Part III: The Birthday Ball

The day before Syaoran and Shizuka's eighteenth birthday and ball in honor of them, their mother, Queen Yûko, pulled them aside and reminded them of the physical signs to look for when in the presence of their soul mate, so they would know who was their soul mate.

The sixth day of the ball started off without a hitch. Syaoran and Shizuka had grumbled about being dressed in their finest clothes only to be seated for the first half of the ball, in which the young ladies and young men invited to the ball from the outer regions of Tsubasa were reintroduced to them. Queen Yûko kept her worry to herself, trying to preoccupy herself with finding anyone with the name of 'Sakura' and send them over to the elder of the twins. Syaoran got the hint that his soul mate had the name of 'Sakura,' but had yet to meet him or her.

Sighing, he turned his amber eyes to meet those of his twin, whose amber eyes reflected amusement at his current situation.

"Mom's sure having fun finding everybody with the name 'Sakura' for you, Syao?" Shizuka quietly teased his older twin.

Syaoran huffed, crossed his arms over his chest and pouted as a response. This earned the Prince of West Tsubasa several 'aww's from the girls and boys clustered just feet away from the crown princes.

"I already know my soul mate is named Sakura, Shi. Mom's made that clear… now she's just really pushing it," Syaoran finally muttered. "What about you, Shi - have you found your soul mate?"

Shizuka merely shook his head, charcoal locks slightly shifting with the motion as his own amber eyes gazed over those gathered. "Nah, whoever it is isn't here."

Sakura and Kimihiro, who was trying to get used to being referred to as 'Himawari,' were just slightly late for the ball. The two had to convince Tôya they would be fine without a carriage ride to the palace, which took more time than they wished to admit. Sakura giggled as Kimihiro tripped over a lose stone before they made it to the palace. Kimihiro whined about the high heels while attempting to use a girly voice, making Sakura giggle harder.

"It's okay, Himawari-chan," the brunette female whispered, "this will be over shortly. Then we can go home, alright?"

Kimihiro grumbled, but closed his mouth as they drew nearer to the gates of the castle. Slowing down, he tried to calm his heart and breathing, but wasn't succeeding. Panicking, he grasped his adopted sister's hand and whispered, "Sakura-chan, I can't do this… I'm too nervous! What if they find out?"

Sakura's squeezed the hand in her clothed hand. "Find out what, Himawari-chan?"

"That I'm not Himawari-chan, or that I'm not legal age yet, or that I'm not a girl!" Kimihiro hissed, making Sakura giggling once again. She whispered back, "No one's going to know, Kimi-chan. Do you have Himawari-chan's invite?"

Nodding, Kimihiro pulled the fancy invite out of the purse Yukito and Sakura had found for him. Sakura smiled and squeezed his hand once again.

"Alright then, c'mon, let's go!" she said, then tugged Kimihiro along side her to the guards, presenting both of their invites. The guards accepted the invites, then gave 'Himawari' and Sakura the invites for the next day and reminded the 'girls' not to forget them for tomorrow. Sakura smiled, "I'll keep Himawari-chan's invite. She's a bit nervous."

'Himawari' nodded at Sakura's word and let the brunette girl take her invite from the guard beside her. The guard then gave 'Himawari' a smile and wished her the best of luck, to which 'Himawari' smiled back. Passing the guards, Sakura and 'Himawari' weren't announced by the servant when he looked at their invite. Instead, they were ambushed by one Queen Yûko, who quietly asked them what their names were.

"This is my sister, Kinomoto Himawari and my name is Kinomoto Sakura, Yûko-ouhi-sama (Queen Yûko)," Sakura politely said, bowing her head then curtsied. 'Himawari' immediately copied Sakura's curtsy. Queen Yûko clapped her hands in delight and clamped her hand around Sakura's wrist, making a mad dash for Syaoran, leaving a gapping 'Himawari' behind them.

As Kimihiro had been introduced to those gathered in the ballroom underneath the name of 'Kinomoto Himawari', he immediately felt a pair of amber eyes descend upon him. Unconsciously shivering at the gaze directed at him, Kimihiro immediately turned his sapphire eyes away from the gaze of the Prince who's name he didn't know down to the dreaded stairs he knew he had to gracefully walk down without killing his ankles. Biting his lower lip, Kimihiro clutched the banister like his legs were about to give out as he made his way down.

At the bottom, then Kimihiro accidentally bumped into a female servant carrying a tray covered with flutes of champagne, causing the tray to shift in her hands, but both the tray and Kimihiro managed to avoid a collision with the marble floor by the skilled hands of the servant. He suddenly found his voice an octave higher, suddenly sounding exactly like Himawari's natural voice, thanking her for catching him. Smiling, the young girl replied that it was quite alright before offering 'Himawari' a flute of champagne.

Kimihiro leaned forward somewhat, in his 'Himawari' voice, quietly asked if she had something else to drink because liquor didn't sit well in "her" stomach. Gesturing to another servant, the champagne bearer informed 'Himawari' that the servant a few meters away from them had flutes of apple juice. Thanking her, Kimihiro politely removed himself from the servant's presence and attempting to gracefully make his way to the servant with the apple juice flutes.

The servant had turned his attention elsewhere as soon as Kimihiro had a flute of apple juice in hand. Then everyone's attention suddenly snapped towards the thrones, where Queen Yûko had let out a shriek of joy. Kimihiro's sapphire orbs widened in astonishment and wonder as they landed upon Sakura, blush present on her cheeks with a shy smile on her face, holding hands with the brunet Prince, who was gazing lovingly down at her. He smiled, glad that his adoptive older sister had found her soul mate.

When Sakura's emerald eyes landed upon 'Himawari,' she saw Kimihiro slightly raise the flute in his hand towards her, to which her smile widened. Then the orchestra began a melodious tune and Prince Syaoran led Sakura, his soul mate, down the stairs to the dance floor, where they began waltzing sharing their first dance together.

After his brother with his soul mate named Sakura went down to the dance floor, Shizuka found his amber eyes roving over those present, they landed once again on the short black haired young woman dressed in a lavender dress, who raised a flute towards Sakura before downing it. There was something wrong with the image, Shizuka noted to himself, but was unable to discern what. Suddenly his amber eyes locked once again with the gaze of the sapphire pair belonging to the young woman in a lavender dress, before sapphire quickly glanced away.

Deciding to uncover what was unsettling him, the younger of the twin Princes slid out of his throne and down the stairs. Winding his way through crowd, many of those gathered touching him and attempting to speak to him, but he only had eyes for the sapphire-eyed young woman. Once he had made his way out of the dancing throng, Prince Shizuka began searching for the young lady with eyes that captivated him.

While in process of avoiding the black haired Prince, Kimihiro discovered the gardens behind the palace, where it was nice and quite and was able to let out a sigh of relief. He was in the process of trying to understand why he felt apprehensive and perturbed when their gazes had locked earlier - 'Twice!' his brain reminded him. A guard approached him, interrupting his thought process.

"Are you Kinomoto Himawari, madam?" the guard asked after clearing his throat.

Kimihiro jumped from his seated position from one of many benches in the park, before asking the guard to repeat the question in a high-pitched voice because he had been caught off guard.

After asking again if Kimihiro was "Himawari," the short haired teen nodded, quietly replying that he was "Himawari" before the guard handed him a note. As the guard walked away, Kimihiro slowly opened the note and skimmed the contents, before gasping and picking up two parts of the lavender dress, he rushed out of the gardens, through the ballroom and out to the palace. He remained oblivious of the person who was tailing him.

Shizuka kept his amber eyes trained on the young lady after she graciously, but with a confused expression, accepted the note and gauged her reaction to the note. When she abruptly stood and began to race out of the gardens, Shizuka immediately began to follow, out of curiosity and wanting answers.

He lost track of "Himawari" once she ran through the ballroom. Frowning, Shizuka skimmed the crowd before he surged through it and made it to the gateway, where he asked the guards, "Have you seen a young lady in a lavender dress pass by here?"

"Yes, Shizuka-ouji-sama (Prince Shizuka)," answered guard one, while guard two replied, "She left through the gates and headed in the direction of south-east of the palace."

Shizuka grunted his thanks before he slipped through the gates. Grumbling about the billion of stairs surrounding the palace, he caught a shimmer of light from the corner of his right eye and headed towards it. It turned out to be a shoe - and one that matched the color of 'Himawari's lavender dress. Picking it up, Shizuka started out in the direction he found the shoe.