First of all: the story picture is a part of a picture that was drawn by Fleeting Vapor for a story I wrote, so it's kind of a joint project, too.
Vapor wrote the Regis parts, me the M-21 parts. Enjoy!
"What is that thing?" Regis stopped mid-step and glanced back at M-21. Carnival music floated through the air as people passed them by. "I've never seen one before."
M-21 looked down at the young Noble before letting his gaze shift to the side and then back
to Regis again. No, it didn't seem like he was trying to make fun of him. Nonetheless, the tone of his voice was a bit tentative as he answered. "It's a carousel."
Horses rose and fell along steal poles, mimicking a gallop as they slowly spun in a circle. The riders laughed, tugging on the reigns and racing each other as well as the stationary horses could. Then, the carousel slowed to a stop, and the children dismounted. "Have you ever ridden one?" Regis avoided M-21's gaze and hoped that his voice did not betray his desires. "I never have."
"On a carousel, yes. But not on one like this," M-21 answered, his eyes now on the happy human children, too. A smirk appeared on his face. It wasn't so obvious that anybody would have noticed it, but after the time they spent living in the same house, M-21 was able to read Regis. The noble was eager to try it out, and so he couldn't stop himself from asking. "So, which one do you want? That one with blue reigns or the one with roses in its hair?"
"The roses. They're elegant." Regis answered a little too quickly, and a blush burned across his cheeks. "I mean, what makes you think I want to ride it?! The carousel is clearly made for children! ...isn't it?"
M-21 barely stopped himself from snickering, and he averted his face to hide the grin that was turning his lips upward. The answer was so characteristic for Regis that he just had to make fun of him. "Well, you are a child, aren't you?" M-21 asked with false sincerity while watching the children and preteens around the carousel.
"You're younger than I am." Regis quipped with a smirk. This was the opportunity he had been waiting for. "By my standards, you are also a child. Perhaps I should accompany you on the ride."
"But I don't look like it at least. You, on the other hand, only reach to my shoulder," M-21 eagerly continued their little argument, not that he really thought about it as a quarrel. To emphasize his words, he raised his arm with a smirk, lifting his hand over Regis' head.
He ducked away from his hand but not before M-21 accurately gagged his height. Regis straightened himself, standing as tall as he could muster and still only breaking even with M-21's shoulder. "It would be useless to worry about something I cannot change. I am still tall enough to board the ride." He pointed at the height chart posted in front of the carousel with a mischievous grin. "And so are you."
It seemed like Regis was really considering a ride on this carousel. And even worse, M-21 felt his own reluctance fading. Contrary to Tao, Regis almost never asked for anything from him, so there was no harm in giving in to this unasked question for once. He glanced to the other male. "So should I pay for your ride? Or are you so afraid that I have to join you?"
"I am not afraid, and I can buy my own ticket!" Regis paid the man at the ticket booth and fell in line behind the other children. None of them even came up to his shoulder. It hadn't been so noticeable when M-21 was next to him, but now that he was alone, the age difference felt awkward. He glanced back at his comrade. Was M-21 really not coming?
M-21 watched Regis walk up to the booth and take a place in the line. He didn't miss the glance back, and somehow, he felt like he had abandoned him. It wasn't like a ride on this carousel would harm him or that M-21 was bothered by how others perceived him. There was no harm done in trying a ride as long as Tao didn't see this or else they wouldn't hear the end of it. With a inward shrug, he bought a ticket himself, ignoring the weird look the vender gave him, and took his place behind the young noble.
"What are you doing here?" Regis faced forward so that M-21 couldn't see that the delight in his expression contradicted the hostility in his tone. The child ahead of him glared back at him and cut in front of the next kid in line.
Of course M-21 could see the confused and wary glances that the parents sent his way, but he didn't care. "Someone has to supervise you. It could be dangerous, or you could become afraid during the ride, right?" He grinned at the back of Regis' head, answering his unkindly asked question.
"I doubt it'd be dangerous." The line moved ahead, and Regis climbed onto the carousel. A little girl already claimed the horse with the roses. He scanned the remaining horses for the most elegant one, and his eyes locked onto one at the same time M-21's did. "I want that one."
M-21 trailed behind Regis while trying to find an unoccupied horse. It didn't matter to him what color the reigns would be or if the mane was decorated. Preferably, he wanted a ride near the young noble to still be able to talk to him. He didn't mind riding on this carousel, but he wouldn't be doing it if not for Regis showing interest in it.
Regis mounted a black stallion with a white star on its forehead and loosely held the reins in his hands. "The white horse next to me is free. Although, I do not understand why it has a horn."
"That is a unicorn. A mythical creature in the human fairy tales that only allows innocent people to touch it," he explained and chuckled slightly at the irony. M-21 sat down on the horse that Regis had pointed out, but refrained from taking the reigns. Contrary to the children, his legs were long enough to reach the bottom while sitting.
"Should you be touching it, then?" The ride began to rotate in a slow circle as the music played. Regis' horse sank to the ground while M-21's unicorn lifted into the air. "This is... not as fun as I expected. The human children seemed to enjoy it much more than this."
M-21 shot Regis a glare at his comment about the unicorn. He knew that he wasn't the most innocent person, but he didn't like to hear about it. There were too many things he did wrong in the past. "They can't jump from buildings; of course this would be exciting for them."
Regis looked over to see if M-21 was enjoying himself, but a white stripe of hair bobbing through the crowd caught his eye. He slid off the horse, using it as a shield as he motioned for M-21 to duck down, and he only offered one word of explanation. "Tao."
As he saw Regis duck behind his horse, beckoning him over, M-21 reacted without thinking. He crouched down behind his unicorn, relaxing a bit as he heard Regis utter Tao's name. But as much as he liked Tao, this wasn't a thing he wanted to be caught doing by the hacker. "Let's head that way."
Regis nodded and began to move in the direction M-21 had pointed. As soon as the carousel rotated to the other side, the wall in the center of the ride would hide them. They could easily escape and jump the fence. Once they were in the crowd again, they would be fine. He looked back to where Tao had been standing. "I don't see him anymore."
M-21 waited until the carousel turned around to a certain point and then left it. With the same motion, he jumped over the fence without effort. He felt Regis follow close behind him. All the while, he looked around for the hacker. He didn't see him, either, but instead, he saw strikingly purple hair. "Over there."
"Takeo?" He watched as the man was forcibly dragged into line for the carousel, and Tao's cheerful laughter mixed in with the carnival music. Regis moved in closer, working his way around the onlookers until he had a clear view. Tao yanked Takeo up onto the ride and pointed at the horse with the roses in its mane while excitedly taking the horse with the blue reins for himself. He caught Regis' eye just as M-21 caught up with him, and the smile faded from Tao's face. Regis grinned back at M-21. "Tao would take a picture of this."
"Yes, he would," M-21 answered with an almost devilish smirk. Before Tao had time to alert Takeo and dismount the horse, M-21 took his mobile phone out of his jacket pocket and snapped a photo. Silently chuckling, he held the phone towards Regis to show him the picture. It was proof they could use to blackmail Tao if necessary. It seemed like they had the opportunity to say "no" the next time Tao wanted to initiate something stupid again.