"Spaghetti or Curry?"
By COHugh

(Author's Note: Because our host is oh-so accomodating, you will see lines of a single letter, A. This is to denote a scene change. The original story used to do this with asteriks, but they do not display here for some reason or another. In addition, our host will not allow me to italicize text. Therefore, Zinv's speech will be denoted with a "Zinv:" in some places to symbolize his telepathic communications with Kazuki.)

"Kazuki," the soft whisper followed by the jab in his rib informed the student that his note-passing services were required. Obediently, he held out his hand and passed the note

"And so, as you can see, the poet is really a tortured soul, not a madman as his critics suggest." Yayoi raised her eyes from the aged text. Her sharp blue eyes focused for the one hundred fifty-eighth time on the occupant of seat number twenty-six, Kazuki Yotsuga. "Wouldn't you agree," she asked her prized pupil, adding a slight smile.

Kazuki gulped. Why did she always have to ask him? "Um... I suppose so."

She nodded, adding, "As such, we should attempt to ease his suffering by listening to his poetry and not passing notes while it is being read, yes?"

Kazuki's face reddened. "Uh... Yes ma'am!"

The rest of the class broke down into the usual assorted giggles and hushed murmuring. Yayoi, for her part, tried her best to calm the students down. It had been a very long week and the entire class was looking forward to the following day off, but she still had a few more poems to get through before the day off claimed her students.

The soft chime informed Yayoi that any attempt to continue their education today was not to be. Sighing, she closed the text and set it down on top of her desk. "Alright class, make sure you read the assigned pages at home. There will be a test when you return."

The myriad of groans caused the teacher to smile. "Now, now. You know that this poor tortured man would not appreciate your unwillingness to read his work!"

"We know, we know!"

"Good." The teacher bowed to her students, who rose and returned the gesture.

"Dismissed."

The students quickly shuffled out of the classroom, laughing and chatting amongst themselves. Kazuki, Mansanari, and Toshihiko met at their respective lockers as usual, discussing their plans for the next day. "I've finally found a nearby apartment to move into," Toshihiko stated, pulling his text from the locker and placing it in his pack.

Kazuki peeked from behind his locker door. "That's great! When do you move in?"

"Tomorrow morning. My brothers and sisters are going to help me move my things in. It's not much to look at, but it'll be all mine and besides, it's much better than sharing my room with four other kids."

Kazuki could sympathize. The Sanada household seemed to grow in number with each passing day. First himself, then Dee, then Mitsuki Rara, then Akane, then Kumu, and now Mr. and Mrs. Rara, whose house had been destroyed when Zinv decided to make his presence in this world known quite abruptly almost two years ago. For some reason, they had decided to take up residence at the Sanada home and had not left since. Dr. Rara and Dr. Sanada appeared not to mind the arrangement too much; it merely provided another setting for the scientists to bounce ideas back and forth on the space project. Sometimes this was quite literal in the form of wadded blueprints being thrown back and forth at each other, along with various small jibes.

At times, he wondered if merging the two worlds was the correct course of action for him and Mitsuki Sanada to have chosen. Life had seemed so much simpler with the two worlds separated from one another. Of course, if the worlds were separate still, he would never be able to see some of his friends in their current manner.

While Kazuki was pondering this question, Toshihiko had continued on, "Yeah, now all I have to do is find a wife to help around the house..."

Kazuki shook his head; his friend's words snapping him back to reality. "Wife? Aren't you a little young to be looking for a wife?"

Toshihiko shut his locker and sealed his bag, throwing it over his right shoulder. "Not at all, my young friend. My parents were only eighteen when they married and my birthday is coming soon." The seventeen year-old rubbed his palms together with a slight grin spreading across his lips. He had obviously been plotting this for a very long time. "So, do you think Mitsuki would like to hear about the hot new bachelor pad?"

As Toshihiko spoke, Kazuki and Mansanari visibly paled to an almost blue shade, staring over the speaker's left shoulder.

"Somehow I doubt it. What kind of self-respecting woman would accept an offer from someone who just called his one-room shack a 'hot new bachelor pad'," Mitsuki Sanada asked, rolling her eyes at the younger man's failed advance.

Toshihiko slowly turned, the fear in his eyes quite evident. "M-M-M- Mitsuki..."

Mitsuki sighed and pushed past the obviously embarrassed Toshihiko, grabbing Kazuki by the jacket. "C'mon, Kazuki. You know Daddy and Dr. Rara wanted to see you after school."

Kazuki nodded, adding under his breath as he was being dragged down the corridor, "Didn't you graduate last year?"

His question was answered with a prompt slap to the face.

"You know good and well that I was held back a year because of your incessant meddling with the Space/Time continuum! Why, if it weren't for me, you'd probably still be stuck in some unknown universe. Dirty messy Kazuki, stuck between worlds! You should be thankful that I don't make you do my school work in payment for all I've done for you!"

Kazuki rubbed his face before putting up a weak defense, "Hey! I was held back too!"

Mitsuki growled before continuing towards the Main Entrance. "Don't change the subject. We're already late, so let's go!"

"Yes ma'am." Kazuki bowed his head and followed her out the doors and towards the almost certain fate that awaited them once they arrived home.

Toshihiko and Mansanari stared longingly after their classmate, stating simply, "He's so lucky!"

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"Kazuki, my boy! Come in here and knock some sense into your 'Uncle' Sanada!" Dr. Rara all but dragged the boy into the basement lab/Rara sleeping quarters.

"Don't you 'my boy' him!" Dr. Sanada rushed to Kazuki's aid. "He's MY boy, thank you very much!"

"Umm... I don't think I'm anyone's boy, to be honest sirs." Kazuki attempted to pull away from the two doctors, but to no avail.

"Nonsense, nonsense! Come take a look at these designs!" Sanada dragged Kazuki to a drawing board and began flipping through sketches. "Here! Now Kazuki, would you like to cruise through the galaxy in this heap of junk," Sanada held up a picture that clearly had 'Rara' signed on the lower right corner, "Or this fine beauty," Sanada asked, holding up a sketch that was clearly signed 'Sanada'.

"Heap of junk! Well of course he's not going to pick it if it's referred to that way! Besides, it's many times more impressive than your flying soapbox with lasers!" Dr. Rara, who was bright red with anger, had crossed the room with surprising agility and was currently in Dr. Sanada's face.

Kazuki looked at some of the other sketches on the table while the two continued to argue. He'd learned long ago that the best way to handle these situations was to let them duel until a victor was declared or at least until they were too weary to continue.

As he dug through the stack of papers, he came across one design that was vaguely familiar. Pondering its layout for a few minutes, he finally realized that it reminded him of the artifact ship that Dr. Sanada was in possession of in one of the alternate universes. Pulling it out from under the other sketches, he held it up between the two feuding scientists.

"Actually, I like this one."

The two stopped and looked at the drawing momentarily. In one voice, they both replied in shock, "You like that one? What's wrong with you, my boy? Your boy? I thought we'd covered this already! Grrrrrr!"

Sighing, Kazuki slowly slid out of the basement; the two scientists too busy fighting to notice his escape. They were making progress, sadly. Another year and they might have the design candidates down to three.

As he moved through the house, the luxurious scents from the kitchen assailed his senses. Following his nose, he floated into the dinning room, not even noticing Reika, Akane, and Ayuko sipping tea. The three distinguished ladies grinned from ear to ear as Kazuki drifted past them; Akane and Reika for his obvious love of the girls' cooking and Ayuko for her own less than reputable reasons.

Kazuki was beginning to slide the door to the kitchen open when Akane scolded him. "Kazuki! It's rude not to address your elders when you enter a room!"

Kazuki, awakening from his food-induced trance, spun around abruptly. "I'm so sorry!" He bowed deeply and continued, "It's just the food smelled so good..."

"That's still not a valid excu--"

"Akane," Reika spoke up for the young man, "Boys will be boys, and he is still a boy..."

Ayuko chimed in, "Yes, I agree with Reika. I'm sure this charming young man meant no offense." She added a devious smile towards the young Mr. Yotsuga, who blushed in return.

Reika and Akane's eyes narrowed; Akane's because she hated being reprimanded by her older sister and Reika's because she had the unfortunate luck to be on the same side as Ayuko.

Ayuko pulled an adjacent chair up to the table. "Come, Kazuki. Sit here next to your Mother Ayuko..."

"Umm, well, that is, uh," Kazuki was desperately seeking an escape route.

Reika and Akane startled Kazuki out of his stuttering fit with a combined, "WHAT!"

Ayuko smiled innocently, waiving off the assailants with her free hand. "It's nothing more than a term of endearment! You mustn't be so harsh..."

"Endearment!" Akane scowled at Ayuko.

"Harsh!" Reika made an equally fearsome scowl.

Kazuki, sensing another fight was about to commence, slid out of the dinning hall. He wondered if there was any way he could eat dinner in his room for the next two years. Doubting the possibility of this scenario coming to fruition, he marched up to his room for at least a moment of peace and quiet before dinner.

As he approached his bedroom door, he noticed it was already open. He also noticed a muffled growl and a low voice saying, "No Kumu! Not his pillow! Bad!" Kazuki slowly opened the door, half afraid of the scene behind it awaiting him.

His room was in shambles. His books, which Mitsuki had apparently brought up while he was discussing ship designs with the doctors, were ripped to shreds and spread all over the room. Dee, for her part, was trying to herd Kumu out of the room before she could do any more damage.

As the door opened, Dee visibly paled. She quickly snatched up Kumu and started bowing her head profusely, sniffling loudly and barely containing her tears. "I'm so sorry, Kazuki! I was doing my homework and I thought she was in the room with me still, but she wasn't and when I went and looked for her, she was in here ripping your room to pieces. I'm so sorry! I'll clean it all up after dinner, promise!"

Kazuki entered the room and surveyed the damage. Most of his homework had been destroyed along with his pillow. As Dee continued to apologize, he reached over and rested his hand on her shoulder. "It's ok, Dee. We'll clean it up after dinner together. It's nothing to worry about, honest!" He added a smile, hoping that she wouldn't start crying over something so trivial.

Dee looked up at Kazuki, still holding Kumu, who was growling at the intruder, tightly. Her eyes began to lighten and a smile slowly tugged at the corner of her lips. "R-Really?"

Kazuki nodded. "Yep." He wiped away one of the tears streaming down her cheek and added, "Now go put Kumu in your room and get cleaned up. Dinner should be ready any minute now."

Dee cheerfully responded, "Ok Kazuki," and promptly left his room. It was nice to see Dee so happy. Every time that Kazuki had doubts about this new world, he thought of her smiling face and how much she'd changed from when he first met her and would know that he had done the right thing.

Without even realizing it, Kazuki had begun to blush. He also didn't notice the entourage standing outside his doorway observing the mess.

Mitsuki Sanada was the first to speak up, as usual. "What are you blushing about? And why is your room such a mess? Honestly, I can't leave you alone for five minutes or you'd ruin this entire house! You're so much like Daddy it's frightening!"

"B-But it wasn't me! Honest, Mitsuki! Kumu got loose again!"

"Riiight. You can't always blame your poor hygiene and lack of organizational skills on the family pet, Kazuki."

"But I'm telling the truth!"

Yayoi used the break in yelling to interject, "I apologize for the inconvenience, but you do realize that I will not accept those assignments late, Kazuki?"

Kazuki bowed slightly to his teacher in acknowledgement as Mitsuki rolled her eyes and continued, "And now you're going to expect me to clean this up after dinner. Well let me tell you something, Mr. Yotsuga, I'm not your maid! You'll have to clean this one up yourself!"

The other Mitsuki, who had been silent up until this point, softly offered, "I'll help you clean up after dinner if you'd like, Kazuki."

Kazuki swallowed deeply and felt his cheeks redden more. "That'd be great, Mitsuki--"

Dee pushed past the crowd, frowning slightly, "But you said we'd clean the room together!"

"Oh! I did, didn't I? Thank you for your offer anyways, Mitsuki."

Yayoi and Mitsuki Sanada both gave Mitsuki Rara a cold stare and a singular reply, "Yes, thank you Ms. Rara."

Mitsuki looked away, trying to hide her blushing face. "It's nothing, really..."

Slowly looking away from Mitsuki Rara, Mitsuki Sanada returned her glare to Kazuki. "Anyway, dinner is ready and you need to get down there and eat it before it gets cold, or, in Yayoi's case, warm." The reference to Yayoi's sushi had not fallen on deaf ears and Kazuki quickly dropped the remains of his homework in order to please the assembled mass.

Dee quickly sprang into Kazuki's room, wrapping around his left arm as she normally did whenever they were heading in the same direction. Yayoi, Mitsuki, and Mitsuki all responded in their customary manor: Yayoi and Ms. Sanada scowled fiercely and Ms. Rah merely looked away and blushed. Kazuki just tried to avoid eye contact with any of the girls and laughed nervously. "Well, let's eat!"

Ms. Sanada stormed down the hall towards the stairs, snarling, "Yes. Let's."

Dinner had transpired about as normal as most meals at the Sanada/Rara Household occurred. Things started out with Kazuki receiving three large portions in comparison to everyone else's human-sized one portion. The three chefs all watched intently as Kazuki spent the better part of a half- hour trying to decide how he was going to mix the three totally unique meals so that no one would be offended by his sampling another's meal before theirs. He finally ended up with a rather unique-tasting sushi/egg roll/hamburger, which had sadly become more and more appetizing with each passing minute.

After dinner, Kazuki and Dee worked on cleaning up his demolished room. Kumu had been very thorough in ripping up anything she could, including a pair of underwear Kazuki had lost some time ago that had been hiding behind his desk. By the time they had finished, half of the house had retired for the evening. They took turns in the bath, Dee going first, and wished each other a good evening before going to sleep themselves.

Kazuki wished he didn't have to spend the morning redoing his homework. At least he and Dee were able to spend some time together, though. They rarely got to see each other any more due to their different schools. That would all change next school year when Kazuki was a senior and Dee a freshman at the Academy, but that was still some time away.

He felt at times like he was neglecting her, the one who had helped him in the end more than any other. The one who had actually sacrificed her life in order to awaken Zinv's full potential. Perhaps they could go out for ice cream tomorrow after he went to the main laboratory to visit Zinv...

Kazuki shot straight out of his bed. He had totally forgotten about his trip in the morning. If he was going to get his work done and visit Zinv, he was going to have to pull an all-nighter and finish his homework!

Sighing heavily, he muttered to himself, "Why me?" Kazuki turned on the light and opened his tattered textbook, praying that some miracle would get him out of this.

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"Kazuki, wake up." Dee and Mitsuki Rara both gently pushed on either side of him.

"How many times do I have to tell you? That doesn't work!" Mitsuki Sanada picked up a stack of books and dropped them on Kazuki's stomach, causing him to sit up instinctively and push the covers away from him.

The Mitsukis and Dee all gasped collectively at the sight. Yayoi was curled up in a ball next to Kazuki and had apparently been there all evening.

Mitsuki Sanada glowed fiery red with rage, and dropped a couple of books on the teacher to get her attention. "What... Are... You... DOING? You sick freak! Get out of Kazuki's bed this instant!"

Kazuki switched into automatic defense mode, shouting as he backed away, "I didn't know she was there! Honest! I swear!"

Mitsuki Sanada's reply was a simple slap upside Kazuki's head. She immediately returned her attention to Yayoi, who was rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "Well?"

Yayoi looked around the room in a dazed fashion, slowly replying, "I must have sleep-walked here... The last thing I remember is going to bed in my room across the way," she pointed to her house, which was conveniently mere meters away from Kazuki's window and had an odd board between the two houses that would be perfect for crossing back and forth.

"Sleep-walked? HA! I don't buy that for an instant! Get back to your house this instant, you hear me!" Mitsuki opened the window and pointed a finger out of it, her red face becoming reddish-purple fast.

Yayoi lowered her head and rose, climbing out the window slowly as she muttered, "It worked for Mitsuki..."

Mitsuki Sanada spun around, the fire almost emerging out of her hair. "What did you say?"

Yayoi held her hands up in a defensive posture and smiled innocently. "Not a thing, Mitsuki!"

As Yayoi's legs exited the windowsill, Mitsuki slammed the window shut and lowered the blinds. "That ought to keep certain peeping toms from getting an eye-full. Everyone out!" Mitsuki began forcing the other occupants of the room out the door, yelling at Kazuki to get dressed and eat his breakfast.

As he dug through his room looking for an unused or non-ripped set of clothing, Kazuki wondered if his life was ever going to settle down. He also wondered what he would do if suddenly one day it did.

Finally finding a suitable outfit, he glanced at the blinds one more time before tossing his bedclothes in the general direction of the clothesbasket.