Disclaimer: None of them belong to me.
Author's Notes: Hi everybody! I missed you all! Okay, for the Tok-fuu fans out there, I hope this thrills you. I wrote this with the intention of making you fall in love with the pairing all over again. To make you smile is the goal of this fic. For those not fond of the pairing, I'm sorry, I'm just crazy about these two, but make yourself at home! Read to your heart's delight. There's just two things I want you to know:Khay (I'm sooooo sorry I got your name wrong the first time!!! bows a million times in apology) is the beta-reader of this fic. She has meticulously gone through this chapter with the dedication of a missionary. I'm very lucky to have her. I know it's standard but I still really need to know what you think after you've read this.
Enough rambling. BTW, this chapter's dedicated to Khay, pratz and xabie.
Chapter 1: The Fourth Trail
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
…I chose the road less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
"It's a DAAAAZZZZZZLLIIIING Saturday morning folks, and you're spending it with Magnificent Melodies, the number one radio station in Japan. I'm DJ Kaji and here's a song I'm sure you'll love to rock along with as you take that much anticipated shower…."
Four terribly loud and reverberating drum rolls ensued, sending Fuuko Kirisawa, who was sprawled all over her bed, snoring, back to the real world…rapidly. Her petite body jerked up, eyes snapping wide open as the lead vocalist shifted between octaves awkwardly, his voice clashing violently with the electric guitar shrieking loudly in the background.
Fuuko quickly grabbed two pillows and plugged each of them into an ear. A mild curse escaped from her lips. Thankfully, the song was a short one. The challenged singer shut up just as quickly before deciding "singing" was not enough and started rapping.
DJ Kaji was back on air, chuckling. Fuuko was already contemplating as to whether or not it was ethical for her to sue the singer for the disruption of peace and order at 6 in the morning. Yawning mildly, she moved towards shutting off the offending appliance when she heard the DJ's next lines.
"Today, folks, July 2, is special, because as we look back in history, we recall that several very important people have been born on this day. Senator Kamashira, who passed the bill endorsing the use of Vitamin D is one of them. And also, what do we have here…. Oh yeah, Vita Kyota, renowned diva and composer, she's in the list. And for the record we have….. By the way, happy golden anniversary to the governor and his lovely spouse. I must say, Ma'am, in your case, age withers only on the outside. You're as young as a rose inside."
Fuuko's jaw dropped open. She couldn't believe she'd ever see the sun rise on this day, but here she was, very much alive and breathing.
To say that she was in a tight spot was a complete understatement. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know what to say. Her mind was a complete myriad of cobwebs. She was getting paranoid. If she stayed paranoid for the next hour, she'd get hysterical.
And she did not want to look like a raving lunatic today. Especially when she was confronted by the fact that she would see him in no less than two hours.
NOT TODAY. NOT TODAY. NOT TODAY.
Coffee. That's what she needed.
Fuuko poured herself a cup of steaming mocha java. Lucky for her, her roommate, Nina Sagaki had left a plate of onigiri (rice balls covered in sea weeds) on the table or else she'd resort to doing something really weird out of paranoia, like eat her hat instead of food.
Fuuko wiped her sweaty palms on her lap and speared a pancake, while taking a sip of her hot drink. She felt better immediately. After a while, (with the quantity of pancakes reduced to half and three-fourths of her coffee gone) Fuuko was calm enough to think through her dilemma.
There were two faces to her predicament. The good news was that today was their anniversary. Imagine that! A whole year together. And he seemed to have plans of keeping her. For good, she hoped. A smile played on her lips before she remembered the bad news.
She was not composed today. She was tense. She had no idea how to face him, or if she would even mention the topic. She had no idea if he found the anniversary thing worth celebrating.
Fuuko sighed. As usual, Mikagami did a good job of messing up her mind.
Fortunately, she was quite rational yesterday, the day she planned to get him a gift. A gift, yes. A gift visualized everything she stood against. Cliché, impractical, costly. It was corny, sentimental, and gave the "I'm-throwing-myself-at-your-feet, please accept this" connotation. Only because she considered this occasion worth the effort did she turn her back on her previous notions of giving a guy a present.
Because it was her first time, she found it hard. She still didn't purchase anything after three hours. She spent her free time gallivanting all over town, in search for a decent present that was tolerable, if not acceptable.
She was so desperate, even the standard, trite presents were considered. At first she thought cologne was a good option. That was okay but present one he used already suited him. A CD of his favorite songs? She doubted he had any. Cook him a sumptuous dinner? And give him indigestion! Another book to add to his collection? Only to find it in the trash can the next day. Honestly, what do you give a guy who has everything?
Besides, she wanted to give him something that would remind him that she cared. About him, for him, whatever.
The day almost ended with her losing energy and a significant deal of patience, but inspiration struck when she least expected it to.
She had been sipping an ice cream soda at a treats shop four hours later, almost disillusioned, when she noticed some kids sitting at the next booth, flipping over photographs excitedly.
She got it! A slow grin spread across her lips. Of course! She was suddenly sure he would appreciate it.
After all, it was quite a unique present.
Fuuko stood up to leave. She had some digging up to do.
"So if it's not the bulb … what's this thing's problem?" Domon Ishijima stared blankly at the mess of wires and bulbs in front of him, sighing as if the weight of the world had been dropped on his shoulders. A realization dawned. "Maybe the switch is faulty!" with great enthusiasm, he flipped the switch on and off a couple of times before it finally occurred that, well, the switch wasn't faulty after all.
Recca Hanabishi, who was seated across the booth across from his friend, let out a gigantic yawn. "That's the tenth time you've said that. You've been over this a hundred times, dude. It's not working. Maybe you ought to have listened to what Mikagami was yakking about… series connection or something?"
Domon Ishijima scratched his head. "You expect me to listen to that guy? He sounds like an encyclopedia. I'd rather listen to Kaoru sing." He snorted and reached for his tall glass of cola. Unfortunately, he caught it by the straw, sending the cup tipping dangerously towards his project.
"No!" Recca grabbed the drink just in time before it splashed all over Domon's hard work. Domon gasped as droplets of dark liquid managed to escape and were splattered on his assignment.
"Quick! A napkin or something!" Recca's voice sounded oddly high-pitched and panicky.
No tissue was in sight. Domon quickly racked his brain for his next action. However, since he was in a state of desperation (plus, his IQ could not handle the pressure), he grabbed at his back pocket for a handkerchief but felt a slip of paper instead. Hurriedly, he pulled it out and started to dab at the droplets on his project.
Recca, who had grown calmer to a degree leaned back against his seat and reddened when he noticed that eyes were being gravitated to their table. "Show's over, folks." He flashed them a peace sign and grinned sheepishly.
They all went back to minding their business.
Domon finished fixing the predicament and panted like a dog.
Recca placed both arms behind his head. "Why don't you listen to me for once? It would have been easier if you used tissue. Why'd you even choose to work on electric current?"
Domon's mind could not keep up with the flurry of questions being thrown his way.
"Hey guys." A new voice chirped.
Both boys turned to find Fuuko grinning at them.
"Everything alright?" she asked.
"Nope. Domon thinks he can configure an electric current set-up." Recca said it as if he was a doctor of education referring to a kindergarten student. "And he was already failing miserably without his clumsiness aggravating things."
"As if you were so smooth with things yourself." Fuuko directed the comment to Recca, who almost stuck his tongue out at her, had he not realized in time that he was now a mature, cultivated college freshman.
Fuuko peered at the project. "Hmm… it's a simple series connection. I think I can handle this."
The two boys watched in wide-eyed awe as, in five minutes, Fuuko transformed the intricate complications of wires and bulbs into something that looked pretty simple. When she flipped the switch on, the bulb promptly produced light.
Domon guffawed in large volumes, once again gravitating stares.
"Where'd you learn to do that?" Recca asked, looking at her in a new "light" (pun unintended).
She shrugged. "I had this subject before. Tokiya showed me how to do it."
Recca waggled his brows. "You mean Mikagami did the entire thing and you just probably watched and were lucky enough to pull it off today."
Fuuko a rammed a fist into Recca's shoulder, provoking him to cry out in pain. "That's for believing in me. Anyway, speaking of Mikagami… I'm kind of looking for---"
"He was here thirty minutes ago." Domon, who was now able to look at his project without the stars in his eyes, spoke up. "He tipped us on the series connection blah. You know how he does that annoying professor talk. Anyway, he left a note for you." He continued to scrutinize his work. Five minutes passed, and he was still giving it all the attention in the world.
Fuuko got tired of waiting and planted a fist on his arm. "Well?!"
Domon yelped, again attracting eyes.
Recca burst out laughing. "Grow up, you guys!" he said, in between hysterics.
"Poor Mikagami. Love is pain." Domon grimaced as his eyes beheld the bruised spot on his arm and patted his back pocket, then turned white instantly.
"Uh-huh. Speak for yourself. You were the one who serenaded Kitsura with rock music."
Recca was alert enough to notice Domon's change in demeanor. Domon paled not because of Fuuko's comeback but because of something else. Recca swallowed.
When they both looked in sync at the corner of the table where a wet, crumpled paper lay, Fuuko caught on. She reached out and grabbed the note, opened it but found only smudges of undecipherable calligraphy.
"Ha. Ha. Ha." came Domon's deadpan tone, devoid of mirth.
She sighed, wondering why Tokiya didn't send her a SMS instead. "I'll just find him and ask what was in it." She nodded her head at the mutilated note.
"No need." Domon announced proudly. "Recca was snooping around a while ago and read it. Recca, kindly relay the message." He grinned innocently at Recca, who looked like he was going to vomit. Recca sent Domon a covert "You're dead" look.
Fuuko's eyes were tolerant, and her lips were drawn together in a tight line, foot tapping in a slow, rhythmic pattern, as if anticipating an explanation. She didn't explode like she used to. Recca credited this to Mikagami's influence, and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Well, um, basically he said he won't be at the university today. Debate finals in the Yamashita auditorium. Is he the captain of your debate team?"
"Anyway, he said he wants to see you tonight…"
Fuuko's heart started palpitating.
"At "your meeting place", wherever that is, sounds very romantic, though, very unlike Mikagami… but you have to take trail 4. Oh, 8 p.m. sharp."
Fuuko blinked. Their meeting place was an old park which had twenty trails that sprouted out from it into different places in the forest. She and Mikagami had explored some trails before, but never that which was mentioned. "Their meeting place" was trail number 7, which led to the waterfalls.
It was just so odd. Mikagami wanted to meet her there at night? He used to be so overprotective to the point of not allowing her to go "promenading" (that's what he called it) around the woods by herself. Not to mention the time. He would probably be the recipient of a headache (and she the recipient of a discourse on the "unsafeness" of things) had she told him in the past that she was going to their meeting place at 8 pm.
"Yo, earth to Fuuko."
Fuuko saw Recca waving his hand wildly front of her face. She snapped out of her introspection.
"Oh. Thanks, Recca."
"Sounds like today's special. Is it his birthday or something?"
"Recca, if it were his birthday, he would have asked Fuuko to meet him in a restaurant." Now it was Domon's turn to retaliate, and he did it with a haughty inflection.
Fuuko giggled. "Time to scoot. Got a class in ten minutes."
She waved at the two, who were too occupied with arguing that they never noticed her slip out of the coffee shop.
Mikagami looked at the myriad of stars sprinkled on the black canvas that was the sky, and the reflection of the moon on the still waters of the lake and heard the chirping of the crickets from a distance. Everything was almost perfect, he thought. But something was missing. The setting was bland; lifeless.
It needs Fuuko Kirisawa. He decided, tearing his eyes away from the lake.
Mikagami glanced at his watch. It was now nine o'clock, one hour after their designated meeting time. Maybe she didn't get the note. He frowned at the prospect of Recca having to do something with this. Recca practically swore his life on the oath that she'd receive the note before lunch. But knowing Recca's track record for responsibility, Mikagami wondered what prodded him to leave such important in his hands.
Or maybe she was just on the way and Mikagami was sweating for nothing. After all, it did take around thirty minutes to walk to the clearing, and it was dark. If she was slowed down, it was with reason.
He stared at the gift wrapped object leaning against the bark of the willow tree.
Would she like it?
He hoped so, he worked months on it.
Fuuko knew the limits of his patience. That he would leave after one hour and thirty minutes if the person he was meeting did not show up. It had always been that way.
However, since he considered today as special, he would make an exception. He would wait for her forever….
If only he knew she was coming.
She tapped her foot impatiently against the ground, and it surprised her that the rhythm was so audible to her ears. All around her, the silence was deafening, but her sudden movement pierced it, so that it was as if she had awakened the night from its sleeping slumber.
Fuuko felt her spine on the verge of snapping after sitting in the same position for an hour. Her refuge was a pine tree and she on one of its roots, with her knees folded against her chest and her arms wrapped around them.
If she had been any person… if she had been Yanagi, she would have been worried to death after the first fifteen minutes had passed and there was no sign of Recca.
But she was not. She was absolutely mad, if not livid, at Tokiya Mikagami.
She skipped dinner so that she would make it 8 on the dot. She left the dorm at 7 to drive to this place, and she explored an unknown trail on her lonesome (if her mother knew, she'd have Tokiya Mikagami's head), wary of some creatures lurking nearby and despite the blanket of darkness that was so black, her flashlight could not hold its ground.
She was tired, hungry, cold, and in a foul mood. Plus this place was giving her the creeps.
She looked around her again.
It was odd for a meeting place. The vicinity was void and empty, and from Fuuko's calculations, one of the most dangerous trails out of the twenty. For one thing, ninety percent of the trail was not marked. She practically had to grope around to get to the clearing.
And when she did grope… she discovered the ground was covered in leeches. This is not romantic at all, Tokiya. She remembered thinking. She was a good fighter, but she was defenseless against the onslaught of leeches that had access to the unprotected part of her leg.
So Fuuko had to run all the way to the clearing. She was already berating herself for her faulty decision of wearing pedals. But when she reached the clearing, she wished she had never quickened her pace.
Right in the middle of her view was a rotting, worm-infested carcass of a wildcat. The odor emanating from it was so absolutely vile, Fuuko almost heaved on the spot had her stomach had something to vomit.
There were no flowers, no sound of crickets, nothing nice about this place. If you walked farther, you would see the edge of a cliff.
Tokiya would never have allowed her to go to this place, let alone ask her to meet him there.
She could feel her eyes starting to water, but it wasn't because of the physical threat of her surroundings. She felt all alone and he wasn't there to comfort her.
She stared at the gift which lay by her side. She picked it up and sighed.
Taking a deep breath, Fuuko stretched herself to her full height and walked towards the path leading back to the park.
Just be okay, Mi-chan. She silently prayed.
Ahh…. The obstacle of the leeches.
Fuuko passed a hand over her forehead to clear the bangs from her eyes. This is going to be difficult.
Fuuko balanced the box she was carrying on one hand. She was proud her strength could handle its weight. Her stamina was already dwindling. Next, she angled her flashlight at a high position with her other hand, so as to maximize the ground the light could expose.
A thick fog had now descended from the skies, and Fuuko had yet to consider the thorny bushes that were sprinkled all over the path.
She inhaled and started walking on tip-toes. The leeches were already becoming visible under the illumination of her flashlight. The sickening squishing sound underneath her sneakers accompanied her for the next five minutes. Fuuko worked her way slowly into the dark night, walking around the thorns.
Fuuko frowned as she realized a new dilemma had presented itself. The ground was now covered in moss instead of leeches. The trees grew farther apart. She was almost at the park, but the moss would make it a little more complicated. She walked slower.
Yet it could not be avoided because of the existence of the fog and because of the slippery ground. Fuuko lost her footing, and then her balance.
She let out a cry after her back hit the ground, causing her to let go of her flashlight and the box.
She felt herself rolling downward, followed by the objects she had let go.
Fuuko closed her eyes, fervently wishing that there were no shards of wood or stones in the way. At one point she felt her face coming to contact with the ground, then the back of her head. It was painful.
When she finally hit a stop, her body was engulfed in pain, but at least she wasn't bleeding. She heard the flashlight continue to roll, until it had been sustained abruptly, like someone had picked it up.
Fuuko felt a presence. She opened her eyes, but the sky was circling wildly so she had to close them again. Fuuko let out a groan of pain. There was the sound of objects being thrown to the ground in one swift motion.
She heard the distinct sound of footsteps coming her way. When she attempted to open her eyes again, her companion had pulled her into a sitting position. Fuuko could smell the scent of cologne only one person used, a scent she was very familiar with.
He calmly inspected her arms for any serious injuries. When he found there were none, he quickly gathered her into his arms and pressed her closer to him. He remained in silence, letting his palm passing smoothly up and down her back, soothing her.
He did not let go for a long time. When he finally freed her from his embrace, he left a kiss on her forehead.
They both looked at each other. "You're two hours late." They said at the same time, and Fuuko burst out laughing. A small smile was playing on the corner of Mikagami's lips.
He stood up and offered a hand to her, and she gladly took it. He pulled her up.
"It was trail 14 in that note." Mikagami said with a smirk. He handed her the flashlight and was reaching for something else.
"Recca told me it was trail 4." Suddenly it was all so funny. Recca could not distinguish a 4 from a 14! Now she had something to tease him about. Fuuko couldn't help chuckling at the flame-caster's error.
"Recca told you." There was a murderous glint in his eyes when she held the flashlight in his direction.
Fuuko grinned. "They used your note to dab the droplets of cola on Domon's project."
Mikagami rolled his eyes, causing her to laugh louder.
The laughter died down and Fuuko's eyes turned solemn. "I thought you stood me up." She admitted.
There was an undecipherable look etched on his face. "I would never do that to you."
She nodded, biting her lip. Of course. It was against his nature. "I know, Mi-chan." She watched as he took off his jacket and placed it around her shoulders. "The trail was really something else. It had these really big, starving leeches and thorny bushes. The clearing was a cliff. It wouldn't have been like you to ask me to meet you there." She omitted the dead animal from her discourse, knowing it would not amuse him.
His jaw was clenched. "Recca and I are going to talk." He promised her.
She blinked, picturing a clueless Recca in her mind's eye. "If it's for me, I'd rather you don't. It was an honest mistake, Tokiya. It was completely unintentional."
He was frowning. "Still. If something happened to you while I had the chance to protect you—"
She waved the thought away with one hand. "I can never call to mind an incident where you were unable to protect me. Not that I needed it." She looked him squarely in the eye.
"That doesn't exactly make me feel any better." Mikagami said. He took a step closer to her and placed both hands on her shoulders. "Am I forgiven?" His eyes seemed to be pleading, but maybe it was her imagination.
"It's not your fault to begin with." She wanted to take advantage of this; it was rare when he revealed this much emotion. But his eyes told her not to dare mock him. They were clear, brilliant and beautiful against the pale rays of the moon. She dismissed the urge to tease him. Instead, she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around his waist in a brief hug.
After a couple of minutes had transpired, and both let go, Tokiya bent down and picked up the box he had been holding. "Is this mine?" He shot her a wry smile while examining it.
She nodded. "It's not much, though." She felt bashful for no reason all of a sudden.
He raised a brow. "It is. I've never received a gift before."
"You're kidding. With that score of admirers?" she teased.
"I think I'll open it now." He was deliberately ignoring her. He appeared… genuinely fascinated with his gift. Fuuko felt flattered.
"No. You'll need more light to see it better." She stopped him just in time before he tore the plastic wrapper.
"Alright." He took her hand in his and stirred her towards the park's direction. "I have something for you too. But we'll get to that after dinner."
That brought back her hunger pangs. "Wow. I'm really starving."
"That's news." He said. But he apologized to her for causing her much discomfort just to meet him.
They stopped and picked up what Tokiya had dropped out of his haste to get to her. There was his backpack, and something else, wrapped in purple gift wrapper. It was his gift to her. He bent down to retrieve it, while still holding the gift she forbade him to open.
Fuuko noticed what he picked up and smiled happily. "Wow. You didn't have to." She gaped at it wide-eyed. It was rectangular, flat and large. She was already imagining what could be inside.
"I wanted to." He replied. He offered to carry it for her while she took the lighter of the two gifts, her gift to him.
"Arigato." She said.
He smiled at her. As in, openly.
It melted her heart.
He reached for her hand and they continued to walk in companionable silence until they got to Mikagami's car.