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Chapter Fourteen: The Truth Revealed

Machida pointed a finger at the orange cat, shaking with fear.

"Look at him, Haru! He's a feline!"

"And your point is?" she asked softly, her fists beginning to shake with the desire to strike the prince down. "What if it was me in the fur coat and whiskers?! Would you say that I'm a monster?!"

Machida started shaking his head fast enough to make his neck bones crack from the exertion.

"No! I would never call you a monster!"

She continued to glare at him, making a wish that she never thought she'd make.

"I wish it was sunrise," she murmured softly, wishing to see if his words were genuine. Baron stepped up behind her.

"Haru, there's a possibility that we can force the change as one, even if it's for but a moment. Is this that important to you?"

She nodded, offering him her hand. He took it gravely, squeezing it gently.

While the prince watched, the two began to slowly shift, like turning over an hour glass. Baron's ears became smaller and trailed down the sides of his head while Haru's made the journey upwards, growing whiskers and fur as Baron lost his.

Prince Machida dropped his sword, his eyes wide with shock. The feline woman smiled grimly.

"You never thought to ask just how I was allergic to sunlight, Your Highness."

Baron smiled sadly as the forced transformation faded back into its proper order, with him as the Althean and she as the Ylthean while under the moonlight. Baron spoke next to the distraught prince.

"I find it sad that the fact matters so much to you, highness. If having two shapes has taught me anything, it's that appearances don't mean much. It's what you have inside that counts." He had always been troubled by how Althean girls were decidedly fonder of him while he resembled a cat, and how Ylthean girls adored him as a human. But he felt that he could reasonably say that Haru wouldn't care either way, having been subject to the same thing, more or less. The brunette tightened her grip on his hand as a tear fell down her cheek.

"I find it troubling, that you were ignoring what I had to say about my own life, Machida. I'm leaving with Baron because I want to, and you will not make any further protests." Remembering her uncle, she gestured to the owl-clad man.

"Also, my uncle must not be punished for the lies he told to keep me safe. If I return to find him harmed in any manner, I promise that you will regret not protecting him. Have I made myself clear, Your Highness?"

As slow as an eternity, Machida nodded his head, still staring at the brunette with streaming eyes.

"Haru, I swear I didn't know."

"That was kind of the idea, Your Highness. Now, go back to the party. Have fun, and start thinking about picking a bride more suited to you than I. I'll be back one day, so don't forget what you've seen tonight."

Completely demoralized, the crown prince stood up, and slowly bowed to the girl he had hoped to take as his wife.

"I'm sorry, Haru," he whispered before turning, and walking through the hedges back to the castle, his shoulders slumped over in defeat. He had even forgotten about the cheater's path that he had taken.

Baron snapped his fingers once.

"Drat. I was hoping to duel him for you."

Haru jumped and triumphantly pointed the finger at the orange cat.

"Aha! I knew there'd be something like that going on!"

The feline lord smiled a little foolishly, privately pleased that she had figured it out on her own so quickly.

"There is, but I don't see a reason why we can't be friends first, especially with what just happened. I'm planning on asking you for myself when the time is right." Smiling warmly, he extended his arm to her. "Shall we?"

'Well, at least he's honest. I guess it couldn't hurt to give this suitor a chance.' She grinned back at him while taking the offered arm. Her uncle raised a hand to stop her.

"But Haru… I don't want you to go." Yosho knew it sounded childish, but it suited his feelings exactly. His niece smiled lovingly at him, but kept her hold on the baron.

"Don't worry about me, Uncle; I'll be fine. How often do you want me to visit?"

He thought about it.

"Once a week would be reasonable, I think. Any more will be difficult to explain to the others."

Baron smiled again while waving his free hand, to make a blue light appear next to him. The tiny spot grew until it was taller than the tawny feline, and the baron led his companion through it. She waved goodbye to her uncle once more, before disappearing from the dark night. Yosho sighed, and started working his way through the maze so that he could go home.

He was no longer in a partying mood.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

When the portal opened up again, it was into a beautiful garden that seemed to have fountains made entirely of roses. Haru looked around with amazement as Baron carefully led her out of the disappearing light.

"Wow, this place is beautiful."

Baron grinned at her while directing the girl towards the large manor home.

"Thank you. Mother will be pleased that you like her garden. She puts so much effort into the flowers."

In a higher window of the manor, a light suddenly came on, and an Althean woman appeared, tying a robe around herself as she did so. Haru couldn't judge the half-cat's coloring very well, with only the dim moonlight to see by. The woman beamed happily.

"Son! You've found her!" She fled from the window, making Baron chuckle.

"You might want to brace yourself, Haru. Mother's embrace is brutally affectionate." By the time he finished his sentence, the woman was already out the back door, her arms outstretched to the two.

Haru had never known an embrace quite like this before. Her uncle's hugs were usually very gentle, and her Aya hadn't really been the hugging type, even though she had loved Haru with all her heart. But as the slim brunette hesitantly returned the cat-woman's embrace, she couldn't help but think that she could get used to being crushed like this.

It felt like home.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

To the ones that will hate how I left this story; sorry, but my muse abandoned me after this chapter. I have a tiny idea on how to do a sequel (Since this idea is begging for it), but I won't start writing it until my muse returns with her familiar sledge hammer. But I might not write it. I guess only time will tell.

Lots of love to; NinjaoftheDarkness, Lunarobi Pride, Lanari, gacktxx, EarthGurdian, sesshoumarufan18, cuteknight101, Bambi4ever, kittydemon18, Drifting One, QuickStar, Lanari, Poet on the Run, Seto-Sesshoumaru-Lover18, Archon Dragon, EgyptLover4, InkyManipulation, and Rini's Ghost for the wonderful reviews. Over a hundred reviews!

Thanks, guys. Thanks for telling me what you think.

Oh… right. I've started giving out little previews of the next story, haven't I? Well, I hope this will keep you happy until the next update;

Haru finds a mysterious manuscript, and vows to finish the story within the pages. But at what cost?

Until then,

YarningChick