• Who Needs Petals?

    Dice sighed, rubbing a pale hand down his face. He held a flyer in his other hand. It was a pink flyer, with bright purple text proclaiming “Annual Flower Festival” in large, fancy letters. It was a huge contrast against his dark demeanor—the black jacket and dark blue denim jeans, not to mention his darker-than-a-new-moon-night hair sweeping across his face—and he wasn’t looking very pleased with it. His visage showed more emotion than it normally did in public (a few of the Tanak Town denizens stared at him with curiosity). His ice blue eyes scanned over the flyer again before he folded it and shoved it into his pocket. He looked up and two girls that had been standing nearby, staring with wonder at him, giggled (a bit fearfully) and hurried away towards the marketplace.

    The young man finished running the errands he’d been sent to do, looking odd again as he carried brown bags of groceries up the steps to the top level terrace. He walked along the small terrace, past a couple of houses before reaching the Sanzo home. He didn’t stay at the house often, not with the Vampire Organization headquarters being so close, but when Bella was in town he figured she liked the open atmosphere of the house better than the underground base. She’d made friends with Samina and Heihachi, Sakura’s sister-in-law and brother, anyway so it was just a better place for her.

    He struggled with the door, dropping a few cans of cat food on the front patio before finally getting the door open. He set the bags down on the table just inside the door, shooting a look towards the couch where his long time friend, Kiyoshi Aomori, was lounging, half asleep. He walked back out to get the cat food, stepped inside, leaned on the door to shut it, and then promptly chucked a can at Kiyoshi’s head.

    The can found its mark before the Aryan elf could respond, and a groggy “Ouch!” filled the empty space of the room. “What the hell was that for?” the elf demanded in his noble accent, though it was a bit slurred from his lack of sleep.

    “You could have helped.” Dice said, placing the cans back in the bag, but he was saved from having to pick them back up.

    “About time!” Sakura grumbled, walking into the living room, flanked by Bella and Samina.

    The shorter of the girls just about flew to him, a huge grin on her face. “What took you so long?” Bella asked as she took one of the paper bags. As she stood behind the couch Kiyoshi reached over and plucked the dented can of cat food into the bag.

    Dice put a hand to his back pocket where the flyer was, but he changed his mind. He would show her away from all these witness. “I’ll show you later.” He said simply, meaning only for her to hear.

    “Ooh, Dice must’ve bought somethin’ dirty!” Sakura teased as she walked over, picking up the other paper bag and carrying it to Samina, a smirking grin on her face. She literally dropped the bag into Samina’s arms.

    The red haired vampire nearly lost her hold on it, her glasses going askew as she struggled to get the bag stable in her arms. “Thanks, Sakura,” she muttered sarcastically.

    “I didn’t buy anything dirty,” Dice hissed at her, narrowing his eyes.

    Sakura smiled innocently and sat on the armchair of the couch, looking down at Kiyoshi. She blinked her eyes. “Y’r actually awake?”

    “Dice threw a can at me.” Kiyoshi complained, rubbing his head as if the spot hurt. He could hardly contain a smirk.

    “You’re a wuss.” Dice accused. He stood outside the archway leading to the kitchen, waiting on Bella to reemerge.

    Sakura stuck her tongue out at Dice and kicked at him. He simply bent his form away from her and grabbed her ankle, pulling her off her perch. She yelped as she hit the floor, grabbing a throw pillow in the process and launching it at him.

    Dice caught it and smirked, clutching one corner and proceeding to pummel her with it.

    “Ah! Stop it!” Sakura growled but it was interrupted by her laughter as she wiggled on the floor, covering her head with her arms. “Kiyoshi, save me! Bella! Rein him in!”

    Bella poked her head out of the kitchen, her face curious, and she laughed at the scene before her. It was rare that she got to see Dice interacting with his friends in such a carefree manner, so she simply stood by and watched him, smiling.

    Kiyoshi rolled forwards, grabbing the throw pillow at the end of the couch. As he rolled back he threw the pillow at Dice, not aiming very well. Dice’s arm shot out to hit it before it could make contact with him, but when he deflected it the pillow hit Bella instead.

    Everyone stopped and turned to look at the fiery red head. She stood there, looking scandalized, before bending slowly to pick the pillow up. She pressed her lips together tightly, angrily, as she turned the pillow around in her hands, squeezing the edges. They waited in silence.

    “That’s it!” Bella suddenly exclaimed and charged Dice, hitting him with the pillow as she collided with him. He caught her and nearly smiled.

    Sakura laughed and tripped Dice as Bella made contact with him so that the momentum continued and they both collapsed on top of Kiyoshi.

    “Get off of me!” the elf exclaimed. Sakura laughed and joined in, sitting on top of the wiggling dog pile with an impish, fanged grin on her face. “I win!”


    “You have to wear a yukata to the festival.”

    “A what?” Dice leaned forward toward his friend, lifting his eyebrows as if he hadn’t heard him right. “What the hell is that?”

    Kiyoshi made a face and then turned in the computer chair he was in and opened Sakura’s laptop. They were sitting in her room, Dice sitting on the arm of her loveseat and Kiyoshi at the nearby desk. He typed in her password when prompted for it and waited for the computer to load.

    “Should I be worried?” Dice asked, his face looking slightly fearful of what he might have to wear. If it was totally ridiculous he would just rip up the flyer and hope Bella wouldn’t notice a huge festival taking place under her nose.

    Kiyoshi didn’t answer. He just pulled up the internet and googled an image of a yukata. He found the most harmless picture he could—a man wearing a dark colored yukata next to a woman in a flowery, yellow kimono—and turned the computer in his direction.

    Dice grimaced visibly and looked down at the flyer. Sure enough, at the bottom it said, “Attire: Japanese style! Yukatas and kimonos!” in happy letters and colors like it was a wondrous thing. He went to tear the flyer in half.

    “You really think she won’t notice?” Kiyoshi questioned disbelievingly, raising one eyebrow at his elf-vampire hybrid of a friend.

    Dice sighed. “I don’t want to wear that,” he mumbled, fiddling with the slightly ripped edge of the pink flyer. It hurt his eyes. After a moment he looked over at Kiyoshi. “Are you going?”

    “Most likely.”

    “Have you gone before?”

    “No, I got out of it last year when Vael showed up,” he said, a hint of jealousy in his voice.

    “You want to go that badly?” Dice smirked, knowing that that wasn’t the source of his jealousy.

    Kiyoshi looked at him skeptically, letting his head fall to the side slightly. “Oh yeah.” He replied in a sarcastic tone.

    “I can’t believe Sakura’s into that sort of thing.” Dice looked back at the flyer. Pink, purple, flowers, kimonos…it might be a Bella thing, but not a Sakura thing.

    “She’s important to this town. She’s really good friends with Mayor Tsuyoshi.” Kiyoshi replied. “I guess that entitles her to go.”

    “That means Bella is sure to know.” Dice said, he was beginning to recognize defeat.

    “If Sakura doesn’t tell her she’ll definitely get suspicious when the town begins to decorate and pull everything together.”

    Dice sighed and stood up. “I lose.” How bad could it be?


    He found Bella sitting in the guest room where they stayed. She was folding her freshly laundered clothes and placing them neatly in their drawers. She smiled when he entered the room but didn’t pause in her work.

    “Hey, what’s up?” she asked cheerfully as she placed a rather floral looking shirt into the drawer.

    Dice only shrugged in response, crossing the room to sit in the large armchair next to the window. The window was open and the warm air wafted in, bringing with it the smell of sea salt and newly blossomed flowers. He sat down in the armchair and watched quietly as she finished up her chore.

    Bella was used to him not saying much and responding to her questions with nods, shrugs, or just looks. Though the latter, not so much. Dice hardly changed his facial expression; he was able to hide mild emotions from his visage and his tone of voice. Stronger emotions, not so much.

    She closed the door and strolled over to him, flopping down into his lap and wrapping her arms around his neck; Dice’s arms wrapped around her small waist. She was almost like a child compared to him, though he really wasn’t all that big; kind of tall and thinly built. Her made-of-silk red hair was just about longer than she was and glistened brilliantly in the sun the filtered in from the window, but she still claimed to be jealous of his hair.

    She smiled at him. After a few moments of just gazing silently into her beautiful face Dice sighed. Bella blinked, looking confused and curious as she cocked her head to the side and asked, “What’s wrong?”

    Dice removed one arm from around her waist and retrieved the flyer from his pocket. He unfolded it, with a little difficulty, and handed it to her before returning his arm.

    The young mage kept one arm around his neck, using the other to hold the flyer. Her emerald eyes ran over the text quickly, and then ran back over it. She looked at him as if trying to figure something out, and then read the flyer again. “The Flower Festival?”

    Dice swallowed. “Would you…like to go?” he tried to flick his bangs from his eyes, but they just fell back over.

    Bella began to grin but she reined it in to a small smile. “You want to go? You have to wear a yukata.” Of course she would pay attention to that fact.

    “I know,” I replied through my teeth. She laughed.

    “You don’t have to go for me.” She said, smiling. He could tell by the type of smile that she really did want to go.

    “Yes, I do.”

    She raised an eyebrow. “And why’s that?”

    “Because I’m not going to go for myself.”

    She laughed again. Dice enjoyed the sound. He never really made people laugh, but to hear her was like music.

    “Are you sure?” she asked to confirm. She didn’t want to make him do something he didn’t want to do, but she didn’t understand that he wanted to do it if it made her happy. Dice wasn’t a materialistic guy, but he liked to make her happy and this was one way to do that.

    Bella grinned fully and brought both her hands to cup his face as she kissed him. Dice tightened his grip around her, his thumb caressing the small of her back as he returned her kiss. She settled against his chest, leaning her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes, listening to his heartbeat. The flyer floated to the ground at his feet.


    Dice stood at the threshold of the store, refusing to go any further. He had a grim look on his face, even for him.

    Kiyoshi stopped when he realized that Dice was no longer following and turned to look at him. He sighed. “Now what?”

    “I changed my mind.”

    “It’s too late, you already told Bella you were going to go.”

    “You go with her.”

    Kiyoshi laughed and walked back over to his friend. He grabbed the front of his jacket and dragged him over the threshold. “Sorry, I’m already taken.”

    Dice walked heavily, his foot falling on the ground like it weighed a ton. He wrenched his jacket out of Kiyoshi’s grip and sulked, following him through the shop to the back. He looked at the racks of yukatas in front of him. The store was selling them especially for the festival. Judging from the other attire sold it wasn’t a normal item.

    Kiyoshi and Dice looked at each other. It was weird. Guys just…didn’t shop together.

    “Meet you at the counter?” Kiyoshi suggested.

    Dice just nodded.

    He went the other end of the rack and began to look at the yukatas, grimacing visibly at many of them. Every so often he glanced over at the counter, where a smiling brunette was staring at them both. He wondered how high her IQ level was before turning back to his…shopping.

    After about five minutes he found a harmless yukata. It was black with a white pattern that reminded him of windblown paint on a canvas. He grudgingly tried it on, refusing to look in the mirror. Happy—well, relatively speaking, he went to the counter and paid for it. The brunette continued to smile widely at him so he decided to go outside and wait. He stood and watched as the people ran this way and that getting things ready for the festival. The smell of flowers was strong, almost overpowering the salt smell from the ocean.


    The next night Dice stood outside the house, clad in his new yukata. From the highest terrace of the town he could look down on the festival. They had paper lanterns strung through the area, lighting it effectively. Booths of food, games, and souvenirs were set up at intervals and Pax, the town troubadour, stood on a small stage, singing every tune he had in his arsenal. All different kinds of flowers decorated every inch of the area. There was a flower arranging contest, different flower sculptures, places to buy flowers and seeds, flowers in all the girls’ hair, and some of the guys even wore flowers on their yukatas. Dice had never seen so many flowers. The atmosphere overwhelmed his senses and he wondered how the full fledged vampires stood it.

    He was distracted by Kiyoshi and Sakura walking past him, Kiyoshi in his equally dark yukata and Sakura in a blood red, white flowered kimono. “See ya down there, Dice.” Sakura called as they walked by, hand in hand.

    Dice just nodded and looked back to the door. He stopped when he saw Bella standing there, smiling shyly at him. She looked beautiful. Her kimono was white with a pattern of blue and purple petals blowing in a breeze. Her hair had been done up into a bun, long pins sticking out of it in a perfect V. Tendrils fell about her face and the sea breeze blew them gently against her face.

    When he didn’t say anything she decided to prompt him. “How do I look?”

    Dice smiled one of his genuine smiles at her—the kind of smile that he reserved for her eyes only. “Better than the flowers.”

    Bella giggled and walked down the steps, her wooden sandals louder than the shoes she usually wore. She made a face at the sound but forgot about it as she walked up to stand in front of him. She smiled at him, but it was different now. This smile was amused.

    “What?” he asked, realizing what was coming. “Do I look that ridiculous?”

    She began to laugh. “No no…you look good.” He wasn’t convinced as she continued to laugh.

    “That’s not fair! I complimented you.” Dice complained, but he smirked.

    “It doesn’t look bad at all,” Bella stopped laughing and smiled, “I’m just not used to it, is all.”

    Dice made a face like he didn’t believe her. Bella just giggled again and wrapped her arm in his. “C’mon, Pouty.”

    They walked down the stairs, passing the other terraces, and entered the festival. It was much louder here. The sound of laughter, excited chatter, music, and even a few expressions of love filled the air. The smell was like a slap in the face for Dice, but the other vampires were obviously used to it already, and their sense of smell was different from his anyway. He began to like the smell against his will.

    Not really interested in anything there, he let Bella drag him to the different booths. As she ogled a bracelet made of preserved stems Dice looked around. He got an idea and turned to Bella. “I’ll meet up with you in a little bit. I want to see something.”

    She blinked and turned to look up at him (way up). “You want me to come with you?”

    Dice shook his head. “No, you keep looking,” he replied and walked away. Bella frowned in confusion but went back to looking at the bracelet.

    Dice approached one of the booths that were selling fresh cut flowers. He groaned inwardly as he noticed the same girl that had sold him the yukata was working this booth. She was leaning her head on the palm of her hand, but when she noticed him she brightened up. “Yes! Can I help you?”

    “I want to buy one flower.” Dice said simply, glancing around for anyone he knew. He noticed Samina and Heihachi not far off, laughing over some knick knack at a booth.

    “Is this for a special someone?” she pried, a look of hopefulness in her eyes.

    “Sure.” Dice replied. He didn’t want to chit chat with her, he just wanted a flower.

    She gave an exaggerated sigh. “She’s a lucky girl. Do I know her?”

    “I hope not.” Dice replied without even thinking.

    She looked offended and straightened up, her visage immediately turning to a haughty glare. “What kind of flower can I get for you, sir?”

    He looked at the selection and racked his brain. Had Bella ever told him what her favorite flower was? The girl waited impatiently for him to answer, ready for him to leave.

    “Look, Dice!” Bella pointed to a garden patch outside a little restaurant in Royal City. It was brightly colored with flowers that had long, patterned petals. Some of the flowers looked like little bugle horns with frilly bells.

    “What?” he asked, uninterested.

    Bella grinned at him, kneeling down to inspect the flowers. “Lilies! I love lilies!”

    “A lily.”

    “What color?”

    “Purple.” Dice answered. He pulled a few coins from his pocket and handed them to her. “Keep the change,” he said quietly and took the flower from her. He left without another glance. He was ready to get away.

    He walked through the full length of the festival, looking for Bella. But he couldn’t find her anywhere. He ran into Kiyoshi and Sakura (she was on top of a table with a bottle of something alcoholic and Kiyoshi and Pax the troubadour were trying to get her down) and he also saw Ling, Liang, and Li-Li Zhui of the V.O., but they didn’t notice him.

    He left the festival and looked down at the beach. He noticed a short figure standing on the beach, looking out at the water where the crescent moon was shining. He walked down the hill to the shore and snuck up behind her quietly. When he was right at her ear he whispered, “You could get mauled all alone, you know.”

    “Eep!” She jumped and spun around to hit him, but he caught her arm.

    “Dice! Don’t do that to me!” she scolded, huffing as a blush broke out on her cheeks.

    “You were asking for it.” He smirked down at her.

    “Where did you go?” she asked immediately, looking at the flower in his hand.

    Dice held it up to her. “To get this.”

    Bella’s face lit up with a smile as she took it. “A lily!” She inhaled its sweet scent deeply, closing her eyes. She let the breath out slowly and opened her eyes to look at him. “Thank you.”

    Dice just smiled, taking the flower from her and placing it between the perfect V shaped hair pins. It was the perfect accent for an already perfect girl.

    Bella was positively fluttering with happiness. She couldn’t contain it and she jumped on him in a hug, her feet unable to touch the ground and her arms wrapped around his neck and shoulders tightly to hold herself up. Dice wrapped his arms around her waist to support her and hugged her to him.

    “I’m so glad you came with me.” she said in his ear. He could hear the smile in his voice, and he loved it.

    “Anything, Bella.”

    The grin grew and she pulled back, landing nimbly on her feet. She looked up at him, happy to see that he was smiling at her too.

    Dice leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. The kiss was deep and passionate. She swore it could have knocked her off her feet and nearly did if he hadn’t pulled her to him. She was engulfed in his arms but she wasn’t complaining—this is where she loved to be.

    When they parted she felt breathless and her face was still pink with a blush. She smiled sheepishly and then smirked. “So, what do you think of flowers now?”

    “They look better on you than they do on me.” He immediately regretted those words. An impish grin broke out on her face. “No, don’t even think it. Bella…” he warned, backing away from her.