CAS STOP GIVING ME THE COURAGE TO DO THIS SHIT! Seriously I can blame you for so much right now.

Gods... well, it's been done now. No going back. Ack, I am no good at this!

That One Night Where I... Oh, I'm Talking About This In Public? Forget It, Then -blushes-

The hot springs in the Ethereal World were strange in the fact that they were always so clean. Loaño couldn't believe that she hadn't used one of these before – the hot water melted the tension in her muscles without her having to try and do it herself (which sometimes ended painfully), and even when she was partly out of the water she was warm. Even the steam was relaxing.

I wonder if Elves in the Forest Kingdom use hot springs, she thought. Are there hot springs in the Forest Kingdom, though? There must be. For various reasons Loaño had never been in the Forest Kingdom herself, except the one time she had been dragged there by King Edward. It seemed like a nice place, but she had heard that other creatures lived there aside from Elves that weren't so hospitable. Perhaps Queen V would know? Loaño frowned at the thought – Queen V seemed friendly enough, but Loaño wasn't sure she was comfortable enough to walk up to her and interrogate her about her kingdom. The Queen might wonder why, and Loaño didn't feel like explaining what King Edward had told her, mostly because everyone seemed to suspect him as the traitor – at least, that was what Kidd told her.

Maybe if I could meet an Elf for myself, she wondered. But I don't know how they feel about people like me. Come to think of it, she had never seen an Elf outside of the Forest Kingdom – was there a reason for that? She hadn't even seen any dancing in the karaoke bar where she, Nayuta, and Nikki performed. Perhaps she wasn't looking hard enough.

Loaño sank herself further into the hot spring. It didn't appear as if there was anyone coming to join her, but regardless she didn't want anyone chancing upon her naked. She sank to her shoulders and leaned back, her head resting on the grass.

So many questions, she thought to herself, staring at the sky. The stars were out, and her eyes flitted over them all. She only knew a few – enough to find her way about at night – thanks to AA. Some part of her wondered if she would ever meet that strange boy again – another part of her wondered if he was even a boy to begin with. Kidd had said that he was nothing that anyone knew of – it had been said that AA was somewhat of a God, but that wasn't helpful.

Don't worry about that furball, Darkness told her. Just focus on yourself for right now, kid. Like, not getting yourself killed.

Shut up, Dark; it's not like it's my fault shit keeps getting thrown in my direction, Loaño sighed. All of this was out of my control...

Well, the balls in your court now, kid, Darkness growled. Try and keep it there.

Why did they make me a Dark Dreamer, anyway? Loaño wondered. She tried to picture her father's face, but it was nearly impossible. Messy red hair, witty green eyes... and the rest was a flesh-colored blur. Even his voice escaped her. Her mother was the same – long black hair, blue eyes, and, for some reason, blots of paint and smears of charcoal were all she could recall of the woman. A Dark Dreamer and an Arbiter, and in reality Loaño was neither – but her father had seen fit to use some sort of ritual to make her a Dark Dreamer. To pass on his power and his weapon and, annoyingly enough, Darkness and Light themselves. Where you two like this for my father?

I have, Darkness told her. I don't recall changing... though I do recall almost killing your great grandfather once. Stupid Light, though – if I'd had her help, we would have been able to escape.

Were you two girls for them, too?

No, Darkness scoffed, as if it were an insult.

Light butted in and told her, We change our shape to match our whole, Dear One. We took your great grandfather's shape first, then your gradfather's, then your father's, and finally yours.

So you guys are like shapeshifters or something?

Does it really matter? Her Dark Side chuckled.

No, I suppose it doesn't; I was just curious, Loaño admitted. Who were they, though? My grandfather and my great-grandfather? She couldn't remember if she'd seen any pictures of them – she knew that her grandfather had died around the time she had been born, though, and that he had been an archeologist. The Internet provided no information on her ancestors – at least, no information that she saw being the truth. What were they like?

Like the rest of you lot, Darkness growled. Stubborn, determined fools.

That's not very nice, Light chided. They were very brave, too, Dear One. They all had a lot of courage. But you shouldn't worry about them, child; try to relax. You've been through a lot recently.

But I want to know, Loaño sighed. I want to know so much... Like, who was my Elven ancestor? Where are they now, if they're still alive? Could I meet them, or see their grave? Who were my ancestors? Who was Leighton, and why did she help my father and then betray him? Her eyes watered and she asked, Why did they have to go away?

That's way too many questions, kid, Darkness decided. For once, she sounded slightly sympathetic. Some of those I think we'd be in trouble for answering.

Rest, Dear One, Light urged. Close your eyes and relax.

Seriously, Darkness sighed. You need it... besides, it'll shut you up.

Thanks, Loaño growled dryly. I'll try.

She pulled away from them, her head pounding slightly. She tried not to engage in long conversations with them, lest they begin to argue with one another, but on occasion they would be slightly civil. For a moment she wondered why their attitudes towards one another seemed to change at the drop of a hat, but she didn't find it too important right now.

Head spinning, she closed her eyes and allowed the warm water to lull her into relaxation.


"There you are, Lo! Damn, I was wondering where you'd gotten off to!"

Loaño opened her eyes, almost instantly after she shut them (at least, that was what it felt like). If she had dreamed of anything, it hadn't been worth remembering. She looked up and mumbled, "Hey, Hikaru. Did something happen?"

"No, I was just wondering," Hikaru sighed. She tapped Loaño's forehead with her foot, smiling, "Don't worry me like that, OK?"

"Sorry," the younger blonde managed.

"That water looks nice," Hikaru commented. "Mind if I join you? I could use a bit of a soak – the tournament's been wringing me dry, not to mention the shit that happens outside of it."

"No, go on ahead," Loaño offered. "It's really nice... hey, Hikaru!"

"What?" Hikaru stopped, confused.

"At least wait for me to close my eyes before you undress!"

Hikaru rolled her eyes and pulled her shirt over her head, tossing it into the pile of Loaño's clothes off to the side. "Please," she scoffed, sliding out of her skirt, "you're as much a girl as I am, Lo; I've got nothing you haven't seen before."

Loaño's face flushed red and heat crawled beneath her skin as she watched Hikaru dispose of her bra and underwear (a matching set of pink lace with roses). She wanted to drown herself in the hot spring, but the warm feeling growing inside of her wouldn't allow it.

When Hikaru was done, she slipped into the spring beside her friend, gasping at the heat of the water at first. "Wow," she breathed, "this is nice..."

Loaño raised her head and felt pain in the back of her neck from keeping it in that position for so long. She rubbed it, wincing.

"Here," Hikaru offered.

"Wait, I -" Loaño was cut off as Hikaru pressed her hands into her neck. "Oh," she murmured contentedly. Every spot that Hikaru touched sent an unfamiliar warmth spinning throughout Loaño's body, and she forced herself not to go rigid, clenching her toes instead as goosebumps rippled over her skin.

"How long were you sitting like that?" Hikaru wondered, unaware of what was happening with her friend.

"I don't know," she replied. "A while. I dozed off a little, I think."

Hikaru pressed her thumbs into the spot where Loaño's neck and shoulders connected, and Loaño felt a shiver run through her body as a result. Hikaru must have felt it, too, because she kept rubbing the sweet spot, pressing deeper each time. Something lodged itself in Loaño's throat as the sensation began getting stronger and stronger, almost overwhelming. She fought the unfamiliar urge to moan aloud.

"Hikaru, please stop," she begged quietly.

"Hm?"

"I said stop," Loaño snapped loudly, the tone of her voice suddenly uncontrollable. It took a lot of effort, but she forced herself away from her friend's hands. The sensation began to fade slowly, and she gingerly touched the area.

"Lo, are you all right?" Hikaru wondered. Loaño didn't know what sort of look her friend had on her face – she didn't want to meet her eyes at the moment. She wasn't sure what would happen if she did. "Lo, did I hurt you?"

No, but I wish you had, she told herself. Wait, what the hell am I thinking? This is Hikaru – I've known her forever! Yes, I like her a lot, but I can't seriously be thinking of us... doing stuff... Ah, what's wrong with me...? Dammit, why did she have to come looking for me?

Suddenly, Hikaru's hand was on her shoulder, and Loaño couldn't help but flinch and shake uncontrollably. Hikaru forced Loaño to face her, and she stared into Loaño, her eyes full of concern and worry, and yet Loaño got the strangest feeling that the spark there wasn't from her worrying about whether or not she'd hurt her friend...

"Holy shit, Lo," Hikaru said suddenly, her face reddening, "I'm sorry – I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to..."

"To what?" Loaño wondered shakily. "What'd you do?"

Hikaru threw her a puzzled look. Finally, she smirked and said, "Lo, you're so naïve..." She leaned forward and touched Loaño's face, which was so warm that it made Hikaru's fingers like ice against her skin. "I really like that."

"Hikaru..." Loaño mumbled, her voice wavering. She was so close... Why is she so close to me... what the hell is going on, and why do I feel like... like... she didn't even want to think what she thought. It was in no way appropriate, and it only made the heat inside of her grow.

Hikaru only gave her a friendly, understanding smile. "Lo, I keep forgetting that you've never done anything like this before. You've never been turned on before; but I must say, you look adorable when you are. All of this must be really confusing."

Loaño only nodded.

Hikaru smiled and ran her thumb along Loaño's cheek. Loaño shivered and tried pulling away, confusion making her like a cornered wolf, but Hikaru pulled her close, pressing her into her chest and neck. Loaño squirmed, her hands feeling parts of Hikaru that she never would have dreamed of touching, all while this intense sensation rushed through her body over and over again.

She felt Hikaru's free hand touch one of hers beneath the water, and the hand guided hers to touch something soft, yet firm. A shiver ran down Loaño's spine when she realized what she was touching, and she froze. Hikaru chuckled and did the same with Loaño's other hand.

"Hikaru..." Loaño said quietly, as if the air had been sucked out of her. "What're you..."

Suddenly Hikaru was in her ear. She murmured, her breath warm against Loaño's sensitive ears, "Remember how we promised we would help each other out? Well, I'm helping you right now. Don't seem so shocked... all of this is perfectly natural." Loaño felt her tongue running against the outer shell of her ear, and Hikaru lingered on the part that angled to a point.

Loaño yelped, clenching her hands around her friend's breasts as Hikaru gently nibbled at that part of her ear. Hikaru grunted lightly at how hard her friend had squeezed, but didn't seem to be hurt. She giggled, "So it's true then; Elf ears really are sensitive..."

"Did I..."

"Hurt me? No," Hikaru promised. "It pinched a bit, but you're doing fine."

"I don't understand," Loaño breathed. "I don't understand any of this..."

Hikaru ran her fingers gently through Loaño's hair, playing with it gently; fluffing it, twirling it, but always making sure that her skin touched Loaño's scalp or that one of her fingers brushed her friend's ear. She kissed the top of Loaño's head and promised, "Just trust me, Lo... I'll help you."

Loaño looked up at her friend, seeing that spark again. She wondered if her eyes displayed that same feeling. Loaño stood up a little taller, so that their faces were level. Curiosity filtered in through the overwhelming torrent of unfamiliar emotions, and she looked at her friend's lips as they curled into a soft, knowing smile.

"I'll help you," Hikaru promised again, just before Loaño took hold of her curiosity and pressed her lips against Hikaru's, tasting her breath and finding it to be something that she really, really liked.