All right, next chapter. Here we go.

-Kouji Tamino

Legend of the Guardian Children

Book 2: A Strange New World

Chapter 2: Trust

With the cast chosen, Class 2-A was ready to begin the rehearsals for their play. Since they weren't due to use the stage until their props, equipment, and costumes were ready, the boys had nothing to do but watch as the girls practiced. Since the cast was all female, the only job the guys had were backstage related. They also made sure that everything went according to plan. Of course, in 2-A, nothing ever went that smoothly...

Despite the fact that they weren't even in front of an audience yet, Kiriko was nervous. She wasn't very comfortable with performing even amongst her peers. Of course, months of ridicule and teasing will do that to a person, so her self-esteem was shot. Why oh why did they have to make her the lead? Did they enjoy seeing her panic and squirm? She was beginning to think that was the case. As she read over the script, she gasped. "Th-there's a kiss in the play?!"

"Well duh Kiri-chan, it's a romance!" her best friend Atsuko exclaimed, giggling. She had no idea that the play was going to have a kiss. She felt a little sorry for her friend, but her reaction was priceless! "You can't have a romance without a well placed kiss!"

"But still!" Kiriko shouted, clenching the script tight. "Two girls kissing just isn't appropriate!" She had never even kissed a boy yet, much less another girl. She wanted her first kiss to be something special, not just thrown away in a role in a play that she didn't even want! "I mean, I don't think I can go through with it!"

"What's the big deal?" Tsukino asked, not even looking up from her script. She was rather indifferent to this whole thing. She just wanted to get it over with, really. "It's just part of the role. Actors kiss people that they wouldn't kiss normally all the time, even if they're dating someone or are married." Finally looking up, she continued, her expression as unreadable as ever. "If the actor is dedicated enough, they'll even do a same-sex kiss regardless of their own orientation. It's just part of the job."

"I know, but still..." Kiriko trailed off, her mood quickly souring. She knew her friend had a point, but that didn't make her any more comfortable with the whole idea. Besides, she doubted that most actors had their first kiss while acting. "I don't want my first kiss to be part of an act", she explained. "It's not right..."

"Shimohara-sama, look here."

"What is it?" the shorter girl asked, looking up to her tall friend. Her eyes widened as the other girl leaned in close, kissing her firmly. She noted that her lips tasted sweet, possibly from her dessert from lunch. Despite the way she had practically forced herself onto her, it was a surprisingly very gentle and tender type of kiss. Kiriko had to wonder if she had done this before. Nonetheless, she pushed herself away and slapped Tsukino in shock. "Wh-what the hell was that?!" She shouted, her face turning red.

"You said that you didn't want your first kiss to be an act, so I gave you your first kiss." The class rep replied rather tactlessly, rubbing her stinging cheek. She didn't look like it, but Kiriko could sure hit. Of course, to her it was only a brief stinging sensation, but she still was surprised that it hurt at all. "Why did you hit me?"

"You're terrible..." Kiriko replied softly as she stared down at the ground, not daring to look the other girl directly in the face.

"W-what?!" Tsukino gasped, backing up a bit. "Shimohara-sama, what do you mean?" Biting her lip, she stepped forward, reaching out to the girl, only to have her hand slapped away. She cried out in surprise.

"Stay away from me!" Kiriko shouted, wrapping her arms around herself protectively. Feeling the stares from her classmates, she hurried off in a run, leaving the classroom. Atsuko quickly followed her, not wanting to see her distressed friend do something she might regret.

The rest of the class focused their attention on Tsukino, making her feel even worse than she already did. Sighing in resignation, she raised her arms. "Go ahead, make fun of me. I know you were all waiting for the right moment." Several minutes passed and the other students said nothing. All they did was stare, making Tsukino feel as if they were trying to reach into her soul. Growling, she began stomping off. "Fine, I'll go talk to her," she muttered. "Stupid girl..."

As she made her way through the hallway, she ended up bumping right into someone else, sending her crashing to the floor. "Yikes, I'm sorry! " She tilted her head as she helped the person up, recognizing her. "Kumihisha-sempai!"

"Oh, hello there Tsukino-san!" Saeko replied as she stood back up in her feet. "What's the rush?" As the younger girl explained things, she furrowed her eyebrows. "That wasn't very nice, you know. A first kiss can be very important to some people. They want it to be given to someone that they really care about, like a boyfriend or girlfriend!" Feeling she hadn't quite gotten the point across, she made a rather colorful analogy. "You basically stole her kiss virginity. She can't get that first kiss back."

"Oh...Oh!" Tsukino shouted in realization, her face suddenly heating up and turning several shades of red. "I didn't realize-- No wonder she got so upset!" Bowing her head in disgrace, she sighed. She had certainly made a mess out of things, hadn't she? "Damn it, what am I going to do now? Shimohara-sama... she hates me now."

Smiling softly, Saeko put a comforting hand on her junior's shoulder. "It'll be okay", she assured. "You're friends, right? I'm sure she'll be able to find in her heart to forgive you if you just explain yourself and apologize." She mentioned that last bit with something of a grimace, reminded of her own situation with a former friend. If only she and Kyoji had just been honest instead of sneaking around behind his back, the whole thing could have been solved a lot more peacefully. Until recently, she hadn't even thought about how much they must have hurt Domon's feelings. What kind of friends were they to date secretly and not even trust him enough to tell him what was going on? It's no wonder he became the person he is today: He couldn't even trust people he thought were his best friends.

"Thank you, Kumihisha-sempai", Tsukino said, bowing. She knew what it was she had to do now. She just wasn't sure if she'd be able to look poor Kiriko in the face after what she had done to her.

"Oh, you're welcome", Saeko replied, pulled from her thoughts. Nodding, she saw the younger girl off and continued on her way to her destination. Kyoji was bound to be annoyed if she was late.

"Come on Kiriko, I'm sure she didn't mean it", Tsukino heard Atsuko tell their mutual friend as she approached. The bespectacled girl was sitting next to the still crying girl along a fountain that stood in front of the school. She had been trying to comfort her for the past couple of minutes, but nothing she tried seemed to be calming her down any. "I mean, she can be pretty weird at times..."

"What do you mean by weird?" Tsukino asked, letting her pride expose that she was watching. Turning red in embarrassment once again as they noticed her, she began walking toward the two girls, pausing when Kiriko tossed her a hateful glare. "I... um..." she began, awkwardly attempting some sort of apology. As hard as she tried, however, she just couldn't get the words out. Growling in annoyance as the other girl refused to even look her in the eye, she stomped the ground and Atsuko could have sworn she felt the earth move. "What in the hell do you want from me!?" She shouted, her patience wearing out and already on edge from their seemingly endangered friendship.

"I want you to understand what you took from me!" Kiriko cried out, the tears flowing freely once again. Was Tsukino really so insensitive? Just when she thought that she finally understood her, she did something that seemed to have proved her wrong. "You stole something that I can never get back! Something that I was saving for a special occasion!"

"I know that, damn it!" Tsukino screamed, lowering her head. "At least, now I do. Please hear me out, Shimoha--", she began, quickly correcting herself as she looked up with a heart worn expression. "I mean, Kiriko-san... I never meant to hurt you. I would never do that intentionally." Falling to her hands and knees, she lowered her head and continued her drawn out apology. "I swear, I will do whatever it takes to make you see how sorry I am for what I did to you! I don't care how long it might take, I just don't want you to... hate me." Looking up, she could see that while Kiriko was no longer giving her a mean look, her expression certainly wasn't a friendly one. Swallowing hard, she stood up steadily, smiling halfheartedly. "I guess it just wasn't enough, huh?"

Pouting, yet impressed by what was possibly the most heartfelt thing she had ever heard her class rep say, she looked between her two friends with a sigh. "I guess not. Sorry, Tsuki-chan. But hey, at least she stopped crying!" She hugged Kiriko tightly as she said this. Despite her slight jealously of the bond that her two friends had formed recently, she didn't want to see them like this. Hopefully they'd be able to truly work things out one day.

Nodding, knowing she had given her best, Tsukino reluctantly turned on her heel and began to walk away, only to suddenly be caught off guard by a tackle hug from behind. A normal person would have been completely floored by such a move, but thankfully that wasn't the case for her. Still, she was surprised to have her knees almost buckle from beneath her. Regaining her footing, she simply stood there and enjoyed the embrace of her very dearest friend.

"...Don't you ever ever do something like that to me without my permission again." Kiriko said firmly, burying her face into the back of the taller girl and squeezing her tightly, crying out once again. She was still very upset that her first kiss had been taken so suddenly and casually, but she couldn't stay mad at Tsukino.

"I most definitely won't", Tsukino replied, letting her own tears run freely from her eyes as her initially tense body loosened. Her entire body felt light as a feather now after the heavy guilt it had been holding. After wiping her eyes, her smile widened and she turned to face her sensitive friend. "I owe you a dinner, okay?" She looked up at Atsuko as well. "You, too. Thanks for the support."

Shaking her head, Kiriko wiped her eyes. "No, I couldn't..." She said softly, gently biting her lip. "You've already done so much for me, Tsukino-san, I wouldn't want to burden you any further." Besides, considering Tsukino's family's wealth, she'd feel very intimidated by wherever it was that Tsukino would take her.

"Nonsense, I would be honored if you would accept", the other girl insisted. She uncharacteristically pouted, a bit upset. "What, are you still angry with me?" She asked, wondering if she had come off too strongly with the offer for dinner after having just patched things up with her.

"Oh no, it's not that at all!" She shouted, shaking her head. "If that's what you really want..." the shy girl began, biting her lip. "I'd love to."

"I'm in, too!" Atsuko added, looking to her two friends with a smile. She was so happy that things seemed to be working out smoothly. However, she had to wonder...

"Wonderful!" Tsukino replied, smiling brightly. "We can set-up a date later, but we should really be getting back to class, don't you think?" She asked, switching back to Class Rep mode.

"Oh, right!" Atsuko shouted, giggling at Kiriko yelped. As she and the other two girls made their way back to class, she gave them a sly grin. "Now, what exactly is the relationship between you two?" She joked, giggling as they blushed. "You certainly aren't 'just friends'..." This earned her a playful knock on the head from Tsukino. "Ow! I was just kidding! Geez, Tsuki-chan, you sure hit hard..."