Two weeks later
With a grunt, I managed to get the last box into the idling truck. After closing and securing the door, I rapped on the side, signaling to the driver that he was good to go. A few seconds later, the truck began moving off to make the trip to Hinata.
It had been a hectic couple of weeks. Giving Mutsumi the largest storage building to use for her new location wasn't nearly as simple as I had thought. Sure, there was merchandise to move, and that took time and a lot of truck trips between Osaka and Hinata, but there was more to it than that. There were permits to be acquired, building codes to be checked and enforced. There had to be power and plumbing and heating and air conditioning in the building. We had to find a place to move all the things that were in there to begin with. There was no small amount of cleaning to be done. And of course, throughout all this, I still had to manage the dorm too.
Mutsumi had known more about what was to happen than I, and her advice and knowledge had been invaluable on a number of occasions. She had known, for example, about the permits that were required to operate a business on private property. She had taken care of filing the requisite paperwork listing the building as mine, and herself as the tenant. She had the leasing arrangement drawn up, checked, and signed by both of us. She arranged for the city to come out and perform the code inspections, and then called the appropriate persons when they weren't up to standards.
Haruka had also been very helpful, and had pitched in on some of the fees involved in the permits and inspections. I had a feeling that she was very happy to see the arrangements taking place. I also knew that the addition of a music store to the grounds meant more traffic, which meant more business for the Tea Shoppe. In her mind, helping to pay for the minutiae was a wise business decision. At least, that's what she told me when I confronted her about paying some of the bills that I had expected to be covering. She probably believed that too.
In fact, thinking about it, it was likely a measure to also ensure that the newfound peacefulness that existed here since shortly after Mutsumi's arrival would remain. The dorms had been almost transformed into a more tranquil place, due to her. There was no more fighting, beyond minor squabbles over chores and other small things. Music filled the building as often as not, with either Mutsumi or I playing the piano in the entryway. I was getting better, but she remained my superior in musicianship. I didn't mind. It meant more time for lessons.
At any rate, the forms were filled out, the inspections done, the moving almost completed. The rest of Mutsumi's family were due in tomorrow to help with the unpacking and setting up of the new store, and the signage for the building would be in the day after. We had already hung a banner at the bottom of the steps proclaiming that the "Hinata Music Shoppe" would be opening within the next week or so. All in all, life was looking pretty good.
Mutsumi's voice brought me out of my thoughts. I looked over at her, marveling once again at her beauty. Even in ratty jeans, an old sweatshirt that had seen better days, and her hair loosely braided and pulled up under a handkerchief, she looked stunning. The dirt on her hands and the dust on her jeans almost made her look better, if that was at all possible. "Yes, Mu-chan?"
Our ways of addressing each other had changed in the last couple of weeks, too. Though we had both known that we held strong feelings for each other, we hadn't really made things official, insofar as referring to ourselves as a couple in public. That had changed a couple of days after the meeting where the girls agreed to Mutsumi becoming a permanent resident.
We had been sitting in the kitchen, eating breakfast. There were piles of paperwork on the table, all needing various items filled out. My hands were starting to feel the effort of signing my name repeatedly.
Shinobu had noticed my signature getting sloppier and sloppier, and had called for a break to feed us. We weren't about to complain. No one ever complained about Shinobu wanting to cook for them if they had tasted her food before. We happily set our pens down, sighing in relief.
Just as Shinobu sat a plate in front of each of us, Mutsumi's cell phone rang. She let out a irritated snort. Her phone had been ringing constantly, it seemed, since she had made the decision to move in here. "Hello?"
A few seconds later, her face lit up. Apparently, this was a good call. "Yes!...Yeah, I know."
Another pause. Then she looked right at me, smiled, and said, "Yes, he is my boyfriend."
With that statement, it was as if a line had been crossed, and from then on out, we were dating officially.
I snapped to again. "I'm really sorry," I said, yawning. I guess I'm a little more tired than I thought I was..."
She smiled and put an arm around me, squeezing gently. "It has been pretty crazy lately, hasn't it?"
A contender for the understatement of the year, right there. "You might say that." I made no move to escape her half-embrace. "I think that after this is all done, I need to take a break."
Mutsumi giggled. "Your last break worked out pretty well for you. Though, if you find another pretty girl in need of shopping space, you'll run out of room pretty fast."
I poked her playfully in the ribs, listening to the giggle turn into a shriek. She was dreadfully ticklish. "I know. I think I'm good on pretty shopkeepers, thanks." I poked her again, her laughter ringing through the cool, crisp air.
Later that night, back in my hotel that I was staying at while helping to get the last of the store packed up, I was lounging on the bed, flipping through the channels on the small TV when there was a knock at the door.
Curious, I rose and went to see who it was. Opening the door revealed Musumi. "Hi, Mu-chan."
I stepped aside, watching her enter the room. Closing the door behind me, I turned to see her sit on a corner of the bed, facing me. "My last night in Kyoto. Seems hard to believe."
"I know what you mean." Making sure the door was closed; I went to sit next to her, our legs just touching. I was still learning what it was like to have a real girlfriend, and while I greatly enjoyed spending time with Mutsumi, I didn't want to do something to make her nervous. She didn't move, and didn't tense up, so I must have made the right move.
Amazing how something as simple as deciding how close to sit to a girl could cause me such anxiety.
She let out a contented sigh, leaning into me. I smiled and wrapped an arm around her, much as she had done with me earlier. We sat there, silently, for several minutes. Just as I was about to ask her what had brought her to my room that night, she turned to me and kissed me deeply.
I returned the kiss, wondering in a detached corner of my mind what had brought this on. Mutsumi was affectionate enough, but there was an undercurrent in this kiss, something urgent and...almost primal.
She broke off, her breath coming in short gasps. "Kei-kun, tomorrow we leave for Hinata. And I'm not sure when we'll have another night to ourselves."
She looked away, then, a blush coloring her cheeks. And then I understood. She didn't just want to spend more time with me. She didn't even necessarily want to spend the night. She wanted me. The realization caused my heart to beat even faster, something I wasn't sure was even possible, considering the pace it was currently keeping. "Mutsumi," I murmured, using her full name to let her know I was being serious. "We don't have to—"
She turned to face me again, her cheeks still flushed, eyes shining. "I know we don't have to, Keitaro," she said, softly. "But I want to." With that, she kissed me again, pushing me back onto the bed, and I stopped thinking at all.
The next morning, I awoke to find a warm weight on my chest. It turned out to be a slender arm, curled around me possessively. A spill of thick chestnut hair caressed my shoulder, and Mutsumi's face was positively angelic as she slept. There was no sign there of the stresses of the last few weeks.
I took a silent breath, not wanting to disturb the angel at my side. I had slept better than I could remember sleeping in a long time. And strangely, though we had introduced intimacy into our budding relationship, I had no worries about it having been too soon. There was none of the second-guessing that would accompany such a change. Contrary to my hesitations last night I knew, right then, that everything was going to be just fine.
I smiled. Looking back, I have to admit that taking that impulsive trip had turned out to be one of the better decisions I had made.
Mutsumi stirred at my side, a sleepy mumble coming from her pink lips. I turned in time to catch her eyes fluttering open, her arm tightening reflexively. "Good morning, Mu-chan."
Her lips turned upwards in a smile, her eyes lighting up as she heard my voice. "Good morning, Kei-kun." She pulled herself up slightly, kissing me gently. I returned the kiss, my free arm coming to brush her hair away from her face. We held the kiss for a few more moments, and then I pulled gently away. "We need to get up and around. We've got a train to catch back to Hinata, my love. Do you want the shower first?"
She thought about it. "I think I do, yes."
And with that, she rose, and wearing nothing more than a smile, headed for the bathroom. "Although…."
I was slack jawed already, and her additional comment helped to bring me back to the present. "Yes?" I said, in a voice that was only a little strained.
"We could save time if you were to join me."
I had my doubts about that. But who was I to argue?
A short time later, or so it seemed at least, we were showered, dressed, and on our way to the train station. I had decided that I was going to have to possibly get a bigger tub for myself, should Mutsumi decide that she wanted to bathe with me on occasion. Of course, I could always pull rank and use the women's bath with her, but that might be seen as a bit unsanitary to the other residents, considering what would likely happen in such a scenario. So the best thing would be to renovate my quarters.
I wondered what the other's would think about it, wondered if they would draw the wrong conclusions, decided that I didn't much care what they thought.
I was the landlord of Hinata-sou. I would do what I wanted, and to hell with worrying about what my tenants thought.
I turned to Mutsumi, squeezing her hand. "Ready for some more craziness?"
She squeezed back, her brown eyes bright as she smiled. "Always."
We purchased out tickets, and a few minutes later, were in our seats, settling in for the ride back to Hinata. It was still a little early, and I yawned. I knew that after we got back, there would still be a lot to do. We had to set up the new store, get the rest of Mutsumi's stuff moved into the Inn, and maybe look at some kind of advertising to let the neighborhood know that there was a new business in town. Haruka had suggested a voucher for a free cup of tea with any purchase at the new store, and Mutsumi had agreed wholeheartedly. It would be a good way to promote business off each other.
Mutsumi yawned too. She was still a little tired herself. I touched her arm. "I'm going to go look for some refreshments. Want anything?"
"Some hot tea, please?"
I smiled and nodded my head. Rising from my seat, I made my way along the train, towards the back. Usually, that's where they kept the beverages. About three cars back, I found what I was looking for. There was a small beverage and snack cart, and I purchased a hot tea for Mutsumi and a coffee for myself, along with a couple of croissants. A light breakfast and then maybe a nap. We would need our strength when we arrived. The truck would get there not long after we would, and there was going to be a lot of moving to do.
The woman in the booth finished brewing the tea and coffee, and she had even warmed the croissants. I thanked her, and paid, leaving a sizable tip for the excellent service. The flaky, buttery pastries smelled delicious, and the coffee and tea were also expertly made. I carefully made my way back to our seats, balancing the drinks and the food.
Mutsumi must have smelled it coming, because she got up from her seat to take her drink and the rolls, preventing what was sure to have been a painful spill. I sighed in relief and let her get settled again, and then took my own seat. There was a small arm between the two seats with cupholders, and we sipped out drinks and nibbled on the croissants. Well, she nibbled. I devoured.
About halfway through my coffee, the conductor came on the intercom, announcing that we were about to depart for Hinata. A few minutes after that, the train gently pulled out of the station, slowly picking up speed until it was flying down the tracks.
I drained my coffee and turned to my girlfriend. She was sipping her tea, and I had a sudden urge to sketch her. Not that I could, of course, I didn't have my sketchbook or anything to draw with for that matter, but I looked closely, trying to capture as many details as possible.
Oops. Caught. "Ah, sorry Mu-chan. I was just wishing for my sketchbook."
She smiled again and patted my hand. "I'll be sure to drink some tea back at the Inn. You can draw me then!"
I laughed. "Might have to be in my room. Things tend to be a little crazy in the common areas."
One delicate eyebrow rose. "You sure I'll be drinking tea in your room?"
The question had a half-serious, half-jesting intonation to it, but it did bring up a good point. Mutsumi and I had passed the threshold from being boyfriend and girlfriend to being lovers. Meaning that she was likely going to be spending some time in my room anyway. But we had given her one of the vacant rooms for the time being, while we finalized everything. It had been assumed at the time that she would live in the inn, and have a very short commute to work.
Things had changed.
One part of me rationalized that while the tenants currently had no problem with Mutsumi living at the inn, that might change if she were living at the inn in my room. On the other hand, I was the kanrinrin. I was in charge, and that meant having whoever I wanted living with me. And while I had come down hard on the girls recently, I knew that a more diplomatic approach would likely yield better results than me simply laying down the law.
Mutsumi must have noticed the various ideas from the look in my eyes, because she squeezed my hand. "Hey? You okay?"
I met her gaze and squeezed back. "Yeah. Just thinking about how things are going to be back home."
"With us, you mean?"
It was calmly said, with no worry or anger. It was, in fact, a statement. "Yeah. How everyone is going to react to this new aspect of our relationship."
Mutsumi frowned momentarily. "Technically, it's not any of their concern. But on the other hand, they do have something of a right to know, if nothing else, what kind of person their kanrinrin is. So I can see the dilemma." She pursed her lips, her hand still in mine. "How about this. We'll keep the rooms separate for now, and based on how things work out with me spending the night in your room or vice-versa, we can make a move from there."
I nodded. "I think that's just about right. I wasn't really sure which direction to take."
She leaned closer and kissed my cheek. "I figured as much. That's why I spoke up."
Bless her; she might just be able to read my mind. I leaned in closer to her and we settled in for the ride back to Hinata.
I know, I know. It's taking forever. Unfortunately, my muse will not be rushed.
I am working on a project involving the fic, and it will hopefully take away some of the sting of months and months, (and sometimes more than a year) between chapters. I won't say any more at this point, because it's still kind of up in the air right now.
As to the chapter itself, I have been playing with posting a lemon version it on either AFF, or MediaMiner. Hopefully the feedback will help me make that decision.