Disclaimer: I do not own Howl's Moving Castle or any of its characters. I dedicate this story to Ms. Jones, the author of this book, who passed away March the 26th, 2011.

*QUICK A/N* I write from a third person POV, but the scenes in which I focus on Sophie's feelings and thoughts and scenes in which I focus on Howl's feelings and thoughts are separated. Sorry if this is confusing, but when it is "third person POV looking at Howl", I will use the name Howl, while for Sophie's I'll use the name Pendragon, as that is what she has been told is his name. More about my return to this story is at the official Author's Note at the bottom.

Chapter Four: The Shirt Is Now Clean White, The Man Is Still Not Quite

"Oh!" said Sophie.

"Oh?" said Pendragon.

The two were looking down at the laundry basket.

"I'm so sorry! I forgot to wash your blood out from that shirt…" Sophie sheepishly looked up at Pendragon. "I was just so tired from the day before…Oh, goodness! I just let it sit there, stained with blood all night and now I don't know if it will come out…No, I'll wash this right now. I will get this shirt clean." She hurriedly snatched the shirt up from the basket and was about to run to the laundry room when Pendragon stopped her.

"No, no. It's fine," Pendragon gave her a sincere, reassuring smile. "I'm the one who imposed upon you." He gently took the stained clothing from Sophie's hands. "Though I am a man, I can do my own laundry." He gave a little laugh, and then started walking towards the laundry room, down the hardwood-floored hallway. His brown leather shoes made subtle tapping sounds as it hit the floor with each step.

Sophie stared at him for a moment, and then also started walking towards the room. "Hold on, Pendragon. You don't know where all the soaps and whatnot are located—mmph!" His sudden stop made Sophie bump into his broad back, his bare skin muffling her words as it made contact with her lips. She quickly backed away a few steps, turning the color of well-ripened apples. "Sorry…um, I'll show you where everything is, then..." She started walking into the room, looking down in embarrassment.

A benign hand gently stopped her advance to the door. "Thank you, but it's fine," He answered. "I am sure I can do without having to make you go through the trouble." Pendragon smiled once again, and walked into the room with his shirt. "You can go and finish the tea. That is a very fragrant and soothing Jasmine tea." He quickly added before closing the door.

Sophie stood looking at the door for a minute to reassure herself and in case he came to change his mind, but he did not call for her. Walking back to the kitchen where her unfinished tea sat, she let her thoughts take over.

Something kind of seemed off about the way he had reacted…most people in his situation would just let her wash it for them, or help her do it, or at least let her show him where the things were… Why did he insist on washing his shirt completely by himself?

Yeah, something definitely seems off, but I can't quite put my finger on it, thought Sophie, as she sat down in her spot. The tea had already turned lukewarm. She sighed and brought the teacup to her lip, still thinking about her new guest.


Howl collapsed onto the small wooden chair in the corner of the laundry room, extremely tired both mentally and physically. He slumped down his chair as he sighed, looking up at the ivory ceiling. "Sorry, Sophie. I just need time to think by myself for a moment," he whispered towards the ceiling.

He knew he was inconveniencing another person again. Well, rather, he thought, with a morose smile, another lady.

"The witch has got to stop chasing me around," Howl muttered quietly. "And I'll beat the living daylight out of the guy who ignited this whole huntdown…'Eat the heart of a skilled male wizard, and live in eternal beauty!' Yeah, as if." He scoffed, making a hard fist with his right hand. "That just…ugh, I hate to put women in danger, but the witch is much less likely to find me by my aura and scent if I mix my scent with that of women by staying in their residence…"

And this was a young lady, too. She seemed about twenty or so… just a little older than what you would consider to be a teenager.

Howl sat up in his chair. I'll just stay for a few days…just until Calcifer moves the castle far enough away. Satisfied with his conclusion, he looked down at his lap. Oh, right. The stain. He got up, intending to find the laundry soap, but sat back down. I would rather not impose upon Sophie even more by using her supplies…after all, I'm not a wizard for nothing.

Howl closed his eyes and breathed in softly. Then he started to wave the shirt around slowly, with his right hand, stirring the air. He continued to wave the shirt around, gradually getting faster and faster, and when it looked like his arm wouldn't be able to move any faster, the shirt was thrown up into the air, almost reaching the ceiling, and it lightly fell back into Howl's outstretched arms.

Howl took hold of it with his fingers, and held it out, examining both front and back. The large, dried up brownish bloodstain was now nowhere to be found; the shirt was now like winter's first snow, soft and sparkling white. He nodded once in satisfaction, then put the shirt back on before he opened the door of the laundry room to go to our Sophie, who was now spacing out again with the cup still to her lips, moments away from spilling out the carelessly tilted cup.

A/N: First of all…

I AM REALLY SINCERELY ABSOLUTELY SORRY! TT_TT

I have been extremely busy, as I went into high school, and a lot has happened… I guess it might look like I'm trying to make excuses for my extremely long absence but…my family discovered that my mom had breast cancer, and since my dad is in a different country working his butt off for us, and my little brother is, well, little…I've been doing a LOT of stuff around the house and more. And I do admit, I did not know what more to write back in the beginning of 8th grade (when I first started writing this story, oh my goodness, I am going into 10th now XD) so I kind of gave up/forgot about this…

But I still got notifications on my gmail that someone else had favorited Blooming Love, and that someone wrote a review—I mean, 48 favorites and 33 reviews for such an unprofessional story! I am really thankful and guilty ^^;;;; I found an old storybook I had made for class in 6th grade and read it to my brother, and also re-read the three chapters of Blooming Love and that inspired me again to write, so I planned this part of the plot out and typed this whole thing today (so sorry if it's bad XD)

I will try to continue this (I feel like I'll write a few more chapters and just have a "and it continues on" thing where after a wrap-up chapter I'll tell you guys what point of the plot (in the movie, probably) it will flow into and I'll just finish it like that. That has been my plan from the beginning (to tweak the beginning story a bit and let it flow back into a certain time of the original movie story), so I'll most likely go along with that.

I was really touched by you guys telling me that you guys like the story, that I should continue and so on…so although I can't make any promises (since I kind of broke them already ;_;) I will try to write more chapters. Please keep in mind that it has been like 2 years since I wrote the last chapter, haha XP I will try to be consistent with the characters and all! Thank you for all your love that I TOTALLY do not deserve!