** DAISUKE **
I froze in shock right away as a pair of soft, warm lips pressed up against mine. It only lasted a brief second, just a moment of delicious contact – then it ended. Before I had a chance to react, whatever had crossed over Vrekk’s neck – I was pretty sure it was the Blue – slid away and was lost in the mist.
I just sat there, totally stunned.
// Daisuke? // Vrekk asked, after a while.
I raised a hand up, to brush my fingers against my lips. There was something about this, being kissed up in the clouds, where I couldn’t even see who was doing it… I liked it. Even though it made me feel guilty, I liked it. I loved my angel, but the new DragonRider…
// Daisuke? // Vrekk said again. he felt worried.
"Sorry," I answered, slowly, trying to set my thoughts back in order. They were swimming around all over the place. "I… um… we should go back down. Okay?"
// All right. // He dived again, moving slowly to avoid any collisions. The rest of the trip out of the clouds was silent and uneventful. I couldn’t stop thinking about that kiss – and the DragonRider…
"I’d better tell the others about this," I decided, out loud. Yes, that made sense. There was another Dragon out there, not to mention another Rider, and everyone else needed to know.
It was a good thing I was so observant.
Vrekk made good time getting back to the palace, and I dismounted with a quick promise to come back soon so we could finish our ride. Then I took off at full speed up the stairs, into the building, and down the hall, tearing off toward the room I knew for sure wouldn’t have "activities" happening that I might interrupt.
"Whoa! Daisuke!" Someone’s hand caught my arm as I nearly went flying by. "What’s the hurry? And hey, I thought you were going flying for a while."
"Yeah, well, so did I! And I did, but then…" I paused to catch my breath. "Takeru, you wouldn’t believe it! I thought I saw Gyvera, because there was this silver flashing, but it turned out it wasn’t silver, it was blue, and Vrekk tried to follow them, but –
"Follow who?" The blond raised an eyebrow at me. "You’re not making a lot of sense, Daisuke."
"Sorry." I stopped babbling. "I guess we should tell everyone, but it’s real big news, and I saw it myself, so now we can’t doubt it! I’m pretty sure I wasn’t imagining things, either." I remembered that kiss all too well; it was really starting to confuse me, too. I liked it. A lot.
Takeru sighed, and rolled his eyes upward. "All right," he said slowly. "Saw what?"
"Another dragon!" I burst out, still caught up in excitement. "A Blue. And it had a Rider too, but I didn’t get a good look at them. They took off into the clouds and we followed, but we couldn’t see, and then they stopped us and I got kissed and…" I stopped and turned red suddenly, realizing my blunder.
Fortunately, Takeru wasn’t thinking about that. "I think we’d better get the others," he said seriously, and then he let go of my arm and the two of us continued down the hall.
** IORI **
"I knew it!" Miyako sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. "As soon as you started talking about how they all came out of that mist in pairs, I knew there had to be another dragon!"
"Yeah, but did you know that there was another Rider?" I asked. "I don’t know why we didn’t think of that… Still, the new Rider seems to know about us – well, about Daisuke, anyway."
The red-head blushed furiously. "Wasn’t my idea!"
"We know." Takeru smiled openly, obviously amused by Daisuke’s embarrassment. "I know what we’re all wondering, though; why, if this new Rider knows about us, haven’t they ever joined us?"
Silence answered that.
"I don’t see why we have to sit around talking about it!" Miyako said irritably, breaking the quiet hush. "Why don’t we go find this new DragonRider and just ask them?"
"I agree," Hikari spoke up, nodding at Miyako. "This isn’t helping us. We should split up into pairs and scout around to see if we can’t find this new "friend". Then we’ll find out everything, once and for all."
"I’ll go alone," Daisuke volunteered, right away. "No offense or anything, but none of you guys can keep up with Vrekk. I’d rather not have to wait."
"That makes sense," I agreed.
"I think we already know where this new Rider’s going to turn up, then," Miyako teased, grinning openly. "Maybe we should all just follow along behind Dai."
The tan-skinned boy turned red. "Shut up."
"You’re probably right, but let’s keep all of the possibilities covered, okay?" Takeru looked thoughtful. "How about if we go our separate ways for the rest of today, camp out for the night, and then met tomorrow morning back here."
"All right," I agreed. "So who goes with who?" Even before the words left my mouth, I knew it was a stupid question. Of course Takeru will go with Hikari. They’d want to take advantage of the opportunity to be together. It’s stupid to think…
"That’s a good question." There was an odd look in Hikari’s eyes as she looked up at Takeru – an almost pleading look. "Takeru?" She deferred the question to him.
I assumed that she was trying to make it less obvious that she and Takeru would inevitably be together, so I nearly had a heart attack when he turned and smiled at me. "Mind if I go with you, Iori?" he asked simply.
My mouth fell open; I must’ve looked like a gaping fish. "But… you… I… wha… huh… uhhhh…" All that seemed to come out of my throat were little stuttered syllables; I had to be looking really stupid right about then.
Takeru tilted his head to the side, looking puzzled. "But…?" he prompted, still fixing me with that heart-stopping blue-eyed gaze. "Did you not want me for a scouting partner?"
"No, no, I do!" I blurted out, afraid that he’d change his mind and go back to Hikari. "I do want you!" Then I realized what I’d said, and hastily added, "for a scouting partner!"
Takeru gave me another achingly gorgeous smile, and I heard Miyako giggle, but didn’t care. He’s so perfect… "Great," the blond said, sounding genuinely pleased. "Let’s go get ready to fly." He walked off toward Pekkue.
"Sure!" I watched him for a second, feeling fluttery inside at the thought of a whole afternoon and evening spent with the focus of all my dreams. He chose me! Not Hikari! Maybe there was hope yet.
I hurried off to get Ayviar’s gear ready.
** HIKARI **
I aimed a grateful look at Takeru’s retreating back, then turned back to smile at Miyako. "Guess that means the two of us are scouting partners, then," I said, silently exulting. Finally some time alone with her… I owed Takeru, big time, and I doubted that he’d let me forget it. Maybe I’ll even work up the nerve to tell her…
"It’ll be fun!" she grinned. "Just us girls, without the boys around to bug us!" Then she snickered and looked after our younger friend. "Isn’t Iori cute? He’s so… obvious, don’t you think? It’s so adorable!"
"You mean his crush on Takeru?" I had noticed; you’d have to have gone blind and deaf during that little scene to miss it. I was willing to bet that Takeru still wouldn’t believe it, though.
"Yeah. Isn’t it sweet?" Miyako smiled, looking beautiful enough to make my heart start to pound. "I sure hope he doesn’t get too involved, though. I really wouldn’t want him to have his heart broken when he finds out he doesn’t have a chance of being with Takeru."
I blinked, startled by that. "What do you mean?" Iori, not having a chance with Takeru? Where in the world had she gotten that idea?
"Oh, come on, Kari!" She laughed, but it sounded a little too high. "You think the rest of us haven’t figured it out? We all know about you and Takeru – it’s not like it’s a big secret or anything!"
I felt like the bottom had dropped out of my stomach. "Me… and Takeru?" I repeated, incredulously. "Where on earth did you get that idea?" That was like… incest, or something! Well, it felt like it, anyway…
She stared at me. "You mean you’re not together?"
"Of course not! Gods, we’re like brother and sister!" I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. They all actually thought that we were…? Ew! "It’d be like… like being with Taichi! In more ways than one!"
Miyako looked utterly baffled. "What do you mean by that?"
"Takeru doesn’t like girls like that, Miya," I explained patiently. "I’ve known that for years. Plus, he’s gone through about a million crushes – including one on Dai – and he’s been madly in love – with Iori, I might add – for over a year now."
She just gaped at me.
I shook my head, feeling a bit bemused myself. "I can’t believe you assumed… did all three of you think that Takeru and I were secretly seeing each other? Without telling you?"
"I… we never talked about it, really." Miyako looked away, embarrassed. "But I know I always thought…" She stopped, as if something had occurred to her. "But your dragons are mated, Hikari! Why – ?"
"So? Does that mean we automatically have to fall in love?" I sighed, and looked over to where Gyvera was seeing Pekkue off. "Our dragons do love each other, but we don’t share the same kind of bond. We’re not them. Besides, what if Gyvera had mated with a Rider-less dragon of some kind? Then I’d be out of luck entirely!"
"That does make sense," Miyako admitted, gazing at me apologetically. Her eyes were big and brown and dripping with sincerity. I wanted to melt. Oh Miya… "I’m sorry, Kari. I shouldn’t have just assumed that…"
"It’s all right." I brushed it aside, smiling. "You didn’t know. I don’t mind at all."
She was still looking at me, eyes thoughtful in a way that made my heart jump. "I guess we should be going, then!" she said finally, cheerfully, and turned to stroll off toward Hukaan.
I moved over to my waiting Silver, still thinking about the look in her eyes. If I could only tell you… how beautiful I think you really are… Some day. I promise, Miyako.
** DAISUKE **
Vrekk was totally ready to go, I could tell. Even from where I was standing, he seemed to be moving around quite a bit, flexing his wings, shifting impatiently. I grinned. Well, I won’t make him wait too long…
"Daisuke." Before I could move to run over to my partner, a hand grabbed my shoulder. I turned around to find Taichi grinning at me. "Can I talk to you for a minute before you leave?"
"Sure!" I turned completely and faced him. "What is it?"
"I heard about your ‘adventure’ when one of Takeru’s messengers told Yamato," he began. There was a teasing look in his eyes, but I had a feeling he wasn’t just wanting to make fun of me. "That new DragonRider kissed you, huh?"
"Uhhh… yeah," I admitted, really fast, feeling my cheeks heat. "I was too surprised to move away."
He nodded. "That makes sense. I know I wouldn’t have been expecting it. I’m just wondering…" His grin turned into more of a smirk. "When you find this person, what are you going to say when they start openly pursuing you? I thought you were totally smitten with that imaginary ‘angel’."
I scowled. "My angel is not imaginary!"
"Whatever." He shrugged. "So what are you going to tell this person?"
"Oh… I dunno." I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling embarrassed and sort of confused. "What am I supposed to say? ‘Sorry, but I’m in love with an angel’? They’d never believe me, not in a million years!"
Taichi’s face went serious for a moment, which was pretty rare for him. I figured he had something real important to say, so I paid close attention. "I think you should forget about that angel of yours, Daisuke," he told me. "At least for right now."
"Forget my angel?" I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! "But Taichi, I – "
"Wait, hear me out!" He put his hands on my shoulders to calm me down, and looked right into my eyes, as if trying to drive a point home. "Even if you did see an angel, do you honestly think the two of you are ever gonna get a chance to be together? At least with this new DragonRider person, you’ve got someone real. And, who knows, maybe they’ll make you happy. You never know until you try."
"I dunno." I shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. The image of blue-violet eyes flashed through my head, and I felt that warm hand resting over my heart again. "I’m not sure I can."
"Oh." He took his hands back and gave me a smile. "Well, just promise you’ll try, all right? You’re one of my closest friends, and I’d rather not see you get hurt or be lonely or anything. You know?"
"Okay!" I was relieved to see him behaving a little more normally. "See you later, Taichi!" I told him, and took off toward where Vrekk was waiting for me. My angel is real, I thought stubbornly. And I’ll wait forever for us to be together – no matter what happens!
No matter how much I really, really enjoyed that kiss…