Tokiya                Once and For All

            Hate is such a strong word.

            And the last thing I needed was to be reminded of the context in which it was used. I strode past the umpteenth person in that room who asked if I was okay, not bothering with a response. Mr. Yakiba wore a contrite look on his face as I passed him.

            I felt like a finalist for 'Imbecile of The Year'. What I said earlier was completely detached from my calm aura, an invitation for her to write me off as the first person in her hate list.

            Disgusted, I quickened my pace. Blurred images of faces, mahogany walls and marble tiles flashed across my vision. Reaching for the metal bars on the main door, I yanked it open and stepped outside, feeling steam rise from my insides.

            Was this not what you wanted? I asked myself mockingly. You resolved to keep your distance because you thought you'd be saving yourself a lot of grief, and now that you've become the target of her abhorrence, you should be congratulating yourself because as of now, you're officially out of her life.

            I replaced the absent urge to pat myself on the back with the notion of kicking myself. Congrats, she hates you.

            Forcing myself to calm down, I inhaled deeply, feeling a light and gentle breeze graze my skin. Grateful for the small amount of calmness it brought, I allowed myself to delve into the recurring question pressing into my mind.

            What are you going to do now?

            The customary "ice mask", labeled by none other than Fuuko herself, seemed like the only logical solution. Simply don it on, and steel myself for the next twenty years of my life. By the second year the words "human interactivity" will have permanently vanished from my vocabulary. Be hostile particularly to violet-haired girls with suspiciously disarming smiles. Wait—scratch that, Fuuko's one in a million. Be hostile to the world. You mind your own business, they mind theirs.


            Any more grand ideas, Tokiya?

            This—episode should not be grating my nerves. I should have muttered "Good riddance" and vanished the memory of whatever persistent insanity taking place the last five months. She probably wasn't moping as much as I was, in fact, she was probably not moping at all.

            My intuition was that she was probably in lover boy's arms, seeking comfort and solace. Not exactly a pleasant thought.

            Something brewed inside my chest, enough to make me want to find that annoying nuisance and dismantle his body parts.

            Procrastination was never something I wanted to identify myself with. Dropping my shoulders from their stiff position, I conceded that it would adequately fit the current situation.


            This day was bringing out the worst in me.

            "If I remember correctly, you said you had revised the original draft." I lowered my voice which was threatening to shot up to a thousand decibels.

            The receiver on the other end of the line swallowed audibly. "I did, Mikagami, but---- well---- I-----" he sputtered. "Something came up….?"

            I bit my tongue to prevent from lashing out. "I have other priorities that do not include bailing you out of whatever mess you have created."

            "Mikagami, if you would just pass by the coffee shop right now. I'm just wrapping up the rushed version. It won't take long. Just go through it. Once from you will be enough."

            To add to my present headache, the line went dead. Swiftly pocketing the cellular phone, I retraced my steps and slipped into the coffee shop. As soon as I walked through the glass doors, Nobunaga stepped up and handed me a stack of papers, smiling sheepishly.

            Appeal to pity never worked on me. I raised an eyebrow and slammed the sheets on the nearest table, using my hand as paperweight and letting my eyes glide over the page.

            I felt him take a step back. "So, will it pass for okay?" He asked nervously.

            "It's too condescending." I answered scornfully, reaching for my pen and encircling a paragraph in the middle. "Modify this."

            Without a word more, I turned for the glass doors. Someone was surely playing a hoax on me, for standing in the entrance was none other than Fuuko, hands behind her back. Her face knotted in astonishment when she saw that I was on my way out.

            I threw the door open effortlessly and stepped out into the warm sunshine.

"What are you doing here?" she asked nonchalantly as I passed her. I shook off the inquiry and continued my pace when she made another comment. "I just asked a question."

I stopped walking but refused to face her. "I thought you said you hated me."

"I don't deny that."

"It would follow that you loathe my presence." I remarked.

"In terms that defy gravity." she snapped back.

Defeated, I scowled. "Then this conversation is futile."

            I continued walking, feeling my breath grow shorter and faster. It was so rare when I felt a surge of emotion, and misery was a burden to contain. A flash of red caught my eye as I walked past her. A blur which was unmistakably a bouquet of red roses. 

So, I was right. She already had a shoulder to cry on.


            It was almost eight in the evening when I finished packing for my trip home (after getting an excited call from Ganko and not having the heart to refuse, even in my current disposition) when I heard a chain of knocks on the front door.

            Dragging myself to the living room, I unlocked the door and instantly regretted doing so when I saw Seita's face, grinning like a chimpanzee.

 "So…" I droned in an interest-devoid tone.

            Seita nodded. "All set for your trip tomorrow?"

            "I don't feel like chatting." I muttered bluntly.

            "Typical Mikagami response." He chuckled. "In a few minutes you will be. There's a visitor in the lobby waiting for you. A Mr. Yakiba, one of your professors."

            This late? I thought. It must be urgent. Suddenly thrown into a pensive stupor, I attempted to shut the door when Seita inserted his foot in. "Not so fast, Mikagami. The red roses you ordered arrived a while ago."


            Seita chortled and pumped his eyebrows up and down, adding another level of hatred to my growing exasperation. "Roses which were selected as a token of appreciation for a certain partner in literature?"

            My eyes narrowed to slits to emphasize my mounting temper. "I canceled the order."

            "Huh? Why?"

            I raised an eyebrow and felt saw him back away awkwardly. "Oh…" He mumbled feebly, taking one more step backwards.

            I recognized his attempt to sprint and stepped in front of him to prevent him from doing so. "So, where are the flowers?" I asked inanely.

            He gulped and I noticed a profuse amount of sweat pouring down his forehead. "I…" he closed his eyes. "delivered them to her myself. Thought I'd spare you the trouble, you know. I even placed your name on the card attached."

            Dumbfounded and immensely furious, I turned around and headed for the stairs. The roses I saw her holding a while ago, were they from me? Taking a deep breath to pacify my anger, I told him through gritted teeth, "We'll talk later."

            "Um, Mikagami, she says arigato for the flowers."

            I grunted in reply, feeling a sharp throb spreading throughout my forehead.

            Mr. Yakiba was sprawled on one of the recliners with a poem anthology lying open in one hand. He looked up from the book and stretched, removing his glasses and blinking rapidly to abate the strain from too much reading under a dim light. "Tokiya." He acknowledged my presence with a nod. "I hope I'm not intruding or causing any inconvenience."

            "Not at all, sir." I replied, although only half-true.

            He nodded and drew out a manila envelope from the briefcase lying at his feet. "I don't make a habit out of invading my students' residence. But I wanted to return this immediately, hearing that you will be leaving tomorrow afternoon. These are works you have submitted throughout the semester." I took the envelope from him, slid the stack of papers out of their case and glanced at the poem I had constructed. Written in red ink was a perfect grade.

            I shuffled through my other works, including the interviews which had obtained a high grade and found a light blue envelope which certainly did not belong to me. Turning it over, I recognized Fuuko's penmanship centered on front. "I'm afraid this was misplaced, sir." I said dryly, handing it back to him.

            Mr. Yakiba smiled cheekily, not making any attempts to retrieve the small sachet. "There's no mistake, Tokiya. Miss Kirisawa wrote this poem for you. I am returning it to the rightful owner."

            Dubious, I placed it on top of the envelope. "Mr. Yakiba, how certain are you that I am the recipient of this poem?"

            "You'll just have to take my word for it." He reached for his hat and placed it over his balding head, tipping it slightly. "Now if you will pardon me, Tokiya. My wife is expecting me. Oyasumi nasai."

            I heard his footsteps subside and shortly after, an engine roared to life and eventually subsided as the car careened out of the parking space and into the dark night.

            My attention was drawn back to the light blue envelope which had involuntarily aroused my curiosity. Taking the flight of stairs which led to my room, I threw open the door and headed for the small library next to my room. I switched on the lights and eased myself into the vinyl chair behind the immaculate oak desk. The familiar sight of my laptop greeted me.

              I laid the envelope next to the laptop, and took out Fuuko's poem. The paper had already turned yellow at the sides, and the handwriting was partly smudged. Readable nonetheless.

            I held up the paper, noticing the date written on the upper left portion. The letter was dated four years back. She had not known me yet, how could she have possibly dedicated it to me? Ridding my mind of impending questions, I adjusted the lamp on my desk and proceeded to read.


            I have always laughed at the prospect of falling in love. I have waved away notions of tingling sensations and warm feelings and dismissed these as insanities. I just clicked my tongue as I watched lovers pass by, thinking that whatever "magic" there was that made it last was not perpetual. When I see that glazed, distant look on a lover's eyes as they watch the person who holds their hearts, I roll my own. It's not that I have anything against romantic love, I just didn't think it would happen to me, much less in this lifetime. I certainly cannot call to memory having done anything that deserves this… emotion, this "love" they call that ensures pure bliss.

            But the fact that you're reading this letter, together with the poem attached proves I am altogether wrong.

            I wrote this poem some time when I probably haven't met, seen or had any inkling what you looked like. Or I had probably known you but had no clue that you were the one who'd change the course of my life. It might feel weird receiving a poem from a girl, when society sets norms the other way around. In that case, just take it as a token of my gratitude, the prospect alone of meeting you has meant so much to me, that this poem was written to keep the feeling preserved.

            The words, the rhymes, the implication behind each stanza are all mine. In point of truth, it was not easy composing this, but I was inspired by the thought that it would be dedicated to a very special person, and that pushed me on. What it really means is that YOU are the paradox, the mystery I've been trying to solve after hearing so many testimonies from friends, acquaintances and having read from it in books. You changed my view of love so that in the end I fell victim to the thief of hearts—the very emotion I ran away from, and that is, love.

            Thank you for coming. A thousand words cannot articulate how much you mean to me, but this poem is a shot. I'm unaware of how much time passed since I composed this and now that you've received this letter; it may be a week, a month, a year or even longer . But regardless of time, this poem and it's trying attempts at passing for lyrical was written especially for you.

            It's yours to keep, or yours to throw. What is important is that I got it through to you that you are someone I consider dear and precious, enough to drive me to write a poem and preserve it till the day it falls to your hands.



The Paradox of Attraction

It happened some time in the month of May

Queer and mysterious, intriguing to some

A rather strange case to be presented, they say

For the damage was yet to be done

Unbeknownst to all, a villain was loose

And he specialized in striking the heart

In speculation he led many to muse

On his victims he left hardly a mark.

The witnesses said t'was emotion

That had stirred in them quite an uproar

It might be the proverbial love potion

For love had just knocked on their door

The issue was plain and simple

An epidemic so widespread as the flu

And with it an accomplice so noble

Which over time captured hearts tried and true

So what is this mystery that drove many hearts baffled?

And the mind so it no longer knew?

And in the end if you get puzzled

Can the paradox be solved by you?

You see, my love, my heart, too was stolen

By that thief in the month of May out of the blue

Love was the culprit of whom many have spoken

And its accomplice was you.


            It was not bad, considering a fourteen-year-old had written it.

            It was I who had it bad.

            Shaking my head at the fool that I had turned out to be, I resolved to contact her first thing in the morning. I owed Fuuko an apology.


            Where the heck is she?

I still had that 4 p.m. flight to catch, for crying out loud. I laid down the carefully wrapped present on the couch and brushed the bangs from my face, steeling myself from a rare, sudden outburst of fury. I always kept my cool, ordinary predicament or not.

I just hate it when she does that--- waste my precious time.

But then again, I was the one who showed up unannounced so it was not in my position to complain. As I began pacing down the lobby of her dormitory in futile attempt to abate my temper, I caught the attention of the desk clerk, who threw me an amused glance and asked if she could help.

            "It's been two hours, that's enough test of patience." She said as I neared the front desk. The entire building was eerily quiet, presumably due to the intense desire to take advantage of the short break, which officially began today.

             I sighed in exasperation. "I wish to talk with Miss Kirisawa, if she's in."

            The girl's green eyes widened slightly and she reached for the phone. "Your business must be important, if not urgent,  seeing that it's worth two hours of waiting."

            "It is." I assured her.

            She held up a palm and spoke into the receiver. "Third floor? Right. Could you please check on Fuuko Kirisawa?" she paused.  "What? She's not around?" she listened for a while before replacing the receiver back onto its hook. "This is terrible. I'm sorry, but Fuuko left 30 minutes before you came in."

            Feeling like an anvil had just weighed down on my shoulders, I turned towards the door to hide my disappointment.

            The last words of the woman rang in my ear. "She left for the airport."


            She's leaving.

            My mind replayed the phrase for the millionth time as I hailed a cab, duffel bag in tow. Serves you right for speculating she'd be sleeping in for the entire day. The cab had barely stopped when I threw open the door of the backseat, tossed my bag in and folded myself into a seating position. Informing the driver of my destination, I looked out the window and sighed.

            It wasn't entirely my fault. She should have at least notified me of her decision to leave. Granted that, I wouldn't have spent two hours of my life looking like a complete fool, waiting for her to make an appearance, which she never did. The question bounced back at me with an accusing force: Could she have, with me avoiding her like a rare plague?

            Stressed from not producing a credible answer to that question, I leaned back against the leather-sheathed seat and closed my eyes. There was no other choice but to board that.

            My hands groped the unopened package beside me, the gift intended for her. I had spent half the morning scouring bookstores for "The Catcher in The Rye", after recalling her incessant badgering on the plot and characters of the book. It was one of the things she didn't have to tell me, yet I sensed that she would like to have. In the process I think I overdid myself, buying chocolates to go with the book.

            It would have to pass for a peace offering.

            The cab skidded to a halt. Looming in front of me were massive buildings and a wide lot that was the airport. I paid my fare and reached for my bag.

            A couple of steps into the tall glass doors sent me grumbling as a uniformed guard poked my bag for inspection. Standing there impatiently, arms folded, I felt  a sudden weight on my shoulder. I spun around and found Mr. Taketa smiling at me.

            "Konnichiwa." I intoned lifelessly.

            "Ahh, Tokiya. What a pleasant surprise. What are you doing here? Are you with Fuuko?" He let out a jolly laugh and winked at me.

            I fought the urge to roll my eyes. Wishful thinking did not answer his question so the truth would suffice. "Apparently, I'm boarding a plane." And one would have to be blind not to know the answer to the second question.

            "And I just got off one. If you're looking for Fuuko, I just had a conversation with her thirty minutes ago. Poor girl looked affronted, recently discovered her trip was scheduled four o'clock." He said pleasantly, patting my shoulder.

            My eyebrows raised and I excused myself, took my bag and paced hurriedly towards the departure area. My eyes scanned the rows of seats for any sign of her, which surprisingly, with the way my luck was going, was approved. A naughty smile played on my lips as I sauntered over to her direction, the smirk immediately replaced by a deep scowl as I realized she was seated in front of a suspended television, whose volume was set to test your ear drum's stamina.

            Fuuko, at this point decided to look and dress like a girl, though not the first time, and looked refreshingly beautiful in a black sleeveless turtleneck and slacks, even from behind. Her back was turned to me, and flaunting a look that screamed bodily harm at the google-eyed "spectators" three rows behind, I slid noiselessly to the seat next to her.  

            "That's why my wash is brighter!!!" a toothy actress declared in deafening enthusiasm.

            Oh joy. And here it was, time to take the plunge.

            "There's something you need to know before you board that plane." I said in a measured tone. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. Idiot! I thought in horror as the meaning of my speech sank in. All my life I've never said anything within ten miles radius of the word corny.

            Fuuko kept her silence. Either she didn't hear me over the blaring noise of the t.v. or she was purposely holding back a response because she was still irked at me.

            I sighed and with one smooth gesture, eliminated one of my problems, noting with satisfaction the immediate silence that ensued. The t.v. presented a blank screen.

            Returning to my seat, I unzipped my bag and produced the present. I held it out for her to take. "Yours. A notion of my gratitude, as well as my apology."

            She made a soft snore, which triggered me to stand up and peer at her face, something which if I had accomplished earlier would have saved both of us a lot of  trouble.

            My suspicions confirmed, I sank back to my seat, both relieved and thwarted. I was about to leave the gift where she would conveniently find when she woke up, when something on her lap caught my eye.

            I would have to scold her for leaving her valuables, as well as her luggage unattended. The bright flash of white on her lap was apparently her ticket. A rare, mischievous look was had presented itself on my face. 

            Leaving the gift gently on her lap, and the ticket on top of the gift, I stretched myself to my full height and distanced myself from her. This trip would not be so boring after all.        


            I was holding a cup of steaming coffee, positioned on one of the stilted tools of the airport's coffee shop with an open newspaper in one hand when I heard her distinct voice.


            I spun the stool around one-eighty degrees, miraculously avoiding any collision with the cup. Fuuko? A rushing figure appeared at the farthest end of my view, rushing towards me with a speed not thought to exist.

            My jaw dropped open as I took in her tear-stained face and wide blue eyes. She was now standing in front of me, gasping for breath. I let one swift, meaningful glare sweep around the room, which triggered people to ensue whatever business was momentarily postponed by her loud yelp.

            "What are you doing here?" I asked warily, folding the paper in half before dropping it next to my cup of coffee.

            She rolled her eyes and inched closer. "I woke up with a start after your magnificent speech. Naturally, I saw where you went and the rest is history." Without any regard for what I would think, she threw her hands easily around my neck and let out a small sob. "You are such an idiot. Are you alright? For a moment there you had me worried sick. What were you thinking, running into the street like a maniac? It's very uncharacteristic of you."

            My mind continued to reel from her touch. I gritted my teeth but encircled an arm around her shoulder, drawing closer. "What are you talking about? The last person I saw running like a maniac was you."

             "I didn't come all the way here to trade insults!" she said after she had recovered from her shock. Surprisingly she did not pull away. "How can you look so frighteningly calm after a close encounter with death?" her voice rose and it took all my efforts to keep from spewing a sarcastic remark. "Look," she continued,  "they had it announced over the speakers. A guy in white long-sleeves and black jeans was a victim of hit and run."

            She tried to move, and I finally freed her from my embrace, if you could call it that, noting that I only held her in my arms for a duration of five seconds. I stared in a bored manner at her, one eyebrow flicked. "Your eyesight must be failing you. I'm in a shade of khaki. And kindly enlighten me as to why I'd be stupid enough to let myself get run over, when I'm apparently in a harmless coffee shop." My voice was coated with sarcasm. Nevertheless I had to ward off a smile, since had the gesture spoke volumes of how my personal welfare mattered to her.

            She placed both fists on her waist, shooting me a defiant glare. "So what if it's khaki? My imagination went berserk. If I lost you all of a sudden without killing you first, I'm never going to forgive myself."

            I shook my head and smirked, obliging my mouth to voice out the question which had perturbed my mind from the moment she appeared. "Why did you come all the way here to check on me?"

            She averted her eyes and remained quiet, the shade of crimson on her cheeks deepening.

             "I must mean a lot to you." I said in a confident, devoid of emotion tone, though my heart was singing with joy.

            "You really are King of Nerves, Mikagami." I knew her long enough to tell that when her voice reached that richness it meant I would be the target of physical abuse. Instead, she surprised me by making a step towards the opposite end of the airport. My quick reflexes enabled me to grab her hand and spin her around to face me.

            "I think I owe you an apology." I looked solemnly into her dark blue eyes, and she pulled out her hand from my grasp, gently. I ignored it and promptly continued. "I was acting insufferable these past few days. You deserved better treat---"

            She silenced me by giving me a fierce yet tender look, which in turn made me feel like melting to a puddle of mush at her feet. She dropped her eyes and a soft smile graced her face. "Yes, I know. I heard your confession. You don't have to explain. It doesn't become you."


            She was silent for a minute and then glazed cobalt eyes met my gaze. "Um… Arigato. For the book and chocolates, and the roses you sent earlier. I found the notion heart-warming and very…"

            "Romantic." I finished for her after several moments of silence.

            A vein popped animatedly on her forehead and she turned to me with razor-sharp teeth. "Not."

            "I could read it in your eyes."

            "Fine, you're the flawless one between the two of us." She shot back. After what seemed like a moment's hesitation, she stretched out her right hand, which was somewhat trembling.

            I twitched a brow and examined her held out hand critically. "What's that?"

            She sighed and looked at me both threateningly and wearily, like a senior does to her junior, at the same time looking hopeful. "Truce?"

            For this action of hers, one adjective popped into my mind: adorable. I allowed myself a small, small smile and grasped her hand, ignoring the sparks of current which run up and down my arm at her touch. I drew it back after a short time, lest she think I was an insufferable pervert, eyeing and clutching her hand like that.

            Her cobalt eyes looked up laughingly to mine. "Why'd you do that? I mean, the roses, the books and chocolates. You're a far cry from romantic and by the way, it totally clashes with your laconic personality."

            I raised an eyebrow at her. The fiery cynical side of her was once again unleashed. "It was the only way I could think of, recently discovering you were a sucker for these things."

            "What?" her brow furrowed.

            I successfully pulled out a neatly folded piece of paper from the back pocket of my jeans.

            Her eyes widened in recognition as I held the sheet in broad daylight. "Hey! How did that stray into your clutches?" she demanded, reaching out to snatch it.

            Reading her movements, I tucked it safely behind my back.

            Not yet satisfied, she reached for my sides and tried futilely to snag her poem. I was then the recipient of a murderous glare. "Give that back right now, or I will make you! It's not yours!" she all but screamed.

            I inhaled, starting to feel impatient. "Are you sure it isn't mine?" I asked in a dead serious tone.

            She calmed down instantly. The silence stretched for some time and when she spoke, her cheeks were flushed. She refused to meet my eyes. "So it does belong to you. Big deal." She recited in a bored, allegedly emotionless voice, which she failed at accomplishing.

            Something inside my chest began to swell, and the corners of my mouth twitched up. I stayed quiet for several moments, letting the poem and her letter replay in my mind.

            "What? Don't tell me you helped yourself into my privacy and read it."

For that she received a snort which resulted from trying to force down a chuckle.

She groaned in humiliation. "Nooo, I can't believe you did such a thing. Judging from your reaction, it's either you found it totally repulsive---"

            "It was... satisfactory." I said firmly.

            Her eyes widened before she burst into gales of laughter. "A compliment from the poet extraordinaire," Pulling herself together, she looked happily into my eyes. "Thank you. That's the best thing I've heard from you since I got stuck as your partner, working with you." She said gleefully, as if she were relating a compliment in the place of an insult.

            "Which, from the look on your face bawls it was a pleasure in itself."  For some unfathomable reason I found myself staring at her like a magnet drawn to metal.She fidgeted under my pining gaze and took a deep breath, smiling nervously.

I winced in disgust. So much for not portraying a lovesick fool. It took the fun out of watching Fuuko squirm nervously. I thought, a little bemused. It finally became apparent that the girl was, after all, susceptible to such emotion.

"It's suddenly so clear to me…" she was saying.

             I snapped my attention back to her words and raised an eyebrow. "Pardon?"

            "My feelings." she said in a suspicious tone which alerted my mind of a practical joke. "For someone… very special."

"I recall reading that in your letter." I informed her dispassionately.

She shot me a look which demanded silence. "Mi-chan, all our misunderstandings  opened new doors for me. He was under my nose the whole  time. And everything that's happened between you and me made me realize…" her voice dropped to a whisper. "just how much I love him."

            Love? The color drained from my face. How nice of me to just conveniently forget the moron who swept her off her feet.

            To my sheer distaste, she giggled at my reaction. "I never really thought I'd fall for him. I was unprepared for that. But why not fall for him, him being every girl's dream guy and almost my best friend." She said in a smitten voice, which sent shivers, not of pleasure, up my spine.

            Feeling a migraine throbbing at my temples, I pressed a hand to my forehead. To add to my present troubles, my heart felt like it had just been wrenched from my chest. "Spare me the details." I cut her off, before evening fell.

            Not heeding my words, she rattled on. "He almost reminds me of you. In fact, you two have a lot in common, especially where good looks are concerned." Her statement was promptly followed by a wink.

            On the other hand, I felt like retching.

            "It just dawned on me. All of what we've been through together as partners, and I dare call it friendship, made me realize how much he means to me.  Thanks to you, I've finally found the guts to tell him how I really feel."

            "Yes, thanks to me." I muttered sardonically—and darkly.

            She batted her eyelashes at me and was for some bizarre reason, snickering, which all the more roused my suspicion. "Don't you want a clue, Mikagami? Though I'm sure you've met him."

            "No." I lied through gritted teeth. I suddenly felt moderately irked, like I wasn't speaking to the Fuuko Kirisawa I knew. That girl did not use dreamy tones and would rather slit her throat than drool over the finer points of men. Obviously, this was no ordinary boy she was ranting about. I restrained myself from the urge to kick something in utter distress. Couldn't she at least reciprocate a bit of my feelings?

            She shook her head after one look at my face. "One characteristic of his that would aptly describe him is his calm, cool and controlled exterior." she said pointedly, which annoyed me to the very core.

            "Wonderful." I was exasperated.

            There was a tinge of pink on her cheeks. Finally, she looked me in the eye for the final blow. "And we fought many battles together as allies."

            A thought raced across my mind, causing me to shudder. A look of mild irritation blended with mortification spread across my face and I choked the words out painfully,  "Ishijima? You're in love with HIM?" All of a sudden my heart could not stand the pressure of being wrenched and squeezed at the same time. Why him? I racked my brain for an answer. And what did she say… we had a lot in common? 

I forced myself to glare unfavorably at her. When I did, a look of pure appellation met my eyes. "You are so dense. No, it's not Domon."

            "Who is it then, if not Domon?" I shot back, not able to control the amount of anger that crept in my voice.

            "Mi-chan…" she attempted to seize my hand, the playful glint in her eyes replaced by solemnity.

            I drew it away, angry, annoyed and admittedly hurt.

            She shook her head, reached out and lightly pinched the tip of my nose. I resisted the reflex to avoid her touch, but chose to remain rooted to the ground on account of the successfully hidden tremor.

Fuuko sighed and revealed a forced smile. "If I held a mirror in front of your face, would you recognize the one I've been describing?"            

            I found myself at a loss for words, calmly drawing myself to my full height, chiding myself for playing the pawn in her little game. How utterly degrading. "You are so annoying." I said monotonously, although my heart was showing signs of going berserk. And the revelation of her little game was playing in my mind.

            She burst into gales of laughter, pausing to wipe tears from her eyes. "The look on your face…that was classic." at that, she burst into a fresh wave of laughter, making me roll my eyes. "Your. Face. Was. Actually. Contorted ."

            She giggled, chortled, guffawed, chuckled and exhibited something out of all the forms of laughter.

             "You're insane." I threw her a lethal glare, which seemed to work.

            She paled and run a hand through her hair. "Is that all you're going to say?"

            I glanced at my watch, and that very minute a sugary voice spoke from the speakers decked all over the coffee shop and the airport for that matter. "Flight number 54 will depart in 5 minutes. I repeat---"

            "That's my flight." A look of pure annoyance was etched on her face.

            I smirked, reached for the straps of my bag and took a step for the door of the coffee shop. "Sayonara."

            Her eyes widened to saucers and she replanted her foot on the ground, instantly blocking my way. "Wait. Please, you haven't even answered my question yet…"

            I smirked and side-stepped to the right. "You're not the only one with a four p.m. flight to catch." I started to walk past her, much to her consternation.

            "Exactly my point. I won't be seeing you for who knows how long! Will you at least answer my question?" she dashed to the front again, holding a palm to my chest. Her precision was somewhat amazing. "Why?"

            "Why what?" I asked, uncaringly. Or so it seemed.

            "Why are you doing this?" Her voice rose to a thousand decibels, again attracting the attention of the other customers. "What's with the roses, my favorite book, and the chocolates? And by the way, why on earth did you save me from those goons back in the darkened alley?"

            I decided it best not to answer, for in due time she would find out. I shuffled my way to the crowd of people, knowing it would be hard tracking me down from this point on. 

            "Mi-chan… you're not going to leave this unfinished business…" she was silenced for two seconds. "unfinished, are you?"

            I frowned as I took in the waver in her voice. "Watch me." I replied, nudging my way through the thickened mass. Simultaneous gasps which apparently were not produced by Fuuko filled the air. I flinched, partly riled at my own response.  I would have murdered anyone who had caused her unbearable pain. And that implied I would be dead by now.

            Sneering, reasoning with myself that I would be putting her out of her misery in a short while and that she deserved it for baiting me into her game. Not that I hated her for it. It was because of that little charade I found out that

            She loves me.

            I allowed a sincere half smile to grace my face, reaching for my pocket and flashing my ticket for flight 54 at the guards which was instantly accepted with a nod.

Thank goodness she thought of that little game or I would have used the ensui to force those words out of her. I climbed the steps to the airplane, was acknowledged by the flight stewardess to whose batting eyelashes I merely flicked an uninterested look and walked through the aisles of the plane.

            Speaking of Fuuko, there she was. The sight of her automatically made my heart beat faster. She was staring at something outside the window, at what I could not determine and did not really care.

            I hate aisle seats. I thought detestably, eyeing the seat beside her.  

            Taking a deep breath, I shoved my hands into the pockets of my jeans and walked stealthily to her side. When I eased myself into the seat she felt my presence and turned to face me.

            Her jaw dropped open and she looked like she was deciding whether to hug me or throttle me.

            Of course I preferred the former, and no one got away with the second. "I didn't hear you back there. What was it you were asking me?" my face revealed nothing, though my eyes sparkled a little with mirth.

            "Why you went through all that trouble doing… those." Still in a shocked state, her voice droned on involuntarily and her eyes had widened.

            I raised a brow and drew in closer, close enough for my lips to touch her ear. I lowered my voice to a whisper. "Because I love you." I murmured as if it were the most natural thing in the world. To me, at this point, it was.




            ^__^ Hey guys. Finally, I type down the word "Owari". I guess miracles can happen after all, seeing that I was able to finish this. Final reviews and comments will really be appreciated. And, yeah… the poem, I know it's quite odd, do let me know if it sucked so I won't bother attempting anything "poetic" in the future. If I left you hanging back there, sorry, but please let your imagination do the rest for you. For those who thought this ending would suffice, thank you so much for understanding me. And let your imagination do the rest of the work. Of course I thank you very much for reading, and please drop me a review if you have time… so I'll know what to do in case another fic pops to mind. Of course, this would not be complete without my personal thanks (I can't believe I did this, you guys must mean a lot to me) to those who reviewed and here it is:

amakasu toko

            My first reviewer. Allow me to extend my gratitude. Thank you ever so much for hitting the "review" button and stringing together those kind words (rare it is when I am the recipient of such kindness) , and for being the first reviewer for that matter. Since yours was the first review I read, it kind of sent me into "jumping for joy" mode. Arigato, and I hope you like how things turned out in the end, ya?


            Delighted that you took the time to critique. The honest remark was immensely appreciated. I intentionally abstained Tokiya from laughing and cracking jokes (and acting like a general idiot) so as not to incur your ire… ohohohoho… although most of the time I think he's OOC enough already. Honored that you would reckon this fic as one of your favorites. By the way, I've read your RK works. Romance and humor are two combinations I like best and your fics satisfied my hunt. "Kaoru's Got Amnesia" had me howling with laughter, I love that fic. Kenshin and Kaoru are simply adorable, aren't they? And your talent in consideration, why not try writing a FOR Tok-fuu fic? Anyway, I hope ten chapters is long enough and that on top of everything, I haven't left you with an empty feeling. Thanks for reading!  


            Awww… *bows down, japanese style*. Just 13 words from you and I was deliriously giddy. I hope I didn't spoil the way Mi-chan and Fuuko were placed together. I cannot say how fascinated I was by your review because I particularly aimed to place those two together. You know, kind of like "magnetize" them (or staple them or fasten them together). Well said, and thank you very much for reviewing. Sorry about the last chapter of your "Triangle of Doubt" fic, it must have been disconcerting rewriting it all over again. Anyhow,  hope to read more of your works in the future, ne?  :-)


            Ahhh….   Hey there, Haruko (I'm speculating that you're a big fan of the Slam Dunk Series).. (the word DUH is hanging over my head like a thick mist).  Thanks for dropping me a review. Tokiya, in many ways can certainly identify with any of the given characters what with the personality, weapons and the drop dead good looks. Aya, however is the ultimate dead ringer. :- ) I definitely agree with you. So, here it is, I've wrapped up the story already. Anyway, at the risk of sounding redundant, thanks for commenting, reading and being one of the first reviewers. ^__^ thank you, thank you, thank you. Can't say it enough. Thanks, thanks, thanks.


            Your review was among the many which inspired me to hang in there and keep on going and going and going and going… (*inserts the energizer bunny*). Thank you for the compliment on the dialogues. I think perhaps one of the greatest struggles I had to go through was the continuous drone in my head which often sounded like this: Oh no. He would never say that. She would never say that. He would never think that. Neither would she. Fortunately, chapter 10 was concluded. Hopefully, you like the ending.


            To one of the people who enlightened me on the true meaning of "Time is gold." If not for your wise advice, I would still probably be fussing on the fifth chapter. Thank you truly zidane. This is one of the rare occasions I saw a story to the end and you're one of the reasons why I'm celebrating now.

Darke Angel

            During intervals when I woke up in the middle of the night wondering whether I had incurred the proverbial writer's block, I thought of your review. For fearlessly pushing me on, I thank you. Let me assure you that you do not sound like a teacher but a wise counselor. For the compliment, arigato. Here's your ending, is it happy enough? :-)  I hope it at least made you smile. Than I can die happy. :- )


            I was walking on sunshine the day I read your review. Honestly, it's not everyday that I read the word "nice" associated with my works. Hope my health instructor were as kindhearted as you. But unfortunately, hogs would be gliding across the sky first. ^_____^  I'm glad you liked the part where Tokiya recites the poem. If only it could happen in this lifetime, right? I'll call you and then we'll converge and scheme to kidnap him after his performance. Hehehe. Last chapter's finally posted, hoping against hope that you like it. :- )

Kaze Yurei

            A review from the lovely Kaze Yurei, I can't tell you how flattered I am. Why? Because, hey hey, I admire your fanfics and your composure while trudging through the turmoil of writing a fic. Most of all, not all people *write for themselves as well as their readers* if I remember your terms correctly. And you've reviewed this fanfic persistently. I'm overwhelmed with joy. Overwhelmed to the point of delirium, I think. For that and a lot more reasons I gladly dedicate this piece to you. I'm not a good judge of character but I can tell you are one of the nicest people around. Thanks for informing me how to take off the 'signed reviews only' thing. Hope you find the last chapter satisfying. Best of luck on your fic "Perfectly Stained Roses". 


            You've put the quote "simple is beautiful" into perspective. Straightforward words you wrote, yet they bore a profound effect. Thank you for your heartfelt compliments, though I don't think I deserve those. If ever I see you in person, I'll extend my gratitude by rendering a song. This will be followed by 4 years of sending you samples of my concocted recipes. *cackles*  Oh my. I don't want to frighten you. However, I am extremely appreciative of the notion. For reading my story and reviewing it, thank you very much.


            I'm very privileged that one of the authors I respect has allotted time to review this story. Your other pen name is beautiful.dreamer, isn't it? I can't let this opportunity pass without saying this: I love the way you project Tokiya in your stories as someone who is strong, wise, unselfish and potentially caring. Your fic "Sanctuary" made my heart swell. Like you said, and I can't think of a better way to express my thoughts: I'm looking forward to the next chapter. I'm thrilled that you consider this fanfic one of your favorites. It's finished now and my fingers are crossed… hope you find the ending at least tolerable. More power, addictive.


Mizumi Saeko

            Nice name, by the way. Strangely enough, I had recurring dreams wherein faceless people were rhythmically chanting, "chim. chim. chim. chim." Must be the result of reading your review over and over and over again. I must beg your pardon, you probably think I'm demented. Well, not exactly. I'm just deliriously happy. :- ) Hope this is to-fuish enough for you Thank you for keeping an eye on this fic and I truly hope you found the ending err…appropriate. "Two Sides of a Coin" shows a lot of potential, I wish you all the best.


Nice pen name. My favorite swordsman and bishounen rolled in one. I'm wallowing in gratitude that you read my fic. And receiving a review from thou hast truly made my day. Chapter 5 was a chapter I enjoyed writing, though I had the time of my life with chapter 7. Thanks for the vote of confidence, hitokiri-tokiya. By the way, I'm still dealing with the aftermath of reading "Soul", can you believe it? Though "Red: The Colour of Blood, the Colour of Love" in my opinion is the ultimate number one. When are you going to post the next fic? I'm starting to miss the articulate, detailed and descriptive style that is uniquely yours. Anyway, here's chapter 10. Hope you like it.


            This is just an intuition of mine, but are you amakasu toko also? The "kyaa" expression together with the à~ß and those cute faces just put me into a pensive stupor. Regardless, I thank you for taking time to review. I feel really tickled by such kind words. For being one of the many inspirations, "many words can not express my thanks" – Fuuko, chapter 8.

Dark Phoenix

            Have you ever felt like you've been given the very gift you craved for yet it gets added again and again and just keeps getting better? My exact sentiments. Thanks for the continuous reviews. The first time, for pushing me on, the second time for pushing me on and helping me be more specific with the last part of chapter 7 and finally for giving me something to ponder upon. Hmm… the slow uptake was nothing compared to Tokiya's reaction when she was hinting on "he whom she loved". Um, yeah… Sorry if I made them a tad bit clueless. If you were at least amused and/or entertained by this last chapter, I'd be grateful enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


            Ahh… hello, hello. Thanks for your reviews. I appreciate the support and silent inspiration you unknowingly granted me. And for posing a question, thanks. It's nice that you held no qualms about doing that. Now that I think about it, the explanation for Fuuko's attitude is found in chapter 5. Sorry if as a result you're more confused. Chapter 7, the amusement park chapter is terribly endeared to me. I was all smiles while reading your review… it's nice to know you liked the scene with the little girl, and let me know about it. Letting go of that…  here's chapter 10. Hope you enjoyed it.


            I followed your simple instruction and it led me to type the final word "Owari". That alone is enough reason to feel grateful. Here's more: a. Thank you for reading my fic, it feels good that people out there make you feel like your trying attempts at writing at least entertain them. b. thanks for the review, it is very much appreciated. Readers' satisfaction is one thing I should consider, as one of the authors who has reviewed here has pointed out. Arigato gozaimasu!


            Know what my initial reaction was upon receiving an interview from you? "Oooh…. Yeah… pratz read my fic, pratz read my fic, pratz read my fic!" *dances around the living room* --- something like that. I'm truly honored that a writer whose fic ("To Be Once Again With You") I adored just dropped me a review. I'm tickled by your notion of Fuuko and Tokiya's characterization. Of course, writing Fuuko's  POV was a lot easier. Sometimes, if you examine the parts closely, Tokiya tends to get very OOC. Your characterization of him in "To Be Once Again With You" is more apt. Best of luck on that fic, by the way. Thank you for reading, pratz!

13110816eriol hereegezawa18140519 (

            Good day there! I wonder where you got your inspiration for name, it sparked my interest. Can I call you eriol for short? Eriol, I can't thank you enough for reviewing, and more than once at that. Knowing that you liked my fic moved me in a gigantic way, thank you ever so much. I tried writing spontaneously to keep you from guessing the plot but I guess I'm just not cut out to be the queen of spontaneity. Hope the ending satisfied your inquisitive mind. I'm sorry but I could not stretch the story outside 10 chapters, it's more than my powers can handle. Hehehehe. I admit I'll be missing this fic a lot lot lot. Anyway, me… Shakespeare? *tries to imagine standing next to a long-haired man in coattails* maybe sometime in the distant future, but not right now. I'm really not worthy. How'd you guess he was my favorite writer anyway? ;- ) Thanks for reading and reviewing this fic.           

frodo potter

            Ah, the handsome young lad in J.R.R. Tolkien's novels with a touch of Gryffindor's renowned wizard. Nice to read a review from you. Can't say much about the plot, it'll be yours and mine secret… although one thing's for sure: you've got a good grasp of what I intended to do. Your review is one which I will truly cherish. Thank you for reading and reviewing, and here's the final chapter. Hope you like it.


            hyper_shark! You have an extremely cute name, has anyone told you that? Thank you for finding the time to review this fic, I am extremely grateful. Hmm…….. yes, Fuuko and Tokiya do make a great couple, don't they? In fact, they look so good together that they put Miaka and Tamahome to shame. Thanks for reviewing, I appreciate it. Hope you liked the final chapter.


            Good day, Jam-chan. (*smiles sheepishly*) Yup, I still have a lot to learn about time management. I have a pretty good idea how long I made you wait. I'm very very sorry, what with final exams and other whatnot I was granted just enough time to look at this fic and sigh before going to bed at night. My time frame was not suppose to exceed 3 months. Heeheehee. Thank you very much for those kind words, it gets me right here -à  ( ) ß um, that's supposed to be a heart. Try stretching your imagination. Finally finished chapter 10, hope you like it.


            Hello Melyan! I still can't believe you read the whole story in one go. Yup, I know there are grammatical mistakes all over, sorry about that. Sentence construction can change the whole effect and flow of the story. Hmm, thanks for bearing with it! And the compliment, man oh man, that's like the sweetest thing I've read, thanks a lot! That just really made my day. I truly appreciate your review, thanks for taking the time. Finally, I wish you the best on "Wretched".

aerial sprite

            Nice, nice nick you've got there. I'm sorry the conflict made you feel like "it's not supposed to happen". In reality, I'm glad this story had an effect on you. Thank you for honestly voicing out your feelings. Although in this chapter the "stupid boy" comment drove home. I'm putting an end to the long wait, here's the final chapter. Thanks for reading and reviewing.


            Hi there nix, your wish is my command. Here's the final chapter, at long last. Thanks for criticing my work. Sometimes, it's your reviews that keep me from quitting, and part of the reason I reached the end is because you hit the "review" button. Thanks a million, nix and hope you like the last chapter! :- )


            My heart couldn't take all those kind words… you almost made me weep (from extreme joy, don't worry). lime, thank you so so much for reading this and sending me a note afterwards. Although I had no idea people would actually find this fic tolerable, it is really really my pleasure to write something that would entertain you. I have only two things I'd like you to remember: first, thanks for reviewing and second, I'm just reinforcing your statement: FuukoxTokiya forever! Yeah! J Hmm, anyway, Hope you like the ending.


            Hi, hi, hi denise! Thanks for following my fic from the very first time I uploaded. Can't tell you how much it warms my heart. Honored that you like my… what's the term… um, writing skill (I did cartwheels all over the house since it just dawned on me that someone thought I possessed that… oh, thank you, thank you, thank you). About the nc-17 idea, I'll think about it, (*blushes, being the mild person she is*). Thanks for the suggestion. We'll just see what happens, okay? Anyway, this is the last chapter, written and dedicated to you guys. Keeping my fingers crossed that you like it, Denise. J