Uwaaa~~ Finally, chapter 9 is here! I'm so sorry for the delay...I've been so busy lately... But enough about me. Enjoy this latest chapter, my dear readers!
Chapter Nine: The Rabbit Hunt
Hayasaka sighed, his eyes wandering to the group of squires just a few feet away from him. They were involved in a fistfight that started because one of them bumped into the other and didn't apologise. He sighed again, leaning against the Palace wall. He heard a twig crack, and his head swerved. No…it was just a squirrel, scurrying away from the quarrel.
Face it, Hayasaka. Just because there's a fight, doesn't mean that your hero is going to arrive. Hayasaka smiled dreamily, his eyes widening. Wait, if I want to see her so much, instead of her coming to me why don't I go to her? He grinned. So it was decided. He would search under every stone in the Palace to find this fair maiden, and he would succeed.
'Hayasaka, what are you doing?' Mafuyu drawled in a very unladylike manner. She was sitting in a Palace sewing room with a dozen other ladies. In her hands were a needle and thread and a square piece of cloth she had to stitch a design on. All he lady friends were halfway through their handkerchiefs; some doing roses and leaves, the more gifted trying their hand at horses and people. Mafuyu had done nothing. All she could ever draw were battle plans, and there was no way she was stitching a sword and shield onto her future handkerchief. So she had looked up for a second to see a familiar blonde boy open the door and peek through. The sewing instructress looked at her disapprovingly, then turned her gaze to the boy.
'Pardon me, my ladies,' he bowed. Mafuyu blinked. This was the first time she had seen Hayasaka bow. 'I'm here to call upon Lady Kurosaki for her assistance in a matter, with Advisor Saeki's permission.'
'Oh, is he courting her?' Mafuyu heard someone whisper behind her. 'But he looks so handsome! And so clean!'
Mafuyu's eyes brightened. Hayasaka, her friend, had come to save her in her time of need! Was it another job for the Juvenile Guard?
'Very well,' the instructress puffed. 'Lady Kurosaki, you may be excused.'
Mafuyu curtsied and slowly walked over to Hayasaka, making sure to be extra ladylike. The other ladies already thought of her as a little…weird. Just the other day, a dastardly mosquito had flown through the open window and all the girls screamed, one even fainting. Mafuyu had carefully stalked up to the pest…and had slapped it, wiping the red smudge on the red part of her corset and flicking the dead body off her hand. They had looked at her through a different light ever since.
'Kurosaki,' Hayasaka closed the door once she was out and pressed his lips together. 'I need your help.'
'So what does Advisor Saeki wish from us this time?' Mafuyu folded her arms. She was slightly grateful to Takaomi, in truth. Only yesterday he had approached her after class and slipped her a familiar ceramic mask. She had asked him where he had found another rabbit mask identical to the one she had used on her first day of class, and he replied that he had found a storeroom full of them! At least now I don't have to cross-dress, Mafuyu thought.
'Well, I kind of…lied,' Hayasaka averted his gaze. 'The bell will sound soon anyway.'
'You see, there's this person I really want to meet, and I think it's better if we work together,' Hayasaka muttered. 'So I used Saeki as an excuse to get you out of class. Urgh…I even had to bow.'
'You…you used Saeki as an excuse?!' Mafuyu stared at him. 'I will attend your funeral,' she said, patting him on the back. 'Good luck.'
'Hey, stop acting like my life is over! Moreover, you're just leaving me like that?' he grabbed her shoulders. 'I need to find a girl!'
Mafuyu was silent, then her eyes began twinkling. 'Oooooh, Hayasaka, you're in love!'
'No, I'm not!' Hayasaka's faced tinged with pink. 'I look up to her, that's all!'
'What's her name?' Mafuyu pressed.
'Uh…I'm not sure…but she calls herself something…'
Mafuyu raised an eyebrow. 'What do you mean?' she gulped. She sure hoped he wasn't talking about…
'Lady Bunny-man. The girl I want to meet is Lady Bunny-man.'
What am I doing? Mafuyu thought. I'm helping my friend try and find a girl who doesn't even exist. I'm getting his hopes up for no reason. The bell for the end of classes had rung not long ago, so Hayasaka had insisted they go investigate. 'I still think this is a bad idea,' she mumbled as the two of them approached a group of young squires in dirty uniforms. 'Weren't these the people that Lady Bunny-man beat to a pulp?'
'Yes, so I'm going to ask them if they know where she is!' Hayasaka grinned and practically pranced over to the thugs. 'Hey, guys!'
'Oh, it's Hayasaka,' one grumbled. 'You haven't been fighting nowadays. And you're always hanging out with a girl. What are you, a wimp?'
Hayasaka completely ignored the comment. 'Do you remember that masked girl, the one who beat you up?'
The boy's expression changed from intimidating to intimidated. 'How could I forget?' he whispered as Hayasaka sat down next to him.
'I remember,' another piped up, 'she was really strong.'
'Thinking back on it,' a third muttered, 'was she human?'
No, she was human! Mafuyu screamed internally.
'She couldn't be. That strength was freaky. Maybe one of the rabbits in the Palace garden transformed?'
Are you stupid?! She was definitely human!
'I used to bully them!' the first muttered. 'Revenge?'
'So it's your fault!' the second pointed. 'Ah, where are you going?' he asked as Hayasaka stood up.
'To give my thanks,' he said, walking away. Mafuyu followed him to the Palace garden, where he stood in front of the rabbit cage. A rabbit hopped up to him, twitching its nose.
Oh no, Hayasaka. You're not…
He bowed deeply. 'Lady Bunny-man, you have my deepest feelings of gratitude. It is a pleasure to finally meet you once again.'
Okay, Hayasaka bowing twice in one day? And the second time to a rabbit? It was too much for Mafuyu to take.
'Hayasaka,' she stared at him, her face ashen. 'Stop being a creep and fall in love with a real human,' she screamed, then ran away.
Hayasaka blinked out of his reverie. She's right! What am I doing?! Lady Bunny-man being a magical rabbit must be wrong…he screwed his eyes shut. If I remember correctly…she was a human…she was wearing a dress but…an image of a rabbit mask flashed in front of his eyes. All I remember is the mask!
'Takaomi, what should I do…?' Mafuyu moaned, beating her fists against his desk.
'So, Hayasaka has fallen in love with Lady Bunny-man, and you don't know what to do?'
'Precisely,' Mafuyu pouted. 'Wait…what if I tell him I'm Lady Bunny-man?' her eyes brightened. 'That way, he won't see her as anything but a friend, right? Because he'll know it's me!'
'I don't think that will work,' Takaomi started but when he looked up, Mafuyu was already out the door. Takaomi sighed. Great. Just great.
Mafuyu ran at full speed, halting when she saw a familiar blonde head. 'Hayasaka!' she yelled.
Hayasaka looked back at her; he was holding up a scroll to another person. 'Oh, hey Kurosaki! You're just in time. I realised that if I want to find my hero, I need to make the matter public!' he held up the paper. It had a crudely drawn picture of a girl in a rabbit mask. 'Help me ask people if they have seen her!'
'Hayasaka, you're drawing skills are amazing,' she muttered. 'Ah, no, moreover, you don't need to go to such lengths! Lady Bunny-man is –'
All the ladies and squires stopped what they were doing and stared.
Mafuyu's eyes rolled to the back of her head and she would have slumped to the floor if Advisor Saeki hadn't slipped his arms around her waist and supported her up. In his other hand, he held a thick scroll.
'Hey, Lady Kurosaki, haven't you been eating? Collapsing from exhaustion so easily!' he chuckled.
But it was your fault! everyone thought.
'Okay, someone carry her to the nurse's room,' he said.
'No! Do you know how heavy an unconscious person can be?' people complained. 'You carry her!'
'Fine,' he rolled his eyes. Everyone looked in anticipation of how he was going to carry her; would it be the legendary princess-carry, where the man held the lady beneath her knees and shoulders so romantically?
No, of course not. This was Advisor Saeki! Instead, he lifted her up…and flung her over his shoulder as if she were a sack of potatoes.
The students' jaws dropped. 'Advisor! Carry her properly!'
Ohh, my head… Mafuyu groaned. She was in an uncomfortable position, too. Something was pressing against her shoulders, and something was under her knees as well… Her eyes fluttered open and she found herself staring at a handsome albeit familiar face.
'T…Takaomi?!' she squealed, squirming in his arms. Her face flamed when she realised that he had been carrying her princess style! 'Why are you carrying me?!'
'Oh, good, you're awake,' he muttered and let go of her in mid-air. Her reflexes had her hit the ground on her feet, but she didn't appreciate his rough handling. 'I wanted to toss you over my shoulder but all the ladies and squires were complaining, saying that it was setting a bad example.'
She glared at him, her blush dying down. 'Why did you hit me?'
'You can't tell Hayasaka you the rabbit girl.'
'It's Lady Bunny-man! And why not?' she asked, biting her lip. 'I feel so guilty. He's going to such lengths…'
'Because Hayasaka is an idiot,' he said bluntly. 'If you tell him you're the rabbit, then he's going to tell everyone. And then you'll get expelled and have to spend you days rotting in the streets.'
'I don't think…'
'How long have you known him? No, I don't care,' he waved his hand. 'The fact is, I've known him longer. And just because he's passable in his studies doesn't mean he's good at other things. He looks up to the rabbit, and if he finds out it's you he will never treat you the same again. Keep that in mind.'
'Then what should I do?' Mafuyu sighed.
Takaomi opened his drawer and took out another ceramic rabbit mask. 'I have an idea,' he grinned.
'So this concludes our lesson,' the advisor in front of the class nodded, packed up his things and hurriedly left the room, eager to get out of the clamouring classroom.
Mafuyu sighed. 'History is such a waste of God given time. Ah, no pun intended!' she giggled.
'Well, that was a very interesting lesson,' Hayasaka mused, slipping his hand under his desk to put his scroll away. His eyes widened. 'What's this…?' he pulled out two ceramic rabbit masks. Attached to the back with a piece of string was a small paper scroll. Hayasaka stared at it, then fervently ripped it free and began reading it. 'Dear my lovely devotee Squire Hayasaka…' he muttered. His eyes skimmed the paper and a smile formed on his face. 'Oh, Kurosaki, this is magnificent!'
'What happened?' Mafuyu asked, though she already knew, of course. She was the one who had planted the goods.
'Lady Bunny-man has written here that she is "also part of the Juvenile Guard" and she is "a shadow member focused on serving justice to those who need it". I shouldn't come to look for her, if need be she will find me,' his eyes sparkled. 'As proof of our camaraderie, she has bestowed upon us these two rabbit masks. Wherever there is a fight, she will be there… she says "A rabbit I am, a rabbit I am not". Oh, Lady Bunny-man…' Hayasaka sighed dreamily. 'Oi, Kurosaki, isn't it wonderful? I mean, I really wanted to meet her. What kind of amazing woman is she? What beauty lies beneath that mask? If I ever find her, I will ask her. I will let the whole world know of her splendour!'
Mafuyu took the mask he offered her. It was actually her own and now, if he were to even find it, he wouldn't suspect her. She reddened at his praise but knew that it was for the best her identity remained a secret.
'Come on, Hayasaka. Let's get something to eat,' she pulled his arm.
'How can you be hungry at a time like this?' he laughed. 'But fine, because I'm in a good mood, I'll accompany you.'
She gave him a small smile. Yeah, Hayasaka, be in a good mood. You may not know she's me, but you don't have to. The Juvenile Guard will stand strong as long as we are by each others side!
And so concludes this chapter! I do hope you enjoyed it, wonderful readers. Constructive criticism is welcome; it's how I can improve! Next chapter shouldn't be too long... Spoiler: Mafuyu goes back home! But what awaits here there? Oooo... :D