Disclaimer: insert witty disclaimer remark here
A future fic of sorts. Set approximately 11 years after the Anime. It's been past seven months since the Funbari Onsen Inn celebrations ended...what has happened so far during that span of time? The happiness, the love...and the celebrations never stop.^_^
Spoilers: The whole Anime series.
Warnings: PG-13 for adult situations and mild swearing.
Yes, this is the end.
Epilogue - The End is the Beginning
Late December, 2009
Asakura Estate, Izumo, 3 a.m.
"Yoh, wake up."
"...What is it?"
"My water bag just broke."
Yoh rolled over and raised his head slightly and looked at his wife sleepily. "...Okay," he mumbled, then dropped back down on the pillow and started snoring.
Anna pulled her husband's head by the hair and slapped him several times to wake him up. "We need to go to a hospital NOW!" She winced slightly as another one of her contractions began. "The baby's COMING!" Her last word ended in a scream.
"WHAT?!?" Yoh's eyes snapped open in alarm. In a flash, he was up and by his wife's side, looking around him, unsure of what he was supposed to do. Spotting his cell phone at the nearby table, he made a mad grab for it, and furiously dialed the emergency numbers. Abruptly, he stopped, frowning deeply as he tossed the phone away. "The lines are dead and there's no signal." He looked out the window and fought off the urge to groan out loud. "...There's a blizzard outside." He said in a panicked voice. He paced around the room, furiously trying to rack his brains out. "Jii-chan, Oyaji...and Baachan!" He exclaimed suddenly. "Where are they?"
Glaring at her husband, Anna replied, "I don't know!" She gasped as another contraction hit her. "They're not here," her voice sounded a little high-pitched. "They mentioned something yesterday about heading off to the O--OUCH! DAMMIT! I SWEAR, I'M NEVER GONNA LET YOU TOUCH ME AGAIN..."
"Worry about that later," Yoh told her, his brows furrowing with concern at what she just said. "...They're NOT here? How am I supposed to know what I'm going to do? Faust isn't here...and we can't contact him in this blizzard."
"THEN TAKE ME TO A HOSPITAL!"
"I CAN'T!" Her husband exclaimed desperately. "We'll never make it in that storm. And I'm not about to risk your life and our baby's by letting you out in that COLD!" He bent down beside her, wiped her sweaty face with a towel. "The only other person who can possibly help us is Baachan...and she's not here."
Anna could feel the tears falling down her cheeks. "OH, GOD...it really hurts," She sobbed, then winced slightly once again as another contraction passed by.
Yoh held her close in his arms, desperately trying to calm her down. "Don't cry," He soothed, kissing her tears away, all the while wringing his mind out in search of ideas. "There's got to be someone out there who can...HAO!" He exclaimed.
His wife froze at the mention of the name, and, forgetting the pain, she looked at her husband incredulously. "What about him?"
"He can help us," he told her. "Didn't he use to be a Shaman Priest, years ago? I'm pretty sure he knows...midwifery..."
"No." Anna said firmly, with a vigorous shake of her head.
"NO?!? Anna, you can't be serious!"
"I AM serious. I'd rather DIE than allow him to TOUCH ME and my baby." She said stiffly. She breathed in deeply, then out, uttering a soft cry as the contractions became even more painful.
"But Anna...there's no way you and I can do this on our own! I mean, breathing classes are one thing..."
"I said NO, and I mean NO!" His wife screamed.
"Alright, alright!" Yoh sighed and resumed wiping his wife's face. "I don't exactly know how to..." he ran his gaze down her stomach nervously. "I've never done this before..."
"Promise me you WON'T call him." Anna told him pleadingly. "Promise me," she insisted, gasping another breath.
"Uhm..." Her husband scratched his head, then grinned at her sheepishly. "Well...uh..."
"...You rang, Otouto?" A familiar voice called out from the door, followed by a soft knock.
Anna stared at the door, then looked at her husband murderously. "You've already CALLED him?"
A shrug. "...Kind of."
She whirled her head around frantically. "HOW?"
"Telepathic link." The voice behind the door answered. "He shouted DIRECTLY into my mind. It still hurts." A chuckle. "So...what seems to be the problem?" He started to slide open the wall panel.
"DON'T LET HIM IN HERE OR I'M GONNA KILL YOU BOTH!" Anna shouted at her husband.
"I MEAN IT!" She threatened, fighting the urge to cry out again as an excruciatingly painful contraction passed by.
"Ah." Hao sighed sadly, stopping abruptly and sliding the door shut. "...It looks like you'll have to do this on your own, Otouto."
Yoh sighed helplessly. "But Oniichan, I don't know how to...deliver a baby. I don't."
"Relax. I'll take you both through it step by step." Hao told him reassuringly. "Just...tell her to follow my lead, okay?"
"...Okay," Yoh said finally, glancing at his wife with concern, then, wincing as she shot him a withering glare.
"I'll kill you after this," She swore.
Having heard that, Hao chuckled slightly. "...She tells you that each and every time, doesn't she?" He called out to his brother.
"Yeah..." Yoh answered. "So...what do I do now?"
"Put some pillows all around her body and blankets under her legs," Hao instructed. He strained his ears towards the door and heard a couple of shuffling noises. "...Are you done?"
"Hai." His twin brother answered.
"Good." Hao smiled with satisfaction. "Now...I believe she's done this several times already, so she probably knows, but anyway...tell her to raise and spread her legs apart. Help her out if necessary. And...take off anything that can obstruct the baby's passageway...anything at all."
"Like...undergarments?" Yoh asked hesitantly.
"Hai." He answered, feeling a slight grin spreading across his face at the tone of his brother's voice. He could actually feel his twin blushing. "Come on, Otouto, it's not like you don't do this every time you guys...um," he coughed. He winced as he heard his sister-in-law cry out. "Tell her to do those breathing exercises you've studied before at that class, it might help with the pain." He paused. "I'm sure she knows that."
"OF COURSE I KNOW THAT! WHO DO YOU THINK I AM?" Anna yelled out upon catching his last statement.
"YOU'RE MY SISTER-IN-LAW!" Hao called back. "Yoh...are you done?"
"...Hai." His brother answered.
"Splendid." He smiled with satisfaction. "Now then...let's begin."
The snow storm blasted on for about three hours or more, blanketing the whole Asakura Estate under thick sheets of white, so that from the outside, the whole place seemed like some kind of ancient ivory castle. Just as the sky was sending out the last snowflake, from inside one of the rooms in the estate, a baby's loud cries were heard.
"It's a boy..." Yoh murmured reverently as he stared in wonder at the little bundle in his arms. "It's a baby boy with blonde hair, just like yours..." He wiped a bead of perspiration that was on his forehead as he continued to gaze in awe at his newborn son. "He's...beautiful..."
Anna chuckled as she opened her eyes sleepily and observed her husband, who, upon seeing her awake, walked over to her side, lightning-fast, cradling the baby in his arms. "He's got...your...face..." She whispered, smiling exhaustedly as she stroked the little baby's cheeks.
Yoh placed the baby at the crook of her arm, then, he leaned closer and enfolded his wife in a warm, possessive embrace. "I wish the kids could have seen this," he smiled wistfully, resting his head against her neck.
"Me, too..." She replied, kissing the brow of the newborn infant, softening his cries until he calmed down, and when he did, she turned to her husband and brushed a swift kiss against his cheek. "Thank you." She murmured.
He turned his head to meet her lips with his. "I thought you said you were going to kill me after this," he breathed, stroking her damp hair softly with his fingers.
"I changed my mind." She whispered, closing her eyes as she surrendered blissfully to his kiss. "...Is that a problem?" She teased.
He chuckled. "No." And then, he kissed her again, longer and deeper this time. "I love you...I love you so much, Asakura Anna," he murmured like a prayer as his lips traveled across her face, pressing worshipful kisses on her cheeks, her nose, her forehead, her eyes, her chin...before moving back to capture her lips once more.
She kissed him back with all the love she felt in her heart--love for him, and love for all their children...most especially for this newborn little one. She caressed her husband's hair gently, noting that it was slightly damp, just like hers were. It was probably because of all the trouble he went to just to make sure that she was able to deliver the baby safely.
Although he was inexperienced about the whole thing, her husband did the best he could, and remained ever-gentle and as calm as he could manage all throughout the whole ordeal. It was as much a labor for him as it was for her--and in a way, Anna was glad that they were stranded in this snowstorm, and that her husband was the one who had delivered their baby, because she was able to share all the pain, all the suffering, and most importantly, all the joy--with him.
And she didn't want it any other way.
The little boy stirred and started to cry again.
Yoh reluctantly lifted his mouth from his wife's and gazed at the baby with concern. "He's hungry."
"...Yes he is." Anna agreed, smiling up at her husband, then, at the little blonde-haired infant. She slipped her gown off her shoulder, loosened the top, then gently took the child in her arms and placed him against her breast. Almost immediately, the little baby boy latched onto his mother's breast, clutching tightly as he sucked the nipple and drank eagerly.
"Yup, he's hungry, alright." Yoh remarked with a soft chuckle, gazing with awe and reverence at both his wife and his son, wishing that he'd brought a camera with him so he could capture this priceless moment.
But then again, he realized as he continued to look over at them...he really didn't need a camera, for the memory of this heartwarming scene will be engraved in his heart, his mind and soul...for always.
That was better than any picture could ever be.
Outside, Hao listened in quietly as the faint noises faded away, disappearing into nothingness. Except for a couple of shuffling sounds here and there, the slight cascading sounds of the snow as it fell off the roof, and three timbres of even breathing inside the room where his twin brother, his sister-in-law, and his newborn nephew were, all was silent.
Smiling softly to himself, he summoned Spirit of Fire from out of nowhere. Then, he stood up, jumped on top of the red mecha-spirit, and gave it the signal to leave.
He gazed back at the Asakura Estate as he and Spirit of Fire flew and floated over it. "I'll see you again soon, Otouto, Sister-in-law, little nephew," his whispering call drifted in the wind.
As he and his spirit zoomed above the rising sun, he heard an answering voice inside his head.
Arigatou, Oniichan. We'll see you soon.
...Me, Anna, Yohmaru, Yohnta, Keiko, Ren-chan....and Hao-chan.
Hai, Otouto. And arigatou, as well.
"Yoh! Anna!" The couple turned around from the car as two familiar voices called them.
"Yohmei-sama. Kino-sensei," Anna greeted with surprise as her husband's grandfather and her old teacher approached them.
"Tousan," Yoh looked up in surprise as Asakura Mikihisa, his father, floated over their heads and unceremoniously landed on the snowy patch beside the car.
"We found your note," Kino told the couple as she pulled out a single white sheet of paper with Anna and Yoh's writing on it. "...You shouldn't leave so early. We need to have your son checked," she added, smiling fondly at the thick bundle in Anna's arms.
Anna smiled. "We're stopping by a hospital on the way home. I'm sorry, Kino-sensei, Yohmei-sama, Ojisama," she bowed her head slightly at the three of them. "But the children are waiting for us."
"Yeah." Yoh agreed, grinning at his wife. "...Anyway, when did you guys get back?"
"Five minutes ago," Mikihisa told his son. "Who helped you in delivering my grandson?"
"My twin brother," Yoh answered proudly, with a big smile. "As soon as I called him, he arrived in an instant."
"...Hao, huh?" Yohmei chuckled. "He really has changed, hasn't he...?"
"Hai." Yoh cocked his head and looked at his grandfather brightly.
"So...does this little one have a name yet?" Mikihisa inquired.
"Well..." Anna looked at the little infant in her arms thoughtfully. "We haven't exactly decided it yet..."
"Yes we have," Her husband interrupted quickly. "We're gonna name him Hao-chan."
"We are NOT!" His wife glared at him.
"Yes we are," Yoh insisted. "Come on, Anna...if it weren't for him, the baby wouldn't have been delivered safely," he gave her a pleading look. "Please? You know, he's been desperately trying to gain your acceptance ever since we were sixteen..."
Anna frowned at her husband, then turned and smiled at Yohmei, Kino and Mikihisa. "Thank you for everything you've done for us for the past couple of weeks. We have to get going now." She bowed her head once more. Then, lowering her voice, she told her husband, "We'll talk about this in the car."
"...Okay," Yoh nodded. Then, he grinned sheepishly at his grandparents and at his father. "We'll see you again sometime, Jii-chan, Baachan, Tousan!" He bowed briefly before he ran towards the passenger door, opening it for his wife. Then, he headed to the other side and got in the car.
Yohmei, Kino and Mikihisa waved to the couple as the dark red car pulled out of the driveway, speeded forward, and then, disappeared from their sight.
"...Do you think he'll convince her?" Yohmei asked his son-in-law as they went back inside the estate.
"Yoh? Convince Anna?" Mikihisa laughed. "Of course he will, Otousan. He -is- my son, after all."
Funbari Onsen Inn, 7 a.m.
The phone at the reception table rang, causing the person beside it to jump up in surprise. The said person, a beautiful lady in her late twenties, with jade-green hair and blue eyes, and wearing a red kimono, hunched over the computer and continued to look at the screen as she fumbled for the receiver and held it against her ear. "Ohayo!" She greeted cheerfully. "Jun desu. How may I help you...YOH-KUN!" She stood up upon hearing the familiar voice. "How are you doing? Where are you and Anna-san? RYU-KUN! TAMAO-CHAN!" She called out successively to both the kitchen and the Tea Room, "Yoh-kun is on the phone! Call Faust-san and the children, hurry!"
Jun went back to the receiver hastily just as Ryu rushed out of the kitchen and Tamao, out of the Tea Room. The two of them headed towards the elevator. "Yoh-kun...we haven't seen nor heard from you in a MONTH! Have you finished your visit at Izumo?"
A chuckle. "...Yeah." Yoh replied. "We're allowed to use the phone now. We've also had Anna's pregnancy blessed and everything...but listen, I've got some great news." He sounded extremely happy, but the ever-calm tone that was his trademark was still there. "...Anna just gave birth early this morning. And it's--"
"SHE DID?!?" The Chinese woman almost skipped on top of the reception table. Holding the receiver tightly in her hands, she asked, "Is it a boy or a girl? How does it look like? What's the hair color? What's the eye color?" She squealed, all in one breath.
"--a boy," Yoh finished with a laugh. "Jun...are the kids and everyone else there? You'd better put this on speaker phone, or I'm going to get deaf."
"OH! Gomen ne!" Jun exclaimed, practically dropping the phone as she turned it on to speaker mode eagerly. "Hurry up, hurry up, children! Your father's on the phone!" She called out to the approaching Keiko, Yohmaru, Yohnta and Ren-chan. Tamao, Ryu and Faust were right behind the children.
"TOUCHAN!" Keiko shouted gleefully, hopping on top of the reception table. "Where's Kaachan?"
"Touchan, Kaachan!" Yohmaru hopped on the surface beside his sister. "Are you both alright?"
"Are you going home yet?" Yohnta piped up as he and Ren-chan squeezed at the inside of the table, with Jun.
"Touchan! Ohayo!" Ren-chan exclaimed cheerfully.
A loud, hearty laugh was heard from the other line. "Hi, kids," Yoh greeted. "...Your mother and I are doing fine," he paused, "...and so is your new brother," he added meaningfully. Everyone could practically feel him grinning.
"NEW BROTHER?!?" Yohmaru, Yohnta, and Keiko exclaimed at the same time.
Tamao leaned against the reception table upon hearing this. "Yoh-sama? Anna-sama gave birth after the blizzard, isn't that right?"
"...Quite right," Yoh agreed. "Hao helped me out with the delivery...it took us several hours, but we made it. And speaking of that..." he paused abruptly, and Anna's voice was heard in the background. "Hold on. It's Anna. She wants to speak with all of you." More sounds. "I'm putting this on speaker...no? Okay. Hang on a sec, everyone," he called out.
"Ohayo." Anna's voice was heard on the speaker a few seconds later. She sounded like the firm, stiff Itako that everyone was used to, but there was a slight hint of laughter in the way she spoke. "Faust. Ryu. Jun-san. Tamao. Is everything well?" She was talking about the Inn. "Are the clients getting used to our new manager?"
"...Hai, Anna Okami," It was Ryu who answered this. "I think they even like her better than me," he added with a slight chuckle, smiling proudly at Jun, who smiled back. "...She's much more efficient as the manager than I ever was. And plus, it doesn't hurt that she's also extremely beautiful," he added, blushing a little bit at his own compliment.
"Good." Anna said with satisfaction. "...And Jun-san? How are you liking your job so far?"
"It's wonderful, Anna-san!" Jun proclaimed. "...My father's not too thrilled about it, though," she added sadly as an afterthought. "But then again, he doesn't exactly approve of anything I do with my life."
"He'll survive," Anna replied firmly. "He has to. Faust...your patients. How are they doing?"
"Perfectly fine," Faust announced cheerfully. "...And the spa's as busy as ever. We're getting close to overflowing again."
"...Don't forget the SOP's, alright? Ryu."
"Hai, Anna Okami?" Ryu leaned closer to the speaker phone.
"The kitchen. Are you fine on your own, or will there be a need to hire another assistant?"
"...I'm alright," Ryu answered quickly. "Three assistant chefs are more than enough. We can handle the whole place. And besides, Tamao-chan takes charge of the desserts, so that gives us less to do."
"...Excellent." Anna declared. "Tamao? Are you going back to Hakone anytime soon?"
Tamao blushed slightly, but she said, "No, Anna-sama. I'm staying here at the Onsen until early February next year. Pilica-chan will be with her brother for the meantime...at least, until the day of the ceremony. But I'll only be visiting," she added quickly. "I'll still come back. I won't be living there...I mean, Horo and I haven't talked about it yet..."
"That's good to hear." The smile was evident in Anna's voice. "...Kids?"
"Kaachan?" The four children listened in hopefully to their mother.
"Your little brother's fine." Anna said with a chuckle. "He's perfectly healthy. We just got back from the hospital, and we'll be going home shortly."
"What's his name?" Yohmaru, Yohnta, and Keiko asked eagerly in unison.
"...I'll tell you," Yoh's voice sounded on the speaker. "His name is--"
Something along the lines of a protest was audible in the background as Anna's voice sounded on the line again. "We'll tell you when we get back." A baby's soft cries echoed loudly, reaching even the speaker phone. "Well...that's our cue. I'd better get back to the baby, it looks like he's hungry again." She sighed, then laughed softly. "I'm feeding him. We've got to get going. Take care, everyone!" And with a small beep, the call ended.
The four grownups in the Onsen gave each other a meaningful look. Then, they nodded simultaneously.
"I'll call Ren and tell him the news," Jun announced as she went back to her post.
"I'll get back to the kitchen and prepare something for Yoh Danna and Anna Okami and the new baby's arrival." Ryu said, bowing to everyone before walking out and resuming with his task in the kitchen.
"We'll call Uncle Lyserg..." The twins began.
"...And Auntie Jeanne and everyone else!" Keiko added. "We'll use the telephone at our room. Ja ne!" She waved at Tamao, Jun and Faust as she went towards the elevator with her three brothers.
"I'll ask all the other staff to prepare for Yoh-kun and Anna-san's arrival," Faust declared as he retreated towards the dining hall, speaking to each of the maids, valets and waiters that he met along the way.
"Um...I'll call Horo-horo and Pilica-chan," Tamao decided, bowing slightly at Jun, who nodded at her, before rushing off to catch up with the Asakura children.
Jun smiled one last time before she picked up the receiver again and dialed her brother's number at the estate. "Ohayo. I'd like to speak to Ren, please."
Butterbur Fields, Hakone, 7:30 a.m.
Pilica glanced up from her hand and smiled vaguely at the wedding planner. "Navy blue...and azure. Ren-kun likes azure."
The woman stopped writing and frowned. "Won't that be too...monochromatic? He -is- Chinese, isn't he? Don't you think it would be better to add a little bit of red? It -will- be a Chinese wedding, right?"
"It's Chinese, Western, and Japanese," Pilica corrected with a smile, clasping her fingers together and stroking the slender, white-gold diamond-encrusted band around her ring finger.
"Oh." The planner looked confused for a moment, glancing at the light-blue haired man beside Pilica, who merely shrugged. "So...there would be a maid of honor, a best man, bridesmaids and groomsmen?" She inquired, noting everything down on her silver palmtop.
"...And a flower girl and little trinket bearers as well," The azure-haired woman added helpfully, grinning sweetly at her brother. "Three little trinket bearers."
"Will...HE be the best man?" The planner asked, inclining her head at Horo-horo.
"Iie." Pilica moved closer to her brother and kissed him on the cheek. "...He's giving me away. Our dear parents have long been dead and gone. Ren-kun wants Yoh-san to be the best man."
Horo-horo grunted, blushing as he pulled away hastily from his sister. "I'm not too thrilled with the thought of giving you away."
"Oniichan!" His Imouto pouted cutely. "...If you love me, you'll do this for me." She said with a pleading, puppy-dog look.
"...Alright," He relented, sighing with resignation. Already twenty-two and his sister still acted like a little girl. "It's not like I have any choice..." His face darkened. "I don't want that sorry excuse for a father of your fiancé's doing any more harm to you. You'll be safer once you're ma..." he swallowed. "Ma..." He shook his head helplessly. "Ma..."
"Married," Pilica supplied, pinching her brother's cheek playfully. "...to Ren-kun. Oniichan, you'll have to start getting used to it; the wedding's in less than two months..." She paused, sighing dreamily. "I can't wait...and neither can you." She grinned mischievously. "I know you're dying to have me move out of here so you and Tamao-neesan can resume your...love affair..."
"S...shut up." Horo-horo blushed slightly, though he didn't deny it. He turned to the wedding planner. "What else is left?"
"Decorations," The woman answered, relieved that she was finally acknowledged again. "Guest giveaways, table designs, flower arrangements..."
"We'll take care of that," The Ainu man said with a firm, decisive nod. "We have a flower plantation at the back, if you noticed. Pilica, what kind of flowers do you want?"
"Azure lilies." Pilica replied instantly. "Ren-kun likes them." Warm color tinted her cheeks. "He says...they remind him of me." A blissful sigh. "...And every time I look at them, I think of him. I still have that smushed one that he gave to me months ago, somewhere..."
Horo-horo rolled his eyes exasperatedly. Mentally ill. His sister needed to be checked by a psychiatrist before she gets married, else she and Ren will end up with crazy children...he cringed. Children. Ren and Pilica, having children.
Ren and Pilica, doing what...he...accidentally managed to do with Tamao...he shook his head vigorously. HE was the one who needed a check-up. "What else?"
"The wedding cake," The planner responded. "The color, the flavor, and the designs...if you're going to pay for a bakeshop to create it, I know some good ones. It's best if we make the reservations this early..."
"Tamao will take charge of the cake." Horo-horo said quickly. "...We can ask a few of Ren's kitchen staff to help her out, right?" He asked his sister.
"Hai." Pilica agreed. "I'll ask Ran-Hahaue."
Her brother looked at her strangely. "Ran-Hahaue?"
"Ren-kun's mother." She answered matter-of-factly.
"Your mother-in-law." It was a statement, not a question.
Pilica's cheeks reddened even more. "Hai."
Horo-horo shrugged, sighing. "Anything else?" He asked the wedding planner.
"...Just a couple of more things." She replied. "But it can wait until tomorrow...when the groom arrives," she added. She stood up, picked up her things, and got ready to leave. "Pilica-chan, the seamstress and her assistants will come by this afternoon to take your measurements. Please be ready." She reminded the bride-to-be.
"Yes. Arigatou, Miroku-san." Pilica stood up and bowed her head slightly at the older woman. "I appreciate everything you're doing for us."
Miroku Ayame the wedding planner bowed and smiled in return. "It's my job to make this wedding as special and as wonderful as you and Ren-san obviously are...or so Hao-san has told me." She added, shaking her head as Horo-horo stood up and prepared to accompany her. "There's no need to show me out, thank you." She nodded briefly at the siblings. "I'll be seeing you." With a final smile, she got out the door and left.
At that moment, the phone rang. Horo-horo scooped it up before Pilica can reach it.
He smirked at his sister as he answered. "Horo-horo's fields of green." His eyes brightened upon hearing the voice on the other line. "Hey, you...what's up?" A slow grin formed on his face, and Pilica realized that it was Tamao who was calling. Her brother's eyes widened as he listened in to what the pink-haired fortune teller was saying. "...Really? Oh, wow..." he whistled. "Good for them." He turned around. "...So, when are you coming back here? Next week? You're going to get fitted for a gown, oh, I can't wait to see that...yeah, you're the maid of honor, I forgot. You left some of your things here...if you want them back, you should come here and get them." He laughed evilly. "But you'll never get out of here alive if you do...well, OF COURSE Pilica's HERE, but your things are in MY ROOM, aren't they? I'll just have to lock you in with me and...PILICA! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" Horo-horo made a mad grab for the telephone cradle, but his sister managed to snatch it. She triumphantly raised it up and pushed the speaker phone on.
"I want to speak to her," Pilica told him cheekily. "...Ohayo, Tamao-neesan!" She called out.
A small cough. And then, "O...ohayo, Pilica-chan." Pilica could actually hear the blush in the pink-haired fortune teller's voice. "How are you doing?"
"I'm perfectly FINE!" Pilica answered, smiling sweetly at her brother, who gave her a murderous look. "...And you?"
"I...I'm well, thanks." Tamao said hesitantly. "Listen, I actually called you guys because of a wonderful news."
"...Really?" Pilica asked doubtfully. "Are you sure you didn't call just to discuss your sex life with my brother?"
"N...no, of course not!" Tamao said defensively.
"PILICA!" Horo-horo looked horrified.
Pilica gave him another sweet smile. "So...what was that news?"
"Well..." Pilica could swear she could hear the other woman sighing with relief. "We just got off on a phone call with Yoh-sama and Anna-sama. They told us that Anna-sama's just given birth to very healthy baby boy."
"REALLY?" Horo-horo watched his sister skip around the furniture. "WELL THAT'S GOOD NEWS!" She squealed, practically tossing the phone cradle from her hand. "Are they home yet? What's the little boy's name?"
"No, but they said they will be soon." Tamao paused. "As for the other question...we don't know yet. Anna-sama refused to tell us...although Yoh-sama was dying to," she chuckled. "...I've already told your brother this news, just before you got on the speaker, and--"
"--And just before YOU and HE started discussing something else," Pilica interrupted, grinning mischievously at her brother. "I caught that part about Oniichan locking you in the room with HIM," she added meaningfully. "So...honestly, how far exactly have you gone with my brother? I mean, aside from what Ren-kun and I saw before...or am I allowed to ask?"
"...You're NOT," Horo-horo answered curtly, plucking the telephone cradle out of his sister's hands. "...We've gone way farther than you and Ren have...I hope." Her brother told her without a shred of reticence as he turned the speaker off. "Hello. Sorry about that." He flashed Pilica a look that told her to go away. "...So where were we? Ah, yeah...I'd lock you in with me and then...PILICA!!!" He exhaled impatiently as his Imouto snatched the receiver this time.
"Have you told everyone the news yet?" Pilica inquired.
"...Jun-san said she was going to call Ren-san. I think the kids promised to call everyone else." Tamao answered from the other line.
"...I'll call him too!" The Ainu woman declared. "I'll call Ren-kun. Tamao-neesan, Oniichan will call you later, alright?" She smiled up at her brother as she continued to listen to what the other woman was saying. "Alright. I'll tell him. Arigatou!" Then, she hang up and started dialing Ren's number at the Tao estate. "Oniichan, Tamao-neesan says she'll be picking up the rest of her things soon."
"Well...tell her that...what ARE you doing?" He demanded upon seeing his sister dialing. "Where is she?"
"She hang up. She'll call you back later. I'm calling Ren-kun." She gave her brother a sweet, hopeful look. "You don't mind, do you, Oniichan...?"
Horo-horo stifled a groan, then finally, he sighed with resignation. "...Do I have a choice?" He said with defeat as he slumped down on the ground.
"I LOVE YOU, Oniichan." Pilica declared, smiling at him gratefully. "...Ohayo! May I please speak with Ren-kun? It's his fiancée calling."
Diethyl Mansion, London, 10:30 p.m.
"...Yes, Luc. Whatever you say, Luc...yes. Alright. Tomorrow, yes." Lyserg rolled his eyes as he continued to listen to caller on the other line. He sighed impatiently as he held the cordless phone, smiling apologetically at his companion. "Yes, I'll be at the agency...no, I WON'T be late this time. Yes, I know." He exhaled. "Luc, it's ten-thirty in the evening and I'm still having dinner. Do you mind? THANK YOU." He heaved a sigh of relief as he hung up. "Weird cases won't leave us alone," he explained, slumping down helplessly against his chair.
His companion, who was none other than Iron Maiden Jeanne, smiled sympathetically as she stroked the weary lines on his face. "You'll get through this. You always do." She speared a slice of chicken daintily with her fork and held it out in front of him. "Now, eat."
Lyserg stared queerly at the chicken, before turning to her with a slight frown. "I don't eat meat. You know that, Jeanne."
A sigh. "Yes. But I was hoping I could convince you this time." She moved the fork away from him and ate the chicken instead. "You need to eat, Lyserg..." she pleaded, gazing at him with concern. She placed a couple of greens on his plate. "Come on," she urged. "Please?" She gave him a sweet smile of plea.
And Lyserg couldn't help it. He smiled back, sighed with defeat, and reluctantly picked up his utensils. "What would I do without you?" He said wistfully, caressing her cheek lightly.
Jeanne chuckled. "...You'll probably mope," she answered jokingly, her eyes drifting close as he continued to touch her.
He was about to kiss her...when the phone rang.
Groaning slightly, Lyserg rolled his eyes to the ceiling as he answered. "Hello...Caesar?!? NOT you too..." He frowned deeply. "What is it with you guys calling while I'm in the middle of dinner? YES, I'm with Jeanne." He paused. "Luc's already called me...yes, he told me everything I need to know...yes, I'll be at the agency tomorrow...can't you guys function without me around?" He exclaimed with frustration. "I was only gone for two bloody days! Don't change the subject, Caesar Silverberg." A light blush crept onto his cheeks. "No, she's not sleeping here...I'm taking her back to the missionary house after dinner...NO, I'm NOT having her for dessert!" He stood up and turned around so he wouldn't face Jeanne just as his cheeks became the ripe red color of a tomato. "Caesar...you're a bloody pervert!" He hang up the phone and inhaled several times before walking back towards the dining table.
Jeanne smiled at him as she ate several spoonfuls of her dinner. "Dessert sounds good," she commented innocently, but there was a slight mischievous gleam in her eyes.
"Don't tempt me," Lyserg warned, sighing as he sat down, rested his chin against his palm and picked absently at the salad in front of him. He took a small bite. "...What?" He asked curiously upon realizing that she was still looking at him, with this weird little smile on her face.
She shook her head, her cheeks flushing a wee bit as she continued to smile at him. "Nothing," she replied sweetly. "...What's for dessert?"
Lyserg choked on a lettuce, but he recovered quickly enough. "Pie," he managed. Then, he gave her a meaningful look. "Stop it."
Jeanne pouted prettily. "Why can't I stay here for the night?" She wondered out loud.
"Because it's not proper for a lady to spend the night at a man's house," Lyserg replied.
"...Not even if she happens to love him?" Jeanne remained pouting.
"No, NOT even that," He answered, looking at her sternly. "...Besides," he continued, "Marco-san would skin me alive if he finds out."
At the mention of her former second-in-command-cum-guardian, Jeanne's stance went rigid, her face went slack and serious, and her tone hard. It seemed like she had reverted back to the old Jeanne. "Do I have to repeat it A MILLION TIMES? Marco DOES NOT run my life for me. -I- decide what I want to do, where I want to go, and--"
"--who you want to be with. Yes, I know that." Lyserg finished with a brief nod. "...But still, it wouldn't be very appropriate." He sighed. "Not to mention that the sisters will probably think I'm trying to take advantage of you."
Jeanne gave him a look. "I wouldn't call it that. If anything, I'd be a willing participant, and it WOULD be a mutual thing, so it'd be more of--"
"--a tryst." He supplied, smiling slightly. "As much as I want to, no matter how anyone will look at it...it's not right."
"You are SO old-fashioned." She said dryly, rolling her eyes.
At that second, the phone rang again. Lyserg picked it up. "Good evening!" His eyes widened in surprise as he looked at Jeanne. "...Sister Sarah! Yes, she -is- here. Hold on a moment." He handed the phone to her.
"Good evening," Jeanne greeted, wiping her lips daintily with a napkin. "...Yes. I'm sorry if I'll be a little late." She paused, smiling brightly at Lyserg. "Sister Sarah...don't you think I should just spend the night here? I mean, it's shockingly late...well, Lyserg wouldn't mind taking me back there, but see, it might be dangerous, being nightfall and all..." she rolled her eyes at what the person on the other line was saying. "I'll just be sleeping here, Sister...yes, in a separate room, and YES, in a separate bed. I would never allow him to touch me. He doesn't want to, anyway..." She flashed him a meaningful look. "I'll be back early tomorrow, then...pardon me? Three WEEKS? Are you serious?" She frowned slightly. "Hao Asakura placed a request for a vacation for me? What about Marco?..." She listened in, her eyes widening even more. "He's staying in Egypt for another FULL YEAR? Well," She sighed deeply. "...That man certainly thinks he can do anything...yes, Lyserg and I ARE friends with him, in a manner of speaking...he's trying to make up for his past sins, I believe...well, yes. Alright. I'll get my things tomorrow. Good night, Sister Sarah."
Jeanne stared at the phone with disbelief long after she hung up. "Vacation for three weeks..." she murmured softly to herself. "Lyserg...can I..."
"...Stay here for three weeks? Well..." Lyserg hesitated. "Starting tomorrow...is that right?"
"No. Starting TONIGHT," She corrected with meaningful emphasis. "Sister Sarah's allowed me to." She smiled impishly. "...So tryst or no, you're stuck with me." She picked up her glass of wine and drank with relish, smiling at him all the way.
He raised an eyebrow as he studied her, eyeing what seemed to be her second glass of wine. "Well," he said finally, "...morality and propriety aside...I guess it...wouldn't be so bad, having you around..." he chuckled, raising his napkin to the stray drop of wine that trickled on her lower lip. "And for THREE WEEKS, at that..." he leaned over, tossed off the napkin and replaced it with his mouth. "I'm tired of being old-fashioned," he whispered against her lips as he kissed her.
"Good." Jeanne declared as she received his kiss and returned every single one of them fervently. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer...
The phone rang again, making them both groan in simultaneous disappointment. Jeanne reached for it and held the receiver against her ear. "Hello?" She held on to Lyserg the whole time, not wanting to let go of the incredible bliss that came with being this close to him. She handed the receiver to him. "...It's Albert," she whispered.
Lyserg rolled his eyes with exasperation and he reluctantly pulled away, earning him a slight protest from her as he stood up. "Caesar's already called me, or didn't he tell you?" He exhaled. "Luc ALREADY told me everything I need to know, Albert...no, your little brother didn't say anything important. He just wanted to bother me in the middle of dinner...just as you're doing now," he added dryly. "...Look, Albert," he sighed, "can we just talk about this tomorrow? It's after bloody work hours, or didn't you notice?" He blew out his hair in frustration. "Right...right. Yes. I'll be there. Early. Like three a.m.," he said with sarcasm. "Yes, good. And Albert? Tell your brother to get a freaking life." He raked his hand against his hair as he hung up and sat down, smiling apologetically at Jeanne. "Sorry about that--" He exhaled again as the phone gave another ear-piercing ring.
"WHAT?" Finally losing it, he yelled at the phone. "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT NOW? CAN'T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE AND...Marco-san," he swallowed nervously upon hearing the voice. "Umm...Jeanne. Yes...hold on, please." He threw the receiver towards Jeanne like it was a hot potato. "It's...Marco-san," he managed.
She smiled faintly at him as she answered. "...Marco. It's late." She greeted. "I'm well, thanks...and you?" She paused, smiling as she listened in to what Marco was saying. "...That's good. Um...I heard your Egypt visit will be extended another year." She rolled her eyes heavenward. "I'll be FINE, Marco. I'm doing extremely well as it is. I can take care of myself." She blushed slightly. "Well...yes, Lyserg...he's been taking care of me, too. NO, he has not taken advantage of me at ALL! In fact, he refuses to touch me." She smiled innocently at Lyserg. "We're having a really late dinner, but we're almost done. Lyserg's taking me back to the missionary house," she emphasized, knowing fully that it was an outright lie. "I'll be taking a bit of a vacation, too...and since Lyserg's busy, I won't be with him at all," She added to reassure her guardian. "...Yes, I'll remember that. Take care of yourself. Goodbye, Marco."
As soon as she hang up the phone, it started to ring again. With a loud sigh, she pushed the receiver button. "Aren't long distance calls expensive there, Marco...?" Her eyes widened with surprise as she held the receiver tightly with her hands and leaned closer to it. "KEIKO-CHAN! TWINS!" She exclaimed. "It's so good to hear from you!" She grinned at Lyserg. "It's the kids," she mouthed to him as she turned the speaker phone on.
"Yohmaru. Yohnta." Lyserg greeted. "Good morning," he added, checking the clock and noting that it was around 7:30 in the morning at Funbarigaoka. "How are you?
"...UNCLE LYSERG!" Yohmaru and Yohnta called out loudly.
"We're fine! Everyone's doing great!" Yohmaru shouted.
"We have some GOOD NEWS!" Yohnta piped up.
"Yes, yes, YES WE DO!" Keiko chimed in cheerfully. "WE HAVE A NEW BROTHER!"
"BROTHER?" Lyserg and Jeanne exclaimed in unison.
"HAI!" Keiko's voice sounded like she was jumping up and down. "THERE ARE FIVE OF US NOW!" She announced.
"Touchan and Kaachan called early this morning and told us the news," Yohmaru said to them. "There was a blizzard earlier, and..."
"...the baby was born right after it ended," Yohnta finished.
"Wow," Jeanne breathed.
"Yeah," Lyserg agreed. "...what's the baby's name?"
"We don't know yet," Yohmaru answered. "Kaachan refused to tell us. I think she's been arguing about it with Touchan ever since the baby was born." He added.
"...Anyway, Uncle Lyserg? Aunt Jeanne? We need to ask a favor." Yohnta's voice sounded this time.
"Sure, Yohnta." Jeanne replied. "What is it?"
"We can't contact Uncle Chocolove or Uncle Manta. We don't exactly know where they are," Yohnta paused. "...We can't reach their cell phones, either. Could you call them for us and tell them the news?" His voice sounded extremely hopeful.
"...Sure thing," Lyserg answered. "I think they're both in Europe. I'll call them, no problem." He assured the children.
"Good. Thanks, Uncle Lyserg, Aunt Jeanne!" Yohmaru said gratefully. "We'll see you again soon!"
"Yeah, we'll see you!" Yohnta.
"Bye, Uncle Lyserg, Auntie Jeanne!" Keiko.
"Ja ne, ja ne!" Came little Ren-chan's voice.
"Bye, kids!" Lyserg called out with a laugh.
"So long, children!" Jeanne greeted. She turned the speaker off and hang up the phone. And then, she handed it to Lyserg with a bright smile as she sat down on his lap and simultaneously slid her arms around his neck.
Lyserg smiled back, pulling her close and wrapping one arm around her waist as he punched in a couple of numbers in the keypad with the other hand. "Good evening...Chocolove-kun? It's Lyserg."
Tao Estate, China, 7 a.m.
"So...would you like a black, white, or a multi-colored and multi-patterned tuxedo?" The bespectacled man asked the navy-haired young man on the treadmill.
The navy-haired young man, who was none other than Tao Ren, briefly glanced at the other man before he resumed staring straight ahead. "...Shouldn't you be discussing this with Miroku, in Japan? I've already told her what I want."
The man swallowed nervously. "B..but...Ren-sama," he began, "I would like to hear your preference straight from you. I don't trust Miroku Ayame." He frowned. "Or that seamstress she hired for Pilica-sama..."
Ren rolled his eyes as he stepped off the treadmill and wiped his face with a towel. "You DON'T trust anyone, Kang," he remarked dryly, walking towards his office. "I'm beginning to doubt if you even trust ME," he added, raising an eyebrow meaningfully at his secretary.
Kang the secretary flashed his employer a hurt look. "...Ren-sama! How could you SAY that? I trust you with my life," he declared, his hand pressed over his heart. "Still, though...I really wish you could have let me handle all the preparations for your wedding..." his voice trailed off.
"Kang, you don't know the first thing about weddings," Ren pointed out as he pulled on a shirt that the other man handed. "...You don't even know the first thing about women. How then, am I supposed to entrust the most important event of my life...to you? He shook his head. "Let Miroku handle the visuals. Worry about sending out all the invitations," he suggested as he sat down on his desk. "Now...what am I supposed to do again today?" He wondered out loud.
"...You should take a bath first, Bocchama," Bason materialized by his side.
Ren glared at the spirit. "Shut up. I'm taking a bath as soon as I'm finished with--" He paused as the phone rang. "Who would be calling THIS early?" He frowned slightly as his secretary answered the phone.
Kang walked towards him and handed him the receiver. "It's Jun-sama," he announced.
Ren's eyes widened in surprise as he held the phone against his ear. "...Neesan. Ohayo."
"OHAYO, OTOUTO!" He grimaced, moving the phone a bit further away from his ear as his sister shouted. "OHH, I MISS YOU! WHEN ARE YOU COMING BACK TO JAPAN?"
"...I'll be there tomorrow!" He told her loudly. "I'll drop by at Pilica's, then to the Onsen...Neesan, why are you calling?"
His sister's eager voice dropped a few decibels lower. "Can't I call my wonderful and handsome and soon-to-be-married little brother for no reason at all?" He could actually feel her pouting.
Ren rolled his eyes to the ceiling, feeling a slight blush creeping up to his cheeks. "Of course you can, it's just that..." he racked his brain for a plausible reason, "...you're tying up my line." he finished lamely.
Jun laughed heartily. "Are you waiting for a call from your fiancée, perhaps?" She asked knowingly.
He fought off the much deeper blush that threatened to invade his face. "What if I am?" He sighed. "...Neesan, why did you really call me?"
"Oh. Oh...oh! OH! OH, YES!" He winced as her voice increased in volume ten-fold. "I called you because...Yoh-kun and Anna-san just told us that Anna-san just gave birth...to a baby boy!"
"Really?" Ren sat back on his chair comfortably as he smiled. "Wow...Yoh's pretty good...another boy. A fourth, no less." He shook his head in amazement.
"I wonder if you're going to be as lucky as Yoh-kun," his sister commented wistfully. "I wonder how many children you and Pilica-chan will have...oh, I hope you'll have lots! I want lots of nieces and nephews!" She declared.
"Neesan...we're not even married yet...stop thinking of such things..." He could feel his face flaming full force. "...Are Yoh and Anna there yet?" He asked, purposely changing the subject.
"No, not yet." Jun told him cheerfully. "...I think they might be back later tonight. They're driving from Izumo. And you're changing the subject, little brother," she added teasingly.
Ren ignored the remark. "I'll see the baby tomorrow, then." He paused. "How are you doing at the Onsen, Neesan?" He decided to ask.
"WONDERFUL!" His sister declared. "I'm enjoying everything immensely. I love it here! I don't think I want to leave this place for a prolonged period of time...but I DO miss Hahaue and Jiisama."
"What about father?" He wanted to know.
A sigh. "...I'd miss him too...if he hadn't already disowned me as his daughter," she laughed sadly. "...It doesn't matter. Anyway, I still have you!"
Ren chuckled. "Yeah. You do." He agreed. "...And you have Pilica, as well. Don't forget that."
"BUT WHY WOULD I?" Jun exclaimed loudly. "I love Pilica-chan as much as I love you! Maybe even more," she added jokingly. "...Anyway, I'll see you tomorrow, ne? Kiss Hahaue and Jiisama for me!"
"Hai." He smiled softly as he hung up. As soon as he did, the phone rang again. "Who is it this time?" He muttered as he picked up the receiver. "...Hello?"
"...Ohayo! May I please speak with Ren-kun? It's his fiancée calling." As soon as he heard Pilica's voice, he became fully aware of Bason's earlier concern: he hadn't taken a bath yet. He self-consciously sniffed around him, searching for any particular sign of an unpleasant odor. Then, he shook his head and reminded himself that she was a couple of islands, roads and rivers away from him.
"O...ohayo." He still couldn't help but feel a little bit self-conscious.
"Ren-kun!" The grin was evident her voice. "...Is something wrong? You seem a little...quiet..." He could tell that she was frowning with concern this time.
And he couldn't help it. He voiced out his earlier thoughts. "I just came from the gym, and I haven't taken a bath yet." He confessed, feeling his cheeks reddening slightly with embarrassment. "I'm sorry."
Her beautiful, musical laughter sounded from the other line. "Ren-kun, it's alright...it's not like I'm going to...sniff you over the phone now, am I?" She laughed again. "And besides...I'm not going to love you any less if you happen to smell like rotten fish or cheese or skunks, or...you know what I mean."
"I still haven't taken a bath," He insisted.
She exhaled. "Then go on and take a bath RIGHT NOW!" He could practically feel the impatience in her tone. "...Take the phone with you. I'll continue talking with you there. And you can describe to me in detail what you're doing," she added teasingly.
"Alright." He grinned slightly to himself. "Maybe I will." He made a move to stand up...
"No, WAIT! Ren-kun, I was kidding," She was blushing. She was definitely blushing...he can almost see it. "I mean," her voice dropped to a whisper, "...Oniichan's right beside me. Somehow, I don't think he'll appreciate it very much if I end up...um. You know," she added nervously. "Not that I wouldn't...like it, of course. But...maybe we should wait until after the wedding..."
"Pilica," He interrupted as he sat back down, "I think I'll take a bath later. AFTER I talk to you." He said with emphasis.
"...Oh! Good!" She breathed a sigh of relief. "Anyway, the reason I called you is...well, I know you've probably already heard the news from Jun-neesan...it's about Yoh-san and Anna-san and the new baby. I've heard that she was going to call you...Tamao-neesan told me, but I...I wanted to call you too, so...I did."
"Yes. You did." Ren agreed, his grin widening even more. He was pretty sure he looked like a complete idiot, smiling and laughing by himself. Kang was already looking at him strangely--but who cares? "...You wanted to hear my voice, didn't you?" He joked.
A sigh. "...Yeah. Kind of." She sighed again, forlornly. "I miss you. I haven't seen you in a long time..." She murmured, her voice trailing off.
"I miss you too." He could feel a slight constriction inside his chest. Yes, he -definitely- missed her. Terribly. "We haven't seen each other in two weeks."
"Two weeks?!?" She heaved a long breath. "...I thought it was way longer than that..." A small sound of protest was heard from the background.
And then, Horo-horo's voice sounded on the other line. "I'm DROWNING in SWEETNESS again." He accused. "...And to think that I CAN'T even HEAR what you're saying to my SISTER. You need to stop talking to her like this." He added firmly. "You're making her crazy."
"I LOVE her. Of course I'm making her crazy. It's not like -she- doesn't make me crazy too, you know." Ren pointed out to his friend. "Could you put her back on the line?" He stated the question as an order.
"...Yeah. Alright." Horo-horo's voice sounded. After a couple of shuffling noises and some shouts in the background, Pilica was back. "Ren-kun, I'm so sorry! It's just that I didn't notice Oniichan aiming to grab the phone until it was too late..."
Ren laughed. "Pilica, it's okay." He assured. "I think I can forgive your brother for that. I need to be nice to him...else he might not give you away to me during our wedding."
A soft, blissful sigh. "I can't wait until I see you again..." Another sigh. "...And I can't wait until the wedding...oh, I don't know which one is worse: waiting for you, or for the wedding..."
"The wedding." He answered instantly. "We'll need to wait two months more until I can finally make you completely mine and until you can finally make me completely yours." He paused. "As for me...only a few more hours and I'll be with you...and then, you can do whatever you want with me," he added meaningfully.
"Whatever I want...?" She said thoughtfully. "That's a very tempting offer..."
"Yeah," He agreed, chuckling. "...So, just have a little more patience, alright?"
"Okay," She said softly. "I'd better go. Oniichan's been begging me to hang up. I sort of interrupted him and Tamao-neesan while they were in the middle of talking about their sex life," she added impishly. "You can go and take a bath now."
"Yeah, I will." Ren laughed. "See you tomorrow. And yeah...I love you, but you already know that, right?"
"Uh-huh." Pilica said with affirmation. "I love you too. Ren-kun...please send Ran-Hahaue and Ching-Jiichan my love, as well." She added. "I can't wait to see you. Ja."
Ren continued to stare at the phone long after she hung up, a soft smile playing on his lips.
"Bocchama," Bason spoke up, interrupting his master's train of thoughts. "You should take a bath now."
"...Oh yeah." Laughing to himself, he stood up and prepared to go to the tub. "A bath...right."
Manta's Hotel Room, Paris, 11 p.m.
"Manta-sama...you have a phone call." A tall, lanky man walked towards the midget and handed him the cordless hotel phone.
"Arigatou." Manta looked up from his computer and placed the receiver against his ear. "Konbanwa," he greeted.
"Manta-kun. Good evening."
"Lyserg-kun!" Manta could feel a grin forming on his face. "It's been awhile."
A laugh. "Yeah," he paused. "So...how has France been treating you?"
"Very well," Manta replied. "Jeanne-san's country and its people have been very hospitable. And business is doing great, too."
"...That's good to hear," Jeanne's voice sounded cheerfully from the other line.
"Jeanne-san." Manta couldn't hide the surprise in his voice. He gazed at the clock. "It's very late," he remarked.
"Yes, it is, Manta-san," Jeanne agreed.
"Uhm...why are you still at Lyserg's?" He asked hesitantly.
"She's staying here for the night," Lyserg explained to his friend. "It was her idea," he added as if to defend himself. "And besides...it wouldn't be safe to go out at this time."
Manta chuckled knowingly. "Whatever you say." He replied dryly.
"Hmph." Lyserg huffed. "Anyway...we have some news." He paused. "We just got a call from the children earlier tonight. Anna-san's just given birth to a baby boy."
"Really?" Manta's face widened in a grin. "Wow. My best friend is good..." A thoughtful pause. "They couldn't reach me, could they?"
"Nope," Lyserg answered. "You and Chocolove-kun are very hard to contact. You left Tokyo very abruptly, and if I hadn't seen you last month I never would have known where you are. As for Chocolove-kun...he never stays too long in one place. It's a good thing I was able to reach him just a couple of minutes ago. I've already told him the news."
"I had emergency business matters to attend to here in Paris," Manta explained. "...That's the reason why I left so fast."
A snort. "I'm sure you did," Lyserg said with mild sarcasm. "And I'm also quite certain that you didn't leave just so you could escape Hao's crutches."
The short man fought back the urge to cough out loud. "I did no such thing," he retorted defensively. "I was trying to--"
"--escape Opacho's crutches?" Lyserg interrupted with a laugh. "Manta-kun, if you've had enough of chess, you can just say so," he suggested. "...You're in round ten of your rematch, right? If you want, I can ask Jeanne to play on your behalf. She's a whiz at chess," he added proudly. "And if you get lucky, she'll win all of your games for you and you can finally get yourself a brand new assistant!" He finished triumphantly.
Manta almost fell off his chair at that last comment. "Hao-kun told you about the deal between Opacho and me...didn't he?"
"...In a manner of speaking," Lyserg replied with slight humor. "He dropped by the missionary house last week while I was picking Jeanne up...and he was telling this story to the sisters...not that I was listening," he added quickly. "Anyway, it was a 'slip of the tongue' according to him." A dry laugh. "He said he managed to draw it out from you while you were arguing with Opacho when you attended that conference he headed last July."
"It wasn't supposed to happen," Manta muttered. "Opacho provoked me...and I just couldn't let her get away with it."
"You could have just agreed to her terms," Lyserg told him. "It's not like you don't have enough money to take one small Opacho on a leisurely trip around the world."
"I will not give her the satisfaction of hearing me concede defeat. Not when I'm winning." Manta countered.
"Winning? Manta-kun...last I heard, you were losing, six games to three," Lyserg said thoughtfully.
"WHAT THE...Hao-kun told you again, didn't he? I'm going to kill him," He said darkly, glaring murderously at the wall, and, imagining that it was his best friend's twin brother, he tossed an airplane-shaped paper weight at it. The small, heavy object collided with the wall...then it fell to the floor, and neither of the two were scratched even just a little bit. He sighed. "I'd better get back to work, Lyserg-kun."
"You'd better SLEEP, Manta-kun," Lyserg corrected. "It's past eleven."
"I'll sleep later. I still have to finish checking out all these documents," Manta explained wearily. "I'll see you guys soon. Good night, Jeanne-san."
"Good night, Manta-san!" Jeanne greeted back cheerfully. "Don't work too hard, alright?" She added.
A laugh. "Don't worry, I won't." Manta assured as he hung up.
Funbari Onsen Inn, 8 p.m.
"Good evening!" Hao greeted cheerfully as he peeked his head through the door at the main room of the Inn.
"Oniichan! Come on in," Yoh pulled on his brother's hand and graciously led him towards the sofa where he and his wife were resting.
"Where are the children?" Hao asked upon realizing that only his twin brother, his sister-in-law, and his newborn nephew were in the room.
"...They're helping out Ryu and Tamao prepare food for us. All four of them." Yoh answered as he motioned for his brother to sit.
Anna, who was holding her newborn soon in her arms, looked up as her husband sat down beside her. Her eyes widened slightly upon spotting Hao, but she shook her head, sighing as she continued to sing a lullaby softly to the infant.
Hao sat down on the chair beside the office table and gazed at the little baby thoughtfully. "...So this is my new nephew," he remarked, smiling at his brother and sister-in-law.
"Yes. He is." The blonde woman replied without lifting her eyes. She continued to sing in a sweet, lilting voice.
Yoh placed an arm around his wife and smiled fondly at his sleeping son. "Oniichan...I haven't thanked you enough yet for helping us out back there..." he murmured.
Hao chuckled. "It's nothing, Yoh. I just did what I thought I should, under the circumstances." He paused thoughtfully. "Besides...knowing that both your wife and your baby are safe...that's more than enough thanks for me." He added with a slight nod of his head.
"Still...you deserve a little something for all your help," His twin brother countered.
"...Yes. You do," Anna agreed, raising her head and leveling her gaze squarely with her brother-in-law's.
"..." Hao looked a little surprised as he glanced back and forth between his brother, his little nephew, and his sister-in-law. "I'm not asking you for anything..."
"Oniichan," Yoh interrupted, "...do you want to hold your nephew or not?"
"Huh?" For a brief moment, Hao was stunned, evident by the puzzled expression on his whole face. "Hold him...? Are you sure...?"
Anna rolled her eyes to the ceiling and sighed exasperatedly. "I'm really sorry, Hao-chan," she whispered to the sleeping baby, "...Sometimes your Uncle Hao gets a little bit dim-witted, like your father does. Even though he's your namesake," she paused empathically, "I do hope you won't grow up like him..." She stood up, walked towards Hao, and gave him an expectant look as she held out the baby.
The long-haired shaman continued to look back and forth between his sister-in-law, his nephew, and his brother, still with that very puzzled expression on his face. "H...Hao-chan? Y...you're naming this little kid after...after ME?" He uttered in shock.
"Oniichan," Yoh exhaled impatiently, "haven't I already told you this morning?"
His wife whipped about and glared at him. "You've already TOLD him?" She exclaimed incredulously.
"He sort of...thought it out to me, just before I left Izumo," Hao explained for his brother's benefit. "...But I didn't really think that..."
"..That he would manage to convince ME?" Anna turned to her brother-in-law again. "Or that I would agree to it?"
Hao shrugged and gave her a sheepish look. "Both, actually."
"Hmph." Anna snorted. "You obviously don't know us very well." She gave him a look. "So...do you want to hold him or not?"
"S...sure," Hao nodded quickly as he stood up and gingerly took his nephew from his sister-in-law's arms. He gazed at the little boy, and then, at his brother and sister-in-law, an odd expression crossing over his face. "...He looks just like the two of you," he murmured reverently. He continued to look at the infant in awe. He was so tiny, so beautiful...so perfect. He's never been allowed to hold his other nephews, nor his niece--like this. It was quite an enlightening experience..."Hao-chan..." He whispered, smiling softly to himself.
The little boy stirred slightly and opened his eyes.
"Yoh..." Hao continued to gaze at the little baby, with an expression of pure and utter amazement on his face. "...His eyes...they're...just like yours..."
"OURS," Yoh corrected as he leaned against his brother's shoulder and smiled affectionately at his son. "We're twins, remember?"
"Oh...yeah..." Hao laughed softly, shaking his head, slightly embarrassed at the way he was acting. Losing his composure...over a mere infant, no less...this has never happened to him before.
But then again...he's never held a baby like this before.
His brother's child. His nephew.
Little Hao-chan smiled at him.
Yoh chuckled. "He loves you already...you can tell that by his smile..." he whispered to his brother.
Hao could feel a sincere, affectionate grin forming on his face. "Yoh...thank you."
His brother patted him on the back. "Think nothing of it, Oniichan."
Just then, Hao-chan uttered a small, soft cry.
"He's hungry," Anna announced to both her husband and brother-in-law. "I'm gonna have to feed him." She informed Hao.
Hao nodded quickly. "Hai." He gingerly placed the baby in her arms. "Anna...sister-in-law...thank you." He told her with a genuine smile.
She inclined an eyebrow briefly in acknowledgement as she took her son. Turning to her husband, she said, "I'm going to the nursery for a bit so I can feed him," she paused, "...are you coming?"
Yoh shook his head. "I'll just stay here with Oniichan." He embraced her tightly and kissed her cheek. "We'll wait for you."
Anna gave a brief nod and a smile. "...Okay."
Just before she left, she turned her head back slightly. "Hao?"
"Hai?" Hao looked up nervously at his sister-in-law.
A soft, sincere smile graced her lips. "You're welcome...Oniichan." Then, with a final nod, she turned around and left.
Acceptance...and then afterwards, trust.
Hao turned to his brother. "So you DID manage to convince her." He said quietly. "Thank you."
Yoh shook his head. "It wasn't just me."
"Hai." His brother grinned. "It was you, as well."
Hao chuckled. "...Ah. So it was."
About the Epilogue:
Well...that was certainly weird._
I'm not sure if it snows in Izumo. If it doesn't...let's just pretend it does.^_^ And uh...I don't really know the whole nine yards on baby delivery or birthing and all those things, so I'm not sure if the tiny little scene here is accurate. And yeah...I originally planned to make the birthing scene longer, but I realized...I just don't the power to do it.^^;;;
I decided to allow Horo-horo and Pilica to relocate their Butterbur fields from Hokkaido to Hakone (near Mt. Fuji), so they'd be nearer to the Funbari Onsen Inn.
Yes, I've introduced several new characters in Lyserg and Jeanne's scene...they will be appearing in the LysergXJeanne side story I'm making.^^
About the Whole Fic:
Well...*sigh* I've worked on this for over three months, and now I'm really, really happy that this is over. This makes Celebrations the second story I've finished ever since Goodbye. I'm not in the least bit sad that this is done, because...it's not like I'm already leaving this world behind! ^_^ Yes, I do believe that's good news! But no...I won't be writing a sequel as long as this one, in case you were expecting that. =( Gomen ne.
I will, however, be working on several side stories (five, I think) which will focus on the four pairings (LXJ, RXP, HXT, and YXA). Since I did say I'll never write a multi-character-centric fic again, I'll be dealing with each of these pairings separately. The first in line in the side stories is the LysergXJeanne one, of which the first chapter will be posted next week, so please watch out for it!^_^
About the Analogy [see previous chapter]:
To Kitsune Asakura (and to everyone else who's confused about the whole First Base-Second Base-Third Base-London-Paris-Venice analogy):
Uhm...okay. I'll enumerate this whole analogy so it would be much easier to understand:
First Base = Kissing = London (Because Jeanne and Lyserg are technically from London. London is our origin point.)
Second Base = Kissing and Necking = Paris (It's nearer to London than Venice)
Third Base = Less than sex, more than kissing and necking (I'll leave it up to your imagination) = Venice (Compared to Paris, it's much farther away from London)
Home Run = SEX = Any place that's farther away from London than those mentioned...like, say, Athens...or Tokyo.^_~
I hope that clears it up. If it still confuses you, I'm just an email and review away.^_^
Anyway, I used London, Paris and Venice instead of First Base, Second Base and Third Base because given his character, Hao isn't the type who would use [the bases] terms directly, especially in front of the children. And besides, let's keep in mind how old they all are here; the bases thing, I believe, is a teenage slang, and they're all pretty much way beyond that (most especially Jeanne, Lyserg, and Hao).
And lastly: why use London, Paris and Venice? Well...this requires a lengthier explanation which includes lots of innuendoes, sexual references, perversions, and all things in between, so I'm not going to bother with it here. If you want it, though, you can just email me.^^
About the Reviews:
To everyone who has read and reviewed this fic, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To those who reviewed at one time or another, and to those who reviewed at the earlier parts but somehow managed to miss the next chapters, and MOST especially to those who have reviewed consistently from the first chapters up to this point...I thank you immensely for taking the time to do so, for I know a lot of you (if not all of you) are extremely busy. And I'm very glad that you enjoyed this as much as I did.^^
So anyway, thanks very much to Unmei, Kataru, GoddessLD, RuByMoOn17, KiraX105, Kitsune Asakura, ellese-chan, da*mouse, dub hater...., yuri maxwell, Vx Tao Ren xV, Sweet Anime Fan, Bratty, Fluffychans, Mikoe-ZuyA, Ren-Tao, Angel-wing2, pookyber, Lafine, TN4, Miko-chan, EneriRenie, Cole, Kage NoTenshi, Satsuki*ku*, dalpin crage, lady miko, Asuka, lan-yue, mistress-eos14, monique-179, Starwave, shinnotooni, kiiro asakura, Kageto, TFRiD Queen, and syaoran no hime.
I sure hope I didn't miss anyone, but if I did...you know who you are, and I'll remain eternally grateful for all the encouragement, inspiration, and support. I seriously doubt if I would have gotten this far without you guys.^_^
Thanks also to those who have read this, but sadly, could not take the time to review. Whatever your reasons are for not reviewing, it's not my business, but...since this is the epilogue, how about taking the time to review? I would really like to know what you think of this fic. Yes, I would. ^_^
Big, big, BIG HUGS and KISSES and THANK YOU'S to my two extremely good angel friends who've helped me a lot in this fic: yuri maxwell (who goes by the same pen name and writes superb CCS and GWing fics) and Donna (I'm not quite sure if she's got an account here...). Yuri for all the ideas, recommendations, research materials, support, constructive comments, and most especially ever-enduring extended phone reviews; and Donna, for being my resource network of semi-smut information.^_^ I love you both to the ends of Mars.:P
And of course, thanks to Hiroyuki Takei for creating such a wonderful series with an equally wonderful cast of characters. Although he'll probably faint dead away if he actually learns of what I did to most of them._ Ah, well...
Reviews will continue to be very much appreciated.