To hell with waiting for reviews when there are others who wanted this chapter already (I've been worried about that trout!!)!! I promise to finish this, and this chapter had been waiting for so long to get posted!!! So here it is!! Gals—you know who you are—this is for you!! Hope you'll like this!!! (And I hope my writing this time is better after watching a lot of anime)
Yes…in this chapter, those clues will come into greater number!!! And I know that you can catch up on them for sure!!
So please review!!!
Slight OOC's are inevitable…that's my so-called work of the imagination!!
There is nothing to claim, only my own brain!!
Three days. Three days after his awakening and a lot has already changed.
He was wearing Kudou's apron and was busy himself with the crowd of girls who are careful on him for they knew through Lime-chan that their Aya-sama got into another accident. He silently watched the lady florist without stopping his own actions for a few minutes already…all the while thinking about the fact that her sisters and so-called fiancée will take her away from them soon. And that this present action would only become a memory.
"Ha-O!! Welcome to Bisshie-Bisshie Flower Shop!! What can I do for you, Kawaii Redhead-chan—ooooh, you have Aya-kun's hair!! Weeeeeee!!! Aya-kun, look!!"
Aya only ignored her, as the customers—the lady customers—started looking at Lime-chan distastefully. While said teen's face was as red as his hair as the lady florist, who was still bent on wearing Aya-kun's apron, dramatically took his hand and shook it. "Uh…ahehehe…eh…I would like to have a bit of those—"
And before the teen knew it, he was glomped and embraced quite tightly by the cute florist who just coincidentally smelled like white roses.
"OWEEEEEEE!! Kawaii Redhead-chan wants roses!! How much would you want?"
If Niwa Daisuke's face could get any redder by the envious and amused looks some customers gave him, he surely is getting at it. "…h-how much would a dozen cost?"
"A dozen of kawaii roses would be—aiieeeeeeee!!"
Daisuke gulped as a very large booted foot suddenly stomped between the two of them, and he was now facing a red-eyed, vein-throbbing face of a man whose blonde hair was metro-sexually dressed with hair gel just to make it look like that.
He gulped again. Then his hairs had stood on end at the still-looking-at-him-as-if-he'd-tear-Dark-out-from-his-system weird guy who was still looking-at-him-as-if-he'd-tear-Dark-out-from-his-system…as if that is quite possible to begin with.
Lime blinked. And blinked. And sweat dropped, as well. And blinked, while she poked at the back of the intruder who was still between her and her customer. "Eh…a-ara…Hanagata-chan?"
"DON'T WORRY, MY KOISHII, I WILL PROTECT YOU FROM THIS—THIS—ECCHI!!AND YOU!! DON'TYOUDARE LAY A FINGER ONMY KOISHII OR I'LL INCAPACITATE YOU—OWWWWW!!"
"Baka Hanagata!! How many times do I have to tell you to stop harassing our hosts' customers??! Sumimasen, customer-san!!"
"BUT HE WAS TOUCHING MY LIME'S PRECIOUS HANDS, CHERRY-NEESAN—OWWW"
"I am not your 'Cherry-neesan'!!! And what are you doing here intruding on our hosts' business AGAIN????"
"Why, protecting my fiancée from perverts, of course—ITAIIIII!!!!!!"
And now, even the customers suddenly stopped and looked at the commotion with curiosity—and surprisingly, nonchalance—while the poor teen named Niwa Daisuke had turned pale as his eyes darted off from one point to the next.
"MY IMOUTO—WHACK!)—IS NOT YOUR FIANCÉE—WHACK!)—AND YOU DO NOT HARRASS CUSTOMERS—WHACK!)—OR I'LL REALLY INCAPACITATE YOU MYSELF!!"
"In-ca—inca—what's that word again, Cherry-neechan, Hanagata-chan?"
"It's Hana-koi, Lime-airen-swaammaa, Hana-koi—OWWWWW!!!"
And Lime was left out in her 'confused blinking' state again, entirely forgetting what she was about to do as she still pondered on the "inca—" word like it was some new tanuki species she hadn't heard of yet (to her absolute glee)—AND this entirely spells "BAD NEWS" from a still gulping customer whose name was Niwa Daisuke and whose presence was left out in the hanging, not really knowing what to do.
Hidaka Ken, who had just entered but had nonetheless heard the commotion even from the room he was in, knew he had to resolve it. "Can I help you with anything?" The relief in the teen's eyes was all Ken needed to know he had done the right thing.
It's practically the kind of scene people would expect in the flower shop these past few days, and yet they never ceased coming here. The original florists could only settle for an explanation that these people were their new tenants. It seemed that these four gentlemen are trying to explore other businesses when they temporarily opened a boarding house, which was unfortunately already occupied (much to the dismay of some aspiring tenants. Aya wondered how Yohji could still snigger at their unfortunate situation.)
But it didn't seem to matter—in fact, the number of their customers had grown, even. A very good source of Vitamin A is, after all, very hard to find. Not only could they be fed with the sight of four hot guys already, they also could have a peek or two at some lovely faces, both male and female. Especially the very cute and lovely new florist, Lime-chan.
After attending to his customer, who is another addition to his fan club, Aya looked at Cherry who practically dragged that love-struck, over-possessive, over-amorous, self-imposed fiancée of her imouto back to the kitchen, the oversized wooden spoon she used frequently on Hanagata's head still hanging in one of her hands. When it came to these new tenants of theirs, Aya would always have room to wonder (he preferred suspect but decided against it). These maidens are a marvel with their strength and speed—no matter how much they tried to control it. After all, Yohji did say that the fixing of their broken door could have taken them the whole day if not for that redhead friend of Lime's who'd come to help.
It must have been something to do with those maiden chips (for how could a maiden chip be given to a male? That may be why their guys seemed…more normal).
"Ha-O, Tasuki-kun!! Welcome to Bisshie-Bisshie Flower Shop!! How may I help you?" Lime was again talking to one red-faced customer and made her customary hyper tour of the shop before she got his orders. He couldn't take his eyes off her this time while thinking of the tape he held that must have broken this innocent and pure spirit he had been watching this moment…
But no. Until now, nobody would want to tell him—maybe because he wasn't asking—whathappened to her when she had seen the tape. All he could see is the same spirit. The same hopeful, friendly spirit. The same cheerful presence. The same smile. The same enthusiastic eyes which made everything she's seen look like one wonder after another. The same naïveté which made her freely strut around naked and change into his clothes—if he was never careful to knock first. The same innocence which made her just as comfortably sleep with him in his room but at least not on the same bed. The same fingers which never fail to poke him to wakefulness. The same sing-songy, lively voice which never failed to shut up before she sleeps and say its "HA-O!!" to everyone in her greetings. The same aura of life. The same insatiable curiosity and energy.
And he had to see them all because his co-assassins—and Persia—just wouldn't let him leave the flower shop just yet so he could stay in the comfort of his Gindo home. And that would let him see her be taken away without his queries and worries being answered.
He wondered if she had remembered everything then. And if she also remembered him before. Him and his true name.
It only gave out that stronger stirring that seemed to come from inside of him. He first thought that it was only guilt…but realized it was something stronger, something uncontrollable if it soon explodes…something he knew he had never felt before. That kind of stirring made him want to protect her. He wanted to ruthlessly mutilate those men who had hurt her and who had tainted her innocence and her pure soul with their lustful, power-driven hands. He never wanted to see those scars marring her smooth, lush skin. He never wanted to see a tremor of fear on those laughing lips of hers. He never wanted to see her dead eyes again especially after having a glimpse of how much vibrance and color they could convey. He wanted to make sure she'd never revert to that dull, lifeless doll she had once become. He wanted to…
And just like some driving force on earth, she turned her head to his way, and when seeing him, smiled and waved with a blush easily radiating on her cheeks. "Aya-kuuunnnnnn!!" Her eyes had that sparkle he hadn't seen so alive before, not until she had seen that man named Otaru and her sisters.
And everyone seemed to turn and look at him. He could see his co-assassin's bemused and curious looks, while all the others bore envy. He looked away. This stirring…the lady's smiles and eyes had already been starting to rub off on him. Ever since that day.
But he knew he shouldn't be. After all, they are about to leave in a week.
He had just woken up and couldn't register enough what had happened. Not even the voice, not even the warmth, not even the blinding light.
"You," he breathed silently.
But more was he shocked to see the relief in her face, eyes welling up with unkempt happiness. An expression he thought was only reserved by kids who had just opened up their presents and had adored what they had seen.
"Oweeeeeee, Aya-kuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnn is awake!!"
And she had easily flung her arms carelessly at his neck while jumping on his bed, making him grunt as his air was unceremoniously cut off. The grunt only made the girl squeak in happiness once again, taking it as a proof that he was alive. Her squeal may also be the reason why his door was suddenly bolted open a few seconds after, as his co-assassins and some others stormed in on them.
"Fujimiya!! Thank God, you're aw—Lime!!"
"Kami—Lime-chan, do n—!!"
"DO NOT TOUCH MY LIME-SWWAAAMA YOU—OWWWW!!!"
"Shut up, baka—imouto-chan!! Stop that, you're killing Fujimiya-san!!"
His mind was not yet fully working, he knew. From his still blurring vision, he could still see that most of her blood had been pooled to her cheeks, giving out a quite amusing-to-look blush. Only that their situation—and position—wasn't quite amusing. He grunted once again, and this time, he didn't even bother to hide what he was feeling, making the other lady in question suddenly tense—probably from finally realizing what she had done—and easily jump away from him, as if burned.
"Ara!! Ano…ahehehe…" Her blush only heightened in mortification while scratching her head, sniffing. "…a-no…ehe…I'll now bring Cherry-neechan's tea and food and medicine!! Ja!!"
The next instant, any sign of her presence was gone, signaled by the soft banging of the door. It was not a few moments later when the rest followed, a trail of soft excuses and apologies being muttered before they left him with his co-assassins. At first it was only a moment of silence, not really knowing where to start, before Aya finally sighed.
"How long?" His throat still felt coarse.
"You were unconscious the whole week. You have been poisoned," Ken answered for all of them. "We were lucky Lorelei-sensei is very familiar of the drug that had poisoned you so you were treated as soon as possible."
Before Aya could say anything, Yohji beat him to it. "No, Aya, they aren't spies."
He glared. "I am asking where the tape is. Did she see it?"
"Manx already sent the tape to the Kritiker base to have it examined so we could plot our next move." Nobody was willing to answer the second question.
Aya grit his teeth despite the pain. "Kudou. What happened to her?"
But it also seemed that nobody was willing to answer this question, too.
"We better let you rest. Then we'll talk in the morning."
He frowned at that, until somebody else knocked at the door. After Ken told the person to come in, Cherry had entered, bringing with him a tray of his dinner and medicine. Aya then realized that he had never seen this woman before. Or even those who had barged in his room. Yes, he knew at least that they were Lime's companions. And Lime…didn't she tell him she'd bring that tray herself?
"Sumimasen for interrupting," she softly muttered with a bow.
"It's alright, Cherry-chan. You haven't interrupted anything," Omi had assured her on their behalf.
The pink-haired woman then turned to him, stopping his thoughts before it could lead to somewhere he wouldn't want to go.
"Fujimiya-san, here is your dinner. I cooked something light so your stomach wouldn't get upset. The tea should be enough as your medicine now, though imouto-chan did leave you a jar of salve for your wounds. Oh—I left imouto-chan in the kitchen so dinner will be served in a minute or two, Omi-kun."
They definitely saw Omi flush a little before he answered, "Arigatou, Cherry-chan."
And with that, Cherry went out, leaving the tray behind. Yohji couldn't stop the smirk and the teasing glint from coming out of his eyes. "Omi-kun? Cherry-chan?"
"If I were you, you start eating your food," Ken interrupted before his co-assassins could start off with one of their usual brawls once again, his eyes focusing on Aya. "We need you to recover fast for a lot of ground needs to covered—we can't do that without the info you have."
"Then we better start—"
"Just a piece of advice, Fujimiya. If I were you, treasure every moment while you're still here in this refuge you call a bed. You need all the strength you could get before going outside." His co-assassins would have snickered if Ken wasn't just too serious talking, though they all could see the amusement just running across the corners of his lips.
"That was too blunt, Hidaka Ken-san," Yohji half-crooned.
"I wouldn't call chaos any other way. Though its company is quite…amusing." He looked at Aya once again then crooked his head towards a muffled voice from the door. That is, if you categorize 'muffled voice' with 'sharp screech'. A very sharp screech.
Aya voiced his suspicion with his eyes.
"Looks like we also have to eat, too," Yohji continued as he gave out a small, sly smile before all of them turned to left. "We will talk in the morning, Fujimiya. Ja."
It was a few seconds already since they left him and he had already turned to his tray for his food. With a few bites he had soon realized that he was not feeling as groggy as before—he actually felt better. And the tea was one of the better-tasting ones he had.
Placing his spoon down, he silently sighed, trying to evade foggy memories of a certain voice that didn't seem to know how to shut up. Now that he's fully awake, he already exactly knew whose voice it was. He couldn't help it—and maybe he could blame it for his drugged state—but slightly quirk in amusement.
And relief, realizing that he was still alive.
And maybe it was the realization that he was alive which made him act a little off-tangent and slightly smile in amusement—though knowing him, it couldn't even be seen.
He once again heard the increasing muffled screams and loud bangs and sharp—very clear and sharp—screams and curses. Piqued, intrigued, and perhaps a little irritated, he strained his ears to catch more, listening to whatever chaos the others must have hinted at him and had faced right now.
"—but I just want to see Lime-airen-swaama, Cherry-neesaaaaaaaan!!"
"My, my, Hanagata. Aren't my busts big enough for your full attention, hmmm?"
"Shut the f—k up, Bloodberry—OOWWWWWWW!!!"
"That is no way to treat a leady, you gay-turned-male smut!!"
"HAH!! I REALLY SHOULD EXPECT SOMETHING UNLADYLIKE FROM YOU—IYAAAA!!"
"Hanagata-san, Bloodberry-san, please…we really should not over-abuse our hosts' hospitality—"
"Uhh…Bloodberry-san, I really do not think—"
"Owww, couldn't you get any cuter with you gulping like that, my Hidaka Ken-chan—!!"
"Oi, Bloodberry, I want one of your hospitalities, too—"
"Doesn't mean that just because you can't appreciate beauty, I also have to be like you, too, Omi-kun."
"And what can you get from a pervert anyway, Omi? Just leave him be."
"Oi, Manx, seriously you can't be that jealous. And it's been quite a while before we had this kind of AMUSEMENT, right, Lime-chan?"
"Hai, Oji-san—!! Ano, dinner is ready!!"
"It's Yohji-niisan, Lime-chan, Yohji-niisan. And thank y—"
"GET AWAY FROM MY LIME-AIREN-SWAMA, YOU—YOU—!!"
"Hanagata!! You have no right to treat our hosts like that!"
"Just because I had a crush on you before, Otaru-baka, that I wouldn't beat you like a pump myself for interrupting m—OWWWW!!"
"I REALLY DO NOT WANT TO SMACK YOU, HANAGATA-S—"
"HAH!! YOUR PAINS CANNOT STOP ME FROM PROTECTING MY SOULMATE, TIGER-CHAN—"
"Lime-chan is hungry."
"But, MY L-lime-airen-swama—"
A sound of something akin to a loud rumble could be heard—and it definitely came from Lime's tummy (surprisingly, even from Aya's room). Pause.
"I'm rrreeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllyyyyyyy hungry, Hanagata-chan."
GULP. "Oh…hai, hai, Lime-airen-sw—"
And it was just like that when the commotion stopped altogether at the mention of food. And from his room, he heard the silence once again.
He was so engrossed by what had happened that he had forgotten the fact that Lime had called him Aya-kun.
… … …
When he woke up in the morning, the first thought that came to his mind was if someone had mistaken him to be dead. Then that would somehow explain why someone had been testing his body if it was still alive. He moved slightly to assure that he was indeed alive, so that the annoying poking and giggling would finally stop…then realized that there shouldn't be someone scurrying around his room to poke and giggle at all. He turned his head and met the vibrant, sea-green eyes he only knew too well.
"Oooohhhhhhhhh, Aya-kun is awake again!!!" The voice was loud, but surprisingly, he found it to be a pleasant loud. Aya could only blink.
"Ha-O, Aya-kun!!!" And it was of course paired with that odd leg-raising move of hers. Before he could say a word, she hopped around, happily singing tunes about how 'Aya-kun was finally awake' and how 'Aya-kun finally opened his eyes'. At first he didn't know where she was heading until he saw how she had opened up his old closet to get a batch of his old clothes.
The second thought that came to him was: the hell???
He couldn't even bring himself to admit that he was amused by what the woman-child was doing.
She turned around to meet his slightly shocked eyes again with one of her arm-stretching gestures and her sunny smiles. "Cherry-neechan said that breakfast is almost ready so Lime-chan should wake you up first before she takes her bath. Ara, ara, a bath!! I'm going to bath again!! Ja, Aya-kun!!"
The third comprehensible thought that came out from him was: how did she learn to talk like that
And just like that, she had bolted out of his room. He didn't even want to know where she had slept all these times…but judging from her previous actions, he already knew where. He had silently groaned before he could even stop himself. Why weren't she sleeping with her friends as she's supposed to be doing? (Probably because she was still watching you, Aya-kun
A few minutes later, he prepared for the day as well. Since he had stayed here the whole week, he had no choice but to use his old clothes, deciding to use the bathroom in their secret hideout lest he risk bumping into a probably still towel-clad lady…since he was sure that they had been sharing his old room.
He really did not like where his first thoughts are heading right now.
The flower shop was closed on that day. After the not so quiet breakfast and a quick introductions of a sort—he finally knew these two other girls were Lime's sisters—and after things settled down a bit, Manx had easily slid into the house, a smug look in her face.
"Why, don't we all look domestic here?" she slyly asked as a form of greeting.
And that was, curiously, all she needed to say before everybody—except Weiss—made their excuses and left them so they could meet with her on the secret hideout. Aya hadn't expected that—perhaps he really had missed a lot after a week.
But Aya didn't expect to see Persia and one unidentifiable lady to be there as well.
"I personally requested Manx to bring Doctor Lorelei here," Persia started as if reading his thoughts. "She is the inventor of the maiden chip both Emishi and the Third Anchor had been so furiously after."
They saw the glimmer of a glare that rose in Aya's features. This woman doctor was the inventor of the maiden chip? The reason why Lime—?
"Emishi Mayumi is already in our custody. As for the rest of Toei's team, I had the rest of Weiss extinguish them while you were healing, Abyssinian. Doctor Lorelei's friends helped as well."
"It was the least we can do after all the trouble, Persia-san," Lorelei answered in her soft-spoken voice. "It was the least we could do for our Lime-chan."
Something boiling seemed to rise in Aya's gut. How could she be Lime's friend if she had indirectly caused all those burns in her wrists and, pray tell, to other parts as well?
And as if on cue, Manx reported accounts from Weiss' experiences about Emishi and Toei, Lorelei-san's narration of their discoveries and Kritiker's previous breakthroughs about KMN and Mayumi Emishi (A/N: to get the detailed information, read the previous chapters…insert smiley).
And the reports only made his sudden dislike for this lady doctor—together with that Omi look-alike—increase steadily. He somehow knew—he just knew—that these two were part of the reason why Lime had to run away from her home and her sisters and get trapped by the clutches of Doctor Hess and Emishi's team.
"Doctor Lorelei." The lady doctor had flinched at the tone of Aya's voice. "What is a maiden chip?"
"I'm afraid that I already made arrangements with Doctor Lorelei about the disclosing of any information about the maiden chip for purposes of tight security," Persia explained in the doctor's behalf. "The maiden chip is powerful but very dangerous if given to the wrong hands. Therefore, only I, Doctor Lorelei and Doctor Hess should know about its true essence, and we agreed that it would stay that way unless Doctor Lorelei wishes it no more. She will be the one who will tell Lime about the maiden chip in her due time. KMN had been trying so hard to get our tails, but Weiss and Lorelei's team had done their job well on extinguishing any traces of Emishi's and Toei's teams. Lime had been securely protected as well, giving us an approximately two-week advantage against them."
"Did she see the tape?" Aya continued insistently, startling Manx and his co-assassins in the process. He was supposed to be hired to only kill and not to know—but this was one information he needed to know, and not as a member of Weiss.
However, Persia and Doctor Lorelei seemed to understand him. "We had to," the lady doctor managed, as if she regretted to have done it. But like she said, they had to.
And Lime wanted to know. Lime needed her memories. Kritiker needed her 'report', too.
And what happened to her? Did she remember everything? Did she tell you about me? He had wanted to ask, but once again decided against it and kept silent.
"Don't worry, Fujimiya-san, we are trying our very best to help her recover easily."
"If you have no more questions, Abyssinian, I would like to get your report about your encounter with Toei," Persia ordered firmly.
His answer was stiff and clear-cut. The only slight opening he mentioned was the phone call.
"The one who gave that call was not KMN. Or they would've done their action now," Manx stated.
"It's better to be careful. I'll have that checked. In the meantime, we continue monitoring KMN's moves," Persia concluded. "Is there anything more, Abyssinian?"
When he was met with silence, Persia now gave his attention to the lady doctor. "And now, about Doctor Lorelei's concerns…"
"Yes, Persia-san…we have decided that we couldn't leave for Japoness just yet, knowing that these people are on the maiden chip's tail. We also like to take full responsibility about this matter, so we decided that it's better that we'd work separately, but not exclusively."
Stunned silence. A few raised eyebrows on Kudou Yohji's part. "Is there a reason why this decision has been made?" Persia asked slowly, measuring the possibility and security of such action.
"After Cherry studied all her computed probabilities, she decided that it's better that we split so the attention of the enemy wouldn't be more…concentrated in just one location. And concentrate on us. Also, if the enemy really wanted the maiden chip, they could as well get it from our territory…we really do not want to cause any more trouble. I also have complete faith on my team, Persia-san, so we could protect Lime-chan just fine."
"Yes, I can see that. Do you have any objections?" Persia looked at Weiss inquiringly.
Even if they did, they really didn't have the right to. Omi shook his head silently. "Very well. So…when do you plan to…separate?"
"Cherry-chan already had a few chosen grounds inspected. With our work at the hospital and with a few preparations, a week will be enough to get settled in a new place."
"But if something happens…"
And Lorelei smiled calmly at that. "That is why we stressed that we wouldn't be working exclusively. If such drastic measures must be taken, we will not hesitate to call on for your help for we understand your work and we value your honor. We are also very grateful for the help you have extended to our Lime-chan despite those circumstances."
"It was our duty, Doctor Lorelei," Manx said grimly, "Though we are regretful that we haven't seen the connection of our cases earlier than intended."
"There is no need for apologies, we could only take so much…and…Persia-san…I know that this may seem imposing, but…could I ask one more favor from you?"
"Unfortunately, Lorelei-san, that would depend on what you're asking for," he answered severely, brows knitted in curiosity.
"I've heard from Lime-chan that Miss Manx had her blood checked and you've found out about the drug. Manx-san, Persia-san, my favor will be hard on both our parts…but I was hoping that you grant me this request: can you not mention about the blood sample to them yet?"
"But why? Aren't they your friends?"
"That is exactly the reason why they shouldn't know about it yet. It's the same reason why I only disclosed about the maiden chip to Persia. This…event…had been an unexpected shock to us, and I wanted to tell them myself in my own time. After all, I made the maiden chip, and it should be best that they learn more about it from me."
He saw their last customer leave before closing the door of the shop. Out of routine, he had instinctively accepted the cash box with the money Lime had already gathered from the register before looking away. Ken had just brought the new deliveries of flowers inside while Yohji, Omi and Lime cleaned and arranged them. Business was getting steadily better. And it was relatively quiet at last. It was time for a calming bath.
He was still flinching in pain, but he was stubborn, so he went back inside for a towel and a change of clothes. When he rounded back to a corner, he saw Cherry set the table with lightning speed.
"Dinner will be ready in ten minutes," she announced to no one in particular while she continued with her work.
From their last meeting, he knew that that Omi look-alike and the lady doctor—Lorelei-san—now work in a hospital, still trying to cure their other sick kid companion who was as eager to see her Lime-neechan. The other tenants are nowhere to be found. He had just opened the bathroom door when he saw the other guy—the Omi look-alike—get out of the other room. Yohji, Omi and Ken shared a room just so they could accommodate their guests. Apparently he and the lady doctor already returned from work as well. When the man sensed that he had been watching him, he raised his arm in greeting.
"Oi," was all he said. Aya merely nodded before going inside.
He didn't particularly like that man. And that lady doctor as well. Seeing them only made his blood slightly boil, though he always refused to acknowledge it. He wanted to place her anger and blame on Lime's pain to anything, to anyone, and these two suspicious-looking people had easily become his prey. Seeing them only made him remember how much he had learned on that morning.
The bathroom door closed in a soft creek, closing any unpleasant visions he had seen.
… … …
The shower gave out icy trickles down his tensed muscles. His face was unreadable. For a few moments, he raised his face, closed his eyes and met the chilling sensation brought by the cold, glacial rain before he continued staring at the ceiling past the showerhead.
He wondered which was colder, the shower or his imouto's unconscious heart.
Then he remembered that warm voice and that calming, invigorating presence.
He realized he had been longing for warmth after a very long time.
When he went out the bathroom door—now donned in a cleaner set of clothes—and was heading for dinner, still deep in thought, he saw Lorelei and Lime about to enter the guest room they were using. Seeing her again made him dwell on what the doctor had informed them three days ago. That they were leaving. Finally leaving.
The thought didn't go very well with him.
He could hear her animated chatter even with the thick wall between them. It was probably the usual daily check-up given by Doctor Lorelei. She was trying to gauge Lime's recovery rate after the little lady had known about the truth.
Suddenly curious—and a bit suspicious—he used his skills so he could listen more without being detected by the two. (A/N: Isha means 'doctor' in Japanese…or at least that's what the dictionary told me…smiley here)
Lime:Lime-chan is one-hundred-percent healthy and happy, Isha-chan!!
Isha:That's good to hear. May I look at your wounds?
Isha:Hmm. They are healing perfectly, Lime-chan. And if you continue putting on that cream I told you, the scars would be unrecognizable in no time.
Lime:Ooooohhhh…Lime-chan is happy to hear that from Isha-chan!!
Isha:And I'm glad to hear that.
Isha:Oh…nothing, Lime-chan…it's just that this is the first time I heard you call yourself 'Lime-chan' again. And you've called me 'Isha-chan' once again. And it's just that…when I finally get to see you that time, you were different.
Isha:Yes. But right now I'm just happy that our Lime-chan is returning to her true self little by little, ne? Don't worry, Lime-chan…Isha-chan and all of us will be here to help you. From now on, you are no longer alone.
Lime:A-arigatou, Isha-chan…and sumi—
Isha:No, no, no…you will not apologize, Lime-chan, I should be the one—
Lime:Iie, Isha-chan!! Lime-chan is already happy that Otaru-sama loves a very kind person like Isha-chan!! I…I may be a bit sad about it before but now, I'm different!!
Isha:Arigatou, Lime-chan…wait; now that you mention it…have you noticed any changes in yourself while you were here? Like dysfunctions, lost abilities…
Lime:Uhm…I couldn't even easily sense the exact locations of certain people already unless they're extremely close, Isha-chan…
Isha:That could just be a side-effect of the drug you've taken five days ago, Lime-chan.
Lime:Ara…then there was a time when I think I was really annoyed at Omi-kun because he's trying to wake me up, and Omi-kun keeps bothering me to wake up but Lime-chan doesn't want to wake up yet…do you think my maiden chip was burned too bad that I reacted like that?
Isha:B-Burned too bad? What do you mean?
Isha:You said your maiden chip…that it was burned too bad…what made you think so?
Lime:Oh…Lime-chan said that?
Lime:And there was also a time when…
Isha:Is that why you're blushing right now?
Lime:Ara!!! A-ano…it's just that Lime-chan was trying to wake Omi-kun and run away from Ken-chan while trying to catch Oji-san…and I was really running fast and I know that Aya-kun was there in front of me and was trying to stop me…and…and Lime-chan allowed him but I don't know why!!! Then I felt his hands and I felt all too tingly I can't move…I-Isha-chan!!!
Isha:Sumimasen, Lime-chan. Nothing's wrong with your maiden chip—in fact it's working very perfectly. It's just that…
Lime:I-isha-chan!! You're laughing again!!
At the sound of her words, and at the sound of Lorelei-san's laughter, Aya decided that he did not wish to hear any more. But that didn't end the fact that just like the now-blushing little lady—as Lorelei-san had so pointed out—he was also feeling tingly all over, too, at the simple mention of that certain event.
Only that he knew it was more of a meaningful stirring from deep inside of him than that of a simple tingle. And that person is saying goodbye.
Damn it, what's happening, to you, Abyssinian??
Dinner was surprisingly silent. Lorelei was softly smiling a knowing smile, Lime was hastily eating her dinner with a big blush on her cheeks, and Hanagata continued to glare daggers and fireballs at anyone he sees offending to his Lime-airen-swama and Bloodberry-neechan, Cherry-neechan and loyal Tiger—she decided to become Lime's second shadow/bodyguard to protect her friend—had seen to it that Hanagata wouldn't do anything but eat.
After dinner, Yohji made the suggestion, and Lime practically squealed in happiness and dragged Hanagata—much to his saccharine ecstasy—and went to the rooftop to look out for the stars. After Lime scampered off and Tiger followed suit, the rest left off to do their other duties while Lorelei and her team had settled to the room the gentlemen had given them.
When everybody had taken their seats, Lorelei blurted out without preamble, "She's ready to meet Doctor Hess."
"I hope you do not mean that," Otaru had said just as tactlessly, his brows already meeting. Lorelei sighed.
"I've just talked with Lime, and after I cured her with the drug and made her see the tape, this was the first time she made mention about the event. She told me about her maiden chip which seems to burn, and I believe she's referring to those electric spells they had given her at Sapporo. She's ready to move on, Otaru, and I know that she wanted to see her Doctor Hess already. Besides, you knew that Yumeji wanted to see her, too."
"But that doctor—"
"—is someone who Lime sees as a father. Don't you see? We all may have a conjured image of what Doctor Hess is but that doesn't change what the doctor had been to her. Didn't all of you tell me that she'd been asking us about him? We decided to wait until she made another reference to what happened to her to make sure we didn't rush her that much. Well, here is the reference we'd all been looking for!!" They all sensed the frustration growing in the lady doctor's words, then wondered if the lady was more affected to see Lime than she ever let on.
"Well…if you say so…" Bloodberry said lazily. "If it is safe that we let her out now…"
"She'd already gone out a couple of times delivering flowers, Bloodberry-neechan," Cherry reminded her easily, happy that she had outsmarted her older sister once again. Then in seriousness, she turned to Lorelei-san. "I only want what's best for my imouto. We will go with her then. Lorelei-san, do you plan to make them meet tomorrow?"
The doctor, who was still having a battle of wits with Otaru, had only startlingly blinked at her. "…h-hai."
"Then I want to personally tell my imouto-chan about the news!!" And Cherry had easily jumped up and went for the door.
"Matte!! Lime-chan is not just your imouto-chan, Cherry-chan!! Wait!!" And in a flash, they left Otaru and Lorelei to settle their issues once again. Even if they do it without a word.
So obviously, when Lime heard about the news that Cherry had just told her, she was so ecstatic that she didn't mind she was jumping on the roof. Not until her Bloodberry-neechan had saved her from falling for the fifth time and had screamed at her did she stop in her jumping gestures, but she was still ecstatic about it.
At least they were careful that the roof did not give in.
"Owwwweeeeee!!! Lime-chan is gong to meet Doctor Hess-chan!!! I must tell Omi-kun and Ken-chan and Oji-san and Aya-kun!!" And the girl was gone in an instant, with Tiger following silently just behind her.
"L-Lime-airen-swama!! WAIT FOR ME!!"
And the stars were forgotten in an instant.
A few grating, scratching and bumping sounds later and Cherry and Bloodberry were officially alone. "Our Lime-chan had been quite close with Fujimiya-san, hadn't she, Bloodberry-neechan?"
"Couldn't blame her!! I would take that hot guy myself if he's just not so frigid!! I still couldn't see how Lime could sleep with him in one room!!"
"Nani…you really could be a baka and a boke sometimes, Bloodberry-neechan!! First you tell me he's hot, and next you tell me he's frigid??"
"You're the baka!! I'm only saying that I like my men to be sly, sexy and talkative!!"
"You mean Kudou-san."
"Hah!! And you with that Omi-kun who's just like a computer geek like you!!"
"S-stop changing the subject."
"Yare, yare. All I'm saying is that I obviously DO NOT like the types of Fujimiya because he bores me!!"
"Oh, my innocent, wifely Cherry-chan!! Just like kawaii Omi-kun!! This vacation is turning out to be fun, fun, fun after all!! It's just so sad that we have to leave—"
"Nee-chan!! I am not innocent AND wifely. And I'm just happy that at least Lime-chan hadn't focused much on Lorelei-sensei and Otaru-sama."
"How could she after all that's happened to her? And then there's her Aya-kun she's so smitten of."
"Hai, hai. That's why I did not totally disagree that she meets Doctor Hess. He makes her happy."
"Baka Lime-chan. She's meeting with the enemy and she's happy??"
"Admit it. You find our 'baka' imouto adorable, too, nee-chan. Oh, my, I could just remember how you destroyed Bisshie-Bisshie Flower Shop's door and our table just to look for our imouto-chan!! I'm so proud of you, baka oneechan!!"
He could hear her running footsteps coming to his room. Finally he heard the swinging and the closing of his door and saw her flushed, happy face.
And the door swished open again. "I will not leave you this time, Lime-airen-swama. Not anymore. From this time I will not be inclined to be dragged away from y—WMMPPPHHH!!!!!!"
Tiger had just easily gagged Hanagata's mouth with a cloth she had gotten somewhere (probably Yohji's socks) and had tied Hanagata within a cocoon-type of wrap before she carried the still struggling man. "Sumimasen, Lime-chan, Fujimiya-san, we will not disturb you in your rest for much longer. Good night."
Three seconds have already passed when the door had been softly closed. Lime blinked, then just as instantly squealed and, in one jump, reached Aya's edge of the futon, effectively looming on the guy. Her silhouetted frame covered his, and he only stared through her as if she was never standing there. Lime couldn't help but giggle. Crouching low and hugging her legs, she bent her neck a little lower, so her face was only inches away from his.
He couldn't escape those imploring, innocent eyes and lively smile this time.
But he couldn't face her just yet. Not like this. Not with guilt. Not with frustration.
And not with this stirring that's starting to get stronger…
She had officially started her torture to the unresponsive roommate of hers. She started poking him in his 'safe, uninjured areas' while she finally talked, in her giggled breath, about something he could only guess as nonsense. He half-listened as she rattled and squealed animatedly about how the stars had been different and how she missed her Poneko-chan and Yumeji-chan already and how she could finally see him and Doctor Hess—that caught his attention—again because Cherry-neechan and Bloodberry-neechan will take her to them.
Then after that, she left another string of nonsense chattering once again.
He glared at her in full-force this time. And sure enough, Lime blushed, as if remembering something, and clamped her mouth shut.
"Sumimasen, Aya-kun. Ahehehe…"
A few moments later, she stopped and, in a flash, propped herself down on his bed, and stared at the ceiling, not saying a thing for a while. Finally, she sat up once again, and stared back at him who was lying not so far away in a futon, ignoring her completely. His quick look on her told him that now her eyes bore confusion, as if solving a very hard riddle her sisters had fed on her.
And he knew exactly that she was about to start asking the first among the fifty questions she would again throw at him that night. He'd already known through experience that as long as he'd ignore her and give her that death glare, she'd finally get tired of her poking and incessant giggling and talking—things he had come to love—to hate—to endure.
He didn't bother to move.
Cute sigh. "Aya-kun…do you know how to smile?"
His more intense glare made her blush again and shut up.
He inwardly grumbled in annoyance.
"…eh…a-ano…are you hungry?"
"Oi, Aya-kun!!!" she insisted poutingly.
His eyes shot up to glare at her once again. She was still blushing, but even if she seemed to hesitate, she was asking it still anyway. "Eh…Aya-kun?"
He looked away again, the glare still in his face.
"Is your shoulder still—?"
A knock on his door had startled them both. Looking up, he then saw Yohji slightly open the door, then peer a little around the room before settling on them as if fearful he might catch something fishy.
He saw them sitting on their respective beds. But it wouldn't hurt to tease.
"Oh my," Yohji whistled, and there was a teasing gleam in his eyes, "have I ruined a moment?" he slyly asked.
Their reaction was instantaneous: Aya glared and Lime stared at him, confused Then just as instantly her mood changed and she was back to becoming energetic self.
"It's Yohji-niisan. But good evening to you, as well, pretty lady. Fujimiya," Yohji said seriously, the sly look still in his eyes.
"Kudou," he answered just as severely.
The guy only snorted. "Meeting in ten minutes. Same place." And he was just about to leave, until…
Too bad Yohji had never been in the presence of this lady for hours that he couldn't pick up on her signs and habits. "It's Yohji-niisan, Lime-chan. But what is it?"
Yohji's brows shot up in curiosity, his eyes still not completely leaving Aya. "Confusing?"
The woman-girl still frowned as she continued looking at him with her big, inquisitive eyes. "I do not understand."
"Eh? What do you not understand?"
"About what you said. A-ano…how can you ruin a moment when you couldn't even see or feel it? Do you need super lasers, like what Cherry-neechan has, just to break it?"
Yohji only stared at her once, twice, before shaking his head amusingly. "My cute Lime-chan. What I said was a figure of speech…of some sort. It means—"
"Kudou," Aya interrupted, already standing up, slightly flinching that he had used the hand where his injured shoulder was for support.
"Hai, hai, Fujimiya. I'll explain it later, Lime-chan."
"Hai, Oji-san!! Can you tell Manx-neesan that Lime-chan says 'hi'?"
"Who could ever deny you, Lime-chan?"
"A-ara…ja, Oji-san, Aya-kuuuun!!!"
Aya only nodded before he closed the door.
She continued looking at the door Aya-kun has closed. She noticed him flinch when he had unconsciously used his injured shoulder as support. She smelled the blood that was about to come out due that slight strain, and she couldn't help but sigh in worry.
"…why do you always get hurt…?" she softly asked, brows curved slightly as if frowning.
She didn't know why she always worried for him. But she always did.
"…I only want to see you smile before I go…"
She recalled it all, from the day she met him.
The day she gave that jar. The day he had accused her of being a spy. The day he fell on her arms, insisting that she should leave.
"…even just once…"
The day she saw the tape.
The day she remembered everything in full clarity.
Her face was sad, but the cause of her sadness was not because of what happened to her.
"…just smile once…Ran-kun…"
She then took out the frame she had hidden under the foam of her bed, a picture she had seen and had kept when she opened Ran—Aya-kun's closet. It was kept very well, if not for her senses which she had started to regain. She stared at it. The picture was that of Ran-kun and a girl. A girl who looked like the younger version of Ran-kun's cousin, Sakura.
Lime shook her head. No. Manx-san had told her that Sakura-chan was not Ran—Aya-kun's real cousin. And Isha-chan told her that this girl…is someone very lonely right now. This girl is someone closest to his heart.
"…is she one of the reasons you don't smile anymore?"
When the four of them had entered the secret hideout, Manx was already waiting for them.
"You're late," Manx had muttered disapprovingly before she threw each of them a folder.
Yohji had easily caught it with his nimble fingers. "My, my, our sweetie is not so sweet this evening. Could it be that she's a little jealous that our attention has been sorely divided these days?"
"Shut up, Kudou."
"No need to worry, mah dahling. I'm sure that if there's anyone whose attention is so sorely divided, it's not me." And his playful eyes had settled on the silently fuming Abyssinian.
Manx ignored him. "Have you noticed anything lately about the girls?"
"Are you sure you only want to know about the girls and not somebody else?" Yohji interjected again.
"Yes," Ken, Omi and Aya declared in unison.
Aya would've added about what he just heard about Lime and the maiden chip, but he knew that he couldn't risk being called an eavesdropper so he dropped it.
Manx smiled approvingly this time, still ignoring Yohji. "I really should've expected that from you. Have fun reading the contents of that folder you've just received then. That will surely clear your mind on a lot of aspects. That will be enough to have you thinking for a week while the orders haven't arrived yet. Just take that as a gift from Persia—he said that he sympathized with your boredom."
And the woman just left as silently as she came.
And all Aya could think was, Lime.