A/N: Oh, look, a new chapter. Sorry about the wait, but my internet's been off-and-on-again for months now, and as a result, I couldn't really upload any chapters. But, here we finally are.
Pish-Tush stepped out of the town hall building and into the street, a bit nettled with the current circumstances. He had just managed to practically tiptoe his way out of one of Pooh-Bah's "brief speeches" (actually more like a long-winded lecture), the main thesis of which had something to do with enforcing a tax on all foreigners living overseas. The herald knew that leaving poor old Ko-Ko alone with the enormous windbag was unmannerly, even selfish, but he at least was able to relieve himself of this thought with the mental image of Ko-Ko sitting in the town hall with his classic "I-am-at-the-end-of-my-rope" expression on his face, complete with bloodshot eyes and spectacles hanging limply from one ear while Pooh-Bah blathered on. Besides, he had errands to do, as his obi bulging with letters on scrolls reminded him. Peep-Bo would have shown up by now, but Ko-Ko had told him this morning that she would not be joining him today on account of a cold she said she had. "This is a particularly odd season to have a cold," Pish-Tush had said when Ko-Ko had told him.
"Oh, I know," Ko-Ko had said, "But she was coughing and sneezing absolutely uncontrollably this morning, and she said to me that she wished to be excused from accompanying you today."
So that had been that, and for the first time in weeks, Pish-Tush was forced to run his errands alone.
Now, while he was aware that his errands would go much faster without somebody there to converse with, Pish-Tush had to admit that he'd grown rather used to Peep-Bo's company, even fond of it, and as a result he found himself missing her presence. Before all this had started and the matrimonial problem had first come up, he had outright said that he wanted nothing whatever to do with her because he found her disrespectful. But over all these weeks, he had never once taken her disrespectfulness into account—if even she had any—instead appreciating her playful snarkiness and ready wit. Her looks aren't exactly what one would consider repulsive, either, the herald mused with a small grin, thinking of the girl's dark, shimmering eyes and sheer black hair which was always pulled into a sleek braid at the back with two neat little buns at the top of her head. Throughout the morning, Pish-Tush ran about town delivering letters from place to place, but his thoughts were still on Peep-Bo.
Why on earth am I being so fickle? He scolded himself. Just about a month ago, I could do my work perfectly fine without anybody to talk to, so why can't I today? Of course, it's perfectly natural for me to be missing Peep-Bo's company; she has become a friend to me, after all. What is wrong with me this morning?
It took Pish-Tush the entire afternoon, but he eventually figured out that instead of just missing Peep-Bo's presence, he also missed her. He was lonely for her. He wanted her with him again. That hair, those eyes, that wittiness and charm…Pish-Tush wanted everything about Peep-Bo for his own. And as soon as he was finished with business, he rushed back to his house for ink and paper. He had just one more letter to deliver.
"Remind me once more why you pretended to have a cold this morning?" Pitti-Sing asked Peep-Bo. "And why did you need me to get that old fabric that Ko-Ko had?"
"Because I need to stay here to make a new obi as a present for Pish-Tush; I told you that before!" Peep-Bo said to her sister, answering both questions at once. Despite her urge to suppress it, Peep-Bo was quite excited. She'd managed to find Ko-Ko's tailor scissors as well as some measuring tape, a needle, and some gold-coloured thread she could use to embroider the black-and-dark-grey-checked cloth she'd had Pitti-Sing find. Now, using the skills Ko-Ko had taught her, Peep-Bo was diligently hemming and sewing away to make a new obi for Pish-Tush as a token of her affections. She liked him quite a bit; his dry sarcasm and blunt attitude. He was also quite savvy and intelligent, if his conversations with her were any indication. Since these two qualities were considered by Peep-Bo to be quite rare, she valued them greatly.
Pitti-Sing was excited, too, mostly because of the way Peep-Bo planned everything. Pitti-Sing did love a good conspiracy (which had been the main reason why she had gotten herself mixed up with Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah and lying to His Majesty the Mikado about a year ago), and could hardly wait to be married herself after her sister and the herald of Titipu were.
Speaking of which, her thoughts were now beginning to drift to Pooh-Bah, her supposed fiancé. They had met in town quite a few times, which had more often than not ended in Pitti-Sing saying something to fluster the haughty old dignitary and him abruptly leaving in embarrassment. Thinking back on this, Pitti-Sing began to think she wasn't making too much progress, and suddenly asked her sister, "What am I to do about Pooh-Bah?"
"Keep your voice down!" Peep-Bo snapped. "Katisha might hear us, and you know how angry she'd be if she realized Ko-Ko did something without first consulting her!"
"She's outside, hollering at the gardener," said Pitti-Sing. "You know she can't hear anything over the sound of her own voice."
"True enough," said Peep-Bo, not even looking up from her work. "How do you mean, 'What am I to do about Pooh-Bah'?"
"I mean, should I be doing something for him like you are?"
"I don't see why not," the elder sister replied. "It might help to speed things up a bit."
Pitti-Sing tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I really think I ought."
"Well, nothing's stopping you, just as long as you don't flirt," said Peep-Bo, but Pitti-Sing was already out of the room and gone.
The next day, Peep-Bo woke up so excited she would have run all the way to the town hall if she hadn't been aware that it wasn't proper for a girl her age. Besides, she didn't want to appear too eager. After much trial, error, and accidental finger-prickings, the obi was completed and carefully wrapped in a brown paper parcel. She could hardly wait to see what Pish-Tush thought of her handiwork.
When she did reach the town hall, she found him standing outside, awaiting her arrival. They bowed to each other.
"Good morning, Pish-Tush," Peep-Bo said, struggling to keep her voice composed.
"Good morning, Peep-Bo," said Pish-Tush, observing the brown paper parcel in the girl's arms. "And what do you have there?"
"Why don't we step inside so you can open it and see?" She held the package out to him.
Pish-Tush turned red, taken aback. "For me, is it?"
Peep-Bo, whose cheeks were also red, nodded.
Once inside with her, Pish-Tush took the parcel with a slight bow of thanks and unwrapped it with one swift motion. Inside was the completed obi, checkered with small squares of black and grey and embroidered with a neat line of golden thread. He was just about speechless. "Why, Peep-Bo…"
The little maid fidgeted from foot to foot in her embarrassment. "I made it myself. Do you like it? It may not fit, but…"
"It's wonderful," Pish-Tush said, unfolding the obi, his voice in awe. "I mean, I know you said Ko-Ko had been teaching you how to work with fabric, but I had no idea that you'd be able to make something of this quality." He experimentally fitted it against his waist over the obi he currently wore. "Nearly perfect, I'd say." He looked at her with a smirk. "Had a cold then, did you?"
Peep-Bo pouted, still blushing. "You know the answer to that."
Pish-Tush chuckled. "Indeed."
Feeling the sash against the scrolled messages he had received to deliver reminded him that one of the scrolls was different. In his surprise, he'd nearly forgotten. "Ah. Incidentally, Peep-Bo, I also have something for you," he told the girl, removing one of the scrolls from his sash. He then pressed his forehead against it and presented it to her with a bow as though he were delivering it to a highly respected person.
Peep-Bo giggled and took it from him reverentially, trying to ease her embarrassment with a joke. She unrolled it and drew in her breath sharply. On the paper was a series of romantic haikus written in intricate but legible Japanese calligraphy. She slowly paced about the room, reading each one to herself.
Pish-Tush grinned at her reaction, pleased that his writing left such an impact on her. Sadly, only the opening and closing haikus were his own words, while the rest were referencing other works in one way or another. He knew that Peep-Bo would know this, as she sometimes pointed to a particular line and said, "I remember those words," or "That's from such-and-such-a-work, by such-and-such-a-name, isn't it?" After a while, Peep-Bo got to the last haiku, which, when translated into English, was worded something like this:
"Now you've read these words
Only one question remains:
Will you marry me?"
"You mean that?" was all she could say.
"I should certainly hope I did," said Pish-Tush, half-nervous of her answer.
"Why of course," said Peep-Bo. "It's practically what I wanted from the start!"
Pish-Tush took her hands in his. "Well then, I suppose all that's left is to receive permission from Ko-Ko for our union."
"Which will hardly be any trouble at all, I daresay," Peep-Bo said with a giggle.
-END OF CHAPTER 4-
A/N: Thank you for reading, please review!