Haeret Lateris  
 

Haeret Lateri Lethalis Arundo

Chapter One
Bottou-chan

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For shame! deny that thou bear'st love to any,
Who for thyself art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lovest is most evident;
For thou art so possess'd with murderous hate
That 'gainst thyself thou stick'st not to conspire.
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
O, change thy thought, that I may change my mind!
Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:
Make thee another self, for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.



Yanagi shut the book gently. Such complex words... yet when it was boiled down to its essence, Shakespeare always managed to hit the nail on the head. The poem reminded her very much of some people she had encountered a few years before, when she was still in high school... Funny, it seemed so far away now. Like that part of her life had existed in another world. She had been in high school at the time. Now, she and Recca and the others were at Tokyo University.

It hadn't been much of a surprise to anyone that she had decided to major in children's education, with a minor in Literature. She wished to become a grade-school teacher. Getting into the University had never been an issue for her; her family was well-off and could afford the tuition, not to mention her grades throughout high school had been exemplary. Yanagi had always been good at book-knowledge, although it wasn't until she had met up with Recca-tachi that she had managed to grow and learn about the other parts of life.

Recca had barely squeaked into school. There had been some financial question about Shigeo's ability to fund the hours. But he worked a part-time job at a car wash, and was taking the minimum number of hours. It had been a surprise to everyone that he had managed to pass the entrance exam, but he had squeaked by-- with the help of Yanagi's tender tutoring and Fuuko's not-so-tender tutoring.

Recca-kun... she thought happily, putting the book in her backpack. She wished she could share the sonnet with him. Maybe it would make him think of his brother, Kurei, too. She had a mental image of Recca's sister-in-law Neon murmuring the poem to Kurei over a dinner with roses and candles and stars. Now, those two had made a good couple, after they had put Mori Kouran behind them. Neon had done him good, and had brought out another side of Kurei which none of the Hokage had expected to find.

Recca-kun... But realistically speaking, the poem would go right over his head. She didn't really see Recca giving *her* such a dinner. His rough-and-tumble, blunt, open attitude which had endeared him to her in the beginning still didn't have much room in it to exist happily alongside violin music and murmured endearments. Recca still wasn't very good at expressing his emotions. He wasn't very eloquent, and he wasn't very good at being encased in suit and tie.

And yet she loved him.

She had loved him all these years. When she had begun, she had no idea... it was a state of being which she had only gradually recognized. There was something about just thinking of him which added a sparkle to her eye, or a spring to her step. Knowing that she would see him later in the day made her want to look her best to make him proud of her. It made her heart swell with joy to do little things for him, like tidy his dorm room when she visited, or make him dinner in her apartment she shared with Fuuko.

And he loved her, too. He had given up his Flame Dragons to save her, way back in those days which were just a memory. She was his princess, and he had sworn to protect her. He was still her ninja. Now that they were older, it made her giggle that he still kept up his game, and that he still used his pet name for her-- Hime.

And yet... a part of her heart ached. Whenever she had found a lovely sonnet in the course of her English Literature class, and she had rushed to share it with him-- it had not evoked the same feelings in him. He had nodded dutifully, smiling-- but his eyes were glazed. He'd tell her it was a good poem, and would she like to go out for a frozen yogurt? When she would tell him about an interesting teaching technique they had covered in class, he'd nod enthusiastically and then tell her how ninja techniques were so much better. It was like they spoke two languages.

And yet she loved him.

His enthusiasm and his trying-to-understand made up for it. She was disappointed, and it made her heart ache that they couldn't connect on a deeper, intellectual level, but his efforts made her laugh and forgive him for not being the same as her. He had put up with her when she had been timid and he had been bold. He had put up with her when she had been shy and he had been aggressive. He had put up with her when she had been weak and he had been strong. It was as though they had always been opposite... and their very opposite natures complemented each other.

Recca-kun...

Her elbow knocked her pencil onto the floor, and she leaned over to get it. As she did so, she caught a blur of movement out of the corner of her eye as a pair passed by her desk.

"Recca-kun, you're so knowledgable!" said an admiring voice.

She heard Recca's voice laughing cheerfully. The cheerful laugh she knew so well. "I'm just glad you did well on the test, that's all. I think that studying with you helped me more than it did you."

"Oh, no," said the voice. Definitely feminine. Yanagi peered over the top of the carrell and could see a girl with long blue hair smiling at her Recca-kun as they walked away. She was latched on to his arm, and he was ruffling his fingers through his hair. Modesty? Embarassment? "You're so good at English, and I'm not. C'mon, I'll take you to the frozen yogurt place. My treat. We can take my car."

"Sure, then," said Recca. He was never a one to pass up on the opportunity for extra dessert in one day.

The two disappeared around a corner, and Yanagi slumped back into her seat. She dropped the pencil into her backpack.

She had always been a jealous girl, and yet the day Recca had given up his dragons for her was the day that she had stopped. If he could give up such an intrinsic part of himself for her-- there was no way she could be jealous! And yet, seeing him together with the girl caused doubt to spring up in her mind. She loved Recca, but even her love didn't blind her to the fact that her Recca wasn't the most scholarly person in the world. His English was deplorable, even, and he was barely passing the class. He even came to her for English tutoring-- how could he possibly be sought out as a tutor in his own right?

There was something deeper to that pair. Was it entirely one-sided, or was Recca responding to her interest? Was he curious? Was he on the prowl for someone new? He had never told her about this, and he was one to share everything.

Or so she thought.

Her mind was a turmoil as she slung her backpack over her shoulder and walked towards the opposite exit.