with your presence." He looked at the stunned and now obviously shy Kita with a smile. "Now dance and be happy. Radiate your warmth on us all this night." With that he spun her around and gave her a gentle push towards a very confused looking young man. The Old King winked at the young man and ushered for the musicians to begin to playing.

"Dance and be merry!" He shouted from his throne.

And Kita did. The music went to her heart and soon she was spinning and twirling along with all the rest. Only she radiated pure happiness as she changed partners again and again. Blissfully unaware, she began to sing to the music as she danced. A lofty, soft tune at first. Then it grew until it soared above the music. It settled on the dancers like a blanket and almost without thinking the rest of the promenade took up the song. The Old King looked on with wonder as he saw the change.

A red cheek here, a pair of blue eyes there. The gray of peoples skin began to flake away. Smiles began to show on one face...then another...and another. The song came to a peak and it was as if the world stopped a moment as the color blossomed and the Old King joined in the last verse. The music stopped, the dancers froze and the song died. Then a laugh. It was unexpected and rang throughout the hall. Everyone turned to see who had uttered the sound.

Kita stood in the center of the ball room with her hands to her lips and giggling madly. The source for her glee seemed to be her last dance partner who stood awkwardly before her.

"Oh I'm sorry!" She exclaimed upon noticing the stares. "It's just...well" She looked back at the young man standing there. "His hand accidentally slipped a little farther down then is normal and he blushed such an instant red!" She instantly giggled again.

Then the young man snickered...then a woman...and soon the entire room was a crescendo of boisterous laughter. There they all stood, laughing and giggling like they had never felt the joy of laughter in their lives...which they hadn't really. And the Old King motioned for the music to continue. The rest of the night was bliss for everyone. The curse seemed to be completely lifted from every red and blushing face. Laughter and happiness permeated the walls and echoed back.

All except the King were changed. He still sat cold and gray in his throne. A shadow in the ball room. And like a shadow, he slipped away silently from the room without being noticed. Only one noticed him leave.

"Your Highness?" Kita said as she stepped out onto the balcony. The King stood with his back to her and almost blended in with the night scape. "Is something wrong?" She asked standing next to him and fidgeting with the front of her dress.

"Nothing is wrong." He replied, not looking at her. "You should be inside dancing." His voice was cold.

"Why don't you dance?" She asked meekly.

"It's very forward of you to ask a King to dance with you." The King stated.

"Oh no no no!" Kita exclaimed, taking a step back. "That's not what I was saying at all. I was merely suggesting you might have more fun and enjoy things more if you tried to dance with someone."

"Thank you but I don't need to have fun." He said, leaning forward on the railing. "You have made the people very happy. And for that I thank you. However, I do not need to be pitied." Kita was silent for a moment. The King seemed so sad somehow for all his statue like coldness. Something in his heart was frozen. She stood there in silence for a moment, shivering slightly. "If you're cold you should go back inside." The King stated dryly.

"I don't want to leave you out here, as silly as that sounds." Kita said hesitantly, "You may be a statue but you shouldn't stand alone. I have a feeling even stones become lonely." The King glanced at her and with the faintest hint of a smile, in a fluid motion, wrapped his large cape around her shoulders. For a moment their eyes locked on each other and Kita saw something behind the greyness.

"Tell me..." The King whispered, "why are you so different? In this land everything is the same. Even visitors from other lands become as we are when they cross our territory line. But you, you didn't. Instead you changed everything around you."

"Perhaps that's because I can see what you can not." Kita mused. "Something happened in this land...that, of course, is apparent. It was something terrible and dark. Those who live here were exposed fully to it and those who come here can see the darkness that lives here. They see the sadness and overwhelming greyness until that's all they see and they too become lost to it. But I don't just see the shadows and the misery left behind by some mysterious event of the past...I also see the emptiness. It's an emptiness that can be filled. With laughter and joy and hope."

"You don't know what happened." The King said, backing away. "No one does...no one really knows what happened here, in this very garden so many many years ago."

"But still..." Kita said, reaching out and taking his hand. "There's so much joy in the world. You have to let go of the past and move on. Whatever happened, whoever is responsible for that event, is trapping you here. Trapping you in this darkness. You have the power to break free and move forward."

"It's not that easy!" Retorted the young King. "You think I can just dance and sing and that will make it all alright?" He yanked his hand away. "Did you even think that maybe I didn't WANT to do that?! If I forget, if I pretend nothing happened, what does that say about me?!"

"I don't understand." Kita said shakily. "What happened? Why does this mysterious thing cause you so much pain?"

"Ugh!" The King groaned as if in physical pain. He glared at her menacingly. "What makes you think you have the right to just dance in here and pick at me?! How dare you!"

"I-m sorry." Kita stuttered, scared. She took a step back as he rushed at her. He clasped his hands tightly on her shoulders.

"How dare you make me feel!" He growled, his eyes moist. "I don't want to feel! I don't want to feel anything! You haven't the right!" It was at that moment that a tear fell from his eye and Kita saw. Behind the gray, his eyes began to take color until they stared at her in a vibrant blue. "Why are you just staring at me with that bloody stupid look on your face!" He bellowed.

"I-I'm sorry." She stuttered again, "It's just...your eyes are such a lovely blue." The King looked at her shocked and whirled to see himself in the large balcony window. Sure enough he saw himself looking back...only instead of cold, grey eyes there were now two blue ones looking back at him.

With a pained roar he turned on her, seeming to want to lunge at her. Scared, Kita stepped back and, tripping on the long cape, fell down the short staircase that led to the adjoined balcony with a cry. The King just stood there dumbfounded and silent, tears running rivers down his cheeks.

"Jon!" Came a strangely deep voice from behind the King. The Old King rushed down the landing and knelt by the motionless Kita. "She seems to have hit her head." He said. "Help me, Jon!" He ordered. But the King was gone.

The night of the ball almost ended in a fervor of panic as Kita was whisked up to her tower bedroom. All saw her motionless and barely breathing. At that moment a wave of grief flooded the ball room to the point that the darkness almost seeped its way back in. A grey cheek here and colorless gaze there. It was only when the Old King returned and assured the crowd that Kita was breathing and merely needed some intense bed rest that the ball room settled.

It was much to everyone's dismay that the Old King ordered no visitors to Kitas bedroom.

"The dear girl needs sleep." He declared calmly. "She will be up and gliding down these halls again in a few day, until then no one is allowed in to see her per her request. We must let our little rose regain her strength. She did, however, request that you all enjoy your evening and not to let this dampen the mood." With a relived sigh the dancers turned once again to their partners and took up a jolly atmosphere secure in the fact that Kita was well and safe.

However, the mood in Kita's room itself was far from light. The King stood at the foot of her bed like a statue. Those who were not aware of that nights proceedings would have said he looked like a guardian angel.

"Please," Kita said weakly, "Don't just stand there. I am fine. Go and enjoy the rest of the evening. Do not think of what just happened. I am," She paused, finding the right words. "I am sorry that I pushed you so far. It's not my place to meddle." The King gave a loud sigh and with heavy steps walked to her bed side.

"There are things," He said, forcing himself to speak, "that I have not wanted to remember. For a long time...for a long time I have been able to just live each day like the last. There was no effort, no need to think." His blue eyes were piecing as he spoke. "Then you came. And suddenly I was reminded that this," with a wave of his hand he gestured to the rolling gray hills outside the tower windows, "this is not normal. This is not how things are supposed to be. And I was reminded of what I wanted to forget."

"I-m sorry." Kita whispered.

"You don't have anything to be sorry for." The King said with a sigh. "I was so full of anger. Misplaced anger at that. I was furious at you for dredging all this up when in reality you are not at fault." He sat softly next to her on the bed and touched her forehead gently. His fingers traced the large gash where she had hit her head and down to the almost healed wound on her neck. "I should be saying sorry." He whispered. "Since entering my kingdom you have endured much...yet...you have given us everything we ever wanted. I should thank you too...you are right, it's time that I broke away these chains that hold me in darkness. It's time to fight against it. It's something I should have done a very long time ago." Kita laughed nervously.

"A King not only apologizing me but also thanking me?" She smiled. "I am lucky and I assure you, I have all that I have ever wished for as well."

"I want to give you more." The King said. And to Kita's surprise he leaned down and kissed her lightly.

"My lord?" Kita said questioningly, her eyes searching his. He laughed and stroked her cheek.

"My name is Jon." He said with a smile, kissing her again. She smiled and touched his cheek and her smile brightened when she saw that the greyness had begun to flake off by her fingertips.

"It seems," She said shyly "that you found joy." Confused, Jon picked up the bedside mirror and smiled when he saw the greyness flaking off. Closing his eyes he rubbed his face with both hands and beamed back at her. All the grey now gone.

"You missed some." Kita laughed, reaching up and ruffling his hair. She stopped confused when it remained black as coal. Jon laughed loudly at her shocked expression. "Are you still sad?" She asked worriedly.

"My hair is naturally black." He laughed.

"He takes after his father," Came a voice from the corner. Kita gasped as Jon sprang up, his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to lunge. "Tsk tsk, is that any way to greet your dear father?" Asked the Dark King as he stepped forward, a living shadow.