Beforehand: This was a challenge fic issued to me by Zanza, Writer-for-Hire, after she wrote a request for me and Darkness Eclipsed. She gave me a title: "How Dare He?" and a plot, which is thus:

It's Misao's eighteenth birthday and the Oniwabanshu go to the Shirobeko to celebrate. Misao's thinking that maybe since she's a woman now, Aoshi will pay more attention to her, but the attention she gets is from another man! He declares his love and intentions to begin courting her. He's persistent, Aoshi is jealous and everything is going wrong! What's Misao to do??

(That summary was actually given to me by Zanza…6_6)

She gave me the above info and said it was up to me to write the actually story. Well, I'm up to a challenge, so here we go…


Early one November morning…

Misao Makimachi leapt out of bed and ran to the window. Throwing open the shutters, she allowed sunlight to spill into her room.

The bright light caused her to blink, but she stared outside, taking in the crisp November air and the world below. It was a glorious day, perfect for celebrating.

And celebrating she would be. It was her birthday -her eighteenth- and she was to be considered a real woman.

I'm an adult now. She thought as she ran a comb through her long hair, I'm not a kid any more. Maybe now Aoshi-sama will realize how much I love him. Maybe he won't see me as the same little kid he helped raise. Maybe he'll tell me he loves me too…

Squealing, she began to braid her hair. Then she had second thoughts --Maybe I should leave it down long, just this once. Nah…She smiled to herself, He's used to seeing it braided.

After plaiting her long hair -with much difficulty, as the ends twined themselves together while she was braiding and she had to keep untangling them- she dressed. It was an important day. She had to choose her wardrobe carefully.

On went a blue kimono. Although she had some other very pretty clothes, blue was her favorite color. Blue, just like Aoshi-sama's icy eyes. She tied her obi -embroidered with orangish maple leaves- around her waste, the knot in the back. Someday -she didn't know when, but someday- she would wear that knot in the front. Someday, after Aoshi married her.

Humming to herself, she pulled on a pair of socks, followed by her sandals. Completing the outfit was a violet haori, which she grabbed from a hook by the door.

Pulling on the jacket, she bounded down the stairs and into the front room. "Ohayo gozaimasu!"

"Happy birthday, Misao." The Okina, Nenji Kashiwajaki greeted her.

"Thanks, Gramps!" She grinned, "I know it's still early, but let's go celebrate!"

This was met with cheers from her companions, with the exception of Aoshi Shinomori. He stood in the doorway, his usual expression on his face. If one looked carefully, they would be able to see a trace of a smile in his ice blue eyes. He shook his head slightly, stepping out of the room. Already a woman and still so much a child. His Misao had grown up splendidly.