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"Floating Castle" by Penguiduck


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For perfect-to-stay (aka, laughingwithbrokeneyes on Quizilla) who has won the Quizilla division of my latest Jaharaan Love ABC competition. She has requested a one-shot with Howl as her prize.

First of all, I'd like to make clear that this is not a one-shot-- this is a two-shot. XD I really couldn't fit everything that I wanted to in one section or else it'd be one hell of a one-shot.

Second of all, "Floating Castle" is not what I originally intended to call this piece, but what I wanted to call it would have given away the ending of the second half, so I resorted to calling it something else. :3

And third, this has potential to be a series all its own. I realized that as I was writing it-- there's so much that I can put into this storyline. As of now, I have way too much on my plate, but if I get a lot of positive feedback, that's certainly a possibility in the future. :D

And I hope you enjoy! Congrats to laughingwithbroken eyes for winning my contest! Please look for the second part, which I will post in July after I get back from vacation.

It had been two years since Sophie left him.

At first, he felt as though he had lost half of himself-- the better half of himself. Even though she had returned his long-lost heart to him, he almost wished that she hadn't. Without it, he at least never felt this sort of emotional pain. He compared it to having his heart carved out little by little with a thousand wooden toothpicks.

Calcifer, the fire demon, talked to him, making jokes or silly remarks to would have made him smile before. Markl, the apprentice, tried to distract him by asking for magic lessons and reassurance with his spells. Heen, the dog, would often bark happily and beg to be petted.

But his friends could only do so much.

Countless times Howl had wondered why she had chosen to leave him. Sophie said that she was fed up with his laziness and mischievous, childish antics. He didn't think that was why she left, however. In truth, it seemed that she was afraid, afraid of change. She dealt with the magic because she needed a haven after being transformed into an old lady, but now that she was back to her young self and her original spark of love for Howl faded, she was gone.

Howl was left in his depressed state, often sitting by the window of his grand castle and gazing out the window.

It was hopeless.

...at least, it certainly seemed that way until she came along.

---

"_____..! Wake up! It's time for lessons! I can't believe you're still sleeping, you lazy bum!" You were shaken awake by a familiar voice. When you opened your eyes and lifted your head from the pillow, you were greeted with your roommate's smiling face.

You rubbed your face tiredly. "Good lord, Celest... what time is it?"

"It's nearly seven thirty already. You should have been up an hour ago," she replied, throwing your covers aside for you. "You know how Madame Suliman is when her students are late... she gets awfully angry, and it's our first day of our last year! You at least can't be late to the first day of class..!"

With a groan, you finally managed to roll out of your warm bed. "Alright, I'm up..." you said. "Just give me a coupla minutes and I'll be ready to leave."

"Just hurry! I don't want to make Madame Suliman mad because we're tardy."

You grabbed your towel and soap, and made your way to the community showers. Kingsbury's Academy of Magic was unmatched by any other in the country, and you were fortunate enough to have been accepted at an early age. Admission was extremely selective-- in fact, all of the incoming students each year, of which there were only about fifty, were hand-picked by Madame Suliman herself.

Your 22nd birthday would be this year; you would also be graduating from Kingsbury's Academy of Magic, assuming you could complete your sixth year of study and pass your exams. You would also have to submit your thesis, which you had hardly even thought about. Many other students had already begun doing research, and you had no idea what you would be studying.

Since you often spent many late nights studying, you valued sleep more than waking up early to get ready. (Even though today was your first day of classes, you had spent the night reviewing your spells.) As long as you were clean and presentable, you didn't really care about your appearance. You drenched yourself in the shower, lathering your body with soap and your hair with shampoo.

When you stepped out, you waved your hand, casting a spell so that your hair would dry. Without the time to tame it, you simply tied it up in a bun, letting the stray layers flow this way and that.

You then pulled on your school uniform-- a white, collared shirt and another deep blue shirt that went over it, almost like a vest. It was tight enough to show your figure, but still modest. A dark gray skirt accompanied the top, flowing to your knees where it ended in a trim, the same shade of blue as your vest and gold. Underneath the skirt, all girls were required to wear a pair of white tights, which were stuffed into calf-length boots, charcoal, blue and gold. Along the shoulder of the vest were buttons that attached a short cape which ran down to your thighs. This was the look of the girls who attended Kingsbury's Academy of Magic.

Racing back to your dorm room, you passed some of your friends, already prepared to leave for class. With a quick wave of your hand, you bid them a good morning. As you stumbled back into your room, Celest was there waiting, her hands folded onto her hips.

"Are you ready now?" She seemed awfully impatient, though she had the right to be-- you only had five minutes to get to class!

You grabbed your book bag, which your slung over your shoulder. "Ready!" Your stomach grumbled hungrily, but breakfast would just have to wait.

It was almost as though Celest read your mind. She shoved an apple into your hand. "Got this for you; I figured that you were still asleep when you weren't at breakfast." She knew you too well. It paid to have had the same roommate for the past five years.

"Thanks," you responded, grateful for the apple. "Let's get going then."

---

Howl had resorted to drinking, which Calcifer did not approve of; now that he was powering the castle of his own free will, the fire demon forbade Howl from bringing in any alcohol, and the wizard could do nothing about it. Instead, he had to go to bars or taverns in order to satiate his thirst, which he did several days a week. Tonight was one of those nights.

It just so happened that you were at one of the most popular bars that night, celebrating the beginning of your sixth year at the academy with a round of drinks and close friends. At the end of the year, you would be all graduating, and as you sat around one of the circular tables, your friends shared stories of what they wanted to do when that time finally came.

"You know," Pierre began, slicking back his gelled hair. "I'd love to work as an official in the military. I think it'd certainly be interesting, mixing magic and combat." He had a large interest in politics and was as patriotic as they came.

"Well, with your diploma from Kingsbury's, you won't have much trouble getting a high position," Celest replied, sipping from her martini glass. "A diploma from Kingsbury's means a lot, you know. It's the best magic school around."

"Yeah!" Thomas chimed in. "It's great. I love being one of Kingsbury's students... we can pretty much get any occupation that we want once we graduate. Our diploma is like having an automatic stamp of approval. Anyone is willing to hire us."

Your friend Lenora said, "It's pretty much the best thing that's happened to me, being accepted into Kingsbury's. I mean, it's been a rough five years, but I've had an amazing time with all of you and the rest of our class."

"Not to mention," you added. "We've learned a lot. It's been tough, like you said, though it's well worth it. Now that we're becoming better at what we do, it's like our hard work is paying off. We're no longer struggling with the simpler spells-- we're tackling the hard ones now, some of which are even difficult for seasoned wizards and witches."

Thomas nodded in agreement. "And we've still got one year left-- we actually have classes with Madame Suliman herself this year! She's one of the greatest witches around, so imagine how much we can learn from her."

"It really is exciting!" you replied. "I'm looking forward to studying with her..."

And as you continued to talk, little did you know that there was a stranger watching you from the darkest corner of the bar. He had ordered his tequila and took a gulp, but was quite interested in the conversation coming from your table. Of course, the reasoning was that he had studied with Madame Suliman at one point himself. Such naive students... he thought, though he withheld judgment and continued to listen.

"...I wonder what sorts of spells she's going to teach us. Maybe dangerous things, like making explosions or laser beams..." Pierre was animated as he talked; it was actually quite funny watching him speak so casually about spells that could possibly blow the planet apart.

"Well, that'll certainly help you with becoming a military official, won't it?" Lenora joked, prodding at him with a finger.

"And what about you, _____?" Pierre asked, changing the subject. "You haven't said anything about what you would want to do with your life after you graduate."

Your eyes lit up upon hearing your name. "Mm? I don't know... I mean, there are so many possibilities. Magic is great and all, but sometimes I wonder what it'd be like to apply magic to something more everyday--"

"--for example?" Celest interrupted, obviously curious at what you were about to say.

"For example... like farming or medicine-making or cleaning..."

Thomas made an exaggerated yawn. "You know, _____, that sounds awfully boring. I don't know why you'd want to do something so menial for a living."

"Magic would make it quite a bit less menial!" you replied with a huff. "Besides, I'm only trying to make the lives of citizens better. That's what we're striving for. Magic certainly has its practical purposes-- it's just not openly used as such. After learning their magic from academies or mentors, witches and wizards tend to just go off into the world and do their own thing, don't they? I feel like ordinary folk can benefit a lot from magic-- not just people like us."

Your table fell quiet for a moment. Perhaps your friends weren't so ambitious in that aspect, not so much as you were anyway.

"Speaking of mentors," Pierre began, clearing his throat. "Doesn't Madame Suliman have several of her own students? Private students? I hear that she will, on occasion, select one from the current graduating class at Kingsbury's to privately mentor."

"But she only picks the wizards and witches who show the most promise," Lenora said. "They'd have to be very special for her to select them."

Celest then added, "You know, I hear that several of her current students will no longer be studying with her after this year. Some will be doing independent research and others have been hired by important people to work for them. There's a pretty good chance that she'll be picking some new students this year!"

"Then she's definitely picking _____," Thomas complimented. "_____'s at the top of the class, and she's good at everything!"

You blushed, but you refuted, "I am not good at everything. I'm just a good student--"

"--oh, close enough, _____!" Celest said with a giggle. "You're smart, you're pretty, you're socially apt and good with people. What else could Madame Suliman ask for? You know that she's had her eye on you since day one. You're always the best student in your classes, and I'm sure that the professors talk to her about these sorts of things."

"So," Lenora started. "If Madame Suliman were to ask you to become her private student, would you accept?" The question was obviously directed at you.

You thought about it for a short while. "...well, it's too good of an opportunity to pass up. I guess I would have to say yes--"

"--a poor decision." A new voice from behind interrupted your train of thought.

You and everyone else at the table were now focused on this newcomer-- a handsome man, whose physical appearance was absolutely flawless. Blonde hair fell gracefully into his blue eyes and over his shoulders, while he wore an elegant collared shirt with an elaborate cloak to match. Jewelery of all sorts adorned his ears, neck and hands. He seemed ageless, almost like how you couldn't figure out exactly how old he was, and it was this trait that made you realize that he was a wizard.

"Excuse the sudden entrance," he said with a sudden flourish of his cloak. "I couldn't help but overhear your conversation." He brushed his hair back with a quick sweep of his hands. "So you're students, yes? Students attending the great Kingsbury's Academy of Magic... quite impressive, I must say." His voice was deep, but light at the same time, dreamy and unbelievably smooth.

"Yes..." Pierre replied warily. "We're students, but who exactly are you?"

A small chuckle escaped the stranger's lips. "Who am I? I was once a student like you, attending the most prodigious magic academy in all of the land." He talked with his hands as well as his elegant voice, making motions as his spoke, as though everything that came out of his mouth was a story of some sort.

"Right, but who exactly are you?" It seemed that Pierre was slowly becoming fed up with this man; he was not the most flexible of people. If things did not go his way, then he was not a pleasant person to be around.

"Patience, good sir," the stranger responded, folding his hand in a graceful fashion. A path of sparkles appeared in the air, leaving behind a small, colorful bouquet, secured with silken ribbon. He leaned against the back of your chair, and handed the flowers to you. "For you, darling."

You stared at the flowers only briefly, thinking it rude to refuse such a simple gift. "Thank you..." you replied, your gaze rising from the bouquet to his beautiful eyes. You could smell him from where you were sitting... needless to say, he smelled wonderful.

At this point, Pierre looked genuinely unhappy. It was no secret that he harbored feelings for you, though he had never found the right opportunity to say anything-- you made sure of that, determined to avoid any awkward situations. Jealously crept into his face as he stood, pushing his chair back almost violently. "You've overstayed your welcome!" he declared rather loudly. "Now get away from her!"

"Oh?" The newcomer glanced from your startled face to that of Pierre's and said, "I had no idea that this lovely lady was yours." (Here, you had the strong desire to confirm that you weren't, but in order to save Pierre's pride you said nothing.) He lifted his arm from the back of your chair, straightening himself. "She seems to be fine, but if you're uncomfortable with this arrangement, then I shall remove myself."

The grace he handled the situation with angered Pierre even further. Your classmate grudgingly sat down, glaring at the newcomer. "You still haven't told us-- who are you?"

You had to admit that you were rather curious of who this charming man was. He said that he once attended Kingsbury's Academy of Magic-- that must have meant that he was well-versed in the realm of magic, right? You awaited an answer to all of your questions.

"Let's just say that I'm a fellow wizard," the man replied calmly. "But it seems that my presence is no longer desired here; I sense tension." He brushed his long, blond locks behind his shoulder. "And as you all know, no decent wizard remains where he is unwelcome. I shall be going now." He spared you one, last charming smile, much to Pierre's irritation. Without another word (from him or anybody at the table), he left, his cloak catching the wind as he closed the bar door behind him.

You were somewhat disappointed that you wouldn't be able to learn more about him, but you had Pierre to thank for that.

"Good riddance," he snarled, draining the last of his beer. "I thought he'd never leave."

Thomas and Celest immediately agreed with him, for obviously different reasons. The two males at the table did not wish to be in the presence of another charming and handsome individual, while Celest was more cautious about meeting strangers in general. Lenora seemed indifferent, though she did admit that he was quite attractive.

You, however, were positively intrigued.

---

As Howl flew back to his castle, he thought about what had just happened. Strangely enough, he felt... invigorated. He didn't even ask for more than his first order of tequila, which he had also neglected to finish. There was something about these students that interested him... _____ in particular. He had heard her friends say that she was the brightest in her class-- quite an impressive claim.

He did not know why he found her so interesting. Perhaps it was because he could relate to her; years ago, he was in the same situation. Howl had also graduated at the top of his class and was asked by Madame Suliman if he would like to study under her watchful eye. Of course, as young as he was, he eagerly agreed, thinking that this was the opportunity of a lifetime.

...but it wasn't. Madame Suliman was deceivingly power-hungry, a sorceress with the skill and cunning worthy of her position.

Howl eventually left her, and she had been searching for him ever since. Fortunately, he had been able to evade Madame Suliman and her soldiers because of his various aliases. It seemed that she had given up on him lately, but Howl still had to be careful, especially if he wished to mingle with her students.

As he landed the front porch of his flying castle, he unlocked the door and stepped inside, tossing his cloak onto the arm of a coat hanger.

"Back already?" Calcifer called from the fireplace. "You're usually out later than this." When Howl stepped into the firelight, Calcifer could see that there was something new about his friend-- he was smiling, and the light and vigor had returned to his eyes. "Howl, something happened to you. You've got a story-- tell me!"

Howl sat down in front of Calcifer, ready to share the happenings of the night.

---

"You're thinking about him again, aren't you?" Celest whispered fiercely during class the next day. "_____, you need to stop it. He was probably up to no good-- we're fortunate that Pierre scared him off." When the lecturer's eyes found the unfocused student, Celest immediately went back to her studies.

But you couldn't stop thinking about him, even if you didn't know his name. His charming smile, his bright eyes, his soft hair... the image wouldn't leave your mind.

Celest wouldn't have it though-- she was determined that you find something else to think about. "I know you've heard of stories," she tried again at lunch that afternoon. "All those frightful tales about how handsome wizards only treat women nicely because they want to steal their hearts. I bet he was one of them! He was just trying to steal our hearts--"

"--you know, Celest," Lenora began, resting her chin in the palm of her hand. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that you were more obsessed with our mystery man than _____."

"What?! How could you say that?" She seemed to be genuinely offended. "I'm just trying to look out for her--"

"That's exactly the problem. She's a smart girl; she can take care of herself, so cut her some slack, alright?"

You gave Lenora a look of gratitude. Maybe her brief lecture would quiet Celest. Her intentions might have been good, but it was becoming rather irritating constantly hearing about something that you couldn't change. You were just glad that the boys weren't here yet to hear the conversation.

When class was dismissed, everyone had gathered in the main hall, talking about their assignments and how they planned to be diligent this year in their studies. You were surprised at how much work the professors and Madame Suliman had loaded onto the sixth year students, especially on the second day of classes! Tonight would be a long night for you.

The dormitories were found all in one building. There were three floors: the first and second year students were found on the first floor; the third and fourth year students were found on the second floor; and the fifth and sixth year students were found on the third floor. Luckily for you, the third floor had the newest facilities and the best view. It was here that you could see the entire city, and at night, under the pale light of the moon and stars, it was particularly beautiful.

After dinner, you gathered your belongings and slipped into the third floor's common study room. It was quite crowded at first, bustling with chatting and students who were cooperating with one another to finish projects or assignments. As it grew later, however, people began tumbling back into their rooms for a good night's rest.

"Don't stay up too late," Pierre said, the last person other than you to leave. "I know you want to get started on that paper, but it's not worth a sore lack of sleep."

"I know," you replied. "I would just like to document a few sources that I can use." You spared him a small smile. "Don't worry about me; I'll be fine."

What he did next was surprising; you weren't sure if it was because you had said nothing to refute what had happened last night or if he had just decided that now was opportune, but he leaned close to where you sat, kissing you gently on the cheek.

"P-pierre..!" you responded. "W-what was that for?" All of the sudden, things started to become awkward.

He merely smiled, running a hand through your hair. "Just my way of saying goodnight," he said. "I was wondering... what about dinner sometime next week?" Pierre stood over you, his hand now on your shoulder, his head tilted just slightly to the side. All things said and done, he wasn't unattractive with his brunette hair and green eyes... you just weren't interested.

You wished that you were anywhere but here. "I... I don't know," you began. "I have a feeling that our workload is going to get heavier every day. I'd rather not--"

"--come on, _____. Just one date-- you and me." He winked. "My treat."

In truth, you had nothing against Pierre; you simply did not have feelings for him, and since this was your last year at Kingsbury's, you absolutely had to put forth effort and time to ensure that you graduated with top marks. But he was much too insistent, and his offer was difficult to refuse, if only to save his feelings. "Well... I guess one night wouldn't hurt. We'll just have to pick a night that we can spare..."

"So it's a yes?" he confirmed, kissing your cheek again. "You won't be disappointed, _____. Get some sleep, and I'll see you in class tomorrow." Pierre then left, closing the study room door quietly behind him.

You sighed in relief once he was gone.

Before you could compose yourself, however, there was a tap at the window, the only one in the study room. It was a casement window, one with hinges that could swing open or shut, almost like a door. The linen curtains were tied on either side, so that students could peer outside while they studied. Curious, you stood, about to make your way to the fine window, but then a rush of wind and magic streamed inside when the panels opened.

You couldn't believe you eyes-- the handsome stranger from last night stood a small distance in front of the window, dressed as flamboyantly as he was the night before. "Ah, sweetheart, there you are." He glanced toward the door, where Pierre had just left. "Not exactly charming, is he?"

"No, not exactly..." you replied softly, wondering what this man was doing here. You didn't think that you would ever see him again. Yet, here he was. You couldn't take your eyes off of him, even as he strode around the room.

"I remember this place," he remarked, his gaze turning from wall to wall, corner to corner. "Many of my friends would study and practice here... I never did use this place though. Not often anyway." He then looked at you. "Well, how are you, darling?" he asked, coming toward you. "You look speechless."

Probably because you were. But you did manage to ask, "You never did tell us... who are you?"

He chuckled. "Why, we've never had an official introduction, have we?" He swept a bow, his royal blue cloak flowing elegantly as he did so. "My name is Howl Pendragon. Now will you grace me with your name?"

"Howl Pendragon..." you whispered to yourself. "You're the apprentice that Madame Suliman always talks about." That wasn't necessarily a good thing. She explained that Howl was the one whom she thought would make the perfect heir to her magical prowess, but he was childish and selfish, eventually making a deal with a fire demon...

"Yes, I'm sure she says a variety of things about me," Howl said calmly, leaning against one of the study room tables. "But you have yet to give me your name, sweetheart."

You thought about heeding everyone's warning, particularly Madame Suliman's claims, though you were much too curious. "_____," you answered.

"_____," he repeated slowly. "It's nice hearing your name from your own lips." He slid from the table, striding toward the window. "A beautiful night, isn't it? The moon and stars are alight, sparkling in the dark sky, and the air is fresh and clear. Would you care for a stroll?"

"I can't," you said promptly. "I need to get started on this research paper about levitation--"

"--levitation?" Howl lifted a hand to his chin as though he were pondering the topic. "Discovered by the great Wizard Sanders during the twelfth century, upon King Edmund IV's request. Written down by his apprentice, Larkins, half a century later. Used to discover the Floating Castle--"

"...but that castle is just a myth, isn't it?" you piped up. At least, that was what you had been told.

Howl gave you a mischievously challenging look. "Is it?"

You didn't respond.

"Either way, you need to do your research, ____. I am your most valuable resource, and I wish for a late night stroll. Won't you accompany me? We'll both benefit from this excursion." With a wave of his hand, the windows slowly opened again, a gentle breeze rustling the curtains. He offered you his arm. "Well..?"

You couldn't refuse.

---

Levitation was something that you had learned during your fifth year of study. You still hadn't mastered the skill-- nobody in your class had. It would take years more of practice before you were entirely comfortable with levitation. This was the reason why Howl had insisted that you go for a midnight stroll among the clouds. You could practice under his careful eye.

"History is important," he said. "But so is the spell itself."

It was somewhat difficult holding a conversation with Howl while you had to concentrate on the levitation spell. The staff at Kingsbury's Academy of Magic were encouraged to teach magic as a mental spell, not something spoke aloud. It was far more challenging, but once a spell was natural with your thoughts, it would take less conscious effort to cast them. Ideally, there would be a point where you would hardly have to think about levitation and still be able to walk on air as though it were solid ground.

He stood by his word, answering your questions about the history and application of levitation, while you did your best to take mental notes. Howl seemed to understand the spell perfectly, able to stroll wherever he wished, relaxed and ready to reply to your queries.

You had more difficulty. Of course, it could have been because you were nervous-- just one mistake and you would be tumbling to the ground, possibly a hundred feet below.

Howl noticed this, pacing toward you gracefully and reaching over you to take your left hand into his, his right hand on your right shoulder. "Darling, you're working much too hard." His face was unbelievably close to your ear. "Just take a breath and relax. It'll help more than you think."

"I can't!" you argued. "If I relax, the levitation spell might break..!"

"I won't let you fall,” he comforted.

You took a breath as instructed and then let your mind rest for a moment, reviewing the spell in your head. It was a complicated string of words that you didn't quite understand.

"Instead of focusing on the words themselves, think about the action that they are meant to produce," Howl suggested, his arms still securely around you. "Relate them-- rehearse them as one because that's exactly as they should be. And be confident. It shows in your magic."

It was certainly worth a try. You began reciting the spell in your head once more, repeating the words; you also thought of the motion of levitation, having your body move smoothly in the air, one foot in front of the other. You avoided the thought of plummeting one hundred feet to the city below. Before you knew it, Howl had removed himself, merely walking beside you as you strode confidently among the clouds.

"I... I'm walking more easily now," you said, watching as the city passed beneath you through the clouds.

"See? It's not so hard," Howl replied, his blue eyes sparkling.

A brief moment of silence passed between the two of you, but then you spoke up: "Howl, last night when my friends and I were at the bar, you said that my potential choice to study with Madame Suliman would be a bad one. What did you mean by that?" You knew how Madame Suliman felt about Howl, but you wanted to know what he felt about her.

"It's exactly as I said. As you already know, she was once my mentor. I did not enjoy studying with her."

You did not feel like you knew him well enough to ask for more details; maybe in the future, assuming that you spent more time with him. "I see," you responded simply.

The rest of the night was spent talking mostly about levitation, discussing what information was best included in your research paper. Howl understood the topic very well, obvious in his elegance as he walked with you. With his knowledge, you were able to mentally structure your paper and gather useful information.

When the subject of levitation wore thin, you realized just how long you had been out. "Goodness! I didn't realize that it was so late!" you said. "I need to get back." You turned on you heels, about to rush back to the dormitories.

"What's your hurry, darling?" Howl asked, catching your arm as you brushed past him.

"I-I have class tomorrow! I can't stay out too late--"

Howl interrupted you by gently pulling you closer so that you faced him. "Now, sweetheart, it's just one night. Don't panic; you'll be fine." He let his free hand wander beneath your chin, tilting your head upward until he saw your eyes. "I'll take you home."

The walk back to the dorms was a pleasant one, and despite how panicked you were before, Howl's calm voice made you relax. You shared a casual conversation with him, as he asked you about your academy experience. He told you stories about some of his adventures there, many of which made you laugh.

When you finally arrived, Howl led you to the balcony. The third floor of the dormitories had a beautiful balcony that was not used nearly as much as it deserved to be. There were several white stone benches along the carved railing, and a beautiful set of doors that led from the hall on the opposite end of where the study room could be found.

Howl guided you from the skies, waiting for your feet to touch the balcony floor before stepping down himself.

"Thank you," you said, looking up at him. "I had a wonderful time... and I learned a lot from you." The last part seemed excessive, but you felt the need to tell him.

With a flick of his wrist, Howl produced a single flower, this one more beautiful than any in the bouquet that he had given you the night before. It was a white rose, and a stunning one at that-- its petals were perfect, layered around the center with dewdrops that sparkled like diamonds. He offered it to you with a charming smile. "For you, _____. Dream sweet dreams for me tonight."

He then departed as gracefully as he had come.

And you watched until he was out of sight before you let yourself into the dorms and then to bed.



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