I just feel like cranking out more and more little side stories for my fics, though they had been first intended to stand as just one-shots. I suppose that's the sentiment that compelled me to try and give a hint of closure to this thing.

"Todai" is Tokyo University, a college famous in Japan for being notoriously difficult to get into. It's also one of the best – if not the best – college that one can attend there.

Review if you like. No flames, please.


mieta kara
-epilogue


As she hurried out of the building, checking her tele-phone for any video messages, she somehow felt that today was a very important day…but couldn't exactly pinpoint why. It wasn't her birthday, or the birthday of anyone she knew, and the holidays were months away. And the only reason she was hurrying home was because she didn't want to miss her train, not because she had anything special awaiting the end of her day.

At 24, a budding fashion designer who had become quite well-known for her beautiful floral prints, Inoue Orihime had most everything she'd ever dreamed of – with a nice big house, the latest luxury hovercar waiting at the dealer, her own growing company, and the attention of the flattering press, there wasn't a girl around who would've wished for anything more.

Well, maybe just one thing. It saddened her to realize that she was to be spending another year as bridesmaid to one of her best friends – Kuchiki Rukia, soon to be wed to Kurosaki Ichigo. What do you know, a chance hookup turned into actual love. She'd smile at their little intimacies, sometimes, when she was with them. And since Rukia was insisting on a Western wedding, as had Orihime's best friend to date, Mrs. Sado Tatsuki, Orihime was again destined to be just a bridesmaid on the side.

That was partly because she'd never been into guys. She wasn't gay, but men just didn't interest her. None ever had. And because she had all the material possessions one could own and be jealous about, as of late Orihime had found herself turning towards the spiritual.

She sighed. Was it just the gray overcast sky that was depressing her, or was she purposefully putting herself down about Rukia-chan's big day?

Passing a glassed storefront, a magazine title ("Princess Corp., blooming fashion of the 25th century") caught her eye; she failed to notice the stranger in front of her until she smacked well into him, sending them both sprawling.

Thoroughly embarrassed and face going red, even though there really weren't many people around to stare, she got quickly to her feet and turned to the man she'd bumped into.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, are you hurt? I wasn't looking where I…"

And suddenly, as she looked into his face, Orihime felt an unfamiliar churn in her stomach that she couldn't place, having never felt anything like it before.

She couldn't tear her vision away from his face and its dark, draping hair, the square spectacles that framed deep and secretive eyes, the unpretentiousness of his expression, the lucidity of his perfection.

Everything about his face was so…so beautiful.

That first churn had morphed into a torrent of emotion, and, as Orihime then found out, tears suddenly filled her eyes and fell down her face. Why she was crying she did not know, only that this man had caused it, and that she had felt as if she had been waiting forever and forever and forever for this, not knowing why. And the thought of realizing she hadn't known she'd been waiting for this moment only made more tears come.

"Are you all right?" she heard him ask, concerned, and felt him place a hand on her shoulder to guide her to the side of the walkway.

Even his voice was perfect.

She wondered if he felt even a tenth of the emotion she was currently drowning in.

"Y – yes, I'm fine," she said, wiping at her eyes, voice still a little shaky. "I'm sorry, I really don't know what came over me…I think I'm tired, and maybe a little stressed…I'm sorry, I didn't mean to suddenly start crying in front of you. It wasn't your fault or anything, I mean…"

"Oh, it's all right," he said. "It's what makes you stand out from all the rest of the people who've made first impressions on me." He smiled slightly at her, and she found herself smiling back, somehow liking the look on his face.

"But anyway, my grandfather would be ill pleased with me if I didn't offer a lady my handkerchief in times of need," he said, shaking out a little green square from his coat pocket and handing it to her. "Sometimes it pays to carry those things."

"Wow, a man who carries a handkerchief? Talk about rare," she commented, tears drying up quickly. "That's so 21st century!"

He shrugged. "I like the simple things," he said. And then he extended his hand, in a gesture that was neither forceful nor hesitant. "My name's Ishida Uryuu, 26, accountant, Todai graduate."

She smiled and took it. "Inoue Orihime, 24, fashion designer, eh…sorry, I don't have a big-name school to say I graduated from."

"Inoue Orihime, of Princess Corp.? Really? Wow. You look like just a regular girl, not the media idol that the world is making you out to be."

"Yeah, I don't know which is worse: being famous or not. I really don't like being photographed." She glanced at the ground, at then at his face; he was looking at her in a way that was faintly reminiscent, though for the life of her she couldn't understand why she thought she'd seen him before. Because, though she had no romantic experience, Orihime knew at once that she was attracted to this man – like no one had ever captivated her before. And the strength of her conviction of wanting him was scaring her, just a little bit.

They stood in silence then, hearing the familiar rush of hovercars pass the street and of the sliding glass doors of the bookstore they were still next to, opening and closing. Ishida glanced at his watch; Orihime found herself vaguely recalling her train ride home.

"Well, then, eh…" Ishida broke the silence by speaking, and she waited. "Did you know, I…I don't quite know how to explain this, but…" His head titled ever so slightly to his right, and in that moment, Orihime could see it all on his face: the fact that he felt their connection as strongly as she, and that he was unsure where this was going, and just as uncertain about the fact that they still were, in essence, complete strangers.

She could see all of his on his face, and knew that he was going to open his mouth to speak of a semblance of their connection; suddenly, Orihime found that she didn't need to hear it.

"Do you have time for coffee?" she interrupted him, and his eyes drew back to hers.

"That's…" he hesitated, wondering whether to change his words, "…something that I was just about to ask you."

She smiled.

"I have time."

"Me too."

"…so, then, shall we?"

And he didn't answer, only gave her a small smile that was quick to reach his eyes, and she knew she'd seen that smile before. But she wasn't one to contemplate on her history. Because what Orihime had was now and she didn't want to think of anything else, because life was just too fragile and beautiful to be lived one frame at a time, or in reflections of one's past.

That conviction had come out of nowhere. She remembered, unclearly, that she had learned that someplace, but times and reasons escaped her.

"Well, are you just going to stand there all day, or are you coming? The café's awaiting us," Ishida called out to her, but his voice was amused. She looked and saw that he was indeed a few paces ahead. The sudden sunlight caught his form in a way that made her want to cry again…but she didn't want to start that all over. So, laughing instead, Orihime ran to catch up.


owari