Chapter 34

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Heartbeat. One thumping so hard in Sakura's ears it almost felt like drums- a symphony of a beat racing faster and faster, becoming more irregular in every step she took.

Whatever she felt the first ball, it was gone. She wasn't hiding anymore. The princess was gone. The mask was obliterated. All that was left now was her true, exposed self. The self that held insecurities and problems alike.

They would recognize me. They would totally recognize me, and judge me, and ask why I look different.

Sakura wasn't used to this. Where had the himedere gone, the girl who believed that everything she needed was right under her slippered feet? Where was the confident, badass girl, the one that she'd been searching for her entire life? Was she like a fairy godmother- one that was only available under a mask?


She blinked to see a masked man. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I bump into you?" she said politely. "No, no, I'm fine. You just looked disoriented all of a sudden." She laughed and shook her head. "No, I'm doing just fine- and I'm sorry to ask, but who are you?"

He gave a light chuckle as he lifted his mask up. A held breath was released as she sighed. "Oh. It's just you, Crow." He flipped it back on. "I am very aware that this is not a masquerade party. It is just that there are... people who I don't wish to recognize me."

"That's perfectly acceptable. Are other villagers here, too?"

Crow nodded. "They got a special invitation, from your master himself. Apparently, he's going to make a big announcement that would affect both this manor and the village."

"I do hope he wouldn't do anything rash."

"Chances are, he would. Not to worry though- I knew him for quite some time, and while he is reckless he tends to choose the good over bad. Don't mind it too much."

Sakura laughed. "I haven't the slightest worry at all. You are a great comfort, Crow."

"As to you, Miss Sakura."

The doors opened with a flourish as the two of them stepped inside the magnificent ballroom. Her breath caught.

"It is beautiful. You servants did a wonderful job."

Her head whirled to the source of the voice, and sure enough, he was there. "Welcome," Sasuke bowed to Crow as he pulled Sakura aside. "Feel free to refreshments and drinks, and ask me if you need of any service."

Crow stepped closer to Sasuke. "You are the one called Sasuke Uchiha, are you not?" his mellow voice asked. Sasuke looked right into his eyes. "Yes. Can I help you with anything?"

Crow paused, then shook his head. "Nothing. Nothing at all." He bowed to Sakura, who in turn bowed back. "It was a pleasure speaking with you, Lady Sakura."

"I'm no lady- but thank you, Crow."

After he left, Sasuke turned to her. "Crow?" She chuckled and shook her head. "A villager I helped out a few days back. He insisted for me to call him Crow, for reasons unknown."

"Crow, huh..." He seemed lost in thought until Sakura poked him on the cheek. "Hey, don't worry about it. He seems like a great guy."

"I suppose." Then, suddenly, he kissed her quickly. It was only a quick peck on the lips, but it still made her heart flutter. "What was that for?" she asked, managing to keep her stammering in check. "For being so beautiful. The dress fits fine, right?"

"Like a glove," she said, beaming a smile. "You're amazing, Sasuke."

"So are you."

Before she could kiss him again, a loud clearing of a throat interrupted the two. "Oh! I'm sorry. Welcome to... Mom?!" Sakura shrieked.

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