It was just another day at Kinkan Academy. The sun was shining, the birds were singing a cheerful song, and Fakir was cranky. Yep…the elements of a perfectly ordinary day. There was nothing to give Ahiru a hint that this day was anything more or less.
That's why she was alarmed when Pique and Lillie woke her up that morning earlier than usual.
"Pique, Lillie…" Ahiru moaned, rubbing her eye slightly as Pique and Lillie dragged her down the hallway of the dorms, "what's going on? Why'd you…" she paused for a wide, tired yawn, "…wake me up so early anyway?"
Pique looked dumbfounded. "Don't tell me you don't know!"
"Oh, that's so like Ahiru, always out of the loop!" Lillie chirped in her usual cheerful sadism. "She's never smart enough to know anything important!"
Ahiru looked at them confusedly. "Know what?"
Pique and Lillie exchanged a grin.
"Why, today is-"
"The dark and ever-so-brooding-"
"Fakir-senpai's birthday!" they finished in excited unison.
Ahiru blinked. "Fakir's birthday? Today?"
Pique nodded. "Yep! So today all of his admirers are gathering in front of the Boys' Dorms and leaving him gifts and cards!"
She showed Ahiru the thing she'd been holding under her arm, a purple-wrapped box with a large red bow on it, while Lillie held up a lime green gift bag.
"Wow…" Ahiru thought out loud. "I guess Fakir's going to have a lot of presents then, won't he?"
Lillie suddenly seized her head and began rubbing it rather painfully, trying to comfort her but having the opposite effect. "Oh, and poor Ahiru won't be able to contribute to that at all because she doesn't have anything special!"
"It doesn't necessarily have to be that way!" Pique pointed out, sounding thoughtful. "You could go into town and get something for him right now!"
Ahiru flushed. "Well, uh, I don't know-"
"Oh yes!" Lillie squealed enthusiastically in response to Pique's idea, patting Ahiru hard on the back. "Get your hopes all up to find the perfect present to confess your love even though the stores will have nothing nice left!"
Ahiru went, if possible, even redder. "Love? I wasn't going to-"
But neither of her friends seemed to listen as they pushed her out the Kinkan Academy gate toward town. When Ahiru was outside the gate, Pique and Lillie then darted back onto the grounds and closed the gate behind her so she couldn't go back in.
"We wish you the best of luck!" Pique told her in naïve encouragement.
"Come on, let's wait for her to come back with something pathetic!" Lillie said to Pique, her face aglow with sadistic happiness.
And the two ran off toward the Boys Dorm, their brightly wrapped presents for Fakir in hand.
Ahiru sighed in both exhaustion and impatience from the other side of the gate, before she glanced toward town.
"Well…" she said to herself, "I might as well see if I can buy him a card or something…"
Ahiru visualized the moody, studious and often degrading Fakir, and couldn't help but frown.
'What would someone get for Fakir, anyway?' she wondered to herself.
The duck-turned-girl wandered down the town streets, looking into window displays and browsing through shops' merchandise. Sadly, no matter where she looked, she couldn't seem to find anything that seemed Fakir-like.
It was only as Ahiru peered up at the large clock with the steel knight, prince, princess and raven dancing to the chime of 7:30 in the Kinkan Town square that a familiar pounding on a toy drum made her pause in her window-shopping and turn around.
"Hi Uzura-chan!" she greeted with a smile.
Uzura chirped her little "Ohh" of interest and skipped over to her. "Ahiru-zura!"
Ahiru then noticed a rock with a red bow tied around it sticking out of Uzura's right pocket.
"Hey, is that…a present for Fakir?" she asked the little girl.
"Yes-zura!" Uzura replied cheerfully.
Ahiru felt a guilty feeling in her stomach. Even Uzura had known that it was Fakir's birthday…
"Ahiru, where's your lovey-dovey present-zura?" Uzura asked curiously.
Ahiru bowed her head slightly, feeling down. "I don't have one…I didn't know it was his birthday…and I don't know what he'd want."
Uzura thought for a moment. "What would you want-zura?"
"Me?" Ahiru pondered this. "I guess, if it were me…I'd want some chocolate or a new tutu…"
She frowned. "But I don't think I can get Fakir a tutu."
"Why not get Fakir the chocolate-zura?" Uzura inquired.
Ahiru's mouth twitched thoughtfully. "Hmm…that's an idea…"
She ran off toward the sweets-shop, smiling at the little puppet as she called back, "Thanks Uzura-chan!"
Uzura smiled too, beating her drum enthusiastically. "Welcome-zura!"
Ahiru rushed to get to class on time, her wrapped-up box of chocolates still in hand, cursing at herself for not realizing how late she'd made herself by going out to get Fakir a present.
When she pushed the door to the ballet practice room open as quietly as she could, she saw the classes already warming up. Pique and Lillie were at the right bar with the girls and alligator of her class, while Fakir and several older students were practicing near the higher bar on the left side of the room. Neko-sensei was facing the piano as if he had been talking to the penguin pianist.
Ahiru quietly inched into the room. Despite her best attempts to sneak into class unnoticed, however, even the quietest sounds of her movements could not escape the sharp hearing of Neko-sensei.
"Ahiru-san," his voice rang out in low impatience although he had not turned to face her.
Ahiru frantically rushed to explain. "I-I'm sorry, Neko-sensei, I didn't mean to be late, I was-"
"Ahiru-san, your lateness has come to an all-time high," Neko-sensei spoke to her, his voice becoming steadily more dangerous and his furry face steadily more sweaty as he slowly turned to her. "If you keep this up, I will have no choice but to have you MARRY-"
He stopped mid-sentence when he noticed his red-haired, often-late student was giving him a regretful bow, holding up her blue-wrapped present in explanation. The class also seemed to be listening in more intently. Fakir had looked away from the window near the bar toward her in vague interest.
"I'm really, really sorry, Neko-sensei," Ahiru babbled, "it's just that I didn't know it was Fakir's birthday and everyone else had gotten him something and I felt really bad that I didn't, so I rushed out and tried to find something, and I ran back as fast as I could and I still ended up late…"
There was a silence. The class peered at Fakir for his reaction.
Fakir lifted his leg off the bar and slowly went over to her. For a moment they looked at each other, Ahiru sheepishly regretful and Fakir scornfully surprised. Then at last the elder of the two reached out a hand to take the present.
The class seemed to hold its breath as Fakir's nimble fingers calmly moved under the wrapping paper and tore it off, throwing it to the floor, before he opened the box to look at the chocolates within.
The writer-called knight peered down at the sweets for a moment as if he were studying them for poison, and then took one out and popped it into his mouth.
Then, to the surprise of everyone, Fakir gave Ahiru a rare smile.
"Thank you, baka," he teased gently.
He moved back to the bar, eating another chocolate before he returned to practicing.
His smile was enough to make Ahiru not care that Neko-sensei still gave her cleaning duty after class.