who doesn't like butterflies

Someone please talk to me about the fact that King Butterfly knows what it means for a princess to be evaluated, and that fact that Baby annoys him because she eats all of his food, and why does that sound familiar, oh yeah, because that’s exactly how Baby treated Marco.

It’s all too easy to imagine a young Moon Butterfly, nearly fifteen years old and dreading her first evaluation. She pours over her spellbook, determined to memorize everything, and frowns when Glossaryck says, “You’re not ready for that one” because Glossaryck is always so honest, even when his words cut deep.

“Has a princess ever failed her evaluation?” she asks. Her voice is steady, practiced, and proper, undaunted by disappointment or hardship.

“Yes,” Glossaryck replies. “And even if they hadn’t, who’s to say that you couldn’t be the first?”

She doesn’t blink at that, doesn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing her flinch. She will, later, many years down the line, when Chauncey falls in battle and the whole world is crumbling apart, she’ll show Glossaryck just how deeply things affect her and just how hard she can cry, but for now there’s only one person she shares those things with, and he’s well outside the palace walls.

River is quite something to see in his youth, fearsome and fearless and strong. Most would say he has hair like sunlight but it’s always reminded Moon of the stars, shining yellow and bright alongside her namesake. He’s so different from her own family, so wild and loud; he says exactly what he’s thinking and doesn’t hide it behind guile and double-meanings, false smiles and polite words. He introduces the revolutionary concept that it is alright to express one’s emotions, to shout when one is angry, or declare one’s love in the middle of a tourney, because the princess has bested many monsters and he hopes to one day be as capable as she.

Moon doesn’t admit, at first, how nervous she is or how frightened, but River can tell. River’s learned to read the way she holds her hands, or the way her mouth thins out to silently reflect what she’s feeling, and he pulls her away from the rowdy, rude Johansen clan and wraps his arms around her.

In time, they return to the palace. River likes it here about as much as Moon likes the Johansen’s; he can see it from her point of view, appreciate it in a way, because it’s a symbol of Mewman tradition, steeped in ceremony and significance. These things are as vital and natural to Moon as breathing, but to River it will never quite feel like home.

They lock themselves in the kitchen and delight in roast boar and little pastries that River cannot name but also cannot stop eating. It’s here that Baby finds them, and here that Moon’s evaluation begins; Baby asks her to pass an apple from the counter and Moon hesitates, her hands folded, her mouth thin.

Suddenly, River picks up the apple and tosses it. It flies over Baby’s shoulder and splatters against the wall, and River laughs from deep inside his gut and cries, “Do I pass? Am I a princess?”

The corners of Moon’s mouth curve ever slightly upwards, and all at once her fear is gone, because no matter how poorly she does, it won’t be as bad as that.