- 'Thoughts' -
- Memories -
-'Sound effects' -
Important stuff, emphasis
Previously... on Chapter VI
"It's ok Su, it's just a bad dream"
"Please, don't go away... I don't like being alone, I miss you!" She said in a strained voice, my words were getting to her.
"You are not alone… you are hugging me, right? I am not going -'gasp'- anywhere"
She relaxed her grip, but she still didn't let go, she was still trembling, I kept stroking her hair, but that didn't seem to do the trick anymore, I talked her gently but still… nothing else happened… until I finally hugged her back. And that worked wonders.
The grip she had on me almost banished, it was a gentle hug, her breathing became calm, and her trembling stopped, I was relieved, now it was time to break apart.
But as soon as I tried to move away, she tightened her hug again. "Arrrgh... damn it" I thought as I looked around the room, I watched the hole on the roof, and my door, scared that someone might walk on us, but nothing, only the faint sounds of the trees and Su's breathing altered the peacefulness of the night.
"Brother… let's play a lot tomorrow, Ok?" Su said in her sleep as she relaxed even more, I kept stroking her hair.
"I am not your brother… but sure, let's play tomorrow"
And so, she finally let go of me, resting peacefully, I was exhausted, I made my way to the other futon… Perhaps I had just exaggerated, I did a fuss about this… but…I needed… some rest… I could think of something tomorrow so we didn't get caught in a misunderstanding… but boy I needed the rest...
I woke up, and realized that Su was hugging me but, unlike last night, it was a gentle hug, her breathing was slow and peaceful like her face, I didn't notice when that happened but I must admit that I slept so well that I don't even remember having a dream, specially that one.
Looking at the ceiling, I thought of last night's antics; everything had been so frenetic but, now, I felt so calm and rested that it seemed like I was just blowing things out of proportion, it would still be complicated to explain to anyone though.
Closing my eyes again, the only thing I heard was Su's slow breathing, she wouldn't move, she'd just hug me gently as she continued to sleep. I didn't move either, all things aside, it was kind of nice; after a while, I delicately moved Su back to her futon, she groaned a bit but didn't wake up.
I got up slowly, and moved as carefully as I could so I wouldn't bother her, grabbed my handy pair of crutches, a change of clothes and headed to my bath tub, closing the door slowly as I left.
The way there was uneventful; I was expecting to come across a tenant or two but everything was eerily peaceful, all the doors were closed and the halls were quiet. When I got to my destination, I undressed, tied a plastic bag around my cast and proceeded to wash myself.
I had no idea why I was so calm... had a part of me gotten used to these antics? I shivered a little, this wasn't what I would consider 'normal', well... nothing that had happened to me in the last few days could be considered that, I am pretty sure that whatever reason Su had, it was because everything that was going on wasn't 'normal', even by the sou standards.
The fact that Su decided to sleep in my room worried me and… Why did I let her do that? It hadn't been the smartest move, especially because of the possible misunderstandings and consequences that would definitely follow. I had every right and reason to turn her away and I am sure that, in the worst case, the rest of the tenants would still approve so, why did I let her stay?
"Do you hate me Keitaro?"
Su had asked me that, of course I didn't hate her but yesterday I was just so... so angry, after remembering my accident... the accident, the incident that began the entire thing... I was so sick and angry of it all that I just wanted to be left alone.
But that wasn't Su's fault... so why did I treat her like that? I wasn't thinking straight; there were better ways to have dealt with her that didn't involve trying to get rid of her. Well, it's not like I was successful but...
"Do you hate me Keitaro?" I had succeeded at something else, and if it hadn't been just Su...
I realized that whenever I was angry, Su or the tenants didn't deserve to be treated as an outlet for it... And even thought I lived alongside them I was still their caretaker and they were my tenants.
I would apologize to Su later today.
I threw a bucket of water over my head, rubbing my neck and shoulders, then I checked my cast... it was still dry, and relaxed a bit more; After a few more minutes, I had had enough and began drying myself, I changed into some fresh clothes, just a shirt, shorts and a tennis shoe, comfortable clothes for a day like this. Also, considering how I have been spending them, running would be much easier with these.
Entering my room, it was surprising to find Su gone as well as the futons, after checking the closet both futons were already folded and stored. Su was a lot more considerate than I thought; I had the feeling that she would leave hers undone and the door open after leaving the room.
I idled a bit in my room, playing some scenarios in my head in case breakfast went awry, well, when it went awry, so far, I couldn't say that any breakfast had gone without a hitch, yesterday was a specially dangerous day, I sincerely thought that something was going to 'blow', no, explode was more like it, all my instincts told me to split before the aftermath of Kitsune's 'teasing' was unleashed.
But that was yesterday, would Narusegawa still be angry? At least Motoko seemed more embarrassed than angry and maybe that's why she didn't give chase; I think she knew it was Kitsune's antics but, for my sake, I wouldn't bring it up.
What was Kitsune thinking? She is a trickster but, thinking about it, she is not the type to do fruitless things; anything she did she did with a purpose, maybe it was a tease, maybe she just wanted to make Motoko blush or maybe... make Narusegawa angry?
She had discussed something with her, something that let her down and the next day... she did that. Were they having a fight? I would expect some screaming and name-calling but this... those two knew each other very well but why would she use me to get under Narusegawa's skin?
Something was definitely happening behind my back, something Kitsune and Narusegawa wanted to keep under the table, I needed to start acting smarter or I would get caught in between...
"Sempai, are you there? Can I come in?"
"Yes Shinobu, go ahead"
Shinobu shyly entered my room, taking a quick look around it; she then told me that breakfast was ready and asked me if I needed any help. I hadn't spoken to Shinobu a lot but she always wanted to help me, I was grateful for her.
"I am ok Shinobu, thank you, let's go get breakfast"
We went downstairs together, Shinobu was looking after me. She kept looking at me constantly as if she expected something to happen. I chuckled.
"No need to be so concerned about me Shinobu, I can already walk with my crutches naturally"
"Don't be sorry, you have helped me a lot" Shinobu looked a bit shocked at first, but then she blushed and went ahead of me.
She was such a sweet girl... she cooked, washed and cleaned in exchange for her monthly fee, she also goes to school, and if the tenants profiles were correct, she was doing fine and on top of that; she found the time to help me, she was amazing.
I should make it up for her, hopefully, I could do that without making her cry this time, she didn't deserve that; I had to find out what she liked.
When I got to the kitchen, everyone was already there except for Sarah who had left with Seta yesterday. Su acknowledged my presence by lifting her head from her plate, waving a 'Hello' and then going back to business, by Shinobu's request, I took a seat.
Shinobu's food was great as always, french toast coated with honey, a pinch of cinnamon, and fresh fruit on top, alongside orange juice and milk to wash it down, I was delighted, the food was simple but each mouthful was filled with flavor, it was out of this world, nothing could make me happier that eating Shinobu's breakfast, I was not exaggerating.
"These are truly great, thank you Shinobu!" I complimented the young chef, she blushed but then quickly moved to tend to the food again.
"Yeah, Shinomu's cooking is the greatest!" Kaolla said before finishing whatever was left on her plate and jumped out of her chair with a backflip, landing a few steps from her, she held her dish ready for seconds, or maybe thirds? At the speed she gulped down her food I wouldn't be surprised; I couldn't blame her though, after all we both agreed that Shinobu's food was especial.
"So, Keitaro..." Kitsune spoke with a whimsical tone, as if she was about to prank you or simply sweet talk you... was she planning something again? I needed to be careful not to put my foot in my mouth.
"Don't you have something to tell us?"
I looked up, trying to remember something, nothing came to my mind... "No, I can't think of something to announce"
"Oh, what about your trip to Toudai?!" She said in exasperation, everyone else focused their eyes on me, except for Su, who was still chugging down her food.
"Ah, you really want to know about that" Everyone nodded in unison. "To tell the truth, I didn't remember much, and I didn't meet anyone familiar except for Seta"
"Seta is here? Since when?" Kitsune and Narusegawa spoke at the same time.
"Since yesterday I believe, he took Sarah with her"
"Wait, how did you know it was Seta and not a stranger?" Now Motoko and Naru said in unison.
'Remember, play it smart'
"Because he knew who I was and where I lived, Haruka's name, showed me his ID and also Sarah ran up to him and called him 'daddy'" The two girls looked at me strangely but then nodded accordingly.
"Yes, I was also there and my scanners said it was a match, Sarah left with Seta" Kaolla proudly announced.
"Oh Su, I gather that you will need a... playmate" Motoko carefully suggested as she seemed to weight some of the possibilities... or consequences.
"Oh, no worries, Keitaro said he would play with me before I slept with -"
"Su! Your banana split is ready! "Shinobu announced from the back of the kitchen, Su immediately jumped out of her seat. She was drooling when Shinobu presented her the biggest banana split I had ever seen, it was a huge bowl filled to the brim with bananas, whipped cream, ice cream and hot chocolate, of course, there were cherries on top; Su couldn't be more delighted, I had never seen her so excited, she immediately tried to snatch the bowl but Shinobu swiped it out of her reach.
"Su..." Shinobu said cautiously.
"Yes I know, Thank you Shinomu!"
"Before she slept with?!" Narusegawa and Motoko said in unison, one of their eyes were twitching and what I feared the most was about to happen as I saw Narusegawa cracking her knuckles, did she know martial arts? But that was not all, Motoko's hand was already reaching for her boken.
The situation had turned dire all of a sudden, I never meant to tell anyone and I hoped to speak with Su after breakfast to apologize and ask her to keep it a secret, but them finding out like this wasn't part of the plan. This was bad, really bad, I don't think I could ever explain it and I couldn't force it out of Su, I am sure the very reason she did that was very personal and besides, by looking at their outraged faces, I don't think Motoko or Narusegawa would give me time for that.
'Come on, think of something!' My mind was on override as it tried to come up with something, but the collective glares of Naru, Motoko and even Kitsune's curious gace kept me from coming with something coherent.
"Before she slept with me, in my room" Shinobu interjected. Narusegawa, Motoko, Kitsune and even me looked at her but I kept quiet.
"You spent a night with Su... and we don't need to take you to the hospital? How!? "We were all staring at her with disbelief, but for different reasons.
"It was a little hard at first but after I promised her one big banana split, she behaved"
"Yes, Shinomu is the best!" Su agreed in between mouthfuls.
"Oooh little Shinobu is growing up so fast, I am proud of you girl!" Kitsune said as she wiped a tear, looking extremely proud of her "Now you only need to grow into one of my special garments and you will be ready to take over the world!"
"Special Garments?" I asked.
"Ooooh aren't you curious?" Then she opened the top buttons of her blouse, letting me see a peek of her black bra with some very… interesting detailing.
I blushed and looked away because I was already walking on eggshells, any retaliation from Motoko or Narusegawa, would only make things worse and, unsurprisingly, that was enough incentive to keep my eyesight away from Kitsune's charming personality. I tried to think of something new, I had to retaliate to her teasing and blow this awkwardness away somehow, but how?
"I think the world is quite safe from you Kitsune"
That slipped out of me without knowing and it took all the willpower I had not to clasp my hands against my mouth and then run for my life. Everyone in the room was shocked, except for Su, she was now halfway her banana split, how I envied her and how grateful I was that she was not paying me attention.
That had come out so wrong, was it offensive? Dear god, I didn't want it to sound offensive, how should I apologize? Should I let her slap me? Would Motoko be taking care of 'it'?
"Ooooh, now this will not do... I think that you need a closer look for a second opinion"
Then, unexpectedly my face was enveloped in warm and soft skin. It took me several seconds to register what had happened, but the detailing of Kitsune's bra was so clear right now... I couldn't deny I got some enjoyment out of it before reality sank in and a rush of blood flowed to my head and left in stream of blood began gushing unceremoniously out of my nose, making me pass out, maybe for the best, Motoko wouldn't punish an unconscious man.
I woke up in my room again, this had happened before... once with Su's toys. This time I was embarrassed that I had passed out but more importantly I was angry that I passed out because of that; I mean, would that happen if I ever got intimate with a girl? But on the bright side, I think that saved my life this time, that and Shinobu's lie... did that mean she knew about...?
She knew... she definitely did, and she bribed Su so she would tell the tenants she slept in her room but... why?
This kept going around my head as I tried to find a reason she would do that, was she having a fight as well? Is this how things were 'solved' around here? My head started to hurt, this was too confusing and having the sensation of being left in the dark really didn't help my mood, I was sick of this room, and sick of being the only one without a clue, who could I ask for help?
Haruka... my aunt Haruka should give me a good advice, so, without thinking it twice I went outside, towards her teashop.
The teashop was 'relaxed' which is a way to say that there was only one client sitting in a corner reading a book, his coffee was untouched as he was completely drawn in, when my aunt saw me she greeted me and offered me some tea.
"I was just about to go visit you, but I took my time considering you passed out today"
"You know about that?!" I asked, embarrassed.
"Of course, it's not unusual for you" She said in a matter of fact voice; I looked at her, by the expression of her face, she was serious about that.
"Oh" I felt myself become a little smaller, it could be 'usual' for me but it was embarrassing that my nose would bleed from a girl showing me some cleavage. Passing out when a girl got 'close' and 'personal' with me wasn't something someone could be proud of.
"Don't sulk Keitaro, I think that only happens to you because you get too nervous, that's all" Haruka said as she gave me a comforting smile.
"Maybe, but it's still embarrassing... how do I-"
"Date someone, I guess, get used to girls and be relaxed around them should be enough to help you with that"
"Easier said than done eh? But I still think it would be worth it... and who knows, it could be 'fun'"
"Don't misunderstand "She made a stern face that made me freeze for a second "What I mean is, you don't need to take it too seriously and you might end up enjoy dating someone, what I am really saying is it could be worth it"
I massaged my temples, I just couldn't believe we had a conversation about me about this... whenever I... with girls...
"Cheer up now, I know it's embarrassing but just think about it, okay?"
"How did you know what I was thinking?"
"I know you since you were little? Also, I am guessing this isn't what you really wanted to talk about"
"But we are talking in public about-"
"In public? You mean the client on the corner? Don't worry about him, look" She then called out to the customer but he didn't even flinch, she then took a napkin, rolled it and threw it past him, most people would have reacted to have an object landing near them but not him, he was still impassive, drawn into whatever he was reading.
"He hasn't even touched his coffee, and I served it to him around 20 minutes ago, of course, it's cold right now... Whenever he reaches some kind of impasse or a checkpoint on his book, he will give it a sip, read a little more and then finish the coffee, just to ask for another and follow the same routine. I guess he orders it because he is being considerate, he doesn't bother anyone and it's still better than an empty shop" Haruka argued, I nodded.
"So nephew, what did you want to talk about?" Haruka went to the point
"Haruka, something is happening with the tenants behind my back..."
"They are fighting over something I don't know about and I think I am in the middle of it for some reason... Narusegawa and Kitsune specially?"
"Yes, you know, the brunette"
"That's not what I meant... before the incident you always called her Naru, did you two have a fight?"
"No! Actually we actually never talk and she and Kitsune are the ones 'fighting'… sort of…"Haruka looked at me seriously and intrigued at the same time, she took out a smoke, lit it up and took a long sip, as if contemplating something... I hadn't told her much but even then I realized that maybe she knew a lot more about the tenants than she let on. She then asked me to start over again and tell her everything I knew.
She listened to me, nodding and taking slow but continuous sips on her cigarette, she took out an ashtray from her apron as she burned through the fags, giving me her full attention; she only excused herself when her client asked for a refill. It was a slow day for Haruka, but it had proven to be quite fruitful to me.
When I was done, Haruka gave one final sip to her fifth cigarette before grinding it on the ashtray, she then reflected a bit and suddenly spoke.
"Don't worry about it"
That wasn't the answer I was looking for, my face must have shown that because, before I said anything, Haruka held her hand, asking me to listen.
"Look, you, as the caretaker, are right to worry about your tenant's wellbeing, but keep in mind that it's also their lives and even thought you were left outside the loop; know that they are both their best and their very worse friends, two faces of the same coin if you will but they have something in common"
"What is that?"
"They are both really bad when it comes to admitting their feelings, one of them doesn't admit them because she feels she is above them and other won't because she feels she is below them... and they complement each other, the fight might get nasty but they need that. My only advice for you is not to take a side and let them sort it out by themselves"
"That's a lot of hindsight"
"No, I've just known them longer than you, even before your first arrival at the sou, also I have a knack for these things"
"But I am in the middle of -"
"Yes, you are in the middle of that, but this fight is not about you, they are using you as an excuse to fight but in reality those two would have fought over it sooner or later. If you take your distance they will still sort it out and don't worry; Knowing them, they will be back to being friends, trust me on this... they're inseparable"
She was completely serious about that, I didn't know what to think... wasn't my duty as the manager to make sure everyone got along nicely? But if Haruka was right, then the smartest thing to do was to simply watch from the sides as they 'sorted it out'. What about the rest of the tenants, would they be affected?
"Keitaro, I was hoping to ask you something" Haruka suddenly spoke.
"What is it?"
"Seta came to talk to me last night about you and Sarah, he seemed worried about you… told me you were in a sour mood"
"Don't be sorry with me, and don't worry about apologizing to that dunce, he asked me if Sarah had been giving you trouble seeing as you were a bit happy about her going with him for a few days"
"Sorry, yesterday wasn't a good day and my mood got the better of me" Haruka nodded and told me not to apologize to her, if anything I should apologize to Seta... then again she told me Seta was more concerned about me than him, she then asked me what I felt about Sarah.
"Well, I admit Sarah is very hyperactive and sometimes she takes her 'games' a bit too far, but I think she and Su make perfect playmates for each other."
"I see, she is a bit of a brat but that is only because she misses her father, so don't hold it against her too much, and you are right, the only one who can keep up with Su in terms of stamina are her and Motoko. Which reminds me... how did you survive your encounter with Su last night?"
Haruka didn't say anything but I was sure my face grew pale.
"So she did sleep in your room last night, but you don't seem hurt... not like last time when we had to bandage you"
"You mean she had done that before?!"
"Yes, Motoko had left for training and Sarah hadn't joined the tenants so she went for the nearest person to catch her interest, you."
"So that means that I was making a big deal out of nothing?!"
"In a way, yes, but not completely. The last time that happened Narusegawa also slept in the same room as you two because she didn't trust you around Su, and when Su had a nightmare... well... she hugged you so hard that I could hear your screams from here"
"Long story short, Naru helped bandage your wounds and you tried not to let that happen again... but now you both slept in the same room again and there was no need to call for an ambulance. How did you do it?"
I told Haruka what had happened
"So you think Su is lonely?"
"Not lonely, but I think Su misses her family, specially her brother"
"I see... I wouldn't have guessed that, to me, Su's mind is kind of... random. I don't think she wants anyone to know that she misses her homeland, but I think that she took a liking for you for a reason"
"What would that be?"
"She called you 'brother' right? Maybe you remind her of him or maybe she considers you like a part of her family? I can't really tell with her but I think that something happened that made her panic"
"..." That made a lot of sense, I was really ashamed of myself right now... I really needed to apologize to her.
"Thank you for the advice Haruka, I think I know what I need to do right now"
"Take care of yourself kiddo, and Keitaro..."
"It's all right for you to chase after your memories but, don't forget that you still have a lot more to look forward to"
I stared at her. That had been incredibly cheesy.
"I know it sounded cheesy, now out with you!" Haruka said as she blushed and I took that as a sign that it had been enough pep talk for one day.
"Another coffee, no sugar, and bring me some milk to go along with it please"
"Sorry sir, right away..."
Heading back to the sou, I recapped the situation until now... I could take my time, and this was as good time as any to do some extra thinking...
The motives behind Naru's, Kitsune's and even Su's actions were finally starting to come into shape, they had their own problems, I would give them the space they needed to sort them out, I only hoped that the rest of the tenants didn't get caught in between. I needed to think of something in case that happened.
Also, it seemed my life, my past life, was more of a mystery than I had thought how did I end up living in an all-girls dorm if I got so nervous around them? Maybe there was something more to it all…
And finally... maybe I was pushing myself too much in searching for my memories, I would try to take it easy this time, after all, amnesia is not something that magically goes away... but even though it's scary to lose all that time, all those memories... Haruka had a point.
As I reached the sou's entrance, I met Shinobu on her way out, I suddenly froze and so did she, I was thankful for her as she had saved me back then at breakfast, but I wasn't sure about her intentions…
"H… Hi Shinobu!" I said in between stutters as I tried, without much success, to act casual
"H… Hello s… sempai!" She seemed to have the same troubles as me too…
"A... are you out for a walk?"
"N… no, I was about to go and do some grocery shopping" She answered me, I needed to talk to her…
"Can I go along with you, I mean, do you mind if I—"
"No! I mean, I don't mind sempai!"
We both waited in silence as we both expected someone to say something... nothing happened though, after a while we both simply realized how silly it all was.
"Uhm... well, sorry to ask but... where is the market Shinobu?"
"S... Sorry sempai, right this way, l... let's go!"
We were both so awkward around each other, but if I had to become more used to girls... there was no time like the present; I think that, in the end, it would help us both.
Ok... Another chapter is done... at last !
I am sorry for the long wait, and I hope you find this chapter to your liking. Please let me know your opinions, likes, dislikes, death threats etc via review or PM.
And for the record... this fic will be finished... eventually
PS: By the way, if someone is interested in pre-reading this stuff please PM me, I try my best to keep every chapter with as little errors as possible and I believe that pre-emptive feedback could be useful.
Thank you for reading.