A/N: This will be the concluding chapter to Laughter. It got really hard to write toward the end, partly due to struggling with inspiration and partly due to school, etc. I won't give up on Half Prince fanfics altogether but I have no intention of editing or continuing Laughter. It went off on a tangent that I didn't intend it to and it was my first real attempt at a multi-chapter fic. For anyone who has read the whole thing, or reviewed, favourite or added to story alerts: thank you for bearing with me, this one's dedicated to you guys.
Disclaimer: I don't own Half Prince or any related content.
"Prince." Glancing up, Prince was glad to see that no-one else had logged on yet. After speaking with Zhuo-gege she had realised that she had to sort things out. She had made the distinction between Second Life and reality, but hadn't fully appreciated the differences between other players and NPCs.
She gave a bright smile, knowing Kenshin wouldn't be able to identify the internal confusion and sadness, while Sunshine skipped around, delighted to see her. They were so important to her. Too important. Important enough to feel like they belonged in her real life, as well as this one.
"Say, Sunny? Can I ask you a favour? Please, could you run to the tower and see if Lolidragon is around?" The blood elf knew his cheerful companion would oblige, sure enough he sped off on errand immediately.
"Why do you require Lolidragon?" Asked Kenshin, slightly puzzled.
"I just... I wanted to see you on your own for a bit." She normally felt unbound from being a "Girl" when she was Prince, but right now she felt very much the "Girl," blushing at a glimpse of the familiar features or a phrase uttered in the soothing voice.
"...I see. Was that gesture last time... A custom of some sorts? I don't really know what it represents for your culture. Just... what it means in mine. If they differ I have shown you a great deal of disrespect." She began to feel a slight panic, she hadn't realised Kenshin could misunderstand such a simple gesture.
"It's a way of expressing your feelings for someone, feelings of attraction. There are other types of kisses, for different types of love, but I kissed you because I really like you." She spoke with the tone of a warrior, refusing to admit defeat to the hindering shyness she felt creeping up on her.
"They are one and the same. I was not reading things incorrectly." The pride in his voice was unmistakable. She sighed. She had felt sure that seeing Kenshin again would help her sort out her feelings, were they just a crush, or was she falling in love?
"It isn't working..." The demon lord's voice was doleful, seeing Prince's melancholy demeanour had prompted him to attempt the laugh-bringing strategy of shoulder patting, however Prince had not noticed, absorbed in thought.
"Oh Kenshin..." No matter how many times she saw it, the adorably confused look on the swordsman's face always made her laugh. Impulsively she hugged him close to her, as she had done before, yet more intimate, more affectionate. If she wasn't sure what her feelings were, she should give them time to develop. Denying them would just leave her with an open wound, unable to heal until she sought closure.
She felt the red-head stiffen in her embrace and pulled back a little, watching him anxiously. For a moment she glimpsed some kind of internal battle in his eyes. Then he frowned and pulled her into a crushing hold. She held on, relaxing against him, closing her eyes, unable to get completely comfortable no matter how she tried.
When they eventually pulled apart she darted in, intending to peck him on the cheek, only to be met in a fierce kiss, as if he wanted to express everything he had ever felt in a single motion.
"I'm... Sorry. That was an unfair thing to do." He began, then seeing her mouth open added a hasty, "No, don't interrupt. I... We do not belong together. I am my own self. The system doesn't think for me, but they created me. My feelings... are a program, written into me at creation. I... cannot love. I can feel what I see as love, but it is something different. Something unnatural. You are a creature of flesh and blood. In your strange other world where monsters and magic do not exist, you have your own magic. Emotion. Something... that cannot be created. I... could never claim to "love" you. That would be a lie, even if I meant it. I am part of a game. I am real to you for now, but one day you will grow. You will accept the missions of your secret world, creating a home, finding and keeping a job... One day finding a mate."
"I will fade from your memory, as is natural. If we were to become what is known as a couple, there is a chance you will truly fall in love. That would truly be a crime worth deletion, to change your life so drastically, chain you to this created world so tightly. I did not deserve your embraces, your kisses, but for a while I accepted, even demanded them. I apologise. I will continue to serve you, as a pet in secret and a player in public. As I did before." Prince could only stare. How could something so meaningful, so heartfelt, come from a chunk of coded data?
"He's... mature. More so than me." She thought sadly, "He didn't think of his own desire, just my needs. It hadn't even occurred to me that he might be left alone when I grow up. No. No matter how hard, no matter who else I love, no matter how quickly this crush fades, I won't forget him. I won't leave him to become lonely again."
"So, friends?" She asked him brightly, not willing to hurt him and her other friends by being depressed, despite the sting of rejection, no matter how kind and the ache of lost love, no matter how fledgling.
"Yes. Friends is good." He replied, following her toward the tower. She had one last thing she needed to do.
"Wicked!" She called, racing toward him as soon as she saw him, ignoring the gathering crowd of their friends.
"I'm sorry. I was upset, and confused, and I took it out on you. I'm not going to let this ruin our friendship, and you were right. Kenshin and I have talked things over. We're just friends and comrades. Thank you for talking some sense into me before it was too late."
It wouldn't have been Wicked to gush over her apology, but sincere smile and firm handshake told her all she needed to know. Yes, she hurt from losing a love, but she had her friends.
Wicked, standing in front of her, reliable and trustworthy, Gui prancing over, making her smile inside at his flamboyant antics while she loosed her aggressive energy scolding and beating him, Lolidragon, flashing a sympathetic smile, but otherwise continuing as normal, Wolf-bro and Yulian, unaware of the drama, lost in a sea of blueprints and spreadsheets, Nan Gong Zui silently congratulating her for her warrior's pride, Doll and Sunshine valiantly protecting the carpet from all assault and Kenshin, silent as always, a step behind, ready to protect her at a moment's notice.
"Yes." She thought, "It's good to have friends."
That was so hard to write... Thank you to anyone who read this story, and an extra thank you to anyone who actually bothers to read my author notes and finally, thanks again frosty, for inspiring me to write this, for introducing me to Half Prince, for reading every chapter and for being a great friend in general
Adios, mis amiogos! Gracias, por tu tiempo!