PROLOGUE

The floor was covered in black tiles, the white curtains that concealed most of the windows. It was quiet, and that was what Rust wanted. While waiting for someone to give him the cue, he had been tuning up his violin, then practiced a few scales. Each set of scales, he increased his speed, until he could no longer.

Aside from the violin, he could hear his own heartbeat. He was nervous to be here, nervous to merely step foot in the palace. Who would have thought he'd have the chance to do so? He checked the time on his phone. A quarter to seven. It was almost time.

He wouldn't be here if it weren't for his friend, Freid. Like Rust, he was an exceptional violinist. He was known all over the world for bringing the true sound of the violin to life. His grace, his tone, and his effortless note changes. His music could bring the whole world in tears, and only years of intense practice could bring about such envious results.

So why was Rust, a former musician, here to soon perform in front of His Highness instead of the ever so famous Freid? The reason was simple: Freid broke his hands after a car crash. The injuries weren't severe enough to permanently crumble his career, fortunately.

Rust sighed. He shouldn't be attending the king's banquet. He performed in front of audiences, yes, but the king himself? He literally pinched his own arm to see if he was sleeping in his bartending job. Nope, it's real. He was really here.

He nearly jumped at a servant girl, the skirts of her knee-length white dress fluttered with every step. "Mister Rust Jörgensen? It's time. The king and his guests wish to see you now."

Rust took in a deep breath, then sighed it out slowly. He patted his red and white suit and pulled down the hems of his coat to line it up with his lean frame. He turned his phone on silent mode (wouldn't want it to go off in the middle of his performance). Lastly, he checked his brunette hair, which was kept in a tail, to see if there were any stray strands of hair.

It was time. The servant opened the door to the large venue where his eyes were invaded by golden lights.

Once his eyes adjusted, he found himself taken aback. The white walls were high and mostly covered in light grey curtains. A large chandelier hung in the centre, its crystal decor giving the ceiling a little glint. There were glass top buffet tables, white tables. To be here, it took most of Rust to hold back his urge to let out a breath of awe.

Led to the centre of the venue, behind Rust were the guests, sitting at their tables. He could feel their gazes piercing his back, but none of that could be compared to the king who sat at his own table.

And he stood out, not because of his high status as the ruler of his city, but because of the fact that he wore a silver mask that concealed his features. No one in the venue even knew the colour of his hair as the rest of his head was hidden behind a black hood. And as if it wasn't enough, his royal attire covered every inch of his skin; gloves, trousers tucked in his boots, embroidered jacket over his undershirt. No one in the kingdom knew what he looked like, except a trusted few in the palace. Not his skin colour, not his age, not the colour of his eyes. Nothing. Frankly, Rust felt as though he was performing in front of an unnecessarily extravagant fashion mannequin.

The king gestured for him. Produced by his mask, in a deep voice that rumbled the whole venue, he said, "Begin whenever you're ready."

Rust bowed, eyes on the floor as he did so. It was considered disrespect in Thofarian culture to eye your superiors while bowing. Then, while taking another deep breath, he positioned his violin on his collarbone.

He began to play.

o-o-o-o-o

Sweating in his godforsaken attire, Athgar shifted uncomfortably in his seat. In truth, he was utterly restless, yearning to go back to his quarters and sleep the night off. Alas, today was the celebration of his kingdom's independence, to feast for the freedom they fought for, to be rid of the horrible tortures they suffered under the cruel giants.

An event that occurred fifteen centuries ago.

The servant girl finally brought in the replacement, who was obviously stunned by the look of his banquet venue. Despite his ancient age, the look of people stepping foot in his home never ceased to amuse him.

It was disappointing to learn that the best violinist in the kingdom he hired had an accident. He had a thought to cancel the music performance but refrained from doing so when one of his event organisers had a call from the injured musician, saying that he had nothing to worry about and that this replacement he sent in his stead should do the performance fairly well.

Well, let's see about that, he thought, commanding the replacement to play. And he did, starting with a slow melody.

Due to his age, the king grew jaded with almost, if not all, kinds of music. Pop, rock, classic, you name it. He heard it all. It came to a point where he played music in his quarters for the sake of eliminating the air of solitude.

But not this one. Instead of usually looking at his guests' reactions, he found himself looking at the replacement musician. His passionate expression, the years of practice present in his hands. The performer seemed lost in his music, like pleasing the king no longer mattered.

This was the first time a performer caught his undivided attention. There was something…familiar in his playing. A sense of longing, an eagerness. It's like through his playing, he wanted to reach out for something he couldn't touch. This was not any regular replacement, Athgar believed.

He felt this sensation before. Long ago when a musician who played the cello.

The king was so lost in the music that he just realised his guests stood to cheer right after the replacement musician finished, genuinely entertained. As for the king, he found himself wanting more of this nostalgic feeling.

Though the mask hid his gawking expression, Athgar composed himself. He stood with the grace of an expected noble and clapped. "You surprised me."

The replacement musician widened his eyes in pure joy, a wide smile on his face. Athgar had to admit, this man who stood before him was rather attractive. Despite his lean figure and sharp features, the hazel eyes, the light tan complexion, and the brunette hair brought a somewhat innocent appearance to him.

The performer bowed deeply, causing his tied hair to shift to his left shoulder. "It is an honour for the king to acknowledge my performance."

He had the accent of a commoner. No wonder the king didn't know or heard of him. "What is your name?"

"My name is Rust Jörgensen, Your Highness."

"How do I not know your name?"

"I'm no musician, Your Highness. I'm just a humble bartender."

Athgar nodded, understanding. "I will not forget this performance of yours. I would say it was surreal, the moment you played your instrument I felt moved." He faced to his guests. "Don't you all agree?"

They all agreed and their reactions were genuine, not done out of duty to please His Highness.

The king turned to one of the servants, who stood not too far. He said, in a voice that was low enough to be heard by who he was speaking to, "Pay him on his way out, and double it."

The servant nodded.

The king turned back to the replacement musician and his guests. He said to the performer, "Please, do enjoy yourself with what my palace has to offer."

He sat back on his seat, giving everyone the cue to continue with the celebration. While the nobles feasted, some men came forward to the king, their daughter by their sides. Athgar, despite his age, never married, which brought men with daughters the idea to present them to His Highness in every banquet they could possibly attend. Athgar had seen countless women who were beyond beautiful and deserving, but he always politely turned them down, not finding it in his heart to accept their hand in marriage.

Especially tonight. He wished to have a meaningful conversation with Rust.

He gestured for his Right-hand man, Thomas Enfield, to come closer. The latter did, nodding silently as a humbled greeting. He was dressed all in black, the only accessory he had was a luxury watch, sunglasses, and an earpiece. His posture implied strength and initiative. "What can I do for you, Your Highness?"

"Summon Rust at the Veranda and have a table ready." He noticed Thomas' feature twitching. "What's wrong?"

"I sincerely apologise, Your Highness. Mister Jörgensen left while you tended to the noblemen's daughters."

Athgar quickly surveyed his surroundings. Thomas was right.

"It's not too late to call him back. He may still be in the palace." He pulled out a flip phone. "Do you wish to have the men at the entrance escort him back?"

Athgar shook his head. "No. Never mind that."

Everyone knew leaving a royal banquet early was considered rude, unless you had other matters to attend to. Athgar would rather let the lad go since he was quickly called in at the last minute. He could always search for Rust tomorrow.

He did say he was a bartender; a name and an occupation, that was all he needed to find him.

A/N: Enjoyed the prologue? GREAT. While you're at it, I have a pinterest where you can see all their concept arts if you wanna see them beautiful bois. ^_^