Disclaimer: I do not own TRC, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or any other movies I may have made a reference to in here.

Warnings: Cross-dressing. Suggestive themes. Yaoi pairings. KuroFai. Mentioned SakuSyao. A besotted Prince Charming. Minor spoilers for Fai's past, minor OOCness in the name of crack, and magical fairytale worlds that have unexpected effects on our homo-lovebirds. Just gets crackier and crackier as it goes. Post series, swearing.

A/N: I have absolutely no idea what inspired me to write this monster of a one-shot.

Troublesome did not even begin to describe the world they had landed in this time.

Okay, so maybe it was not the world itself that was troublesome, but the situation that the travelers found themselves in this time around. But it was from this world that the situation originated, thus it was perfectly justifiable to say that the world was troublesome as well. That was what Kurogane was grumbling to himself anyway.

It seemed that they had landed in a rather well-to-do portion of this world. White fell from the sky in a constant snowfall, pleasantly light, and not terribly cold for snowy country; a charming place very much like Jade Country, but much friendlier. Thatch-roofed tudors stood in neat rows, boxed up by grey cobblestone paths for horse-carriages and wagons. In the center of it all, a large white castle towered into the sky, and on its central tower was a large clock-face that could be seen by all. All in all, it was a quaint city almost obscenely picturesque.

The street they were on was packed with shop after shop of women's clothing and accessories. On racks behind the glass windows hung enough dresses to fit an army of women; day dresses to simple frocks to elaborate ball-gowns to lacy nightdresses. Hanging from the ceilings were rolls after rolls of ribbons, either for hair, or to fasten to dresses. Dainty little handbags and glittery pieces of jewelry sat on shelves, along with the occasional pair of silk gloves. Outside, ladies in frilly dresses—satin cloaks fastened around their slim necks with lace and silk to shield from the snow—populated the streets in small groups, flitting through the shops in excited delight. There were no men in sight, except perhaps a stray one here and there, a laughing maiden hanging from his arm.

Which, of course, brings us to the question of just what three distinctively male travelers were doing, standing awkwardly in the middle of the pavement, in such a place, a ebony haired maiden cackling most disturbingly beside them.

When they had first arrived in this world, they had taken refuge with this world's Tomoyo and had quickly gotten wind of the fact that only higher-classed males used magic; the working-class and most females did not possess magic—as it were mostly bred amongst the nobles—and were not allowed to use it in the rare case that they did. Fai had been extra careful to keep his aura (growing with his renewed use of his magic) tucked tightly around himself so as to avoid the attention of other magic users. A strong magical presence such as his would be as glaringly obvious as the sun should he drop all efforts of hiding it.

In their first few days of their stay, Syaoran had gotten word of a heavily guarded library of magic, deep within the palace—heavily guarded due to the fact that it had been built right by the royal wing, where the king and his family resided. The boy, however, was unyielding in his determination to somehow gain access to it. In such a vast library, there was a likelihood that he might actually find a lead, something related to what he had been searching for for such a long time.

Perhaps then, he could finally, finally return to Sakura's side. Permanently.

They had quickly learnt that strictly no outsiders were allowed within the palace after being denied access by the palace guards and for a while, it seemed hopeless. They had been working on a plan of infiltration (a less than graceful method of knock out the guards, ransack the library frantically, find or not find the information, then haul ass out of the damned place—preferably to a different dimension altogether—while dodging attacks of enraged soldiers) when they had heard the excited chatters of it in the square.

The king was holding a ball in the palace itself, open to all, for the prince to pick himself a promising bride. There was quite the commotion going on about that; which lady had never dreamt of being a princess, a future queen? Every woman in the country was hoping to be chosen. This aspect of the situation did not do much to interest the travelers. They were all men anyway, apart from Mokona, who was Mokona and thus also wasn't much of a suitable candidate. However, what did interest them was the fact that for that single night, almost all the security in the palace would be shifted to the ballroom, where every single member of the royal family and nobility would be gathered for the ball, coincidentally and very conveniently on the very opposite wing of that in which the library resided.

Very convenient, would be the immediate thought.


The only problem here was that the ball was for the sole purpose of picking a bride for the crown prince. As a result, only women were allowed admittance to the highly anticipated event, as a gleeful Tomoyo had informed them. It was automatically decided, before the blonde magician could even attempt to formulate a plan of argument, that Fai would be dressing as a woman to get the three of them in. Now, despite whatever misconceptions anyone might have had, Fai was a man, dammit, and he had his own masculine pride (calling himself Mommy did not count) to defend. Sure he might not be as large and muscular as dear Kuro-chan, but he was born lacking some essential... lady-bits. As such, he refused to go down, if not without a fight, then without taking as many people as he could down with him.

Syaoran would never really be sure how he had gotten hooked into doing it.

Kurogane was immediately out of the question, and Fai had given up all hope on getting him into a dress; he was simply much too tall to be a convincing woman, and he was more likely to blow their cover. He was to be their bodyguard when they entered the castle, as it was common for noble women to be constantly accompanied by one. (The blonde vowed to himself, that one day he would get the warrior into a dress as payback for this...this...this indignity! This grievous slight to his manhood! Oh, when he got his hands on him...) And that was what had landed them on that street of giggling women. After all, disguising themselves as women couldn't be that bad in exchange for not having to go through the trouble of fighting their way into the library, right? Right?

A sharp yip of pain, followed by a loud crashing noise sounded from behind the closed doors.

"Hold still, Fai!"

Tomoyo's voice.

A yelp followed soon after her words.

"Tomoyo-chan, is it really necessary to—"

Here, the sentence was disrupted by yet another loud yelp of surprised pain.

"—to stick the needles in the dress while I'm still in it?"

Kurogane saw Syaoran wince sympathetically out of the corner of his eye, obviously having gone through the same treatment not fifteen minutes past. The shinobi raised an eyebrow as the teen shifted uncomfortably in his seat, seemingly trying to adjust the dress he was wearing, pulling and tugging at something around his waist and nearly knocking his wig off while doing so.

The boy was clad in an orangey pink dress with short, fluffy sleeves (to hide his muscles of course! Tomoyo said) trimmed in lace. Down his front, a little satin bow and a whole bunch of frills were sewn into the dress as if in an effort to distract from his general chestlessness. The skirt of the dress billowed out like a bell, stuffed underneath with petticoats. Along the skirt, the cloth was scrunched prettily and adorned with matching satin bows. Again at the hem was more lace, scratching at his ankles as he stumbled about in the tight heels, another tiny bow sitting where the tip of the shoe opened up to reveal his painted, painted! toes.

Syaoran had never felt so glad that he wasn't a girl. He could barely sit with that tight thing (Tomoyo had told him it was called a 'corset', Syaoran didn't care to know what it was called) squeezing the life out of him like a particularly lacy anaconda, and all the chiffon under the dress chafing at his ass and thighs, even through the itchy stockings. Standing in those dratted shoes hurt. Let's not even talk about walking. He couldn't turn even turn his head without smacking himself in the face with his own hair...fine, wig! and there seemed to be something black floating eerily at the very top of his field of vision. When he had expressed his concern to Tomoyo, she had explained it was the mascara. He had no idea what that 'muskara' thing had to do with the ghostly black thing.

In other words, Syaoran felt completely and utterly miserable.

He had yet to look in a mirror, choosing instead to hide his face behind his hands, being careful not to actually touch his face (Tomoyo would slice him up while he was still alive and conscious before feeding him, piece by piece, to the dogs) while the dark-haired demon had squealed and cooed over her 'masterpiece' and Mokona danced atop his head squealing, 'hottie! Syaoran is a hot hot hottie!'. He wasn't sure what he looked like but he was certain he looked like a drag queen; horribly overdone makeup, drowning in ribbons, flat-chested, and with horrible sharp features to go with the overall image. Kurogane assured him that he looked fine, but he was sure that the warrior was merely attempting to comfort him; he was not entirely tactless after all. It also helped that Tomoyo's wrath was an incredibly effective silencing agent.

Now there was a loud yowl from the room.

"T—Tomoyo-chan? What are you doing?"

A gasp followed by a whimper.

"Fai, this is to make you look slimmer! You men are flat as walls, no curves so to speak of. You'll be looking like a cross-dresser if I don't do this. Relax, it'll all be over soon."

"But I...can't...breathe..."

"I'm bringing him out!" Tomoyo shouted through the door, as she steered her 'new masterpiece' out of the chair by his shoulders, "Get ready to be dazzled!"

I can do this.

Fai felt that his face must have been glowing a brilliant red when Tomoyo ushered him, staring determinedly at the floor, through the door, suppressing delighted giggles.


I...can't do this.

The blonde felt the insuppressible urge to bury his face in his hands. He could suddenly sympathize with Syaoran's similar reaction when he had been pushed out of the door. Speaking of which, the boy faced away from him, cowering on a plush velvet chair with his face lowered into, but not touching, his hands.

A soft drawn-out whistle snapped his gaze from the floor to glare at the perpetrator through his darkened eyelashes, as Mokona bounced onto his shoulder delightedly. There was a strange black thing floating at the top of his field of vision; Tomoyo had explained that it was the mascara when she saw him blinking upwards with a bewildered expression on his face, sighing something about 'boys and their ignorance'.

"Mage, you look like a girl."

Fai definitely felt like one as he forced the urge to slap the man (guys didn't slap other guys) down; his tone definitely sounded way too appreciative. Instead, he recoiled at the half-lidded smirk on Kurogane's face.

"Quit leering at me like that! Pervert!"

The shinobi all but cackled gleefully, this was too good to be true! To finally be able to witness the humiliation of the one man who could drive him up the wall on a regular basis and take a sadistic pleasure in that. Retribution, retribution! Fai threw Mokona (weeee~!) at him, and glared, silently daring him to continue laughing.

He did.

Finally, the warrior stopped, gasping for air as he straightened up and placed Mokona on the table beside him, somehow managing to suppress his relapse into a more dignified fit of chuckles at the affronted look on the wizard's powdered face.

"No need to be so defensive. You're acting just like the kid."

At that, Fai turned his attention to the poor boy, flicking the strands of his wig behind him haughtily. Poor, poor Syaoran. He must be so traumatized. He flounced his way over to the boy—who still had his face in his hands—and put an arm around his shoulders, turning the boy around to look at him, as he opened his mouth to coo and fuss and curse at 'your horrible, horrible Otou-san'. He froze that way, gaping wide-eyed at the boy, who sported a similar expression.

A moment of stunned silence.

The two men scrambled away from one another, each pointing accusatively at the other.

Fai's mind reeled in shock.






His lids were accentuated with a pale pink powder, lips painted a sweet coral hue. His lashes were thick and dark around the corners of his warm brown eyes, and a light dusting of some more pink powder over his cheeks gave his apples a soft rosy glow. Two long strands of his hazelnut wig framed his face, subtly arranged to hide the chiseled sharpness of his jaw, and half of it was pulled into a red satin ribbon at the back of his head.

He felt an overwhelming urge to whistle.

Fai mentally slapped himself. He was turning into Kurogane! He tried to check if he was offering Syaoran that same lecherous grin, wouldn't want to traumatize him further now. But the serious little teen was—there was no nicer way of saying it—pretty! But of course, he wouldn't be so tactless as to actually say it to the poor boy's gaping face.

"Oh my god! You're pretty!"

This time, the wizard actually did slap himself for his words, Syaoran doing the same opposite him. Tomoyo protested vehemently at this, running up to them to check that the makeup had not been absolutely ruined, as both males apologized profusely, in unison, for calling the other pretty.

After a few minutes of incoherent babbling and apologetic wails, the two cross-dressing men had calmed down enough that the syllables of their speech could actually be heard, and Kurogane had finally found the strength to get up from the floor and drop into a nearby chair, clutching at his stomach and gasping for much needed air. He swept his gaze over the magician again, and had to admit that Tomoyo was pretty good at what she did. He certainly hoped Tomoyo-hime would never force him to go through what the other two had gone through.

Kurogane stopped laughing immediately; the thought of retribution was terrifying.

While Syaoran looked absolutely charming in his sweet little bell-bottomed gown, shy and modest with an embarrassing tendency to blush, the mage contrasted sharply with him in the graceful, sleek gown, all willowy framed and loftily half-lidded eyes. He couldn't help but wonder if Tomoyo had planned for the two of them to match.

In contrast to the fiery hues of Syaoran's dressing, the blonde was decked in an icy blue floor-length gown, layers upon layers of floaty blue silk over a white patterned satin that parted around him like water as he walked. The sleeves of the dress were long, clinging to slender arms, but not tightly enough to show the lean muscles; at the elbows they flared out into a wide hem, trimmed in lace. The chest area of the dress was fluffed to hide Fai's flat chest (Syaoran was clearly young, his chestlessness was fine, but the wizard looked to be twenty at the least), and right below where his breasts would have been had he really been a woman was a long navy ribbon, tied into a bow where the layers parted. He wore a wig that matched the exact color of his pale hair (he wondered how Tomoyo managed that), wavy flaxen locks held back on one side by a row of silver roses, the rest tumbling over the wide, but modest, squared neck that exposed his delicate collarbones and emphasized his regal posturing.

Kurogane knew Fai had been a prince; it was just hard to remember with the way he acted. With his impeccable manners (the warrior knew he had them, even if he chose not to use them in most cases) and his aristocratic features, he definitely exuded the self-assured grace of a court royal, mature and elegantly poised.

"Kuro-tan, Kuro-tan," the blonde called from where he was chatting with an excited Mokona, "Mokona said this dress makes my butt look big. Do you honestly think this dress makes my butt look big?"

Up until he opened his mouth, at least.

The chancellor pushed through the crowd of giggling and gossiping girls. He shook his head disapprovingly, such girls were unfit for queenship. What this country needed of a queen was someone mature and elegantly poised, a capable, intelligent woman of wisdom who would be able to handle the affairs of state and also appease the court. These giggling girls would never be able to lead the kingdom to prosperity.

He moved on.

What the king had asked of the chancellor was fairly simple; scout the crowd for twenty likely candidates, and arrange for them to dine at the royal table. It would be difficult, to say the least, for the prince to pick out an appropriate bride from the near literal sea of hopefuls without some sort of aid. An ornately furnished carriage arrived by the front doors, white horses nickering gently in front of it. The chancellor turned half an eye to it as he breezed past. He did a double-take and retreated a few steps so as to get a better view of the two ladies sitting in the carriage, a darkly scowling man looming protectively over them.

One was little more than a girl, probably about fourteen or fifteen. She had a sweet face, very nice facial structure, and large warm doe-eyes that darted inquisitively around the ancient statues by the front of the castle, posture exuding an easy grace and self-confident determination. The other was probably in her early twenties, strikingly pale with equally pale blonde hair, a beautifully elegant neck, and unblemished skin like virgin snow. She had posture that rivaled the queen, with wonderfully regal physical assets; long, slim nose and high cheekbones with eyes (the chancellor did another double take at the unnatural blue of the young woman's eyes) half-lidded from the beautiful angle at which she held her chin. There, right there, that was the perfect angle! Not too high, nor too low. While the other was sweet and innocent, heart-warmingly curious in a childish manner suited to her age, this one was poised and calm, cool in her casual appraisal of her surroundings.

He immediately placed these two women under his mental list of very, very, very likely candidates; they were the best he'd found all night. Flinching as the younger tripped down the stairs of the carriage, he began to reassess the girl. The large man caught her easily by the arm, steadying her and lending her his support as she gingerly stepped down from the carriage, turning around to say something to the older woman. Her beauty truly was striking, and her apparent clumsiness endearing, even. But that was not what was wanted of a queen; a queen had to be poised and mature, choosing such a young girl to carry the weight of the country would not reap good, not at all.

He made a mental note to enquire her name later, perhaps he could introduce her to his son. She might not make an ideal queen, but she would make an excellent wife and a sweet daughter-in-law in any other situation.

That other one though...

He scrutinized the pale blonde as she descended—more floated than descended—from the carriage like a goddess, placing a hand daintily into the extended hand of the man whose broad back currently faced the chancellor, and flashing a truly dazzling smile of even white teeth, blue eyes twinkling merrily. That man was a strange issue in itself. In the carriage, he had kept half an eye on his surroundings almost suspiciously, the rest of his attention had been lavished on the graceful woman. Even now, he stared at the woman intensely, towering protectively over her.

Watching the woman laughing at him, he was even more unsure what to make of it. Perhaps they were sweethearts, forced by ambitious parents to attend the ball. However, she didn't seem particularly unhappy or reluctant to be here... He watched in surprise as the man sharply withdrew his hand, almost as if he had been burnt, the moment the lady was firmly on land, turning sharply from her with a scowl on his (unusually handsome) face. Apart from the frown furrowing his brow, he had a smooth, tan complexion, with strikingly regal facial structure as well.

Instead of looking affronted or even hurt by the rude gesture on the man's part, the tall woman only laughed harder, ducking swiftly as the man turned to swat at her, movement slowed so as to allow her to dodge. From his slinking gait, the chancellor could already tell the man was a skilled swordsman. (Actually, the old man was a cowardly wimp, and would never have had the skill to tell a warrior from a beggar. The worn scabbard handing from the man's belt was a dead giveaway though.) They seemed close. Perhaps not lovers, but maybe siblings...Even the girl might have been a younger sister. They behaved as comfortably with one another as a close-knit family.

The chancellor found himself unusually baffled. While both women were almost inappropriately close to that man—especially the older one—they looked much too different from one another to be siblings. The man had hair as dark as the woman's was pale, and was as tan as the other was fair. While the girl was neither dark nor fair, she looking nothing like the other two. The only similarity all three had in common was that they all looked like they'd come straight out of a fairytale.

As the younger tripped, seemingly over her own feet, once again, the man caught her by the elbow as the blonde glared at a group of girls nearby who were pointing snidely and laughing at the blushing girl who had now started apologizing profusely to the dark-haired man. The man in question gave her a dismissive gesture, as if waving away her apologies. The chancellor truly was impressed by the young woman: strikingly beautiful, poised and elegant, calm and tactful yet still protective and subtly assertive. She was definitely a candidate. However—he leveled his gaze onto her hand, placed protectively on the younger's shoulders—he supposed they were a package deal. It would probably be difficult to pry them from one another's side. That would be someting to consider when he invited them to dine with the royal family. But the woman was worth the trouble, she was a rarity not to be passed up.

Such a dignified aura. Such maturity. Hard to find in one so young.

"Kuro-pipi," Fai whined softly, swinging his legs from where he sat in the carriage, kicking the shinobi in the shin with every swing, pretending innocence by casting a casual eye over his surroundings with a calm smile. Kurogane tried not to glare, he was aware that they were under the scrutiny of everyone in the general vicinity; the other girls were assessing their new 'competition' with a critical eye. He was a bodyguard, a servant, and he was not meant to glare at his employers.

"Please try not to kick Kurogane-san, Fai-san," Syaoran said calmly, absently, too preoccupied as he was with his uncannily studious interest in the surroundings.

The manjuu bun was currently stuffed in the kid's tiny red handbag, voice stifled by the fine cloths. The kid himself had gone into what Kurogane dubbed his 'archaeologist-mode', something they found out later that he seemed to share with his clone, eyes darting around the architecture of the ancient palace as well as the many statues of deceased kings and gods and goddesses with a keen eye.







The warrior stifled his glare, trying his hardest to take the murderous intent out of his intense staring. Because that was what a glare was without the murderous intent, intense staring. A particularly hard kick as the carriage came to a standstill, and Syaoran began to get up from the cushioned seat, finally made him react.


Fai only flashed him a stunning smile and sang out in a lilting musical tone:


Kurogane finally let a dark scowl cross his face as he growled out a curse under his breath, pointedly ignoring the giggling coming from Syaoran's handbag. He stood up, and made to get down from the carriage after his apprentice, who was gingerly taking his first step, balancing precariously on his heels. Fai stood in an easy, fluid movement, aiming another kick to the back of his knees. He missed, and hit Syaoran, who tripped and would have made a highly embarrassing collision with the floor had his teacher not grabbed him by the arm, steadying him. He turned to glare at the blonde idiot as the man apologized to the boy. Kurogane made his unceremonious descent from the carriage, twitching as Fai made a disapproving tutting noise from behind him.

"Now, now, Kuro-chi," he chided, "That's not very nice. Ladies first."

"You're no lady," he growled up at the wizard, but extended a hand anyway to make up for it. Shooting him another dazzling grin, Fai placed his hand in the ninja's gloved ones as he descended gracefully from the carriage.

"Don't fall, m'lady," he couldn't help but interject sarcastically.

Fai's grin only widened.

"Why, Kuro-rin, I knew you cared~!"

Cursing loudly, the shinobi snatched his hand away, turning from the infuriating blonde in an effort to compose himself. Just looking at the sight of his damnable smiling face irritated him. Fai was laughing openly at him, and this time, he was unable to stifle the urge to turn around and take a swing at the blonde. He tried vainly to put less force than usual behind it, to make it look a little more playful for the benefit of their audience; he didn't think he did very well.

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Syaoran stumble once again, and reached out to snag him by the elbow once more. A nearby group of girls laughed obnoxiously. Syaoran blushed and began to apologize for his clumsiness; Kurogane lazily brushed it off, watching Fai as he glared at the pointing girls. He wondered if the blonde knew how ridiculous he looked glaring while in such a garb. (No, he did not think Fai looked adorable, he did not.)

"That burly guy behaves rather inappropriately, don't you think?" he caught someone whispering, "He just keeps holding onto her, and look how close he's standing to the blonde. Scandalous."

Kurogane internally flinched at the whispers. It was hard to remember to stop thinking of the kid and the mage as men, and treat them as women instead. Picking up on the whispers, the blonde swept over in a manner seemingly oblivious, taking hold of Syaoran's other arm and smiling pleasantly at him as he thanked him for catching the younger boy. The warrior took the hint and let go, allowing Fai to steady the brunette, who had tripped on Fai's long skirts and almost fallen once again.

"I'm sorry, Fai-san," the boy apologized, bowing to the blonde and nearly falling over as he did so, "It's really hard to balance in these shoes!"

The wizard smiled kindly at the boy, patting him on the arm half in reassurance, half in encouragement.

"It's perfectly alright, Syaoran-kun. Here, you can lean on me."

Syaoran apologized again for the trouble he was causing, attempting to bow once again, the motion only causing him to pitch forward.

"I'm really sorry, Fai-san!" the boy wailed, a characteristic look of determination gracing his handsome (err...pretty) features, "I'll learn how to balance. If Fai-san can do it, so can I! Perhaps Fai-san could teach me?"

Giving him another pat on the arm, the magician smiled apologetically at him as they began to ascend the steps of the palace.

"I'm afraid I can't help you, Syaoran-kun," he told the boy gently, "I'm not wearing heels."

He lifted the long skirts of his dress slightly to expose his shoes, a pair of plain-white ballet flats with a blue gem adorning the front.

"I managed to convince Tomoyo-chan to let me off considering that I'm already pretty tall, and that my dress is so long that nobody would be able to tell that I'm not wearing heels anyway."

As Syaoran opened his mouth to reply to that, a wizened old man seemed to pop up out of nowhere, a monocle perched precariously on his upturned nose as he stared intensely at them. Whatever the brunette had been about to say was forgotten as he yelped in surprise and jumped backwards, reaching for a non-existent Hien in reflex. This only reselted in his stumbling and toppling backwards down the steps as Fai scrambled to re-tighten his loosened hold on his arm, nearly being pulled down along with the falling boy. The only thing that stopped the two of them from taking a very undignified plunge back down to the ground was Kurogane's fast reflexes. Syaoran began to wail out an apology again as the two older men tried vainly to wave off his apologies, Fai once again preventing the distraught boy from pitching forward as he attempted to bow.

A loud clearing of a throat brought their attention back to the old man standing by the large double doors that made up the front of the palace.

"May I help you?" Fai enquired politely.

He jerked back as the old man leaned forward, squinting through his monocle as he scrutinized him through his monocle. He then walked around the blonde, 'hmm'ing and 'hah'ing, much to the wizard's discomfort.

"Ah, yes. Well, well, you will do. You will certainly do."

The man nodded in approval, stroking his chin as a few women caught on to his strange presence and started whispering.


By now, most of the women nearby had their attention centered on the four men and were whispering to one another, to the utter bewilderment of the three travelers.

In response to Fai's questioning prompt, the old man puffed up in distinct pride. Like an owl, thought Fai absently. And the man did look like a scrawny, snobbish owl with his monocle and owlish squinting.

"I," announced the old man with an air of utmost self-importance, "am the chancellor."

At this, the whispers grew to mutters; it seemed like everyone out front had their attention focused on the four figures standing on the steps of the palace, and there were even some straining to get a look at them over the crowd.

"And I," the old owlish man, no, the chancellor, continued, "hereby invite you to dine at the royal table tonight, in the presence of the royal family, and of course, yours truly, the chancellor."

There was a loud uproar as the mutterings grew to loud talking, everyone attempting to talk over one another. Many women looked distraught, several more melodramatic ones burst into tears. Some turned to their friends, glad for a new source of juicy gossip. There were even some that looked bored, or simply raised an eyebrow in half-interest.

The travelers were baffled.

At the lack of response, the chancellor seemed to deflate slightly, instead looking slightly annoyed. He leaned in close, and Fai jerked back again at the invasion into his personal space.

"Well?" he demanded, "Don't you have anything to say to that?"

The uproar had died down, everyone waiting to see how the strange blonde with the beautiful blue eyes would respond.

"Erm...Okay," Fai said uncertainly. When the chancellor's white eyebrows almost disappeared into his hair with shock and exasperation, he tried again, "Thanks?"

At his unenthusiastic response, the crowd flew into an even bigger uproar, as the chancellor began to rant exasperatedly. Who was this woman who was so casual about being asked to dine with the royal family? Didn't she understand the implications of the invitation? Didn't she know that she was being selected as a likely candidate for the position of queen? Finally as the uproar died down, and the travelers stood flabbergasted, the chancellor finished his rant and caught his breath before straightening up and clearing his throat again. Whatever mutterings that still remained died down into silence.


As he said this, he leveled his gaze onto a bewildered Syaoran.


The chancellor let out an exasperated sigh at the boy's eloquent response. He repeated his question slowly, as if speaking to a child.

"Your name, please?"

Syaoran blinked.


Fai aimed a discreet kick for his shin.


Syaoran fell backwards into Kurogane's arms, and the mutterings started again. The ninja immediately shoved the boy to Fai.

"Shall? Shell? Shaw?" enquired the chancellor, looking confused.

Syaoran straightened and cleared his throat, face the same color as his dress.

"Yes, Shall...Shell...Shelma!" exclaimed the boy, looking mightily pleased with himself, "yes, yes, my name is Shelma."

The two older men breathed nearly indiscernible sighs of relief. Fai began to run through a list of girl names as the chancellor turned to him. He finally settled on the most familiar one, Sakura.

"And you are Phai...Fai? I presume? Or was it Mai?"


The chancellor frowned, eyebrows knitting together like a pair of white caterpillars.

"I thought I heard the lady, Shelma, calling you that just now. I guess not, Fai is a rather strange name for a girl. But I could have sworn I heard..."

The wizard started backtracking.

"Oh, yes, yes, Fai. My name is Fai."

The chancellor's eyebrows actually did disappear into his hair this time.

"Oh? That's an...interesting name for a girl. But Phai's fine. Nothing wrong with a strange name. Phai. Yes, yes, nothing wrong at all."

The blonde inwardly blanched and backtracked once more, wondering desperately how his impeccable lying skills had seemingly flown out of the window so quickly, along with their plan. What had happened to attract no attention, get the information, then get out of there in one piece?

"No, no! That's not my name!"

Now even Kurogane and Syaoran were looking at him strangely.

"It's not?" asked the chancellor, eyebrows still lost in his wispy white hair.

"It's not?" asked the baffled swordsman, and his young apprentice.

"Yes, it's not," affirmed Fai, hiding his nervous anxiety under a calm smile, "Fai is a nickname you see. It's not actually my name."

"Oh, I see."

The chancellor had stopped frowning, and was now nodding his head in understanding. The magician let out a breath in relief, feeling a weight being lifted from his shoulders.

"So your real name is...?"

That weight came promptly crashing back down on him. Fai only just managed not to sag under its weight, stomach sinking. Shit, he hadn't thought of that yet.

"Ah... Ah! Well you see, err... my name is... is..." the chancellor looked at him expectantly. The silence was deafening as everyone waited for his reply. He could feel Kurogane, Syaoran and Mokona burning a hole through the back of his head. Cold sweat was forming on his palms, his forehead, as he racked his brain for a suitable name, smiling serenely at the chancellor as he prayed that his make-up wasn't running.


No, no! He had said Fai was his nickname.

How about Emily? Or maybe Bella?

No, those didn't have 'F's in them either.

Ophelia? That was pretty close.

"Phaelia!" Fai blurted out, "my name is Phaelia."

And realized a little too late that 'Phaelia' was pretty far a name from 'Fai'.


The chancellor seem to be trying to puzzle out the connection between Phaelia and Fai, and failing miserably.

"Yes! Phaelia! Like Ella and Ellie, Phaelia and Phae-ey. Phae-ey, Pha-ey, Fa-ey, Fai!"

Fai inwardly cringed. That sounded bad even to himself. Why hadn't they thought of names earlier?

"Ah, I see. What a lovely name. Phaelia, was it? Or would you prefer if I called you Fai?"

His jaw nearly dropped as the chancellor inclined his head just so, nodding in approval, as did the other women, whispering to one another.

Phaelia, such a lovely name. Why couldn't I have had such a lovely name?

Her name sounds so magical, like a fairy. Better than plain ol' Ophelia any day.

He almost collapsed as his legs went jelly-like in stunned relief. They believed him! The chancellor suddenly turned his attention to Kurogane, leaning in close and squinting. The warrior leaned back, scowling, fighting the urge to snap at the man.

"And this is?"

If this had been any other situation, the chancellor would have found the finger he was currently poking into the ninja's chest on the steps of the palace.

"Kurogane," he growled out shortly, and seeing the chancellor's questioning cock of an eyebrow added, "Sy—Shelma and Phaelia's bodyguard."

Seeing the chancellor's gaze drift to his hand on Fai and Syaoran's lower backs—from where he had caught them when the chancellor had first appeared—Kurogane quickly gave them both a small push forward, righting them, and quickly removed his hands. He cursed inwardly as he glared at the chancellor (the man flinched away), daring him to comment; he really had to start treating the two like women.

Fai immediately caught on.

"Oh yes, Father took in Kuro-pin when he was just a wee little boy. He was an orphan, you see," the wizard blabbered, "He grew up together with my sister and I and took care of us when Father passed away. He's just like a dear brother to us."

The liar put an arm protectively around Syaoran's shoulders, smiling sadly at the chancellor with eyes brimming with crocodile tears as he reached behind him to grasp Kurogane's hand. The ninja in question stifled a grimace of disgust at the exaggerated sob-story, and why were his fingers curling around Fai's, he did not give them permission to do so. He patted Fai comfortingly on the shoulder and tried not to roll his eyes as the blonde seemed to conjure a blue silk handkerchief out of nowhere to daintily dab at his watering eyes, sniffling quietly.

To his surprise, Syaoran slid an arm around the magician's waist and buried his face against in the man's shoulder, his own shaking. When had the brat gotten so good at acting? He placed a reassuring hand on the boy's back, stroking soothingly, the boy shook harder. Had the mage's sob-story brought up painful memories of his own parents?

As a choked noise came from the seemingly sobbing boy, Kurogane felt all concern wash away as he identified the noise.

Syaoran was laughing.

He suppressed the overwhelming urge to facepalm.

The chancellor looked distraught, shuffling guiltily on the spot as if unsure what to do to reassure the seemingly grief-stricken family. The onlookers had fallen into an awkward, somewhat respectful silence. The funeral-like atmosphere only made the 'grieving' Syaoran 'sob' harder into the wizard's shoulder, hiding his face behind a red lace handkerchief that Mokona discreetly passed him from his handbag.

"There, there," cooed the chancellor nervously, reaching into his front pocket and extending a checkered handkerchief (quickly retracting it when he realized how redundant his offer was; both women already had handkerchiefs.) "It is unbecoming of ladies as lovely as yourselves to be crying, it would sadden even a grown man like I."

As Syaoran began to keen, Fai seemed to immediately snap out of it, crocodile tears (Kurogane wondered how his makeup hadn't smudged even a smidgeon) stopping its flow almost instantly. The blonde gave one last sniff, dabbing at his eyes furiously as he straightened up.

"Why you're right, chancellor," he said in a somewhat choked voice, "It is unbecoming of us to be crying here on the steps of the royal household, especially on a night as joyous as this. Please forgive us, we have forgotten ourselves in our grief."

The idiot blinked hard a few times, as if blinking back his tears, and gave his eyes a final swipe with his handkerchief.

"Oh, but such a sombre air is inappropriate for an occasion such as this, is it not? Make merry, dear sisters, make merry! Let the sorrows of tomorrow be drowned by the enjoyment of tonight!" he finished with an arching sweep of his hand, forefinger extending towards the ceiling with a cringeworthy look of hilarious seriousness. Kurogane gaped as the chancellor and their onlookers raised their chins and straightened up, looking at Fai with an expression of awe. What were they? Cattle? Syaoran was wailing behind his lace handkerchief, and Fai broke the stance he'd been holding to throw an arm around the boy, "Come, dear sister. To the ball! The prince awaits!"

The wizard swept dramatically through the front door with his nose in the air—arm still around Syaoran's shoulders—dragging the poor boy along with him. Syaoran stumbled along less-than-gracefully in a vain attempt to keep up with the magician's grand strides, hiccuping. The chancellor snapped out of his daze, as did the onlookers, shaking his head as if to clear his thoughts as Kurogane sighed and strolled in after the other two, rolling his eyes at the mage's ridiculous antics.

From confidential royal documents, the shortlisted guest list of Sir Malcolm de Vanghaum, Royal Chancellor of the great kingdom of Phairitael, since destroyed and lost through unidentified means.

'...Guests #956, #957, #958:

The names of the three guests who are amongst the twenty selected to dine with His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, this lovely night are as follows: Lady Phaelia and her sister Lady Shelma—both of the Noble House of 'Sakura'—and their body guard, the orphaned, adopted son of the 'Sakura' family.

The selected candidate is the Lady Phaelia, who is the older of the two ladies. She is far fairer than many a maiden I have seen tonight, with pale skin and blonde hair, donning a long blue gown. She has many desirable qualities such as poise, maturity, and the invaluable ability to touch the hearts of those who hear her speak. Her dignity and station, as well as her undeniable beauty makes her an ideal candidate for the position of Queen. Such startling maturity in one so young is rare, and highly commendable; this lady is not to be passed up, Your Majesties. As such, as the royal chancellor and advisor to the throne, I humbly suggest for Your Majesties to bring this dignified personage to the attention attention of your son, His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince.

The sister, the brunette by the name of Shelma, is of a tender age. Though she would make a pleasant daughter-in-law and an ideal wife in any other household, she is not suitable for queenship. She has features that are striking and very much pleasing to the eye, and possesses a sweet, fetching charm that is rare amongst the average young maiden. However, she is considerably young, and has not the dignity and poise of the elder. While certainly endearing, her clumsiness and inherent tendency of tripping over everything and anything is unbecoming for a lady of court. Should Lady Phaelia truly be chosen to ascend the throne, Lady Shelma's marriage has the potential of great political gain, therefore I believed it wise for Your Majesties and His Royal Highness to be introduced to this fine young woman, Lady Shelma.

The bodyguard—going by the name Kurogane—while not of the same bloodline, is currently the head of the 'Sakura' household, following the sad death of his adopted father. I would not have allowed his entrance, and even moreso to dine with His Royal Highness, however Ladies Phaelia and Shelma seem to be fairly attached to the man, who they say to be 'like a dear brother' to them. I hope that Your Majesties would forgive this intrusion on behalf of the vast potential that Lady Phaelia has shown.

Guests #1506, #1507:

The two twin sisters of the Noble House of...'

The king raised an eyebrow as he finished glancing over the last of the neat, cursive penmanship. The queen sat by him, sharp chin resting on the back of a slender hand and an elbow propped upon the cushioned armrest of his throne, most probably musing over the descriptions of the nineteen young women and one young man (or perhaps more accurately, seventeen young women, one man, and two very lovely looking women who were, in actual fact, men) who were to sit with her son.

"M'love?" the king murmured questioningly, watching his wife as he slowly crumpled the letter in his hand before setting it ablaze with a small spark of magic. The queen started, eye snapping back from its previously glazed, faraway look to focus on his face, eyes slightly wide.


The king frowned.

"Darling," he chided gently, "You do not have to uphold such formality whilst in private."

The queen smiled tenderly, eyes twinkling merrily as she pressed a hand lovingly to her husband's cheek, a soft laugh tinkling from her lips as he tweaked her nose with the tip of a ringed finger. The knock on the large doors leading into the throne room had them drawing away from one another, still smiling fondly, so that whoever it was outside the throne room would not come in to witness their king and queen behaving like lovestruck teenagers still in the sweet process of courtship. Their courtship had never seemed to end; 'happily ever after' indeed.


A moment passed before the doors opened, a lone figure striding in to face the two royals. As he approached, the queen made a small noise of delight and rose to meet the young man.

"Charming," she called sweetly, a bright smile lighting her face, "My son. From whence has this handsome young man come? Come closer and let your dear mother see how much you've grown. My, the handmaidens have chosen a fetching garb."

Shrill laughter filled the air as the prince picked his mother off the ground and swung her in a full circle before setting her slippered feet gently back on the carpeted floor, kissing her on a rosy cheek.

"Why, mother," he teased, "It can't have been more than thirty minutes since you have last met with me. Why do you greet me as if you have not seen my face for a summer or two."

The king rose and joined his son and wife, slipping an arm around his wife's slim shoulders and clapping the other on his sons shoulder with a booming laugh.

"That is because everything in Phaeritael is like a fairytale, therefore to show her love for you, your mother must greet you as if she truly has missed your presence dearly."

Charming blinked.


The king blinked.


The young prince frowned.

"I just thought I heard you say... Never mind. It was nothing, Father. Nothing at all."

He smiled at his parents before starting, as if he had been struck with a sudden thought.

"I've just been struck with a sudden thought!" exclaimed Prince Charming, "the chancellor asked me to call upon you and bring you to dinner. He says the table has been set and the delicacies that he has written to you of will be located near our seats."

The king laughed at that, shaking his head at the message between the lines. That wily old fox.

"Why, then we really ought to get going, should we not?" boomed the king in his booming voice, "Come son, let us go. The party awaits."

The prince turned to follow after his parents, smiling charmingly. The queen slipped a pale arm around her husband's waist as they strode out of the doors, towards the feast that awaited them.

Kurogane was beyond irritated with this world and its damned customs. When they had first been ushered into the dining hall by the chancellor, and shown to the long table where the crown prince would be sitting at, Kurogane had chosen the most practical of seats for them: near the door and with nothing obstructing them from making a quick and efficient escape should they be exposed. But the chancellor had insisted on a certain fixed seating plan, instead forcing the disgruntled warrior into a seat at the opposite end of the table, away from the exit and right beside the prince's seat at the head of the table.

Of course, he had then situated himself beside Syaoran and Fai; sticking together would prove useful in such an event that a swift escape was warranted. Again, the chancellor had protested, saying something about a custom of sitting next to strangers so as to make new acquaintances at social gatherings. As such, Syaoran had been placed on the right side of the head of the table, Fai on the left, and he a seat down from the blonde.

He was strangely glad to be near the wizard, though that was a highly impractical sentiment. His apprentice was in much greater risk in the likely case of an attack considering that he could barely walk in those shoes. Whilst Fai was in definite danger of tripping over the long skirts of his dress in battle, he had his magic to rely on. Syaoran's magic was less powerful and with less refined, and he was much more accustomed to fighting with a sword rather than solely with magic in any case. Despite this logical reasoning, Kurogane still found himself relieved that he was with the mage rather than the kid, and was rather frustrated with his sudden insensibility.

The great doors to the dining hall swung open, and Fai leaned forward to tease the cross ninja around the redhead sitting between them, "Look, Kuro-kun! It's the prince. Don't you think he looking particularly charming?"

Kurogane grunted in half-hearted agreement. He couldn't have cared less what the prince looked like, he just wanted to get the information they needed and get the hell out of the damned place; the cooing and swooning of all the females in the room was making him nauseous and Fai's little 'kyaa~!' of admiration was truly puke-inducing. (He was not jealous, because it wasn't like they were involved or anything.)

The prince approached the table with the king and queen, ushered by the chancellor. As he took his seat at the head of the table, he glanced questioningly at the chancellor and his parents. Sensing the unvoiced question, the king winked, "Your mother and I will be sitting with the other nobles over there. After all, it is custom to sit with strangers in social events, eh?"

With that, the king moved to the next table, arm still around his wife. As the queen took her place in one of the two throne-like seats at the head of the next table, the king remained standing at his, raising his arms as if to accept an embrace. He lifted his strong jaw, and smiled.

"Let the feast begin."

All at once, a vast array of dishes appeared—seemingly from thin air—on the previously empty plates arranged neatly on the long table. Quite a few women along the table started, then quickly attempted to feign casual disinterest; magic was, after all, a sign of nobility, thus it was unseemly to express shock at it. The prince sighed and began to prod at the slice of mutton a waiter had carved for him. Here we go again.

"Fai-san, was the food... created with magic?"

He blinked. That was new. All the women he met at these functions weren't so open about their ignorance regarding magic, as magic was seen almost as a trophy for those of high society. As such, the noble women often faked a magical knowledge even if the majority of them had rarely seen, let alone used magic.

"Imbecile! Of course it is, what do you think it is? What are you? A beggar? Obviously the food has been created through magic."

The prince frowned at the snide response, looking up to find a redhead a seat down from him on his left, beside a blonde with striking blue eyes; he did a double take at the impossible shade of those eyes. Turning to his right, he found the source of the innocent question. A brunette, dressed in pink, dropping the fork she had been using to prod cautiously at the turkey, looking somewhat chastised as she lowered her head.

"I apologize for my ignorance," she murmured politely, if somewhat insincerely.


The prince whipped back to stare at the blonde on his left, the one with the eyes. She had turned to face the redhead, smiling serenely, with an air of forced politeness; she was irritated, "You clearly do not have the slightest knowledge of magic if you believed that the food was created through a conjuring spell."

The redhead began to splutter indignantly as the brunette on his right blushed as red as her dress (the girl almost reminded him of a delicate rose with her pink dress, red face, and endearing shyness) and seemed to sink into her seat. The prince suppressed the urge to laugh at the girl—she was dreadfully entertaining—in favor of listening to what the interesting blonde had to say.

"Anyone with an elementary knowledge of magic should have known that was a summoning spell. To conjure food into existence out of nothing, as you have suggested, requires an impractical amount of magic, skill, and concentration. Cooking beforehand, and then summoning the prepared feast onto the plates from the kitchen would be a far more practical use of magic, and also much more feasible for lesser mages. I would suppose that although peasants," and here, the blonde's face contorted into a (rather pretty) sneer of disdain, even if the disgust didn't quite reach her eyes, "are generally not allow the privilege of using magic, an exception would be made to a selected handful of servants and bodyguards. It would be preposterous, and rather redundant—if I may be so bold—for the royals and us nobles to take care of such...menial labor ourselves."

Despite himself, the prince found himself almost childishly awed by the blonde's speech; she sounded like she could have qualified as a magical lecturer in the palace itself. And he actually understood her, not like when he attended magical classes. His grumpy, wizened old lecturer was not only impatient (and much uglier) but also way too elaborate in his language. He simply could not seem to grasp the concept that his complicated, many-syllabled vocabulary not only made Charming's head spin like a top, but also made him sound like a raving lunatic, no matter how intelligent he thought it made him sound.

This woman however, used simple language that was still sophisticated in its phrasing and quite musical to the ear. Of course, that could also have been due to the pleasant lilt of her wind-chime voice, though it did seem unexpectedly low for a woman of her petite stature. Charming liked this woman very much, she seemed rather pleasant. She was kind and gentle, but assertive when that protective motherliness overcame her. And she had protected that poor blushing brunette from the mean redhead, which meant that she must be a good person, right? Indeed, Charming found this woman very...no, extremely likable, but apparently the redhead didn't quite think so; she was a strange person.

"Why, I have never—" began the redhead, spluttering a rather undignified red-faced fury, falling silent at the prince's raised palm. She fell back into her chair with a huff, crossing her arms and sulking. Charming paid her no heed, he was still watching the blonde who had now turned to face him, with a bright, sunny smile on his face.

"That was lovely," he exclaimed brightly, bringing his hands together in childishly delighted applause, "You're absolutely right, we do make an exception for a handful of servants. You seem to have an awfully intimate understanding of magic, are you a magic-user? If you are you should become the royal magic instructor. The current lecturer is a batty old grump who always uses complicated words that I don't understand."

Charming completely missed the slight stiffening of the two supposed sisters and their bodyguard as he asked the question, instead frowning upon mention of his instructor and continuing to grumble under his breath while waiting for the blonde's response.

"Surely you jest, m'lord," said the blue-eyed woman with an airy laugh, eyes closing in a serene smile, "Women don't have magic, and are forbidden to practice it even if they do. Why, to think that I were a magic-user, how positively scandalous!"

Fai laughed another airy laugh as he took a sip of his tea, smile as serene as ever as he lowered his darkened lashes demurely to his tea. Kurogane though that the annoying mage was particularly good at the noblewoman act; he spoke like a noblewoman, exclaimed like a noblewoman, pretended like a noblewoman, drank his tea and ate like a noblewoman. Heck, he even got the laughter down to the exact airiness and false daintiness of that characteristic noblewoman's laugh. Kurogane's brain conveniently chose that moment to re-remind him—if he were to make an accurate guess, he had probably forgotten again somewhere around the time that the idiot had been kicking him in the carriage—that Fai had, in fact, been a prince (in both of his worlds) and as such, must have grown up in court. He'd probably seen enough noblewomen in his life to very accurately imitate them.

"Oh," said the prince, looking confused for a second before he seemed to finish processing what the blonde had said, "Oh yes! Father did mention a law about that once. No wonder Mother isn't a magic-user although she is royalty. I'd always wondered why."

By this point, the three travelers were in utter disbelief that the crown prince of such a great kingdom could be such an oblivious simpleton.

"But that's awfully ridiculous, isn't it?" the prince rattled on as he gestured with his fork, a piece of his baked potato still attached to the end, "I think women would have a much greater magical capacity than men, don't you think?"

Fai's eyes snapped open from his close-eyed smile in astonished confusion, eyebrows knitting together. He looked somewhat offended. (He was a male magic-user after all.)

"Huh?" came Syaoran's eloquent reply, a similar reaction as Fai. Kurogane frowned, trying to link how being a woman affected the extent of one's magical capabilities; he failed.

"I mean," continued the prince without waiting for an answer, not seeming to have noticed the confusion of his audience, "my instructor always says that magic comes from here..."

And here, Charming placed a palm on his chest, right over his heart. Fai smiled, it was not technically true, but it was a starting point for beginners. Beginners. He hadn't thought that the prince would be so...inept.

"...and I mean, women have more space right here," the prince thumped himself on the chest, "So they probably have much more magic in the same way a larger bottle can probably contain more water than a smaller bottle. Right?"

Fai was too dumbfounded to even facepalm. Syaoran gaped openly at the prince (and he had felt foolish confirming with Fai the method of spell-casting; he hadn't been paying attention which was awfully careless of him as a magic-user). Kurogane looked like he wasn't sure if he ought to kill the prince, and thus rid the world of such inherent stupidity, or kill himself, in a last-ditch effort to die a sane man. As Charming continued to babble on about his various interpretations of his lessons, Fai's face transcended disbelief to a belated horror at the blatant desecration of magical theory. As he inwardly lamented the violation of his art form, he heard, from across the table, a horrified whisper issuing from Syaoran's handbag: "Mokona does not want to hear any more."

"Hyuu~! Where did all these men come from? I thought this was an all-women's ball?"

Kurogane narrowed his eyes at the mage's idiotic 'whistling'; he knew Fai could whistle just fine. His sharp jab of 'how the hell should I know?' went unvoiced as he was interrupted by an unpleasantly nasal voice.

"That's because our candidates have already been chosen and presented to the prince," the chancellor explained, "Thus there is no more need to keep the men from the ball. In any case, this would be a good way to keep the other women occupied and happy, don't you think?"

The shinobi discreetly removed his arm from behind Fai, where he had been supporting himself on the refreshments table, as he noticed the chancellor's gaze on him. Dinner done and over with, the plates—along with the dining tables—had been cleared magically, in order to clear the floor for the dancing that had since ensued.

"Ah," Fai said pleasantly, offering up another one of his serene smiles, "I see."

Kurogane could easily spot the blonde's veiled irritation at the fact that they could have just come in disguised as noblemen, rather than having to go through the indignity of cross-dressing. This reeked of Tomoyo; he definitely wouldn't put it past the sadist to conveniently exclude that particular bit of information, spotting a wonderful opportunity to completely destroy and annihilate the last remaining shreds of dignity of yet another two men. He shuddered at the thought, already hearing the demented princess' trademark 'oh-ho-ho'ing ringing throughout his head.

"Yes," the chancellor finished rather lamely, not seeing a way to reply to Fai's subtle attempt to end the conversation, before clearing his throat and straightening up self-importantly, "I have come to relay a message! The prince is to dance with each of the candidates. Will you come with me?"

The wizard's face fell so fast that it was almost comical, the smile was back instantly, together with another painfully fake laugh.

"Oh. Me? Surely not, there were so many other beautiful women at the table. Maybe one of the others...?"

The chancellor's eyebrows shot up once again, and Fai realized a little belatedly how rude it had been to reject an invitation from the prince himself; he wasn't exactly a prince in this world.

"I mean," Fai quickly interjected, biting his painted lower lip and looking down shyly, somehow managing to fake a blush, "I don't think I'm ready yet! Oh, I'm so nervous, I haven't danced in ages and I haven't quite warmed up yet! What if I make a fool of myself in front of His Highness?"

The chancellor's face took on a fond sort of amusement as Fai continued to fake his anxious gushing.

"So that's it," he said, chuckling, "I'm sure you'll do fine, but since you're so nervous... Perhaps the next dance? Go and warm up, then come back and blow his highness away."

The old man patted the blonde on the arm, still chuckling affectionately, and turned away to begin wading through the crowd. He failed to see the look of horror crossing over Fai's face. The mage waited until the chancellor was out of earshot before whirling about to face his companion.

"What do I do now, Kuro-mu?" he asked, latching onto the front of Kurogane's coat.

Kurogane scowled, feeling a strange sort of irritation clawing at his chest.

"How the hell should I know?" he scoffed, "Don't tell me you actually care what that dolt thinks?"

Just like that, the look of dismay on Fai's face fell right off to reveal an absolutely lecherous grin.

"Oh," he breathed, blue eyed half-lidded as he sidled dangerously closer, walking his fingers flirtatiously up a broad chest, "Is Kuro-chama...jealous?"

The warrior spluttered indignantly. Him? Jealous? And over the mage to boot. Why, the mere thought of it! Preposterous, scandalous! It was impossible, inconceivable, beyond the rules that governed the very fabric of the universe! There was no possible way he could be jealous, and he had nothing to be jealous of anyway; it wasn't like he was in...in...in...in love with that liar or anything like that. Oh no, how absurd! Not possible at all.

Before he could give voice to any of that incredulous ranting, Fai moved closer still—till he was all but pressed against the ninja—and the protests died abruptly in his throat. The blonde twined their fingers together, almost shyly, lowering thick eyelashes to conceal brilliantly blue eyes.

"Dance with me, Kuro-sama?"

The blonde woman came next in the long line of women who the chancellor had sent to dance with him. Ophelia, her name was, or something along those lines; he couldn't really be sure. She looked considerably happier than she had during dinner. While she had been smiling endlessly throughout the affair, her smile right now leaned more towards a thinly veiled elation than the polite serenity of dinnertime. Her smile lit her eyes with a brilliant gleam, and her face was positively glowing. She had been beautiful before, but now she was absolutely breathtaking. Even as she made her way through the crowd (he could have sworn she was floating off the ground under those long, long skirts, and was she...humming?) it parted for her as heads—male and female alike—turned to follow her path. Her eyes were distant, dreamy even, and she seemed distracted as she greeted him rather breathlessly, dropping into an impossibly graceful curtsy.

"Your Highness," she breathed, before straightening up and throwing him a dazzling smile so dazzling that Charming actually took a step back, dazzled.

He quickly hastened to offer his hand to her as the music began to play, decided not to ask about what had her so happy; she barely seemed to be aware of her surroundings in any case. Cornelia (that was her name, wasn't it?) took his hands, twisting their intertwined hands over absently. Charming raised an eyebrow, and flipped their hands back over.

"Pamela," he chided gently, "the man always 'offers', so I'm supposed to have my palms facing up."

The woman seemed to immediately snap back to reality, offering a nervous laugh as she squeezed his hand.

"Dear me, I must be dancing with my sister too much," she breezed with a close-eyed smile, "I've been teaching her to dance for the ball, you see, and I guess I've just gotten so used to dancing the male's part."

"Your sister?" Charming questioned blankly.

The blue-eyed woman blinked a few times.

"Yes, my sister," she affirmed, "I believe you've met Shelma? She sat on the other side of you during dinner just now."

Charming remembered, with a loud gasp, the blushing brunette in the rosy dress.

"That was your sister?" he exclaimed incredulously, "But you don't look alike at all!"

Adela laughed airily as he twirled her under his arm. (He realized with a small start that she wasn't quite as petite as he'd originally thought. In fact, she was the same height as he. He shook his head, quickly assuring himself that she was probably wearing heels.)

"My father remarried after my mother died," she explained, "Shelma is my step-mother's child from her first marriage."

"Ah," said Charming as his partner danced out of his arms, spinning back into them a couple of counts later, "So you're not related by blood?"

"No, no. Not at all," Camellia laughed, "But I like to imagine that we're a closer knit family than most blood-related ones, especially since all our other relatives have died. They're all I've got now."

She smiled fondly.

"We've been through so much together."

The violins played their last sorrowful notes, and Charming parted from her.

Julia curtsied once more, then retreated back in the direction she had come from. She was definitely more interesting than the redhead he was just danced with; she had mostly been trying to assure him of just how rich and influential her family was. He hadn't asked, and he had no idea why she had seemed so interested in a subject so uninteresting. He could only hope his next partner would be as interesting as Amelia. Charming sighed. He hated dancing.

Reaching the refreshments table, Fai gestured for a waiter to pour him a drink. He had hoped to find Kuro-wan again after the dance, but the sneaky little puppy hadn't stayed where he'd left him like a well-trained puppy. Bad Kuro.

"Alcoholic, miss?" the waiter inquired politely.

Fai blinked at being referred to as a 'miss', before he flashed a wide smile at the young man to make up for the moment of hesitation.

"That would be lovely," he answered in a voice slightly higher than his usual voice range, still smiling.

The waiter took a step back, looking slightly dazed, and nodded stiffly. He turned and started robotically pouring a glass of champagne, eyes glued to the blonde's smile. Fai ignored him and leant back against the table on his elbows, scanning the crowd for that familiar broad-shouldered build

"Say," he asked the waiter casually, "You wouldn't have happened to see my step-brother around here, would you? Black hair, red eyes, really tall. Never stops scowling."

The young man—he looked to be about the prince's age—blinked.

"Err...yes," he began, twisting around awkwardly to point somewhere across the dance floor, " I thought I saw him heading that way a short while ago."

The magician immediately turned to him, beaming.

"Really?" he trilled excitedly, "Thank you!"

The waiter's mouth fell slightly open, and Fai yelped as the champagne began to spill over onto the tablecloth.

"Hey! The drink's overflowing!"

The youth immediately jerked the bottle back up, face flaming, and the wizard reached delicately for the glass, smiling reassuringly at the waiter.

"It's alright, everyone makes mistakes," he soothed, "But I suppose I'd best be going."

Fai privately thought to himself that the child was way too young to be fancying a man as old as himself; he was probably more than six times his age. He turned to snitch one of those delectable looking pastries before setting off to search for dear Kuro-puu, and froze.

Across from him, on the other side of the table, she stared at him in a sort of stunned horror. Tapered chin, aristocratic nose, large eyes with long fluttery lashes, high cheekbones, plump pale lips, beautifully fine-boned face. Fairylike. Ethereal. Beautiful. Her blonde hair was pulled back exactly as he remembered, pale gold wisps framing her lovely face in soft waves. Her painfully familiar face was set upon a slim, delicate neck, though her sloping shoulders seemed broader; less frail than he remembered. With a sudden sickening feeling of realization and recognition, his eyes widened, jaw slackening ever so slightly.

It had been far too long since he had last seen her, but it was unmistakably, without a doubt, her.

With a growing sense of dread, he noticed the almost imperceptible widening of the woman's eyes, realization and horrified recognition dawning in her eyes almost at the same time as he, mouth falling open in a silent gasp.

Abandoning his pastry, Fai turned and fled. He pushed past a protesting group of girls, and barely made a few feet past them before he ran into a firm, broad chest. Keeping his head down, he attempted to move around the new obstacle but was thwarted when two large hands, warm and quite tan, grasped his wrists in a viselike grip.

He froze in terror.

Had she sent for someone? Were they going to throw him back in that pit? No! Not that place! He didn't want to go back there! His captor was saying something, but he didn't hear it. He began to struggle. He needed to get away, he needed to escape. He couldn't go back, he just couldn't. He had Kuro-sama now, had to go back to Kuro-sama. He jerked his wrists roughly away, but his captor held tight. They were in a room full of people, was no one going to help him? He tried to aim a kick at the man, but got tangled in his skirts and would have fallen if not for the grasp on his wrists yanking him upright. Were they just going to stand there and watch him being dragged away, kicking and screaming? (why not? those other people had definitely done just that as he and fai had been taken away.)

"Oi. Oi!" his captor shook him violently, "It's me, you idiot!"

The man cursed as his captive managed to land a hard kick in his shin, but did not let go. Instead, he transferred both wrists into one hand and reached towards the blonde's face. The magician snapped at him with sharp fangs, claws slow to extend in his terror, but his captor just grabbed him roughly by the jaw, akin to how one would a rabid dog, and forced his face up.

"Look at me," Kurogane snarled, "What the hell is wrong with you? You just looked at that mirror and flipped!"

Fai blinked, eyes wide and open. A mirror? He turned, and true enough, across the table was not an extension of the already massive ballroom, but a large mirror that spanned the entire wall behind it. His bottom lip began to tremble.

"Kuro...sama," he whispered, and Kurogane was startled by how vulnerable the wizard sounded at that moment. Just what had happened to shake him so? The blonde's face contorted into a strange, alarmingly genuine frown-smile, almost like a child about to cry, and he stepped forward into the ninja's chest, tucking his head under Kurogane's chin with a soft whimper.


"Oh, oh god, I'm sorry."

"It's alright."

A yelp.

"I'm sorry!"

"It's perfectly fine," Charming laughed as the brunette stumbled yet again; he tightened his grip on her strangely firm waist and hoisted her up. She tripped again, and fell into him.

"I'm so, so sorry!" she wailed apologetically, face flaming a spectacular shade of red, "It's these shoes! I can't even walk in them!"

"It's perfectly alright, Shel...ma?"

She nodded, "Yes, Shelma."

And promptly toppled backwards. Charming caught her around the waist and brought her back up. She was definitely more interesting than anyone he had danced with all night. Her complete inability to dance was oddly endearing.

"You don't normally wear heels?" the girl blushed an even deeper red, and shook her head, Charming smiled at her, "That's good! I don't like women who wear heels, it makes them real tall. Like your sister! I swear she's taller than me!"

With a sharp yip! the girl practically flew forwards, and he caught her again. He was getting pretty good at this.

"You mean Fai-san?"

Charming frowned, and absently steadied her as she flailed. (Yep, he was getting pretty good at this.)

"I thought her name was Taylia or something?"

Shelma laughed nervously, and she gave a little hop as she lost balance again.

"Phaelia," she corrected, "Fai is a...nickname."

"Nickname?" Phaelia didn't sound very much like Fai at all.

The girl gave a shrill laugh, smile looking strained.

"Ah, yes. Like Ella and Ellie, Phaelia and Phae-ey. Phae-ey became Pha-ey, which sounded like Fai."

"Oh!" the prince said, face lighting up in understanding, "I understand now!"

Shelma beamed, and got tangled in her skirts, falling sideways. He caught her distractedly and pulled her upright, still pretty happy with his newfound realization.

"Her name is Ella!" he cried, "I knew it ended with an 'uh' sound!"

The brunette's face fell, though Charming did not notice. He was rather busy feeling accomplished and pleased with himself for finally remembering the blonde's name. The chancellor had said he expected Charming to remember the name of his bride's sister, with a exaggerated wink. Charming knew that his parents and the chancellor were rooting for the Sakura sisters, so it was very important to remember Ella's name. He was pretty certain they wanted him to choose Shelma—Ella really was too tall for him, and queens needed to wear heels all the time—and he was very glad to. She was adorable!

"Erm...Your Highness?" the girl began timidly.

"Just call me Charming," he piped up, "No need to be so formal."


"Yep!" Charming replied peppily, "Charming. That's my name!"

The girl raised an eyebrow.

"So you're...Prince Charming?"

The prince hummed in agreement.

"What's this? A fairytale?"

"Not a Phairitael," Charming corrected her, "Just Phairitael. I don't think it's quite grammatically correct to use 'a' with the name of the kingdom, or the name of anything to be honest. I highly doubt you'd say a Charming, or a Shelma. That's a little strange."

She sighed.

"Never mind."

And tripped again.

"So what did you want to say?" Charming asked, as she fell into his arms.

"The music has stopped," she told him curtly, "So our time is up."

"Oh," said Charming, disappointed. He'd wanted to spend more time with Shelma, "That's...horrible!"

"Yes," Shelma said, prying herself from his grasp, "Horrible."

"Can I have your next dance as well?"

Syaoran looked at the prince, aghast.

"You want to dance again?" he asked incredulously. He'd been terrible, so he had no idea why the prince wanted to dance again. Sakura had always found it dreadfully funny that he couldn't dance, because she couldn't very well either. Dancing badly was only with Sakura, because it was fun; they'd be tripping all over one another, and eventually end up in a giggling heap on the ground, then they'd get up, commenting on how much they both hated dancing, and continue anyway. He never danced with anyone else. Except with Fai, when he was very very drunk. But that didn't count.

"You don't want to?"

Syaoran bit his lip, manners clashing with irritation in an epic battle of wills; manners won.

"Oh no," he lied, "It's not that. It's just..."

He searched frantically for an excuse.

"Don't you need to dance with the other women?" he blurted desperately, "You shouldn't leave them waiting just for me."

The prince's frown dropped right off his face.

"Oh, so that's it," he laughed, "Well, you're actually the last lady I have to dance with tonight, so I can dance with whoever I want now. You don't have to worry about anyone, Shelma."

Syaoran suppressed a groan.

"Your Highness, I—"


They both turned to see Kurogane pushing through the crowd. And he really was pushing; Syaoran could see the people tumbling out of his way like felled trees, or more appropriately, bowling pins. The warrior raised an eyebrow at the prince, but otherwise ignored him. (He was a ninja, not a courtier.)

"We're leaving for awhile," his teacher said meaningfully, "Your mo—sister is not feeling well."

Syaoran pointedly ignored the fact that Kurogane had almost referred to Fai as his mother, and turned his attention to the man in question. The blonde was completely glued to Kurogane's side, fingers clutching at the front of the shinobi's coat. Fai caught the prince's eye and smiled—somewhat shakily, Syaoran noted, although the wizard hid it well—and prized his own fingers from Kurogane's shirt to place an affectionate hand on his head.

"Perhaps you should keep His Highness...occupied," he said, "while we go check out the outside of this ballroom. It's much too crowded here."

Keep everyone busy while we search for the information.

"Well, then," Kurogane interjected, "We'll be going now."

They turned to go.

"Wait!" Syaoran cried desperately, as the orchestra began to play the next song, and Charming grabbed onto him with a delighted 'ah!', completely oblivious to his reluctance, "Kurogane-san! Fai-san!"

They continued on their way, ignoring his silent cry.

Don't leave meeeee!

Kurogane was utterly baffled. The mage was acting strange, and by that he meant stranger than usual. He was acting in a uncharacteristically...girly manner. While he always called the man feminine, the truth was that Fai was not all that feminine, unless he was being silly. He was built pretty well, he was rather independent, he could drink Kurogane under the table, and he could throw a very mean punch. But just a while ago when they had danced, he'd been looking at him so adoringly with his big blue eyes, and had danced off after to go find the prince. Then later he'd found him freaking out over his own reflection, and once he'd calmed down, he had swooned into Kurogane's arms, just like a damn girl, all distressed and distraught. He'd clung to the ninja's side all throughout the time they had been searching for Syaoran, clutching at him and pressing his face into Kurogane's shirt and snuggling. All that was fine, Kurogane could take a certain amount of the mage's teasing and flirting. But now, the wizard was timidly reaching for his hand, trying to weave their fingers together, and his play-acting was definitely getting a little too real for comfort.

"What the hell are you doing, wizard?" the ninja snapped, yanking his hand away. His voice echoed in the empty corridor, "You're acting very...odd."

Fai blinked up at him confusedly, and closed the distance that Kurogane had recoiled, reaching again for his hand. The warrior jerked his hand away again

"God, what is wrong with you today?" he griped, "Stop acting weird!"

A strange look of hurt crossed the magician's face, and he immediately withdrew.

"I—I thought—" the blonde bit his lip and turned away, "I—Never mind. I just... I'm sorry, I had a little too much to drink, that's all."

He turned and walked ahead, head lowered. Kurogane blinked, and then hurried to catch up with him.

"Oi, oi! Don't just... Complete your sentences, mage!" he yelled, catching Fai by the arm, "You thought what?"

Fai pulled his arm sharply away.

"It's nothing, okay?"

Kurogane grabbed the blonde's forearm and roughly swung him around to face him.

"It's not nothing, you were terrified of your own reflection!" he insisted, "Who do you see when you look in the mirror?"

The magician glared, like a bloody woman scorned, and wrenched his arm away.


He spun around and flounced off down the dark corridor.

"Hey—What's wrong with—You're acting like Kendappa on her monthly...thing!" Kurogane spluttered indignantly as he jogged after the blonde, "I said I didn't care about your past right? I've already seen it."

"It's not that, alright? I just—I thought that you—" Fai broke off in a loud cry of frustration, and continued to stomp away, "You're such a...a...player!"

Kurogane stopped and gaped. (He quickly resumed his jogging because Fai was getting quite far ahead.)


Fai whipped around.

"You," he said, pointing accusatively at the shinobi, "are a player!"

"I haven't done anything!" Kurogane protested disbelievingly, "You are the one whose always saying and doing things you don't mean."

"I meant it!"


Kurogane stared, wide-eyed, as Fai shrieked in fury. The mage was scaring him.

"Don't pretend you don't know!"

"I really don't know!"

Fai stalked towards him, and the warrior found himself scrambling away from the mage, who presented a truly menacing sight with his darkened face, pursed lips painted a girly pink, violently swishing skirts, and heavily mascara-ed eyelashes. Hell, beyond a doubt, hath no fury like a woman scorned... And Fai wasn't even a woman!

"Don't act like you don't know," he ranted, "You knew that I was in love with you, you...you jerk!"

Kurogane gaped at him.

"I didn't," he protested weakly, still in shock from the sudden confession. This was not how he had pictured (yes, he had pictured, alright?) this happening, "I—you—you didn't...you didn't say anything! It's your fault for being so... so flirty in the first place, I—"


Kurogane staggered sideways from the force of the blow, turning to stare at the blonde with wide eyes. Fai had...slapped him. Not punched, or backhanded, or clawed, or tossed into a wall. He had slapped him. It was not...That was just... Guys did not slap other guys!

"Man-whore!" Fai accused, jabbing a finger in the ninja's face.

"I—you—" Kurogane spluttered in shock, "I didn't—"

Fai burst into (very noisy) tears, and the warrior rushed forward with a yelp.

"No—wait—Why are you crying?"

"I don't know," Fai sobbed, "You're a cheater and a player and a man-whore. I love you."

"That doesn't make any sense!"

"I hate you," the blonde sniffed angrily, and Kurogane spluttered at the contradiction, "You don't love me."

"I do," the warrior insisted, not quite realizing what he'd just admitted to, "So stop crying!"

Fai immediately did so.

"You love me?"

Kurogane blinked.


Fai promptly burst into a renewed fit of tears.

"You player!" he wailed, "You said you loved me, and now you're pretending that you didn't again!"

"I love you, okay?" he roared, "Stop crying! What the fuck is wrong with you today? You're being such a girl!"

The blonde stopped.

"You love me?" he said in wonderment.

"Yeah, I do, okay?" Kurogane groused, "I think that dress is getting to your head."

"You love me!" Fai cried, and swooned into his arms. Again!

"Stop that!" the ninja yelled, "This is not like you, mage!"

The wizard only snuggled into him.

"My knight in shining armor..." he murmured, and Kurogane threw him right off.

"You've gone mad!"

Fai's bottom lip began to tremble; the shinobi quickly took him back into his arms with a panicked yelp.

"You're wonderful," he quickly corrected, "Perfect. I love you."

Fai swooned into his chest with a happy sigh.

"Can I have your next dance as well?"


Charming nodded dreamily, sighing happily as he stared disconcertingly into Syaoran's eyes.

"You have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen," he told Syaoran, "Like the eyes of a doe. So limpid and innocent and warm."

"I most certainly do not!" Syaoran protested, panicking as the prince only sighed.

"You're so bashful, it's adorable."

"I should get going," the brunette said quickly, turning to leave.

"But I really do want this next dance with you."


Charming looked crestfallen, but Syaoran was past the stage of caring. The chancellor popped up happily; the man had been quite displeased with the prince's choice of dance partners.

"Perhaps the Lady Phaelia—"

"On second thought," the boy interrupted as he whipped about with a wild swipe of his hand—hair falling into his face and eyes wild—all but throwing himself at the prince, "Alright, let's dance."

Fai sighed and snuggled back into Kurogane's chest, turning his face into a tanned collarbone. The ninja closed his eyes and counted to ten.

"Mage," he gritted out, "Just cast the damn translation spell so that we can do what we came here to do and get the hell out of here!"

The wizard rubbed his face into warm skin and purred.

"But, darling," he murmured absently, "I can't. Women can't use magic here."

"You're not a woman!" Kurogane roared.

"Of course I am," Fai insisted distractedly, "You're my prince charming."

"Snap out of it!"

"Kiss me."

"No! Cast the spell first!"

"I don't have magic, I'm just a poor helpless damsel."

Kurogane pushed the blonde away and stood up from the table they were seated at with a loud cry of frustration.

"You're a man, and you're a damn bloody wizard as well, so quit playing around!"

Fai stood and swooned into the warrior's arms again. Kurogane gritted his teeth as he caught him, beginning to count again in an effort to calm himself.

"Kiss me."

He failed miserably.

"Fuck you, you're not him!" he yelled, shoving the heavy body draping itself across his arms to the floor, "I don't love you, I love Fai!"

He collapsed back into the chair with an exasperated groan, and opened his eyes when that person who was not Fai began to tug pathetically at his pant leg with a whimper.

"I'm sorry," the not-Fai hiccuped piteously, "I love you. Please don't be angry."

He sighed; it was those blue, blue eyes. Fai's eyes.

"It's alright."

"I'm sorry."

"I said it's alright."

"But you're angry with me."

Kurogane sighed again and gathered the tangled heap at his feet into his arms.

"I'm not, okay?"

The not-Fai sniffled and burrowed into his chest.

"Kiss me?"

Kurogane sighed (he was doing an awful lot of that) and tilted a pale chin up, pressing a short chaste peck to pinked lips, pulling back immediately.


Fai blinked.


Fai blinked some more.

"Oi, you're scaring me."

Fai suddenly groaned and buried his face into his hands.

"Oh god," he moaned, "What was I doing?"

Now Kurogane blinked at him, jaw dropping.

"Mage?" he asked tentatively, and Fai turned to him with tortured eyes.

"Who else?"

"But—you—" the warrior spluttered (he was doing an awful lot of that too), "How— What just happened?"

"True love's first kiss," Fai said it like a curse, ignoring the loud 'hah?' that came from his...true love, "We've dropped into a goddamned fairytale."

"You're beautiful."

"I'm not."

"You're an angel."

"I'm not."

"You're my goddess."

"I'm not."

"You have the grace of a swan."

"Does this look graceful to you?" Syaoran spluttered as he tripped into the prince's arms, and cursed himself for doing so. He indignantly adjusted his wig, and brushed down his dress in an attempt to look less undignified; he failed. He cursed as his shoe came off with his next stumbling step forward.

"Oh, let me get that for you," Charming immediately said, dropping to his knees in the middle of the dance floor. Syaoran yelped and crashed to the floor as the prince lifted one of his ankles right off the floor, in order to fit the shoe back on. Charming blinked at him, stocking-clad ankle in one hand, red slipper in the other. Seething, the brunette slowly reached for his handbag—manners be damned—so that he could wake Mokona up and force her to spit Hien out.

He blinked.

"My handbag is gone!"

"It's alright," Charming said absently, fitting the slipper back onto Syaoran's foot, "I'll buy you another."

Panicking, Syaoran flipped around onto his hands and knees, trying to search for red silk through the legs of the other dancers on the floor. No wonder it had been so strangely quiet, he had lost Mokona!

"But I want that one!"

"Don't worry, my love," Charming soothed, "I'll have whoever it is who makes bags in this palace make a thousand of them for you. The very same one!"

"That one, that one!" Syaoran screamed, "That bag has something important in it!"

"I'll buy another of that something for you," said the prince, attempting to smooth down Syaoran's skirts for him; the brunette slapped his hands away with a curse and stood up. Paused. Perhaps he could make use of the prince's infatuation after all.

"But I—" he choked, burying his face in his hands, and sinking slowly back to the floor, "That—my mother gave it to me before she died."

The prince immediately shot up, pointing at a nearby guard.

"You!" he cried, "Find that bag now!"

Syaoran began to 'sob' into his hands as the guard scrambled to obey.

"Everybody!" the prince shouted, spinning around to point at all the underlings in sight, "I order you to find that handbag! Go!"

Charming knelt beside the 'distraught' brunette, patting him soothingly on the arm.

"There, there, my precious," he soothed, "We'll find that handbag, don't worry!"

The boy 'sobbed' harder.

"My handbag," he wailed.

The prince stood back up with a determined look on his face.

"I'll find it, my darling!" Charming announced, and scrambled off to do so.

Syaoran grinned behind his hands.

Time to find Kurogane and Fai.

"Found anything?" Fai called, adding a few more books to the growing stack in his arms. Kurogane only gave an absent hum, so he shrugged and continued skimming through the titles on the spines. He paused as he reached the end of the bookshelf, reaching out to trace his own face in the mirrored wall between that bookshelf and the next.

"So," said a voice in his ear, and he smiled and stepped back into a warm embrace, "Who do you see when you look in the mirror?"

He briefly met red eyes in the mirror before returning his attention to his own face. He sighed.

"My mother," he whispered, "I look like her."

Kurogane slid his arms around a slim waist, and Fai smiled. The warrior was being uncharacteristically cuddly, but that was alright.

"She must have been beautiful then."

The blonde giggled (giggled?) and turned his head to press a chaste kiss to his new lover's lips.

"I think this world must be getting to Kuro-sweet as well."

Kurogane kissed him again.

"I think so too."

Fai turned so that he could kiss the ninja properly, and found himself stumbling forwards into a strong chest. He sighed contentedly and dropped the books so that he could wrap his arms around Kurogane's neck. Kurogane breathed in the smell of blonde hair.

"You're awfully clumsy today," he noted in a preoccupied tone.

"That's because this is a fairytale," Fai explained dreamily, "I'm supposed to be falling into your arms."

Instead of replying, the shinobi kissed him again, longer and deeper this time. A short time later, he pulled away and smirked.

"We really are getting distracted, aren't we?"

Fai laughed.

"Yeah, we are," he agreed, "This world isn't good for getting work done."

Kurogane removed himself from the wizard's embrace, and moved slightly towards the table that their reading materials were still sprawled upon.

"C'mon, then," he said reluctantly, "Let's go."

Grinning, Fai followed after, but tripped over the books he had dropped onto the floor. Kurogane caught him—like a fairytale—and he felt his garter snap, not so much like a fairytale.

"Shit!" he said, looking up to meet Kurogane's questioning eyes, "My garter snapped!"

"You're wearing a garter?" the man questioned with wide eyes and, lips loosened by the almost hypnotic dreaminess of this world, added somewhat breathlessly, "Kinky."

Fai smacked him across the bicep and pouted, finding it strangely difficult to summon up any anger at his lover's completely inappropriate response.

"You're abominable," he sniffed haughtily, and began to pull his many layers of skirts and petticoats up his legs so that he could fix the issue. Kurogane whistled appreciatively and Fai glared, "Help me, I can't see past these skirts!"

The warrior knelt to try and resolve the problem.

"Tch," he said, "The clip has just disconnected from your stockings. You just have to clip it back on."

Fai yanked the cloth in his hands further up.

"Clip it on for me."

The sound of rustling fabric, then:

"Ouch! You clipped me!"


"Bad Kuro-pup!"

"I'm sorry! Look, can you sit down or something?"

"I can't walk."

"Why not?"

"My stockings will fall down."

Kurogane groaned, and swept the stubborn idiot up into his arms. Fai yelped and threw his arms around Kurogane's neck. Reaching the table, the ninja pushed all the papers aside and tossed the blonde down onto it, flipping his skirts up to reveal his white lacy underwear.

"Why the hell are you wearing women's underwear?" he groused as he pulled a stocking-clad thigh over each shoulder and began to fiddle with the garter clip, "That's a bit more thorough than I'd expected."

The magician ignored him, instead playing with the trailing ends of the silk ribbon on his torso.

"My, isn't this a compromising position?" he commented drily, "It really is too bad Syaoran isn't here to see this."

The door slammed open.

In the doorway stood Syaoran; wig askew, dress crumpled, make-up smudged, and both of his shoes in one hand.

The door swung slowly shut behind him.

"Oh God."

The door burst open once more, sending the boy flying forwards from the impact and revealing the chancellor upon the threshold, Syaoran's handbag dangling from one hand.

"Lady Shelma! Thank goodness, I've finally caught up with—" he paused as he caught sight of Fai, sprawled on the table with his skirts around his waist, thighs resting on Kurogane's shoulders, "Oh my—"

Mokona chose this moment to pop her tiny head out of the bag; the old man turned to her with a startled cry of shock.

"Kuro-beast and Fa~i, sitting in a tree, F-U-C-K-I—"

Kurogane turned and flung a book at Mokona, snarling. The chancellor ducked with a panicked squeak, and the book hit the door behind him. Syaoran got up, a scowl the likes none of them had ever seen on his face, hiked his skirts up to his bare thighs (how scandalous! the chancellor thought), and delivered a perfectly aimed round-house kick to the chancellor's jaw.

The chancellor flew back into the door with a loud cry, and Fai got down from the table as Kurogane drew his sword. Tripping as the un-gartered stocking slipped down to his ankle, Fai leaned out of the window and pointed at the first thing in sight. A pumpkin erupted into a horse-less carriage. Syaoran blasted the chancellor out of the window with a burst of his magic, and Fai flew the man into the carriage, setting it off down the hill at full-speed with a snap of his long fingers. The carriage crashed through the pumpkin patch and through a few fences, speeding down the forested slope.

Syaoran brushed himself down to no avail, a thunderous look on his face.

"Let's get this over with and get the bloody hell out of this hellhole."

They burst out of the palace, tripping down the stairs as the nobles behind them streamed out to watch them go. The large clock on the middle tower of the palace began to chime midnight, resounding throughout the entire city. Charming ran down after them, waving a rose over his head with one hand.

"Wait, darling!" he called, "You can't go yet! I haven't announced my decision to make you my queen!"

Fai turned and flung one of his shoes at the prince.

"Cradle-robber!" he screamed, "Pedophile! Don't you dare touch my baby!"

The prince absently caught it, and continued to run after them.

"My love!"

Syaoran shrank back in terror and the three travelers continued to stumble down the stairs.

"I absolutely do not approve of this marriage!" Fai screamed back over his shoulder, as he rushed down the steps, skirts lifted to reveal one bare foot, "I do not!"

Syaoran whimpered, and Mokona popped her head out of the bag as the last chime of the clock-tower died away.

"Mokona's earring is glowing!"

Kurogane snatched her from the bag by her ears.

"Get us out of here," he roared, "Now, manjuu!"

A set of large white wings extended into the sky, and the travelers were swallowed up in a beautiful display of lights.

"Mokona Modoki is totally excited! Puuuu~!"

"My angel!" Charming cried, running through the remaining wisps of the colorful lights, "Where have you gone, my beautiful goddess?"

The king and the queen caught up to him, what seemed to be an entire platoon clattering down after them.

"What has happened, Charming?"

"Stolen!" the prince lamented, "My love has been stolen! By that evil step-sister of hers. Oh, my angel, my darling!"

"Stolen?" the queen repeated, "Who?"

"Ella, of course!" Charming wailed, "Who else?"

"The blonde lady in the blue gown?" the king asked.

"Yes! Ella! That evil step-sister. Witch. Demon!"

"Don't worry, my son," the queen soothed, "We'll find your dear bride."

Suddenly aware of the shoe still clutched in his hand, Charming blinked, then thrusted the shoe at his mother.

"Here!" he said, "This is Ella's. You must find her, mother! You must!"

And so the king and the queen left to issue orders to find the dear lady ella! and arrest that evil step-sister of hers!

"She'll be shoveling coal for the rest of her life when I find her!" Charming cried, turning furiously to the guards, who blinked confusedly at him, "And she'll be forever known as the wretched Cinder Ella!"

Omake #1

The three travelers landed on the steps leading up to a grand castle, and for a dreadful moment, thought that they had not left at all. Sakura came bursting out of the front doors, scurrying down the stairs towards them.

"Kurogane-san? Fai-san? Syaoran?" she called, and paused abruptly as she fell to her knees in front of them, staring in bewilderment, "What are you wearing?"

Syaoran threw himself into her arms with a loud sob.

Omake #2

Fai bolted upright with a blood-curdling scream.

Kurogane jerked awake and rolled out of bed, dropping into a battle stance. Processing what had happened, he sighed and sat by the side of the bed, pulling the wizard to his flank.

"Another nightmare?"

Fai nodded.

"I want to go check on Syaoran-kun."

Kurogane sighed.

"It was just a nightmare, mage. The kid is fine."

A knock on the door.

Fai magicked it open with a wave of his hand. Syaoran stood in the doorway in his pajamas, clutching his pillow tightly to his chest. He stepped hesitantly across the threshold, bottom lip trembling dangerously.

"Kurogane-san," he whimpered, "Fai-san."

Syaoran sobbed and ran into Fai's open arms.

"Can...can I sleep here tonight?"

A/N: Well, just wanted to explain here. The reason why only Fai is affected by the nature of the world at first is because he was feeling rather lovey-dovey from dancing with Kuro. Which led to his mistaken assumption that they were already together although they had not had any such agreement. Later after the 'spell' is broken by 'true love's first kiss' it comes back in a less serious way (he does not think himself a woman anymore, and can actually consciously note that it's the effect of the fairytale world their in) and this time Kuro is affected as well because he is feeling rather lovey-dovey himself. So the two of them are being sort of giggly and lovey-dovey together when Syaoran storms in feeling very un-lovey-dovey. Because he has Sakura, and it appears that Charming is completely infatuated with him. Syaoran is in a very very bad mood. So in a way, I guess you can say they become susceptible to the magic of the fairytale when they are feeling all lovey-dovey because the nature of fairytales jumps in then and holds them to that wonderful beginning stage of courtship and keeps it there forever. Happily ever after, you see.

And you know in the beginning? When Fai swears vengeance on Kurogane for laughing at him? I now have the urge to write another one-shot in which Fai somehow manages to force Kuro into a dress as payback, but I have no plot to go along with it. Sigh. Or I could always just wait for someone else to write it. They say that if a thousand chimpanzees are put in front of a thousand computers, one day one of them is going to end up typing Shakespeare. But I'm pretty sure that should be at least one fic of Kuro in a dress somewhere around the archive. I'm just too lazy to go search. Oh, here's my mantra: A healthy dose of Syaoran-torture a day, keeps the doctor away. Traumatized Syaoran is love. Again, I apologize for OOCness, but it's all in the name of semi-crack! I'm sick and tired of looking through this monster, so I'm just going to publish it, mistakes and discontinuity be damned. It's times like this I wish I had a beta to abuse.


Edit: 25/12/12 Merry Christmas everyone! The aforementioned sequel in which Kurogane is stuffed into a dress is now up! Down the Manjuu Hole can be found by pasting s/ 8829061/ 1/ Down-the-Manjuu-Hole to the end of . net (it's not much of a direct sequel, but it runs along the same theme and has references to The Stroke of Midnight.)