A/N: If I was sorry for chapter 13's delay, then I am kneeling on both knees and begging all of you for chapter 14's tardiness. I had 'stuff' going on, and it was just a few weeks back that I realized that I actually had a pending fic in existence. More noted below about probably spin-offs, sequels, epilogues and such. But for now, enjoy the last chapter of A Cup Of Tea!!! ^_^V

Chapter 14

Mikagami walked (more like sashayed his way, as a hawk-eyed first-year commented) towards the faculty room with his ever-present aura of authority and unruffled poise, which matched his equally unruffled features.

But the calm, imposing exterior defined by the decided glint in his eyes and the thin line drawn on his fine mouth contrasted with the muddle of thoughts, and dare he say emotions, that plagued him since yesterday.

Fuuko left immediately after breakfast, but not without pilfering a few waffles to munch on the way home. Still donning his old shirt and pants (and he knew he'd never see that pair again) with her kimono on a paper bag, she flashed him the biggest of grins, thanked him for being an above mediocre host and flounced off in the bright Sunday morning…

Of course, she also kissed him on the cheek. But not that it mattered anyway…

Yes, it did not matter. How her unbelievably soft lips made contact with his cheek. How he sucked his breath, refusing to be intoxicated with her tangy yet oddly alluring scent, but failing miserably that he had to hold on to the railing of the porch to keep his balance…

And after that, she was gone.

But he didn't care. Why should he? He never cared. There is no reason to start caring all of a sudden. In fact, he should be glad. He had finished his essay. He will pass it now. He will get a good grade for it, come in top of his class, heck, the top of the year even, as it has always been. He will graduate with top honors, get into a good college and a high-paying job…

Yet no matter how much he changed that outlined map of his life, everything he did now seemed… worthless. He could do those things easily. Just as easily as he could snap his fingers, or make girls swoon (which he did even without bothering). There must be something more to this.

IBut just what is left for man when he has not his pride to live for? True, the said political change, environmental transition, fashion trends, cellphone models, digital junk, pop icons expand the meaning of what he thinks as his life, as well as much more.../I

And he was quite sure there was something more to what transpired over the weekend.

But again, he wouldn't bother. It was over anyway.

"Ah, Mikagami-kun, you've finally finished your essay, I see," Ms. Takuno greeted. He merely nodded his head and handed the paper over. She accepted it with a warm smile and prodded on. "So did you have a good time with your friend over the weekend?"

If he were only brought up without manners, he'd stuff the essay down her throat. Can't she bloody see that he didn't want to talk about it?!

But he had to. It was in his job description as the most eligible bachelor of their campus, or so they say.

"I had a fairly nice time," he answered. And that was the end of it. The end of it all.

IYet surely, there must be something else that man needs to secure, something other than pride. For man, in the most general sense there is, has already conquered the valleys of this theoretical world. And with this boon of pride already at hand, he must be searching now for an even greater challenge, for an even greater power to chain his life.../I

Thankfully, Ms. Takuno noticed his inclination to not say anything at all. Took her that long, he huffed to himself. Instead, she ran her bespectacled eyes through the essay, and much to his chagrin, a small playful smile tugged on her lips as she lingered on the last few words of the essay.

"Fairly nice, Mikagami-kun?" she asked in an amused voice.

Mikagami allowed a ghost of a smile to grace his calm features before answering once again. "Yes, fairly nice."

IThis reaction is to be expected from a being who is wholly dependent on almost anything he deems valuable./I

Monday afternoon found him sitting there again. In the same deli wherein students happily rejoiced the end of a schoolday. It was also the exact same place he sat down on 3 days ago, pondering the course of action to take regarding his dilemma.

Apparently this corner seat was now turning into his favorite brooding spot given the high activity of his brain at the moment.

As per usual, in accordance to the way thing were, Team Hokage also sat at their usual place, doing all thing typical, again in accordance to the way things were. Recca was sitting snugly beside his beloved Yanagi, offering her a sundae that contained a ridiculous amount of chocolate syrup. Always one for healty and non-diabetis inducing eating, the healer smiled and gently pushed the sinful dessert away. In direct contrast to Yanagi's careful eating habits, Domon grabbed the said sinful dessert much to Recca's dismay and demanded the larger man to return the half-eaten sundae that rightfully belongs to his Hime. Recca and Domon's upcoming battle of brawn aside, as well as Yanagi's muffled giggles, a tiny smile played on Fuuko's mouth before it disappeared behind a cup of tea...

...And that jolted out Tokiya of his reverie. That was most definitely not in accordance to the way things were supposed to be.

IMan depends on the concreteness and value of food, money, shelter, clothing; on the ideals of politics, art, music, fashion, religion; and much more on the complexities of pride. And more so on love./I

Fuuko Kirisawa shouldn't be sitting there demurely drinking tea of all things. She should be fighting for her rights over the same sundae Recca and Domon where brawling over.

Perhaps he wasn't the only one feeling out of it today. Scratch that. Somehow his gut feel states that he would be feeling 'out of it' not only today, but for quite a long time.

IIf there is one thing that we can't all have, it's love. And the proudest of the proud can very well be those who have discovered this well-kept treasure. I assume that they have all the right to pamper their egos, for love although is something that is just as constant as the air we breathe, it is also as elusive to catch./I

It would be probably many years later that Tokiya would wonder about how a force mayhap stronger than Jupiter's gravity pulled his thougts as well as his sight to that of one Fuuko Kirisawa. And Fuuko could ask that same question as well, but at that moment, all that mattered to them was the fact that the primary ground of their current aura was sitting not more than 12 feet away.

The setback in Tokiya's demeanor may not be that obvious to others for the reason that he always acted like a 'cold bastard' regardless of his state of mind. But things are different for Fuuko. A change in her personality can be easily percepted for two primary reasons. Her extroverted personality borders on the extreme, that any decline in her Myers-Briggs scale would immediately be apparent. And if perhaps the change is marked by subtlety, it would still be noticed by that of her closest friend...

And that is what Yanagi Sakoshita is doing right now. Amidst the cackle and hubbub that Domon and Recca are currently causing, the healers attention drifted to the wind-wielders calm stature as she sipped her Earl Grey tea in a thoughtful manner.

The fact that she ordered tea in place of her usual strawberry milkshake surprised her, as well was the fact that this food shop that caters to hormonal teenagers actually served tea at all. She never recalled Fuuko drinking tea before, so it must be a recent development.

She continued to scrutinize her friend's disposition and found her to be staring at something intently. Said 'something' turned out to be Tokiya Mikagami who was staring back with equal fervor.

iBut sadly, it is something that not all can grasp to enjoy and revel in fully. Thus giving the branded unfortunate ones more reason to inflate their respective egos as a sort of retreat from the harsh reality that they cannot have that one thing that they crave for. Yet it is the same pride that hinders them from realizing the utter simplicity of this feeling. It is this same pride that turns something as simplistic as love into an entangling mass of a jigsaw puzzle that would take eternity to solve./i

Yanagi knew that look. It was one that she has been on the receiving ends of courtesy of her boyfriend who was now in the need of perhaps a tad more healing spells after his little battle for Sundae Supremacy was over. And in one of her rare moments, she herself had thrown the same look at Recca, and it took all that the control that the ninja could muster to stop himself from keeling over to her whims in an instant. She honestly hoped that if she did that right now, her self-proclaimed protector would cease the idiotic display of machismo so she could finally enjoy her apple pie in peace.

iThus it has been, and it shall always be. A sad reality. A vicious cycle. A perfect picture of life./i

Apparently, Fuuko wasn't enjoying the dual performance as well. Rolling her eyes in exasperation and flashing Yanagi a half-hearted smile as if to say 'See what you got yourself stuck with?', the purple-haired girl stood up, cup of tea on one hand and platter of biscuits on the other, and headed to where Tokiya Mikagami was perched.

"Hey."

She was responded by a casually raised eyebrow.

"Things were getting really irritating back there. It's a miracle I got away syrup-free. Yanagi's uniform wasn't so lucky."

Tokiya merely nodded, leaned back on his chair and took 3 long gulps from his own cup. Much to his chagrin, the tea was still scalding hot and his faced turned into an uncharacteristic grimace that warranted a laugh from the girl before him. He flashed a scowl at her but that only increased the girl's laughter.

Eventually, Fuuko's mirth died down, but a playful smile was still present. "Why are you being so difficult again?"

"I'm always difficult."

"Ah, so he speaks!"

Tokiya rolled his eyes at the silly comeback and took a more careful sip of his tea. "Just what the heck are you doing here, Fuuko?"

She felt her breath hitch when she heard her given name being spoken by the Ensui master. Even if this wasn't the first time Mikagami has said her name, there was something distinctly different about it. She never realized that the word 'Fuuko' could sounds so... beautiful.

Or maybe it was just her. One could never eat too much salted biscuits and still retain a properly functioning brain. All that MSG has to go somewhere, right?

"Er, I came to see if you like me..."

Mikagami's cheeks tinged pink.

Oh for the love of all things unsalted!!! I can't believe I said that!!! She could feel that familiar creepy warmth surfacing to her cheeks. Damn MSG to the 7th circle of hell!!!

"What I meant was," she remedied instantly. "If YOU would LIKE for ME to, er... Um, if I can read your essay. You know, the one that I helped you with. Or rather, didn't help you with 'coz I was to busy eating your food. You cook really well, did you know that? You're not a half-bad person when you think about it. It's just that you're the ultimate snob at times and it's just so hard for people to deal with you..."

She's rambling, he realized. A very characteristic trait of one Fuuko Kirisawa when she's embarrassed. Of course, psychology's dictations doesn't elude him as well. He was quite aware about the Freudian Slip phenomena. It appears that Kirisawa's MSG-filled brain was dishing out more slips than what the nervously prattling girl would want to reveal.

He's also finding this very adorable, he realized. A very uncharacteristic trait of one Tokiya Mikagami.

"Kirisawa... Fuuko," he interrupted her.

Fuuko stopped mid-prattle, seemingly relieved that her tirade has been cut short.

"You talk too much," he said with a wry face.

"Took you long enough to notice!" the girl harrumphed.

Tokiya leaned forward the table. "Yes, how horribly ignorant of me. Wasn't it just yesterday that you were stuffing my ears with your incessant talking?"

Fuuko leaned forward as well in acceptance of the challenge. "Yep, that was yesterday all right," she smirked. "What I find interesting though is this sudden lapse of your memory. Perhaps the almighty Tokiya Mikagami isn't perfect after all..."

Surprising them both, Tokiya's mouth quirked for more than the usual fraction of a second. "No, I guess he isn't..."

"That's good. Nice to know he's human after all."

iBut perhaps someday, man will finally be able to break free from the shackles that bind his soul and grasp this unfound reality for himself./i

They were having a moment. It's the experience of having a sudden rush of warm emotions that tends to overpower the senses causing all rational thought to become useless, hence rendering the involved parties unable to express this great turning point of their lives through words.

The cacophonous medley of laughter, yelling and idle talk filled the small eatery. Across from the room Reeca and Domon were currently fighting over sprinkles vs marshmallows respectively, with both of them gathering a fair share of onlookers. Yanagi, who had not moved an inch from her seat was now happily delighting in the heavily-syruped sundae that the two were originally fighting about.

It really wasn't the most ideal place for such a moment, but Fuuko and Tokiya could care less. Until the sticky brown goop of chocolate syrup landed on the side of Fuuko's uniform. Apparently the argument has turned into a full-blown food fight.

"Well," Fuuko sighed resignedly. "I guess it was bound to happen..."

"Yes, it was," Mikagami commented. "From the very beginning I think."

Fuuko flashed him a tiny grin and raised an eyebrow. "You think so?"

"I know so," was the firm reply.

iPerhaps someday, man will finally let go of his misconstrued notion of pride as the one thing that could sustain him, and accept that it is love of the truest and the purest that will raise him up from the belittling standards of society and give him reason to be truly proud of himself./i

"Perhaps you should drop by the house to freshen up a little," he offered, and then chuckled. "I think I've got some clothes I've grown out of to offer to Fuuko Kirisawa's charity box." He stood up and extended a hand to her.

The girl stuck his tongue out, but then clasped her hand firmly against his. "I'd love to."

THE END

Woot! It's finally over! Huge thanks to all of you guys who've read, esp. those of you who've read AND reviewed. My biggest hearts goes of course to my inspiration, Nixxie and Ryan, the original 'Fuuko and Tokiya' whom I've patterened this fic after. All the best in your relationship!!!

As for epilogues, sequels, spin-offs and such, well, we'll see... ^__^v Again, thank you very much for supporting A Cup of Tea!!