FASH: Oh look! A fairy tale themed one-shot, fun stuff. And I have a Snow White one in the works, so it should be up soon, after the next Play Date and Wild are up. I'm planning on getting lots of stuff done this Christmas Break, woo.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Eyeshield characters or the basic Cinderella story line.
When stories are passed down generation by generation before they are recorded, each time they are told certain elements of the story change, so it's no surprise if the end result is actually completely different from what really did happen.
This is the true story of 'Cinderella', there is no Fairy Godmother, pumpkin carriage, evil stepsisters or even a spell that ends at midnight. But perhaps the biggest change wasn't the magic added to the story or the gruesome morals added in, but the gender of the main character. Because 'Cinderella' or 'Cinders' as they were truly called, was a boy.
Sena's first memory had been of his mother's funeral, it was fuzzy as he'd only been four at the time, but he could clearly remember looking at his mother's face and trying to convince himself to believe that she had just gone to sleep.
His father had always been a busy man, as a merchant he was often required to travel around and Sena was still far too young to bring around with him, so he hired a nursemaid to take care of Sena while he was away on business. She was a stern woman, as if she had aged before her time, but she had a wonderful list of references and had two children of her own so Sena's father left him in her capable hands.
Capable as her hands were, her policy was 'spare the rod, spoil the child' and she was far more strict than necessary, even towards her own children.
Whenever Sena had done something wrong in her eyes she would stand him before her, glaring down at him in a way that would terrify him for years to come. No matter how insignificant the rule that had been broken was: no running in the house, no playing in the garden, no climbing trees, she would always give Sena a choice between a 'good old fashioned lashing' or cleaning up the entire house as punishment.
Naturally Sena always chose to clean up.
But he always seemed to be breaking rules, some of them he'd never even know about until his nursemaid stood before him, telling him exactly why she was cross at his behavior and soon enough Sena was cleaning everyday except for the rare occasion when his father was able to come back into town.
Then one deceivingly bright morning as he was out weeding the garden a letter came for him, informing him in a completely impersonal way that his father had died from a fever and had wished for his nursemaid to stay as his guardian until Sena was an adult.
Thus Sena at a very young age was forced to come to terms with becoming like a servant in his very own house right up until present day.
"Cinders! Cinders I demand that you come in here right now!" His nursemaid demanded from the living room and from his place in the kitchen Sena sighed. He had just finished cleaning out the fireplace and if he went into the living room now he'd get things dirty and then she'd be mad. But if he didn't go now and waited until he got cleaned up then she'd also get mad.
It was a lose-lose situation.
"Cinders!" This time the yelling was accompanied by the stomping of her foot and Sena quickly brushed himself off as best as he could before leaving the kitchen, throwing a small, reassuring smile over his shoulder at the two girls who had been forced to wash dishes as punishment for 'staying out too late'.
Megu tucked a long lock of blonde hair behind her ear. "Don't let mom rough you up too bad squirt." She said with as much fondness as a tough girl like her could muster.
"Yeah, it's okay to stand up to her... Every once in a while." Mamori concluded and Sena nodded, his smile growing slightly even as he made his way to what would probably be some sort of doom.
Back before his father had died Megu and Mamori were really the only companions close to his age that were around and a lot of the time the three of them would end up getting into some sort of trouble together. While their mother was still a bit more lenient on their punishments she hardly showed favoritism.
Of course while Megu grew up with a distinct dislike for her mother and often got in trouble just to spite her Mamori was still slightly intimidated by her and was always on her best behavior, or at least tried to be.
The three of them had ended up more like brother and sisters than playmates in the end and Sena was thankful that he didn't have all three of the family going against him.
Of course their mother was probably as bad enough as a group of three could be by herself.
"Cinders, Cinders, Cinders." She clicked her tongue in irritation when Sena came into view. "You're always so dirty, don't you ever wash up?"
Maybe if she ever gave him some time to wash up he wouldn't be filthy all the time.
"Well, first of all I'm going to need you to clean up this trail of cinders you've created through this house, then you'll have to wash up a bit because we're going into town and I'll need you to carry our bags. I can't have the townspeople think that you're always like this."
"If you don't mind me asking ma'am, why are we going into town?" He asked meekly, flinching a bit when she directed a harsher glare at him.
"Always a bit nosey, hmm? But I suppose I'll let you know along with my daughters. For now clean up." She ordered darkly and Sena nodded curtly before scurrying off to get some cleaning supplies.
After cleaning up his 'trail of cinders', changing into a cleaner set of clothes and washing himself off enough so that it didn't look like he'd just spent the better part of his morning being a chimney sweep he gathered into the living room with Mamori and Megu.
"Now then." The nursemaid began. "This morning I received a letter informing me that in just three days from now the prince will be having a ball to choose his future queen. It says that every eligible woman is to come, eligible men too, but I'm sure that they are to just act as chaperons." She took out the letter and looked over it again before sniffing indignantly.
"In any case, I'm sure that the prince would simply love to marry one of my well disciplined girls, so we'll have to be certain that you stand out."
"But I don't want to go." Megu stated simply, crossing her arms and glaring back at her mother in defiance. "I've heard a bunch of weird things about the prince, besides, I already have someone I like. Not to mention I'm a couple years older than him, it would be strange."
"My dear, dear child. Rumors are only rumors, besides, that Rui boy is hardly what I would call a suitable life partner and age doesn't matter in love."
Megu opened her mouth to argue but stopped when Mamori gently elbowed her in the ribs.
"What Megu means to say, mother, is that we really don't know anything about Prince Akaba, how can you be so sure that he'd be interested in either of us?"
"Woman's intuition my dear. In any case we had better get going to find you some suitable fabrics before all the good ones have been sold. I'm sure that the marketplace has transformed into a zoo by now."
Sena half expected that she was just over-exaggerating but upon entering the market place he found that it was more of an understatement than anything else.
There were mothers and daughters everywhere searching for the finest dresses, materials, shoes and accessories to wear to the ball. It was enough to make Sena feel claustrophobic, there were hardly any men around at all except for shopkeepers.
His nursemaid surged into the crowd, her daughters following with far less enthusiasm then the girls around them, but they had always been a bit more level headed then other girls their age, but while the three of them were able to make it through the crowd easily Sena found himself unable to follow through and was instead pushed back into someone else, causing the both of them to trip and fall.
On the bright side they didn't get trampled, but Sena had just fallen on top of a girl and he just knew that if it was taken the wrong way he was going to be so dead.
"I'm so sorry, I really didn't mean to!" He scrambled to get off of her and held out a hand to pull her up.
"Oh, that's alright, it's a bit wild out here after all." The girl took his hand and allowed herself to be helped up before dusting off her pants. Then she looked up at him and her eyes widened slightly.
"Kotarou, come over here for a sec!" She called over her should and Sena fearfully wondered if the short haired girl had mistaken him for someone else.
A dark haired boy somehow managed to make it to her side without too much trouble from the excited girls around him.
"What did you need Julie, I wanna get out of here quick. All these people in a relatively small space, not smart." He wheezed and the girl patted his back consolingly.
"Remember, we can leave once we've given out all of the ten packages he gave to us. Now then, what about this one?"
They both turned to stare at him and Sena took an unconscious step backwards, not entirely sure why they were examining him like that.
The older boy sighed. "Let's just give him one, I don't get what sort of qualities he looks for in people anyways so all we can do is give them to people we think would be a good match."
"Exactly, now hand me one." The girl held out her hand and the boy opened up a sack he'd been carrying to give her a small box.
"Are you going to be going to the ball in a couple of days?" She asked and Sena shrugged his shoulders. His nursemaid might make his go as a chaperone, but he didn't really care if he went or not.
"Well if you do go, please wear this." She held the box out to him and he slowly took hold of it.
"And if I don't go?" He asked in a small voice, feeling a little more relieved when she just smiled at him instead of insisting that he went to the ball.
"If you don't then just accept it as a present from a stranger who was just happy that someone stuck around and helped her up off of the ground even when by doing so you lost track of the people you were with."
Sena blinked at her in amazement. "How did you know I was with people?" He asked and she giggled.
"I'm pretty sure a boy wouldn't be caught dead out here on a day like today unless he was being dragged around by someone. Come on Kotarou, we've only got three more to hand out."
Sena watched them go, clutching the small box in his hands curiously.
'Who were they? I've never seen them around before.' He stared down at the small object, fingers itching to open it up but at the same time he didn't want to loose whatever was inside incase he got pushed around again. For now he'd just slip it in his pocket and try and find Mamori and Megu before they got too far ahead without realizing that they'd lost him.
He maneuvered through the crowds on his way to the fabric store, fairly certain that his nursemaid would want her daughters to be wearing completely original dresses that they themselves had sewn for them to stand out more and sure enough he found the three women inside.
Megu had already chosen a dark blue fabric with no patterns or embroidery and had a roll of it tucked under her arm, frowning darkly at her mother as the woman tried to convince her to choose a more feminine material.
Mamori seemed to be favoring a dark pink fabric, but ever so often her eyes would drift to a deep green, a more plain, less girly colour like her sister had chosen.
"Sena, where have you been, we were worried about you." Megu said when she finally caught sight of him and Sena blushed uncomfortably.
"I lost track of you a while back and got swept away, but at least I found you guys again."
"Cinders, as a male don't you believe that females should wear more elegant things?" His nursemaid butted in, taking the roll of fabric away from Megu to glare at it with distaste.
"Well, Megu looks good in colours like that, and she really isn't very girly in the first place so that sort of material suits her better." He answered honestly.
"And I refuse to wear anything else. When I saw that fabric I knew it would be the only one I'd bother making a dress out of. So like it or hate it, it's the only one I'll agree to wear." Megu crossed her arm triumphantly and her mother sighed before handing it back to her.
"Do what you will then. I'll have to buy some nice sheer fabric for you to layer overtop of it though, we can't have you looking plain." She threw a look over her shoulder at her other daughter.
"Mamori, dear, that pink would look marvelous on you, pick it up before someone else gets it. And while you're over there pick up a roll of that sheer fabric to your left." She ordered and Mamori complied, throwing a sorry look over in Megu's direction.
After that they were off to find shoes, then accessories and by the end of the day Sena vowed that he would never go shopping before a ball ever again. Not that he would probably ever need to, the royals hardly ever invited the general public to their balls, this must have been some sort of last resort to find Prince Akaba a bride, which really must have meant one of two things.
Either Prince Akaba was just as strange as rumors said he was and none of the upper class girls wanted to marry him so the only way they would be able to marry him off was to a girl who just desperately wanted some sort of fairy tale, fantasy happy ending or bragging rights.
Or Prince Akaba was incredibly picky about the girl he wanted to marry, which wasn't too much of a long shot since he was the future king. But if he was really that picky then wouldn't it have been easier for them to, instead of opening the ball to the general public, invite a bunch of foreign princesses instead?
It was a bit puzzling, but he knew that either way he wouldn't have to worry about it. Megu would never even think about settling down with a man other than Rui so she wouldn't get her hopes up and have her heart broken, and Mamori was incredibly down to Earth and would know that her chances of getting with the prince were slim, and even if he did take some sort of interest in her she never really seemed to have time to fool around with boys, much too busy studying.
Just as long as his two favorite people in the world were able to keep their heart intact and stay happy, Sena would be happy.
"Fuu." Prince Akaba sighed when his two close friends finally managed to make it back to the castle. "Did you manage to hand them all out?"
Juri smiled widely. "Yep, now during the ball whenever you see someone wearing that piece of jewelry you'll know that they've officially been approved of by your friends."
Kotarou ran a comb through his hair sullenly. "I don't see why you can't just sneak out of the palace yourself to go find a suitable 'bride' or whatever. If me and Julie can do it why can't you?"
Juri smacked Kotarou in the back of the head. "You know he can't do that! He's too easily recognizable to be able to slip past the guards, that's why he needed us to go into town and find suitable matches for him."
Kotarou rubbed at the back of his head with a frown. "Yeah, but in the end it doesn't really matter what we think about them, what matters is their 'rhythm', or whatever it was that all the girls his parents set up with him lacked."
Akaba smirked. "But this way I'll know which ones you picked out for me and which ones are probably vain, greedy women or men who I should steer clear of during the ball. My mother specified that I'd need to dance with at least ten different girls or else she'd start forcing me to dance with them all."
"Speaking of women or men." Juri piped up. "I didn't actually expect the invitations to invite boys too, does your mother know about your tendencies or is she just giving you a wider range of 'rhythms' to choose from?"
"Fuu. Who knows? All that's certain for now is the evening of the ball I'll have at least ten dance partners and if none of them interest me by the time I'm finished dancing with them I'll just have to tell mother that her plan was a failure."
"You'd better choose someone by the end of this all! Going into the town today was way too much of a hassle for you to stay single after this! Totally not smart for us to go in there when every eligible girl and her mother is stampeding around to find the perfect dress. I swear if you don't choose anyone by the end of the ball I'll kick the hell out of you for all the trouble you caused us today."
"Oh really?" Akaba's smirk widened, almost turning into a smile. "Then I hope you picked someone I would like, I would certainly hate to find myself on the receiving end of one of your temper tantrums, not that I haven't gone through dozens of those already."
Kotarou made a move to go forward but Juri grabbed onto him and held him back.
"Alright you two, stop egging each other on and get serious about this. If Akaba doesn't find his true love at the ball the Queen will probably force him to marry someone he can't stand. We've all got to make sure that the bearers of our special jewelry get some proper alone time with our prince here so they can get to know each other better. Akaba, that means you'll have to put up with them for more then one dance."
Akaba sighed. "Fine, whatever you say."
After supper that evening his nursemaid lead the three of them into the living room and demanded that they get started on the dresses, ordering Sena to help in any way that he could.
"But mom, shouldn't Sena get something to wear to the ball as well?" Mamori asked and her mother cocked an eyebrow.
"No, I think it would be much better if he stayed here and watched the house while we're gone. Anyways, the day has been long and I'm feeling it's affects. I'll be retiring to my room now, goodnight."
Megu glared at her until she disappeared through the doors and then she sighed.
"Sorry Sena, but I guess you won't be able to come with us."
"That's alright, I really don't need to go." He stuck his hands in his pockets, frowning a little when he felt the box. "Although..."
"Well, there was a girl in the market place today who I helped up after I accidentally bumped into her, she gave me something and asked me to wear it if I came to the ball."
He pulled out the box and both Megu and Mamori crept a bit closer.
"Well, open it up, I want to see what exactly you accepted from some stranger on the street." Megu said in good humor and Sena lifted the lid of the box, eyes widening at what was inside.
"Well, that's a bit strange, pretty, but strange." Mamori commented and Megu nodded in agreement.
It was a golden choker which in itself wasn't so odd, but in the center of the choker was a small oval pendant or sorts, the red shape of a spider glittering inside.
"Well, I think that this is a sign that you have to go now, otherwise you'll never get to wear a piece of jewelry like that without feeling weird about it." Megu said, holding up a hand to silence Sena when the boy began to protest.
"We'll make sure mom doesn't find out, and I've already got a good disguise in mind." She grinned and Sena felt himself get more worried at the expression.
"But surely no matter how I'm dressed your mother will recognize me. It's not like she doesn't know what I look like underneath the cinders I'm usually encased in."
"Oh yes, if she sees you she'll recognize you for sure, unless of course, you're a girl, mother wouldn't think for a second that you would dress up like a girl just to go to a ball."
"That because I wouldn't!" Sena responded with a blush, looking to Mamori for support.
"But Sena, it's not like you'll have to dance or anything, we just want you to come out of the house and have some fun for a change." She said genuinely and Sena felt his resolve weakening.
"Besides, if some of those rumors about the prince turn out to be true maybe you'll end up being the one he likes the most out of the three of us."
Megu stood up and laid her material and the pattern for her dress down carefully. "Stay here, I'll be back in just a minute."
She rushed upstairs and into her room, coming down quickly with a familiar dress.
It was one that her mother had bought for her five or six years ago to wear on 'occasions that called for proper dresses', needless to say Megu had never bothered wearing it.
It was a crimson colour that matched the spider on the choker, but the dress's style was quite old and overly modest and Sena highly doubted that it would suit him very well.
Megu saw the doubtful look he was giving her and scoffed. "It's not like I'm going to make you wear it as it is. While we're sewing our dresses you can modify it, but first you've got to go check to make sure it fits."
With a sigh Sena took the dress from her hands and went to try it on, inwardly despairing when it fit rather well except in a certain area that he really had no control over.
'I guess I'll be going through with this after all.' He just didn't have the heart to say no to them without having a proper excuse, like he had nothing to wear.
And so the dress modifications began. He did the best he could, Mamori and Megu often giving him tips on what to change and what not to change and by the time the day of the ball rolled around he figured the dress was as good as it was going to get.
After they finished fixing themselves up Mamori and Megu left various cosmetics in his room for him to try out and a couple extra pieces of jewelry. His nursemaid gave him a long list of chores to complete while they were gone, but Sena had already finished the majority of them up already so he wouldn't have to worry about rushing through him when he managed to get home.
Mamori had convinced her mother to have their carriage leave for the palace an hour before the ball started, claiming that punctuality would make them look much better. While Megu convinced their mother that they'd have to stay at the ball until the early hours of the morning in order to have more chances to dance with the prince.
This would leave Sena with plenty of time to walk there and back before his nursemaid could realize he was gone even though the trek to the palace would probably take nearly two hours.
So as soon as the three women left Sena stuffed Megu's old, newly modified dress into a bag along with the box containing the choker, then he closed the bag up, sending a mild glare at the cosmetics the girls had left him.
He wasn't going to sink that low.
He left the house with the bag strung over his shoulder, wearing the most comfortable shoes he could find. Even if he wasn't going to be dancing he was not going to be walking for four hours in a pair of shoes that would end up giving him blisters.
And so his trek to the palace was off to a start, he was just traveling along the main road until more and more carriages began to pass by, signaling that the ball would be starting soon, then he drifted into the forest, still close to the road, but far enough away so that none of his neighbors would notice that he wasn't at home, just incase his nursemaid conversed with them during the ball and they decided to bring that topic up for some reason.
By the time the palace finally came in view no carriages had passed by for a long while and Sena assumed that the party was in full swing. With a sigh he walked just a little deeper into the forest and changed out of his clothes, put the dress and choker on before stuffing what he'd been wearing into a bag and nestling the sack in a couple of low branches. Then as he turned away to walk back towards the road he felt himself sink.
It was only reflexes that allowed him to pull up the skirts of his dress before it became dirty, but he was currently ankle deep in mud and he was fairly certain that someone would notice if he was tracking dirt into the palace.
With a muttered curse he stepped out of the mud and kicked off his shoes before carefully making his way back to the road, his dress would be long enough to cover up the fact that he had no shoes and just as long as no one stepped on his feet he should be fine.
With as much false dignity as he could muster he marched up to the palace and through the front gate, ignoring the peculiar looks he got from various guardsmen as he followed the sound of music and merriment to the main ballroom.
Akaba held back a sigh as he finished dancing with his third partner before searching for the fourth person who'd been gifted with his special piece of jewelry. The first hour of the ball had been bearable at least, he'd only had to greet everyone as they came in and were introduced to him, then the actual dancing began and it was beginning to drag in a very unpleasant way.
He wasn't sure if he was going to be able to survive through his first ten dance partners, let alone the number of girls he would probably be forced to dance with afterwards.
His mother had told him that the minimum was ten, but he just knew once he reached that amount she'd keep pushing him to dance with other girls and give them all a try before choosing which one he liked the best.
Perhaps it would not have been so bad if the people who were wearing his chokers left a bit more of an impression, sure they were nice and pretty and everything Akaba should want in his future queen, but they all lacked a spark that would draw him closer to them.
He hoped that the tenth bearer of the choker who had yet to show up would perk his interest a bit more.
As he finished dancing with the fourth bearer of the jewelry and went on to look for the fifth a flash of bold red caught his eye and he turned to see someone enter the ball room, glancing around nervously and sticking close to the wall as if they didn't want to be discovered.
That was enough to make him mildly curious and when he saw the jewelry around the person's neck he decided he may as well make this new person his fifth dance partner, so with a small, approachable smile he crept towards the person who was so busy making sure they were out of the line of sight of someone that they didn't notice his approach until his was right beside them.
"May I have the next dance?" He called smoothly, eyebrows raising when the person turned to give him a slightly appalled look before turning to look at the dance floor, then back at him, curtly replying "No." before walking away and out the door that lead to the gardens.
Well, that had been interesting to say the least and if Kotarou ever found out that he'd been rejected by someone he'd never hear the end of how 'smart' that person must have been to not want to bother with him. Not to mention that, despite the dress, the lack of a chest made it clear that the person in the dress had been male.
Who would come to a ball disguising their gender and not even go near the dance floor?
A person far more interesting than the other people in the room, that was for sure.
So, firmly resolving that he'd make a dance partner of this person in red by the end of the night Akaba followed after them into the gardens, smirking lightly when he saw that they were headed into the maze of hedges.
His father had designed it years ago and while it was fairly easy to get through it to the center and back out again, people who didn't know how easy it was to solve would often get panicky.
This would be fun.
With a sigh Sena walked through the hedges, not sure if he'd be able to go through with this after all. Just entering the ballroom had taken up all the courage he'd been able to scrape up, he knew Megu and Mamori had told him he didn't need to dance, that they just wanted him to get out and have fun, but being terrified that he was going to be discovered wasn't exactly his idea of having a good time.
Now all he had to worry about was... Getting lost in a maze of hedges.
"Oh, darn it."
Well, surely it shouldn't be that hard to solve, otherwise they would put up a sign to warn unwary people about it, right?
He turned around to go back, but paused, eyes widening slightly.
"Hello? Is someone back there?"
There was no answer, but Sena was certain that he'd seen a shadowy figure following after him.
"If this is the person who asked me to dance, I'm really sorry, but I can't, so you might as well go back inside to find someone else."
A branch snapped.
Sena turned back around and ran, hyper-aware of the fact that whoever had been following behind him was still coming after him. He turned left twice and then took a right, slowing down as he came into an open area at the center of the maze.
"Fuu. You're rather quick on your feet aren't you?"
Sena swiveled around, frowning when he saw it was the boy who'd asked him to dance.
"Sorry to have scared you, I just wanted to appear more mysterious."
"Really? Because you really made yourself seem more like a creepy stalker than anything else." Sena crossed his arms, frown deepening. "Why did you follow me out here anyways, you're a good looking guy, I'm sure you can find someone else to dance with you."
Akaba crept closer. "Oh, but you are far more interesting than any of the other people inside. What if I told you I only wanted to dance with you?"
"I'd think that you were a bit strange, I know for a fact that there are at least two really interesting girls inside, although I highly doubt they would dance with you." Sena took a step back and observed the person a little closer. Something about him seemed familiar, not as if they had met, but as if he should know who he was, despite never seeing him before.
"But you see, if the only interesting people here all refused to dance with me that would be a little unfair. You came all this way just to be a wallflower?"
Sena's eyebrows drew together in confusion and he didn't step away when Akaba took another step forward.
"Why would it be unfair to you? It's not like you're the-" He stopped abruptly and his eyes widened.
Red hair, red eyes, a sort of strange personality.
The prince in front of him chuckled. "So you've figured it out? Now that you know who I am would you consider dancing with me?"
"No? Why not?"
"Because I'm leaving now." Sena turned to run back out of the maze, Akaba hot on his heels.
Sena had just cleared the maze and was ready to sprint out of the garden, hopefully losing the redhead behind him in the process. Unfortunately due to the dark he was unable to see the bushes that kept low to the ground and thus were unaware of them until he stepped into them, his weight causing several thorns to become lodged in his foot.
With a cry of pain he fell back into an unexpected pair of arms.
"Ow, ow, ow!"
"Shh, it'll be fine." Akaba slowly sat Sena down on the ground and knelt in front of him, pulling up the skirt of Sena's dress with a raised eyebrow.
"I suppose you have a good reason why you're not wearing any shoes?"
"I do, I just don't feel like telling you at the moment." Sena responded, clenching his eyes shut as Akaba pulled his foot into his lap and trailed his fingers over it.
"These thorns aren't too deep in, I don't think I'll need tweezers to get them out, but it will still hurt, brace yourself."
Sena clenched his fists into the material of his dress and bit his lip as Akaba pulled the first of the lot out.
"You're doing fine, just two more to go."
Akaba made quick work of the remaining thorns and let go of Sena's foot to begin unbuttoning his jacket.
"Wh-what are you doing?"
Akaba took hold of his undershirt and began tearing it into strips.
"I'm going to wrap up your wounds, normally I'd rinse them out too, but I'm afraid I don't have any clean water close at hand, at least this way nothing else will be able to get into those punctures." He responded as he began wrapping up Sena's injured foot.
"I'll clean it out when I get home, I should be leaving soon anyways." Sena unsteadily stood up and threw a grateful look over at Akaba who was buttoning up his jacket, the shredded remains of his undershirt completely unnoticeable.
"Thanks for the help your majesty."
"Fuu, you can just call me Akaba." The prince stood up, moved forward and took one of Sena's hands in his own. "Do you suppose, as a token of appreciation, you'd give me just one dance?"
"I don't really think I'm in very good shape to dance at the moment, besides, I don't really know how to dance anyways."
"Leave that to me, once we get inside the ballroom just rest your feet on top of mine, the skirt of your dress is long so no one will notice the reason why we're perfectly in sync." Akaba leaned in a little closer. "Although I'm sure that even if it weren't for that we'd be a good match on the dance floor, our rhythms go quite well together."
"Rhythms? What do you mean by that?"
Akaba didn't bother answering as he lead Sena back into he building, signaling the musicians to start up a waltz.
"Now then my dear, remember to stay close."
Sena stepped up onto the cool tops of Akaba's shoes, trying to keep himself from blushing. "Are you sure I'm not too heavy for this?"
"You're light as a feather." Akaba replied without skipping a beat, easily moving around the dance floor despite the extra weight he was carrying around. "Must you leave so soon? I could have someone take a look at your injury and then you could take it easy for a while until it comes time for me to escort you home."
"Uh, I don't think that's really necessary." Sena nervously replied as his eyes began to wander around the room. 'If Mamori and Megu see me like this, I'll never hear the end of it.'
"Well, I suppose I shouldn't detain you, so once this song is over I'll escort you home."
"You don't have to, I can go home by myself." Sena murmured, eyes glued to Akaba's chest.
"It wouldn't be very gentlemanly of me to allow a nice boy such as yourself to go home alone when it's dark."
Sena's eyes finally snapped up to meet his, shock apparent in them. "You know I'm a boy?" He practically wheezed out and Akaba nodded. "Then why are you bothering to dance with me?"
"I told you before, you're the most interesting person here, why wouldn't I want to dance with you?"
"But... But..." Sena flushed darkly when he found himself at a loss for words and, with a smile, Akaba held him just a little bit closer.
"You know the reason why my mother planned this ball, right?" He asked and Sena nodded slowly.
"Well, I think-"
The music stopped and Sena, distinctly aware of the looks being sent his way, quickly stepped away from Akaba, his eyes once again focussing everywhere but the prince.
"Please, won't you tell me your name? It's unfair that you know mine, but I have yet to learn yours."
"... I think I need to sit down." Sena answered breathlessly, not entirely sure if he wanted the prince to know his name, although at the same time, he couldn't see the harm in it.
"Was the dance too much for you? I'm sorry if I under-estimated your wounds." Akaba apologized sincerely as he lead Sena away from the dance floor towards a small group of chairs. "I have been too greedy to have asked that you dance with me even though you are not completely well. Forgive me?"
Sena felt a blush cover his cheeks once more and he quickly tried to ignore the warm feeling Akaba's concern was creating inside him. "You're forgiven." He managed to say as he sat down.
"Are you certain? Thinking back upon my actions, I should have just enjoyed your presence as it was without forcing you to do something strenuous."
"I already said I forgive you, so just forget about it already." Sena mumbled as he vainly tried to hide his embarrassment.
He wasn't used to being treated this nicely by someone he hardly knew, and it made him feel strange.
'I've got to get out of here before I do something weird.' He thought as he glanced up at Akaba's face, biting his lip when the sight made his heart beat a little faster.
'Am I getting sick or something?'
"Is there anything you need? Perhaps you would like something to drink?" Akaba asked gently and Sena opened his mouth to say 'no' when a thought struck him.
'Maybe when he's gone I can use that opportunity to leave before I start feeling even weirder.'
"I think I'd like that, thank you." The brunette said politely, although he couldn't help feeling that he was doing something wrong.
He chalked it up to the sudden sickness he appeared to be contracting, there was no other reason why he'd want to stick around, right.
"All right, take it easy, I'll be back in a flash." The red head instructed him before moving away, quickly disappearing into a crowd of people.
As soon as the prince was out of sight Sena stood up and made his way towards the entrance he had come through, making his way up the stairs as quickly as his injured foot would allow him.
Which apparently wasn't quickly enough.
He'd hardly passed the mid point on the stairs when a familiar voice shouted: "Stop the person in the red dress!"
He didn't even have to look behind him to know that people were quickly acting in accordance to the prince's order, he could hear the heavy footfalls behind him, clattering against the marble floor before reaching the carpeted stairs.
Sena took a deep breath and surged forward, intent on making it outside before anyone could catch him.
'Once I make it past the gates I can run into the forest and lose them in the dark.' He told himself as he ignored the constant throbbing of his injured foot, picking up his pace even more when he was certain he could feel someone breathing down his neck.
He reached the gates in record time and dashed through them, even when a despairing cry of 'wait' reached his ears and rattled at his insides.
He moved through the forest swiftly and grabbed is bag, not bothering to change in the middle of the forest just in case someone was still following him. From there he moved close enough to the road so that he wouldn't get lost on his way home and crossed his fingers that he wouldn't be found.
Akaba slumped against the wall of his private quarters, not wanting to have to go out and pretend that the person in red getting away wasn't a big deal.
"I didn't expect him to actually start running, I thought he'd be in too much pain for it." He said lowly. "Why did he run away?"
"Maybe he thinks you're weird." Kotarou oh so helpfully contributed before Juri's elbow met his ribcage in a way that rendered him speechless.
"Well, from what you've told us so far it seems like he didn't want to bring any attention to himself. Being around you brought a lot of attention to him, so maybe he decided it was in his best interest to leave." She said thoughtfully. "Besides, if he came here dressed as a girl, he must have been wanting to hide his identity from someone, maybe he was close to being discovered?"
"He could have just told me that though, couldn't he?" Akaba asked with a frown while Juri sighed and ran a hand through her hair.
"Look, he knew you for what, thirty minutes tops? And for the first part of that he thought you were a creepy stalker. That's not enough time for someone to trust a stranger with all their problems." She tried to reason with him.
"Why not? It was enough time for me to make an important decision." Akaba said as he sulked.
"Well, what the hell are you just standing around for then?" Kotarou suddenly piped up once he fully recovered from Juri's attack. "It doesn't matter if you know his name, me and Julie gave only one guy one of those necklaces, so we already know what village he's from. All that's left for you to do is come up with any idea that will flush him out."
"An idea like what? Surely if he was so eager to leave to keep from being discovered he won't come to me of his own volition."
"Exactly. Say you have a clue to who the mystery 'lady' is and you're going to go around all the villages to see if you can discover them. We'll go to his village first, and while all the girls flock around to see if they can cheat the system or whatever, me and Julie can go look for the one that got away. How's that for a smart idea?"
Akaba smirked. "I knew there was a reason why I kept you around. What sort of clue do you think I should 'find'?"
"Well, something that would be impossible for any of the girls here could prove... Like a shoe!"
"A shoe?" Akaba and Juri both deadpanned and Kotarou frowned at them.
"Well yeah. The guy was bare foot right? But we're the only ones who know that, if you say you found their footwear and if happened to be so small that no one beyond the age of ten could actually put it on, well, then you don't have to worry about some random girl having 'proof' that she's the one you danced with."
"Excellent, let's get started on this."
"But what about the ball, it's not over yet." Juri reminded him and Akaba sighed dramatically.
"Why would I go back to a ball who's purpose is to find me my match when I already have my heart set on someone?"
"So, Sena..." Megu began for the hundredth time that morning. "Why did you run away from the prince again?"
The brunette sighed and continued washing the dishes from breakfast, trying to ignore the cheshire cat grin on the older girl's face. "I told you before, I was feeling strange and I didn't want to do anything stupid. Plus if I stuck around and your mother recognized me I'd be dead meat."
Megu rose one fine eyebrow. "Is that so?" She grinned wider. "Are you sure you're not just running away from your feelings?"
"Megu, stop pestering him." Mamori ordered but her older sister just wasn't letting this go.
"Oh come on Mamori, you were there too, it was impossible not to notice how good they looked together. And when Sena was making his escape, well, I've never seen a royal run so fast."
"Do you see royals run often then?" Sena asked dryly, but Megu was undeterred.
"Not to mention that heart-broken, puppy-dog-eyes look the prince had when he came back alone."
"He... He was sad?" Sena asked guiltily. "But he recovered soon afterwards, right? I'm sure there was someone else there who he deemed interesting enough to dance with."
"Actually..." Mamori began softly. "After he came back he took two of his attendants and went off somewhere. We didn't see him for the rest of the night."
"Oh." Guilt was practically stabbing at him now, asking him how he could be so selfish. "But that doesn't mean anything, right?"
Both girls gave him the same disbelieving look.
"Why are you giving me those looks? I'm asking a serious question!"
"Sena, you said you felt strange around Prince Akaba right? Sort of fluttery and flustered?"
"Yeah, but what does that have to do with anything?"
"Sena, what Megu is trying to say, is we think that you and Prince Akaba are in lo-"
"Mamori! Megu! Come into the living room right now! Something urgent has just been brought to my attention!" Their mother demanded from beyond the door and, after throwing each other a cautious look, they left the kitchen without Mamori finishing her sentence.
She didn't need to, Sena already had a feeling he knew what she'd almost said.
'But that's impossible, isn't it?' He asked himself, feeling even more unsure when he couldn't seem to think it was.
Upon reaching the living room Mamori and Megu were surprised to discover that their mother had taken each of them by the hand and lead them out of the house before they could think to question her actions.
But the state of shock quickly wore off and with a frown Megu ripped her hand out of her mother's grasp.
"Just what is going on here?" She demanded to which her mother with only one word.
It wasn't long before they reached the center of the village and they were left to stare at the spectacle before them.
"Is another ball being planned or something?" Mamori asked curiously, grimacing when her mother let out a rather evil sounding laugh.
"No my dear. The prince found one clue and only one clue about the identity about the girl in red he danced with yesterday, and he's vowed to marry any girl who went to the ball and can fit on her shoe. Her shoe of all things!"
"Strange, one would assume he'd at least thin out the crowd by adding a couple more specifications. Like height, hair colour, eye colour, that sort of thing." Megu commented dryly and her mother shot her a look.
"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Now let's go!" She marched forward and Megu allowed her gaze to linger on the stand that had been put up for the girl's to try the shoe on.
'Strange, if the prince is so set on finding Sena, you'd assume he'd be here for when he was found, not that he's going to be found.' She sighed and walked forward.
'Maybe when it's my turn I can tell one of those officials where Sena really is.'
Meanwhile, a fair distance away from the crowded town square Akaba, Juri and Kotarou were searching through empty houses for any trace of the one that got away.
"This makes me feel like a petty criminal." Juri commented darkly as they snuck out of one house towards the next. "Maybe we should revised Kotarou's plan a little more. Maybe then we wouldn't have to sneak around like thieves."
"Hey! If anyone catches us it's not like they can d anything about it. We can just say Akaba's got some royal business to take care of."
"And you think they'll believe that?"
"He's the prince! he can do what he wants!"
"You idiot! Why-"
"I hate to ruin your moment, but if you two don't stop arguing someone's going to notice us." Akaba whispered and his companions quickly ceased their verbal barrages, although Juri did walk a bit faster in her huff.
She knocked on the door of the next house with a little more force than usual and waited for less time than what was usually considered polite before barging in.
And subsequently knocked over the person who had just come to answer the door.
"Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! I didn't know someone was standing right behind the door!" She quickly knelt down beside the person and helped him up, gasping when she saw who it was.
"It's you!" She cried excitedly, wrapping her arms around Sena, much the the boy's shock.
"It's me?" Sena questioned, slightly out of breath from the hug. "Oh, your the girl who gave me... That... Necklace..." He trailed off when over her shoulder he saw someone he was pretty sure he would never see again.
"Good morning my dear." Akaba greeted with a sight bow. "I felt as though our time together yesterday was cut too short and you never did tell me your name, so I decided to seek you out."
"Oh." Sena managed to squeak out and Juri finally let him go, but only so that she could push him closer to the red headed royal.
"So, first things first, what is your name?"
"S-S-Sena." He managed to stutter out, cheeks flushing and heart beating quickly just like it had been last night.
'Are Mamori and Megu right then? I didn't just feel this way because I was sick?'
"Sena, it suits you."
"Th-thanks. Was that all you needed?" Sena asked, wringing his hands together nervously as his eyes darted from left to right.
"Actually, no." Akaba stepped forward and grasped Sena's chin, raising his face up so he could look him in the eye.
"I would like to ask you a very special question."
"Okay." Sena responded weakly, leaning in to Akaba's touch by a hardly noticeable fraction.
Akaba still noticed.
"Sena, when you were given that necklace, that means you were approved of by my friends, and when I said that you were the most interesting person, and that why I wanted to dance with you, I really meant it. And before the dance ended, there was something I was about to tell you, remember?"
"I was going to say that the search was over." Akaba smiled and moved a little bit closer. "Sena, would you marry me?"
"M-marry?" Sena repeated as he turned a dozen different shades of red. "I, well.. But would you even be allowed to marry, you know, a boy?"
"I'm the prince, I can do whatever I want." Akaba responded smoothly. "So, what's your answer?"
Sena stared up at him for a long moment, long enough for Akaba to start becoming visibly nervous.
'He really does care, doesn't he?' Sena gulped and tried to calm the butterflies in the stomach down.
"Yes. I'll marry you."
"Really?" Akaba asked, just to be certain and Sena laughed lightly as he nodded.
"Well then, our second order of business is to get your foot looked at to make sure it's healing properly, the first order of business..." Akaba swooped down to capture Sena's lips with his.
"Get a room. Not smart!"
Sena was easily accepted by Akaba's mother, who was just happy that her son was finally going to get hitched than care about Sena's gender and within and amazingly short amount of time they were married. And they weren't the only ones. Megu was finally able to marry her childhood sweetheart. And shortly after Mamori set off to become a teacher.
The nursemaid, as you may have guessed, was given such a bad reputation when her children told people what she'd done that she was never able to find work again.
And, although this story has changed much over time, there is one part that has never changed: and they all lived happily ever after.
-OMAKE- (Graciously made up by my sister for your amusement.)
Akaba: There was something I was about to tell you, remember?
Akaba: Will you do me the honor of bearing my child? -Heart-
Sena: HENTAI! -Slap-
Kotarou: Wow! Good thing we found someone who could keep Akaba in line. Smart!