Disclaimer: I own nothing.
AN: Hello, and thank you once again for reading this slightly revised one shot. It's not much, just a slight change in POV and a few small additions to the narratives. This story was inspired by both the anime and the KC volumes 1-6. A few of the Time novels have also been incorporated. Keep in mind this is fanficton so it might not be in accordance with Sadanatsu Anda's intention. Forgive me. I"m not thoroughly familiar with Japanese culture, so I welcome any advice given.
He'd planned this day a month in advance, yet nervous feelings he'd harbored regrettably resurfaced since, he,Yaegashi Taichi, never let Inaba Himeko, his current girlfriend of eight years unearth his secret agenda. No matter the consequences, no matter her growing suspicion, he'd not allow the clever Himeko in on what should become a life altering proposition, at least not until today. Friends usually pointed how patient a man he was, however that same patience now hindered his ability to take immediate action regarding this particular circumstance. Still, his thorough knowledge of Inaba Himeko as a person did not persuade these anxious feelings to subside.
-Why am I so terrified of Himeko's reaction to the simple request I'm about to make? Is it because this is a once in a lifetime request? Probably.-
Frightening thoughts mixed in with utter excitement brought him to an important conclusion. He needed help, so he called the one person he knew he could count on to lend him her support. He stood at the shopping district's street corner anticipating her arrival. The correct time, ten o'clock, displayed on his watch. Maybe she'd be a no show, but...she'd been known for arriving fashionably late. Though, since becoming a teacher, none of his other friends could beat her meticulous timing, and there she emerged looking as beautiful as ever. Her silky locks swayed with the wind as she strolled toward her destination. She had a kind, motherly aura about her and a smile that could brighten the most miserable person's day. Nagase Iori was that kind of amazing.
"Yo! Taichi!" she called out, stepping over the street curb into his face.
"Hey, Nagase, how have you-"
"You look terrible! Don't tell me you're that worried, Taichi! There's nothing to be afraid of!"
"I know, but this is a once in a lifetime thing." What if I...?"
"So what?" she wrapped her fingers around his writsts so tightly, the uncomfortable feeling caused him to pull away instincitively. "You're not the type of man to go into a panic over someting like this! There's no reason for it! By the way, have you called Inaban yet?"
"Yeah." Why did she ask him that? Nervousness dredged through his mind again. "I called Himeko earlier this morning, but she's growing wary of my so called late nights at the biology lab. It's pretty difficult to keep a girl that smart from discovering the truth. She hasn't said anything, but I think it's because she's so busy with work.
"Someone that clever is a force to be reckoned with," Nagase chuckled, "but she trusts you, right?"
"Yeah, completely." Taichi let out a breath, his voice sounding deeper than usual.
"Then this should be easy for you!" Then as if there were an underlying meaning behind it, she asked seriously, "How is Inaban anyway?"
"She seems to be worrying herself sick over something," probably where he'd been heading to at night, "but you've talked to her, right?"
"Of course! She hasn't told me anything earth shatterng, though she seemed worried over something or another." Nagase thought on the matter and smiled. "Hmm...did old Dereban show up in the middle of the night, you do something indecent and then...?"
"Huh?" Taichi's cheeks burned with embarrassment.
-Why are you asking me about an old topic like that so straightforwardly? I'll redirect the question, so stop it.-
"Ha! Ha! Dereban! I haven't heard that word in a long time."
"Oh, and I haven't seen that perverted grin in ages!" she winked, teasing him mercilessly. "So...old Dereban did, in fact, show up in the middle of the night-"
"Stop it," he nudged her gently.
-I know you're true to your one and only self, but what is with your nonsense? You're a grown woman and an elementary school teacher at that.-
"Since when are you the type who-"
"And, here's our stop." They'd walked throughout their entire conversation, leading them quickly to the one place he need to go. He motioned Nagase to follow him in through the entrance. "This is the last thing I need to do before..."
"I, Nagase Iori, forbid you, Yaegashi Taichi, to worry any further! Now, man up!"
"Man up? I thought I was a man." With that he entered the shop, meeting a pair of recognizable faces he'd only reintroduced himself to last month.
He avoided her question entirely. What was Nagase Iori thinking, teasing him so boldly like that? How could she act so foolishly, after all, she wasn't a kid in high school anymore, and Taichi was a grown man who'd changed so much. By no means were these changes a bad thing. Yaegashi Taichi was still the same kind, gentle, 'willing to help others' Yaegashi Taichi she'd fallen in love with so many years ago, but the grown Taichi knew the price of using these traits recklessly. His response to her 'man up' command floored her unexpectedly. That dour expression revealed two things, one, back off, and two, he was dead serious about this. He asked for her help, yet she made light of his situation. What was wrong with her? She used to teach him. No, she used to guide him when he refused to listen to his teacher. That position belonged to Inaba Himeko. Though her methods were sometimes quite abrasive, Inaban taught all the former StuCS members a thing or two. They'd learned a tremendous amount from her, but Iori's own method of guiding Taichi through humor usually boosted his confidence. This time she'd need to rely on an alternate technique.
Judging from the atmosphere inside the store, he proved he was without a doubt, dead serious. The cream colored walls matched the soft plush carpeting and every precious stone in the shop sparkled brilliantly. Iori felt awkwardly out of place, but she could not let Taichi down. He needed her support...or did he? He seemed familiar with the two sales clerks, initiating a conversation with the eldest. She remained close to the entrance, respecting his privacy.
"May I help you?" the younger sales woman asked gracefully as she approached her.
"No, no. I'm with him...over there," she smiled politely. According to the woman's reaction, she seemed rather uncomfortable with Iori's presence. Her gaze shot across the room instantly, piercing into her co-worker's eyes. The older woman tilted her head to one side, then asked Taichi an inaudible question. He glanced over his shoulder and waved.
"Oh!" Taichi whispered to her quietly after retrieving the items he'd purchased. She laid a hand to the middle of her chest seemingly...relieved? It also appeared as if she reprimanded him as well.
"Thank you, and please come again," both sales employees suggested simutaneously as they exited the shop.
"Thank you," Taichi replied, stepping onto the sidewalk.
-He's such a gentleman.-
"How long have you known those two sales women, Taichi?" she couldn't escape her curiosity.
"Well, I first met them about six or maybe seven years ago, but I only recently got to know them last month."
-It is inappropriate for me to pry, but I'll ask anyway.-
"What were you and that sales lady whisperng about?"
"Huh?" She thought she surprised him with her inquiry, but he answered anyway.
"Uh...oh, she was just telling me you were a lovely looking young lady."
"And what else?" Iori interrogated him further, knowing he deliberately omitted a substantial amount of information.
"That part," he said, scolding her like a child, "is private."
"Private? Since when do you keep secrets from me?"
"When those secrets are for my ears only."
-His stoic, sidelong glance irritates me.-
"You're still the smart aleck, aren't you?"
"Ha! Ha! I suppose," he laughed, but then stated quickly afterward, "I was serious about that last part."
-Changing the subject is a good idea right now.-
"Did I tell you I met someone I think Inaban will approve?"
"No." Taichi twisted his head toward Iori, meeting her eyes as if interested. "Tell me more."
"I can't spare all the details since there's not enough time. I have to get back to the school soon, but I'd like you to meet him too. You're opinion is-"
"I'm sure Himeko is perfectly capable of deducing a person's character on her own."
-Ugh! That indifferent attitude again.-
"You're also capable of-"
"I know I'm also capable of making my own decision, but sometimes it's all right if you decide to-oh, we're here." He shifted his eyes to the ground, then lifted them directly into her own. "Nagase, I want to apologize for my erratic behavior. It's just I've been nervous all morning and I've probaby been taking it out on you. I'm sorry. That being said, I'm grateful you're willing to help me out. Thank you."
"It's all right. You don't need to apologize."
-I'm the one who should be apologizing.-
"And I don't think your behavior is erratic. You're expressing your feelings honestly, so don't worry about it."
"Thank you." Taichi's subtle expression hinted his relief.
"You do look a little better since we left the jewelry shop," she told him while noticing his firm stance. He was ready. "Wait, Taichi, are you sweating?!"
What the hell was Inaba Himeko doing here? She knew Taichi asked her to come to this place, but why did he ask her to wear formal clothing? If they were going out for the evening, she'd understand, but 10:30 in the morning? Well, he did say 11:00, but she prefered to arrive early. Still, what was this? He'd been acting so stange lately and she knew the lab wasn't his nightly destination, but the convenient store? What the hell? Unless...no, she couldn't accept this horrible thought, besides his affections towards her hadn't changed and that girl wasn't his type. She'd heard him talking on the phone with Iori a few times recently but those calls always led to a conversation with herself. Why was she so worried? They'd been together for eight years and she'd swear on her life they both knew each other inside and out. She trusted him completely, but was this a preparation for the most devastating shock of her life? Or perhaps, had their relationship truly become boring for him? No, she didn't think so because they both worked during most of the day. They also looked for new ways to get excited about each other. Then what was it? All she was aware of was the place he'd asked her to meet him was quite beautiful.
The ten foot high neatly trimmed hedges formed a rectangle bearing a single entrance. They reminded her of a garden maze and the four towering lamp posts standing in each corner, if lit, gave the inclination of it being a romantic place for lovers. Four park benches sitting side by side lazily, two across from the other brought forth a roomy, yet intimate atmosphere. Yes, the place would be perfect at night, so why was he bringing her here in the day? What was Taichi up to anyway?
Himeko suddenly recognized Iori's voice resonating through one of the thick hedges close to the entrance.
"Wait, Taichi? Are you sweating?!"
-Oh no, is this it?-
"No...probably." His quivering voice frightened her.
-Is this the end? Why am I even asking this? Why should I be so worried?-
Two faces materialized at the entrance displaying the most stunned faces she'd ever witnessed. She arose from her bench, ready to greet them.
-Please tell me, what is this, Taichi? Am I losing you today? It's terrifying, especially when...no, I can't be selfish. I need to think of you first. I'll do whatever you ask of me, but I can't deny, I'm scared to death.-
"Morning, Taichi. Good morning, Iori, how have you been?"
-Today, I need my confidence. My confidence will win the battle. My confidence will defeat this terror.-
"Inaban!" Iori gasped, "you look-"
"Beautiful," Taichi exhaled after sucking in a breath, his widened eyes in absolute awe. She caught sight of his pulse throbbing through the veins in his neck.
-Wow..he really is in...that's the ticket...but that's not the point.-
He beat her to the word she was about to use. Inaban did look beautiful wearing a bright red dress with a corresponding shawl. Her shoes and purse also matched, completing the perfect outfit for a fashion shoot. Her natural beauty stood out, so if she'd applied any makeup, it was subtle. She'd been adding more color to her wardrobe little by little and Iori usually saw her wear pastel pinks or soft yellows, but the bright red surprised her. It definitely surprised Taichi. Normally, Inaban didn't concern herself too often with these things, but the contrast between the vivid color and the simple style of the dress proved otherwise. What a bold statement.
"You did tell me to dress nicely today, but thank you." She expressed her gratitude unexpectedly. If she was embarrassed, she hid it well. "You also look very handsome yourself today, Taichi. And I don't think I need to tell you that you always look beautiful, Iori, do I?"
-Saying that to me is extremely embarrassing, so I'll focus on the task at hand.-
"Taichi has something he wants to tell you, don't you, Taichi?...Taichi?"
-Why do I feel like I'm tutoring one of my students?-
He stood frozen, continuing to stare at Inaban. Iori tugged on the sleeve of his jacket.
"Huh?" He finally snapped of his daze to face her.
"Didn't you have something you wanted to tell Inaban?" she coached him.
"Oh...uh...yeah." He hesitated for some reason. She guessed she needed to give him another push.
"Well, get on with it then!"
-No, don't glance at me like that again! Or is that a glare?-
"That's right! I shouldn't be here right now!" She just realized.
"No." Taichi answered sternly.
-Yep. That was a glare.-
"Sorry, Inaban, but I've been informed this is a private matter between the two of you. I'll be leaving now, but I'll catch up with you later on. Good to see ya!"
-But that doesn't mean I'm not going to spy in you two, because this really is...a once in a lifetime event.-
She laughed to herself circling outside the rectangular maze to the oppposite side of the entrance.
-If I'm careful not to make a sound, it should be okay. They'll both lecture me endlessly if they find out. Now let's see Taichi's approach to this highly anticipated event. Will he succeed on his mission? I'll soon find out.-
Nagase really came through for him today, but did he actually need her support? When Taichi thought about it, probably not. Maybe he was just trying to convince her he was absolutely capable of achieving his goal. Or maybe...somewhere inside himself, there was a deeper meaning behind it. Now, after all this time, there was no doubt in his mind.
"Himeko," he addressed the magnificent beauty before him rather nervously, "before I tell you what I have to say, I think you should sit down, please."
"Okay." She seated herself on one of the benches obediently. Her confident appearance did not fool him into disbelieving the fact she was terrified out of her mind.
-Truth is, I'm also terrified, but I'm bot going to let this emotional insecurity stop me. I'll move past it. It'll be okay for the both of us. You'll see.-
"Listen, I want to apologize for lying to you about where I"ve been going all month. The truth is, I've been relieving that girl from the convenient store of her shift every night. I'm really sorry I didn't tell you, but I have a good reason."
-Please don't be angry with me.-
"Why did you take on another job?" Himeko's troubled face exposed her confusion. Tears welled up in her round eyes, moistening those long, erotic lashes.
-I beg you, please don't cry. Please, not right now.-
"We both make enough money. Are you trying to tell me-"
"Please understand. I had to do this on my own."
-This is it. This is my once in a lifetime proposition.-
He inhaled deeply, his heart racing so uncontrollably he thought it might explode from his chest. His gut wrenched so tightly he felt he might spew the contents of his breakfast onto the cement.
"I don't understand. What did you need to do on your own?" her trembling voice asked. "Is it...do you want to-"
"Please, let me finish." His shoes touched the tips of her toes, and if he were to lose his footing, he'd surely topple over Himeko.
"All right. Please continue." Her tone suggested this wasn't so much of a command as she just wanted him to proceed.
"So...Himeko, we've been together for a really long time and through the years, I've come to understand everything about you through and through. You have come to understand me thoroughly as well. We've grown through many hardships and celebrations, not only as individuals but also as a couple. You've filled my weaknesses with your strengths and I've filled your weaknesses with my strengths."
-Where am I going with this? It sounds so cliche.-
"I have something to tell you right now. No, I have something to ask you. I can't wait any longer."
"You're not going to spout a famous line from a movie, are you?"
-This is serious!-
"You're not going to leave-"
"No!" He needed to calm the fretting Himeko down, so he grabbed the park bench with both hands, straddling her shoulders. Peering directly into her eyes, he made his request. "Inaba Himeko, will you make miso soup for me every morning?!"
-Miso soup? What are you, her grandpa? Come on, Taichi, you can do better than that! Let's see how Inaban responds.-
"Miso soup? Uh...well..."
-What? She doesn't understand? You're too smart not to understand. You're a freakin' engineer!-
Iori knew it was highly inappropriate, but their situation was too amusing and she couldn't help chortling.
"Did you hear something?" Inaban glanced over her shoulder, but Taichi remained in position.
-I'd better stay calm, but I can't help it. These two are, how shall I describe it? I don't know if adorable is the right word to convey, but I will convey it. They're adorable.-
"Miso soup?" Himeko repeated to herself. "Well, I guess my cooking has improved substantially and I did make chikuzen-ni for you, Aoki, Yui, and Iori before. Didn't I include miso with daikon and fried tofu pouch? When I think of miso soup, it reminds me of the story my brother once told me about my grandma when my grandpa pro-"
-Wait, I just realized...-
"Are you asking me to...?"
"Are you serious?"
-He's told me this only once before, and we were in a similar position, but that's a private matter.-
"That's...um...I..." Her lips twitched so uncontollably she thought she might break down. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize..."
"It's okay," He lifted his hands off the bench and sat down beside her, taking a small box out of his pocket. "Let me do this another way. Inaba Himeko, will you wear this ring for me every day for the rest of your life?"
"..." Tears of joy streamed down her cheeks and she was almost beside herself with laughter, but she held back. Taichi needed an answer. "...Yes."
Because her back faced opposite Iori, she could not read Inaban's facial expression, but what she heard sounded like a mixture of whimpering and hysterical laughing. And then, she finally said the one word, concluding it all.
The two faced each other and as Taichi slid a glittering ring over Inaban's finger, she addressed a subject only they, themselves, would understand.
"You do realize I noticed this is the same one from...from..." Tears cascading down her cheeks, Inaban confronted him lightheartedly.
"From six years ago...yeah. I was planning it all along," he responded equally as joyful.
-So, that was your secret, was no reason to keep it from me...but I'm aware your experiences regarding Inaban are personal.-
"I love you, Taichi."
"I love you, Himeko."
Both glanced around the entire enclosure before their bodies drew closer together. Their lips brushed against each others, leading into a soft, yet passionate kiss. Yaegashi Taichi and Inaba Himeko had finally evolved into the heartwarming couple Iori originally thought they might become so many years ago. As she witnessed their tender moment, she felt a distant pang tug at her heart, but she was genuinely happy for the two of them.
A loud ringtone blaring from Inaban's cell phone interrupted her thoughts. At the same time, her own cell phone vibrated through the pocket of her skirt. Aoki's name flashed across the screen.
"Hello? Hey, Yui...whoa! Whoa whoa! Yui, slow down! Now, what happened?"
-I suppose I'd better answer Aoki's call.-
"Guess what, Iori chan? I asked Yui to marry me...AND SHE SAID YES!"
-She said yes.-
"Wow, I don't know what to say, except congratulations. Listen, I can't really talk right now, but this wonderful occasion calls for a celebration."
"Why are you whispering?"
"Gotta go! Bye!"
-That was close! Aoki's voice is so loud he could have blown my cover, but Taichi and Inaban are too interested in Yui's ecstatic excitement to notice.-
"We'll have to plan a celebration party for the two of you...yeah, see ya soon and congratulations again. Bye." Inaban ended her call.
-Wait she didn't tell Yui of her engagement to Taichi?-
"I think it's better if we wait to tell them, don't you, Taichi?"
"Yeah. It would be selfish to spoil their special moment."
-She said yes. It's time to move on.-
If she reflected on all the years she'd spent associating with Yaegashi Taichi, Nagase Iori often wondered what might have been had they not experienced awful phenomenon at such a pivotal point in their lives. She and Taichi might be together right now and she could have been the girl on the bench he proposed to today, but when she thought about it, with or without phenomenon, she probably would have made the same decisions because she needed to find herself. Once she did that, she thought she'd be more deserving of the man she loved. She also felt confident if she waited patiently while he was finding himself, Taichi might rekindle his relationship with her eventually. In her first year of high school, she believed he was the "white knight" who'd come to her aid every time she faltered, but this type of delusional thinking proved laughable. Taichi was no "white knight". He was an ordinary human being with faults of his own. Even after realizing this, she honestly imagined his and Inaban's relationship would not last through their first year of college. She was wrong.
They'd call her on numerous occasions after a fight which often led her to dispense some sort of thought provoking nonsense. Then she discovered, after each argument they'd have, they'd later discuss it, learn from it, and grow even closer. After a while, the phone calls became sparse and the last time she'd heard from Taichi, although he and Inaban had gotten into a fight, they'd already resolved it. They both thought it was stupid and had a good laugh about it. He only called to say hello. It was then she understood their status as a couple had changed significantly. On their last visit home from college, it was evident by the expression in their eyes.
Iori couldn''t say she regretted not dating throughout high school, because she didn't. Again, when she thought about Yaegashi Taichi, one important word came to mind, and that word was time. They say patience is a virtue and she believed that to be true, but then there was the old adage, 'time waits for no one'. Time did not wait for Taichi to come back to her. Time moved forward and Taichi moved forward with it. She supposed she could assign blame, but the only one at fault was herself. Time waits for no one. However, if she had her way, time would never steal away the memory of that pure, innocent, genuine, first love she and Taichi once had. She'd lock that memory away deep in her heart, but every once in a while, she might turn the key so she could reminisce.
"Hey, you wanna get out of here?" Inaban asked anxiously. "Since it's Saturday, I have the whole day off, unless that is...you have to relieve your giiirlfriend."
-You're certainly not the clingy, jealous girl you used to be, Inaban. We're you really Taichi's teacher, or was he your teacher all along? Look how far you've come! -
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" Taichi laughed, heartily, knowing by the smile on Inaban's face, she was teasing him about his temporary part time job. "No, I have the entire day off myself, and I've also put in my two week's notice. Since we're in the vicinity, would you like to take a one last ride on the Ferris wheel?"
-Ah, such a rare, yet completely genuine smile from you, Taichi.-
"Ferris wheel? About that..." Inaban whispered something in Taichi's ear, causing his eyes to open as wide as a pair of twin baseballs and Iori could have sworn the hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up.
"Heh..." She wasn't sure if he'd fully recovered from the shock of whatever Inaban whispered into his ear, but a serene smile spread across his face and he whispered back audibly, "Perfect timing. Good job, Himeko."
"The same can be said for you also, Taichi." At that, he wrapped his right arm around her shoulder, squeezing her body tightly, as if he was protecting her. She then laid her head on his chest affectionately.
They seemed so peaceful, Iori decided it was time she departed. Though she didn't hear their last conversation entirely, she felt certain she knew what it was about, but they could tell her their news whenever they were ready.
-I'm happy for you, Taichi. I really am.-
"Spying on your friends?"
"I was starting to worry about you since you usually return to the school five minutes early. What is this all about?"
"I already know what it's about. Why don't you let those two have some real privacy?"
-This man makes my skin tingle...it's a pleasant feeling.-
"Yeah, you're right. Besides, my children need me!"
"Yes, they do. This is a little off topic, but rather than haunt our usual place after school, why don't I take you to a movie tonight?"
"I'd like that."
-I really would.-
"You can come out now, Iori," Himeko beckoned, knowing Iori couldn't resist participating as the audience of her and Taichi's engagement. "Iori? Hmm. I wonder where she went?"
"Are you sure Nagase was spying on us?"
"Absolutely." It seemed odd for her not to intervene shortly after Taichi proposed to her. She'd always been like that whenever the two of them had 'private' conversations. "Maybe we should go check on her. I'm a little worried."
"Yeah, I think that's a good idea." Taichi rose from his seat, meandering toward the entrance and after peeping out, he invited Himeko to join him. "It seems like we didn't have anything to worry about. Look."
"I guess not," she returned, observing a familiar elementary school teacher moseying past them with a distinguished looking gentleman at her side. He might have been one of her colleagues, but Himeko sensed spark in Iori's eye she hadn't seen since her friend first fell in love with Taichi so many years ago.
As Inaba Himeko looked back on those early days in high school, every now and then she wondered what might have happened if she'd never admitted her love for Taichi. Would he and Iori have happily dated one another throughout high school? Somehow, she didn't think so, because Iori needed to realize there were different aspects in everyone's personality. All these aspects combined was what made us unique to ourselves. Had she just told Taichi she needed to resolve these issues, things might have worked out. Himeko used to blame herself for their relationship's demise, even if she wasn't the initial cause behind it. She despised herself for becoming such a detestable woman. She felt like drowning herself in a river or setting herself on fire for the sin she committed. Yes, she made some horrible mistakes she was reluctant to admit, but she also discovered falling in love was not a sin. Falling in love couldn't be helped, for it was not a deliberate action. She'd never be Taichi's first love, because that position would always belong to Nagase Iori. Despite this, she had something from Yaegashi Taichi Iori would never have. That was his ability to undertand her through pure, unconditional love.
After dating Taichi throughout high school, she learned in college she could not take their own relationship for granted. She resolved to earn his real love by setting her own selfish behavior aside so that she could learn to better understand his own needs. This also meant she was willing to take the risk of losing him permanently for the sake of his own happiness, no matter how much she loved him. Because she was able to accomplish this feat, she and Taichi had grown into something extraordinary. She honestly believed that was why he proposed to her today.
-It just sunk in. Taichi proposed me!-
"I'M GETTING MARRIED!" she shouted at the top of her lungs hysterically. "YES!"
Two pairs of eyes wandered in their direction.
"Sorry!" Himeko covered her mouth at her own emabarrassment. "I'm so sorry!"
"It can't be helped," Taichi laughed.
"But I think you attracted some onlookers."
Those onlookers were Iori and her refined gentleman waving happily. Iori's smile was picture perfect and she seemed at peace with herself. That's all Himeko wanted for her closest friend.
-These two really suit each other.-
As she thought about that, she turned to the man who once had a special relationship only he and the woman across the street shared. What would Taichi think seeing Iori with another man?
"Congratulations, Inaban! Taichi!" Nagase hailed from across the opposite side of the road, smiling like the sun itself. Beside her stood an honorable man also smiling at the newly engaged couple.
-Is this the 'someone' she wants us to meet?-
Taking one glance at this man, Taichi realized he couldn't measure up. This mysterious gentleman had an incredible aura about him and looked as if he'd been sculpted by the great Michelangelo himself. If Taichi compared himself to this man, he'd feel insignificant, but Nagase Iori, on the other hand, rivaled him as an equal. Her beauty radiated along side his, and it seemed as if the two belonged together. He felt certain this man could make her happy, and she deserved happiness.
"We need to get back to school right now, but we'll plan something special for the two of you, ok?"
-This man is a teacher?!-
While his eyes followed the pair down the sidewalk, Yaegashi Taichi reminisced about the time he spent with Nagase Iori their first year in high school. He'd always admired her spirited personality, but her smile was what he cherished the most. Back then he never realized that smile was a superficial mask concealing a darker side of herself she refused to accept. Without knowing that, he'd already fallen in love with her, so when this hidden side of her emerged, he was caught off guard. He did not understand why she so coldly rejected him, nor did he understand her inner struggle. With a crazy phenomenon in this midst of all this, she finally broke down and explained herself. After that, he finally started to understand her plight. He could also understand why she decided to reset their relationship. Once she resolved her struggles, she pulled honest smiles from her heart. Though they never re-established their relationship, she'd remained a loyal friend towards him and he was grateful for that. While she displayed her true personality today, Taichi realized all long and possibly even now, he'd put her on a pedestal, idolizing her. In his eyes, this was not the criteria for a realistic partnership. A realistic relationship involved not only accepting your partner's flaws, but delving deep into comprehending those flaws even if it led to an argument. That was something he'd never been able to do with Nagase. He knew in his heart he'd never forget Nagase Iori, but that unprecedented, first love they had once shared now belonged in the past.
And then there was Himeko. What could he say about her?
In the beginning, their relationship experienced quite a bit of turbulence, and at one point Himeko broke up with him due to his irresponsible behavior. After that, they grew closer, but still struggled to solidify themselves as a reliable couple. They'd had countless arguments, but with each one, he grew to know her better than ever. After every apology, she'd asked him why he stayed with her. At the time, he wasn't sure. Maybe it was their bond, not the one Heartseed planted on the StuCS, but a true bond only the two of them shared between themelves. He remembered it was toward the end of their first year in college she decided to test this so called inseparable bond. They'd gotten into a particularly heated argument that day and he'd always remember the words she'd said to him. She told him if she failed in his happiness, she was willing to remove herself from their situation. She loved him to that extent. It was then he realized she'd developed from a lovesick high school teenager into a kindhearted, wonderful woman. In that moment, something from deep within his soul emerged and he kissed her so passionatley he thought he might have frightened her. He did not want to let her go because...he'd truly fallen in love with her.
"Hmm? What is it Himeko?"
"I know this sounds ridiculous because you just proposed to me, but...are you really...happy...with me...Taichi?"
"Why are you even asking me that?"
-Ah Now that is the world's most exceptionally beautiful smile.-
"I'm happy." Taichi smiled back.
-That is the truth.-
AN: Yes I still wrote this for fun. Thank you so much for reading.