I refused to act like a girl whose first kiss had been stolen. For one thing, I was very, very sure that I was male. And that certainly hadn't been my first kiss. Then again, it had been the first time a man had intentionally taken one of my attacks across the chest. Even more, it had been the first time anyone slashed by my sword had ever kissed my lips. And no one had ever in my life professed their love to me after doing either of those things, let alone both! My mind could not get past the situation. I wasn't sure if it was the earnestness in those rich green eyes, the intent way he had always watched me, the way that barely-there kiss had felt like goodbye, or that sad smile he had worn as he made his confession. I'd always liked the little fool. His movements were graceful and easy, he learned new things quickly, and he had no problem applying and using new knowledge quickly after learning it. He was quiet and seemed to understand that the role of a student was to learn from the master and not to try to defeat the master. It also helped that the blue-haired boy was no hardship to look at. If I were honest, I would have to admit that my eyes often traced his form for sheer appreciation instead of judging his abilities –but Albel the Wicked had no reason to be honest in such matters. Yet despite the fact that he was one of my favorite students, I'd never even really bothered to do much more than properly learn his first name, which I had never used. Hell, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with it if the situation called for it! I only knew enough of the blue-haired young man to know him on sight –not just his body but his movements and stances and the way he swung his sword. He was a supremely talented novice who was surprisingly abundantly humble and respectful. What was his name, anyway? I'd written it not long ago –in the appointment book that the blond oaf in the office insisted I keep so that he knew where to find me if there was something I needed to handle. I reached out and grabbed the book off my desk, scowling when I realized that I would have to find the damn page since someone had shut the book. Finally, I found the right page. My finger quickly traced down the appointment times until I reached '17:00'. Fayte Liengod. I would have thought I would remember such a distinctive name. "Fayte Liengod," I repeated aloud, just to taste the name. Soft, trembling lips pressed lightly against mine… I shook my head vigorously, trying to clear it. Deciding to concentrate on something else, I woke up my computer. It took only three clicks to access the dojo's records. I typed his name in the search box, a little ashamed of the fact that the young man had been a stellar student for about a year and I'd never bothered to learn anything about him. The file it pulled up was far from comprehensive. All the basic information was there: full name, birth date, home address, and phone number. Someone had made note of the date he started training here and that was about it. On a whim, I printed out the record sheet. I tried to convince myself it was just a teacher's interest in his student that made me do it.
Concentrating in the dojo had become impossible for me. The ghost of a young man saw fit to haunt me in all corners of the building –somehow even in my office– so I had finally given up and wondered out into the back field again. Not that the memory of today wouldn't haunt me out there. Still, I sat down in the middle of the trodden-on grass. My heart all but stopped in my chest when I realized my student's blood now tainted my blade. "Why?" I demanded harshly, knowing he could have blocked the attack. He was so fast –faster than I was! It should have been child's play for him. Hell, it should be my blood on his blade! Wide, empty green eyes stared out at me and a sad smile made his lips its home. We hadn't made note of any rules when we'd come back, but it seemed we'd both assumed that first blood was the stopping point. I watched him slide his blade back into its sheath before bringing his hand up to touch the wound lightly, as though to test the reality of it. Using the hem of my shirt, I swiped the sanguine liquid off of my blade and sheathed it just as quickly. I couldn't keep myself from reaching out and grabbing his shoulders –probably a bit more forcefully than I had intended. "Why?" I demanded again, surprised to find myself so upset about causing a wound. Almost as though it were as natural as breathing, he leaned into me. Soft, trembling lips pressed lightly against mine in a chaste kiss that lasted merely a moment. Still, his breathing had escalated, and I found the warm puffs of breath somehow pleasant against my skin. Then he'd pulled away, the same sorrowful smile drawn across the lips that had been pressed against mine a moment before. "Because I love you, Albel-shissou," my student told me. Since shaking my head to clear it hadn't worked for the last hour, I bit my lip instead. Nothing quite like having the whole scene play out in your head. It was funny: even in the moment, I had trouble comprehending what had upset me so much about seeing red bloom across his chest. Inflicting wounds was something I'd always been good at, after all. Remorse was never something that looked good on me. But when I looked over the whole scene again, I knew exactly what had been wrong. Fayte had an opening. Not everyone could have taken that opening, but he was capable of it. I knew it and he knew it. But instead of taking that opening, he had let my blade take him. I didn't get him. His answer was "Because I love you," but what question was that the answer to? I'd asked him several questions, and he'd cleverly dodged the answers each time. It finally dawned on me, and I sucked in a harsh breath. Why had he agreed to fight me this time? Because he loved me. Why would he disappear from my sight? Because he loved me. Why wouldn't he fight to his fullest ability, even if the cost was a few drops of my blood? Because he loved me. I pulled my knees up to my chest and wondered if anyone else in my life had ever loved me that much.
"Fayte Leingod, I believe love is a poor reason to quit something you're quite skilled at. If you're so stubborn about leaving this one, I can give you the names of a few local dojos that at least won't be a detriment to your training. Call me back at the dojo, little fool."
"Nox, what in the hell? What in the fuck did you do to my best friend?! So he, for some demented reason, is in love with you: that doesn't mean you try to cut his heart out! You hurt him more and I will cut your heart out –if it even exists!"
"Zelpher, I shan't even ask how you got my number. I was just as pissed as you are when that idiot neglected to block that attack. Besides, he didn't tell me he was in love with me until after he kissed me, which happened after first blood was drawn. So I wasn't trying to cut his heart out. But thanks for the idea. I think I'll try it on the blond oaf…"
"Nox, he needed stitches! Seven of them! I thought you were his shissou, not his murderer! ... Wait, he actually freaking kissed you?! Ugh, no accounting for his taste. Also, please don't kill your office aid: his sister will hunt you down, and she's meaner than me."
"Zelpher, have you ever fought with him? He's faster than I am. He should have been able to block the damn attack… Great, now I feel worse because he needed stitches. Yes, he actually kissed me. It was kind of adorable, in some fashion."
"Nox, he didn't tell me he was learning. Feel worse still because he refused to go to a hospital and I had to do it. Gods, I don't get him some days… Are you sweet on him, too? Because that would just friggin' make this whole mess a hell of a lot easier to cope with."
"Zelpher, you are notoriously poor when it comes to needle and thread! Just remember: you're going to have to take them out, too, and that's going to be even more fun if you managed to tangle any of your threads. No, I am not 'sweet on' that little fool. I'm allowed to think the 20-year old who chastely kissed me is adorable, okay?"
"Ugh, Nox, don't remind me… That boy is over the moon for you and he didn't even use tongue?! I'm going to have to wake him up and beat him now."
"Zelpher, let the boy sleep. If you beat him, you'll have to give him more stitches and you won't be able to blame me. Oh, you want another fun little detail? He trembled the entire time. Like I said: adorable."
"Oh, really, Nox? My masculinity is suffering now."
"His should be, too, Zelpher. How's Clair?"
"Fuck you, Nox."
"Maybe later, Zelpher. I'm tired. Or, make it worth my while and find out if that was his first kiss."
"…Nox, you suck. First one he ever initiated."
"Well, now, Zelpher. I am honored."
"Why don't you tell that to him, Nox?"
"Because he hasn't called me back, Zelpher."
"That's because he's asleep, Nox."
"Zelpher, I called him over an hour before you called me the first time."
"Nox, he's shy!"
"Not shy enough to not kiss his shissou, apparently, Zelpher.
Voice mailbox full. Please delete or archive all heard messages.
"You know, Nox, for people that hate each other, we sure call each other a lot."
"Zelpher, that's because the little fool finally gives us something worth talking about. Besides, we never answer the calls."
"You do remember his name, right, Nox?"
"Yes, Zelpher, I remember his name."
"Prove it, Nox."
"Fayte. Fayte Leingod. Happy, Zelpher?"
"Not as happy as he'll be if he finds out you actually know his name. By the way, Nox, you wouldn't mind if I forwarded that voicemail to him, would you?"
"Why on earth would you want to do that, Zelpher?"