Dying wasn't on my agenda today.
In fact, dying wasn't on my agenda any day until I was old and sick in my deathbed. I wasn't a very special person. I was a normal curious kid with normal friends. I was a normal angsty teen with high school drama and obsessing slightly over Japanese animation. I was a young adult struggling to pay for college, taking a course I didn't really like. I lied, I laughed, I hated, I loved, I cried.
I was a completely normal person with completely normal hobbies. So, it really did come as a complete and utter surprise when I died.
I was 22, in my final year of college when it happened. I was walking to the dorms from the library at 8.30 P.M. as I did every other Friday. It was a a normal night, as always. No reason to think my death was coming. Fellow college students loitering around, chatting, snapping selfies, drinking and enjoying a night after a tiring day of classes. The dorms were located a good 15 minutes from the library and I had to cross the road to get there.
You can pretty much guess how I died.
Dying via getting hit by a speeding car and not dying on impact was painful. Very, very painful. Pain was all I felt before numbness consumed me. And then, all I could feel was lightness. Like, you were floating around in an endless dark abyss. I could feel touches, gentle, firm, sometimes too tight on my body. But mostly? It was just that black abyss surrounding me like a tight embrace.
And then after god knows how long, I opened my eyes.
And promptly screamed in fright at the huge man smiling at me.
Reincarnation is most definitely not on my agenda today.
Being reincarnated wasn't so bad. If you didn't count being shrunk down into a body of a 2-year-old with huge patches of my memory missing and trickling slowly back like sand in a hourglass. Getting your memories from a past life where one was an adult as a toddler? Not fun. Extremely not fun. They came in sudden short bursts of feelings and images and names and words and knowledge. And that just made my toddler mind hurt like hell. I'm pretty sure I scared my new father a lot with my randomly bursting into tears and refusing to stop because headache!
Slowly, though, I started to integrate my memories as Ashley Martin with my new life as Hinata Manami. By the time I was six, I fully accepted the fact that Ashley is dead and being Manami was my life now.
I was Hinata Manami, daughter to Hinata Rinnosuke, the famous adventurer and the late Hinata Kozue, a simple but loving housewife.
I was seven, when Otousan brought a baby girl home. My first reaction when he walked into our small apartment was to stare at him dubiously. I could read Otousan pretty well by now and I knew he was sad. Depressed, almost. Otousan smiled at me and I saw the slight tightening of his grip on the pink bundle in his arms.
"Welcome home, Otousan." I greeted him happily. Because as dubious as I was of the new baby, I really was happy he was home. "Did you decide to kidnap someone?"
"Don't say that, Manami!" Otousan spluttered. "She's… my senpai's daughter. He died recently with his wife and neither of them had any relatives alive…" An anguished look passed across Otousan eyes but it was gone with loving determination. "I'm going to adopt her. I know you'll be a wonderful older sister."
I narrowed my eyes at that. Otousan was a kind and compassionate man. If he could, he would try to change the world for the better. He would want for no child to be without a parent or to suffer anything. But what he loved more than anything else in the world was to travel. He was an adventurer. Travelling around the world and discovering new things was his first love. He wouldn't give it up unless he was sickly and unable to move.
"How long will you be staying before you leave?" I asked bluntly. I felt guilt at the hurt I saw in his eyes but remained firm with my question. We both knew he wouldn't stop his adventures.
He smiled sadly at me. "Not so soon… Maybe when little Ema is 10… or 11, at least."
Slowly, I smiled back at him. He wasn't the perfect father and I wasn't the best daughter but we were family. And we would make it work.
Years passed by. Little Ema grew into a pretty young teenager. A little naïve, a little too trusting. But kind and sweet and way too caring of others for her own good. Tousan left for more of his adventures for good when Ema was 12 and I was 19. Before that, he only went on short (like six to ten months of the year) trips. Ema and I were sort of used to not having Otousan around. We loved him very much, don't get me wrong! But it wasn't easy being forgiving when he was hardly around. For me at least. Ema's a little ball of love, it was so adorable.
I skipped a few grades in elementary school, because I really couldn't stand being surrounded by snot nosed kids with no sense of maturity. Junior high and high school were a little better but ugh! Teenage hormones and high school drama and way too obsessed with their hobbies teenagers. I almost regretted skipping grades in elementary school.
To be honest, even going through life a second time I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was as normal as I was in my past life though my love for manga just skyrocketed to amazing heights because I lived in the heart of anime and manga. I still loved reading anything and everything of the written word but I found myself indulging on my preference for manga more than my love for novels.
It was when I was complaining about this during one of the rare times Otousan was home that he suggested I go into the publishing industry. At first I thought it was a joke. But as I thought more on it, I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like. I remember reading a manga that was set around a publishing company. I shuddered at the thought of going through with such an outrageous schedule but…
This was my second chance at life. A chance where I could find and do something I loved with my life. It was with that thought in mind that I compulsively took a degree majoring in Japanese Literature with a minor in designing. I thoroughly enjoyed university life. The course reminded me of my love for the written word and while I was aiming for a career in publishing manga, I was overjoyed to be able to study classic literature.
Graduation came and went and soon I was sitting in for my first interview with Marukawa Publishing. For some odd reason, the name stuck with me. Like I recalled it from somewhere in the past. But I just shook it off as nerves. I was accepted as an intern for the Josei Department and there I trained and learned like hell from the editor I was replacing. Sakamoto Mariko is a kind and energetic woman who was heavily pregnant. She was going to leave the working life to become a housewife and take care of her first daughter. She was ever so patient with me, even when her hormones got the best of her and she cried at the littlest things I did, saying how she hoped her daughter would be as sweet as I was. And since I never really got used to being the center of someone's attention, I was easily flustered though I got used to it towards the end of her tenure.
By the age of twenty-two, I was a permanent editor at Marukawa and was beyond happy even if work life was hectic as hell. And to be honest, I thought this was how I was going to enjoy my second life.
Oh boy, was I wrong as hell.
I sighed in relief as I exited Marukawa. It had been an entirely tiring month as always but so totally worth it as the 'Publishing Cycle' ended. I felt oh so blessed to have been assigned to the more time prompt and creative manga artists Marukawa handled. But since it was currently the beginnings of February which meant the issues of manga we had just finished the 'Publishing Cycle' for had an overload of Valentines plots. Which was always so popular with the crowd.
Though I did pity the Shoujo Department more. Poor dears, they must've been completely exhausted. I should bring some sweets for them. Onodera-kun looked ready to just fall over dead.
Oh, right. That was one thing that I had realized after meeting Marukawa Publishing's Shoujo Department also known as 'Emerald'. Masamune Takano-san, Onodera Ritsu-san, Yoshiyuki Hatori-san, Shouta Kisa-kun and Mino Kanade-san had always struck a cord in me. Like I knew them from somewhere. It wasn't until Kisa-kun explained to me Emerald's '20-Day-Publishing-Hell-Cycle' that I finally remembered why they seemed so familiar with me.
I had somehow been reincarnated into a Yaoi manga?!
After that initial shock when I realized it, I decided to just brush it off. It wasn't like I could interfere with the plot anyway or something like that. I was a woman. And I was 100% positive the whole Emerald team sans Mino-san was gay. It had no effect on me, so I just proceeded on with my life. Though I did become sort of best friends with Kisa-kun? I have no idea; he just grew on me. Like a damn fungus.
I wonder when he'll tell me he was dating a younger man… Or did they even meet yet? I can't remember and I didn't really want to know what my best friend got up to with his young lover.
I huffed at the thought again. It never failed to amuse me that I was reincarnated into a Yaoi manga. I just crack up at the thought of actually witnessing the effects and drama of their love lives in person.
It was when I was laughing that I didn't pay any attention to what was in front of me. Which is why when I turned the corner, I bumped into another person. I landed on the ground on my ass with a painful thump. I gritted my teeth but soon adjusted to get the pressure off the place I landed, using my hand to rub at the spot hoping to sooth it slightly.
"I'm so sorry, are you alright?" A voice took my attention from my aching bum to the person I bumped into.
I was about to apologize when I saw his face.
His very familiar face.
"Are you alright?" The man repeated, concern on his face clear as day. He bent down and reached out his hand to me, palm to the sky.
I nodded my head at him, because I wasn't sure I wouldn't squeak if I tried to talk. Taking his hand, he pulled me up and steadied me. I took a moment to admire the hit of muscles I could see from the broad shoulders. Deciding it would be a good time to talk, I bowed to him.
"I'm really sorry! I wasn't watching where I was going!" I apologized in my bow.
I felt a hand on my shoulder pushing me upright and I could practically feel how my blood rushed to my cheeks. Kami, he's so handsome… But why is his face so familiar?!
"It's fine." He smiled a little at me. "I was at fault as well, so…" He bowed slightly at me. "I'm sorry for bumping into you."
I couldn't hold it, so I just laughed. "Alright then. I guess I should say thank you for helping me up." I smiled at him, wishing to Kami my cheeks weren't as red as I thought it was.
He chuckled – chuckled! Oh my goodness, his voice! "Your welcome. Are you alright, though? It looked like you took a hard fall." He asked, concern once again dominating his features.
For once since I saw his face, I could feel my face cooling. "I'm fine. It was just a little fall. I'm made of tougher stuff than glass." I joked.
He nodded once, then almost on impulse looked at his watch. His eyes widened and I could read a slight panic. "I have to go now. I'm glad you're alright, miss." He quickly spoke and ran past me.
I stared for awhile at his retreating back, my eye brows scrunched up. I could swear I knew him from somewhere… In my past life, I'm sure. So… A game? No… A manga? Or maybe an anime? Ginger hair like wasn't exactly common in many of the anime I used to watch. Maybe he was a side character for Sekaiichi Hatsukoi? I can't remember there being any gingers though…
In the end, I just shrugged. It didn't really matter. It was probably just a one-time encounter thing anyway.
Weeks passed by and in came July. And with July came the Kami damned heat. I loved the Summers. But as I fanned myself with a paper fan I swiped from Takano-san's desk, I was currently in the mood to hate it. It really didn't help that the air conditioning broke midway through the afternoon, which was when the sun shone its brightest and thus its hottest temperature yet.
Thankfully, 'The Cycle from Publishing Hell' had just ended so I could at least relax a little… Or so I thought.
"Hinata, you like that creepy manga about those twin girls getting sacrificed in a twin obsessed God Village, right?" Kurosawa Haruto, Editor-in-Chief of the Horror Department called to me as he poked his head into the Josei Department.
I blinked at him once, processing his word before saying, "You mean Crimson Butterfly…? The manga you are in charge of?" I asked hesitantly because surely Kurosawa-san wouldn't forget the name of the manga he worked on editing since it was first published and is still working on it…?
… On second thought, considering the man sometimes forgets to eat I wouldn't put it past him.
"Yeah, that." He agrees, fanning a file to his face. "Come with me, I can't be bothered to remember the plot so far away from the next deadline and I need someone who knows the thing front to back to talk to those game dudes."
I blinked at him again, once again trying to process what he was saying. "You mean you can't remember the plot and names of the characters because the next deadline for the next volume of the manga is a month away so you need me to be a reminder slash negotiator with the game designers about advertising the game in the upcoming volume?"
Kurosawa-san nodded and yawned. I suppressed the urge to hit him upside his head with my fan. How the hell was this lazy ass Editor-in Chief?! … Never mind, his brain works like a computer that can only remember necessary information when its time.
Sighing, I nodded in agreement, stuck a pen behind my ear and grabbed my notebook and the last volume of Crimson Butterfly. Then I proceeded to slap Kurosawa-san's shoulder.
"You owe me sushi." I demanded.
"I'll buy you dinner at that Italian restaurant in Ginza you wanted to go to." He retorted and I blinked. An Italian restaurant in Ginza was expensive like hell. Why the hell did he offer such an expensive restaurant when all I wanted was normal sushi?
… Oh right, Kurosawa was filthy rich. The only reason he's working in a publishing company was because he was bored and eternally rebelling against his parents' wishes for him to take over his family business.
I snorted at him. "Sushi is fine, Kurosawa-san. All I can eat."
Kurosawa looked at me weirdly but nodded in consent. Happy with the arrangement, I followed him to the meeting room.
Imagine my surprise when I met a very familiar ginger in the room and from the slight widening of his eyes, he was just as surprised as I was.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, this is Hinata Manami." Kurosawa-san introduced me and I bowed in greeting. "I thought having a fan of the series might help with that ad design you wanted to put into the volume."
Handsome ginger man stood and bowed back. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Asahina Natsume, head game designer for Crimson Butterfly." He paused and looked at me. "I wouldn't have pegged you for a horror fan, Hinata-san."
I smiled prettily at him, willing myself not to god damned blush. "I read almost anything and everything, Asahina-san. It's a pleasure to meet you as well."
And as the three of us got seated to discuss business, I couldn't help but noticed the powerful biceps he showed off with his short sleeves.
God damn, this man is one heck of specimen… Now if I can just remember how the hell I find him familiar…
I beamed happily at the game in my hands as I walked out the shop. I had been waiting ages for this game! Ema and I loved playing games together and Zombie Hazard was one game we had both been looking forward to playing together. I wasn't as hard of a gamer as Ema was, but I did still enjoy it nonetheless. Of course I liked RPG games more but first person shooter games were fun to play with others. Plus, gaming had become a sort of bonding experience for Ema and I.
Absorbed in my euphoria, I didn't notice someone standing in front of me watching the opening sequence for the game in my hands until I bumped into him. Once again, I ended up on the floor nursing my bum.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." I gritted out a little harshly but it was painful! Who knew tiled floors would cause more pain than pavement?! Then I realized I didn't have the game in my hands and turned around to look for it.
"Looking for this?" The man I bumped into said and I turned to him.
It was Asahina-san.
I blinked at his amused face as he held the game I was looking for in his hand, waving it in front of me. He then bent down and offered a hand to me. Almost automatically, I took it and he pulled me up near effortlessly.
Damn those muscles… Pay attention Manami!
"Sorry for bumping into you. Again, Asahina-san." I apologized as I accepted the game back from him gratefully. "And thank you for saving my game from getting trampled on. God knows what my sister would do to me if I broke it." I laughed.
"You and your sister are into zombie games?" He asked as he grasped my arm and steered me to the freer of people areas of the mall.
"My younger sister has been looking forward to this game since the trailer for it came out last year!" I laughed. "But I do play them with her on occasions. I prefer playing RPGs though. Ema's the gamer in the family. She plays anything she can get her hands on."
Natsume hummed. "Is she any good?"
"I would say she's brilliant at it. Cleared and finished Metal Gear Solid at 100% complete in a month or so. Trophies and all." I beamed proudly.
"Oh? Do you think she would mind becoming a beta?" Asahina-san mused, smiling at me with an excited gleam in his eyes. I forced down the blush that threatened to turn my face deep red. Those dimples oh my God.
"I think she would be ecstatic." I told him with a smile and I knew I was blushing but seeing that smile widen more made it well worth it.
It has been months since Natsume and I started hanging out as friends. It started after the first game he wanted Ema to beta. I was working through checking the outline for Paradise Kiss when I got a call from Natsume asking me if I wanted to eat lunch with him. I agreed because I hadn't eaten a thing that day and well I really did like Natsume as a friend. I wasn't interested in romance, despite working with Josei manga.
After the lunches came the coffee meetings (though Kisa-kun would insist on calling them coffee dates), and after that came the times he came to my office with packed dinner towards the final parts of 'Publisher's Hell".
We… grew closer. Friends, then best friends. We told each other almost everything. I remember my reaction when he told me he had 12 siblings. All male. Their poor mother. Then he told me he was actually a triplet. The other two were identical to each other while Natsume was fraternal to them. I blinked at him in surprise because hey, I've never met a triplet before. So I pestered him for weeks to introduce his brothers to me.
He dropped his cats on my lap and told me he named them after his triplet siblings: Azusa and Tsubaki.
I replaced all his ties with pink ones for a week in revenge.
Anyway, before either of us knew it we were finding time in our busy schedules to meet each other outside of lunch, coffee and packed dinner in front of Marukawa. I had to admit to myself when after five months, I was starting to really fall for Natsume. I never really realized it until he came over to Marukawa with a huge bouquet of white flowers styled like a puppy surrounded by yellow, green, purple and red smaller flowers in a birthday box with a tag hanging out that read 'Happy 23nd!'. Looking at him smiling at me with bouquet in one hand and a huge teddy bear in the other in front of so many of my co-workers made me realized that my heart was pounding almost too fast and my face was as red as the flowers in the bouquet.
That was when I knew I was falling for him. I wasn't in love with him. Not yet… but maybe one day…
It was a completely normal day when Otousan called me. I had a rare day off and decided Ema should skip class for the day to spend it with me playing games when my phone rang. I didn't really expect anyone to call and I was actually beating Ema at a game so I didn't bother to look at the name on the screen as I answered it and put it on speaker.
Imagine my surprise when I heard Otousan squeal: "I'm getting remarried, kids!"
I froze my hands and Ema won the game. We then sat there for a few moments wondering if what we heard was just our imagination.
"… Manami? Ema? Are you there?" Otousan asked, sounding a little worried.
"… Repeat that please, papa? I don't think we heard you right…" Ema asked, her eyes widened in shock and disbelief.
"I'm getting remarried."
That was what I thought he said. I was promptly knocked over by Ema as she squealed and tackled me in her effort to get to my phone.
I think she elbowed me in the ribs, it hurt.
"It looks like everyone's getting remarried. My mother called last night to tell me she was getting remarried too." Natsume said as he handed me a plate of takoyaki.
We were hanging out at the park where Natsume's favourite place to get takoyaki was nearby. I had just finished telling him about my Otousan getting married and how weird that's going to be to actually have a mother again… Even if she would probably not spend much time with us.
"I guess it's just the season of love in Europe." I giggled. I really was happy for Otousan. I knew he missed Okaasan even though he never told me. But the frequent flashes of grief in his eyes when he laid eyes on me these days was a dead giveaway.
He always did tell me I looked like my mother.
"Maybe it is. Kaasan said this Rinnosuke person was the one for her." Natsume mused.
I froze at the name. Natsume didn't notice as he stuffed another takoyaki in his mouth.
"…Natsume…" I called out to him hesitantly. He turned to look at me curiously. "…What's the name of the man your Okaasan is marrying?"
Natsume furrowed his eyebrows at me. "…Hinata Rinno…" His eyes widened at me as he trailed off.
I gulped, feeling faint myself and I was pretty sure I looked pale as hell. "Otousan is marrying a woman named Asahina Miwa." Natsume's Okaasan…
We looked at each other in slow shock. I didn't – couldn't recognize what he was feeling because I was feeling a little too disoriented myself.
Natsume's Okaasan was marrying my Otousan…
I bit my lip, and looked down trying so damned hard not to cry. I… Liked Natsume.
I liked my future step brother.
Edited: 24/11/2015 - added line breaks
A/N: So I ended up writing this in my excitement at finishing my proposal. This will be a multi-chaptered fic that mostly follows canon events in relation to Ema... though some of the bros will be hitting on Manami too. Final pairing is still Natsume/OC though. Manami's overall personality is mostly based on myself... thus why it's a self insert. She resembles me the most in the first part of this chapter but becomes more of her own person as she grows as seen by what's happening here. I might write one shots on character development for Manami in her teenage years but that wont happen till after the two end up together. When? I have no idea. I need to rewatch the episodes lol
Events will follow the anime...mostly...kinda...maybe...? Because, like. Manami is protective of Ema. And she's not a pushover or naive enough to believe they wont try anything to her entirely too adorable little sister. Juli's her best supporter and she might just give pepper spray to Ema lol. So yeah. She definitely won't like Kaname and Fuuto hah. Their personalities clash too much pfftt it'll be interesting and funny as hell to write though.
Oh. And. Uh... Don't expect regular updates. I'm horrible at updating my fics. I'm so sorry.