Piffle IV

Anna falls back into the couch with a sigh. She grips a coffee cup with both hands and a smile. It has been four days since the surgery. She has refrained from healing her shoulder after the surgery in order for it to heal naturally. On the other hand, the doctor said that the treatment, or rather an injection he gave her after the surgery, will speed up the healing process, thus the short healing period.

Her shoulder is still a little sore but the doctor said that was to be expected. And thanks to the surgery, she can use her arm more or less like before. She can't lift it over her head yet but she can lift it at a 90 degree angle in front of herself. Overall, the surgery was successful and that makes her happy.

She can remember when she stopped wearing the sling. She had gone down stairs and found Kurogane in the kitchen and the others outside with the fliers. Anna walked up to him from behind and wrapped her arms around his middle.

"Hey," he said, looking over his shoulder at her.

She loosened her grip enough for him to turn around and face her. "Hey," she said, looking up at him. He smirked at her before wrapping his arms around her in return. She smiled as she listened to the beating of his heart.

She was so happy to be able to hold him after so long. He seemed to enjoy it too.

Anna no longer wears a sling but she does wear a shoulder wrap. It straps across her chest and under her left arm. It is not the most comfortable thing in the world but it's all right. It keeps her from straining her arm too much. She was told to wear it day and night, to refrain from taking is off. She's had to take bath with keeping her shoulder out of the water, washing the rest of herself with a rag. Washing her hair has been difficult but she was managed.

Anna's thoughts are interrupted as the logo for the Dragonfly race comes across the TV screen. Being in worlds like this, she can't help but wonder if such technology is in Rojus's future. She shakes the thought from her head and focuses on the screen. The race is in two parts, something the travelers were unaware of before. First there is a preliminary race to determine who will participate in the second, final race. Tomoyo had offered Anna the opportunity to watch the race with her but Anna declined. She has nothing against Tomoyo, she is grateful for her helping her with her shoulder but Anna would rather watch the race in the safety of the bus house rather than atop of some flying lion thing. Now that she thinks about it, she's glad she's not in the race. She's starting to think that she has issues with height. Standing on the balconies is the palace always did make her more nervous than it should.

"Okay everyone!" yells a man on the TV. "The race is starting! The Dragonfly Race!"

Anna is not worried about the race. Her hopefulness is reinforced by a vision she had before her surgery. She frowns at the thought. She had two very different visions only seconds apart, one more positive than the other. She closes her eyes and wonders if it is possible to force a vision. Something in the back of her head tells her that that is a bad idea. She sighs.

The announcer continues to speak. "Now the contestants are making their last preparations to do their best for the magical prize that awaits them! But if they cannot make it to the top 20 in the preliminaries, they cannot continue on to the finals!"

She also wonders if there is a theme to her visions. Some are good and others are bad. Some are significant events and others are minor events. Her visions don't seem to be a connected by subject matter at all. Then again, all her visions seem to include one of her travel companions as the main character. She decides not to dwell on the thought.

Anna returns to the screen. There are many familiar faces among the other contestants such as the people they met in Hanshin and Oto, including Ora. There are even some from Jade and Koryo. The one face, however, that draws Anna's attention over the others is that of one man. His hair is wavy and bright red. Father, she thinks, a smile growing across her face.

"All right!" yells the race announcer. "Everyone! Thanks for waiting! The race is about to begin!"

Anna keeps her eyes on her companions as much as the screen will allow, noting that Mokona is riding with the princess.

Tomoyo waves a black and white checkered flag and the race commences. The young lady stands atop a float lion like creature that is rather bloated looking, like a balloon.

As soon as the race begins, the princess stumbles controlling her flier. Anna chuckles and leans forward, setting her cup on the coffee table and her head in her left hand. The princess soon regains control. Syaoran races alongside her. They make a cute pair, Anna thinks.

As the race continues, "Tsubame" and "Kuro-tan" catch up to the front runners. Anna chuckles out loud at the names Fai gave himself and Kurogane. Sakura and Syaoran fall behind but Anna's smile does not waver.

Syaoran breaks off from the princess and heads to the front. Anna smiles and says, "She knows she has to give him a fair chance. Good girl."

"What's this?!" the announcer says. "A sudden windstorm?!"

Anna eyes the screen and watches as the racers struggle against a growing stream of wind. Something about it bothers Anna but she quickly shakes the feeling away as many racers lose control of their fliers and are forced to forfeit. Syaoran and the other two men do well to steer away from the wind and keep control of their fliers. The princess, however, does well to fly around the wind as if she can see it. Anna wonders about the girl's power then. The feathers are extremely powerful alone but they are fragments of the princess. Wouldn't that lead one to believe that she once had tremendous magical power?

"That was amazing!" the announcer sings. "The new entry, 'Wing Egg Go,' does a spectacular turn in midair!"

Anna chuckles and claps her hands together, smiling widely. Wonderful, she thinks.

Just then, lights and cameras focus on Tomoyo. The young lady holds up a glass orb. Is side the orb is the princess's feather.

"Our championship prize!" the announcer explains. "The energy battery!" A light shines from the orb. "That light indicates the preliminary race's goal! So! Who will be the one to win this battery!?"

Anna leans against her knees and puts her head in her left hand. "I could tell you but that would spoil things, now, wouldn't it?" Anna says, teasing the TV screen. She chuckles at herself.

The race continues and the fliers head to the finish line, some ahead of other of course. Kurogane and Fai are in the leading group while Syaoran speeds to join them. The princess on the other hand is further in the back.

"OH!" goes the announcer, drawing Anna's attention. "Somebody has suddenly zoomed forward and is ahead by a wide margin! This sudden aggressive appearance is made by the Kuro-tan!"

"GET RID OF THAT STUPID NAME!" Kurogane screams.

Anna laughs loudly, slapping her hand over her mouth. Kurogane yelled so loudly that he could he heard over the TV. Anna laughs, falling back against the coach. That's Kurogane for you. Anna smiles to herself.

"The Tsubame quickly follows!" says the announcer. "Looks like this year's new drivers are all excellent! So What about the next pair?! Oh! What about this one?! It's the Mokona!"

Syaoran catches up with the others and Sakura speeds up.

"Steadily, the leading group approaches the goal!"

Kurogane is the first to cross the finish line. The screen focuses on his face and Anna's heart flips and heat rises to her cheeks. She shakes her head, bringing her back down. Only 20 racers get to go on to the finals, Anna remembers.

Fai and three other cross the finish line shortly after Kurogane. A moment or two passes before five more cross the line, excluding Syaoran and the princess.

There is a bang sound over the TV. Then another. Then several dozen more. Smoke floods the flying field and several fliers fall out of the race.

"What's happening now?!" questions the announcer.

Anna narrows her eyes at the screen. "Someone is breaking the rules," Anna whispers.

Out of the smoke races Syaoran. He crosses the finish line. Anna sighs in relief but then searches the screen for the princess. There are only three spots left when the princess exits the smoke.

With only one spot remaining, two fliers race for the finish line. Anna recognizes the other flier as Yuzuriha from Oto. The two cross the line.

"We will decide the final space based on the video!" the announcer explains. "And the last finalist is… The Wing Egg Go!"

"Yes!" Anna exclaims, clapping her hands together. "Wonderful, just wonderful!"

Anna sighs and frowns. She falls back into the coach and looks up to the ceiling. She believes that the wind was odd but natural. The smoke, however, was not natural. The race was fixed, she decides.

It is a couple hours before the others return home. Anna watches them fly in on their fliers and park from the kitchen window. She smiles and heads for the front door and meets them outside. She catches eye contact with Syaoran.

"We're back," says Syaoran, smiling.

Anna smiles back. "Welcome back," she says.

"Wifey-chan!" coos Fai, skipping over to Anna, throwing his arms around her shoulders. "Did you watch the race?" he asks.

"Of course." She smiles. "All of you did amazing. Congratulations on making it to finals. I knew you would."

"We couldn't have done it without your help repairing the fliers," Syaoran says, walking up to them. Sakura with Mokona on her shoulder and Kurogane join them. Kurogane sends a glare towards Fai, who giggles. Fai drops his arms from Anna shoulders.

Anna smiles and nods. "I'm glad I could be of help. Nonetheless, all the credit goes to you fliers," Anna says. She leans towards Syaoran and kisses him on the cheek. His eyes widen and he blushes deeply. "Well done, Syaoran," she says before turning to the princess. The girl blushes before Anna even leans in and kisses her on the cheek. "Well done, princess. You did very good."

"Ah!" goes the princess. "Th-thank you, Anna-san!"

Anna smiles down at the girl and she smiles back.

"Mokona too!" the white creature coos. "Mokona liked riding on the flier! It was like riding a motorboat!" Mokona jumps from Sakura's shoulder to Anna.

Anna catches Mokona in her hands. She kisses Mokona on the cheek. "Well done, Mokona." Mokona giggles as she returns it to Sakura's shoulder.

"Do I get one too, Wifey-chan?" Fai asks with a wide smiling, pointing to his cheek.

"No!" barks Kurogane.

Fai giggles and Anna chuckles. Kuorgane sends both of them a glare. Fai chuckles and Anna bites her lip, smiling.

"Kissing the pork bun and the kids are one thing but—"

"But kissing me is out of the question, huh, Kurpo?" Fai says, cutting him short. "That hurts my feelings!"

Kurogane narrows his eyes at the wizard.

Fai throws his arms around Anna's shoulders once again. "Wifey-chan and I are friends; nothing more." He smiles widely.

Kurogane grumbles under his breath.

Anna smiles and turns her head to face Fai. Her lips brush against his cheek. She leans away and smiles at him. "Well done, Fai," she says.

He giggles. "Why, thank you, Anna-chan!"

Anna smiles and Fai lets her go. She faces Kurogane who stands with his hands on his hips, both angry and annoyed. Anna steps up to him and grips the collar of his shirt. She pulls on his collar for him to bend over and he complies. She kisses him on the cheek. "Well done, Kurogane," she says before pecking her lips on his. She lets go of his collar and he stands back up.

"I want an explanation," he says, looking down at her.

She sighs but nods. "It's customary in Rojus for the female royals to give knights a kiss on the cheek to thank them for their outstanding service to the crown and country," she explains. She faces the others. "You all did very well in the race. The custom just felt right in this situation."

"Ah!" goes Fai. "That makes since."

Anna smiles lightly and looks up to Kurogane. He sighs heavily but nods before looking the other way. Anna finds his annoyance rather adorable. But she won't tell him that, not here in front of the others.

After a moment, it is agreed that some work needs to be done to the fliers before the final race. It's just little things to make sure they are at their best for the final race. It is decided that they'll start in the morning and tonight they'll celebrate their win over dinner.

Anna, Sakura, and Mokona help Fai make dinner. As Anna cuts some vegetables, Fai asks her how her shoulder is feeling. She says that it's doing just fine with a smile. He smiles back, satisfied with her answer.

After dinner, the travelers sit around the table with drinks. Kurogane and Fai drink from glass bottles while the others, including Anna, drink from glass cups with straws. They all raises their glasses together.

"To the four of us making it to finals!" Fai coos. "Cheers!"

"Wah!" coos Mokona, sitting on Kurogane's head. "Kurogane already drank some of his! You can't do that~!"

Kurogane grumbles in replay and takes another drink from his bottle.

"You know," says Fai, "In the beginning of the race, I was really surprised by all the people racing."

Sakura asks Mokona what a motorboat his and the white creature explains with sound effects. Anna chuckles and returns her attention to the others conversation.

Fai leans back in his chair and says, "But you know, when I asked the people here, they also said that they've never seen so many contestants."

Kurogane leans forward on the table. "Is it some kind of set-up?" he asks.

"That I don't know," Fai says. "I mean we didn't organize this competition… Syaoran-kun, did you notice anything strange?"

The boy shakes his head. "Not really. I was probably too busy avoiding the wreckages to notice."

Anna chuckles. "So concentrated, huh?"

Syaoran gives her a weak smile.

Anna smiles back before facing Fai again. "I noticed something was off while I was watching," she said. "The smoke was unnatural." The men nod in agreement. Anna turns to the princess. "What about you, princess?" she asks. "Did you notice anything odd while racing?

The girl gives her and wide smile with her eyes closed. "Flames kept flash-flashing!" the girl says.

"Flash-flashing?" Syaoran questions, confused.

"Flash-flashing!" the princess replies, giggles with a blush to her cheeks.

Oh no, Anna thinks, a smile growing over her lips. She bites her tongue.

"Yes!" Sakura coos, standing with her arms out stretched. "There were flames in the smoke! And with the wind blowing, it felt like I was riding on the wind! Dancing in the wind! Making 'pyuuun' noises!"

"Pyuuun!" goes Mokona.

The princess grabs Mokona paws and the two spin around and around, giggling and chuckling.

"Pri-Princess?" Syaoran says.

Fai chuckles and Anna face him, getting a look at Kurogane's face. She chuckles out loud. His expression read "I have a bad feeling about this."

Sakura stops spin and Mokona rest on her shoulder, grinning. "Okay!" the princess says, pumping a fist in the air. "We're going to go fly!"

"Whee!" goes Mokona. "To to fly!"

The two run and jump out the door.

"PRINCESS!" Syaoran yells, running after them.

Fai chuckles again and again Anna looks toward him. She finds him picking up the princess's glass. He sniffs it and giggles. "So this is the reason," he says.

"What!?" Kurogane barks. "Didn't I tell you not to let them drink alcohol!?"

Anna reaches and grabs Mokona glass. She sniffs it and chuckles. "There's some in Mokona's cup as well," she says.

"Mokona probably put it in," Fai says. He chuckles.

There's a rattle noise outside as the engine of a flier starts. "No! Princess! Don't!" yells Syaoran.

"Syaoran-kun! Fly with us!" sings the princess.

"WAH!" goes Syaoran.

Anna watches as Kuroganes grows more and more pissed off. Leans further and further down to the table. Some he starts to tremble with anger. Anna bites her lip to keep herself from laughing. Fai seems to be doing the same.

There's a crash outside.

"THAT'S ENOUGH, YOU BRATS!" Kurogane barks, stumping to the door. "GET IT UNER CONTROL!"

Fai waves him off with a chuckle. "Go do your duty as a 'father,' Kuro-pii!" Fai says.

Anna chuckles. "Duty as a father?" Anna questions.

Fai nods. "Wifey-chan the mother and Kurger Burger the father."

Anna smiles, shaking her head. "And what does that make you, Fai?"

"Fai," he answers with a smile.

Anna smiles weakly in return, a little thrown by his reply.

Commotion comes from outside as Kurogane and Syaoran chase the princess and Mokona around the yard. Sakura and Mokona giggle all the while as Kurogane gets even more annoyed and Syaoran gets more and more worried. After a few minutes, the two drunks are finally caught. Kurogane carries the princess over his shoulder. Anna chuckles when she notices that the girl is fast asleep. Mokona is also asleep, wrapped up in Sakura's arms.

Kurogane carries them up stairs and Syaoran follows close behind. Fai nods to Anna to follow and she complies. Kurogane plumps the girl and the white creature down on the princess's bed. With a sigh, he leans up against the wall with one arm while the other rests on his hip. Syaoran tucks them in.

"She's pretty nimble for a drunk," Kurogane says. Anna can't tell if that's a compliment or not.

"They didn't last very long this time," Anna notes aloud. She is comparing this time to the time in Oto. It didn't seem to end back in Oto, chasing the drunk ones about. Then again, Fai and Syaoran were also drunk at the time.

"That must be because she's overexcited from passing the preliminaries," Fai explains. "Sakura-chan worked really hard."

Anna smiles with a nod and notes a smile on Syaoran's face.

Kurogane sighs. "I'm going to bed," he says, turning to the door. He faces Anna. "You should too."

Anna smiles and nods, following after him.

"We all should get some rest," Fai says.

Syaoran nods in agreement.

Kurogane walks Anna to her room just like every night. She faces him before entering her room. He leans down and kisses her goodnight.

"Hey," he says, leaning away.

"Yes?" she says, a little breathless.

"It's been four days," he says. "Can't you take that thing off your shoulder now?"

"Huh? Oh. Yes. I can." She smiles. "Tomorrow means no shoulder brace."

Kurogane's eyebrow twitches. "You need help getting it off?"

She thinks for a moment and attempts to move her shoulder. Sore but not in immediate pain. She shakes her head. "I think I can manage."

He sighs and takes a step forward. Anna tries to protest but Kurogane pushes himself into her room. She gives in with a blush and a sigh, closing her door. Her hand lingers on the door as her heart beat picks up speed. She's nervous. She's not sure why. Then again, to take the brace off, she has to take her clothes off. She's seen Kurogane shirtless but she's wearing a dress. She'll practically be naked. She blushes deeper and presses her head against the door.

"Oi, you okay over there?" Kurogane asks.

She nods her head. "Yes," she whispers. "I'm just a little more shy than I thought." It's more or less the truth.

Kurogane doesn't reply. After a moment of silence, Kurogane takes Anna's right hand in his. This startles her but only slightly. Slowly, she turns around to face him. Her face is probably as bright as her hair. Reluctantly, she looks up at Kurogane. She finds him smirking down at her. She looks away, biting her lip.

"I'm sure I can do this myself, Kurogane," she says quietly.

"I'm sure you can," he says, "But I want to make sure you're all right."

She mentally slaps herself. Of course that's the reason. She sighs and nods her head.

Anna steps to the side then around him, letting go of his hand. She's nervous and feels sick to the stomach. She can't help but think back to Yama. With a long sigh, Anna pushes her thoughts to the back of her mind.

A chill runs up her spine as Kurogane walks up to stand behind her. With a deep breath, she lifts her left arm and unzips her dress. She slides her arm into the dress and lifts it over her head and down over her right arm. It falls to the floor with a light sound. Now she stands in her bra and panties in front of Kurogane. She tries to clam herself with another deep breath. Releasing the breath, she looks over her shoulder up at Kurogane. She smiles. "Now, let's get this damn thing off me," she says.

Kurogane chuckles and shakes his head. He takes her right wrist his hand gently and slowly raises her arm up. "Does this hurt?" he asks.

She shakes her head. Using her left hand, she unclips the front of the wrap.

Kurogane unclips the shoulder and part over her upper arm. In one move, he pulls the wrap off her. He looks it over for a moment before tossing it on the floor. "How's your shoulder?" he asks.

It takes a moment for Anna to answer. She slowly starts to roll her shoulder. Sore but manageable. She slowly starts to raise it and before she knows it, her arm is over her head. She smiles widely and rolls her shoulder again. She faces Kurogane and smiles widelt. "My arm is just fine," she answers, relieved and happy.

Kurogane smiles. "Good."

"I'll have to thank Tomoyo properly next time I see her." She says this more or less to herself.

Kurogane reaches for Anna and she freezes, not sure what to expect. He rests a hand on her right shoulder. He turns her gently and peers over at her shoulder. Anna frowns as he traces the scar left behind by the surgery.

"What does it look like?" Anna asks, her eyes on the floor.

"A little like a bird," he answers.

"Really?" Anna reaches her arm over and feels her scar. She traces her fingertips over the soft protruding flesh. It feels like a V shape. She smiles lightly and drops her arm. "I can deal with that," she says softly. She looks up at Kurogane. He's frowning. She smiles weakly. "It bothers you though doesn't it?"

He sighs. "If you're fine with it then I'm fine with it."

"But you're not fine with it," she says, turning to face him. "Please be honest with me, Kurogane. It bothers you."

He frowns and looks the other way. Anna notes a blush on his cheeks. She then wraps her arms over her chest and looks to the floor.

Anna gasps as Kurogane reaches a hand into her hair. He pulls her face to his chest and wraps his other hand over her shoulders. He kisses the top of her head. "I'm just glad you're all right," he says, his voice deep and soft.

Anna pulls her arms out from between them and wraps them around his middle. She smiles. "Me too," she says in breath.

Kurogane lightly pulls Anna's hair to tilt her face up to him. He leans down and she stretches up. Their lips meet in the middle. Anna pulls her arms around him, sliding her hands up his chest, firm under her touch. She wraps her arms around his neck and smiles into him. He smiles back as he wraps an arm around her waist, pulling her tight against him. She blushes deeply at the feeling of something hard against her. Her heart picks up speed and her body grows hot. A shiver runs up her spine as Kurogane's hand traces up her back and to the hooks of her bra.

"You need help getting it off?" she asks, chuckling.

Kurogane chuckles back. "I'm sure I can do this myself, Anna," he says, leaning over her shoulder to get a better look at what he has to unhook.

"I'm sure you can," she says, breathless. This can't be compared to Yama. Now is different. She loves him and she knows that he loves her. This is the next step. To hell with what's proper.

She prays that Fai won't walk in this time.

Author's Note: I did it. OMFG! I did it! I FINALLY UPDATED! I don't even want to think about how long it has been. I hope I hasn't lost any of you awesome readers.

So I noticed that there wasn't an AN in the last chapter. Sorry about that. I totally forgot to type one up (I just wanted to get the chapter uploaded).

Anyway. Here's the chapter! Sorry the beginning is so boring but I hope I made up for it in the end. ;) Anna and Kurgie finally... Hehe. Had to keep things T rated so we just fade out there at the end. ;)

Please comment/review! Please! Please! Let me know that there are still people reading this!