Reposted 21.9.2008. Beta by alexandriel, Kuro-chan and me.
Summary: AU. Rei finds himself at the high lord Hiwatari's ball, dressed in a gown. Things really start to go awry when Rei bumps to Hiwataris' only son and heir. KaiRei, BorisYuriy, TakaoMax. Part of KaRe wave.
Izur is the capital of Sacarn. Sacarn on the other hand is a big and prosperous country located between India and Africa. And it doesn't exist.
Disclaimer: I have 41 episodes of Bakuten Shoot Beyblade 2001 but that doesn't make me the owner of the series. This is just a devious plot to make Rei wear women's clothes; he certainly won't give me any monetary profit out of it. I fear his revenge.
This story is part of the KaRe wave. Join in or take a look at the participants at the KaRe wave forum. You can find it from my profile of from the Beyblade forums. This particular story will be updated on Sundays, every other week.
Warnings: Shounen ai, which means love between boys. Some swearing, and there might be het. Probably not but there's always the possibility.
"Nothing would ever get done if it weren't for the last minute."
Be My Companion
Chapter one: The Fair Princess
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away... was where Rei wanted to be right now.
Yes. He admitted that the Hiwatari Castle was very nice with its beautiful tapestry, grand chandeliers and old oil paintings of former heads of the prosperous family. Rei even noted with interest that bluish grey or silver hair and purple or even pure red eyes were often represented in the frames.
Even the event itself wasn't so bad. It was for Princess Hiromi's honour, though Rei hadn't actually seen the girl even once during the evening. The reason might have been the absolutely overwhelming masses of other Very Important Persons of Izur. Actually it seemed like the Hiwataris had invited almost half of Sacarn, not just the capital's big names, which wouldn't even have been that surprising. They would've certainly fit in the house. Ah, my bad. In the Castle.
But the less than fantastic aspect was the overly enthusiastic dance partners. Rei had no idea that it was so difficult to politely decline a dance. They just kept coming until Rei had no choice but to escape the ball room to finally get a sit down.
This is all An-wen's fault, Rei thought glumly as he plucked his long glove a bit higher on his arm. What had he done so wrong to get into this mess? He had to admit that seeing the world outside his house was very thrilling, but maybe he should've thought this through a little better.
"So, Rei," a blackhaired teen, An-Wen, smirked to one of his brothers. "What are you going to do?"
Said young man fiddled with the lace of his dress' sleeve and chewed his lip. He knew now that he shouldn't have played this stupid new game with his brothers, but it was too late. The bottle pointed towards him again and it was his turn again to do a stupid stunt. He should've listened to his senses when he was forced to dress into a pale pink, frilly dress, but no, he had just continued the game. Now he was dared to spend an entire day dressed up as a girl, but the kicker was the world outside. As Rei had been sick a lot as a child, he had never left the large premises of their mansion, but at his age of seventeen, the grass on the other side of the fence started to look rather green.
"Fine," Rei sighed, resigned to his own curiosity. "I'll do it."
"Really?" Rei's 19-year-old brother, Qian asked thrilled. This worried Rei to no end. Even Hong-Xian was smiling mischievously! And Hong-Xian was the oldest of Rei's six older brothers, already 28!
"Well, I have no choice, now do I?" Rei asked exasperated and huffed in his frilly outfit, making it clear to his brothers that he didn't want to dress up. They didn't seem fazed though, and just looked at each others, grinning like a herd of cats that had just caught the flock of canaries.
"Okay then," Chen said business-like, rubbing his hands together. "It's only two days until the party, so let's get you ready!"
"Chen-san…?" said an uncertain voice down the corridor. Rei's head shot up in surprise. I've been found! Quickly and as quietly as he could in a pair of high-heels, Rei got up from his chair and fled. He had found that a really, really good part of the Hiwatari Castle was that it was as huge as its name indicated. A Castle. Rei was in another passageway in a flash, as the annoying young man that Rei recognized to be one on his dance card, was left to wonder if it really had been him that had made the little noise, and if so, which of the three doors had he used.
Rei sighed in relief as he heard the man leave the room he had just been. But, he couldn't stay put just leaning on the door. They would find him, sooner or later, if he remained this close to the ball room. And then he wouldn't get away with a simple 'I have to go to the toilet' –excuse this time.
Making a quick assessment of the hall he was in, he decided to continue to walk further in to the castle. Away was the new pink.
As Rei wandered the soft cream and peach coloured hallway that was (once again) decorated with paintings, he let his mind take a stroll on Memory Lane. He was actually very disappointed with his mother. Any normal teenager would think that she would've been against this let's-dress-Rei-in-drag –day, but… A wave of sadness tightened Rei's chest and made his heart tinge with worry.
Yes… In the end, it was actually for his mother that he had gone through all this.
"Boys," said a gentle voice from the doorway. "What are you doing to poor Rei?"
Said males turned to look at the frail petit woman, who was gracefully holding her large, silk scarf that was resting around her arms. Her black hair was crafted in to a soft, lush bun decorated with pearls, and she was wearing a simple green dress that also had pearls, lining the seams and giving her an elegant touch. Though, you could tell by the air she had about her that she was a woman, who could pull 'elegant' even in a peasant's outfit.
Rei tried desperately to turn to her too, but noticed that Tianbao's hold of his hair wasn't as light as it seemed. So he settled for trying to see the new-comer via the mirror in front of him.
"Mother!" Hong-Xian breathed, shocked and worried. He quickly strode over to her. "What are you doing here? You were supposed to be resting for the afternoon in the pavilion."
"I heard the commotion, Hong-Xian," she smiled sweetly. Then her eyes sharpened and she focused her somewhat gleaming, golden-brown eyes on Rei. The poor boy somehow got the feeling like this was his last chance for a break-out. Unfortunately, Tianbao hadn't let go of his hair for a second.
"Now, I want you to tell me what you aredoing to your little brother?" she asked more sternly, and Rei almost beamed with glee as his brothers seemed to gulp at the same time. An-Wen didn't seem as scared as the rest of his brothers, though.
"We played a little game of dare. Rei accepted our dare and now he's being prepared for that," An-Wen answered dutifully.
"What is this said 'dare'?"
"To attend the upcoming Hiwatari ball, dressed as a girl, mother," he continued truthfully. Her eyes narrowed at this and she shifted her gaze to evaluate the situation in the room. Her clever inspection stopped at Rei.
"This won't do," she announced finally. Rei 'whooped' silently in his head. Maybe he could go just as himself. "That dress is a completely wrong colour. It doesn't bring out Rei's natural beauty."
Rei froze. Or at least he froze as much as he could, with the grip on his hair keeping him already in place quite efficiently. This was not exactly what he had been expecting from the woman who had single-handedly raised him.
Rei sighed again. He should've known that a woman who had seven boys and had always wanted a girl but couldn't have one anymore due to her condition, was dangerous territory. In the end, Rei's only saviour had turned out to be his worst adversary. Their mother had been thrilled to be finally presented with an opportunity to dress someone up. And more specifically, dress Rei up, since he had the most feminine features among the seven brothers.
Rei suspected that she had just restrained herself until now. And he suspected that An-Wen knew this.
It was actually quite sweet of An-Wen to give this to their mother. She had been more energetic than she had been in months. And it actually wasn't that bad, being dressed up as a girl and such. He had never been in any social gatherings; it wasn't like anyone would recognize him. It was just that…
…he really could have lived without the shoes. Really, no-one would've noticed if he'd put on his own low-heeled shoes, the dress was long enough to touch the floor. But no, he had to put the damn stilettos on his feet. Rei just thanked whatever gods were still listening to him that he had a very good natural balance. It was just that his feet were becoming decidedly sore.
Taking the next turn, Rei was looking desperately for a place to sit. Unfortunately, all the chairs seemed to have taken it upon themselves to get as far away from the cross-dresser as possible. The rest were probably hiding in the private quarters of the castle or in the room of eternal pain and humiliation. It also went with a name 'ball room'.
"Oh, for the love of my feet… Where can I find one freaking chair?" Rei muttered to himself. His courtesy was slowly fading with the anxiousness of finding a resting place. He was going to kill his mother, his brothers (one by one) and just for the heck of it, his father for giving his mother only male children. As soon as his father came back from his business trip to China, that is. Damn ambassadors…
"Whoa!" was all Rei could utter as he stumbled. He had tried to open a door in his quest for a smooth surface, just to find out that you push it open. Apparently someone had tried the same thing just to find the door jammed. This other person also seemed to be stronger that Rei, as the door had in fact opened despite the neko-jin's most dedicated efforts to pull.
"What are you doing here?" rumbled a man's voice in Rei's ear. He noticed then that he was being held up by a strong arm around his waist while he was resting comfortably on the man's chest. (That's why the voice had sounded so weird, Rei noted absentmindedly.)
"Ah!" Rei scrambled hurriedly away from the man who, strangely enough, looked surprised. "I didn't mean to… ah… well…" Rei was now blushing beet red under the man's scrutinizing gaze. He hurriedly took his fan that went with the dress and tried to hide behind it. Without actually looking like he was looking, Rei peeked under his bangs to glance at the now silent man. He was still staring back at the raven haired cross-dresser, measuring him up and down with a piercing red stare. Rei quickly looked down and wished his fan covered up his flushed state.
This is not good! Rei thought frantically. He had taken a glace at the slate haired youth, remembered the paintings he had stared for a good fifteen minutes just a moment ago, and put two and two together. This man was one of the Hiwataris. And judging by his age, he was the Only Son he had heard people talk so much about. Damn!
"What's your name?" the Hiwatari asked suddenly. Rei blinked a few times, but as the man was still staring at him, concluded that he had heard right.
"Uh… Chen Mao," he bowed slightly before remembered that he was supposed to be a girl. "…tono," Rei added midst of his curtsy. The Hiwatari started to sneer at this.
"So you know who I am?" he asked lazily, whilst smirking at Rei the whole time.
"Um, yes," the neko-jin admitted. "You are one of the Hiwataris," he felt compelled to add. The man's posture emitted power now, and knowledge of said power. He took a step over the threshold which in turn made Rei back up hurriedly. Rei did not want to be found out to be a boy in girls' clothes by the host of the ball. He would be in so much trouble if he did. Not adding the actual humiliation of being found cross-dressing, of course.
"Yes. I am Hiwatari Kai. The sole son and heir of the High Lord Hiwatari Mikhail," the man announced proudly. Rei was beginning to doubt whether this Kai person was actually being serious. Who introduced themselves like that?
"But I don't recall the Chens attending the ball…" the Hiwatari heir drawled. Rei flushed with panic. He hadn't expected to run into a man who even knew the guest-list by heart!
"Well, no. They—we didn't. Not really. I'm just visiting my uncle's family and I accompanied them, to this ball," Rei recited hurriedly his cover-up story. "The ambassador, Kon Tai-Hua is my uncle." This deserved slit red eyes to look at him. Rei was really starting to get nervous around this guy.
"Maybe I should go… My bro- cousins must be worried of me." With this Rei whirled around to turn to where he had come from, but a strong hand took his wrist and jerked him back. Taken off-guard, Rei stumbled backwards, straight to the Hiwatari's chest and an arm wound its way around the raven haired youth's waist again. Rei did not like being this close to a stranger.
"Why were you here?" a low voice asked him, the breath ghosting over his ear. Rei shivered in fright.
"I-I was just looking for a toilet," he rushed to explain. The man 'hmm'd behind him and, if Rei wasn't entirely wrong, breathed in Rei's scent from his hair. The neko-jin was officially freaked out by the other man's behaviour.
"Then you're going to the wrong direction…" the heir breathed into his ear again. Tightening his hand around Rei's waist, he pointed a direction away from the ball room. Rei nodded in understanding.
"Ano…" Rei asked after a silence, trying to be as polite as he could. "C-could you let go of me now? Tono." The Hiwatari seemed to pause slightly before letting Rei go. He made a quick curtsy, and without even looking if it had been received, dashed through the hall. These Hiwatari men are weird! I have to get out of here.
"Come on…" Rei coaxed sweetly. "Come here… come to Rei… Here kitty, kitty, kitty…" he made a soft purring noise to get the poor cat to relax and let him carry her back to ground. She was their neighbour's precious Persian feline, but she had the oddest tendency to climb to Rei's tree and not go back until he took her. So to get his tree vacated, he was (once again) coaxing the cat to come to him so he could extract her from his private sanctuary.
The feline finally decided to let him touch her and stepped gracefully in to his arms. Rei rolled his eyes at the animal. He normally really liked cats, but this girl was not on his top ten. She just gave him way too much trouble all the time, and actually thought it was cute how she invaded his tree all the time! The neko-jin sighed and took a good hold of the furry animal. Then he dropped his legs to dangle on one side of the branch, leaned back to fall, and with a somersault, landed softly to the ground, crouching a little. He dusted his blue, baggy pants – just in case – and headed for their neighbour's territory.
Rei loved to go visit the old house near theirs, but he knew that he would just spend the whole afternoon there, so he only walked to the border of it and shooed the cat back home. The journey wasn't that long, only about half a mile or so, and he really liked the old man who owned the feline, but Rei's mother didn't want him to wander too far off. It seemed like letting him go to the ball was almost too much for her and she now wanted to keep Rei within calling distance.
Rei couldn't actually blame her. As he was the seventh son their mother had given birth to, the pregnancy hadn't gone exactly smoothly. He had been prematurely born, and resulting from his mother's weak condition, he had had very weak lungs. His mother blamed herself for it for some bizarre motherly reason and had always sheltered him from anything and everything a mother could. Of course Rei didn't suffer from any physical problems anymore, after taking care to keep his body in good shape, but that didn't ease his mother's worry.
The raven-haired youth decided to run back to his house, not feeling so territorial anymore. He would rather find his mother and take some more lessons on the exotic languages she knew. He loved it when he could spend his time with something interesting as well as challenging, and best of all, spend it with his mother. The tree would wait for him tomorrow.
Quite wind-swept by the run, Rei arrived to the house. When he had climbed the wall surrounding their inner yard, curiously, he saw a fancy carriage standing on their driveway, but dismissed it as some business with Hong-Xian. After all, his eldest brother was taking after his father and was already half-fledged ambassador. Deciding to take the 'back door', Rei skipped up the stairs and jogged lightly towards his room. He heard his mother's voice from the parlour and happily headed that way. But as he was ready to push the door open, he heard a man's voice which he unmistakably recognized, and Rei froze.
"…was told that Tai-Hua could solve this problem," Hiwatari Kai finished.
"I am terribly sorry, sir, but my husband is on his business trip to China for at least another two weeks. If my eldest son, Hong-Xian could help you in any way…" Rei's mother, Kon Lin apologized politely but the Hiwatari interrupted her immediately.
"No, that won't be necessary. I don't believe he even could be of assistance; this is something only your husband can do. Unless, of course, Hong-Xian holds all of Tai-Hua's papers as well as his abilities," he added, but didn't sound the least bit hopeful, only slightly sarcastic, which made Rei frown.
"May I invite you to dine with us, so that your journey hasn't been made for nothing?" Lin inquired politely in the form of a hostess. Rei held his breath in the short silence that followed.
"I would be honoured to, milady," the Hiwatari replied politely and the eaves-dropping teenager could almost hear him being pleased. That oddity aside – what was Rei going to do now? He couldn't go to said dinner without being found out, and something told Rei that he did not want to be found out. So he slowly crept away from the door and dashed silently upstairs. There, he almost had a run-in with An-Wen.
"Where's the fire, little brother?" he asked jovially.
"I told you not to call me that, big brother," Rei gritted out but kept his voice low.
"But it suits you so well, little brother," An-Wen teased. Rei hated the fact that every single one of his brothers could call him that. It was unfair! Oh, for the love of— he didn't have time for this.
"An-Wen, I'm not coming to dinner, ok?" Rei said quickly. His brother raised an eyebrow.
"Any particular reason?" he inquired lazily. Rei bit his lip. He somehow didn't want to tell one of his adversaries of the embarrassing situation that had occurred at the Castle, two days ago. He wouldn't hear the end of it.
"I need to train," Rei blurted out hastily. This time An-Wen raised both of his eyebrows.
"Your funeral. Mother will not be pleased," the loving older brother said with a casual shrug and walked his way downstairs. Rei sighed in relief that his brother was so caring. This way he didn't have to lie more than was absolutely necessary. He sucked at lying.
Quickly going to his room and changing to his training gear, Rei ran out of the house, the back way. He made an acrobatic jump over the wall to save the time of climbing and ran to the forest. He would go visit his tree, after all. And then train like there was no tomorrow.
See, Rei actually hated lying. To anyone. That's why he was so horrible at it when he tried to. But now, Rei was trying to make amends of his false story and make his lie the truth. Although, this would be a lesson for telling lies that he wouldn't easily forget. His mother would be furious with him, going into the woods, alone, to train, and to directly disobey her. But, at least he would avoid running into that Kai-person.
Rei shuddered at the thought. That man was probably the weirdest character he had met in his life. He just hoped that things would be back to normal after this day and he would never see the Hiwatari heir again, just like before. Rei would die of embarrassment if he ever had to face him again. Rei wasn't stupid; his costume might've fooled everyone of his gender, but it would fool no one of his identity.
Rei sighed deeply as he dragged himself back home as the sun started to set. The day wasn't exactly over yet, but dinnertime was long gone and he felt hungry and tired after running around in the woods all day, jumping, leaping and punching. He started to have pretty good muscles already, but he still felt he needed to work on his stamina. He got tired too easily for his own taste.
Rei dearly hoped he didn't have to tell his mother why he had suddenly abandoned their family dinner and chose to break his promise, not even telling his mother, just running into the woods. He would be so grounded... He didn't even have any excuses about going out to see a friend because Rei only knew his own family and the old grandpa who had a Persian cat, and was maybe acquaintances with the milkman. He didn't particularly care for finding friends; he preferred to keep his mother company when he was bored.
Maybe he should consider finding himself a hobby?
Rei pondered this as he walked languidly on the road to his house. It was getting darker soon so he had thought it best to walk on even ground and without constant obstacles. That was all he needed; a twisted ankle just after getting his mother furious. Finally, he began nearing the gateway to his home when he realized that there was someone, a figure of a silhouette, leaning against the brick wall, a horse near-by happily eating the grass. The man (it had to be a man, Rei thought) was half hidden in the shadows the rays of light the setting sun cast behind the few trees placed around the road, so Rei couldn't see him well. The youth neared the figure that stood up from the wall as their distance shortened. Rei raised a hand to block out the sun's rays to get a better look at the man, but before he could ask what business he had at their gates, the figure spoke.
"Well, well, what do we have here?" said a deep, undoubtedly smirking voice that made Rei's blood run cold, and the neko-jin froze in fright.
"Chen Mao, is it? Or should I say, Kon Rei?"
tono : feudal lord