fleetingness of life

"And you would be…?" Fuuko stared suspiciously at the Chinese girl standing at her doorstep.

"Alanna. Delivery-girl-cum-make-up-artist. For today, at any rate. Here, my business card. And this is for you." With a flourish, a little calling card and a white envelope was presented to Fuuko.

Curiously, Fuuko glanced at the card. "Alanna", it said. "Does Anything For the Right Price." She raised a brow at the girl, who shrugged. "Ashley has the money, so… let's just say it's a job. May I come in?"

Fuuko opened the door wider and held it ajar with her foot while she opened the envelope. Within was a gilt-edged card. "Masquerade? Tonight? And who's Ashley at any rate?"

Alanna grinned. "Well, Ashley's the one who came out with this idea. And the one with the moolah to organise it. And yours truly is here to help you get ready. Now, shall we begin?"

"Wait, wait, wait. You mean households all over the neighbourhood are getting these cards and people like you delivering them?"

Alanna paused to think. "Well, not really. Every cast member is invited, I mean, it IS a cast party after all, and you know, we need people to fill up a hall. But you have to share me with the rest of Team Hokage. And only one other household is getting another make-up artist."

Fuuko raised an eyebrow again. "And that would be?"

"Whoopee! A masquerade!" Joker crowed while waving the card around in the air.

Neon read the card more carefully. "TONIGHT? Where in the world am I going to get a dress?"

The delivery girl smiled politely. "That's where I come in." She passed a small card to Neon.

Raiha peered over her shoulder. "Spleena? What type of name is that?"

The girl rolled her eyes. "Blame it on a damn fool friend of mine," she muttered but later said cheerfully, "Well, no need to worry about clothes or whatever, I've got all of that under control."

"And what is all this commotion about?" A dry voice said. The four of them looked up to see Kurei descending the stairs, dressed in his usual, if boring, red robe and mask.

"We're going to a masquerade!" Joker said again, and dumped an envelope into Kurei's hands.

"Humph. Well. I won't be going."

"WHAT?" The other four chorused and they began to pester Kurei.

"Come on, Kurei, loosen up a little!"

"Kurei-sama… I'm sure you'll enjoy it!"

"Kurei-sama, don't you think you'll love seeing me in a nice ball gown?"

"Mr Kurei, I'm sure I can find the perfect suit for you in my collection…"

And to their immense delight, Kurei actually nodded. "Okay. But I'll only stay if it's interesting. And if I decide to leave, you all have to go with me. Or else." The temperature around them rose a little. Raiha hastened to assure him. "Of course, Kurei-sama…"

And Spleena got to work.

"No, Domon-san, please don't make life difficult for me, if you don't take off that nose-ring, EVERYONE will know who you are." Alanna pleaded with the hulking boy.

"I'll feel naked without it…"

"No, see here, there's a nice mask for you to put on, there'll be something covering your nostril, if that's what you want…"

Recca stood, watching the argument between Alanna and Domon take place. "As if he won't be recognised for the mongoloid he is…" he muttered and he turned his attention to the toilet, which Mikagami had been occupying for the past half an hour.

"Oi, Mikagami, what the heck are you doing in there? Your hair?" He whammed his fist against the door again for the fifth time in the past 30 seconds.

The door opened abruptly and he lost his balance, landing in a heap on the floor to see the Ensui Master staring coolly down at him, black hair up in a ponytail. "Obviously," Mikagami snorted. He turned to stalk down the corridor, leaving Recca staring after him in disbelief. Black hair? Mikagami actually dyed his prized silver-gray hair black? He threw his hands up in the air and entered the toilet.

Alanna had managed to convince Domon that nose-rings were not the height of fashion at the moment, but had given up on talking him out of wearing his ugly bright green shirt. She was now fussing over Mikagami, pleased he had ACTUALLY gone to dye his hair without giving her too much trouble. "Now, Mi-chan, [Mikagami: don't call me that] would you be so nice as to NOT wear turtlenecks today?"

Spleena wasn't having much success on her side of town.

"No, Neon-san, you CAN'T dye your hair purple. Too many people have purple hair already. Why don't you stick with your own hair colour? It's so pretty."

"But purple is *the* colour now…"

"I know, but it won't suit your colouring, besides, the dress I have for you in my mind is just going to accentuate the red of your hair…" Spleena whipped out a black dress.

"Are you kidding me? That's black."

"Exactly why your hair colour will stand out."

Joker was trying very hard not to laugh out loud at his reflection. "Spleena-san, can you do something about my hair?" He tugged at his three braids. "Something tells me this is going to be obvious."

Spleena sighed. Sometimes, she wished she never took this job up. "This is all Alanna's fault." She muttered darkly as she stomped up the stairs to Joker's room, leaving Neon behind on her own, still musing over Spleena's wardrobe.

Kurei had no idea why everyone was so fussy over this event. Sheesh, it was JUST a ball after all. Mori Kouran used to throw those all the time. He looked around his living room. A mess. Even the normally sensible Raiha was dashing around the corridor, clothes dangling from his arm. He snorted and breezed into his study for some peace and quiet.

"Now, Yanagi-san, that's a beautiful dress. And your hair is gorgeously done, if I may say so myself. I'm sure Recca will swoon over you. But can you please be less obvious and put down the Recca plushie?" Alanna tried to tug it out of Yanagi's firm grasp.

"But I want him to know who I am…"

"No, Yanagi, the point of masquerades is that no one knows who everyone else is. Now, PUT DOWN that plushie and wear this." Alanna dumped a mask into Yanagi's arms. "To make sure you won't be recognised. Wear the mask, won't you? And Ganko, don't pull Kagerou's dress! It'll spoil!" She sighed. "I should have taken the other household…" she complained under her breath. "Not so many PEOPLE!"

Spleena was having a very, very hard time indeed. Fortunately, Raiha had been easy. He had willingly worn the suit that Spleena threw into his hands and he now waited patiently in the living room while she and Kurei wrestled over his red robe.

"I am going to wear THIS." He said firmly.

"Like hell you are, " Spleena retorted. "This just yells out your identity, then no one would dare go near you except for maybe your fanclub members [of which I am a part of] and THEN you wouldn't have fun and then you would go off earlier and spoil the party for the rest of your housemates with whom you have made a pact to leave together. Geddit?"

Raiha stared pathetically at her. "No."

But Kurei frowned. "Okay, then YOU are going to produce something out of that magical caravan of yours. And I am going to approve of it BEFORE I wear it."

Spleena grinned. "Mouchiron! Now, how about this?" And she whipped out a suit that was so perfect, even Kurei had to grudgingly agree to wear it.

Alanna waited patiently for Fuuko to emerge from her room. "Fuuko-san, if you don't hurry up, NO WAY am I going to have enough time to do anything to your hair!"

The door creaked open and Alanna pushed her way through to see a red-faced Fuuko self-consciously rearranging the folds of the cream dress that clung to her curves. "Is this how it's supposed to be worn?" She whispered, pink colouring her cheeks.

Her assistant grinned and she bent to tug the dress into its proper place. "Beautiful," she pronounced, and began to wrangle Fuuko's hair into that sort of hairstyle that was meant to look artistically messy.

Spleena watched Kurei wear his coat, pleased with the effect that her suit had on him. The turtleneck top was dressy, but not so formal that the wearer would feel restricted. The coat was well cut, and it fit Kurei well. A horn honked and Neon peeked out of the window. "I think the car's here!" She trilled.

Kurei picked up his mask, but Spleena snatched it out of his grasp. "Wear this." She put a fluffy contraption in his hand.

He was ready to protest, but he took a closer look at his new mask. Red, with black trimmings. The shape of the mask was designed to cover the entire face, almost in the form of a butterfly. Jet black ribbons trailed from the mask, fluttering gently in the breeze. He smoothed down the feathery surface with a thumb. "A butterfly?" He asked Spleena. She smiled wryly.

"In tribute to the fleetingness of life."

"Fleetingness of life…" He mumbled. And he made up his mind. "Tie the ribbons for me, Spleena."

i still have a longing for your memory
though thoughts of you break my heart
i wanna tell you the truth
let me hear your voice
let me feel your grace
be by my side
the world surrounding me separates
my dream from reality again and again
sometimes it's hard to hold on
it's hard to carry on
but my will is sustained

Deftly, the black ribbons were knotted into a neat bow at the back of his head. And Kurei opened the door with a flourish. "Shall we leave, ladies and gentlemen?"

"The car's here!" Koganei yelled, leaping up from the sofa, grabbing his Kougan Anki in one hand and his mask in the other.

"Kaoru-kun! Put that weapon down and DON'T jump around! Don't crumple your suit!" Alanna called, chagrined. Hurried tying of ribbons and rearranging of clothes were done, and soon, Hokage was in the car.

Alanna slumped to the ground, exhausted. She whipped out her handphone and pressed two buttons. "Spleena, where are you?"

"In the mansion, where else?"

"Had any trouble?"

"Kurei. Who else?"

"Sheesh. Well… you wouldn't want to hear what happened during the day. Remind me never ever to dress little kids again. Or stuffed toy animals, for that matter."

"Ashley asks if we want to be at the party, you know, waitressing or something."

"Okay. We need the money anyway."

"Yeah. Why do we have to be in financial crisis at such a lousy point of time?"

"Whatever. See you in ten."

Author's Note:
And this is called stress relieving during exam period. I know there are some blatant self-insertions in this chapter, but ONLY this one. I promise. Yeah yeah, waitresses in the next, but well... that was just to follow up on this chapter. I promise.
song: Longing
performed and written by: X Japan

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