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All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts

Jacques, As You Like It (2.7.138-141)

-William Shakespeare




Prologue

The fairy godmother wasn't supposed to be a male. But he was cast into the role anyways, rather carelessly. It was a stupid idea, but it was one of the only things he could do to placate the spirit. Besides, he played different roles before for the sake of his shinigami duty—a maid, a lover, a lifeguard. At least he wasn't required to wear a skirt this time.

The role somewhat suited him, when Rinne thought about it. The supernatural agent of the play, the one with all the answers and magic was the fairy godmother, the shinigami. It was her/his duty to grant the last wishes of the wronged, the dead.

Yet when he saw Tsubasa staring at Sakura intently on stage, he wondered if he wasn't suitable for this role after all.

The fairy godmother is supposed to give Cinderella a happy ending (And he would gladly do so).

The fairy godmother isn't supposed to glare at the Prince.


Scene I

"I'm so glad that the wig's spirit has been put to rest."

He hummed in agreement. It had been a rather straightforward exorcism, once they had found the final clue in the script.

"Just a minute, I'll catch up," Tsubasa grinned at them. "I have to get a drink."

The pair nodded and watched as the exorcist ran out of sight.

They entered one of the actor's changing rooms together. Sakura walked over to the large mirror and sat down in a rickety plastic chair. The European costumes were hanging neatly on the clothes rack, their velvety colours adding a touch of drama to the setting. Rinne took off the black cloak rather reluctantly (it would have made a good blanket) and searched for a coat hanger.

When he finished with his task, he caught sight of Sakura fiddling with one of her braids in the mirror's reflection. Normally her braids were neat and untangled but now Rinne could see some loose ends that had fallen out of the braid near the ends.

"Do you need help tying back your hair?" Rinne asked politely.

Sakura looked up in slight surprise. She had been daydreaming again, so she hadn't quite heard him. Rinne repeated the question and Sakura smiled.

"No, it's alright. I'll just leave it until I get home."

"I insist."

It was the least he could do for her help. It couldn't have been comfortable wearing a spirit wig which had temporarily possessed her (those roundhouse kicks had been painful). And to be honest, he was glad that she wasn't blonde anymore. It was strange but he rather liked this look on Sakura Mamiya... He was more accustomed to it.

She was thoughtful for a while and then handed Rinne a hair brush.

Rinne had never paid much attention to Sakura Mamiya's hair before. He knew that if he ever saw anyone on the street with braided pigtails he would immediately think of her in the passing. Other than that, he had never really looked at it until now.

He pulled back the elastics which held her braids and watched as they unfurled into curly brunette locks. Rinne hid a smile when he saw that Sakura looked equally as nice as she did with braids. He wondered how often Sakura let her hair down and if this was a rare occurrence.

Gently Rinne let the brush slide through her hair, noticing absentmindedly, that her hair was very soft. The air between them grew relaxed and peaceful in a way that Rinne could only feel around her.

She didn't complain once, and he was glad, because it meant he wasn't rushing this as a hairdresser would. He wasn't accidentally pulling her hair or yanking some of it off. Very skilfully, as when he made paper flowers, he braided her hair again, paying attention to each and every strand of hair.

He reached the end of the braid at last, fingers frozen around the elastic.

Sakura was waiting very patiently. But Rinne was so transfixed by her braid that he didn't really notice.

"...Rokudo-kun?"

At first he didn't answer. He hadn't really heard her. He was trapped in his own little world, thinking of things he knew he shouldn't have.

"...Sakura Mamiya, I hope you never have to wear a wig again."

Confused, Sakura was going to turn around. However, Rinne's reflection in the mirror provided her with a better view of his face.

She was rather surprised when Rinne brought the end of her braid very close to his lips... as if he were about to...

Tsubasa walked in through the door.

Rinne froze and dropped his hand so quickly that later when Sakura questioned him about the incident, he would deny it had ever happened.

Tsubasa's frigid look, one he had never seen before of this intensity, had been like a dagger to his heart.

It told him... you have no right.


Scene II

"You know I'm in love with her, Rokudo."

Tsubasa had confronted him in the hall, some days after the incident. Their rivalry had never been very confrontational. Sakura's ambiguous feelings and calm nature kept it from ever escalating. Besides, Rinne had never made any blatant movements towards a relationship with her. His distant personality prevented that.

Rinne wondered what had changed. Silently, he blamed the blond wig... how it had clashed with her hair... made him want to tug at her braid whenever he passed her in class.

So Rinne looked at Tsubasa impassively as always. It was the only way to deal with his over reactive nature.

The exorcist was pacing now.

"Look, I don't know what you're playing at—"

Lord knew that Rinne really didn't know what was happening either.

"—but I want you to stop before it gets too personal."

Rinne raised an eyebrow. "Personal?"

"Yes. Personal," Tsubasa glared again. He did a lot of that. "We both know that you don't have any money—no offense—and your exorcisms can't stay very PG-rated forever. One of these days a very dangerous spirit will appear and it could cost her..."

"Jumonji," he irritably felt the need to point out, "if she were with you, spirits could still hurt her."

"But I could protect her better."

Honestly, Rinne was proud of his self-control at the moment.

"Besides, I hope you didn't forget about your father."

No. Rinne could never forget about his old man. Never.


Scene III

He avoided Sakura Mamiya for the past month. He ignored her when she tried to speak with him in class or when she asked him about his latest jobs. He went straight home if she caught him by the weather hutch. He told her he was busy, he was stressed; he had no time for any of this.

...And she would just look a bit disappointed sometimes before walking away with a face of nonchalance.

Rinne felt fine too. His life progressed as normal. He stayed up late making flowers, did homework at the last minute. Sometimes he'd show up at school. Sometimes he wouldn't.

When he went to exorcise a spirit, he did so efficiently without any distractions or interference.

"Who are you looking for, Rinne-sama?" Rokumon asked him one day after they had exorcised a rather pesky spirit of a centipede.

"No one," he said.

There was no one to smile at him when the job was done.


Scene IV

"Stop running."

"I'm not running."

"Yes you are. You just knocked over our homeroom teacher back there, and you're sweating... and your legs are moving awfully fast."

Sakura's ability to point out the obvious with a straight face was sometimes disturbing.

He dashed into the first room he could find. Unfortunately, Sakura had gotten better at track and Rinne hadn't thought to use his haori and fly away from the surprise of a determined Sakura Mamiya.

Before he could retreat back into the hall, Sakura shut the door and kept it locked. Rinne's brain sped up frantically, thinking of all the ways he could avoid talking to her when she pinned him with her eyes.

There was no way Rinne would be able to move now.

"...Rokudo-kun," her voice was surprisingly subdued, "...have I done something to make you angry?"

"What? No! I'm not angry at you at all, Sakura Mamiya—"

"Then why are you avoiding me?"

Rinne opened his mouth once and closed it again. There would be no point in lying... not really. But he couldn't just tell her... It was a mortifying concept, besides; this was for her own good. He planned to stay silent.

If only Sakura's stare wasn't boring into him like an x-ray. It was that very stare, the one where he couldn't tell what she was thinking, that made him want to explain things, amend things, right away...

Her face softened, and Sakura walked up to him slowly.

"I think I know what this is about..."

The sort-of shinigami blinked in surprise. "You do?"

He noticed that her lips were quirked upwards. "Yes, though I admit it took me a while to figure out... I had a lot of hints from Miho and Rika. I know I can be very oblivious sometimes..."

Fear and anxiety filled up Rinne's chest, "Listen, I can understand if you stay angry—"

"This is about what almost happened after the play, right?"

Rinne blinked, caught off guard. And before he could disagree, Sakura's fingers were intertwined with his, and she was looking at him with a slightly pink tinge to her face.

"It's ok. I like you, Rinne."

All his excuses flew away.


Scene V

He didn't know anything about relationships or dating and he was certain that she was the same. The 'normal' couples that they would occasionally observe acted nothing like them. Other couples went on extravagant dates, laughed at jokes that weren't funny and played the part of enamoured lovers. Other couples were dramatic when it was unnecessary and seemed to have preconceived expectations about each other before they even started dating. Other couples kissed for the sake of kissing, touched for the sake of touching and lust.

But Sakura and Rinne, they were different.

Rinne began to walk her to school every morning. It had been a bit spontaneous—him showing up at her door the day after, trying not to look embarrassed. She didn't outwardly speak against it, so he assumed it was ok. Sakura's mother didn't stop smiling in an insinuating way when they walked out together.

They held hands while they walked, content with the comforting silences between them. Occasionally Sakura would comment on the change in scenery and inquire about his night. He would do the same.

During class they would sneak glances at each other. Sakura would smile at him and Rinne would stare back, warmth filling him. None of their classmates notices the subtle eye contact.

Sakura resumed making him bento. At lunch, they would slip away from Sakura's friends and Tsubasa's prying eyes to the roof or to the abandoned school house. Of course they always shared with Rokumon as well. Their conversations would be filled with Rokumon's cheerful ramblings and more warm gazes between the two.

If Rokumon noticed how their hands accidentally brushed against each other constantly, the black cat wisely said nothing. Though when Rinne returned to the school house after walking Sakura home, Rokumon would burst aloud with insinuations and exaggerations about their relationship. Rinne would tell Rokumon to shut up and then daze off as he sat by the kotasu, a dreamy (as Rokumon put it) look on his face.

Their classmates eventually noticed how frequently Sakura was smiling lately. She seemed gentler somehow, softer. They also noticed how Rinne seemed to walk with a lighter step, that content look on his face.

Sometimes Rinne would find interesting things at the shinigami market which he knew Sakura would appreciate. Old books or little figurines, unusual flowers that grew in the fields—they weren't expensive, in fact they were free (Rinne had wanted to sacrifice some of his precious food portions as gifts to her but Sakura had refused). He had learned that she valued the sentiment and thought behind the gift, rather than the price.

Sometimes she asked him to come with her to the park where they would just enjoy each other's company, stare at the Tokyo lights. Sometimes he'd ask her to the library to do homework together. Sometimes they just ended up walking around the city, remarking at the interesting and sometimes bizarre window displays.

And sometimes Rinne found himself stroking her hair or leaning against her. Sometimes she would fall asleep against his shoulder and touch his face when she wanted to talk to him seriously. Sometimes they'd both do clumsy things and think each other as adorable for doing so.

It wasn't much, from a bystander's point of view, but Rinne... he couldn't remember being more content in his life.

But the carriage had to return to being a pumpkin sometime.


Scene VI

"Where is she, Rokudo?" The exorcist burst into Rinne's humble abode, the door slamming violently behind him.

There was only one person Tsubasa could be referring to. Rinne felt panic bubble in his chest, but he kept his expression neutral.

"Did you check the classroom?"

"Don't look at me like I'm an idiot! There was this note pinned against the door to the girls locker room,"—Rinne wondered what the heck Tsubasa was doing near there in the first place—"and it was addressed to you."

The letter was written on official documentation and typed in that annoying font which Rinne always associated with messenger damashigami. His eyes scanned the page quickly before Rinne dropped it in shock.

Oh no.

"...My old man has Sakura."

"And since when has it been 'Sakura' instead of 'Sakura Mamiya,' Rokudo?" Tsubasa's voice hummed with jealousy.

There was no time for this. Rinne walked out the door, taking his haori with him. Rokumon was out on an errand for his grandmother. He couldn't contact his black cat in this mess. No, he needed to go to the meeting place.

Tsubasa trailed behind him, asking many more pointless and heated questions. But Rinne had no time to deal with Tsubasa's jealousy or the guilt building up in his chest.

He had to go meet with his father.

Rinne-kun,

It has been such a long time, hasn't it? I wish you would write more to your loving Papa. I miss you so. In fact, the whole company does.

Business associates have inquired as to when you are inheriting and I happily informed them that you will not until you are married to your charming fiancée, the human girl, Sakura Mamiya. However, they were rather impatient for proof of your engagement and a confirmation that you will be marrying.

So Papa has decided to hold on to your human until you agree to take the engagement ring and assume your responsibility as damashigami heir. If not, Papa might get careless and there may be some employees that get a hold of her and accidentally let her ride the Wheel of Reincarnation.

If you don't come, that is.

I'll see you at that park you and your human girl frequent so much. Bring your answer,

Your loving Papa

It seemed that the stepmother—er, well, the annoying, no-good, biological old man—has interfered.


Scene VII

They were playing the Wedding March. Sabato also had the audacity to hire a world-renowned choir to sing 'Here Comes the Bride.' Rinne had never thought the melody as disgusting and down-right scary before, but now he was beginning to.

"Oh, look! The groom is here!" Sabato said happily.

Tsubasa looked very ill when he heard that.

The park was normally a very peaceful place, green with trees and a beautiful view of Tokyo. However, Sabato had ruined the relaxing atmosphere that Sakura and Rinne frequently enjoyed together. There was a tacky stage set up by the fence, lit up with red neon lights and flashing letters. The choir wore glittering costumes, feathers protruding from their capes.

Many of the guests were rich damashigami, dressed exotically as actors from Las Vegas. There was a long table stocked with rich foods—roast beef, red wine, peacock, dumplings, mashed potatoes. To make it worse, it was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Rinne felt sick, knowing that this would all be put on his tab...

But the sight of Sakura dressed so beautifully in a white wedding gown, tied to a pole on sage, was the last straw. She looked very calm (then again, she wasn't one to panic easily, and it had been an hour since she had been kidnapped) but she was looking at Sabato in irritation.

"Do you mind untying me now? This is a rather disturbing image," she told his father plainly.

"Mamiya-san, we're here to rescue you!" Tsubasa announced needlessly.

She looked over at them, her gaze immediately towards Rinne. Her shoulders relaxed out of a tension that Rinne had only just noticed.

Rinne glared murderously at Sabato, ready to use his scythe as he saw fit.

"Let her go," Rinne glowered.

"Oh, but if I do that... some of the antsy guests might get a hold of her and then take her soul to fill up their quotas...," his old man replied innocently.

As if in response, several of the guests leered. It was like sitting at a table with wolves.

"Why don't we just proceed with the marriage instead? Yes? What do you think Rinne?" He pulled out a puppet-sized version of his son and began to speak through it in a high pitched voice (which Rinne did not have, thank you very much), "'Oh yes, Papa, I would love to get married and take over the company.' Oh Rinne, I'm so touched."

Even the audience was a bit disturbed by this strange display.

Tsubasa and Rinne exchanged a quick glance before Tsubasa moved forward and threw several of his sacred ashes across the stage and the audience. The cloud of blessed ashes provided good cover for the two rivals to run towards the stage.

Many of the guests hacked and coughed in irritation, while Sabato's voice cried out for order. His mysterious hot secretary (who, Rinne realized, he had never learned the name of) was trying to get rid of the fog but Tsubasa kept throwing his ashes again to stop it from dissipating.

Rinne cut the ropes that were binding Sakura to the pole and Tsubasa pulled her away from the stage. Then Rinne face his father, and just to satisfy his need for vengeance, stabbed the stupid puppet and threw it at the front row.

"Oh no! Mini-Rinne, come back to me!" Sabato, blind in the fog, lamented.

"Don't let them get away, even if you have to throw their souls into the Wheel! We must restrain the young president!" The hot secretary ordered.

Several damashigami descended upon them with greed. Tsubasa protected Sakura with his body while Rinne threw off as many as he could with his scythe. The blade purified any damashigami it touched, if they were rather weak, that is. The stronger damashigami were a different problem.

He couldn't protect the other two by himself forever. Eventually one damashigami found an opening in his defences and tackled Tsubasa to the ground, knocking the exorcist out cold.

Then the damashigami descended on Sakura with a leer.

She kicked her high heels at him and then tried to get away.

The damashigami was slowed by the sharp impact of the polished shoes against his skull (honestly, high heels were formidable weapons when thrown properly). But this only made him angrier.

The damashigami grabbed at Sakura so forcibly with his nails that he drew blood. And then, once he had hold of her, tried to break her legs to stop her from moving away.

Rinne saw red—literally.

His scythe cut through the offending damashigami before anyone could blink, and then Rinne picked up Sakura in his arms and pointed his blade at Sabato menacingly. The fog had dissipated now that Tsubasa was unconscious.

"Call off your underlings, or I'll take both of our lives right now and you won't have anyone to inherit your company."

Sabato looked amused. "Honestly Rinne-kun, what would killing yourself and good old little me do when the damashigami would just get your friend and your fiancée after you die?"

The sort-of shinigami's face was impassive.

"I'm not talking about me and you."

His father frowned in thought before he put together the pieces. He looked shocked. "No, you wouldn't—"

"Would I?" Rinne challenged him, his face still impassive, unreadable.

There was a deadly glint in his eyes which he knew scared Sabato.

"You'd kill your friend and the girl you love and then yourself just to avoid inheriting the company? How cold, Rinne-kun!" Sabato laughed nervously. "You can't expect me to take it seriously—"

"I would do it, old man. You know I would."

They stared at each other until Sabato saw that he couldn't figure out the reason behind Rinne's deadly glare... if his son was serious then... he would actually...

"I'm waiting," said Rinne.

Sabato bowed his head. "Alright, you win... for now." He was a cruel manipulating low-life. He knew that. But he didn't want to watch his only son die.

The damashigami retreated.

Rinne let out a relieved breath... thanking fate that he had such a good poker face.


Scene VIII

"Rinne."

"Sakura."

He was holding her close, as if to remind himself that she was still alive, that her heart was beating and that she was with him.

"I'm sorry," he said after a while. "This is my fault... if it wasn't for me you wouldn't have..."

The sight of her blood, the wound on her arm... and there was the thought that this could have been worse... much worse that he could ever imagine...

She looked at him through her white veil and shook her head, "No. You came for me, it's alright now. It's not your fault."

Rinne wasn't looking at her. Rather, he was looking at Tsubasa, who had regained consciousness, and was staring at him accusingly.

You put her in danger, Tsubasa's eyes said.

He closed his. I know.


Scene VIII

"Sakura...," It had been a few days. The bandage on Sakura's arm still made him wince in regret. He had avoided looking directly at her for a while. He could tell that it bothered her, but she hadn't said anything about it. It was a Saturday afternoon, and they were lazing in cafe which was a new development. They didn't usually go out for eat.

Looking up from her drink, Sakura gave him her attention.

"...Have you ever thought of what you want to do when you're older?"

She shook her head. "Not really. I guess I might go into an occupation involving child care or something, settle down. "

That was a nice thought. He could see her being a saint with young children.

"What about you?" She inquired.

Rinne felt uncomfortable.

"...I haven't really thought about it either." He hadn't thought much beyond Shinigami duties and trying to pay back his debts. He would have liked to enter University on scholarship, but there was no guarantee that his grades would be high enough or that he'd have the time to study.

When he saw that Sakura was still waiting for an answer, Rinne shrugged.

"I wanted to be a plumber once."

Sakura laughed, "Really? I wouldn't have expected it from you."

"Well, mechanics wouldn't be that bad either."

He stared blankly at the window.

Sakura frowned. "Rinne, is something wrong?"

"No."

Her gaze was disbelieving.

Then Rinne sighed. There was no point in delaying the inevitable.

"I think we should stop seeing each other."

Her reaction wasn't what he had expected. In fact, he wasn't sure what he had expected from this. Maybe shock or anger or bitterness.

Not this, not her trying to be kind, trying to make he feel better.

"Did I do something to make you upset?" Her eyes were sad and hurt, and she reached out to take his hand. He pulled away.

Rinne wanted to lie to her and say 'yes, I hate you' or something melodramatic to that effect. But he couldn't.

"No, it's just... I can't be with you, Sakura. I put you in danger... and I can't provide you with a comfortable life when we're older. You'll gain my debts and you'll suffer with me. My father won't lay low forever, he'll come after you again... and next time you might not get away with a scar. It might be worse."

Now he felt exposed around her, waiting for her words to strike.

But Sakura was always surprising him.

"...What I don't care about that?" She looked intently at him. "What if this is what I want?"

The conversation wasn't supposed to be taking this direction, not at all.

"You should care!" He found himself raising his voice. Was Sakura insane? Didn't she see what was good for her? Safe for her? "You should be living a perfect life, becoming a teacher and marrying a good man, someone like Tsubasa, someone who can provide for you and who can relate to you about spirits."

Her eyes were cold to him for the first time, and her voice was a very threatening calm.

"So you want me to go marry Tsubasa now?"

Never! His heart screamed. But Rinne kept his impassive face and nodded.

"Yes. He loves you."

You love her.

"He'd be good for you."

You'd be good for her too.

"I'm sorry. I have to go."

He walked out of the cafe, and ran through the spirit way when Sakura came after him. He dropped a box, that box, but didn't pick it up. He didn't turn back to look at her.

The fairy godmother had to show Cinderella her true prince after all, even if he didn't want to.


Scene X

It was a year since graduation. The day he left Sakura, he had removed himself from school, determined to focus on his job and earn more money. Every day was the same—just work, sleep and eat. He moved around a lot, taking his few possessions with him. Once he had to sell his kotatsu, but he held on to his scarf.

His father barely bothered him anymore, now that Rinne had made it extremely clear that anyone who messed with him would come back barely alive. Life was good.

This month he had gotten lucky. A local mechanic let him be his temporarily assistant. It was nice to have a place to go instead of begging for a job. Minato was a nice man as well and his wife gave him free ramen at lunch. Sometimes he'd get some fish to take home for Rokumon.

He thought about her every day, but didn't expect to see her again. It was best if he stayed out of her life. She had probably moved on already.

When Tsubasa walked into the mechanic's shop one December morning, Rinne thought he was seeing a ghost.

The exorcist had gotten taller and was wearing finer clothing. His fashion sense hadn't changed and he still walked with that confident swagger. It seemed that he had also acquired a motorbike and needed it to be fixed.

By the time they took notice of each other, it was too late for Rinne to hide his face.

Tsubasa's face went from extremely angry to very thoughtful and then smug in less than two seconds.

Rinne wondered if he would get fired right away if he decided to tamper with Tsubasa's bike.

The exorcist walked over to him.

"It's been a long time, Rokudo. How have you been?" Tsubasa asked him as if they were long lost old friends.

Well, Rinne supposed that they were, just not exactly friends.

"Fine," Rinne responded monotonously. "And yourself?"

"Oh just wonderful," the exorcist grinned knowingly. "You see, tomorrow, I'm going to ask Sakura-chan if she will marry me."

Rinne's heart stopped right there. He went rigid, but Tsubasa continued as if he hadn't noticed and Rinne kept his face blank.

"I have the ring right here."

The exorcist pulled out a red box and showed Rinne a giant diamond ring. It was ghastly; the most horrible thing Rinne had ever seen in his life, not that Tsubasa could see his revulsion.

"Yup, tomorrow I'm going to her apartment in the Tokyo Hills area. She lives in number 108, room 8 on the top floor. I have flowers and everything."

Oh, if only homicide was legal.

"Alright there, Rokudo? You look pale. Maybe you should go for a walk tomorrow; it might do you some good. Sakura's neighbourhood has a nice park nearby too," the exorcist said, clapping a hand on Rinne's shoulder. "Well, I'll be off. Tomorrow I'm going to become the luckiest man in the world because I decided to take a chance with love!"

When Minato walked in and asked his wife why Rinne was lying on the floor out cold, she replied that he had fainted.

No more happy endings...


Scene XI

He wasn't here for any particular reason. He was just going for a walk, just like Jumonji had suggested. It was just coincidence that he happened to be walking up to the top floor and that he happened to be peeking to look down the hall and see Tsubasa knocking on her door.

He watched, fists clenched, when Sakura opened the door and Tsubasa moved forward to whisper something in her ear. He wasn't trying to restrain himself when Sakura's eyes widened with delight and she threw her arms around him and then she shouted, "I knew it!"

But when Tsubasa blushed lightly and kissed her on the cheek and then reached in his coat pocket, probably to take out the ring and propose, Rinne couldn't stop himself—

"Stop! Wait! You can't marry him! He's too conceited for you!" Rinne shouted, revealing himself to the surprised pair, "And he rides a motorcycle and he talks too much and he won't know when you're really sad or when you're hiding something!"

"...Rinne..?" Sakura blinked in surprise, while Tsubasa smirked in triumph.

"See? A conceited grin! He'll never make you happy like—"

He stopped and blushed before he could continue.

When it got too quiet, Tsubasa slyly said, "...Like who...?"

Rinne blushed further.

"Oh Rinne, sometimes I don't know if you're extremely cool or idiotic," Sakura said fondly. He wasn't sure if he should have been offended from that comment or not. "Tsubasa isn't proposing to me."

"He's not? But... but he has a ring! And... and he told me he was going to propose! And... and..."

"No, he came to tell me that Ageha finally said yes."

"...Ageha?"

Tsubasa smirked, "Yes, Rinne. Ageha."

"But... but you said..."

"Well, I lied."

"But..."

"Honestly, I'm getting tired of you running away from her."

"So... you planned this?"

"Basically."

Sakura and Rinne looked awkwardly at the other. Tsubasa whistled to himself.

"Well, I'll let you two be alone for a while... bye!"

That left them alone and neither of them was very eager to fill the silence.

Rinne shifted from foot to foot and put his hands in his pockets, wondering if he should leave, when Sakura said, "... I help out at an orphanage nearby now. There's a cute girl named Rin who is the darling of the caretaker, Sesshomaru. I think he should adopt her."

"That sounds nice...," he paused, hesitantly. "I managed to get hired as a mechanic's assistant by a very honourable man. He's called Minato. You'd like him."

"I'm sure I would."

They fell in silence again.

"Rinne... when you left, last time, you dropped this."

She handed him the box, that box, the one he had thought he'd lost. Rinne felt his eyes swell with emotion and nodded his thanks. Inside the box was a pair of very plain rings with a flower etched on the outside.

"These were my grandparent's rings... when they were married. I carried them around every where... just to remember grandpa," he allowed himself to look at her fully for the first time in years. "Thank you, Sakura."

"I have never been with anyone else, ever."

Rinne felt his heart constrict. He was going to open his mouth, use the same arguments as last time but her next question threatened to break him.

"Are you going to leave again?"

Her face betrayed nothing, neither did his. They hadn't been open with their emotions, when it came to each other, for a long time.

When Rinne thought he was going to say yes, suddenly he felt as if he might fall. He remembered the sick feeling he felt when Tsubasa pretended to propose to Sakura, he remembered how he denied the emptiness in his life without her. He remembered how much he just... wanted to be with her.

He opened his mouth to ask her if she cared about the danger, the path she was choosing but stopped.

When Rinne really looked at her closely, and let himself drown in her eyes, he saw what he had denied so many years ago.

That she didn't care and that she would follow him to Hell and back, just as he would for her.

Reaching up slowly, Rinne took one stray braid from her shoulder. They had gotten longer, down to her stomach, but they were as soft as he remembered them to be.

With the other hand, he placed the rings back in Sakura's possession. She looked at him curiously while Rinne let himself smile.

"You should keep them... I had always meant to give one to you someday anyways."

Sakura's face went a little pink, and Rinne found that he liked making her blush once in a while.

"...Is that a proposal, Rinne Rokudo?"

Rather than give a straight answer, he lifted her braid up to his lips and gave it a kiss, his red gaze burning into her.

"I confess that I have never been with anyone else, ever, either.


Epilogue

Fairy tales are not instructions to how to live your life. Real love was hard, painful but still so beautiful. That was what he had learned.

And all roles were constantly shifting.

He wasn't the fairy god mother anymore. Jumonji had surprisingly stolen that role from him. Nor was he Cinderella or the Prince, because frankly, if he was a Prince, that would be kind of odd.

No, they were Sakura and Rinne.

And that was enough of a story.