Akaihi was in an unfamiliar place. Then she appeared.
The Phoenix said: "Aíne."
"What?" – Akaihi asked, confused.
"My name is Aíne."
"Oh... Really?" - She said, excited. She felt grateful she was finally accepted by her magic.
"Thank you. What happened? Where am I?" - She proceeded as she was confused.
"You are unconscious. You suffered severe damage to your body. I'm glad Flora was there."
"Did she save me?"
"Yes, she did."
Akaihi felt like a faillure. She was supposed to protect Flora... Not the other way around.
"Aíne... Are you my friend?" - She said. She needed a friend.
"Of course!" – The Phoenix smiled. The beautiful inner older self of Akaihi got close to her, and put something on her head. It was a crown.
"You are my queen." - She bowed.
Akaihi smiled and blushed. She was tearing up.
"Thank you." – They hugged.
"I think it's time for you to wake up, don't you think A-Ka-I-Hi?" – she said her name, in a robotic tone.
"Yes. It is. See you soon!"
Akaihi woke up, in pain. She scram.
Hashimoto and Flora were by her side.
"Oh, sweety are you okay? How are you feeling?"
"H...urts... I...No...Uee!" – She held her wounds.
Hashimoto called Inoue and she gave her something for the pain.
"Thank you, Flora. For saving me. By the way, she told me her name." – She smiled.
"She did? Great! Congratulations!" – Flora was so happy she started to tear up.
"How are you, sweety?" – Hashimoto asked again, after the pain medicine.
"Hm, dizzy? I'm also high… Did you catch him?"
"Yes, we did. When the rebels heard about him they retreated. We arrested some of them that managed to get into the palace."
The next day they returned to the Academy. Sam was very worried about Akaihi and had this big present planned for her. But now he had to bring the present to her.
Sam went to see Hashimoto and Yuri at the same time.
"Masters... Thank you for coming... As you know... When you want to have a girlfriend in the academy you have to ask permission from Hashimoto, the Headmaster, and both of the involved Masters right?"
Yuri asked: "Who is she?" – He smiled and patted Sam's hair, making it even messier than it usually was. Yuri had a big smile on his face. He didn't usually smile, but he found young love cute, he couldn't help himself.
Sam blushed: "I... I was... I was planning on asking Akaihi if she wanted to be my girlfriend on her birthday... May I do that?"
Hashimoto and Yuri laughed. Sam was embarrassed. They thought he was too cute to be real.
"Of course! Go ahead!" – They said.
"But you can only have her as your girlfriend if she wants you to be her boyfriend." – Hashimoto reminded.
"I know that. Thank you, masters!" – Sam was smiling from ear to ear.
Hashimoto and Yuri looked at each other. A look that said "So cute!"
Sam then asked Inoue if he could take Akaihi for a walk the next day.
"Can it be in a wheelchair? Her wounds are still stitched... She can't walk for the next few days"
Later in the afternoon, he had it all set up. He went to see her. She was in her bed in her room, with pink textured wallpaper all over, stuffed animals on the shelves, and soft carpets, reading a book in Braille, while laying on her bed. Sam knocked.
"Where have you been? I've been waiting for you all afternoon! I was bored to death!" - She said, with a big smile.
"What are you reading?"
"Hum just a novel. Want to play something?"
"Tomorrow is your birthday isn't it?"
"Yes... According to Inoue's calculations... They insist on me celebrating it at least in the same month... What about it?"
Akaihi sensed Sam was nervous. She could hear his faster heartbeat, and the trembling in his voice.
"I prepared something for you. Do you prefer the sunrise or the sunset?"
"You know I'm blind right?"
"I do, silly! But I know you enjoy feeling the sun in one of those times."
"Well, I like both, the cool morning or the warm sunset." - She said, smiling.
"Not helping. Anyway, I can't wait to give you your present soo. Do you mind waking up early tomorrow?"
"No, sure! But Are you sure I can?"
"Inoue told me as long as you go on the wheelchair because of the stitches."
"Do you feel much pain now?"
"No." – She laughed – "I'm very high! Inoue gave me some "Fairy medicine", no more pain!"
"Oh! Great! How about sharing a little?"
"You know I can't do that!"
"I know. It's okay. Worth trying right?"
"So, what is it that you are planning?" - She sat, slowly, struggling with pain.
"Tomorrow you will see. I hope you like it!"
"Well, whatever it is, if you did it/bought it/planned it... I'm sure I'm going to like it!"
"You know you can tell me if you don't right?"
"It comes from you. It's special so I'll like it. You always pick the perfect present. See? I still got that orange-scented teddy bear you gave me. I sleep with it when I'm nervous or something."
"I don't know. It reminds me of you, so I fall asleep thinking about the good stuff..." – She blushed a little.
"Hashimoto told me you like pink."
"Oh. I don't know. He says that because every time he gives me something to choose and pink is an option I'll choose pink."
"That bear is pink."
"See? Don't worry. I'm sure I'll like it. You know how to pick presents."
"How about... I call the guys and we have a sleepover afternoon?"
"It's your bedroom's turn and it's not this weekend."
"No, Just to cheer you up a little." – Sam smiled.
"Hm... Thanks but I'll pass. I'm a little tired. How about just the two of us, and Flora who occasionally brings me food and tea like I'm some sort of princess?"
Sam blushed. Akaihi smiled.
"So what do you want to do now?"
"I'm either a little tired or very medicated but I think I'm going to sleep a little. Wanna take a nap with me?"
"Will you share your "fairy medicine" with me?"
"No. I'm still a master, you know?" - She said with a pretend stern voice.
"Yes, I can tell from the apartment." - He was being ironic, as Akaihi still slept in a student's room, as she was deemed too young to take care of an apartment by herself. By Hashimoto's words: "You cannot keep your room tidy, let alone an apartment!". Akaihi laughed. Sam continued: "Still worth trying. Sure."
Akaihi opened the bed for him to crawl in. He sat with his back against the wall, and Akaihi's head on his legs. She fell asleep almost immediately. He was playing with her hair, just watching her sleep. She was so pretty. "Black hair, red lips... Just like snow white!" – He thought.
She was smiling. He had one hand in her hair and the other in her stomach, where there were no wounds. After a while, she placed her wounded hand over his hand and held it. Sam blushed.
"She's so cute!" – He thought.
Flora walked in with tea and cookies, when she found Sam there she was completely caught by surprise and showed him a small air blade, that he, with his reflexes, put off immediately.
"I'm sorry if I scared you." – Sam whispered.
"What are you two doing?" – She whispered while smiling, having the confirmation on her suspicions of Sam's crush.
"I came to see her and she said she was feeling sleepy from the "Fairy medicine" and asked me to sleep with her. I don't really feel like sleeping now so... I'm watching her sleep."
"Yeah... I love "Fairy medicine". I use to take it for fun to relax after dealing with family. It's nice." – She whispered.
"I know, right? She won't let me have some."
"It's expensive, illegal in Human Nation, and you don't need it. She does. Wait, you are watching her sleep?"
"You like her!" – She whispered a little bit too loud, teasing.
"I knew it!" – She smiled.
"Shut up or if she hears you you will ruin the surprise!"
"It's her birthday tomorrow. What are you going to give her?"
"She will tell you tomorrow. Just know that I'm going to kidnap her for I hope a couple of hours in the morning."
"Woh, woh! How do you mean you hope a couple of hours? Aren't you too young for that?" - Flora was suddenly worried. What was he planning? Akaihi was too injured... And too young!
"What? Oh! No! No! It's not what I meant! Fine! I'm going to take her for a walk, then I'm going to give her presents and we will have a picnic. If she doesn't like the presents, there might not be a picnic."
"She will love it. I'm sure." – She winked. Sam looked at Flora. Her white hair and her eyes were too similar to Ken's. He wondered if they were in any way related... If Ken had noble magic... Then maybe he was related to Flora.
"I hope you are right."
Oomori was with Ken up on the roof. They were silent. That was one of the bunch of things they had in common: they enjoyed the silence. Then their hands touched. Oomori got scared and took it off.
"Oh, sorry." – Oomori said.
"It's okay. Leave it there." – He blushed and looked away.
Their hearts were both beating at the speed of light. They had spent too much time together since the games. Ken felt a crush on Oomori. He wasn't sure she felt the same and was too shy to ask. He tried to drop her hints. All he could think about when he went to sleep and when he woke up in the morning was her. He liked her before, as an acquaintance... He knew she was a nice person, but he didn't know how cool she was exactly. How kind... How smart... He just loved every little annoying thing about her... He had never had a girlfriend before. He wasn't even interested in romance at all. He thought that romance was what got his mother in trouble in the first place, and it should be avoided. But... Now... He couldn't help it. It was just how he felt. That gorgeous woman had taken his heart and locked it up in a safe. That's how he felt around her. Safe.
"W...What do you mean?" – She hides even further into her hoodie. Ken blushed.
"Nothing…" – He hides too.
They stared at the view of the mountains for a little longer then said at the same time: "I need to tell you something."
"You first." – Ken said.
Oomori blushed and got her face even more hidden inside her coat. It was August and it was hot but she wouldn't take that off. She was too blushed to look at him in the eyes. She always had a special place in her heart for Ken, as he had been the one to save her in the first place, but... Where she came from... Dating was frowned upon, and even though Kikuchi encouraged dating, she still felt guilty. But she couldn't deny the feelings she was developing for him. Maybe it was a curse. Maybe it was some twisted punishment from the Universe. She was in love. All she wanted was to hold his hand all the time. She gathered the courage.
"Well... I think... You are the only one who understands me. I mean really understand me... I like... That."-She hides. She bends her knees and hides her face with her hands. He touches her hands and makes her look him in the eyes. Her beautiful green eyes were shining, her face was red as a tomato. So was his.
"Well. I think you understand me too... And I think you are... Absolutely gorgeous."
"Pretty? Really?" – She blushed and tried to hide again.
"I... Breathtakingly beautiful really… I've always thought that… I find you amazing… I just could never really find the… courage to tell you." – He was so blushed he couldn't even look at her properly.
Ken got up the courage. He took her hat off her head, and her hair off her face, and then pulled the scarf down. – "I wish you didn't hide…"
Oomori wasn't breathing. She was surprised.
"It's so rare to see those eyes... Why do you hide so much? Have you seen those beautiful green eyes of yours? They're amazing. Why do you hide them?"
"You're safe now." – He interrupted. – "You don't have to hide anymore. You, yourself told me that. We're safe here."
"I want to tell you my full story." - He felt he could confide in her. Independently from the rest, he was certain he could count on her, at least, as a friend.
"Really?" – Oomori asked. She became nervous. No one knew much about him. She felt like he trusted her, which made her trust him even more. She felt privileged.
"Yes. You know I have two main powers. And you know that one of my powers is noble... That is because... I'm Flora's half-brother."
"YOU ARE WHAT?!" - That came to her as a real surprise. She wasn't expecting something like that. She knew he was probably an unwanted bastard child from someone important in fairyland, but she wasn't expecting: A: Him to know exactly who his father was, B: To be so high up in the hierarchy, C: To be so close to another friend of theirs. She could now look at him in the eyes, with surprise, as he showed pain in his.
"Yes. His father had an affair with a supreme woman: My mother. I inherited both of their powers. My father never cared about me because I'm outside marriage so... I don't count as a child and my mom died when I was four. I worked at a mine for two years and as soon as I had the money I bought a boat ticket to the Human Nation." - Ken explained. - "It took me a few years of struggle before I was accepted here..."
"Why? Why here?" - She asked. The price of a boat ticket wasn't cheap. As a child labor victim, it would take a long time and hunger to be able to save that much money.
"Because Fairies can see powers and all they saw when they looked at me was "Oh there's the bastard son of the Kavenaughs's" and people would just exclude me. That and... Well... when the queen died and the King came up... It got very bad... Life there is very unstable… One minute you have enough to eat, the other you have to spend weeks hungry... So I came here. I was doing illegal child work for a couple of Minds, sleeping on the street... Then someday I woke up starving and I saw Kikuchi... And you know the rest…"
Oomori was surprised. She never thought someone could have such a tragic story after the war. Even hers... Her life seemed easy in comparison. She felt ashamed of feeling sorry for herself. He had had such a tragic life... No wonder he was shyer. No wonder he didn't trust anyone. He probably suffered much more than he was telling.
"You have it even worse than me." - She said.
"Oomori... I know we tend to hide... Hide kept us safe when we were homeless sleeping on the streets. Hiding, not showing any emotions. Not opening up with anyone. Hide in the shadows, the night, when we are stronger... Being scared of everything... Especially being hurt again..." - He paused, wondering whether she would hurt him too. He was afraid. But he trusted her. And he trusted Kikuchi above anyone else... And she was right... There's no way of knowing before trying... - "But... We're not like that anymore. You don't need to hide so much. You can be proud now! You're just this amazing girl! You're perfect! You are beautiful!" – He took a deep breath and held her hand, took the courage to look her in those beautiful eyes... – "I... I love you!"
Oomori was speechless. No one. Ever. EVER. Had said that to her. Was that what it felt like to be loved? She froze. She just froze. Not even her mother had ever said she loved her. She felt nervous but warm and safe. It was a new feeling. She felt like she liked to be loved. She liked to be accepted like that by someone... He liked her for what she was, and accepted her being a witch, and accepted her hardships as he accepted his... She was still overwhelmed, not knowing what to say or do.
Ken kissed her gently. His lips were soft. He smelled nice. Her lips were warm and they tasted like his strawberry moisturizing lipstick. Her heart was beating fast as if she had just run. So did his. It felt like they were the only people in the universe, and nothing else mattered. She could feel his fresh breath from his nose gently tickling her cheek.
"I'm sorry. Maybe you don't feel the same. I'm sorry." – He said as he prepared to leave, afraid of rejection. He was regretting it. Stupid. How could he kiss her without her consent? She was ultra prudish and afraid of being too close to boys. Now she would be angry and he would lose her friendship. His hands were shaking, his heart was racing, his cheeks were flushing, he just wanted to get out of there and hide in his room, with the curtains closed, in the dark.
"No! Wait!" – She held his wrist and got up. He turned around slowly. – "I... I love you too." - She couldn't look him in the eyes, but the sound of those words felt like music to his ears. His heart was warm with happiness, his hands still shaking, but so were hers. She took up the courage to get close to him, touch his face gently with her shaky warm hand. She closed her eyes and kissed him back. Butterflies in their stomachs felt more like giant birds. They kissed for the longest time. Enjoying their first kiss. The actual first for the both of them. They took their time, exploring and learning each other's lips. His hand sneaked to her hip and pulled her closer, making her extra nervous. His other hand caressed her cheek, very gently, warming her heart. Her arms rested on his shoulders, as her hand pulled his head closer to hers gently.
They stopped, blushed, staring at each other's eyes for a while, before looking away, embarrassed.
"So... I guess... We should tell Kikuchi?"
"Yes. She will kill us if she finds out later." - Ken said, nervously getting his arm around her shoulders as they walked away. He felt her body relax under his arm. She was slowly learning to enjoy life.
They stood before Kikuchi's office. They looked at each other, smiling, and held hands as they knocked on the door at the same time, with the hands they had free.
Hashimoto and Kikuchi gave them their blessing... And refreshed "the talk".
Akaihi woke up after a two-hour nap to find herself grabbing sleepy Sam's hand. She smelled the cookies on the table next to the bed. She slowly and painfully sits, accidentally waking up Sam.
"Oh. I'm sorry, I tried not to wake you up."
"Don't be silly. Here let me help you."
Sam got her pillows on her back and helped her settle. He then gave her the cookies Flora made especially for her.
Inoue walked in.
"I see you are both awake now. How are you feeling, Akaihi?"
"A little in pain, but nothing much." - She tried to be honest.
"You can't have more Fairy medicine for today... How about a spell? It only lasts an hour but..."
"Sure, that will do. Thanks." - She smiled, looking sleepy from all the medication.
"You're welcome, sweety. So why were you two sleeping together?" – She smiled. Looking at Sam, with a confused look. He blushed.
"I asked him to stay with me until I fall asleep and he probably fell asleep too."
"How cute." - She sat next to her. - "Have you had any nightmares Akaihi?"
"Hm... Weird dreams, not nightmares. Why?" - Akaihi asked.
"Well, you finished a girl your age, I'm worried you might develop PTSD."
"Hm... Maybe... Yes. I'm okay as long as I'm not left alone for long."
Sam worried that maybe he was misinterpreting her. Maybe she wanted him there because she was afraid to be alone, and not because she wanted to be with him.
He tried not to think of it and just support her. She needed him, and he needed to be by her side if he wanted to be her boyfriend.
"Well, sweety. I'm going to schedule you for a psychiatrist, just to have a second opinion. You know you can always tell us anything, right?"
"Yes." - She smiled.
"You know that you only did what you had to do, right?"
"You shouldn't feel guilty for what happened, alright?"
"Yes." - She said, calmly.
"We all love you, sweety. We're here for you, okay?"
"Thank you, Inoue."
Inoue kissed her forehead and tucked her blankets, then left.
The rest of the day went on smoothly. Akaihi spent it with Sam and occasionally visits from Hashimoto, Oomori, and Ken that she found out were boyfriend and girlfriend now, Natsumi and of course Kazumi, her student. Flora would be her main nurse. In fact, Flora came in when Ken and Oomori were telling the news to Akaihi, and Flora asked what was going on and Ken said: "I present you your sister in law.", with a smile.
Flora had never seen Ken smile but the day she told him she would consider him a brother to her and that regardless of what other people would think, he was family to her. He found it strange that he was happy to hear it, and from then on, he too promised to consider her his sister, making her cry in his shoulder as he awkwardly held her, not sure about what to do.
"Are you serious? That's Amazing! Congratulations!". She was happy. Flora was glad she ended up developing a brother-sister relationship with Ken. She worried for a while that he would hate her for what their father put him through. After the conversation, they had soon after Flora arrived, in which Ken explained what happened to him, and he assured her that it was not her fault and that he'd like her to not mind him. From the moment she realized where he got the magic from, she wanted to have him as a brother. She was thrilled and emotional when he accepted.
After dinner, Hashimoto was returning from the SSPDA offices. Then he bumped into Kikuchi, who was staring at the night sky while laying on the grass.
"What are you doing here?" – He asked.
"Watching those two made me think about my own love life." - She said, with a frown.
"You mean when are you going to get one?" – Hashimoto joked, as he, slowed by old age, laid next to her, watching the stars.
"Haven't found the right girl yet and I don't have the time either, these kids need me. If it's meant to be, she will pop up in my life. I'm not complaining. I love my life as it is now…" - But she longed for what Hashimoto and Sophie had. Unconditional love. A bond that would grow stronger with each day...
"Still, I've watched you grow up, you were just like those two kids there, look at you now!" - Hashimoto said.
"I didn't need a girlfriend to be like this." - She kept saying to herself.
"You did need a girl, space, friend!" – said, referring to his late wife, Kikuchi's master, and mother-like figure, Sophie.
"I do miss her."
"Me too." - He said, as his heart ached, longing to see her again, holding her once more in her arms, as he did, for over eighty years. Even before they were a couple, they would hold each other to sleep. Now he could barely remember the feeling, only the emptiness of not having her around.
"She would have loved Akaihi. She looks like her too..."
"I'm worried if I did the best for her..." - He said. He knew what his mission was. He had a vision once about a black-haired girl in the woods, pointed by his sister, whom he could barely remember the face of, when he was very young. Even before he met Sophie... His sister... It had been almost one hundred years since she had died. If it wasn't for his love for Akaihi, he would wish for the gods to take him too, as soon as possible. Everyone that he had ever deeply loved was dead except for Akaihi. He was used to death. He grew up among death. It was a daily occurrence, but it didn't make it any easier to accept, even in old age. Now he worried if he would be able to see Akaihi grow and become who she needed to be, as requested by Morrigan herself in that dream. He thought about all he went through, all the royals he met, all the work he did to keep the peace... Was Akaihi supposed to take on his role? Was that why he had to raise her? Or was it because there was King ruling Fairyland, and not a Queen, like it was supposed to be? The last time a King was in charge of Fairyland, there was a war for over one hundred years. Maybe that was what Morrigan had predicted. If Akaihi didn't take the throne, would a war break out? But why him? Why couldn't he die and have Akaihi raised by someone else? He thought back. He had helped train every single fairyland Queen for four generations... Starting with Astrid, just two years older than himself... He understood the Phoenix... Apparently not well enough as Akaihi struggled for long before Flora intervened... But why him? Sophie was much better at dealing with the Phoenix. Did Morrigan know Sophie was going to die first? Her body would not handle as long? Couldn't she do something about it? Was it destined to be this way? He was brought back to the present by Kikuchi's voice.
"Oh don't you worry about that! She's doing just fine! She had the best childhood compared to any of us. She doesn't have a blood bond with anyone, but so what?"
"I guess you are right. But you should stop worrying about those two so much and try to find some time for yourself. You've got fifteen students, send them on a camping challenge and take a weekend off for yourself! I never did that to Akaihi but you bet I did that with Takeda and the other kids that were with him at the time. How do you think Sophie and I would find the time to be a couple? The academy does take a lot of our time. All of it actually. We live to train these kids... To turn them into great people. It is rewarding! Look at that, you turned the most introverted self-mutilating kids ever into strong young adults, who can face anything. It's hard to raise them right but it pays off and it is rewarding, but you should take some time to be yourself too. Look at Takeda and Inoue. They take a weekend off for themselves every month, and that's when Sam and Natsumi and their other students get to go camping and make memories."
"I get that. But at the same time... Who would want someone like me? I'm the rare fairy-giant unicorn. Who has a thing for fairy girls, who also happen not to really like half-giant freaks..."
"How dare you call yourself a freak?! You pushed these kids forward in their lives but you stepped back on yours? How dare you? Saying those kids shouldn't be wearing black and be more confident when you hide under colors and are insulting yourself? What's the first rule about leadership?" - He scolded. His words sounded like Sophie's.
"Example. Aff I really need to talk to your wife again master. What would she say?"
"If I knew her well for the seventy years we've been married? "Stop that self-pity off yours and get your sh*t together. Be confident! You are the way you are because you are perfect like that. Others will see you as you see yourself. "." – He said in a high-pitched voice.
"Yes, something like that." – she chuckled.
"When we go back to our training routine, send your kids to the woods and go have fun! Take a week off! Go meet some people! Your fairy is out there, you only need to go out there to find her."
"Yeah, that sounds nice. I'll do it."