This is the end, guys. The last chapter. This is dedicated to all the wonderful lovely people out there who even bothered to read this rather sorry excuse of a fic; I thank you all from the bottom of my heart because without your support I would never have made it past the first chapter *bows* I hope you'll be satisfied with the way this fic ends, and once again, thank you!
It was odd.
Back when she'd been in Crystalasia, her only thoughts had been of going home to Solaris and fantasizing a wonderful life without Len's irritating egoism and nitpicky perfectionist attitude and generally, life without him.
But now…he was all she could think of.
She didn't mean to. In fact, she tried to avoid thinking about him. But she couldn't help it. She'd just be sipping her afternoon tea and suddenly wondering whether whoever was serving Len had put in just the right amount of sugar of 1¼ teaspoons and no milk; the way he liked it. Or, when she was dressing for the day, she'd suddenly worry if the servant helping Len to dress remembered to get the right pair of morning slippers; a different colour everyday, depending on the day of the week.
It irritated her, baffled her, until she started to worry if she was suffering the strain of being the man's lackey for so long. And yet, not all her thoughts of him were related to her work. Sometimes, she'd just be enjoying a twilight stroll in her own rose garden, and for a split second, she'd seem him lying on the wooden bench, in the shade of the bushes, peacefully sleeping. But of course, it was never real. She'd dismiss it as a trick of the light, but deep down, she knew that wasn't the true reason.
But the weeks passed by, and still Kahoko thought of him. Of his stunning blue hair, of his chiseled features, of those deep golden eyes, of his scowl, his frown, of his scoldings and odd habits, of his inflated ego, of his kindness toward his people…of his smile, like a rare and beautiful bloom, its rarity only serving to make it all the more beautiful…
She thought she might be ill. Her appetite shrunk, her nights were often sleepless, and when she did catch a few winks, his face still haunted her dreams. Even her parents were starting to worry; she was nearly starving herself, and looked like she was about to drop from fatigue. They called in the royal doctor, but alas even he could not find anything wrong with her.
Until one day, Kahako was forced to admit it. It had been lurking, deep down in the depths of her heart, for quite a while now. It kept trying to force its way to the surface of her heart, to break out of the murky waters where secret thoughts and desires lie hidden. But she refused to let it. Every time it started to bubble, as if it were finally about to emerge, she'd push it all the way down again, bury it and hope it'd never return. But it would. No matter what she did. Kahoko was sick. Lovesick.
She didn't understand how it had happened. It was impossible. Who could ever learn to love a man of ice? Yet, it had happened. Before she realized it, Kahako had fallen in love. With Len.
And even stranger than her realization was the odd mixture of feelings that came with it. Admitting her love for Len had resulted in being utterly painful yet absolutely wonderful at the same time. She still felt pain and confusion, because she was quite sure that Len didn't love her back. But, but at the same time she just felt so…happy. Now she understood why he kept appearing in her mind; she was in love! And even if she didn't know if Len reciprocated her feelings, just thinking of him made her smile and want to laugh.
It was a bittersweet feeling, Kahoko discovered about one-sided love. When you thought about that person you'd just want to burst with joy and at the same time cry in despair because you knew that person could never love you back. Sometimes Kahoko felt that she'd been better off not knowing her feelings rather than living with the conflicting emotions she experienced now.
She was still a little confused and not quite sure what to do with herself. Sometimes she'd cynically laugh at herself, thinking of all the times she'd scorned the heroines in those romance novels, with their one-sided love. And now she was one of them, and rather understood how they felt.
But fate was kind, and gave her the perfect opportunity to set everything straight once and for all…in the form of an invitation.
It happened one morning at breakfast.
Kahoko had been staring at her now stone cold bowl of soup with a faraway look in her eyes when she was brought back to earth by her mother's sharp voice.
"Kahoko! Stop playing with your food and start eating it!"
Kahoko jerked up and her eyes widened in surprise. Looking at the spoon in her hand, she realized she must have been unconsciously stirring her soup.
"Sorry…" she murmured, before returning to stirring her soup.
"Really, dear, I don't know what's got into you lately…" the queen's voice was chiding, but held an undertone of concern. "Aha! What do we have here?" Queen Lilith picked up an envelope from her pile of mail "Look, Kahoko! It's an invitation the Len's 18th birthday celebration!"
Kahoko gasped and froze in shock. Did she hear her mother correctly? An invite to…Len's birthday party? This was almost too good to be true…
"It would do you good, dear, to get out of the castle for a bit…"
But Kahoko wasn't listening to her mother's prattle. Blood roared in her ears as her mind tried to absorb and calculate the situation. Alright, this was her chance. Her chance to set everything right and possibly rid her of every one of the jumbled up emotions she'd been bottling up for so long…
She would confess. Just the mere idea of it made Kahoko go red to the tips of her ears, but she figured it would be better to face it straight on in the end.
"When is the celebration?" Kahoko blurted out, a tad too loud.
"Well," Lilith raised a slightly questioning eyebrow "it's good to see you so excited about something after so long, I suppose… The celebration is to be held next week."
The week passed painfully slowly, as if Time had decided to irk Kahoko and purposely dig his heels into the ground. All through the week, Kahoko was a frenzied mess. If she wasn't doubting herself and reconsidering her decision, she was rehearsing what she would say to Len (which never seemed to work out, for unknown frustrating reasons) or be trying on every single outfit in her wardrobe, taking it off, and then trying it on again.
And then the day finally, finally came.
They were back in the same hotel in Crystalasia as Kahoko scrutinized herself in the mirror and felt a vague sense of déjà vu. This time she donned a rather traditionally princess-like sort of gown, complete with the tulle skirt, layers of petticoats, tight bodice and all. It was off-shoulder, and a most dramatic flaming scarlet. Her hair had been braided before being wound into a bun, and was kept in place with an ornate butterfly hairpin, and she wore matching butterfly earrings and a necklace.
She nervously petted down her skirt and squeezed her eyes shut.
"Okay, okay, you can do this!" she whispered to herself. After one last prayer that the night would go smoothly, Kahoko marched steadily out the room.
Without a backward glance, she shut the door behind her and continued moving forward.
People. People everywhere.
Kahoko cursed inwardly. There was no way she was going to be able to find Len in a crowd like this! They'd arrived nearly half an hour ago, and Kahoko had yet to see even a glimpse of the blue haired boy. 'Where can he be?' Kahoko sighed in frustration and was on the verge of losing her self control and simply screaming Len's name when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Her heart swelled for a second, only to fall even further when she spun around and realized it was Ashley.
"Oh…hello Ash! Great to see you after so long!" she smiled, hoping she'd masked her disappointment effectively.
"It's wonderful to see you too," Ashley grinned back before slyly adding "Looking for someone?"
"E-eh? Ahaha…what are you talking about dear? I'm not looking for—"
"He's on the balcony on the fifth floor."
"Fifth floor. Balcony."
Kahoko blinked a few times before realization dawned upon her and a red blush bloomed across her cheeks.
"…How did you know?" she eventually managed to mutter shyly.
Ashley gave a laugh and winked at Kahoko. "Never underestimate the maid!" she smiled before taking her friend by the shoulders and giving her a hug.
"Go get him!" she whispered encouragingly in Kahoko's ear.
"I will!" Kahoko gave back a wink of her own, and with a determined fire in her eyes, the princess went in search of her prince.
"Hah…hah…Why…the…FIFTH LEVEL…so…tired...Damn him!" Kahoko huffed breathlessly as she clambered up the steps. She rather regretted her choice of dress now, but it was too late.
"I…refuse…to let a...DRESS…hold me back!" She vowed and hitched up her silken skirts higher, quickening her pace up the stairs, with her stilettos click clacking on the marble.
"Made it! At last…" Kahoko leaned against the banister, catching her breath. She stared at the door at the end of the corridor, knowing it led to the balcony. And the balcony led to Len.
She dusted off her skirt, smoothened back her hair and held her head high before taking slow, even steps down the corridor. Memories of Len flashed in her mind as she walked. Him standing there cold and impassive, as her carriage rode away, chasing him on the beach, him holding her tight as they danced, the humble tone in which he spoke to his people, his haughty demeanor as he ordered her about, his cold glare at the ball that felt so long ago…
"How funny, that everything between the two of us should start and end with a simple invitation," she chuckled a little at the irony.
Kahoko came to a halt, hand wavering over the door knob.
'Ah well, I guess it's now or never,'
With one last deep breath, she twisted the door knob and flung the door open.
He hadn't expected to meet her.
Len had simply been in the middle of a violin piece when he heard the balcony door slam open behind him and was about to yell at the intruder only to spin around and see her there.
She looked beautiful. Even in the dark of night, the flaming red of her dress could not be dulled, and the silvery soft moonlight illuminated her silhouette so that part of her was mysteriously wrapped in shadows and part of her was bathed in a surreal glow. Obviously she had been exerting herself a bit; curls of her vivid red hair had fallen out of her bun and framed her face. For a moment, those large, clear amber eyes stared straight into his, but quickly looked away. Len frowned slightly; there had been a mix of emotions in her eyes that he couldn't quite make out…something like anticipation and perhaps, a little…fear?
"How did you find me?" he asked, gruff as usual. 'Why did you look for me?' was what he really wanted to know.
"And good evening to you too," she replied snidely. But there was a sort of…tension in the way she held herself, Len thought.
"Ashley told me you were here…"
'Darn! That meddling maid again!' Len cursed inwardly.
"But…listen, that's...there's something I want to talk to you about,"
At this, Len looked up. Kahoko was tucking her hair behind her ear, a habit Len had noticed she did whenever she was feeling nervous or self-conscious.
"Go on," he hoped he didn't sound overly interested.
There was a pause as Kahoko seemed to try and calm herself down. She tucked her hair behind her ear again and took a few deep breaths. By now, Len's attention was fully focused on the girl in front of him. The violin was laid aside and forgotten as he scrutinized her body language, noticing the way she wrung her hands and kept on muttering to herself. Len was brimming with curiosity, trying to make guess what she could possibly want to speak to him about ('You'd think, after all this time, she'd be all but too happy never to see my face again,') but decided not to rush her. Instead, he simply leaned against the railing and folded his arms across his chest. Finally, Kahoko straightened up and seemed ready to speak.
"I…I…Oh gosh, I don't know how this happened and I still can't believe it myself and I can't believe I'm going to say this but…I…I like you."
Just three words, and Len's mind went into complete and total overdrive.
'Oh dear lord, was that…was that a…confession?'
He could only stare at Kahoko in shock, unable to move, to think, to even breathe properly. The gears in his brain had suddenly been ground to a halt and Len frantically tried to get them moving again.
Kahoko's face had by now turned an impressive shade of red that could have competed with her dress, and she began rambling.
"Oh my gosh…just… delete what I said… all of it! Pretend I never came here in the first place. I mustn't have been in my right mind! What was I thinking?! And…"
But Len wasn't listening, instead, he was still trying to formulate his thoughts and make his brain work again.
'I've just been confessed to. For the first time ever. She said she likes me. Kahoko said she likes me. Kahoko said she likes me. What do I do? What am I supposed to do? What do I say? Do I even like her back?...Do I?'
And, much like Kahoko only a few minutes before, Len's memories of Kahoko all came flooding back to him. Her enthusiastically waving goodbye as her carriage drove off, her tears soaking into his shirt as she buried her head into his chest and cried, her playing with the little children in the town, her indignant manner that day in the Rose garden, the passion with which she had played her violin on the stage on the night of that fateful ball… Something about this girl, Len realized, had brought out a completely different side of him he had never known he'd had. He was used to people calling him snobby and cold and a perfectionist, and for the longest time that was all he had thought himself to be too. And then she came along, and Len found that he was human, able to experience warmth and to be kind and to have fun like anyone else. And she actually had feelings for him. Him, the ice prince that could never love and never be loved.
But he was no longer that ice prince, because he realized that now, he was loved. And more than that: He loved her back.
"You know what? Forget it, I shall stop rambling on and on like the idiot I am and I'm just going to leave right now—"
But Kahoko was cut off in mid sentence when her hand was grabbed from behind and she was whirled straight into Len's arms before he leaned forward…
…and kissed her.
It was a simple kiss, nothing more than just the meshing of lips upon lips really. And yet, it was so much more than that. It was all their pent up feelings, all the words they wanted to say, and all the thoughts they were thinking, translated into one small action and expressed more clearly than in any other way they could ever have tried.
It could have been only second, it could have been an eternity, Kahoko wasn't sure. The only thing she knew when they broke apart was that she immediately missed the warmth of Len's lips on hers.
There was a silence as the couple stared at one another, but it wasn't an awkward silence. Rather it was a contented, companionable silence in which both simply grinned at each other, exhilarated and slightly bashful at the same time. But the silence was broken when Kahoko let out a giggle, followed by a chuckle from Len, until the giggles and chuckles turned into a full blown bout of laughter.
And as they embraced one another under the watchful eyes of the moon and stars, they laughed the bubbling, dizzyingly exuberant laughter of young lovers.