A/N: I'm on a major "update spree" and this story was second. Phew… Care to read before you all kill me for making you wait so long? ;D
Chapter Five: Some things to think about
The delectable smell of fresh native chicken boiling neatly under low heat and the steady rhythm of a knife hitting a chopping board filled the small living space. Kurapika worked quietly as she sliced carrots into strips and diced some potatoes.
"It actually smells good!" Neon chirped from her place near the stove, as it was her task to watch over the chicken while it boiled. Kurapika had told her that boiling the chicken was the easiest part in making curry if done properly. If not, the chicken would either be undercooked or overcooked and the whole recipe would fail. That was why she was intently standing guard over it, as if the lifeless poultry would suddenly get up and run away – never mind that it did not have its head and those two little feet.
Kurapika chuckled at her. "I'm not surprised. These are high quality ingredients that your attendants brought. I can't even find potatoes this fresh at the market." The blonde said as she continued chopping the vegetables.
It was that day of the month. Since the five of them became friends, they would pick one day of the month and just hang out. It could either be a trip to the movies or the amusement park, or just a simple sleepover like that of the present. Last month was also a sleepover at Neon's house, though that was anything but simple. This month, it was at Kurapika's.
Kurapika blinked and looked over at the dining table, where Gon, Killua and Leorio were busy making a Chocolate Crusted Mustard Cake. Or at least, that was what they were supposed to be doing.
Killua was the one who spoke. He was supposed to be blending the cake mixture manually since the recipe advised them against using a mechanical blender. But apparently, he was doing a rather nasty job at it.
"Killua, you're supposed to mix it thoroughly or else the mixture won't bake nicely. And you can't do that if you just slump on the table and flick your wrist."
"But my arm's dead already! Why am I doing this anyway?" Killua whined.
Kurapika cocked a brow at him. Only ten minutes had passed since Killua started his task. "That's because you're the one who wanted to eat cake. You were also arrogant enough to say earlier that baking one was but a piece of cake." She said pointedly.
"I just want to eat one, not bake one." The white-haired boy pouted. "This is Gon's fault. He should be the one doing this, not me." He was pertaining to when Gon suggested making a cake instead of just buying one. The shorter boy stuck his tongue out at him and proceeded to crush another chocolate bar.
"Don't be so lazy, Killua." Gon scowled at him. "If you want something, you have to work for it."
"What do you mean work for it? Neon could just tell her butler to order one of the best cakes in town like she did before. Why can't we just do that?"
"You're being all whiny, Killua. Besides," Gon handed over the plate of crushed chocolate to Leorio who put it all into the mechanical blender to turn it into chocolate goo, "that's just no fun!"
"Fun?" Killua snapped, banging the mixing bowl onto the table. "This isn't fun! And why the hell can you use that blender while I can't? That's just not fair!" He pointed a finger accusingly at the poor appliance.
"That's obviously because you can't, stupid. Can't you understand something as simple as that?" Leorio said as he transferred the chocolate paste into another bowl.
"Who're you calling stupid, you old geezer?"
"Who're you calling old? I'm still in senior high like you are!"
"Really? Because you don't look the part." Killua blinked his eyes feigning innocence.
Kurapika and Neon merely laughed at the scene in front of them. Gon took his place between the other two, trying to break them apart. Leorio was utterly fuming as Killua had the gall to throw a handful of the cake mixture at his face. He had tried to throw the bowl of chocolate paste at Killua, but Gon stopped him. The poor boy was barely keeping the other two from clawing at each other's necks. Neon, too, was shouting at them from her place beside the chicken (she obviously had no plans of letting it out of her sight). Kurapika, on the other hand, had gone back to dicing what was left of the potatoes, laughing softly to herself.
Really, after the events earlier that day, Kurapika needed the amusement. She still felt disturbed about what happened earlier. Her conversation with Shalnark only aggravated the situation, even though she knew the lad had absolutely nothing to do with her dilemma.
I've known him for so long to know that he is not a liar.
Then what was she to do? Simply believe what Kuroro had told her, despite the fact that it absolutely made no sense and that she deeply loathed the senior?
"Oh, would you two stop it!" Neon shouted exasperatedly at the two guys. "Why can't you two just kiss and make up!"
There was a loud clang when Kurapika accidentally lost her grip on the knife and it dropped to the floor. The other four turned to stare at her, only to find the blonde holding a bleeding finger to her face.
"Ah! Kurapika, what were you doing?" Neon finally left her spot and grabbed Kurapika's hand, staring wide-eyed at the bleeding wound.
"I-I lost my grip," the blonde chuckled nervously and pulled her finger away. "Just… just lost my grip; nothing to worry about." She smiled albeit falsely and walked to the sink to put her finger under the faucet. She kept her back to the others, trying to hide her already flushed face away from them.
What in the world was she thinking? She knew exactly what Neon meant, but the words had a different effect on her. She could not stop herself from thinking about how Kuroro approached her that morning, how he stood so close to her and said he was worried, and how it looked as if he wanted to…
Stop it! Stop thinking about him! Kurapika mentally scolded herself. You hate him the most, really hate him! So stop thinking! Then why the hell couldn't she? And why was she getting second thoughts on whether she really hated Kuroro? She did, didn't she?
Behind her, the other four were looking at each other, both bewilderment and recognition evident in their faces.
"…I see. In any case, I appreciate what you did, Shalnark."
"No need to, Danchou," was Shalnark's reply from the other end of the line. He had just called to report of what had transpired during his conversation with Kurapika – leaving out the unnecessary details, of course. "Although," the lad muttered quietly and Kuroro could notice a sense of caution in his voice.
"What is it?" The raven-haired lad asked when Shalnark fell silent.
There was the sound of shuffling from the other line before Shalnark spoke. "Well, I was just curious, Danchou. I only have a hunch on what you said to Kurapika but…" There was a sigh and the lad continued, "You're not pulling her leg, aren't you?
Kuroro knew that he was supposed to have felt offended by the question but for some reason, he wasn't. He knew that Shalnark asked him out of sheer curiosity and not because the other suspected him falsely. Though it took him a moment to reply and during that time Shalnark was already apologizing. "What are you apologizing for?" He asked.
"W-Well, I thought I have offended you."
"Oh. Well, anyway… From how she had reacted, maybe Kurapika was thinking that you were lying to her. And, well, there's still the issue of your bet with Feitan… But I told her that from what I know of you, you certainly weren't lying to her. And I was right, wasn't I?
Kuroro fell silent. He had had this same conversation with Nostrad earlier that day (with the exception of the bet, of course) and he had felt somewhat uncomfortable on how easily the girl could read his emotions towards Kurapika. It was not as if Kuroro had known his feelings for the blonde for a long time already; he had only just realized it that same morning. But no matter how sudden it was, he was certain it was not a lie.
And of course, he still had that bet to win; he was not about to lose in something so simple.
"I'm not." It was with a smile that Kuroro replied. He heard Shalnark chuckle.
"You sound so sure, Danchou. But I knew that all along, I guess." The lad said. It was with another chuckle that he bid Kuroro goodbye before hanging up.
Kuroro was replacing the phone on the receiver when the front door opened and a woman entered the house. "You're early today, Kuo," he said as he approached the woman and took the huge bag of groceries from her.
"Traffic was surprisingly light," the woman replied. "And it's Kuo-nee, Kuro-chan. How many times do I have to tell you that?" Kuo said as she reached out to ruffle the lad's dark hair playfully. But Kuroro simply ducked under her outstretched arm, and with a smirk, carried the grocery back to kitchen. "Mou… You're no fun, Kuro-chan! And why is there a bruise on your cheek?" She whined but Kuroro did not answer her. So instead she took her shoes off and followed after Kuroro.
Unluckily for Kuroro, Kuo had what psychologists would call a "brother complex". Their parents had died in an accident when Kuroro was only in daycare and Kuo was in middle school. They were taken in by one of their relatives, but they moved out once Kuo graduated from the university. Naturally, Kuo thought that it was her sole responsibility to take care of her "baby brother" – add to that the fact that their ages were at least ten years apart – and had indeed proved her point. She was his sole guarantor: it was with her own salary that she paid the whole of Kuroro's tuition fees, took care of all matters regarding the house, and supported the both of them. It was fortunate that she found a steady, good-paying job as an accountant in one of the government's firms. Before, Kuo had to work three tedious jobs to earn enough money, and even though Kuroro never admitted it verbally, he hated it when his sister came home awfully exhausted.
Of course, their relatives sent them money before, but Kuo would just send it all back so that they eventually stopped. Kuroro had argued with her about the matter, telling her that she did not have to exhaust herself just to support him if others were willing to help. But Kuo simply smiled and embraced him, saying that she was a very selfish person when it came to her brother and did not care about anything else as long as Kuroro was fine – the least that Kuroro could do to help her was to let her do what she loved most. Kuroro never argued with her ever since.
Still, Kuo's brother complex was quite severe that it even came to the point that she cut her long hair short so that it matched Kuroro's, with the absurd excuse that she wanted them to look alike. And indeed, she was the spitting female version of the young lad. She also had no plans of getting married, because for her marriage would only separate her from Kuroro, which was impossible. She would kill before that ever happened, and she almost did that one time when one of her suitors tried to force her into submission – it was all Kuroro could do to separate a positively enraged Kuo from the poor bastard who had gotten himself beaten to a pulp. Since then, no man who knew her dared to approach her anymore, and Kuo appeared to be more than happy with that.
And yes, of course: the pet name.
"Yes?" Kuroro asked, looking over his shoulder at the beaming face of his sister, who had come to hug him from behind. The gesture was not embarrassing for Kuroro since he was very used to it already. But it did not help the fact that Kuo was shorter than him (despite being older) and that she was practically hanging on to him, her feet not touching the ground – which meant that she was choking Kuroro, albeit unintentionally.
"They're having a grill next door," said Kuo, still oblivious to Kuroro's condition, "and they said they'd be giving us some." Just then the doorbell rang and, with a jerk, Kuo released Kuroro and air was finally able to enter his lungs. "That must be them!" Kuo chirped. "Say, Kuro-chan… would you mind getting the door for me so I can prepare dinner already?" She said while pushing Kuroro out of the kitchen.
"Do I even have a choice?" Kuroro answered. Kuo thanked him and went to fix her groceries. With a sigh, Kuroro left the kitchen and headed to the front door. The doorbell had rung for the third time when he reached it.
He was greeted by a grinning boy holding a plate of yakitori. The boy wore a green shirt under an oversized jumper, had short blonde hair and striking blue eyes filled with mirth. He must be very happy for being able to do his task, or maybe he was simply a jolly little kid. "Here you go, onii-chan! It's really good!" The boy said, thrusting the plate of food at Kuroro. "Mom said you can return the plate whenever you want. See 'ya!" He turned to leave but Kuroro called him back.
As the boy turned back to him with huge eyes, Kuroro could not help but chuckle. Funny, he thought. It seemed as if life enjoyed toying with him from time to time.
"What is it, onii-chan? Is there something on my face?" The boy said, blinking his huge eyes at Kuroro. With a shake of his head, Kuroro laughed again and ruffled the boy's hair.
"Not really. You just remind me of someone." The boy grinned widely at him before running back to their house. Kuroro, too, went back inside.
Kuo turned as Kuroro entered the kitchen, and was quite curious to find him smiling. "Ara? Is my Kuro-chan smiling?" To her amazement, Kuroro turned to her only to smile wider, which was very uncommon for him. And Kuo knew that there was a special meaning behind the gesture. "Eh… did something happen to my Kuro-chan today? And you haven't told me why you have that ugly bruise there yet." She approached the lad and linked an arm with his, her lips curved into a cute pout.
Kuroro placed the plate of yakitori on the table and ran his free hand through his hair. He shrugged and said, "Let's just say that I had a really weird day today. And this bruise is but one proof of it."
"Move over, Killua! You're hogging my space!" Gon whined as he pushed the white-haired boy away from his futon. They had just finished eating dinner and were already setting up their futons at Kurapika's living room.
"Not my fault! This old geezer here is hogging my space." Leorio shot a heated glare at Killua's direction. "Why am I sleeping beside him anyway?" Killua whined. He was obviously not in a good mood since he was not able to eat enough food as he wanted. The curry was delicious, of course, and it was more than enough for the five of them. But the cake was smaller than how it was supposed to be since almost half of the mixture went to Leorio's face during their little squabble earlier. What was worse, Neon did not agree to call for a delivery, saying that it was Killua's punishment for ruining the recipe and making a big mess.
"Oh, quit it, Killua." Neon snapped at him. She was sorting out a stack of VCDs on her frilly, pink futon, trying to decide on what movie they were going to watch. Kurapika, on the other hand, was at the kitchen fixing their late night snacks.
"Tch," was Killua's retort as he nonetheless approached the girl. "I want to watch something scary," he said as he, too, sorted through the CDs.
"No, we're not watching a scary movie tonight."
"And why not?"
"Because I hate them." Neon replied flatly. She ignored the throbbing vein on Killua's temple as she found the title she had been looking for. "We're watching this instead!" She literally shoved the CD case in Killua's face, grinning broadly like a little girl.
Killua blinked and snatched the CD from her, reading the title and snorting incredulously at it. "Romance?" Killua wrinkled his nose in disgust. "You have got to be kidding me. I am not watching something like that." He snorted and shoved the CD back at Neon.
"We're not watching this for you, stupid!" Neon playfully hit the boy's head with the CD case. She kept her voice low as Kurapika entered the room and said, "We're watching this movie for you-know-what." She sent a fleeting glance at Kurapika's direction.
Realization hit Killua as he blinked rather foolishly at Neon. How could he have forgotten? They had formed a deal with Kuroro earlier that day: they would help the senior with his problem with Kurapika, while it was Kuroro's task to simply keep said deal a secret from anyone, especially from the blonde. Lest they wanted all hell to break loose on them.
His mouth formed into an O-shape before he regained his usual demeanor. "Tch," Killua huffed as he stood and grabbed the huge bowl of popcorn from Kurapika, to the blonde's surprise. "I still don't like it so I'm having all the popcorn to myself instead." He grinned selfishly.
"What? Don't be so selfish, Killua! Put that down!" Gon shouted at him and earned a raspberry instead.
At that, Gon launched himself at the taller boy and a second later, the bowl had dropped to the floor with a loud crash and the popcorn fell all over the place.
"Gon! Killua!" Kurapika shouted rather loudly and the two boys fell still. "Quit acting like children!" The blond snapped, clearly annoyed.
Gon and Killua just gaped at her, their mouths hanging open like that of a fish. Neon and Leorio were also staring at Kurapika, shock written on their faces. After a moment, Kurapika seemed to have realized how she had acted and blushed uncontrollably. "I-I'm sorry… I didn't mean to get angry." The blonde said as she brought a hand to her face. "I'm really sorry…"
The others blinked at her and it was Gon who spoke first. "Are you all right, Kurapika?"
The blonde looked up at him, her face still apparently red, and nodded meekly. "I'm fine, Gon. Just – I was just thinking too much, I guess." The other four stared at each other. "But I'm all right! Really! I guess we'd have to clean this mess up again, ne?" She bent to pick up the bowl but Neon beat her to it.
"That's all right, Kurapika!" She spoke rather nervously. "We'll clean this up! You just sit down and let us take care of it. Right, Killua? Gon?" It took a moment before the two boys snapped out of their bewilderment and gave frantic little nods.
"R-Right! It's my fault anyway, clearly my fault," Killua laughed nervously as he rushed to pick up bits of popcorn with Neon.
"Yeah! You just relax, Kurapika." Gon said as he grabbed the blonde's hand and led her to the couch. "I'll go take care of the other snacks."
"I'll help," Leorio said, already moving towards the kitchen.
Kurapika blinked at them, a faint blush still apparent on her cheeks. She clearly felt mortified at how she had acted. "Sure, Gon. And I'm really sorry." The boy shook his head vehemently at her and reasoned that it was them who should be sorry. Then he went off after Leorio and Kurapika dropped herself on the couch.
This is really embarrassing, she thought as she hid her face between her hands. She failed to notice the looks Neon and Killua were giving her, apparently concerned and baffled at her actions.
Kurapika had been acting mighty peculiar since the time she accidentally cut herself with the knife. During dinner, she had kept silent and only talked when she was supposed to. She had been spacing out quite often as well – it was obvious that she was bothered greatly by something.
"Kurapika?" Neon called to her cautiously. When she deemed it safe to approach the blonde, she gave the bowl of popcorn to Killua with a nod and went to sit beside her. Killua exited the room as well, having understood Neon's intention.
The blonde shifted as she felt Neon sit on the space beside her, but she still felt very embarrassed to face her yet. It was true that she felt troubled and quite agitated, but she knew that it was no excuse to vent her anxiety on her friends like that. It was the worst thing she had done in a long time; even worse than when she had slapped Kuroro that morning.
Neon called her name for the second time before Kurapika felt her arms around her. At that, she brought her hands away from her face and looked up to find Neon simply beaming at her. "I'm sorry," she whispered. Neon shook her head and pulled her closer.
"There's no need to apologize. We understand you perfectly. It's obvious you didn't mean to act that way."
Kurapika rested her head on Neon's chest as the other stroked her hair comfortingly. "I'm just confused. A lot of things had happened so suddenly I don't know what to think of it anymore." She sighed.
Unknown to her, Neon was trying her best not to laugh; she settled for a soft giggle instead. She knew exactly what Kurapika was pertaining to, but she could not just tell the blonde that. No, not yet. So she simply kept her thoughts to herself despite the happiness that was bubbling inside of her at how the events were turning out, and she knew she would have to talk to Kuroro as soon as possible. For now, she just held Kurapika tightly and listened to her complains, even though she knew that the blonde would not admit that she was thinking about Kuroro.
And it was true. Kurapika was indeed – no matter how much she detested it – thinking about Kuroro. And it was literally making her crazy. She clung tighter to Neon as she complained about how confused she was, trying hard to prevent herself from crying. No, she was not about to cry for something as painfully silly as this. And she certainly was not going to cry because of Kuroro, regardless of the fact that the infuriating senior was the exact cause of her dilemma.
So she simply held on to Neon, letting the other comfort her that way only she can. As absurd as it seemed, Kurapika also thought of Neon like a mother, especially during moments like this. It was foolish, all right, given Neon's personality, but it helped. Whoever said that living alone without your parents was simple? It was not a laughing matter when you feel like your heart was being split into two and you do not even have a mother to tell your secrets to. No. It certainly was not.
Unknown to Kurapika, she was not the only one having the same dilemma. For while Kuroro had his sister, he could not simply confess to Kuo that he liked someone. It simply was not the way it was done.
So as he lay on his bed, waiting for sleep to come, Kuroro kept his thoughts to himself, thinking that maybe – just maybe – things will decide to work out.
... To be continued...
A/N: Yay! :)
Haha. I guess it's safe to say that this chapter isn't all that different, except those few scenes I had added. Oh all right, they weren't few. But still! I really liked how this turned out and I hope you did, too. Although it is quite long – if I say so myself. :) Haha. I'm feeling a bit giddy since, miraculously, I've managed to finish two updates already! ;D Check out my other stories and you'll be quite surprised.
So, thanks to those who have either reviewed or put this story on alert/favorites. Really! And I hope more would come for this chapter. I'm getting my hopes up. ;D Toodles!