It started out just like any other night, everyone had donned their best wear, placed their masks upon their visage, and arrived at the ball. Usually, masquerades were withheld for the utmost auspicious occasions, here however, masquerades were a societal norm; held every night, on some days, there could be two or three balls a night. The dances present an opportunity normal day life could never offer, all members of every social class may go if they desire. It did not matter if one was a lowly proletariat or a wealthy noble, ranks and prejudice of day were tossed aside in the jovial shroud of the night's festivities. Everyone is referred to only by the color of their mask, there, everyone was treated equally; a paradise.
And for the two young men that had just walked in, nothing could be better than equal acceptance.
For those in attendance at the ball, these two young men were no different than any other party-goer, however, in reality it's quite the opposite. One young man was exceptionally tall, with wavy blonde hair, green eyes, was wearing a pair of glasses that were pushed a bit too far up his face due to his burgundy mask, and was clad in a black suit. His companion was notably smaller, closer to average height, he had slightly longer brown hair, silver eyes, a similar suit donned, and a deep purple mask upon his face. These two men were Natsuki Shinomiya and Reiji Kotobuki, somewhat distant cousins whose families both owned successful business enterprises. Men of wealth, in society, they would be envied at and hated by all, but here, in these few select hours, they were no different than a deliveryman.
"Waaah~ I'm never not impressed whenever I walk into one of these ball!" Natsuki squealed, taking in the scene, "I know, I'm always awestruck by the grandness, these guys really pull out all the stops." Reiji replied, making his way to the refreshments and grabbing a glass of punch. "Oh, Nii-san I..." Natsuki started, but was cut off by Reiji bringign a finger to his lips. "No names or relations, you have to call me Purple." he explained, "Oops, I mean Purple, I'm going to go off on my own." Natsuki said and Reiji nodded, "Alright, but remember, we have the meeting tomorrow and our parents will notice we snuck out if we stay out too long, so no more than an hour, meet me at the door." Natsuki gave him a thumbs up and went off.
Reiji looked to the super-sized grandfather clock that was north to the entrance, it read a time between 8:30 and 8:35, meaning the two young men had to leave around 9:30. It almost seemed pointless to go, it was quite the fiasco for the two to escape their homes, Reiji even climbed out his window with the assistance of tied together bed sheets; and most masquerades carried on until the early hours in the morning, it seemed wasteful to arrive late and leave early. But Natsuki had pestered Reiji the entire day, saying there was a feeling in the air saying something good would happen, after the party had been on for two hours, the two escaped their homes and arrived on the scene.
The first roughly half hour Reiji spent was wandering around the large estate, occasionally sipping on his beverage, looking to a clock, he saw it was 9:15, only fifteen minutes remained until his departure. Remembering he had drifted closer to the South Hall and needed to be in the East Hall, Reiji knew it would take at least ten minutes to get to the entrance, he decided to start heading back. While traveling down the corridor, Reiji caught wind of a pleasantly beautiful voice; it was a high tenor and it was singing a soft tune reminiscent to a lullaby. As if in a trance, Reiji wandered to the voice, soon finding himself on a balcony with a man who was slightly taller than him, he had long icy cyan locks, a portion held in a ponytail, piercing eyes of a similar color to his hair, was clad in a white suit and his mask was white with black lining and accents. Though a good portion of his face was covered, Reiji could tell this man was exceedingly beautiful, enraptured by his appearance and voice, Reiji moved closer, the words of the song becoming clearer.
*"Gozen reiji no kane ga nattatte
Konya wa kaesanai ai no uta wa
Shakin', shakin', shakin'!
Dancin', dancin', dancin'! tomaranai ze"
Reiji took an additional step forward, his foot knocking over one of the potted plants that was on the balcony, causing the man to stop singing and turn towards him, "Oops, hope I didn't break anything." Reiji said, picking the pot back up, "Um..." the blue-haired man started, "Oh sorry for interrupting, you have a wonderful voice." the man's lips formed a soft smile, "Thank you, I don't hear that very much." he replied, "Why not? Your voice is beautiful." Reiji affirmed, and the taller's face seemed to be lightly dusted with pink.
"I..." the man seemed to be going to explain why he didn't often receive complements for his stellar voice when he stopped due to another person entering the balcony. Reiji turned around, seeing Natsuki, he immediately realized that he must have taken too long, "Ni... I mean, Purple, we have to go." Natsuki said, "Yes, I know." Reiji answered before turning back to the man and taking one of his hands in his own, "I hope I can see you again." he said, leaning down and placing a kiss on the man's knuckle; with that, he turned and desperately tried to make it home before his parents noticed.
The following night, Reiji suited up for the nightly ball and with nor previous commitments with work or others, left for the masquerade a half hour before it was supposed to begin. The setting was the same manor as the night before, Reiji entered the estate the second the soiree began and took perch at the refreshments table, waiting to see if the mysterious beauty from yesterday would appear. After roughly half an hour of nibbling on finger-foods, Reiji identified his desired target in a crowd of people who were just entering the estate. Reiji noticed that the cyan-haired man was wearing the same suit as yesternight; Reiji chalked it up to the man having an identical suit, however, it made Reiji feel like he was trying too hard, as he was wearing a freshly bought and cleaned brown suit, instead of blackk, with his purple mask.
With a broad smile, Reiji made is way over to the man, "White!" he called, eagerly waving, the man looked around his surroundings and then the man returned the smiles; albeit, smaller and softer. "Hello, Purple." the taller said in response, "I was hoping I'd see you tonight, would you mind accompanying me?" Reiji asked, offering the other a somewhat bent arm, the other's face dusted a paint pink, "Cute..." Reiji thought.
"Sure. the man said, linking on of his arms with Reiji's and his other lightly clung to the arm, Reiji's face flushed and he led the two off, "Would you like to go or do anything specific?" Reiji asked, "To that area we met last night." White answered. Reiji navigated through the main hall to the East Wing and headed down the corridor, eventually reaching the balcony where they had their fated meeting.
The two finally released each other and looked out over the railing, admiring the beautiful courtyard down below, "So, how often do you attend these parties, White?" Reiji asked, trying to make small talk, "I usually come almost every night, when society allows it. Recently, I've been... Busy." the way White said 'busy,' seemed a bit off, Reiji didn't feel it right to ask, but at the same time, he felt that asking would somehow help White. "What do you mean by 'busy?'" Reiji asked.
It seems it would've been better to leave the matter alone, White's face darkened in gloom, as if depressed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you." Reiji said, "No, it's okay. It's just, I wasn't expecting I'd bring up by day life at night..." White mumbled, Reiji paled, he had completely forgot that the masquerades were a time where societal ties were forgotten and there was a silent oath that it wasn't allowed to be brought up; the nightly balls were an escape, not a continuation of daily life.
"I apologize for my impudence, I didn't mean to offend!" Reiji cried, waving his arms around in a dramatic, over-exaggerated fashion, White only shook his head, "No, I apologize, I'm sensitive about my day identity, he's much less respectable than White." the cyan-haired man replied. Reiji cocked a brow, 'less respectable?' What does that even mean? The brown-haired man wasn't sure if he should ask about it, he had already asked one bad question, he didn't want to make it two-for-two. Yet, a little voice was egging him on inside, as if challenging himself to ask; Reiji liked White, he wanted to know more about him, he needed to know more about him.
This desire seeped strength into Reiji's will and he decided to push his luck once more, "What do you mean by 'less respectable?'" he asked, face set in determination, ready to hear anything. White blushed, his eyes attained a slight glaze, the kind of glaze eyes attain when tears will soon fall from them. Reiji felt a burning sensation in the pit of his stomach, as if he ate a spicy pepper, guilt once more taking grasp of his being; but he needed to stay strong, White needed a rock right now, and Reiji knew he had to be that rock.
"White, look, your day persona and night persona are the same person. My interest is in you, not your mask, I want to know the person behind it; not the color of the mask." Reiji affirmed, standing strong. White swallowed a lump in his throat before speaking, "Ai..." he said, Reiji's stance faltered slightly, "Huh?" he asked, pondered, "Ai, my name is Ai... For starters." White, now Ai, said.
"Ai..." Reiji mulled over this in thought, it was a cute name, befitting of the adorable man in front of him, "I'm Reiji." Reiji said, "I'd like to know about you, Ai. Like uh... Well, how old are you? Profession? Why are you ashamed of yourself? Why are you never complimented over your voice." Reiji sprung he questions left and right, barely giving AI an time to react. "I... I'm... Fi... Fifteen..." Ai said, looking aside, Reiji's face fell; fifteen, not only was Ai younger, he was ten years younger, but age is just a number when it comes to love. "I recently started high school, I... My home isn't the best, I was left alone when I was about five, I've been alone ever since..." Reiji wanted to embrace the boy, he couldn't believe he had been in that kind of situation.
Ai took in a deep breath before continuing, "As for the voice and shame... I used to sing on the streets for money, one day, a group of men saw me and assaulted me, insulting my voice, they said I was 'tone deaf' and that I 'didn't deserve to sing.' From there, I had to find a different way to provide for myself. I... I had to do... Things... Horrible things to live this long... Things you're better off not knowing..." A deep rattle resonated throughout Reiji's body as he leapt forward and took Ai into his arms, "Reiji-san?" Ai asked, "You're upset, and a child, children should be held when upset. Ai, I can safely say you're right, I shouldn't know about those aspects of your life... But I want, need to know because what I feel for you is too deep for even myself to comprehend. I don't care who you are or where you came from, all I care about is you and I will take care of you from now on, and don't worry, I'm well off so I won't take 'no' as an answer." Reiji explained, a single tear rolled down Ai's face as he warmly smiled.
Reiji pulled Ai's face down to his level and planted a firm yet gentle kiss there; it was chaste, no tongue, no heated desperation, just calm, solid proof of sincerity of his feelings. Soon after, he pulled away, "May I have this dance?" he asked, offering a hand, "With no music?" Ai questioned, "Who's to stop us?" the brunette countered. Ai smirked and took hold of the hand, the two grasping on to each other and swaying together in the silent harmony of an orchestra as Ai lightly sung his lullaby-esque song under the glow of the ivory moon; the two discarding their masks, lying forgotten on the ground beneath their feet, finally seeing the man behind the mask.