Under the Right Circumstances…
"You know," Sakoshita Yanagi said to the black-haired girl next to her as they filed out of the classroom, "it's weird that both Domon-kun and Recca-kun are away today. I wonder if something happened to them on the weekend."
"Eh?" Fuuko said guiltily, "What makes you say that?"
"It's just that…" Yanagi blushed, "Recca-kun said that he'd call me yesterday when I got back from my grandma's and he didn't."
"Wow," Fuuko said, shaking her head, "the ever reliable Recca… I don't believe it." Then she added straight-faced, "It breaks my heart to tell you this Yanagi, but you might have to assume the worst. Missed calls, broken promises, not to mention all this happening while you were away from town for a day, it leads me to but one conclusion…"
Yanagi's eyes were filled with apprehension. "W-what?" she asked in a trembling voice.
"Hanabishi must definitely be consorting with another girl!"
Yanagi's hand flew to her mouth, "T-that can't be!"
"I'm afraid that it must," Fuuko started seriously then burst out laughing.
"Sorry, couldn't help myself. Honestly, it was only a joke, Yanagi."
"You mustn't joke about these things, Fuuko," the brown-haired girl said gravely.
"Hai, hai," Fuuko said dismissively then said teasingly, "so it's that serious now, huh?"
Yanagi blushed again, slightly annoyed by her friend's light-hearted attitude towards matters of the heart. "You know what else is weird?" she said, inspecting Fuuko closely, "Mikagami-senpai."
Fuuko's step faltered slightly. A slight hesitation, but a reaction nonetheless. If Yanagi hadn't been watching, she would've definitely missed it.
"What? The ice boy?" Fuuko hooted loudly, "He always acts weird."
Yanagi continued to stare at her, but her friend's face gave nothing away.
The reason why Yanagi had mentioned Mikagami's name in the first place was because of what had transpired earlier that morning. She and Fuuko were hurrying to their next class when they had run into the older boy in the hallway. The two had ignored each other (that was not very unusual) but Yanagi could have sworn that Fuuko's cheeks had turned a faint pink. And now her suspicions had been confirmed, something had happened between those two. Fuuko seemed angry (or was it something else?) at Mikagami about something, but for what Yanagi didn't know… and wisely, she did not ask.
That train of thought did not linger in the healer's mind however, as the two girls parted at the school gate. Her mind had already turned to a disconcerting qualm. Fuuko might have been joking before, and it was not that she didn't trust him, but Yanagi made up her mind that she'd pay her ninja a visit… just in case.
"… we left them overnight and this is what they look like now." Ganko nodded to Kenji, who removed the cover to reveal three beakers filled with coloured water. There were cries of "Sugoi!" and "Kirei!" as their classmates stared at the brilliant blue, red and yellow celery stalks in their respective beakers.
"You can see that the dye runs from the bottom of the stem and into the leaves through these tubes in the stalk. That's how plants get water from the ground up to their leaves."
There was a round of applause as the two finished their presentation. "That's very good Ganko-chan and Kenji-chan," the teacher said approvingly, "a well chosen and well presented experiment."
Ganko and Kenji smiled at each other.
"Well, well, I guess simple is always the best," Kenji said sheepishly to Ganko afterwards.
The little puppet-master only shrugged in reply.
"Ne, Ganko-chan," Kenji said hesitantly, "now that our partnership is over, can we still be friends?"
That was as good as a 'yes' for Kenji. He grinned. "I just know that we're going to be great friends, ganko-Ganko!"
Ganko nodded slowly. "And now that our truce is over…" she brought up her little fists, "did you think you were going to get away with calling me that?!"
"Ah! Gomen, gomen! Argh, stop hitting me!"
The two nine-year-olds stopped scuffling and looked up. "Niichan," Kenji said, surprised, "what are you doing here?"
"Uh, well," Seiji said awkwardly, "I was just passing by, so I thought I might as well walk you home."
Kenji was speechless. Seiji never did anything with him before.
"Uh," the tall boy's eyes flickered to Ganko, "you finished here, Ken?"
"Yeah, um, 'later Morikawa."
"Yeah," Ganko watched the two boys depart curiously. So that was Kenji's brother.
"So, um, how was the presentation?" Seiji asked uncomfortably.
"Uh, great," Kenji replied, equally awkward. It was weird to actually have a talk with his niichan.
"So everything went successfully, right?"
"Uh, sure," Kenji wasn't about to tell Seiji that his efforts had gone down the drain. The truth would probably kill him.
"So… you're not going to tell Mum about the… you know, right?"
So this was what Seiji was up to. Kenji snickered. He knew that his brother couldn't have grown nice just overnight. "Oh, you mean about that vase that's been passed down in the Gensuki family for five generations that Mum absolutely adores and which you broke la- "
"Shh!" Seiji clamped a hand over his brother's mouth and looked around anxiously as if the menacing figure of his mother was about to appear any moment. "Not so loud!"
"Hee," Kenji chortled, "'course I'm not going to tell. I don't go back on my word, niichan."
"Great," Seiji sighed, relieved, "I won't have to kill you then… for now at least."
"However, I still hold your dark horrible secret, right?" Kenji grinned, "Just because I'm not going to tell this time, doesn't mean I won't next time."
"Next ti- ? Why you… hey!" Seiji yelled as the small boy took off, "Kenji! What do you mean by 'next time'?!"
"How'd your project go?" Fuuko asked Ganko as they walked home.
"Oh, great. We got full marks."
"That's really good."
There was a short silence as Ganko peered anxiously at Fuuko. She didn't seem herself, distracted and quiet. "Fuuko-neechan?"
"Is… something wrong?"
Fuuko stopped, deep in thought, "…maybe."
There was no doubt that she'd been furious with Mikagami after what had happened on Saturday. But Fuuko now realised that she had no reason to. It wasn't Mikagami's fault that she felt humiliated. It was her big mouth's fault. She had been angry because she was afraid that Mikagami thought less of her now. But what was said could not be unsaid now. The point was that Mikagami hadn't humiliated her, he'd saved her life and she'd… she'd done nothing in return.
"I should've thanked him, and I just walked away."
"Huh?" Ganko looked at the older girl quizzically.
"Uh, nothing," Fuuko laughed self-consciously, "don't worry, I'm alright."
"Are you sure?"
"Yup! Hey, Mum's going to be home early today. Why don't we cook dinner for her together and pick up something for dessert?"
"Really?! Why don't we get one of those cakes Mum really loves and…"
Tomorrow… I will thank him. Definitely.
Author's note: Hey guys, I've finally finished, yay! Wasn't sure how to end it all but what the heck… Hope you guys weren't disappointed. I know epilogues are meant to be short but I felt that this wasn't long enough to be an actual chapter. And btw I hope this chapter clears up all the loose ends. If not, tell me and I'll see if I can be bothered to deal with it. Anyway, hope you all enjoyed the fic and sorry for any inconsistencies, ne?
On an additional note, the ending is the way it is because I always intended the story to revolve mainly around Fuuko and Ganko (although I think I kinda strayed from that through the middle bits). Also, I admit that I tend not to resolve every single detail. I prefer to leave things unsaid and to your imaginations. I know it's an annoying habit, but that's the way I like to write. (gomen):)