Disclaimer: I do not own Ultra Maniac, nor do I own its lovable characters. Please don't sue me!

Thank you so much to all the wonderful reviews! Wow, it had been a while (more like years!) since I last wrote, and I hope I do justice to all your expectations from this story. Here goes…


By Your Side

Chapter Title: "Some Things Never Change"

-o-o-

This was not how he had expected his night of freedom would turn out. Yuta sighed inwardly as a few more girls joined the small group he had inadvertently formed.

"Could you tell us more about your adventures? Oh, please!" a crimson haired girl begged.

Yuta smiled weakly as the other girls agreed enthusiastically. Trying to be polite, he decided to evade the request by asking the crimson haired girl some questions of his own. "I think we've all heard enough about me for tonight. What about you? Perhaps you could share with us something interesting about yourself. I would love to learn more about you and your life here."

The crimson haired girl blushed at his words. "Well…" she began slowly, looking up shyly at the charming young man who simply raised his brows to prod her to continue. "There really isn't much to say about little old me…"

Works every time, Yuta thought to himself. He chuckled to hide his mirth. If these stupid girls were not so concentrated on his facial features, Yuta would have allowed himself to smirk. Having been surrounded all his life by girls who often vied for his attention, Yuta realized that the most effective way to keep a persistent girl tongue-tied is to express interest in her. After all, he was perfectly aware that in their culture, a young woman must always act meek towards men in order to be considered desirable. With this expectation in mind, any girl in her right mind would try her best to fit the description whenever she is in front of a young man she liked. Yuta, on the other hand, disliked meek women simply because they are not interesting enough for him. Lucky for him, none of these girls knew his unconventional taste.

Yuta paused, his thoughts involuntarily leading him to a certain auburn haired girl he met a few years ago. I wonder if she's here, he thought to himself. It had been a while since he saw her, and the young man found himself yearning to see the girl who never failed to keep him amused.

As if on cue, his eyes rested on a girl with tawny brown eyes watching him. Yuta smiled in amusement as the auburn haired girl panicked, embarassed at being caught staring. She quickly hid her face behind her hands, as though it would actually help to conceal her identity. The young girl kept her hands on her red face as she desperately tried to look for a way out. Yuta smirked, thoroughly entertained. What a silly girl. He noted that it probably did not even occur to her that she would bump into people if she tried to exit the ballroom that way.

Finally noticing that the young man was not paying any attention to them, one of the girls asked curiously, "What is it that caught your attention, sir?"

Yuta automatically reverted back to his gracious demeanour, flashing a smile at the young ladies. "I just remembered that I am needed somewhere," he explained as he gave a courteous bow. "If you'll excuse me, ladies… I must go and meet an old friend of mine."

-o-o-

"Excuse me!" Nina apologized as a fat lady pushed her roughly aside.

The fat lady raised a thin brow, eyeing Nina through mascara-laden lashes. "Watch where you are going, silly girl!" she yelled, annoyed at the young lady who caused her to spill the contents of her wine glass. With a huff, the fat lady turned on her heel and walked towards the refreshments table.

Even though the lady had already turned her back on Nina, the auburn haired girl still bowed to apologize. "I'm really sorry about your drink…" Nina heaved a sigh. What a great night this is turning out to be. Ruefully, she headed towards the exit of the castle grounds.

-o-o-

Yuta pushed his way through the crowd, looking for the auburn haired girl. A slight frown formed on his handsome features as he tried to figure out where she could have gone to. Then a thought came to him. Of course! Yuta suddenly looked pleased with himself. She would definitely be there. Yuta, you are a genius indeed.

-o-o-

Nina pulled on the ornament decorating her hair, letting the auburn locks cascade gracefully to her shoulders. She took off her silver stilettos and settled on the unsullied grass that covered the ground of her secret sanctuary. Nina sighed as she dipped a toe into the glimmering water in front of her. The lake was undeniably beautiful even on normal days, but on a starry evening like this, it looked absolutely fascinating. It looked as though the water was filled with precious gems. The lush grounds made it even more inviting, and the faint sound of rushing water calmed her senses.

Mindlessly, the young girl began to play with the gold necklace she was wearing. Tilting her head to one side, she gazed at the pendant adorning her simple necklace. A small emerald was placed in the middle of the complicated embellishments on the pendant. She narrowed her eyes to look closely at the gem. Considering that it was already dark outside, onlookers would definitely find her amusing. And that was exactly how Yuta found her.

The young man smiled as he watched the tawny eyed girl inspect the piece of jewelry. Yuta knew exactly where she got that necklace, and it pleased him that she kept it with her all this time.

Nina pursed her lips, tucking her legs neatly beneath her wrinkled yellow gown. It couldn't be him, she told herself.

"You know… you could have just smiled and said hi," a masculine voice suddenly spoke up, visibly causing the young girl to get startled.

Her tawny brown eyes widened as she stared at her old acquaintance.

"Hey, Nina." Yuta grinned at the surprised look on her adorable face. "You look like you've seen a ghost. Am I that bad-looking?"

She eyed him incredulously. "Is that really you, Yuta?"

"No, I'm just your imagination." He smirked and added, "I'm sure you constantly daydreamed about me ever since the day we met." He winked playfully at Nina, causing her to blush guiltily. "So you do daydream about me? I knew I was irresistible, but I was only seven when we met!"

Nina stuck her tongue out at him. "No!" She turned away to look at the glimmering water before them. She seemed to be lost in thought as she spoke. "When I go here, I usually try to remember what you taught me back then... I know I did not believe you at the time, but when I began attending Magic Academy, I realized you really were good at magic for your age. I told my teacher about you and he did not believe me, saying that a seven year old boy could not possibly do what you showed me back then." Nina shrugged as she finished her story. "I guess he thought I was just lying to get his attention."

"So you're finally admitting that I'm a genius?" Yuta smirked as he raised a brow at the auburn haired girl expectantly.

"Yuta, you haven't changed at all," Nina remarked, laughing.

Yuta placed a hand on his chin, his eyes lingering on her chest. "And you haven't changed a bit!" he winked.

Her face flushed at his words. Nina narrowed her eyes at him, covering her chest. "Hey! That's not very nice!"

"What are you doing that for? You have nothing to hide, Nina" Yuta stated in a matter of fact manner.

Nina stuck her tongue out at him, her arms crossed.

Yuta chuckled at this. He held out his arm for her and said, "You'd better get back to the ballroom. You left your parents behind, in case you don't remember."

Nina let out a squeal. "I completely forgot about them!"

-o-o-

Meanwhile, 'Prince Yuta' silently cursed to himself. No wonder the young lord hated these fancy events, Charles thought as he finished a dance with another giggling brunette.

King Viagro approached the 'young prince' and whispered, "What about that young lady, child? I heard she came from a distinguished family."

Charles knew exactly how the young prince would react to those words. With an indifferent shrug, he replied, "Distinguished like the ugly mole on her lip, I bet."

That was all the old king could take. He had been working so hard all his life to ensure the future of the Magic Kingdom, and yet his ungrateful son did nothing but make it even more difficult. He tried to be a reasonable father, but it was time to impose his will on that hardheaded son of his.

"Enough is enough!" His angry voice thundered throughout the enclosed space of the ballroom. Everyone grew silent as they listened.

Nina was shocked to hear the angry roar of the good-natured king, clueless of what had happened. They had just arrived in the ballroom when they heard the King's angry outburst. With a concerned look on his face, Yuta quickly excused himself. Nina was too shocked to notice that her old friend already took off.

"Bring out the crystals!" the King ordered angrily. His right hand man quickly scampered to fetch the magic crystals in the forbidden room. "Call the elders! We will convene in the royal chambers. Now!"

As soon as the King disappeared behind the curtains, murmurs erupted among the guests, wild speculations quickly forming.

Nina stood there, perplexed. Minutes later, she finally realized that her companion was gone. She looked around. "Yuta?"

-o-o-

Charles looked remorseful, his shoulders drooped. "I apologize, Young Master… I did not know that it would anger him this much…"

Yuta shook his head slowly, trying to comfort his confidante. "It was not your fault, Charles." He heaved a sigh. "I would have done exactly the same things you did, anyway. You know very well that I had been provoking him for years now… I am not exactly a good son towards him; you know that as well as I do, Charles."

"I suppose…" the old man agreed reluctantly. "However, the King ordered to bring out the crystals… You know what that means, Young Master…"

Yuta answered with a slight nod. A serious look formed on his handsome features. "He is going to let the crystals choose the bridal candidates for me…"

-o-o-

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(Author's note added on 04/14/11): I think I remember how this story was supposed to go, but I need your help...

Ayu and the others will make an appearance, but I can't decide what to do with them. I will do what the majority wants, so put in your review what you want to happen... Yuta/Nina/Tsujiai or Yuta/Nina/Kaji love triangle? Or do you want me to put together Ayu/Kaji or Ayu/Tsujiai? Or should I just avoid other pairings and make their relationships platonic? There are so many possibilities... but definitely, Yuta and Nina would end up together. I'm so frustrated with this pairing, they should have ended up together in the manga! (starts crying) T_T