Chapter 7

Recess……

"What is wrong with the boys? Can't they look somewhere else?" Cagalli complained to Lacus as she sat at a table.

"Just ignore them. They annoy me by staring at me too, but I don't want to cause trouble," Lacus replied. Behind them, like Lacus said, many male students had their eyes fixed upon them. There are also those who were looking at Meer's and Fllay's direction, but unlike Lacus and Cagalli, these two seem to enjoy it.

"They are so vain. I really want to teach them and those stupid boys a lesson," Cagalli said.

"Don't tell me you are going to call Athrun or Kira to beat them up?" Lacus asked, hoping she's wrong.

"No, I am going to teach them myself," Cagalli grinned. Her eyes fell upon the pond which the school uses to rear carps. "Lacus, watch this." Hidden from the other students' view, Cagalli did a hand seal. Before Lacus can ask what she is doing, water balls and icicles starting shooting from the pond towards the boys, Meer and Fllay.

"Help! There's a monster in the pond!" Many of the students yelled as they ran away.

"Ahh! Kira! Help! My make-up is been washed away!" Fllay screamed.

"Athrun! Help me! My hair is getting messed up!" Meer shouted in a piercing voice.

Normally, Kira and Athrun wouldn't give a damn about the two, but the word 'monster' grabbed their attention. In an instant, they quickly jumped down from the roof and landed in front of the two princesses. Kira had pulled out his two long, thin and shiny katana, while Athrun wielded a giant shuriken.

"Are you two alright?" Kira asked anxiously as Athrun made four more copies of himself and slowing went nearer to the pond.

"Of course we are alright. I am the so-called monster," Cagalli said cheekily.

"Cagalli, not again," one of the cloned Athruns groaned.

"Again? What do you mean by 'again'?" Kira asked sternly.

"I sort of, teach Seiran a lesson by using the skills you taught me," Cagalli said.

"What exactly did you do to him?" Kira asked.

"I froze him in ice," Cagalli answered. Lacus was surprised upon hearing Cagalli's and Kira's conversation. "Since when Cagalli know ninja skills?" she asked herself.

"Cagalli, princesses like you and Lacus don't go around and freeze people in ice or attack people with water balls. If I had told you once, I've told you a million times. You can only use your skills to defend yourself." Kira said in a stern voice.

"If you think that I am too weak compared to you and Athrun, just say so," Cagalli said.

"Don't try to make me feel guilty. I already told you, you have potential within you, but you lack the right attitude," Kira countered.

"Kira, Cagalli, please stop arguing," Lacus quickly say as she felt that the two might started shouting.

'Kira! Athrun! What happened here?" Several teachers came to the cafeteria, some with weapons in their hand. Lacus noticed those teachers with weapons all wore headband bearing the same symbol like the one on Kira's and Athrun's, except the teachers' have different colours.

"Nothing madam, it's just someone trying to assassinate Princess Cagalli. We had chased that unwelcome guest away," Athrun offered an explanation.

The teacher who spoke to them divided the other teachers into groups and ordered them to search different places. Then he called the four of them to return to their class.

"Thanks Athrun," Cagalli said as they walked to class.

"Don't mention it," Athrun replied.

In class, students were talking about the 'monster' while waiting for their teacher to complete the search.

"See what you did?" Kira said to his sister.

"Alright, I am sorry, I won't do it again," Cagalli said.

"Let's hope so."

Kira and Lacus went to their seats. Fllay was not around as she was still hiding in the teachers' room, together with Meer.

"Kira, how do you come to mentor Cagalli? From what I seen and heard just now, you don't seem to like the idea of Cagalli using ninja techniques," Lacus said.

"It's not that I don't like her using her skills. If she use it to do good, then I have no objection, but from what Athrun and Milly told me, most of the time she abuses her techniques to get back at those who crossed her," Kira explained.

"Why do you teach her in the first place?"

"Well, I started teaching her not long after I found out she's my sister. At that time, Athrun was not her bodyguard yet, but a lot of killers were already out there to take her life. As a brother, I decided that instead of relying on others who might not be trustworthy, Cagalli should learn a few basics so that she can defend herself, and after all, she's already a tomboy, so she never complained when I suggested about it. Eventually, she started getting very good at it, and even until Athrun had become her bodyguard, she still wants to learn more. You could say she's addicted to it," Kira chuckled and said.

About twenty minutes later, a teacher came in, bringing along Fllay and Meer.

"Kira, where were you just now? There's a horrible and ugly monster near the cafeteria just now. That thing scared me, and even tried to gobble me with just one gulp!" Fllay said to Kira as soon she sat down beside him, clinging onto his arm as she spoke.

"Right, if that were what really happen, I'll be shoving you into the monster's mouth instead," Kira thought to himself as he tried to pull away. At the next table, Athrun seem to be having similar situations with Meer. And at both tables, the two Princesses looked annoyed.

A few minutes before school dismissed……

"Athrun, what say we return to the palace in ninja-style? I brought smoke bombs," Cagalli whispered to Athrun.

"No way. The carriages are probably waiting outside the school now. Beside, we don't want people to know that you, as a princess, know how to use ninja skills. I dare say that in this school, you are the only royal person who practiced ninja skills," Athrun replied in a whisper.

"You forgot my brother," Cagalli said.

"I still need time to remember that he's now a prince," Athrun grinned and said.

"So, can we go back in ninja style?" Cagalli returned to the question.

"I already said no," Athrun answered.

"Come on, I will be so fast that others will think that it's just you who throw the smoke bomb, not the both of us," Cagalli told him.

"My answer remains," Athrun said simply.

"Fine then. I'll just take my time walking out of the school so your fan girls will be able to get you," Cagalli threatened.

If Athrun have been any wiser, he'll know that Cagalli will never do that. But for now, he's not that wise.

"You win Princess. I'll just tell Kira to inform the coachmen that you wanted to go sightseeing around Onogoro and will to the palace later," Athrun said.

"That's more like it, and don't call me princess while we are outside the palace. Say, can we really go sightseeing in your village after school? Kira and Lacus are going too," Cagalli asked.

"I thought you have fighting lessons with Miri?"

"Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me."

Athrun gave a small sigh and scribbled on a piece of paper. Then, with perfect aiming, he threw the folded paper to Kira. Without looking, Kira caught the paper with his fingers. He unfolded it and read. He frowned a little, and then wrote his reply. Athrun caught the reply that Kira thrown and read it. Cagalli gave him a look and he nodded, telling her that Kira had got the message.

As soon as the bell rang, Meer tried to talk to Athrun but he and Cagalli were too fast for her. Before she barely opened her mouth, thick grey smoke appeared in front of her and seconds later, Cagalli and Athrun were gone.

At the next table, Kira was 'less fortunate'. Fllay managed to get her 'prey'.

"Kira, it's been a long while since we last met. Do you miss me?" she asked.

"Uh, a little," Kira answered untruthfully. He was thinking of an idea to get away from the red-haired girl.

"So Kira, you want to take a walk around the village with me? You have been away for so long, so you might not be aware of the changes of the village," Fllay said.

"Thanks, but Kage had informed me and Shinn of everything that's new in the village. Beside, I have a job to do. I need to show Lacus around the village," Kira said.

"But why must you be the one showing her around? Surely she got horsemen who knew our village," Fllay said, giving Lacus a sharp look.

"Kira's my bodyguard. Beside, I am not going by carriage, but on foot like others," Lacus replied with a smile.

Kira immediately seized the chance to get away. "Come on Lacus, let's go or we will return late to the palace," he said to Lacus.

"Alright Kira. Well, good bye Fllay. See you tomorrow," Lacus said and gave a friendly wave as she and Kira walked out the classroom. Fllay didn't wave back.

Before leaving the school's compound, Lacus changed into the clothes that Kira had found for her.

"What do you think Kira? Do I look like a village girl?" she asked as she came out of the bathroom.

"Perfect. No one, not even those who knew you will recognise you with your hair tied into a bun, in that plain pink kimono and that headband with the ninja's symbol," Kira said. "Although she is still as beautiful as ever," Kira said in his head. "And I think you should have a fake name. As I said, people who want to harm you might be in our village. What do you think of the name 'Lily'?"

"The name sounds nice to me," Lacus told him.

"Glad you like it," Kira said.

"So, now that we are ready, where shall we go first?" Lacus asked excitedly.

Kira looked at the clock hanging on a nearby wall. "We could go to have lunch, if you don't mind eating at food stalls," Kira suggested.

"Not at all. In fact, I am quite eager for a change," Lacus said with a smile.

As they arrived at the food stalls, Lacus noticed that the ways the people prepare food are totally different from the ways that the palace's chefs used.

"Kira, I noticed that the people here……"

"Prepare food using ninja-skills and ninja weapons?" Kira grinned and said. "Many outsiders see this as something new, but here, it's quite normal."

"I never thought that shuriken can be used as a tool to cook, I used to think that it's only a weapon to defend or attack," Lacus said as she saw a woman cutting a big piece of fried meat into smaller, even pieces at a fast speed using a shuriken as big as her palm.

"To you, ninja skills and weapons may just be tools of fighting, but to us, they are a part of our life in almost every aspect," Kira told her.

"Hey Kira! Long time no see! The usual meal?" a man asked from behind a stall.

"You got anything special today? I am bringing a friend of mine from PLANT on a tour around Onogoro," Kira said to the man.

"Sure thing Kira! You and your friend take a seat first, and I will have it done in no time!" the man replied.

As Lacus sat down, she noticed that the man who spoke to Kira was boiling water, but there was no fire below the kettle.

"Kira, what is he doing? How does he plan to boil water without lighting a fire?" Lacus asked.

"By using ninja techniques, like this," Kira said as he poured Lacus a cup of tea. He told Lacus to observe the tea, and then he did a hand seal. To Lacus amazement, the tea began to bubble.

"Don't tell Cagalli I showed you this, otherwise she will pester me to teach her this. If she does learn this technique, who knows how she will torture those who crossed her," Kira said.

"I agree," Lacus said with a small laugh.

After they have eaten, Lacus insisted on paying for her own food, but Kira paid before she can even took out her purse.

"You don't have to do that Kira," Lacus said as they walked off.

"Nah, it's nothing much. How do you find the food?" Kira asked.

"It tasted great, I never had anything like it in the palace before," Lacus replied.

"If you like, I could bring you here more often," Kira said. "Wait a minute! What am I saying! As a bodyguard, you are supposed to follow her, not the other way around!" A voice shouted in Kira's head.

"Really? Thanks," Lacus said happily. Then she suddenly felt herself blushing as soon as she said that. "Why am I feeling so happy about this? Sure, I am excited at the idea of visiting this place more often, but why am I seem to be really enjoy being with Kira?"

"Lacus, your face is red? Are you feeling hot because of the weather?" Kira asked, concerned.

"Maybe a little," Lacus replied.

"Let's go to my friends' house. You can rest there for a while," Kira suggested. Lacus agreed.

A few minutes later, they reached a clinic.

"This is the village's clinic. We have two clinics in Onogoro, one is the one we are seeing now, the other one is inside the academy," Kira told her as they went in.

"Your friends opened this place?" Lacus asked.

"Yup, and they lived here too. Their rooms are upstairs."

They went to the counter, where a girl with long red hair greeted them.

"Hello Kira! It's been a while since you came. How's the mission?" she asked.

"Quite fine. Shinn's disappointed though, he thinks the enemy is too weak for him to have a good time fighting," Kira answered.

"And who is this pretty friend of yours? Your girlfriend?" the girl teased. Lacus felt herself blushing even more than just now.

"Don't be ridiculous Meyrin," Kira said to the girl. He too, was blushing. "This is L…Lily, a friend of mine from PLANT. I am showing her the place as this is her first time into Onogoro," Kira told Meyrin. Then he introduced Meyrin to Lacus. As the two girls shook hands, Meyrin felt something the moment she touched Lacus's hands.

"This touch is totally different with a commoner's. From what I can tell, she's absolutely not a ninja, but no way can someone with such skin be a common folk," Meyrin thought to herself.

"Is Luna busy?" Kira asked.

"Wait for a moment. I'll go and tell her you are here. She's at the back, watering the herbs. You two can wait in the living room," Meyrin said.

"Who is Luna?" Lacus asked Kira.

"Meyrin's elder sister. Lunamaria Hawke, or Luna for short, was one of the best healer ninjas that graduated from the Onogoro Ninja Academy. She's now at the jounin rank, like me," Kira answered.

The door opened, and Meyrin came in with a tray of tea and cakes. Accompanying her is a taller girl with short red hair.

"Well Kira, looks like you finally found you a girlfriend," the taller girl said. Lacus blushed again.

"Luna, don't be ridiculous. She's just my friend. Lily, meet Lunamaria. Luna, this is Lily. She came from PLANT and she just finished her first day at Onogoro High School," Kira introduced the two of them.

"Hi, nice to meet you," Lacus greeted.

"Same here," Lunamaria said as the two shook hands. Like Meyrin, she felt something. "This touch, it's not common. Wait, Shinn told me that Kira had become a bodyguard, then this means……"

"Meyrin, why don't you bring Lily to see our flowers? I have something to discuss with Kira," Lunamaria told her sister.

"Okay sis," Meyrin said.

As soon as the two went out, Lunamaria turned to Kira.

"So, how do you find Princess Lacus? She seems very friendly to me," Lunamaria asked Kira. Kira was taken aback by the question.

"How did you know who 'Lily' actually is?"

"Kira, if you are telling me that someone with such soft skin came from a normal background, then you must be joking," Lunamaria replied. "So, what do you think of her?"

"Well, Lacus is beautiful, friendly, gentle, kind, sweet, graceful, elegant, has a melodious voice……"

"You like her, don't you?" Lunamaria smirked.

"No! Don't be stupid Luna!" Kira half yelled.

"Don't kid me Kira. If you don't like her, then what's with the long praises?" Lunamaria said. "And besides, you went red as soon as I ask you whether you like her or not."

"It's just the weather."

"Funny, the air-conditioner was just repaired yesterday. But if you do feel hot," Lunamaria poured him a cup of tea and thought, 'and I bet that you don't,' "drink this then. It's brewed with herbs that have cooling effects."

"Thanks," Kira took the cup and finished it in one gulp. As he placed the cup down, he noticed that Lunamaria was grinning slyly at him.

"Er, what's with that look on your face?"

"Kira Yamato, do you like Princess Lacus Clyne?" Lunamaria questioned.

As soon as Kira heard the whole question, he immediately answered, "Yes." It took him a few seconds to realize what he had just said and quickly covered his mouth, his face going as red as a ripe tomato.

'What in the world made me said that?' Kira thought to himself.

"See! I told you Kira will fall for her!" Shinn appeared at the window.

"Shinn Asuka! If you ever gave me a fright like what you did just now, I am going to poison your food!" Lunamaria growled.

"Whatever. My point now is that Kira is so lovesick that he can't even detect that you have tampered with his drink."

Kira immediately looked into his cup and found something more than just tea leaves. A leaf from a herb that was used to demand true answers from prisoners.

"Lunamaria Hawke! Shinn Asuka! What is wrong with the two of you today?" Kira shouted.

"What happened?" Meyrin came back in and asked. "Shinn, since when are you here?"

"I just arrived. So, this must be Princess Lacus." Shinn said. Lacus was surprised that someone can recognise her. Beside her, Meyrin was shocked too.

"Meyrin, you heard him correctly. 'Lily' is actually Princess Lacus Clyne, aka the Pink Princess, whose beauty and kindness is well known throughout the world," Lunamaria said to her sister.

"How did……"

"Don't worry Lacus. Kira here didn't reveal your identity. I knew who you actually are the instant I shook hand with you just now," Lunamaria explained.

"Oh. Kira, why were you shouting just now? And who is this friend of yours?" Lacus asked, referring to Shinn.

"This is Shinn Asuka, my former partner before I became your bodyguard. I shouted just now because Luna and Shinn gave me something that made me answer all questions truthfully," Kira answered.

"Yeah, and we manage to dig out some deep secrets of Kira. You want to hear them Lacus. Just ask him what he told us just now," Shinn suggested cheekily.

"Shinn, shut up!" Kira yelled.

Meyrin and Lacus giggled. Kira demanded the antidote, but Lunamaria said the last bottle was broken. However, she assured that the effect will wear off after an hour.

"Lacus, do you know that Shinn has a crush on your head servant, Stellar?" Meyrin said.

"Meyrin!"

In the evening……

Lacus decided to return to PLANT. Kira wanted to find her a carriage but Lacus insisted on walking back, as the distance was not far.

"Stellar might think I mistreated you Lacus," Kira said jokingly.

"Then just tell her I decided to exercise," Lacus replied with a laugh.

On their way, they passed a stream where several children were playing. They were having a race while carrying another person on their back.

"Cute aren't they?" Lacus asked.

"Yeah. They reminded me of my childhood days. Back at those days at the academy, we have tests to test our limits. One of them was to carry your partner and race with other teams through an obstacle course. Back then, Athrun was my partner, and we used to end up in the first or second place," Kira recalled.

They continued their walk. After a while, Lacus suddenly asked a question. "Kira, can you carry me on your back?" Lacus asked shyly.

Kira stopped in his tracks. "Are you serious?"

Lacus nodded, blushing a little.

"Well, if that's what you want……"

Kira's thoughts while carrying Lacus: Lacus sure is light. To be honest with myself, I guess I do have feelings for her. Hmm, perhaps Shinn's idea is not stupid after all. But how do I tell her?

Lacus's thoughts while on Kira's back: Kira sure is warm. And he's such a cute and charming boy too. (Smile shyly to herself). But I wonder what he thinks of me?

The two of then passed by a forest.

"Lacus, do you mind if we take a shortcut through the forest?" Kira asked.

"The forest?"

Lacus's flashback

On her 5th birthday, she went into the woods for her first time. She was having an enjoyable time in there. She sang and danced with the birds and played with the squirrels and rabbits. A young deer gave her a ride and the monkeys plucked sweet fruits for her.

Out of a sudden, a terrifying roar scared away all the animals. The deer which Lacus was riding on ran away and caused her to fell down, but she wasn't hurt badly as the ground was soft. As she tried to stand up, she saw a huge black panther in front of her. The beast pounced at her, but one of her guards managed to defend her, though he died while doing so. At the sight of blood, Lacus got frightened and started crying and ran to her babysitter. As her babysitter and guards tried to bring her to safety, two more panthers appeared in front of them. The panthers were wearing collars, and the collars were linked with a chain held by a large-sized masked man.

"Well well, if it isn't the heir to the throne of PLANT?" the person said. "You looked very tender, and my pets just love tender flesh," he said in a creepy tone, barring his uneven yellow teeth.

One of her guards instructed her babysitter to escape using another route. Unfortunately, before any of them can make another move, another panther appeared.

"None of you are going anywhere! Today shall mark the death of the Princess of PLANT, and this forest shall be her tomb! And you people will continue to serve your beloved princess in Hell!" The man gave a loud laugh, so loud that Lacus cried even harder.

"Correction, today shall be your time of death!" another person spoke. Before any of them could see who the speaker was, two dark shadows sped around the panthers and attacked the beasts. Through her tears, Lacus saw that the panthers seemed to be scratched by extremely sharp claws. The two shadows stopped in front of them. One was a white tiger, equipped with armour and larger than any of the assassin's panthers, the other was a man dressed in tiger skin whose right hand seem to be made of metal. The parts where fingers are supposed to be were replaced by sharp claws like a tiger's.

"You all take the Princess to safety. My tiger and I will deal with this scumbag," the newcomer turned to her guards and said. Lacus noticed that he was wearing a tiger mask. Her guards and babysitter quickly went.

The last thing she remembered about the incident as soon as she got out of the forest was a deafening tiger roar and a howl of pain.

End of flashback

"Lacus, are you alright?" Kira asked, worried. Lacus had been silent since he suggested going through the forest.

Lacus snapped back. "Oh nothing. I'm alright."

"Lacus, is there something wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong. It's just that, I'm afraid of going into the forest," Lacus said.

"I see. But may I know the reason why? As far as I know, this forest only has friendly animals like squirrels and rabbits," Kira said.

"When I was five……" Lacus told Kira what she recalled just now.

"Until now, I still don't know who the brave man who saved me is. I would like to thank him," Lacus said.

Kira thought for a moment. "Does the white tiger you saw have a scar over one of its eyes?" Kira asked.

"How do you know that?" Lacus asked, surprised.

"Then your rescuer must be one of my teachers, Master Andrew Wattfeld. He's also known as The Tiger of The Desert. He got that nickname for his passion towards his pet tigers and for single-handedly defeating 50 enemy ninjas in the desert without killing a single one of them," Kira told Lacus.

"Wow, he must be very strong to be able to do that. Please tell him that I express my thanks to him for saving my life," Lacus said.

"I'll do that. Another thing about Master Wattfeld is that he is quite obsessed with coffee. If you want to give him a gift, rare coffee will be the perfect gift for him," Kira said with a grin. He then recalled that he once was asked to be Wattfeld's 'coffee tester', and unfortunate for him during that time, Wattfeld was brewing his 'Bitter Special'.

"I'll keep that in mind," Lacus said with a grin.

"We will just take a longer route shall we?" Kira asked.

Before Lacus can reply, Kira suddenly jumped and kicked something hard. The thing that Kira kicked flew towards the trees.

"ARGH!" To Lacus's horror, she saw a man falling down from the place where Kira had just kicked the unknown object. A kunai was stabbed deeply into his arm.

"Lacus, hold on to me as tight as possible," Kira said. His right hand gripped hard on the chain that linked the sheaths of his two katana, while his left hand held onto the handle of one of the katana.

As soon as the man fell, seven more appeared, all dressed in black ninja suit.

"Not bad boy, but do you intend to take us out all by yourself, especially when you have a girl behind your back?" one of them said.

Lacus tried to get down, but Kira said, "Ignore them. I can protect you better this way," Kira said.

"But, wouldn't I hinder your movements?" Lacus asked, worried.

"Watch me," Kira gave a small smile. He pulled out his weapon-a shiny white and blue blade that gleams under the sun.

"The Heir of Freedom," one of the men muttered. Lacus noticed that the men were backing away from that as soon as they saw Kira's sword.

"Heir of Freedom, we do not want to fight you. Shall we make a deal?" one of them said. Lacus thought she heard a tone of fear when the man spoke to Kira.

"Exactly what I am thinking. You leave Princess Lacus alone and turn yourself in, otherwise I'll bring all of you down," Kira said.

"Heir of Freedom, as we said, we do not wish to fight you, but at the same time, we shall not tolerate disrespect," the man sounded angry now, but there's still the tone of fear. "You give us the Princess, and we'll let you continue your life."

Kira put down the chain and pulled out his other katana, one that look exactly like the one he had pulled out just now. The men backed away more.

'The name 'Heir of Freedom' seems very intimidating,' Lacus thought.

"If you must take the Princess," Kira said as he pointed his weapon towards one of the men, "then you will have to walk past my dead body."