Oh wow, is Sir Sleeps-a-lot still alive? It's been a while since we've heard from her...

And you'd be right... I haven't been around for a while, and even looking at my list of documents, it's empty... big surprise there.

I am alive somehow, and alternating between being hectically busy and procrastinating and watching Paper Mario glitch videos... I have no clue why, but it's really interesting to see.

In any case, after much convincing from a certain someone... I've decided to post this one-shot which I've had sitting in my email for close to a year. As you can see, it's still Kaminomi(I still haven't stopped obsessing about it somehow :P), but this time, it's Haqua and Keima... considering my recent track record, you're probably thinking that I've stopped obsessing about Chihiro, and I don't really have an answer to that... I do still love her, but lately, I've just written about what I've been inspired with, and it isn't necessarily Chihiro.

Enough about that... this story was something I wrote on a whim, after having spent the day listening to "Tsuyogari Sunset", which was one of Haqua's periphery character songs, and that inspired this fairly short story that is just a different path the Goddess Arc could have taken early on... it's probably OOC, but nothing really new there.

In any case, please enjoy :)

It was quiet walk home, but that was due more to the participants being caught up in their own thoughts, rather than them not knowing what to say... In the orange light of dusk, two teens walked, their shadows stretched against the sidewalk…

Well, to call them both teens would be a lie... one was over 300 years old, for God's sake... not to say she didn't look around the same age as her 17 year old companion. To sum it up, devils age differently from their human counterparts.

The human boy, Keima Katsuragi, walked on the right with lazy strides, his thoughts not actually focussed on game girls, but rather, his new mission of finding the 4 remaining Goddesses weighing on his brain.

The devil girl, Haqua du Lot Herminium, followed behind at her own pace, trying to understand the face she'd seen Keima make earlier when they'd been at that bench when they had been talking about Jun and Minami... he said he was relieved by them having forgotten, but his face did appear sad... almost as if he had been rejected by those girls.

Still, she couldn't really blame him. Unlike Yukie's method of chasing out Loose Spirits, Keima's didn't allow for any further interactions with the girls. Yukie could still interact with her Gokult customers outside of hunting Loose Spirits, but she doubted he had that same luck.

Or rather, would a nerd like him actually care about the girls he'd purged a spirit from?

No, that was a stupid question! Considering what had happened with Kanon, of course he did care… that was the whole reason he'd spent the later part of the day trying to confirm where the Loose Spirits were.

The devil sighed... why was this even bothering her? This wasn't even any of her business…

Still, as she glanced to the side, she could tell that he had that same melancholic look as before. Before she could stop herself…

"Nee, Katsuragi..." Haqua spoke up. He didn't pause or turn around, but his eyes flickered to her, making it clear that he was paying attention. So she continued…

"What are you thinking about?" she asked.

"Just as to where the Goddesses are likely to be," he sighed, "we've already confirmed another two as not being hosts, but with our one week aim to find the Goddesses and awaken their powers, trying to see which girls remember me and are angry about Kanon would just be a waste of our time."

As straight as his face was, the purple-haired Valedictorian could smell bullshit as to that being the only thing he was thinking about. Even with her limited amount of contact with him, she knew him better than that.

Maybe it could be easier to say that she noticed the small things about him... about how he was fearless and undaunted about the challenges around him... about how he didn't give a crap about how other people viewed him... about how his thoughts would never be far from games, even during tough times...

He loved games, just as she loved him.

Haqua was a stubborn and prideful devil, and she had to quell a lot of her personality to even admit that to herself. She was a self-made woman who fought the odds and rose, so why would she want anyone else's approval!?

But that ship had sailed, and just like how the gap had formed in her heart around the time she'd first met him, he too had creeped in and made a little place for himself in her heart and mind to drive her crazy.

She just couldn't help it... he was eccentric and smart and independent of anyone to the point of being a rude bastard... yet somehow, those qualities just made her want to get closer to him. In a way, she actually got her wish, considering how she was going to help him search for the Goddesses in Elsie's stead.

Even as she stood right now, this really felt like a dream had come true... the two of them on a walk at sundown, with the last rays putting a hopeless fight against the night sky and Keima walking ahead of her, his eyes looking up at the sky, as if trying to spot the first star of the night.

Of course he wasn't actually doing that... still, a small smile came to Haqua's face.

"Are you not looking at me because you were lying?" she spoke in a teasing voice.

"About being concerned about the Goddesses and Kanon?" he shrugged, "why would I lie about that?"

"No, I don't doubt that you're concerned about them," Haqua reiterated, clasping her hands behind Elsie's school uniform, "I just feel that isn't the only thing you're thinking about."

For the first time, Keima stopped in his tracks, his eyes looking at the purple-haired devil, who suddenly held her breath under his gaze.

"Why would you think that?" he asked. She couldn't stand being scrutinised by him, so she turned her head, a blush rising up her cheeks.

"Y-your face," she answered, scratching under one of her mini-pigtails, "you just had a weird look which didn't look like concentration."

"Ah," Keima turned back and continued walking, "you're mistaken then."

It took a moment longer for Haqua's heart to start beating again, where she tried again.

"So you aren't thinking about those two girls who forgot about you?" he didn't stop, but even in the light, she could tell his ears started glowing... whatever she'd done, she'd hit gold, which only made her smile broaden and her steps speed up.

"Why would I think about them? I'm not wrong in saying that it's good that they aren't involved..."

"You aren't," she agreed, "but that doesn't mean that you want them to forget about you..."

Keima's stopped, and Haqua nearly tripped ahead of him to stop ahead of him. His slightly embarrassed face was all the fuel she needed to continue.

"How about you tell your girlfriend what's bothering you?" she spoke cheerfully, hoping the butterflies she'd gotten at that word weren't visible on her face. It wasn't difficult to joke about it, considering what had happened earlier with Jun.

"There's nothing bothering me," Keima made sure to keep eye contact so Haqua wouldn't try to call him out on that, "and you're not my girlfriend."

"But you're the one who made up that story, not me," Haqua teased, "and as your girlfriend, I demand to know what's bothering my belove‒"

Her eyes widened... even as a joke, that was going way too far. And as she expected, Keima didn't miss the use of that word.

"So I'm your beloved?" he smirked, and Haqua fell back, her face starting to glow... however, before he could add any other jibe, he turned away, "Liar..."

Haqua's heart ran cold for a moment, wondering why his tone just changed like that.

"W-what do you mean, I'm a liar?" she mumbled, "How can you know whether I'm lying or not?"

"Just stone hard logic," he started walking again. Haqua looked to see if he'd say more, but he didn't. That was when she felt her temper rise.

"What does logic have to do with this!?" her voice rose, "you can't decide on my feelings!"

"I can decide that it makes no logical sense," he continued angrily, only to be roughly turned around by the seething Haqua.

"What the hell has gotten into you, Katsuragi!?"

"You asked what's bothering me, and that's what it is!" he spat back.

For a moment, the human and the devil stared at each other, the darkening sky around them, their words finally catching up to themselves and each other... both prideful beings having admitted to more than they wanted to, and now beginning to regret it. Keima pushed her hands off him.

"It's more important I figure out who's hosting the Goddesses so I can begin my conquests," he took a deep breath, before looking back at her, a semblance of a smile on his face, "are you coming, Haqua?"

"Maybe after you explain what's the deal with your fake-ass smile..." she spat back.

"There's nothing to explain," he shrugged, "I'm fine, and I don't want to fight, and if you need a particular impression to convince you, so be it. Now are you coming or not?"

She nodded, but by no means was she satisfied with that answer.

They didn't speak further as they continued, but Haqua was still considering what she'd nearly done there... in fact, as she saw it, she had never hinted to her feelings so strongly to anyone, let alone the guy who it was about... it was a hopeless anyway…

They say the first one to fall in love loses... that made it the seven thousandth time she'd lost to him, huh?

Still, for the life of her, she couldn't understand what he was saying... it made no logical sense for anyone to like him? Wasn't that just disproved by the 14 Loose Spirits he'd collected?

Still, she remembered that face as he thought about Minami forgetting about him... his depression wasn't quite that no girl could like him, but the fact that they forgot so soon, and would never get those memories back, unless they were a Goddess Host... and despite the jokey tone he'd put around Jun, he'd definitely looked disappointed when she said she had never forgot about him, only to forget the most important thing.

"You... you care about them..." Haqua concluded, cutting her steps, "that's why you felt down at the thought of being forgotten..."

"Correction," Keima lifted a finger, "that's why I'm happy they won't be involved with the people who stabbed Kanon."

"But do you deny what I said?" Haqua asked insistently, peering at Keima's face. His face didn't change.

"Do you not care for the girls you save?" he countered back. Haqua shook her head with little hesitation.

"It's a job for me, and it's Yukie who emotes with them to fill the gap in their hearts, not me… although I'm certain she cares."

Keima seemed thoughtful as he absorbed that... in a way, it made sense for the human buddy to put more effort into ejecting the Loose Spirit, but that made him wonder about Elsie... she didn't seem to consider collecting Loose Spirits to be her job, and she'd made friends with most of the girls he'd conquered, at least for that time, if not longer.

"In any case," Haqua spoke up again, "what were you going on about with the 'no logical sense' thing you mentioned before?"

It took a few moments longer for Keima to decide whether he wanted to respond to the question, but she seemed patient enough, her eyes scanning the darker blue sky that came before night settled.

"What are you even looking at?" he asked.

"Nothing really," she glanced at him, "I'm just wondering if our pride is actually a cover for our insecurities... like feigned confidence... or bravado..."

"I see," Keima smiled. Maybe he wouldn't admit it, but he could see what she was coming from, "although, to answer your other question..."

Haqua looked down, surprised that he was going to talk at all.

"I think... my only chance for a real romance comes from me pretending to be some romantic figure... and they forget afterwards, so it doesn't even count..."

"And the Goddess Host?"

"It doesn't change the fact that they don't actually like me, rather liking the figure I show them..."

While Haqua's heart hadn't quite gotten its regular beat back, she could tell it had sped to double time by now... she wasn't the best at human interactions, but she certainly knew that this was a set-up for her to say something... she liked him... she liked him for who he was…

"W-waah, aren't the stars pretty today!?" Haqua burst out, her face turning bright red at her

idiocy. Keima raised an eyebrow.

"The stars aren't out yet..." he answered, his eyes noting that the orange of the sunset still hadn't disappeared from the bottom of the sky.

"W-w-well..." she frantically looked around, trying to find one. Come to think of it, by this point, the entire street was completely devoid of people, and was only illuminated by street lights, which made searching for stars a lot more difficult.

"Though there is actually one over there," Keima pointed at a particularly sparkly dot in the distance, which Haqua turned to excitedly.

"Yes yes... that is the star that I thought was pretty..."

"The one whose existence you didn't know about till I pointed it out for you?" Keima smirked... as he expected, Haqua folded, cradling one overheated cheek in her palm.

"Well, I do know of one pretty star before you even mentioned it..." she bounced back.

"You're the one who mentioned stars in the first place," Keima snarked for a moment, "but where is it?"

She pointed to his face, taking a deep breath. This had gone on long enough.

"Your eyes..." her face got pinker despite that, "you have sparkly stars in your eyes..."

His eyes widened, the motion giving Haqua the courage she needed. Her voice rang clearly through the air.

"I like you."

For a moment, both devil and human stared at each other, a slight autumn breeze picking up their hair. Keima just froze, which left Haqua to awkwardly scratch her head, trying to gather where she'd wanted to go with this, considering her brain had kind of blanked out.

"Oh yeah," she glared at him, "you better not call me a liar! And you better not doubt that you do have the ability to romance someone with your own personality! Because if I can see it, I know someone else does too..."

Keima still didn't respond, which gave Haqua the time to make one last quip.

"And if I can admit this to your face, then it's okay for you to admit that a part of you misses the girls, and wish you could have them by your side..."

That was the thing which broke him... his blank eyes squeezed shut for a moment, before glitter started forming from them. Haqua panicked.

"D-don't cry!" she tried to sound angry, but failed, "that isn't why I told you this!"

"W-what do you want me to do!?" Keima rubbed his wet eyes, "how am I supposed to react to this?"

"I don't know!" Haqua yelled back, "are you happy or angry or‒"

Her voice stopped as Keima grabbed her shoulders and pressed her against his chest in a tight hug, a stray tear sparkled in the air as it flew past her.

"Thank you..." he spoke in a shaky voice against her hair, "thank you..." Haqua smiled, resting her head against his chest.

"And above all, you know that you don't have to be strong all the time," she whispered as she moved her arms to return his embrace.

They stood like that for close to a minute before Keima broke the embrace, wiping his eyes properly.

"For a smart devil, you sure have bad timing..." he sniffled, before facing her again, "at this moment, I still have to search for those Goddesses, and there's no guarantee I won't be in any other romantic situations before I can give you an answer..."

He sighed, but gave her a happy smile.

"But I am grateful you told me that, and I am honoured that you think so highly of me."

"Nope, you're the worst!" Haqua said in a joking tone, which earned a laugh from Keima.

"Sure you think that," but his tone showed anything but agreement, "just like how you don't want to be my buddy for the week."

"Exactly!" Haqua stuck out her tongue, before the meaning struck her and Keima started dragging her to his house, "WAIT, WHAT!?"

"Now you're going to be Elsie's much more competent replacement for the time being..." Keima laughed as she protested, flailing her scythe.

Obviously, he couldn't see the ending of this route just yet, but as he was, he wanted to see this to the end, no matter if she hit him or not.

And as usual, the story devolves into OOCness at the end... especially with a short story like this, it's hard to have Keima realistically feel something for any girl, but I don't think this was too bad. I quite enjoyed writing it (I imagine), and Haqua (and her seiyuu) deserve more love.

In any case, this is about it for the story. For now, this is going to be named Bravado, but this may change in the future, if I decide to post another one-shot or something... It's not really a secret to people who know me that I love the Kaminomi music, and it would make me so happy to have a series of one-shots inspired by the songs... for now, this one is inspired by "Tsuyogari Sunset", and I'd recommend searching it on youtube if you're interested.

Though other than this story, I do hope to post more in the near future... I'm not sure exactly what, but I have stories scattered all over my computer, and if people are still interested in this series, I'll at least give them more to read.

So there you have it... if you have anything to say, feel free to leave me a review... and if you don't, I'll assume you loved this story and you're just shy, so you'll have to correct me :P

Hopefully I'll see ya'll soon. Mata ne.