Sorry for taking so long to load! I was apparently using the wrong format or something. Anyways, enjoy.
I don't own the characters. I attach strings to them and shout, "Dance marionettes! Dance for my pleasure!"
Touya could not help but drop his jaw to the floor as he watched Touko descend his staircase, looking more beautiful than he had ever seen her.
The back and white gown flowed out at her hips and trailed behind her like a calla lily. No straps were found. Instead, there was a corset with black ribbons trailing from the valley of her chest to her belly with short, puffy sleeves of silk with black lace trimming. A large white ribbon was strung around her hips, tied in a large bow on her backside. Under the ribbon was black lace, trailing down the white silk of her dress until it came to a stop where her knees were. The white was edged in more black lace. White lace gloves sheathed her hands, only going as far as her wrists. Instead of a normal ponytail, she had tied back her hair with black and white lace ribbons. On her feet, under the many layers of petticoats and stockings, were small white shoes. These shoes were quite odd for they had no heel. Yet Touko could confidently say these were her favorite shoes as they allowed her to move freely while she danced.
"You look stunning." He stammered as Touko finished her descend. "No one shall be able to keep their eyes off of you." She blushed and murmured her thanks. At the sound of small feet running, they both looked up to see Rosa quickly descending the staircase as well, albeit a bit louder than her mother. Her pale pink dress was covered by a rose colored shawl and there were pink roses adorning her hair.
"Mother!" The young child cried out joyfully. "You look stunning! Many a man's eye shall be centered on you all night!" She twirled around. "I hope I look like you someday!"
Touya laughed and swooped down to grab the child and hold her in his arms. "Nonsense! You look just as beautiful. I'm going to be the luckiest man on Earth when everyone there sees I have two beautiful women on my arms. But," He turned to Touko. "she is right. You look beautiful Touko."
She blushed. "You look dashing as well Touya." His shirt was but a simple black dress shirt with his finest white slacks and black shoes. His hair was half slicked back, keeping a majority of it out of his face. "You certainly clean up well."
He nervously tugged at the collar of his shirt. "Its not often that I do stuff like this. This is the first time I have ever been to one in this town."
She caught the last sentence. "You've been to these kinds of things before?" Touko asked as they stepped out into the night. The night was warm and no coats were necessary.
He shrugged and offered his arm. Touko quickly took it and they started walking. "I was a merchant in another nation. Kanto. I lived in Vermillion City until my master deemed me fit to carry on his trading company when he died." He chuckled. "His other apprentices were angry but they reluctantly accepted me before going off on their own. I eventually merged my company with Alder's and I became his partner. I mostly let him handle the reins but he respects my wishes if I do not see something I like. We get along rather well."
Touko laughed. "Yes, he is a very kind man."
He laughed and went on. "My master was rather famous and was invited to many balls and gatherings. And since we were his apprentices, we were required to attend with him. I learned how to dance, how to eat and how to speak to a lady." He winked. "The last part certainly came in handy."
They both winced at the squeakiness of Bianca's voice. The young heiress latched herself onto Touya's arm, pushing Touko out of the way. Her large orange gown made her look like a giant pumpkin, but who was Touko to talk about fashion? She had been raised in a town where the most important thing was how to get your next meal.
Touko tried not to glare at Bianca as they walked along the stone path to the City Hall.
It was situated right in the middle of town, which was probably how the founders wanted it. Large gardens and garden statues made up the sides of the stone pathway that led to the gaudy building. There were many expensive carriages spotted along the sides of the streets.
Touko gulped. She had never been to a ball before. The dress was her mother's old one before she passed it on to Touko. What if she messed up and embarrassed Touya? Touya noticed his employers worried look and shook off a fuming Bianca, offering his arm to Touko once again. "You'll be just fine."
And with that, she was worried no longer.
When a man called out their names for the entire ballroom to hear, the whole room went silent. Touko, Touya and Rosa could feel everyone's eyes on them. Each step they took as they descended the grand staircase echoed in their ears. They eventually reached the bottom and Mr. Satou came forward to greet them.
"Mr. Black!" Mr. Satou exclaimed. "How wonderful it is to see you."
"I bet, you old snake." Touya thought viciously. He hadn't forgotten how Mr. Satou had once courted Touko, and yet tried to arrest her this very evening. Touya and Touko knew they had to be on their guard tonight. Touko made sure to keep a hawk eye on Rosa.
"Your...lady of the evening looks very well dressed." He continued. "I'm impressed. When did you have time to buy that dress for her?"
"It was my mother's, Mr. Satou." Touko answered. "I have had it for a very long time."
Mr. Satou stiffened. "I see." He coughed. "Well, in any case, I hope you will spare a dance for my daughter Mr. Black?"
Touya shook his head. "I'm afraid not sir. I am required to stick to my lady's side all night tonight."
"And you couldn't possibly spare a dance for my lovely daughter? She has been looking forward to dancing with you since she suggested the ball."
Touya bowed in apology. "I am sorry sir, but I'm afraid not." Before the town head could protest, he dragged Touko and Rosa to a table. He sighed as he sat down. "I haven't even been here for five minutes and I already want to leave."
Touko nodded in sympathy. "I understand. I shall be keeping an eye on Rosa all night."
Rosa frowned. "There must be some way for you two to enjoy the ball tonight."
Touya smiled and patted her on her head. "I'm sorry. I'm being very depressing. Why don't I get us some drinks?"
"That would be wonderful, thank you." He nodded and went to get the drinks. Touko sighed and leaned back. "I fear for our lives Rosa. And the night is still young."
"Touya will keep us safe, won't he?"
Touko smiled sadly at her daughter. "I hope so honey. I really hope so."
Touya grumbled as yet another artisan or politician or merchant came up to him and asked for a conversation. His dislike of balls stemmed way back to when he was but a mere child and balls like these, where everyone was hoping to impress others by boasting about how much their businesses thrived, was no exception. And because he was the vice-president of a world known merchant company, he was the main target for most people.
"Stupid Alder." Touya thought as he listened to some man's rambling about his stock. "No one made him come. And here I wanted to show off my dancing skills to Touko."
"But what really matters is–"
"Excuse me." Touya interrupted. "But I'm afraid I must get back to my lady."
The man sneered. "What lady? She is but a mere monster, not worthy of your time."
Touya had to bite back all the curses he wanted to throw at that man. "Unfortunately you have it wrong. You are the monster, not she. She shows her honesty and loyalty with her heart on her sleeve. You are nothing but a slithering crook. Now if you excuse me, I have better things to do than listen to you boast."
With that, he side-stepped the man and rushed back to his table before anyone could stop him again. He was just about there when he saw a man grabbing Touko's arm violently and tugging her out of her chair. Rosa was frozen in her chair with fright. All the bystanders either chuckled to themselves or ignored the commotion.
"Take your filthy hands off me!" Touya couldn't help but feel proud as he saw Touko step on the man's foot with the heel of her shoe. Although the shoe had no heel, it was enough to make the assailant release his grip on her arm and allow her to step away from him.
Snapping out of his inwardly cheering, Touya rushed to his employee before something even worse happened. Seeing that Touya was back, the assailant fled. "Touko! Are you hurt?"
Touko shook her head, but Touya could see a rather nasty bruise forming where that man grabbed her hand. "I'm...shaken, but alright."
"Let me see your arm."
Touko winced. "Touya–"
The single mother sighed and lifted her arm for him to see. The bruise was hand shaped and quickly becoming darker. Touya felt his anger begin to grow until a hand clapped down on his shoulder. "May I have a look?"
He turned to see a boy no older than he was. Thick rimmed glasses hung on his nose and black hair framed his serious face. His clothes were similar to Touya's, the only difference being the quality in materials. Touya scowled. "Why should I let you touch her Cheren? For all I know, you could poison her."
Cheren scowled. "I'm not like the others Touya. I'm a doctor. We heal everyone. From king to criminal to witch alike. Besides, I'm probably more reliable than the town doctor."
"Touya." Touko gently put a hand on his shoulder. "Cheren has treated Rosa before. She had a fever and no doctor would take care of her. It was Cheren that allowed her to recover. I would trust him with my life Touya, as I would you." Rosa nodded in agreement. Touko turned to Cheren and held out her arm. "Thank you."
The young doctor simply shrugged and got to work. "I expected something like this to happen when I heard you were coming. Good thing I brought my medical kit."
Touko's smile was mesmerizing. "Thank you for everything Cheren."
Cheren flushed, but he didn't say anything as he finished wrapping the bandage. "There you go. I'll give you an ointment to apply to your arm so the bruise heals faster. No charge."
"Cheren!" A sharp voice turned their attention to an enraged Bianca. "May I have a word with you?"
He nodded, bowed to Touya, Touko and Rosa, who bowed and curtsied in return, before walking over to his childhood friend. Touya turned to Touko when he was out of their sight. "This is the last straw. We need to leave. If someone can hurt you in public and no one does anything–"
"But aren't you supposed to stay?"
Touya nodded. "I am. But I can't just stand by and watch someone hurt you." His expression was murderous. "The next fool who tries will lose an arm."
Touko flushed, but nodded in agreement. "Alright." She turned to her daughter. "Rosa, lets go."
"No one is goin' anywhere." They turned to see Alder, grinning as always. "At least not without havin' a little fun first."
"Alder!" Rosa exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
Their friend winked at her. "Ah' heard someone was given ye' two sum' trouble. Thought I'd give ye' sum' time off te' go enjoy sum' dancin'."
Touko flushed. "I...I haven't danced since..."
Touya knew how she was going to finish that sentence. She hadn't danced since N was alive. "Why don't we give it a shot?" He tried anyway. "Whats the worst that could happen?"
"Bianca could kill me with her glares." Alder and Rosa snickered at her statement.
But Touya refused to take no for an answer. "I promise I shall protect you from the wrath of Bianca."
With a heavy sigh and a small blush, Touko took his outstretched hand and allowed him to lead her to the dance floor.