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Intruders, Dangerous Plots, and Traitorous Miscreants

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Today was no different than any other day, Jirou thought as she woke at dawn to the sound of boisterous laughter flooding in through her window. The thin sheet of glass felt more for show some days, only managing to keep bugs and dirt out of her room but the sounds from the castle grounds always managed to slip in.

After months of living there, she had grown quite used to the sounds of laughter and sword fighting that always traveled from the open grass fields that the knights practiced on every dawn. Now it was sheer habit that woke her every morning, not the clashing of steel.

If she didn’t have her morning cup of coffee accompanied by the racket of the knights, then she would have assumed something had gone very wrong. But the knights weren’t the only ruckus that flooded her tiny house that lay on the outskirts of the castle grounds.

There was also the humming of stable boys as they returned from the well to fetch water for the horses. The chirping of small birds in the neatly trimmed hedges, sounding somehow a bit posher than the birds that lived away from the castle, as if they knew their songs were being heard by nobles. The faint trickle of a fountain that had fallen into disarray years ago now only spouted the tiniest stream of water from its ornate spout.

At first these noises had been nothing but an annoyance to Jirou, but now they were like a melody that greeted her every morning, letting her know that all was well.

Sometimes, a stray cat would wander past her window, sniffing idly at the potted plants she had lined upon the windowsill. On those rare days, she’d set out a saucer of milk, but that was usually the only small diversion from her normal daily routine.

Everything else was a simple and dull routine. Though she wouldn’t ever voice a complaint about the drab passing of identical days, it was as good as she could have hoped for. Most women of her status were farm girls, or mothers, or any number of undesirable fates. Not that she had anything against mothers, or working on a farm, but the last thing she wanted was to be forced into an unhappy marriage in exchange for property or ten goats.

Instead she was a servant to the king’s ward, Yaoyorozu Momo, whom she had come to call a friend. Many of the other servants envied her relationship with the ward, and she certainly didn’t want to take it for granted, but on occasion she wished she could reinvent herself and create a new life. 

Something outside the castle walls would be nice. An adventure, a chance to break away from her mundane routine and explore, to see the world. She’d find herself growing bitter as she watched the knights leave on their travels, off to fight some strange beast or even just patrol the borders. She’d never even seen past castle town.

Only allowing herself to get lost in thought for a few minutes most days, she realized she'd spent far too long day dreaming this morning. Jirou pulled her head from the clouds and returned to her shabby room. She stretched her arms above her head, lazily making her way to her wardrobe to get dressed for the day.

Having wasted most of her morning lost in thought, she didn’t have much time to pull on a clean clothes and run a comb through her hair before hurriedly making her way across the castle grounds to Momo’s living quarters.

As much as Jirou loved Momo, the fact that she woke up at the crack of dawn was absolutely infuriating. Usually Jirou was the first person to enter the hall where Momo’s chambers were located, aside from the occasional knight passing through it was usually deserted. But the faintest sound of footsteps in the distance put her on edge, the knights were all out in the grounds training, she had just passed them a few moments ago. No one should be here at this hour.

“It’s awfully quiet down here, I guess that weasel’s guard schedule was correct. Also said there’s some big treaty the king’s supposed to be signing this month, reckon that’s true?” An unfamiliar voice drawled from around the corner, “He’s supposedly organizing some huge ball in honor of it, wonder if they’ll go through with it after we’ve taken her.”

Skin crawling at the tone of the stranger’s voice, Jirou ducked into the nearest doorway, pulling the door near closed and only leaving a slight crack to peer through.

“Endeavor’s too proud to cancel it even if his beloved ward were missing, or worse,” A second, rougher voice added and Jirou’s heart rate spiked at that the mention of Momo. It sounded as if the pair of men were planning to take Momo, as if they had an inside man that had told them when they could easily take her, as well.

If none of the guards or knights were here it was just Momo and Jirou against the two intruders, but at least Jirou could have the element of surprise, She scanned the room quickly, she gathered that it must be a knight’s quarters due to the various pieces of armor laying scattered around the room.

But she saw nothing she could use to defend herself or Momo, unless she wanted to throw various pieces of equipment at the intruders, which all in all didn’t seem like a great plan. If she waited any longer she’d be too late, if only she could warn Momo somehow-

Jirou crept over to the window quickly, wrapping her fist in the excess fabric from her skirt to protect them, she punched through the window, cringing at the sound of shattering of glass. Her new plan, that she had only just come up with, was to climb out the window and get over to Momo’s room that way, ideally, undetected by the intruders in the hallway.

She only had one leg out the window when a voice spoke up from behind her, almost making her lose her footing, “What the hell are you doing?” A golden haired man had stepped out from behind a folding screen with a quizzical yet concerned look on his face. He looked as if he had just woken up and gotten dressed.

Cursing slightly under her breath, Jirou attempted to pull herself back into the room from the window but he was there a second later, helping her down. A lopsided grin had started to spread across his face, as if pulling a stranger from his broken window was the highlight of his day, but Jirou didn’t have time for this. She shoved him off her and pointed towards the doorway, “You’re a knight aren’t you? There are two intruders in the hall, after Mo- Lady Yaoyorozu, go stop them you doofus, stop smiling!”

“Okay, okay,” He put his hands up defensively as Jirou shoved him towards the doorway, still grinning as if he thought this all was some story she had concocted to explain why she had snuck into his room and broken his window.

“Where’s your sword, idiot?” She snarled as he began to open the door and he pointed lazily towards his wardrobe, and she ran to grab it. Who keeps a sword in a wardrobe, anyway? “I swear on my life, I heard intruders, just follow me, please.”

The pair crept down the hall in the direction of Momo’s chambers, Jirou half expected to run into the intruders in the hall but they made it to her door without interference. She slammed the door open without hesitation, if they weren’t in the hall they had to be in there.

But the door slammed open to reveal Momo, sitting at her desk with a quill in her hand, startled by the sudden intrusion. “Kyouka?”

“Momo, y-you’re alright?” Lowering the sword, Jirou’s heart rate finally returned to normal, her sense of dread replaced with confusion.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Momo’s eyes were full of concern as she stood up, glancing from Jirou’s torn dress and sword to the knight standing next to her. “Sir Kaminari, why aren’t you with the rest of the knights in the grounds?”

“I overslept,” The blonde said with a sheepish grin, and then nudged Jirou in the side, “And she, well we, heard an intruder.”

“You did?”

“I swear I did,” Jirou was desperate for Momo to believe her, for anyone to believe that there was a real and present danger, that she wasn’t making it up. “They must have heard us coming and made a run for it, but they were planning to kidnap you, they even knew the guard schedule, they knew the hall was going to be empty.”

“The hall was empty?” She raised her thin dark brows, now talking to herself more than to Jirou, “There still should have been at least one guard on duty, I’ll have to look into that… But how about you take today off, Kyouka? I can take care of myself for the day and after the scare you’ve had you should rest.”

“I haven’t had a scare-”

“Please, Kyouka,” Her eyes were pleading with Jirou to accept and then it hit her, she needed to take the day off so that Momo could clear up the mess she created without Endeavor firing her. Maids weren’t allowed to burst into knight’s rooms and break windows, to take swords and creep through the hall as if there’s an attacker there. Even if Momo believed her, she had no evidence to protect her with.

“Yes, my Lady,” Jirou nodded politely and left the room quickly, walking as quickly as she could in an attempt to clear the hall before Kaminari followed her out. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quick enough.

“Hey, Kyouka, wait up,” The overly friendly voice of the knight called out behind her.

“It’s Jirou to you,” She corrected quickly, her voice a bit shaky with indecision, faltering between wanting to apologize to the young knight whose morning she had just ruined and wanting to keep her cool in front of him and his smug stupid smile.

“Okay, Jirou, either way, pretty name,” His attempt at complimenting her just resulting in her rolling her eyes and turning away from him again. “No, wait, stop, look I just wanted to ask… Did you really hear an intruder or -”

“I didn’t make it up,” She snapped, her fists balling up as she glowered at him, “I didn’t even realize you were in that room.”

“Why were you climbing out the window?”

“I thought that if I could climb over to Momo’s room I could warn her without running into the intruders.” She sighed, feeling more self conscious by the moment.

His voice was bubbly with laughter, “You thought you could climb all the way over there?”

“It was the adrenaline!” She defended herself, smacking him lightly in the arm, “But what I’m most worried about, aside from looking like I’ve made up an entire story for attention, is that there were actually intruders and now they’ve gotten away and might come back later.”

Kaminari stared back at her for a moment, his face contorted into an expression that she assumed was contemplation but instead just gave off the impression of having indigestion. “Come back to my room.”

Excuse me?”

“Not like that!” He waved his hands quickly as if swatting the insinuation out of the air, “I just meant, come back to my room so we can talk about this, if there’s some kind of plot going on we really shouldn’t be discussing it in public.”

A slight blush crept across her face as she nodded in agreement, letting out a huff as she followed him back into his chambers where the shattered glass of the broken window quickly brought her back down to earth.

“Okay so, you said you heard the intruders, can you tell me more of what they said? Anything might help.” Kaminari crossed his arms as he began to pace.

“They said they had a source in the castle that told them the guard schedule, they called him weasel, and they knew stuff that only people close to the court could know, about a treaty being signed and a ball in honor of it, and then they said that Endeavor probably wouldn’t cancel it even if his ward was missing or worse, which might mean they could be willing to kill her.”

“Now I get why you were so worried,” He let out an exasperated sigh and ran his hands through his mess of golden hair. “So whoever their source was had to have access to the guard schedules and is in the king’s inner circle of advisors or has some way to get information from the advisors.”

“Do you have any ideas then?” Jirou may be the king’s ward’s servant but Momo generally wasn’t included in political decisions and even if she was, probably wouldn’t have let any of information slip to Jirou.

“Uhh,” He scratched the back of neck and grinned again, “Not really, I was just hoping repeating what you said in different words because I was hoping you knew more.”

“Of course you did,” Jirou rolled her eyes and turned to leave the room, “Come on, dumbass.”

Jirou had a plan in mind when she had drug Kaminari off to the library, but as soon as they had reached their destination, her mind went blank. How would a bunch of library books help them find out who two mysterious intruders were? They needed more information than could be found in a bunch of musty old books. They needed guard schedules, lists of people who had access to the information on the king's most recent treaty plans, maybe even lists of all the guests that would be invited to the ball. And they definitely needed more time than the two weeks from now till the ball.

 


 

Yet a week and a half of tracking down every piece of information they could, of late nights pouring over papers Momo had acquired for them, of tracking guard schedules and looking for evidence, they still had no leads. The only hope they had now was that with only a day left till the ball, they would run into the intruders again on their way back into the castle.

“Where are you taking me? You’ve been pulling along for so long you’re going to rip my arm out of its socket,” Jirou grumbled a good fifteen minutes after Kaminari had grabbed her by the hand and took off towards the castle grounds with no explanation.

“Look, it’ll make sense when we get there,” Shaking his head he continued to pull her through the grounds. Jirou still wasn’t convinced that this behavior still wouldn’t make any sense once they reached their destination. But there wasn’t much she could do about that now.

“Oh wow, a clearing in the woods,” She was glaring daggers at him, “Yeah, you’re right! I can totally see why we’re here!”

“We’re here because this is the best place for traitorous miscreants to sneak in!” Kaminari said as if this was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Well thanks for wasting half an hour of our time taking us into the middle of nowhere for a half assed explanation!” Jirou was torn between amused and irritated. On one hand it was sort of cute and funny that he had gotten so excited about his one possible lead that he dragged her all the way out here. But on the other hand Momo was still in danger and they were wasting time. It all seemed fairly pointless and Jirou was ready to turn back to the castle when Kaminari yet again grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her behind a shrub. There was barely a second for her to protest before he’d put his hand over her mouth and shook his head lightly.

It took a moment for Jirou to realized why he had done this, but the faint sound of horse hooves told her he didn’t want the rider seeing them. She considered closing her eyes for a second, thinking it might help her be able to hear a bit better and get a better feel for how many horses might be coming their way. Ultimately, she decided it against it, the last thing she needed was to have her eyes closed when there were possibly “traitorous miscreants” around.

“It’s just knights, damn,” Kaminari leaned against a tree as they watched a pair of knights ride by and continue along the path back into the castle grounds.

“Were you rooting for it to be kidnappers and intruders?” She snorted and he shoved her lightly in return.

“Obviously not,” He seemed to be having a hard time to trying not to laugh, “But if it had been kidnappers and intruders at least then we’d know where they are.”

That was a fair point, but she wasn’t going to give him that one. “But where do we go from here, this was your one and only brilliant idea.”

“No need to sound so sarcastic about it,” He said but he was grinning, “I’ve got an idea, how about you and me go to that ball together this weekend to stake it out?”

“I can’t got to the ball,” She raised her eyebrows, surprised that he even thought that was something he could suggest.

“Why not! Come on, Jirou!” He grabbed her hands in his and she quickly pulled them back, “Okay sorry, I just thought maybe we could add a little fun into the mix of a life threatening mystery!”

“I’m a servant, Kaminari,” This was a conversation they’d had a few times now, each time he had said something flirtatious or looked at her with the huge grin he wore so often around her.

“Soooo?” He drug out the word in a sing song tone, avoiding her eye contact so that he wouldn’t have to see her roll her eyes.

“Soooo,” She mimicked before continuing, “I can’t go to a ball because I’m a servant, and I especially can’t go to a ball with you because you’re a knight and I’m a servant.”

“I don’t care!” Throwing his hands up in the air he continued, “Plus Jirou, you’re ignoring a very important reason why you totally can go!”

“And why’s that?” This was starting to get old, she wasn’t even sure if she would accept his offer to go to the ball even if she could. Why would she?

“Because it's a masked ball,” His reasoning could be easily written off. It wasn't as if wearing a mask and a fancy dress would disguise the fact she was a servant. She didn't know the first thing about behaving like she belonged at a ball. Or rather, that she belonged at a ball as a guest instead of a servant carrying a tray of food.

“Even with a mask I still wouldn’t know how to dance or-“

“I’ll teach you to dance,” His voice was so hopeful that she almost feared what he would say next, “Right now, let's dance, come on.”

She let out a reluctant sigh but took his outstretched hand in hers. His other hand rested lightly on her waist, it wasn't until she gave him a slight smirk of approval that he began to lead. He wasn’t a great dancer but he sure was an enthusiastic one. Spinning seemed to be his favorite part of dancing, and she was suddenly grateful that she hadn't eaten lunch.

It wasn't something she wanted to admit, but dancing with Kaminari put every worry from her mind. Until the sound of a cracking twig made her practically jump out of her skin. All her worries flooded back as they hid behind a tree, his arm instinctively wrapping around her, and for once she didn't mind his touch. In fact she found it comforting.

For a second Jirou thought they had overreacted, the pair of horses that passed along the trail looked just like any other, the men riding on them wore knight's uniforms. She was close to standing when the knight spoke.

“Can’t believe that stupid kitchen wench saw us last time, we need to be more careful,” The carefree voice of the intruder from so many nights ago spoke.

Kitchen wench? ’ Jirou mouthed to Kaminari, slightly offended.

“You need to keep your voice down," The gruff voice of the taller intruder hissed before adding in a quieter tone, "We can't risk being overheard."

"Who's going to overhear us out here?" The first voice laughed, a cold laugh that made her tense up, "Is a squirrel going to hear that we're planning to kidnap and hold the king's ward for ransom and then turn us in to the knights? Oh no! The king's squirrels are out here listening to every wor-"

"Jin! I don't care if the only living creature that can hear us is a cricket," The second voice interrupted again, "After last time we can't be too careful."

Kaminari looked hopefully at Jirou, maybe thinking that the name Jin was familiar to her after their weeks spent pouring over books and notes. Unfortunately, the name meant nothing to her and she shook her head to let him know.

“We need to follow them,” Kaminari muttered, pulling Jirou along like before, but at a much slower pace, watching each step careful to avoid being detected. 

“Then be quiet,” She snapped under her breath as they crept along overgrown underbrush of the forest path.

“I need to get a better look at their faces, if we get closer I might be able to draw a picture of them or something, show the knights who to look for,” It was then she realized Kaminari was not a good whisperer, in fact he was the worst whisperer she’d ever had the misfortune to meet. Even the horses seemed as if they had heard him too.

“Be quiet,” She clenched her teeth and shoved him to the ground, only getting back up when the two men were out of earshot, stretching her hand out to help him up.

“That was so rude,” Kaminari frowned but took her hand, brushing his pants off after standing up.

“You were being too loud dumbass, they would’ve seen us if we hadn’t ducked.”

“We didn’t duck you pushed me! And don’t call me dumbass, I’m a knight ya know?” He stuck his tongue out at her and she nearly snorted. It was hard to believe they had been hiding, fearing discovery, not even two minutes ago. He had a way of bringing out her more playful side, even at times like this.

“Oh yeah, the epitome of chivalry, oh Sir Kaminari, I fall at your fe-“

“Okay okay I get it,” he rolled his eyes, “I won’t play the knight card again if-“ he paused at the skeptical look she gave him before repeating, “IF you agree to go to the ball with me.”

“Or I could just stop talking to you and then I wouldn’t have to hear you play the knight card or have to go to the ball with you.” She retorted, pulling a leaf out of his golden hair.

“Yeah but we both know you’d miss me too much if you did that.” He beamed back at her, running his hands through his hair. Whether it was in an attempt to remove more leaves or just to look cool, she did not know.

“Not as much as I’ll miss my dignity if i agree to go to the ball with you.”

“Wow, that was low,” Laughing, he tried to throw his arm around her but she quickly dodged him.

“Not as low as my bar would have to be for me to agree to go to the ball with you.”

“That was good enough that I can’t even be mad about it,” He snorted, looking a bit surprised at his own reaction, he was about to open his mouth again to make some other snide remark when Jirou cut him off.

“How about this,” She leveled, pointedly staring at the horse trodden path they were following back to the castle, “I’ll go to the ball with you but only because we’re the only ones that know what those guys look like and I want to make sure Momo is safe.”

“Well, that’s better than a no,” He grinned, not saying much else for the duration of their walk.

 


 

“I just hope that you two catch them at the ball,” Momo sighed when Jirou confided in her about her decision to go to the ball with Kaminari. “He’s been sitting outside my door every night and supervising the guard schedule to make sure that another lapse between guards doesn’t happen.”

“Really?” Jirou raised her eyebrows as she sat down next to Momo on her window seat, “He must really care about you.”

Momo let out a laugh, “Oh Kyou,” she shook her head lightly as if addressing a small child who had said something foolish, “He does this for you. He wants to catch these guys because he knows that you’re worried about this. When he’s not off with you or working, he’s talking to me about you.”

Jirou chewed on her lip, mulling it over. But her train of thought was interrupted by Momo again.

“He already asked me if I would let you go to the ball with him and then spent an hour looking at dresses with me.”

“What?” Jirou sputtered falling out of the window seat in shock and quickly standing back up, “I only just agreed to go with him like three hours ago and he went to do some knight stuff right after that.”

“Do some knight stuff?” Momo snickered, hiding her dainty laugh behind her hand, “But anyway, he asked me if he thought you’d go to the ball with him like two days after you met.”

“That’s ridiculous,” She absentmindedly started to unfold and refold the dresses Momo had laid out, just to have something to do with her hands. “Why didn’t you tell him that I can’t go to the ball with him?”

“Because when a cute knight asks you to the ball you say yes,” Momo shrugged and snatched the dresses back from Jirou to stop her incessant folding. “Especially if that knight has already seen you at your worst and still wants to take you to the ball.”

“Who says he’s seen me at my worst?” Jirou muttered indignantly and was immediately met with a skeptical glance from Momo.

“You snuck in his room and broke his window and got him involved with stopping a traitorous plot.”

“Okay, so maybe he has seen me at my worst, but that doesn’t mean I should go to the ball with him.” Jirou yet again felt like she had been talking herself in circles, did no one but her understand that servants and knights weren't supposed to be close? “It’s not like I can have any future with him, so what’s the point of going to a stupid ball and falling for him even more?”

“Even more?”

Jirou ran what she said back through her head taking a few minutes to think before she gave in, “Okay, well, maybe I do want to go to this stupid ball with that idiot and maybe I do have some feelings for him, but it’s not like anything can come from it so what is the point?”

“Kyouka, I’m the king’s ward, I’m best friends with the crowned prince, if you want to be with Kaminari, then you can be with Kaminari! Who’s going to stop you?” Momo reasoned, putting her hands on Jirou's shoulders so that she had to meet her eyes.

Jirou shrugged Momo's hands off of her shoulders, “Uh, maybe the king? He would never let one of his knights be with a commoner -- especially if that commoner is a servant.”

“He’s got to die eventually though?”

"Momo!

“What?” Momo was wearing a shit eating grin that Jirou had rarely ever seen plastered across her usually polite face.

“Momo are you drunk?” Jirou raised an eyebrow, completely shocked by her demeanor. 

Momo gave her a look she’d only seen disappointed mothers wear, “No, I’m not drunk,” Her voice dropped an octave, “Just optimistic.”

“What’s gotten into you?”

“He doesn’t care about anyone, Jirou,” Momo took a comb from her desk and ran it through her hair, though her hair looked so sleek it was likely she had already combed it ten times that day. “He heard me and Shouto talking about the intruder situation. And he said he was going to get rid of you after the ball because of the window and the intruders, he doesn’t believe that there’s any intruders-” She only paused for a moment with her eyes gleaming with tears, “-So, so, Shouto told him that he was the one that broke the window and you were covering for him and he didn’t believe him but, but he couldn’t act on it at least. But I think if anything else happens you’ll be thrown out.”

Jirou couldn’t find a way to reply to that, watching her best friend cry was enough to send her over the edge. “You sure we can’t convince the intruders to kill Endeavor instead?”

The comb clattered on the ground as Momo clutched her side laughing, “Oh god, if only.” It took a few moments for the laughter to dissolve and for Momo’s expression to change back into a bittersweet smile. “Well, at least Shouto will be king one day, and he’d let you marry Kaminari.”

“Woah, woah, woah,” Jirou waved her hands frantically, “Don’t throw around the ‘M’ word. I'm not marrying Kaminari, I just met him.”

“Sorry!” Momo threw her a playful grin and then lead her back to the wardrobe, “But now you know just how important it is to find the intruders at the ball so get to picking a dress!”

“How can you go from being on the brink of tears to wanting to look at dresses?” Shaking her head in disbelief, Jirou peered past Momo into the wardrobe.

“I’ve been in court for years, I’ve been holding in tears since I was a teenager,” Momo grabbed a green gown out of the wardrobe, looked it up and down, and then replaced it with a purple gown, “There, try this on.”

 


 

“You look amazing, Jirou,” Kaminari grinned as the door to Momo’s chambers swung open and then nodded politely at Momo, “I see you went with the purple dress, good choice.”

“Wha- So you really did look at dresses with Momo?” Jirou snorted, letting Kaminari step into the room. Momo excused herself quickly, muttering something about needing to speak to Shouto before the ball.

“Of course, that’s how I got this,” He pulled a purple rose out from behind his back, looking rather pleased with himself.

“That’s sweet,” She took the flower, trying not to smile too broadly, “How did you get a purple rose? I’ve never seen one before you must have gone through a lot of trouble to get that.”

“That’s not important! What’s important is that your flower matches your dress, how else could that happen if I didn't get a purple rose?” 

“You know that other purple flowers exist right?” She joked and he chewed on his lip nervously, making Jirou wonder if he actually knew any flowers aside from roses existed. 

“Yeah, of course I do,” He rolled his eyes but continued chew on his lip as he took her by the arm, “Come on Jirou, we have a kidnapping to stop and dancing to do!”

The walk to the ballroom felt as if it took hours despite the fact she knew it only took ten minutes to walk from Momo's chambers to there. Every distant footstep sent chills down her spine, each muffled whisper from around a corner made her breath catch. Her ears strained as she tried to catch every passing conversation.

After a while on edge, Jirou snapped, “Look, let’s just find Momo again, if we follow her around we’ll eventually run into the intruders, and if we don’t then at least we still know Momo is safe.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Kaminari agreed, throwing a concerned glance at her before following her to the center of the ballroom, “As long as we get to dance.”

“We can dance to remain inconspicuous but that’s it,” She reasoned, ignoring the growing heat across her face. This was just part of their cover, she reminded herself.

“An inconspicuous dance is better than none,” He said with his hand outstretched, wearing the same dorky grin he had worn the first time they had danced, back in the forest.

Rhythm always came naturally to Jirou, when she heard a new melody it felt as if she had known it all along. She could pick up practically any instrument and replay a song she’d only heard once. Naturally, this made her think that she’d be able to dance quite well.

“Sorry!” She squeaked as she stepped on Kaminari’s foot again.

She was wrong.

Her rhythm didn’t seem to transfer over to dancing. Or to dancing in public at least, she’d done fine in the dappled light of the forest where only Kaminari and a few squirrels were there to witness any mistakes or stumbles. It all felt so natural in the forest with him but now, surrounded by lords, ladies, and potential intruders (or traitorous miscreants), she couldn’t stop herself from tripping over her own feet.

Kaminari leaned towards her and for a moment her stomach fluttered, she wondered for a moment if he was about to kiss her when he whispered in her ear, “Do you want to step out and get some air?”

“But Momo-“

“-Is surrounded by knights and is currently dancing with the captain of the guards,” He lead her to the side of the room despite her protests, “I’m sure she’ll be fine if we step out for five minutes. Plus there’s a beautiful garden you have to see.”

“I’ve seen the garden before,” She grumbled as she followed him towards the gardens, terrified to let her best friend out of her field of vision for even a moment, but knowing she was safe with Iida.

“You haven’t seen them like this before,” Kaminari insisted, still not letting go of her hand as he led her into the gardens. The paths that she’d walked a million times were transformed by the presence of shimmering lanterns, lining the paths and floating in the ponds.

“I guess it is kind of beautiful.” Jirou was lying it was completely beautiful, if it hadn't been for her fears or her determination to not fall for him, she might have voiced her opinions on how gorgeous the garden really was out loud.

Kaminari held out his hand again and she took it without hesitation. Maybe it was just the nerves of having a crowd watch her that made her stumble before, because in that garden with Kaminari it was so easy to dance again. It was easy to forget about the intruders, to forget that the past two weeks they’d spent together were only to make sure Momo was safe.

“Can I kiss you?” It took her a moment to process what he had said, hearing his voice as if from across the room instead of right in front of her. She couldn’t find the words to respond, simply nodding.

His hand, once at her waist, moved to behind her head. Their lips only barely brushed when Jirou heard the sound of swords being drawn and pulled back.

“You’re the Lady Yaoyorozu’s maid,” The now familiar, gruff voice spoke and Jirou turned to meet the eyes of its owner for the first time. Or rather, she met his eye, as he only had one. Where his left eye should have been, a mass of scar tissue was instead. The sword the one eyed man was wielding was at her throat not a second later. “You’re going to get us into her chambers tonight or you’re going to have your neck sliced open.”

“Hand her over,” The second voice demanded, accompanied by the sensation of another blade poking against the small of her back. She didn't have to turn to know this was the voice of the shorter intruder, the one named Jin.

Jirou practically did a double take as she felt Kaminari’s hands slide away from her, watching him step back as her heart pounded, her eyes pleading with him. She had heard Jin tell Kaminari to hand her over, but she hadn't expected him to actually comply with it. She thought he would have some ridiculous plan ready from the moment the one eyed man's sword had rested against her neck.

The swords pointed at her lowered as soon as Kaminari had stepped back, but the moment of relief for the intruders was short lived as Kaminari drew his own sword, pushing Jirou aside and quickly disarming Jin. With a swift knock to the head from Kaminari's sword, Jin had found his place in the dirt at their feet, unmoving.

The one eyed man, who Jirou now had no doubt was the more experienced of the two, was not going to be defeated as easily as his companion. Jirou’s heart pounded as she watched the man take wild swings at Kaminari. He dodged the attacks with ease, which would have reassured her had she not noticed he hadn’t been able to get in any of his own hits against his opponent.

Adrenaline was coursing through her veins as she spotted the sword in the hand of the fallen intruder, she took advantage of a rather clumsy swing by the one eyed man to grab Jin's sword from his limp hands. Panic gripped her for a moment, what was she supposed to do? Should she threaten the one eyed man and hope he surrenders in the face of fighting two people? Or was it a safer bet to just stick him with the sword and make sure he was put out of commission.

The questions racing through her head were put to an end when the man lunged at Kaminari, catching him by the shoulder and digging in. The sight of blood made Jirou’s body move without thought, she brought the man to his knees with one swift blow to the back of his knees.

“Quick, go get reinforcements,” Kaminari told her as he clutched at his shoulder, still not moving from pointing his sword at the man on his knees.

Jirou only hesitated for a moment, allowing herself to glance back at Kaminari one more time before running through the beautifully lit garden back to the ballroom. The first knights she came across looked vaguely familiar, but it didn't matter to her who they were as she grabbed them, leading them back to the garden.

The two knights were able to bind the hands of the already defeated intruders and drag them to the dungeons, leaving Jirou to take Kaminari to the infirmary, despite his insistence that he was fine and didn’t need any medical attention. She did her best to help him to his feet, hoping Momo wouldn't be too mad about the blood that was now running onto her dress.

It took a few days for Kaminari to come back around, the blood loss and a slight infection of the wound keeping him in the infirmary for longer than she expected or hoped. She had made a point to visit him every day, Momo had given her some time off to visit him but it had felt rather pointless to simply sit in silence waiting for him to wake.

“Jirou,” His voice was raspy the morning he finally woke, she had decided to limit her visits to every meal and had happened to stop by just a few minutes before he woke. He took her hand in his and smiled up at her meekly as she grinned down at him. “Can you do me a favor?”

“Anything.”

“Will you kiss me?”

“Are you serious?” She sputtered her cheeks growing hot again and a slight laugh bubbling in her throat.

“Dead serious,” His smile had faded slightly but his eyes were still light, “We were interrupted before, now that there's no traitorous miscreants around I'd like to resume.”

Jirou shook her head, chucking under her breath, and leaned forward to press a kiss to his forehead.

“That was lame, Jirou.” He laughed and sat up in his bed, blinking slowly as he adjusted to sitting up for the first time since his arrival in the infirmary, “Kiss me like you would’ve in the garden.”

And so she kissed him, a real kiss, a kiss that made her forget they were in the infirmary. A kiss that made her forget they had faced danger only a few days ago. A kiss that made her forget, for just a moment, that she was a servant and he was a knight.