Tamaki walked into the dressing room with the innocent intention of speaking to Haruhi. Some part of him felt a squirming, tense expectancy as the curtain was flung aside, eager for what would be revealed

There Haruhi stood, changing into a shirt. "Yes?" he said.

That was all. Tamaki stared at the boy, trying to remember his message through a sudden confusion.


Nothing in particular had happened.

It was Tuesday morning, and the middle of term. There was the annoyance of the pantry running short of eggs long before it ought, but that was easily taken care of. It was a day like any other - or it ought to have been. But Shima ran a practiced eye over the young master: his face pale, eyes wide, hair dishevelled, and pyjamas wildly askew. He'd been dreaming again, and it looked as if he was having difficulty realising that it wasn't real. Again.

More annoying still, the exaggerated state of distress meant that he had probably suffered some nightmare. He would talk himself blue in the face for plans to rid himself of his likely nonsensical fear.

"School starts in three-quarters of an hour, and your breakfast has been prepared," Shima said. "Excuse me, young master; I must supervise the re-wiring being done in the east wing."

"This is imperative! It must be seen to directly! My vision is this: we require one thousand. If work begins tomorrow--"

"No."

The word dropped into the air like a stone into a bottomless, icy well, and Tamaki wailed. The cold of it touched him from afar, piercing his very heart.

"A thousand!" he repeated. "One thousand gardens of the rarest, most beautiful red rose blooms."

"One hundred," said Shima, eyes narrowing in disdainful shrewdness.

"Really?" Tamaki yelped, overjoyed.

"No."

"But I need it!" Tamaki writhed in despair, hands clenched in desperate fists. "Can't you see the beauty of it in your mind's eye? Can you not see the necessity of that beauty?"

(The lights went out. Shima sighed, making a mental note to berate the electricians for the unscheduled power outage. She shook her head slowly at the sight of one, single light - somehow remaining lit - falling on the young master like a spotlight. It was almost unsurprising.)

"Roses, roses everywhere!" Tamaki cried, pacing with hands that gestured wildly, drawing plans in the air. "They shall grow as far as can be seen, covering the grounds! Nothing less can even be considered; this must be the most earnest and fitting of tributes." He turned away, clutching at his breast, face contorted with raging emotion.

"Tribute?" said Shima, because he probably wouldn't break the pose until she responded.

"Does not each lady deserve a rose?" Tamaki asked, whisking one from a flower arrangement on a nearby table. "And does not the most beautiful and gracious of them all deserve as many as possible?"

Shima suspected she might hear the name Fujioka Haruhi next, and so was startled by what the young master said.

"To the kindness of the Lady fate, I wish to give thanks. For the manner in which Fortune spun her wheel, I must offer far more than humble gratitude."

The young master put a hand to his head - and abruptly, his pose was gone. Shima watched with widened eyes when he scratched his hair absentmindedly with the stem of the rose, smiling as if he were lost in his own astonished pleasure.

"I never thought of it, but that girl might have been a boy after all. She might have looked too unfortunate to catch my eye from the first. Imagine! I might never have discovered her at that moment. All of it ... nought but a series of lucky accidents."

Shima sighed. There was the girl after all.

"One," she said. "A single garden, one hundred meters square, to the southeast of the lake. The wooded area there runs wild too often and is mostly a nuisance."

The lights came back on.

Tamaki leapt up in a radiant halo of delight, punching the air. "Fantastic! Excellent! Most wise-"

Shima went to see to the electricians. On turning the corner she realised she had something in her hand. She looked down: somehow Tamaki had managed to present her the rose he'd played with.

She clucked dismissively in her throat, and turned a corner that took her away from the east wing. She informed the head gardener that he needed to speak with the young master, and tucked the rose into her buttonhole.