In the Books Act 1: In Which Kido Kisses Frogs
Greetings, readers! This is Mary Elizabeth speaking—no, writing to you. I did mention in the previous chapter that I am the narrator of the tales and I control everything Kido and Kano are about to experience. So, this story has some—no, a lot of biases regarding the characters. But either way, I hope you enjoy this tale as much as I will telling it to you.
Kido didn't recognize where she was when she opened her eyes.
The room she was in had yellow painted walls, and sunlight was streaming through the windows. The dresser right next to her closet was a mess, and posters of some American jazz artists (Kido thinks) decorated the walls as messily as the clothes.
The alarm clock on the side table rang.
"Tsubomi-chan, get up! You're gonna be late for work!" Ayano then burst into the room wearing what looked like clothes from the twenties, but still had her trademark red scarf. She stopped the annoying clock. "Remember, at the rate we're going we'll be able to earn enough money to buy that building mom wanted for the Blindfold Gang!"
"B-Blindfold Gang?" Kido asked. "A-and why are you dressed like that, onee-san?"
"Tsubomi-chan, you're not one to forget about mom's dream," said Ayano as she went to Kido's closet and pulled out a red dress and a purple trench coat. "You were the one most excited about it, after all. We're trying to earn enough money to buy the building by the river and make it the headquarters for the Blindfold Gang, an organization that's supposed to help out the hungry ones out there. And there are a lot of them now, considering how the economy seems to keep going down."
Ayano ran back to the closet and pulled out light green stockings and green heels. "As for how I'm dressed, I should be asking you that question. What kind of clothes are those? They're so weird!"
Kido never thought she would hear Ayano calling her clothes weird, (considering that she gave them to her) so she simply shrugged and got ready for whatever job she had.
As she allowed herself to be stuffed into the dress, Kido allowed too a train of thoughts regarding her situation. Mary Elizabeth was the best person in the world to pair her off with Kano in this story of all those out there, whether or not she knew how much Kido went back with Kano, whether or not she knew that Kido had a soft spot for the cat-eyed boy. Was she a matchmaker perhaps, or was she just messing with everyone?
To answer your question, Kido, it's both. Marvel at the genius that is me.
They left the house at ten, and Kido could now make sense of where she was. The buildings surrounding their house looked like they came straight out of the twenties, and jazz music seemed to be filling every empty space it could find. She and Ayano walked straight to the station for the trolleys and caught one on time. They sat down, and Ayano tried starting a conversation.
"You look like you aren't comfortable with that skirt," Ayano said, laughing slightly.
"Yes, I'm not," Kido admitted and pulled the hem forward to cover her knees.
"By the way, did you hear? Prince Kano Shuuya of Austria's visiting our town, and he'll be staying at Momo-chan's for Golden Week. Isn't it exciting?"
Kido held back a laugh. Kano, the Prince of Austria? That's crazier than the craziest thing she could ever think of. Well, this was a fairy tale after all, and a lot of crazy things happen in fairy tales. "Y-yeah," she said. "That's... really cool."
"You don't sound so interested, Tsubomi-chan." Ayano yawned and stretched. "But then, Momo-chan's reaction to the news was funny! You should've seen her, she was panicking on what she should wear for the prince's welcoming party! Oh, and speaking of that party, don't forget we're going to that party later to help Momo-chan with the catering." She continued chattering, but Kido zoned out on most of what Ayano said during the rest of the ride.
The trolley stopped, and Ayano helped Kido up. "Well, this is your stop. See you later, Tsubomi-chan!" Kido jumped off the trolley, and at once she recognized Shintaro sitting at the nearby cafe. He sported a red blazer which made him stick out from the crowd.
"Kido!" Shintaro yelled when he spotted her. "You're late! Put on your apron and start taking their orders!"
Kido held back some insults as she came in the cafe. She took off her coat and slipped on the white, coffee stained apron that was hanging from the rack. She went from table to table getting the orders, bringing the food, collecting the bills and cleaning up the tables after. Everyone in the cafe seemed to recognize her, although Kido had no idea who any of them were.
She stepped outside to get the orders from the tables there when Kano happened to pass by, playing the ukelele with some street performers. "Ah, Kido!" he greeted at once when he spotted her pouring coffee. "There you are!" He ceased playing and approached her, a grin stretching from ear to ear.
He didn't look anything like a prince since he only had a polo with a tan vest, matching tan pants and a red neck tie. But that was only appearance, and Kido could see from the looks of the customers that "oh my god the prince of Austria is talking to a random waitress what is going on". Either way, he looked adora—wait, what? Since when did she think he was adorable?
"What do you want?" she said nochalantly, trying to mask that her heart began racing once she saw him. "Can't you see I'm busy?"
"Now, Kido, don't say that to the Prince of Austria! Ha ha ha ha—!" Kano was cut off by Kido punching him in the gut. "Okay, I'm sorry. Well, it looks like I haven't turned into a frog yet! How are things on your end?"
"Apparently I'm holding up a job to start a foundation called 'Blindfold Gang' with onee-san," Kido said without much emotion. "Mind giving us a donation as prince to help us out?"
Before Kano could respond, a black version of Konoha approached him. Kido tried to hold back another laugh, as a black version Konoha was carrying all of Kano's luggage and sweating like crazy. "Your Highness," black Konoha spat, "we must head straight to the Kisaragi household as planned. We need to put your things aside."
"Okay, Kuroha." Kano started walking away, resuming his uke playing. Then he turned back to Kido. "Oh, and I'll think about your request. By the way, are you going to the welcome party at Kisaragi's?" Kido nodded and Kano disappeared into the crowd with Kuroha.
"That was... weird," Kido muttered, sighing now that her heart returned to its normal pace. "Oh well, back to work."
Later that day, Momo burst into the cafe yelling "Danchou-san! Danchou-san! Danchou-saaaaaaan~!" The idol ran straight to Kido, who was putting away some dishes, and gave the green-haired girl a really tight bear hug.
"Let go, Kisaragi," Kido wheezed out. "I can't... breathe!"
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Momo let go of Kido, and Kido coughed. "Will you be able to make it to the party later? I'm so worried something might go wrong. You're coming, right? Will you be able to cater for our family? Oh, silly me, I forgot to give you the payment." Momo pulled her wallet from the pocket of her pink jacket and gave Kido the cash from there. "I—"
"Calm down," Kido said, hands raised. "Don't worry about it. I'll certainly be there. Ayano-neesan will be there too. Everything will be fine, Kisaragi. Just relax for a moment."
Momo breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. "You always know what to say, Danchou-san. Thank you. I guess I'll see you later then!" She left the cafe after.
Kido counted the money Momo gave her and smiled at the huge amount. Maybe it was enough for the headquarters. She would tell Ayano about the money before the party.
Kido waited behind the buffet table, watching all the people in costumes as they danced around and chatted non-stop. She looked down at what she wore, something that also looked weird and felt only costume she had available was a green and yellow, somewhat torn medieval ball gown. Kido insisted wearing her hoodie again as a costume, but Ayano insisted that she "wouldn't have her younger sister caught dead wearing that thing".
Momo approached Kido from the crowds, her costume making her look like a real princess. It resembled her regular idol getup, except that the skirt now reached to the ground and her hair was piled up into a neat bun on top of her head. "D-Danchou-san!" cried Momo. "Prince Kano isn't here yet! What could be taking him so long? What if something happened to him? Oh, I'm so—"
"Worried?" Kido finished, picking up the tray of fresh doughnuts she just made. "At that rate, Kisaragi, you'll end up gaining wrinkles. Calm down, I'm sure P-Prince K-Kano will arrive soon." Kido gagged at the "Prince Kano" for some reason, maybe because of how weird it sounded, and although she tried not to be worried, she was. Maybe he was already turned into a frog by this point.
Momo still didn't seem calm, so she looked straight up to the night sky that was now covered in a blanket of stars. "Please, please, PLEASE let Prince Kano be okay!" she prayed. "I beg you!"
"Um," Kido patted Momo's shoulder, looking also at the stars. "Momo, you don't just get things that you want by—"
A voice interrupted Kido's sentence. "Presenting, Prince Kano Shuuya of Austria."
Kano appeared wearing actual prince-like clothes, but the color scheme was the same as that of him with his hoodie. Momo sighed in relief, thanking the stars, then squealed and ran straight to the prince so that they could share a dance. Kido smiled at her friends, ignoring that weird feeling at the bottom of her stomach.
"Tsubomi-chan, we have a problem," Ayano called out to Kido, approaching her at the buffet table. "After you gave me Momo-chan's payment, we earned enough money to buy the building. But now another business man wants to buy it for a higher price, and unless we pay more by this Wednesday we can't get the building."
"Don't worry, onee-san," Kido assured, remembering her request with Kano. She smiled. "We can probably get enough money if we work hard enough by Wednesday. We'll be able to reach mom's dream as long as we try hard!" How many times did Kido tell people to calm down today? Fairy tale people were surely worry-warts.
Ayano nodded, smiling, when suddenly a rabbit crashed into the buffet table and sent the doughnuts on the trays flying. Kido watched in shock as all her hard work crashed on her and stained the only costume she had for the evening.
Shintaro ran and picked up the rabbit that caused all the trouble. "S-sorry, Kido," he said, although his eyes were on Ayano. "Tono got loose. Don't worry, Momo probably has some extra costumes she can lend you." Shintaro whistled and Momo turned to them. When she saw Kido she excused herself from Kano and ran to them. The green-haired girl ignored that she felt glad Momo was away from him.
"Oh my God, what happened, Danchou-san? Are you okay?" Momo asked with baited breath.
"If you consider being covered in frosting as okay, then yes. I'm okay," Kido said sarcastically.
"Come inside," said Momo, leading Kido to the front door. "I'll get you a change of clothes."
"Prince Kano is such a nice person!" Kido heard Momo from behind the bathroom door in her room. And before you say anything, I will tell you that Kido is still denying her pure and utter jealosy. Why do you deny it, girl? "Except, I wonder why he's here in Japan at this time. And why he's staying here at our place when he could stay in some fancy hotel down at the Capital. But I'm quite glad he came."
Kido then unlocked the door and stepped outside awkwardly. "Ta-dah," she deadpanned and spun around to show off the new dress. It was light purple, and had an off-shoulder sleeves. A gold and silver rose decorated the waist, and the skirt reached the floor with dark purple ruffles at the hemline. Kido's hair was curled, with silver clips on her right fringe to keep her bangs away from her face.
"Danchou-san," Momo clasped her hands, "You look just like a princess!" She picked up a silver tiara from her dresser and put it on Kido's head. "It reminds me so much of when we were kids... Listening to all those fairy tales your mom would read to us... " Momo remained silent at those nostalgic thoughts. "Well, I'm heading back down. Come with?"
"I'll catch up with you later," Kido said and waved. After Momo left, Kido couldn't supress a sigh. It seemed to be the only first few hours in this story, yet she's had enough of being stuffed to dresses and talking to NPCs who looked too much like people she knew. Kido walked out to the balcony and looked up to the sky.
"Please, please, PLEASE let me get out of this story," Kido begged. "I've had enough!" Everything going on was weird. Being stuffed into dresses, Kano being a prince, those strange feelings that stated ever since she came here... They seemed like to much for the girl in the gown.
"Ribbit," was the reply. At Kido's left was a frog with cat-like eyes.
"Oh. I reckon you must be Kano."
"As a matter of fact, I am," the frog replied calmly.
Kido screamed in shock. She ran back into the room and bumped into Momo's things, causing them to topple over her. Immediately she grabbed the nearest thing she could find and threw it at Kano, who was jumping to the desk.
"Wait, Kido, you're supposed to—" Kano was cut off when he was hit by a book.
"I don't kiss frogs, especially frogs like you!"
"But that's the way we'll get out." Kano tried standing on two legs. He looked up to Kido. "You wished yourself that you'd get out of this story already. Besides, everyone loves the kiss of a prince!"
"Sh-shut up! I knew this would have to happen eventually in this story, but it's too soon! And if you're the Prince, then who—"
"It's Kuroha, but then that doesn't matter since he's just an NPC. Look, do you want to get out or not? If I turn back into a human, I'll give Ayano-neesan the money she needs to start the Gang, and I'll join too! Just, please, Kido!"
"How can I be sure you're not using your eye ability, huh? You could be using it to get a kiss from me!"
"My powers were cancelled out when I became a frog!"
"They were? But, ugh... That's not the issue here!" Kido covered her face with her hands. The weird feelings and the fast heart beats were back. Then she looked up to the ceiling. "Damn you, Cross-san! Are you happy now?"
I'll admit, I laughed a bit.
The green haired princess took a deep breath, then looked at Kano. "Only one kiss."
"Sure, unless you want more."
"I'm going to kill you and Cross-san when we make it back to the real world." Kido sighed, closed her eyes, and leaned in. Opening her eyes at the last moment was a mistake, because Kano the frog's lips were puckered as well. She freaked out, then took a few seconds to recompose herself. She closed her eyes again and kissed the frog.
Was the magic working? She could hear some foreign words being uttered at that moment, and suddenly brightness outshined the darkness of her closed eyes.
When she opened her eyes, Kano was still a frog, and he was looking down at her from the table.
"How'd you get all the way up there?" she asked. "And why am I down here and all—AAAHHH!" Kido's arm looked just like a frog's, and when she looked at the nearby mirror she was a frog like Kano. She jumped up to the desk.
"What did you do to me? Why am I a frog too? Ugh, I feel the slime all over me!"
"Correction, it's mucus, not slime."
"It doesn't matter! I'm a frog!"
"Well, at least you match your hair now! Ha ha ha ha—!" Kano was interrupted when Kido tackled him, and they both flew out the window. They landed on the plates of food at the tables, shocking the guests of the party.
Shintaro saw the fiasco while he was talking to Ayano. "Tono, go after them!" he said, and let go of the rabbit.
Tono jumped on the table and kept chasing after Kido and Kano. "Wait, Tono, it's me, Kido!" she said, but Tono couldn't hear her.
They both jumped on the nearby balloons and the strings were cut, making them float away.
"Wait—Kido?" said Tono.
"What... Tono just talked! I think I'm going crazy. How is that possible?"
"Well maybe it's because you're an animal yourself, Kido. Ha ha ha ha—!"
"Shut up," Kido said. As much as she wanted to hit him, her hands were full holding onto the balloon's strings.
From the corner of her eye, Kido could see Kenjirou among the guests, staring at the balloons with an angry expression.
"Wait a minute—the kiss didn't work because you're not a princess! You're only a waitress!" Kano accused as the balloons slowly descended over the river that split the city into two sides. "No wonder we're both frogs!"
"Well I'm sorry for not having royal blood like you!" Kido spat as rain began to pour. "But you know whom we should blame? Cross-san. This wasn't supposed to happen, dammit!"
I have this odd habit of laughing whenever Kido blames me for her circumstances. She curses me while calling me "-san". But she's only cursed me twice today, so I guess it's not a habit.
"She's just trying to find a way out of here," Kano defended. Thank you. "You can't blame her for trying. Besides, I have a fault too. I lied! I'm broke. My parents are filthy rich, not me!"
"What?! So all this time I—" Kido stopped mid-sentence after hearing a popping sound, followed by more, and soon she and Kano were free falling through the trees. Luckily at the last moment, the balloon strings held Kido back from the water. But Kano crash landed into her, and they both fell into the water.
Kido stood up after, flustered at the thoughts that just came. "So all this time I kissed you, thinking I'd be able to get out of this stupid story?!"
Kano followed suit. "Yes, you did. Apparently my parents cut me off for being a—LEECH!" On Kano's arm was a leech, and Kido pulled it off and threw it back into the water.
"This is all your fault! You shouldn't have picked this tale in the first—AAAAHHHH!" Kido screamed when a fish jumped out of the water and ate the leech she threw. She and Kano jumped back to land, but were about to be eaten by another bird, so they ran, slipped, and landed on a floating log.
"Well, that doesn't matter now! Momo's an heiress here, and if you marry her or something, will you give onee-san the money she needs for the Blindfold Gang?" Suddenly she hated that she suggested marrying Momo.
"I made that promise to a beautiful princess, not a cranky wait—why are those logs moving?"
A fleeting thought of He called me beautiful! passed. Kido looked to were Kano's gaze was, and she could see eyes sticking out of the logs. "Those aren't logs, stupid," Kido said, and suddenly the one they were standing on shook and the face of a crocodile emerged from the water, its shiny teeth showing the reflections of their fear-stricken faces.
"I call dibs on the big one!" it said, and all of the crocodiles lunged forward to eat Kido and Kano. The pair jumped off the crocodile and tried to get away as soon as possible. Kido managed to swim away and find a hiding spot in a tree. She looked at the crocodiles trying to find Kano, and she heard a hiss after.
She looked down. "Put down the vine," whispered Kano from the bottom of the tree.
"Go get your own tree!"
"There he is!" cried the crocodiles.
Kano panicked and put his hands together. "I beg you! I'll—uh—I'll marry Momo and give you the money you need for your Blindfold Gang, just, please, save me!"
"Nothing can save you now," said the crocodile behind him. "Ha ha ha ha—!"
Kido pulled Kano up using the vine, saving him from the crocodile's jaws in a millisecond. Kano smiled at Kido below him. "Well, looks like we'll be spending the night together, Kido. We should get... comfortable—ack!"
Kido slapped Kano and pushed him off. "In your dreams! Get your slimy self away from me!"
"It is not slime! It's mucus!"
"Rise and shine, sleeping beauty!" Kido threw an acorn at Kano, who was still asleep inside the tree. "The crocs are gone!"
"Ugh," said Kano and jumped onto the makeshift raft that Kido made using a wooden board and some vines.
"We've gotta head back to the city and fix up this mess you made," said Kido, and she grabbed a stick to use as a paddle.
"Well at least I'm not walking around with a phoney-baloney tiara." Kano took a stick with cobwebs on it and played it like it was a ukelele. "Music to paddle by."
Kido started rowing the boat. "The least you can do is help me out here, Your Highness!"
"Ohh-kay, I'll play louder then!"
"Since when did you learn how to play the uke anyway?"
"Ever since I came here! Isn't it cool?"
Kido sighed. "How about a little less playing, and a little more—AAAAAHHHHH!"
Right behind Kano was a boat, headed straight for theirs. Kano also yelled, dropped his makeshift uke, and hugged Kido. Both squeezed their eyes shut. The girl felt uncomfortable in his arms, but it wouldn't matter if the boat crushed them anyway.
"Why'd you stop playing?" said a familiar voice. "I know that tune!"
"S-Seto?!" said Kano, and he dropped Kido like a broken toy.
Seto grinned and pulled out a trumpet. He started playing it like an expert, and Kano smiled too. Kano grabbed the ukelele and started playing with Seto, while Kido just stared at the two in shock, rubbing her head. When the whole scene was over, Kido asked, "Seto, where did you learn to play like that?"
"How do you know my name?" Seto said with raised eyebrows. "Can you read minds, too?" His eyes turned into a fiery red, then went back to their regular color. "Oh, I see. You're here to help out a girl named Mary Elizabeth Cross, and you both used to be human. As for your question, Kido, Western influences have been rather strong lately, so I learned how to play through that."
"What are you doing out here, in the middle of the forest?" asked Kano.
"People used to think I was weird because of my red eyes," Seto simply replied. "So I stopped staying with them."
"Okay, it was nice seeing you, Seto," said Kido, "and thank you very much for not crashing into our boat. But Kano and I have to go now. We need to find someone who can break this spell."
"Wait, Kano was turned into a frog by Kenjirou Tateyama, am I right?" said Seto. "He practices the same kind of magic as Marry does. They both have the ability to control snakes, but Tateyama-sensei gets it by making deals with Marry's grandmother. Maybe she can find a way to break your spell."
"What? Dad turned you into a frog?" Kido asked Kano, then turned to Seto. "And Marry can help us? Where is she?"
"Oh, in a tiny house at the middle of the forest. And I was headed there myself to pay her a visit. Care to join me?"
"Sure!" said Kano, and he jumped into the boat. "You comin', Kido?"
"Well, I don't have a choice, do I?" Kido jumped in after and Seto started paddling the boat. "So, how do you and Marry go back?"
Seto opened his mouth to say something, then caught himself. "Right, you're not from here. Well, it started when I ran away from the orphanage I was in. Everyone was scared to adopt me because of my eyes. So I thought that I just bothered everyone, which is why I ran. When I started living in the forest, my eyes helped me understand what animals say, which is why you could say that I've got an..."
"Animal army?" Kano supplied. Kido punched him in the gut.
"Not army... More like family. Anyways, they understood my situation with the red eyes-thing and told me of someone in the forest with red eyes like me. I decided to find that person, and that's when I met Marry. She had red eyes like mine and was upset because they seemed to cause trouble to those around her. Maybe I saw myself in her at that moment, I don't know, but I decided to help her... And since then we've been tight. What about you, Kido? How do you and Kano go back? You guys seem like a really cute couple to me."
"W-what?! We're just friends!" Kido exclaimed. She did like him... But she was also fine with their current status as friends.
"That's how most lovers start out, Kido," Kano joked and was met with a Death Glare (TM). "But to answer your question, Seto, shouldn't you know that? You read our thoughts."
"I want you to tell me," said Seto. "I'm supposed to be your friend in the other world, but how did that happen?"
"Well, the three of us go way back," said Kido, the feeling of nostalgia warm in her heart. "We lived in the same orphanage, had the same read eyes, and were adopted by the same family."
"I see... Then what's going on with your lives here?"
"I'm the broke prince of Austria!" Kano said with false pride. "Kido here's a waitress trying to help out her older sister start an organization to help hungry people."
"That's cool!" Seto said genuinely. "So that's what you're going to do when you become human again?"
"Well, yeah," said Kido. "But that's only a side thing. I just want to get out of here!"
"Hm... Wo knows though?" Seto said quietly. "Maybe you'll actually enjoy the short time you'll have here."
"Maybe," Kido repeated.
"So, if you do make that foundation with Tateyama-san, what kind of food will you make?" Seto asked, rowing the boat slowly. It was evening now, and the water below them reflected the stars above like a mirror.
Kido waved her finger in the air, thinking. "Maybe some simple Japanese food like... tempura, or sashimi. Maybe even ramen if we have enough ingredients."
"Ugh, Kido, don't say anything about food!" Kano complained. "You're making me hungry!" That moment, a swarm of flies flew past Kano, and his tongue involuntarily got out of his mouth.
"What are you doing, Kano?" asked Kido.
"Shh. You're disturbing the food!" Kano whispered, hopped off the boat, and landed on the lily pad. He tried to catch the flies again, but failed epically and landed in the water.
Kido watched as another bug flew by and landed on a dandelion. Her tongue stretched out too, and she held it back with her hands. "There is no way I'm kissing a frog, and eating a bug on the same day," she said, but her tongue stretched out and caused her to fall out of the boat.
"Be careful if you're going to eat," said Seto. "There might be more crocodiles here."
"I know that, but I can't help it!" Kido complained as she hopped closer to the bug. Her tongue stretched out the same time as Kano's, and it hit the flower the bug was on. But they couldn't catch it, and (excuse the pun) they were tongue tied.
"What the heck, why'd you—" Kido began, her voice slightly muffled.
"It's your fault for doing it in the first place!" Kano said with the same lisp.
"What's going on?!" said the bug. As it flew closer, Kido and Kano realized it wasn't a bug, but Ene with wings on her back. She wore a blouse with off-shoulder sleeeves made out of blue flower petals, a black skirt made of the same material, and black boots with a blue stripe. She gave off a bluish glow around her. Instead of her feet being scattered into pixels, they now resembeled water droplets. "Oh, I see. You guys tried eating me. Well, it looks like you failed! Ha ha ha ha—!"
"Ene-san, it's great to see you again!" Seto interrupted from the boat.
Ene tilted her head then smiled. "Oh, Seto-san! What are you doing all the way out here?"
"I'm going over to Marry's," Seto replied, "and I'm bringing those two frogs with me. They both used to be human, but they were cursed. So I'm just hoping Marry would help them. And speaking of help, can you please untangle them, Ene-san?"
"Help the people who tried to kill me? Sure thing!" Ene flew over to Kido and Kano and untied their tongues. "You two feeling any better?"
"Y-yeah," said Kano. "Thanks, Ene-san."
"By the way, Seto-san, you're going the wrong way. Marry's house is at the other direction."
"W-what?" said Seto. "I'm..." He paused, then smacked his forehead. "You're right. I'm sorry, Kano, Kido. Hey, Ene-san, can you help us out here?"
"Sure thing! Let me just get my friends!" Ene whistled, and many sparkles of light appeared on the trees, each sporting a different color. "Follow the lights if you want to make it to Marry-san's place!"
They stopped at the end of the river and proceeded on foot.
"Bye guys!" Ene called out to her friends. "Oh, and remind Mamoru-kun to take his meds!"
"Mamoru-kun?" Kido asked as they hopped along. "Is he your boyfriend?"
"Oh no, my heart belongs to someone else!" Ene glowed brighter with her response. "His name is Konoha. He's the most handsome fairy that ever did glow. I don't see him as often as I used to, but I'm sure one day we'll meet again."
"Aw, that's sweet," Kido said, smiling softly.
"Yes, it is, but you shouldn't settle down too soon, Ene-san," said Kano. "There are probably more handsome fairies out there, you know."
"You're so supportive," Kido said sarcastically. The two frogs hopped into the bushes, but they were to thick for Seto to go through.
"Ene-san, can you please use some magic on this?" Seto asked politely.
"If I could," Ene suddenly snapped. "Haven't you forgotten that I'm a water fairy, not a grass fairy?! You're so mean, Seto-san~!"
Ene's ranting faded in the distance as Kido and Kano continued on. Kido used a stick to beat away the leaves while Kano trailed behind her. "You know, Kido, you should lighten up a little," he said. "We're supposed to enjoy this fairy tale! Isn't it fun getting a first-hand experience what it's like to be a frog?"
"Shut up!" Kido said. "I just want to get out of this terrible place!"
"Learn to enjoy—AAAHHHH!" When Kido turned around she could see that Kano was trapped in a net.
"I caught one!" said the man holding it. "Go get the other one!"
Kido tried hopping away as fast as she could, but slipped on the mud and fell into a cage. The man's assistant put Kido on their boat and sat on top of the cage to prevent her from getting out.
"What happened to your frog, boss?"
Kido looked around her and saw that Kano was no longer in the net.
"It doesn't matter! At least we got one!"
Kido heard something stick to the boat, and she saw Kano gliding across the water to rescue her, but failed epically as he crashed into the boat.
"Boss, did you hear that thud?"
"Yeah, I did." The boss took off his hat, and inside was Kano, smiling that colorful smile of his. Kido couldn't hold back her smile as well.
The assistant raised up his club.
"What are you looking at?"
The assistant hit his boss's head, but Kano leaped off in time. Each hit, Kano would avoid, and Kido had to admit that he looked adorable. The one sitting on her cage got off, and Kano mouthed to Kido "Go! Now!".
Kido jumped out just as the assistant was about to shoot at Kano and pulled the gun down, causing him to create a hole in the boat. The pair of frogs jumped onto one of the hunter's feet, and Kano smiled devilishly. "Watch this," he said, and he inflated his stomach to scare the assistant. They jumped off the hunter's foot as the assistant stepped on it and landed on the assistant's head.
"Watch this," Kido said, and stuck her tongue out. The hunter hit the assistant on the head with the riffle, and as the pair jumped around the boat, the hunter and the assistant beat each other black and blue.
"These frogs..." said the boss. "They're like none I've ever dealt with. They're smart."
Kido and Kano landed in front of the trio. "And we talk, too," said Kido.
The trio yelled and paddled as fast as they could away from the pair.
" 'And we talk, too!' That was hilarious, Kido! I didn't know you were so funny," said Kano as they walked back to Ene and Seto.
"Shut up!" Kido said, her face red. "I was only doing what you said. You know, living the moment."
"Ah, I see," said Kano, smiling softly. "Understood."
"Oh, thank God you guys are okay!" said Seto, running to the pair and scooping them up in his hands. "I found Ene-san half-unconscious a while ago. She said Kano was caught by some frog hunters, and Kido was too! How were you able to escape?"
"It's a long story," said Kano, stretching. "By the way, do you have any food? I'm starving!"
"Um, I'm sorry, I don't. The trip to Marry's house through the river is supposed to be for a day, so I ate up all my food. And I'm hungry too."
"Hey guys, look what I found!" Ene called, flying closer to the ground. "A pumpkin!"
"Ah, I can make some soup!" said Kido, jumping off Seto's hands.
"I'll start the fire!" said Seto. He uprooted the pumpkin and put it on top of some fire wood. He grabbed a matchstick after and soon a bright, orange flame was going.
"Ene-san, please get some peppers from that tree," said Kido pointing to the plant.
"Sure thing!" Ene flew away.
"And Kano," Kido said, handing him a sharp rock and some mushrooms she found, "you mince the mushrooms."
"Uh... I'll try." Kano sliced up a small piece of the mushroom, but apparently that was too much for him.
"Are you having a hard time mincing the mushrooms?" Kido held back a laugh. "Watch," she spun the rock in her hand, "and learn." She minced it in lightning speed.
"What?! How did you do that?"
"Here," said Kido. She held Kano's hand and slowly cut the mushroom with him. After he got the hang of it, she picked up the minced mushrooms and tossed them into the pumpkin.
"It's funny," said Kano. "I've never done anything like this before."
Kano nodded. "That's because you always did it, Kido. In fact, you've done nearly everything for me. After what happened with onee-san, you've always taken care of me and Seto, and you're doing your best as our new Danchou. But now that we're here, as frogs, I realized that I didn't really know how to do anything."
"Don't belittle yourself, Kano," said Kido, and she hopped next to him. "Look on the bright side," she picked up his mushroom slices, "you have the makings of a decent mushroom mincer! Keep it up and when we get back, maybe I'll let you help out in the kitchen more."
His face brightened up. "Really?"
"Oh come on! Now that, that was below the frog belt!"
Everyone took a serving of Kido's soup after it was done, and they all enjoyed telling stories by the fire.
"So, anyone up for seconds?" asked Kido.
"I'll take one!" said Kano, holding out his peanut shell bowl to her. "Thank you, Kido. You're a really good cook."
"Y-you're welcome." Kido smiled, slightly blushing—wait, why is she blushing now when he's said this countless of times? Maybe the magic of the fairy tale had something to do with it.
Ene suddenly gasped. "He's here! It's Konoha!"
"Konoha?" said Kido, leaping with Kano on to another lily pad.
"Where is he?" said Seto. "I'd like to meet him."
"Oh, you can't miss him!" Ene said dreamily. "He's right in front of you, after all."
Kido and Seto raised an eyebrow. Kano laughed. "That isn't a fairy, that's just a—"
Kido punched him in the gut.
Ene hummed a slow song, then suddenly started singing. "If we see each other's faces, we always fight. That's a good memory too. You taught me that; I'm not afraid anymore. No matter what kind of impairment I may have, I can grasp happiness. That's why..."
Kano took Kido's hand and helped her up. "May I have this dance?" he asked.
"N-no," Kido stammered, blushing. "I can't dance. I never learned how to."
"Look," he took her hand and held her close, "if I can mince, you can dance."
Kido still seemed uncomfortable—well, who wouldn't be when her love interest was being so sweet—but she nodded and tried stepping along with Kano.
"Even if I'm alone, I'll go," Ene sang. "Even if it's difficult! I'll definitely bring the dream I had with you. I'm glad it was you, and nobody else. But when I woke up in the morning, you weren't there."
Seto picked up his trumpet and played along with Ene's song. Ene used her water powers to make the water lilies around the pair bloom.
"I was always playing; that's the feeling I got. That was just a feeling I got, that was it, I know. I don't regret that I was born anymore. Like the end of a festival, it's lonely, but we've got to go pretty soon."
Kano pulled Kido underwater, and they waltz there underneath the glow Ene gave off.
"I'll go anywhere with the things I learned here. I'll show you that I can make the dream called happiness come true. Even if I'm separated from you, no matter how far away we go, I'm going to live in a new morning."
The happy pair jumped from the bottom of the pond, laughing together at the situation they were in. Kido rarely laughed, but she had a good reason to now. The way he smiled under the light of the moon was enough to make anyone laugh.
Ene sang even stronger. "Going round-and-round and flowing, time is ever-changing. I can't remember what happened anymore, but if I try and close my eyes, I can hear someone's laughing voice. For some reason, now, that is my most precious treasure."
Seto launched into another trumpet solo, and the notes faded with the song after a while. Kido's hand was on Kano's face, and they stared at each other dreamily. Kano's eyes sparkled even brighter than the stars at that moment, and Kido slowly lifted her hand to his face...
She realized the meaning of the heart beats, the rushed heat, the sudden silences... She was truly, madly in love with Kano Shuuya.
The magic of Ene's song broke when Kido noticed how close she was to him and pushed him away, flustered.
"I think Momo will have one heck of a dance partner," Kido said, a small but sad smile on her face. "We should get going now."
"Y-yeah," Kano nodded, rubbing the back of his head.
Kido hopped onto the next lily pad and was met with a scream from Kano. She turned around to find him being pulled away by a black snake with red, gleaming eyes.
"Kano!" she yelled at once and hopped after him with Seto and Ene.
"Kido!" he yelled back, trying to hold onto a branch but to no avail.
Before the worst could happen, the snakes suddenly coiled and released Kano at once.
"Kano!" said Kido, hopping to him. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, Kido." He smiled as if his life wasn't in danger a few minutes ago. "But what just—"
"Are you guys okay?" said a familiar voice. A girl with long, thick hair stepped up to the group. She wore a blue dress with a white apron and brown boots.
"Marry!" Seto and Ene said at the same time.
"Oh, hi! It's been a while, you two! But the issue here is, who's been messing with my grandma?"
Ene pointed to Kano, grinning. "Well, actually, he was messing with a guy who was probably messing with your grandma. But if you're looking for the guy who messed with the guy who was probably messing with your grandma, it's this guy over here!"
Marry looked confused, but nodded. "Let's head over to my place. It's cold out."
"So, you're trying to find a way to turn back into humans?" Marry asked after Kido and Kano explained their situations. She sipped her tea.
"Yes, we are," said Kido. "Can you help us out?"
"I can," said Marry. "But you only want to be human, not need to be human."
"What?" said Kano. "But don't we need what we want and want what we need?"
"It's not like that at all!" exclaimed Marry. "There's a difference. Kido-san, for example, wants to escape from this story at once. But she doesn't need to escape at once, does she? From what all of you have told me so far, it seems like you're all enjoying yourselves with this story."
"Well, yeah," Kido admitted. "I guess I'm having a little fun."
"How about you, Kano-san? Your motive here is to become rich again, isn't it? But then, money isn't even that important. It only buys temporary happiness. You don't have it now, but you're happy, right?"
Kano looked at Kido, then back to Marry. "Yes. I am."
"With the paths you're going to from here, you'll have to decide for yourselves what you really need and want. But if you're so keen on being human, I'll show you how. Follow me." Marry led Kido and Kano to a small room with a big, black cauldron at the center. The only source of light was the fire below it.
Kido and Kano looked into the cauldron and found a picture of Momo snoring. "What? Kisaragi?" said Kido. "What does she have to do with—"
"Please just watch," said Marry.
A man suddenly entered her room wearing a king costume. Momo awoke, sat up from her bed, and squealed when he handed her a tiara.
"There's going to be a parade at the end of Golden Week," Marry explained. "Momo-chan's dad was voted as the king of the parade, which makes Momo-chan a..."
"Princess!" Kido and Kano exclaimed at the same time.
"Um, yes. She's a princess, but only until midnight today when the parade ends. If Kano-san gets a kiss from Momo-chan before midnight, the both of you will turn back to humans. Well," Marry waved her hand over the cauldron and the image disappeared with the fire, "I won't hold you back. Go to her!"
"Thank you so much, Marry!" said Kano, and the two frogs hopped out of the room, Marry trailing after them.
"I hate that you all have to leave too soon," said Marry to Seto. "But these frogs are pressed for time. Seto, please help them."
"Sure!" Seto nodded. "We'll meet again soon! Bye Marry."
The quartet head outside, and the sun was now rising over the horizon. Ene used her magic to make the river water bring Seto's boat. "Let's go!" said Ene.
"Wait," said Seto. "If we take this only, it will take three days! Ene-san, do you know a shortcut?"
"Um... Yeah. But it only saves a day or two at most."
Seto went deep in thought, then snapped his fingers. "There's another way, as much as I don't want to do it."
They free-loaded themselves onto a river cruise filled with tourists. It looked exactly like the steam boats Kido had seen in movies, with its tall, red chimneys adorned with black crowns. The people on it, too, looked like they came straight out of the movies, with the mix of traditional Japanese clothing and the clothing of the Westerners.
Seto faced some slight claustrophobia with the amount of people onboard as they snuck in, but did his best to keep the two frogs away from prying eyes. Ene sat on Seto's shoulder, trying as much as possible to stay on no matter how many people bumped into him.
"Seto," whispered Kano from his pocket. "Can we head to some place less crowded? Besides, your pocket's too stuffy for the two of us!"
"Wait, I'll check." Seto's eyes turned red then back to normal in the speed of light. "There aren't many people above deck since it's quite cold this evening. We can go there."
They head upstairs, and the colors of sunset painted the sky. There was a soft breeze, but it was better than being crowded downstairs. Kido and Kano jumped out of Seto's pocket and landed on the floor.
"We're free!" exclaimed Kano, raising his arms.
"Hey guys, look!" Ene exclaimed, pointing to a band. "Live jazz music! Let's check it out!"
Ene flew over to the band with Seto and Kido behind her. But the frog turned back. "Aren't you coming, Kano?"
Kano was looking at some beads around him, then looked back to Kido and nodded. "I'll just catch up with you later."
"Okay. Suite yourself." She hopped away. But Kido looked back at the right moment when she noticed Kano picking up a white bead and twisting a wire to form a circle.
Kano was covering Kido's eyes as he led her to the roof of the deck.
"What's going on?" Kido asked, trying to pull Kano's hands off. "What are you going to show me?"
"Um, we're here!" said Kano, and he removed his hands to reveal what looked like a frog-sized, candle lit dinner. "Ta-dah! Here's to commemorate our last night here in this fairy tale and as frogs!"
"Oh, wow." Kido said, smiling slightly. Another reason as to why she loves Kano was he certainly knew how to charm a girl. "No one's ever done this for me before. Thank you."
"Ah, it was no problem." Kano led Kido to her seat and pulled it out from the table. Kido chuckled as she sat down, and Kano pushed her forward. He picked up a small tray with a lid and put it on the table. He opened the lid and Kido smiled.
"You minced!" Another reason: Kano didn't know when to give up.
"Yeah. I hope it wasn't too bad. I mean, I had a good teacher. Ayano-neesan would've been better but—" He was cut short by Kido's frown. "Yeah. I guess you get it." Suddenly he began struggling, and Kido raised an eyebrow.
"It's just that, um," Kano stammered, appearing to be hiding something or picking that thing up. "I—" He tried leaning on the table but caused everything to topple over him. "I'm clearly not myself tonight. I'm sorry."
"It's all right, Kano," Kido smiled and plucked the leaf off his head. "This is really cute. Thank you."
Kano smiled and picked up what looked like shells of pistacios. "Kido, I—"
"Oh, there it is!" Kido suddenly exclaimed and hopped over to the edge of the boat.
Kano followed her, carrying a small peanut shell. "What?"
"It's the building onee-san told me about," said Kido, pointing to an old factory building made of red bricks. Ayano pointed it out to her on the way to the Kisaragi's. "That's where the Blindfold Gang will be when we earn the money to buy it." Kido then looked down to her hands and started fiddling with her fingers. "I know this world isn't real and all, but I want to be able to help onee-san in the way I wasn't able to in our world. That's why I was hoping that when you—" she choked a bit "—marry Kisaragi, I'm hoping you'll be able to give her the money to start the foundation. If we don't have it by Wednesday," Kido looked up to Kano. "Who knows what will happen?"
Silence settled between the two amphibians. Then Kano exhaled slowly. "Kido, I—" The girl looked up to him, her eyes sparkling with hope. Kano sighed as he slowly opened the peanut shell.
"I love the way your eyes light up when you're so determined." He closed the peanut shell and took her hands. "And I promise, I'll do everything I can to help you and onee-san."
"Thank you," Kido said, her smile outshining that star Ene loved so much. A loud voice rang out, and Kano let go of Kido's hands.
"I'll go find Ene and Seto." Kano smiled sadly. He picked up the peanut shell he held so close and slowly walked away, shoulders hunched. He disappeared into the shadows, and Kido sighed, putting her hands on her face.
"I don't even know what I want anymore," said Kido to herself. "Do I really want to help out onee-san? Do I really want to get out of this story now?" She looked up to the bright star Ene loved so much and sighed. "This is the last time I will do something this crazy... Konoha-san, please, please, PLEASE help me know what I actually need to do."
The stars twinkled, whispering softly in the evening wind.
Thirty minutes later, the boat docked at the city, and the Golden Week parade began. Music was playing everywhere, and the streets were crowded with people.
Kido was off the boat with Ene. They stay at the sides, letting the sea of humanity disembark. "Ene-san," said Kido, looking at all the people. "Have you seen Kano and Seto? I didn't see them after... well, a while ago."
"Oh, Seto joined that jazz band we watched while you were gone. He's gonna be in the parade with them!" Ene's pigtails suddenly flew up. "Wait, what? Kano didn't tell you?"
"What do you mean Kano didn't tell me? What are you talking about?"
"Well if Kano didn't say anything, I'm not saying anything!" Ene crossed her arms.
"Ene-san! Tell me!"
Ene pouted, then smiled. "Fine. It happened while we were watching that band. I flew away because I was hungry, remember? On my way to the snack bar, I saw Kano holding this peanut shell case with a ring in it. He was down on one knee and holding it out to Konoha. You know what he said? 'I love you, and I want to be with you.' I was furious! I flew over to him and threw all magic I had. 'Don't you dare steal Konoha!' I said. 'He's mine!' Kano was shocked, but suddenly he laughed. I didn't get it, so I let my guard down. 'You're wrong, Ene-san!' he told me. 'I don't love Konoha. I was practicing my proposal to Kido!' "
"What?! We're only sixteen! I can't get married yet! The legal age for marriage is eighteen! Well, marriage does happen early in fairy tales... But still, you're lying, Ene-san!" Kido accused, red-faced and pointing her finger. But Ene's arms were crossed again, her usually cheerful expression replaced with an angry expression.
"Whether or not marriage is for your age, it doesn't matter," Ene said softly. "He wants—no, needs to be with you, and if you can't see that, then I'm sorry. I can't help you anymore."
Kido looked at the water fairy, hundreds of pictures passing through her head. The way Kano looked at her, that spark in his eyes the night they danced, the way he looked at those beads and wires... It all made sense now. He loved her, and she loved him back.
"I still have doubts," Kido said, trying to hide her joy. "But I'll believe you for now. I can't believe he'd go through all of that for me, though. It's kinda sweet."
"Girl, it's more than KINDA sweet," Ene retorted sassily. "It's so romantic!"
"I guess that fumbling all made sense now, at least. Thanks, Ene-san."
"Thank me later! We need to find the biggest float!"
The two girls cut through the crowds of people watching the parade. Music played loudly and confetti flew everywhere to add to the festive mood. Kido spotted Seto playing in the parade and smiled. He looked like he was having the time of his life as he played his trumpet with the band. She hopped onto a street sign and Ene flew next to her, their eyes trying to spot another frog among the sea of people.
"Oh my, look!" exclaimed a girl from the crowd who sounded like Hiyori. "It's Prince Kano over there on that float, Hibiya!"
Kido and Ene turned their attention to the parade. A float resembling a pink wedding cake was now in front of them, and at the top were a couple that looked like they were getting married, a king, and a priest. Kido's eyes widened. The couple was none other than Kano and Momo, all smiles. Kano was wearing formal clothes while Momo wore a wedding gown that showed of her figure well.
The frog ignored the fact that she felt stabbed in the heart and hopped away from the crowd, leaving the fairy behind and wiping away tears of disappointment.
Ene stayed, watching in shock, muttering to herself. Whatever she said, it's not like it mattered anymore.
The cemetery was at the outskirts of the city, far from the lights and sounds of the parade. That was where the fairy found the frog, who was struggling in vain to wipe the tears from her bloodshot eyes.
"I know it's hard to believe what we both saw," Ene said quietly to Kido, whose back was turned. "But if we go back now, I'm sure we'll find a way to make your fairy tale come true!"
"Just because you wish for something doesn't mean it will come true," Kido said, eyes focusing into the distant city lights.
"But Konoha always said—"
"Konoha's just a ball of hot gas burning millions of miles away!" Kido snapped, pointing to the star. "Open up your eyes before you get hurt."
Kido hopped away, leaving Ene in tears as she looked at Konoha. "Sh-she's only saying it because of a broken heart, Konoha. Don't worry, I'll prove her wrong!"
The fairy's glow slowly faded into the lights of the city.
The frog lifted her face from her hands and looked to Ene. The fairy appeared to be tired, and was holding tightly onto what looked like a snake charm.
Ene gave the charm to Kido. "This proves that what we saw was false!"
Kido examined the snake charm. It was made of silver, and its eyes were gleaming with a bright, red liquid. "What's this supposed to be?" the frog asked, the now-familiar sense of dread coming over her.
"It's something that Tateyama uses for his spells!" Ene said quickly. "It turns Kuroha into—" She was interrupted by hisses, and the two girls turned to see the same snakes that tried to kidnap—no, frognap Kano. (Sorry, I couldn't help it.) "I'll distract them!" Ene exclaimed and pushed Kido. "Get out of here! Don't let Tateyama get it no matter what!"
Kido nodded despite the voice in her head saying 'No, stay and help Ene!' and ran—no, hopped as fast as she could. (Sometimes I have to remind myself that they're currently not human.)
The frog hopped as fast as her legs could carry her, the fork in the road nearing her, but was stopped by the snakes with their red, burning eyes.
Kido raised the charm. "Stop! I'll crush this thing into a million pieces!"
Kenjirou arrived in time. "No!" His eyes suddenly turned red, and Kido heard words of diffrent languages being uttered around her. Next thing she knew she was back at the Gang's HQ as a human, and everyone was laughing and smiling.
"K-Kano," she stuttered, noticing he wasn't there. His jokes, his smiles, his laughs were no where to be seen. "W-where—"
"You've really done well, Kido," Kenjirou said. He stood in the corner and clapped slowly, his smile not so genuine. "After your sister died... You did well, taking over the Gang. But what's the point in trying to help some random girl by going through all this trouble, hm? I can bring you back to the real world, for I too know the power of words."
"Th-this isn't right," Kido said, covering her ears. "I already promised I would... help Cross-san."
"Oh, Kido, just imagine all that you've wasted here!" Kenjirou said, and the scene changed from the laughs of the Gang to the time she kissed Kano as a frog. "You didn't have to kiss that fool to become a frog and go through all that trouble in the forest!" The images flashed from meeting Seto to finding Kano—no, Kuroha in the parade. "I could give you what you need to help Ayano. You were never able to help her in the real world, all the more when she killed herself. You can give her here what she's always wanted. I know you want it so badly for her. But to get something you want, something of equal value must be given." He stretched out his hand and whispered into her ear. "In other words, that charm of mine."
Kido took the charm out of her pocket and ran her fingers on its engraved scales. "I may have gotten my heart broken a few times," Kido admitted, her hand slowly lowering. "I'm tired of it."
"Good girl," Kenjirou smiled. "You're almost there!"
"But then, there was always something warm within those tears I've shed!" Kido's grip tightened and she glared at the man she once called 'father'. (This is gonna be epic!) Marry's words resounded in her mind, and Kido knew at once what she had to do. "Onee-san here never had what she wanted, but both here and the real world, she's always had what she needed! A family that loves her... Someone she loves with all her heart... And even friends she can lean on! I have them too! I never wanted to become a frog. Heck, I didn't even know I would turn into one! But my friends were there, even if they're NPCs here. Kano was there for me, too... Onee-san never lost sight of what she needed, and I won't either! I don't care if I'll be stuck here as a frog for the rest of my life, as long as I can stay with my friends! Take your stupid words and leave me alone!"
She raised the charm and threw it with all her might to the ground, but one of Kenjirou's snakes got it. Crap. (But thanks for the awesome speech, Kido-san!)
Kenjirou laughed in an evil manner, but despite her situation Kido thought that it suited him. The snake coiled around its master and put the charm in his hands. The scene around them faded back into the black of the night, and Kido's human form went along with it. She was back to her old, mucus-covered, frog-like self.
"You should've taken my deal, Kido," Kenjirou said as a snake pinned her to the ground. "Now you'll have to spend the rest of your days trapped in a story book as a slimy, little frog."
"Correction, it's not slime! It's mucus!" Kido stretched out her tongue and grabbed the charm from Kenjirou's hands. Now that it was back in hers, she did as planned and broke the thing for good. The charm shattered into a million pieces, words of different kinds disappearing into the evening wind. The snake around her suddenly slithered away, and a lady with long, black hair now stood in front of Kenjirou.
The shadow man, on the other hand, struggled to put the pieces back together. "P-please, Azami-sama. G-give me time! I have more p-plans!"
"But to get something you want, something of equal value must be given," the lady named Azami quoted, her tone dull. "What do you have left to give?"
"Th-this is just a minor setback in a major operation," Kenjirou squeaked, backing into the graves. Azami, who had the greatest poker face Kido had ever seen, walked forward with an aura that released 'silent anger'. "S-surely this won't slow us down! I still have the frog prince locked away—"
The snakes that once helped him were against him now and coiled around him like ropes. A white portal appeared behind Kenjirou and the snakes slowly pulled him in. "P-please! I promise I'll pay my debts! Nooooo—!" He disappeared into the portal, leaving behind screams in the now empty cemetery. Azami, too, had disappeared.
Kido blinked, registering what just happened. But she was shocked out of her thoughts as the bells rung. It was now a quarter to twelve.
The frog jumped again, and she saw Kuroha being arrested by Shintaro near the only church in the town. Kido couldn't supress her smile. "Serves you right," she muttered under her breath and listened to the conversation between Momo and Kano.
"Th-this is so much to take in!" Momo muttered, pulling her hair. "Let me see if I got this right. If I kiss you, you'll become human again and we'll get ourselves married and live happily ever after, right?"
"Um, yeah," said Kano, looking at the clock that now read two to twelve. "Just, promise me you'll give the money Kido needs for her foundation. Because Kido..." He looked up, and from the back of his head Kido could tell he was smiling. "She's my... Konoha. If you could call it that."
"Anything for you, Prince Kano!" Momo beamed. "Pucker up!"
He seemed less enthusiastic as when he asked her, but he followed anyway, sighing.
Momo leaned in, and Kido decided to make her presence known. "Kano!"
"Kido?" said Kano.
"Danchou-san?" said Momo.
Kido hopped over to Kano, her mind clear. "I can't let you do this!"
"I have to do this!" Kano retorted. "It's the only way to get out of this world... For you to help out onee-san and be happy!" He hopped back to Momo, leaving Kido stunned.
"Be happy...?" Kido muttered, then smiled. "Kano... I'm happy with you always being there. Sure, your jokes can be annoying sometimes, but... I loved it. I love you! I just wanted you to know that. We'll make it out together, okay? This fairy tale... this world will never be complete without you. I love you, Kano."
Kano turned back to her, shock all over his features, but he smiled too. "I love you too, Kido."
Momo was crying. She sniffed and wiped her tears. "I've been reading all about true love in fairy tales... You've found it, Danchou-san! I'll do it, no marriage required!" Momo picked up Kano and leaned in, to be interrupted by the clock. It was now twelve midnight. "W-wait. Maybe it's just advanced...?" She kissed the frog. It didn't work. "Oh no..." She tried again and again and again, but Kano was still a frog. Momo put him down next to Kido. "I-I'm so sorry..."
Kano and Kido smiled at each other. There was nothing left to say now.
Seto suddenly called to them. "Kido! Kano!" He ran, holding something in his hands.
"What's wrong, Seto?" Kano asked as the pair approached the frog boy.
"T-Tateyama... He..." Seto kneeled and showed them what he held in his hands. It was Ene. Her glow was fading, her skin pale and her wings torn. She didn't look as much as a living corpse as Shintaro in the real world did, but she appeared to be close to that state. Her breathing came out strained, as if only half of her lungs worked.
"N-no... Ene-san..." Kido managed.
Seto lay Ene down on the ground, and Ene smiled despite her broken state. "Kido, Kano," she wheezed out, "You're still frogs."
"We're gonna stay that way while we're here," said Kano. "But at least we're still together."
Ene coughed, then looked at the pair with bright eyes. "I'm glad..." She looked to the stars, her eyes focusing on Konoha. "And I'm sure Konoha is glad, too..." She closed her eyes slowly, and her blueish glow faded away with what little life she had left.
The fairy was merely an NPC; Mary Elizabeth stated that long before. But those words didn't matter to Kido as no matter where they went or who they were, Ene was still a friend.
The rain fell after, along with the tears from the trio's eyes.
The funeral procession in the forest was a simple one, with all the other fairies that knew Ene putting her on a leaf and setting that leaf afloat in the river. But the air was heavy around them, as of Ene had been a leader or someone important. Seto, Marry, Kido, and Kano all sat in the boat, 'following the lights' as Ene had called it. But her light was now gone, and it would never restart again.
They held flowers in their hands, and as the leaf-bearers put her down they put their flowers down with her. They were 'returning her to her element', as the fairies said. When a fairy dies, they must return to their element. The leaf floated away and disappeared into the darkness of the night as Seto played a sad tune on his trumpet.
Kido couldn't hold back her tears. The last time she saw Ene before her death, she sacrificed herself for Kido and Kano to be safe at the cost of her own life. NPC or not, Ene was a hero—no, Ene is a hero. They wouldn't be here now if it weren't for her.
Kano held her close, and from her blurred vision she could see that he was crying, too. Then the world became brighter. The pair looked up as the clouds cleared, and right next to Konoha a new star appeared, its rays reaching out to one another. The other fairies suddenly cheered.
"W-what happened?" Kido stammered. But it was a good kind of stammering, a cross between shock and happiness.
"I think it's about time you learned how the fairy world works," said the fairy next to her. She was an old lady, a water fairy like Ene. Kido recognized her as Ene's grandma, whom they met on their way to Marry's before. "Fairies are reincarnations of humans. In their past lives, Ene and Konoha were already friends. They became even closer after they were reincarnated into fairies, despite the fact that Konoha lost all memories of his past life. Reincarnation is different for all people, see? Ene became a water fairy and Konoha became a grass fairy. Now, stars are reincarnations of dead fairies. Two years ago Konoha had died protecting Ene, so he was reincarnated into a star. Since then Ene snaps whenever someone says something related to grass, and she's been trying to find a way to be reunited with him. I guess she found that way by dying to save you. Ene's a stupid girl... But I'm glad her dream came true."
Kido smiled despite the tears and nodded. "I'm glad too."
"Look, I know that we can't get married," Kano stated as they headed to Marry's house, where they would be staying until the tale ends. "First, it's too rushed as much as I hate to admit it. Dates would be fine. Second, even if this is a fairy tale, don't you think sixteen is too young to get married at?"
"But I saw what happened with Kisaragi," Kido replied although the memory pained her. "Aren't you both all sixteen?"
"Well, yeah. But Kuroha told me it was just for publicity. He said that the marriage would become legal once Kisaragi turns eighteen."
"Huh... " Kido looked into the distance. "Looks like I wasn't able to help out onee-san in this world..."
"You're wrong about that," interrupted Marry. "You were able to. Didn't you get the news?"
"What news?" Kano asked.
"Marry, it was supposed to be a surprise for when we got back!" Seto complained.
"Ah, I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself. Should I tell them?"
"No, I will," Seto smiled. "It was in the papers. It turns out Shintaro-san and onee-san are dating now. Because of what Momo promised to you, and also because she's a good friend of onee-san, the Kisaragi siblings were able to give her the money she needed. The Blindfold Gang will soon be operating next month!"
"R-really?!" said Kido. "I actually... helped her?"
"Yeah, you did!" said Kano. "Congratulations, Kido!"
The boat bumped into the river banks and the quartet got off. Marry opened the door and smiled. "Now it's my turn to surprise you!" she said as she led the two frogs to a room. Marry opened the door and turned on the lights. "Ta-dah!"
Kido and Kano gasped. It was a frog-sized house. Well, technically it's a doll house. But it didn't matter to the two. "Thank you, so much, Marry!" they exclaimed at the same time.
"It was no problem," Marry smiled. She opened the doll house and put the two frogs in it. "You two should rest now. It's been a long day. Good night." The medusa left the room.
Kano stretched and lay on the bed. "It's so soft... This is really a relief... I can stay here forever..."
"Do you really want to stay here forever?" Kido asked quietly. "After all... the real reason we're here is to help Cross-san. We can't do that as long as we're here..."
The cat-eyed frog sat up and smiled his goofy grin. "Sure, I'd like to stay here... But wherever you want to go, Kido, I'll always follow. Heck, I'd even follow you to hell! Even if we're supposed to be helping Cross-san... I'm glad that I could at least share some moments here with you, if that's fine."
Kido nodded. "It's fine."
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Kano took Kido's hand and made her sit on the bed. "Let's sleep now. Goodnight, Kido."
"Goodnight, Kano," Kido replied and kissed him on the forehead.
When he had nodded off, Kido muttered to no one, "I had so much fun here, being with you, Kano."
A/N: Hey guys. Sorry the update took a while. School's starting again in the Philippines, which means I might not update as often... But I'll still update. Now for the next chapter's preview!
Also, if you didn't notice, the song Ene sings is Ichiban no Takaramono by LiSA. Just so you know.
In the Books Act 2: In Which Seto Cuts Hair Preview
Everyone stared with shock at Mary Elizabeth right after she clearly forced Kido and Kano into the tale. She was smiling in a weird way, leaving them all stunned to speak.
"So, who's next?" she said as if nothing happened.
"Um, Cross-san," said Seto. "We decided... the next tale will be Rapunzel."
"Woah! What a coincidence!" Mary Elizabeth beamed. "You and Kozakura-san will be playing as the main characters!"
"W-what?" said Marry as the thirteen-year-old pushed them both to the picture of a girl with incredibly long hair gazing out of a window from a tower. "Seto-kun and... m-me?"
Mary Elizabeth nodded. "I'm sure the both of you heard what I said to Kido-san and Kano-san. The others are NPCs, there is no escape until the tale is finished... I wish you two luck, then! See you later!"
She pushed the pair in, and screams were left behind in the plain, white room.