CHAPTER ONE: Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk
"Hey, you think she's done studying yet?"
"I dunno. She still has her books open."
"Maybe we should give them to her now and she'll be happy."
Himeno clenched her teeth, grabbing a handful of her hair. Why couldn't they understand? She COULDN'T play with them because she was studying for her final exams!
"Hey, Shin, you go ask her," Mannen whispered.
She growled, slamming her palms down on the table. Damn it, why wasn't Blaise watching them? The Knight of Flowers had been recruited not too long ago from England. THIS time, Himeno had made sure Hayate let her interview the candidates! Hayate wasn't too happy about getting another plant knight. Kei, on the other hand, after at first not liking Blaise's appearance, had decided he was just as great as Himeno. Especially when he discovered Blaise played a wicked game of chess.
"Himeno?" Shin asked softly, tugging on her sleeve.
"What?" she asked, counting to ten. Don't snap at Shin, don't snap at Shin...
Shin held a plate of cookies awkwardly and a glass of milk. He smiled and stood on tiptoe to try and set them on the table...
Only to spill the milk all across her notes.
"AHHHH! My notes! NO!" Himeno knocked her chair over and started grabbing at her papers, trying to shake them off and keep them from the growing puddle of milk.
Shin's eyes got big and watery and he began to wail, running from the room on chubby legs. Mannen and Hajime were right behind him.
She could here Hayate, Feryn and Kei outside the house. Kei had just gotten home and Hayate and Feryn were checking the mail. Actually, it was Hayate checking the mail and Feryn standing over his shoulder to see if Yayoi had sent him a letter. They lived not even six blocks apart, but wrote each other the most disgusting love notes!
"What the hell is going on?" Kei asked.
Hayate's voice filtered through, but she couldn't hear what he'd said.
There was the stomping of heavy boots and Blaise came in from the kitchen with a small stack of cookies and milk. His brown eyes took in the mess and he stopped chewing. This week his hair was a brilliant blue and cut very short and neat. It was weird seeing such an unnatural color of hair on that professional haircut. "Um, love, I thought you knew you were supposed to DRINK the milk," he offered as a joke, giving her his most charming smile.
"Don't. Try. That. With. Me," she ground out, fists clenched. Blaise's eyes dropped to her fists and he began to back away. He'd seen her beat up her own boyfriend, he wasn't taking any chances.
"Himeno, darling, um...don't do anything dramatic..."
"You were supposed to be watching those three! Now I have no notes and my final exams are coming up in a week! If I fail my junior year of high school, it's your fault, y'hear me? YOUR FAULT!"
Blaise ducked the shoe thrown at his head and went running. not spilling a drop of his milk. That only pissed her off more!
Himeno ran after him, chasing him around a corner as he made for the front door.
Only to smack right into a tangle of climbing floral vines blocking her way. Blaise was out the door already.
"Hayate, your she-demon's attackin' me, mate!"
"BLAISE! DON'T STOP RUNNING UNTIL YOU GET BACK TO ENGLAND, YOU LOUSY ROTTEN BASTARD!" Himeno struggled, now more intent on trying to get out of the vines holding her in place than of actually catching Blaise and inflicting the pain he so deserved!
Hayate came through the door and stopped when he saw the vines, brilliant blue eyes following the different strands. His jaw clenched tightly, he began pulling them down from the wall and ceiling. "So, what happened?" he asked.
"I was studying. Blaise was SUPPOSED to be keeping the others busy. Shin came to give me a snack and the milk spilled all over table and all over my notes. MY NOTES!" Himeno, still hanging in the flower vines, started to cry. "I don't have TIME to copy them all from Yayoi! Those were my notes from the whole YEAR!"
She was suddenly released from the vines and captured again, this time by strong arms hugging her. Hayate's dark hair brushed over her arms, bringing with it the smell of that new shampoo he'd gotten, which made her mouth water so bad! It smelled like apples and cool breezes...so sexy! "Calm down, it's not that bad," he said, rubbing her back.
"But it IS! I need to study and...and..."
Hayate pushed her back a little so he could look her in the eye. "What you NEED right now is a break. Kei's going to go dry your notes off, and you're going to sit down and relax."
He gave her the look that meant you're-not-winning-this-one. Sighing, she nodded and followed him into the living room.
Kei was already in the dining room, shaking his head at the mess. "Son of a...LOOK at all this!" He rubbed his hands together a little and started using enough light to dry up the notes into stiff sheets, laying them aside in a stack.
Himeno lay her head on Hayate's lap on the couch, his fingers stroking her hair back soothingly. Her notes...she hoped they weren't too damaged! The English and the Chemistry were okay, but her Triganometry... She groaned at the thought of those being lost completely. She glanced up when a very guilty looking Mannen and Hajime came in, followed by a still sniffling Shin. "Himeno?" Mannen began softly, looking at his shoes. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, me too," Hajime added.
They looked so upset...she couldn't be mad at them when they looked ready to cry any minute. And it WAS an accident. They knew she was stressed and were trying to cheer her up. Smiling, she reached out and messed up Mannen's hair even further. "It was an accident. I'm not mad."
"Really?" Shin asked, green eyes wide and hopeful.
"Really, I promise. I"m just stressed." "Bitchy," she heard Kei mutter as a substitute.
"What the- Hayate, you are aware we have a new garden, oui?" Feryn had just come inside after reading one of those ridiculously long love notes and seen the vines sitting in the hallway. He came in, twirling a brilliant scarlet flower between his fingers, a soft little smile on his face. He was most likley thinking of ways to compare it's beauty to Yayoi's.
"Wha- oh, yes, I saw that," he called back. He still wasn't on very good terms with Feryn.
"I see. Well, I must start getting ready. Ma belle l'amour has asked me to help her study." His laugh told them he didn't think it was 'studying' Yayoi was asking for.
"Oh, ewewewew," Himeno grumbled, covering her eyes with her hand and pressing to get THAT picture out of her head.
"Okay, I've got them all dried off, but some aren't legible in the least," Kei said, coming into the room with a stack. "What I'm going to do is scan them into my computer and use a retrieval program like they use in museums for old documents. It'll pick up your penstrokes, connect the lines and then print out your notes again."
Himeno sat up, gaping at Kei. "You can do that?"
"Please, it's a computer! I can do pretty much anything with it." He shook his head at the fact he had to state the obvious and went to his room.
"Hey, I wanna see that, " Hajime exclaimed, running after Kei.
"Me, too! Me, too!" Shin ran after him.
"Hey- you dumb kids! Don't go botherin' Kei!" Mannen chased after them. Kei got very, VERY annoyed if he was doing work and they interupted.
Which left Himeno and Hayate alone. They hadn't been getting as much time together due to her school work, the three younger knights being home taught by Blaise (who was a teacher, but didn't really work at the schools because "Them crazy gits bore the kids to death by law!") and running around all crazy-like, and Hayate being called back into Leafenia more often. Himeno decided to take advantage of no notes and no interuptions and sat across his lap so that she was facing him, a leg on either side of his. His arms went around her and they kissed. She wrapped her arms around his neck, tilting her head a little better so neither of them were straining at such an odd angle.
"Himeno..." Hayate drew back just a little before laying light little kisses one after another to her lips. "I've missed you."
"Me, too," she whispered. It was really strange, how empty she felt if he wasn't there. Even if they were arguing (which they did A LOT of!) it was good to have him there with her. They hadn't been on a date in months, it had been weeks since they'd been able to make out, and a few days since they'd actually even kissed each other. And it was very obvious by how heated this kiss was, the pressure of his hands on her back, her hands shaking as they pulled the clip from his hair to run her fingers through that thick mass.
One minute, they were sitting up, the next, he'd moved so that they were laying next to each other on the couch, a very cramped position to be in, but it only meant he'd just have to hold her tighter to keep her from falling. Hmm... sneaky guy! Hayate's fingers were toying along the bottom of her shirt, but he didn't go any further. They'd talked about it already and both decided no sex until they were married. Married...The thought of spending forever with him made her smile. He hadn't even proposed or anything, but she secretly hoped he would. Granted, she was still in school...and she was going to college as well...but that didn't mean they couldn't be engaged! She touched his wrist, giving him permission to go further. His hand was on her stomach, tracing little circles. Slowly moving around to her back...
"GET OUT OF MY ROOM! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN HERE TO BEGIN WITH!"
They froze, Himeno trying not to laugh at Hayate's obvious irritation. Footsteps came thundering into the living room and Himeno sat up quickly.
"Help, Kei's gonna kill us!" Hajime and Shin jumped and dove onto the couch. Himeno caught Shin easily, but Hajime...
"Oh, sorry, Hayate," Hajime said, looking up from where he'd dove head first into Hayate's stomach. "Hey, why're you layin' down anyway?"
"I'm tired," he answered. Yeah, right! Himeno couldn't keep a snort of laughter back which earned her a sharp dig of Hayate's elbow in her back.
"Well, wake up cuz Kei's gonna kill us!"
"Good, you probably deserve it!"
Hajime's jaw dropped and he looked to Mannen. "Didja hear that?"
Mannen's eyes narrowed wickedly. "Yeah," he snickered.
Uh-oh! Himeno quickly got out of the way with Shin.
Hayate looked up when she left, then wide-eyed at Mannen when the Knight of Ice dove on him, too. "NO! STOP-" Himeno grimaced when the younger knight threw himself across her boyfriend's chest and body slammed him.
Hajime wrapped himself around Hayate's legs, holding the Knight of Wind as still as possible as Mannen wrestled with him. Then...Mannen found that little spot on Hayate's side, the one she'd 'accidentally' told him about, where he was incredibly ticklish. Hayate squirmed (she NEVER thought she'd use that word with him!) and tried to get away from Mannen's quick fingers. "Himeno...Mannen, stop..." He was laughing too hard to get anything out.
Shin was smiling where he sat on her lap and Himeno couldn't help laughing, too. She hugged the Knight of Plants quickly and he hugged her back. It had been a year and a half since the incident with their leafe going out of balance. Everything was as it should be. Things were normal, which was a nice change from the usual insanity.
The light outside suddenly faded to a dull grey, like the sun was behind clouds. Hajime and Mannen stopped picking on Hayate, who sat up, looking wary. He had a hand resting on their shoulders, ready to push them out fo the way if necessary.
Himeno set Shin down and moved closer to Hayate in case she needed to pret. Not that any of the other knights couldn't, but she always felt safer with him.
Kei and Feryn came into the room, and Blaise from the kitchen. He must have snuck back in through the back door at some point. All of them wore closed expressions, waiting. The anticipation was almost choking the air in the room!
A greyish fog was creeping under the door to the deck. Shin whimpered and clung to Himeno's leg. Hayate was now standing, eyes narrowed. The fog began to grow and take shape. It was taking on a human form! Mannen and Hajime both clenched their fists, ready for a fight.
The figure in the mist took its hand and seemed to wipe the shroud down and off it's body. A tall man stood there with dark grey hair down to his waist and tied back in a long braid. His eyes were pale silver and he had a very somber expression on his face. "Pretear Himeno?" he asked, looking directly at her.
The minute their eyes met, it felt like she was falling into that grey mist, falling and falling toward a darkness at the bottom, something dark...
Himeno blinked at Hayate's sharp voice. What the...She shook her head. Kei came up behind her, laying a hand to her shoulder. The warmth of his touch did a lot to break the spell those eyes had cast. Immediately she could focus again on this stranger in their living room.
Caias smiled coldly. "I've come as a messenger, Hayate, not to start a duel with your Pretear," he said, tones colder than anything she'd ever heard from Hayate.
"Then say your message and leave before I challenge you for endangering her," Hayate said angrily. Endangering her? Himeno glanced from one to the other. She could feel the amount of leafe they were making and knew they were about equal. And she also knew from talking to Feryn and Blaise that Hayate was one of the stronger knights in Leafenia. Whoa...
"His Highness, the Topaz Prince, has requested you summer with him at the royal palace."
"I'll be there by the end of tonight," Hayate answered.
Himeno looked at him, shocked. But...he was LEAVING her? For the whole summer?
Caias shook his head. "Not just you. Pretear Himeno's presence has been requested. His Highness understands you are in school and wishes you to join his court as soon as it is out."
"Um...I need to ask my parents first," Himeno said softly, not daring to look in those eyes again.
Frowning, the messenger looked to Hayate. "She still has living relatives? Hayate, you truly are a fool."
Hayate didn't reply, but Himeno could tell he was moving dangerously close to being thoroughly pissed off.
"Himeno has been the most capable Pretear I have ever had the honor of working with." She looked up, shocked at the rage in Feryn's voice.
"Ditto, mate. Hayate's choice was bloody good." Blaise took a step forward, lips set in a thin line.
"Yeah, Himeno's a great Pretear!"
"I love Himeno!"
"Take it back, scumbag!"
It was touching how quickly her knights came to her defence. She smiled softly, reaching back to touch Kei's hand.
Caias was a little taken back by their outbursts. Snapping his jaw shut, he said, "I will inform the Topaz Prince of this and will return with his reply. Until then..." There was a loud POP in the air and then all the mist faded away as if it hadn't been there. The sun was shining again, birds singing. It wasn't cheerful like it had been before.
Kei dropped his hand from her shoulder and she was suddenly very cold. "Who was that?" she asked. She hugged herself, glancing around at the older knights.
"Caias, the Knight of Mists," Kei answered. It was very obvious he hated this new knight. "He's the Topaz Prince's bitch, running around doing everything he can to kiss ass."
"He's also one right bastard in a fight," Blaise muttered, rubbing his arm. Himeno knew he had a long jagged scar there and had often wondered about it. Now it was obvious. Caias and Blaise had dueled, and the scar was the result of that duel.
"Okay, so he's someone's toady. Big deal! Why do you guys look so scared? It might be good to spend the summer in Leafenia." She loved going there on weekends, her stepsister Mawata coming every once in a while.
All the knights looked to Hayate, who gave her a very serious glare. "This isn't good, Himeno. This isn't good at all."