Warnings: Spoilers for the movie! And a smidge of naughty language.
A/N: Is this "IC" enough? I would like to think it is, but some parts of it…well, seem weak to me, even as I think that other parts are totally awesome. So, let me know what you think.
When Ueda made his way to Naoko's apartment that evening, his original intention wasn't to get her drunk. Really it wasn't, though Naoko would accuse him of it later after vaguely recalling that she might have said something embarrassing.
No, what Ueda Jirou wanted was an answer. That was all.
It had been a few months since he'd seen the flat-breasted magician – he'd been caught up in teaching at the university and putting together his third novel: Donto Koi Chojyo Gensho Part 3. But as he was scanning his notes once more before submitting the completed text to his publisher, the envelope that Naoko's mother had given him fell to the floor. Of course he re-read the riddle it contained, and of course he now had an uncontrollable urge to obtain its solution from the biggest pain in the ass he had ever had the misfortune to meet.
And so Ueda made his way to the run-down apartment, with great timing as always – she wasn't home, and he could situate himself inside however he liked. Getting into her room had been simple for quite some time, because Ikeda, the landlord, had given Ueda a spare key to the apartment. Ueda figured this was partially because he had paid Naoko's rent a few times, and partially because she knew that it annoyed her tenant to no end when she walked in and found Ueda sitting on her floor.
It was amusing to watch Yamada try to figure out how he had gotten in each time.
By the time Naoko came home, Ueda had brewed himself a cup of tea and was reading the daily newspaper. She was wearing one of her magician costumes and looked very...forlorn. It was an expression he had only seen on her two or three times, and it did not suit her at all. In fact, she seemed so down that she didn't notice him at first.
"Hey, YOU," he said, peering over his mug. "Don't you know it's rude to ignore your guests?"
"Ueda!" she shouted; damn that loud woman. At least she didn't have that pitiful expression on her face anymore. "Don't strong you /strong know it's rude to walk into other people's houses while they're gone?" She tossed her bag to the floor and took a few angry steps forward.
He ignored her. "Aren't you going to offer me a cup of tea?"
"You've done it yourself."
"That's because I know you're too rude a woman to offer it. I made enough for you to have some if — you're already drinking it."
He grimaced as Naoko gulped down her tea and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Honestly, did this woman even know the meaning of the word "manners"?
"I'm not helping you," she said nonchalantly as she plopped down on the floor across from him.
"You only come here when you want something, and I'm not helping you this time. Every time you ask me to go somewhere with I find out you lied about the resort or I almost I die or both! The last time you dragged me out—"
"As if I'd ever ask someone like YOU to be a Kami," Ueda interjected, but she ignored him.
"—it was a complete disaster. Do you know how long it took me to shave my—"
"Shave your what?" he asked with interest, leaning forward on the table. He'd never had any confirmation as to where her hair had grown during that particular incident.
"N…nothing! Shut up!" she stammered. As if she'd tell him that her "happy trail" had been a complete forest! "Anyway, the point is, I'm not helping you this time, so you may as well just leave."
He was about to make a snarky reply, but he saw that flicker of sadness in her eyes again, and it made him hold his tongue. He wasn't sure why, but whenever she looked like that it felt like there was a lead weight in the pit of his stomach. She was supposed to be rude and greedy and sassy and full of life…
"Go out with me," he said without much thought, and berated himself mentally when he realized what he'd said.
"To dinner, I mean. My treat. You don't have any food here, you know. Tea just isn't as good without sweets to go with it. You really are a poor host."
"You were gonna eat my food, too? Even though you know I have no money? You jerk!" She had a thoughtful look in her eyes though, which quickly turned to one of suspicion.
"You're trying to bribe me, aren't you?"
He gazed at her evenly. "No."
She peered into his eyes for a few moments, which made him uncomfortable as always, but he held his ground. Finally, she nodded. "Okay. Fine."
And that's how, hours later, he found himself walking down the street with Naoko clinging to his back, her legs wrapped tightly around his waist and her head resting on his shoulder. He could tell he wasn't quite as flat as he claimed she was – he could feel her small buds pressing into his back as she squeezed him.
Next time he'd pick a restaurant they couldn't walk to so he could just drag her out of the car and into her apartment.
Wait a second…next time? There wouldn't BE a next time.
In all honesty, he had only ordered sake because he thought that they could both do with a little bit of relaxing. He really only meant for them to get a little buzz, and he was watching their intake carefully. Drink for drink he matched her, and by the time he realized that his larger frame had given him a higher tolerance to alcohol, she was completely soused.
"WHEE!" Yamada squealed as Ueda bounded up the steps to her apartment. "Giddy up, Ueda!" She bounced up and down and dug her heels into his sides. Ugh, her voice was so shrill…
"Not so hard, woman," he muttered as he unlocked her apartment. She was probably too drunk to notice he had his own key.
"Oi," he said when they got inside shaking her a little bit. "Get off. You need sleep."
"No," she declared, stubbornly hanging on to his neck. "I like it here."
"I'm happy you came," she said, squeezing him until he could barely breathe. "It gets so lonely…"
"Okay," he managed to get out, frantically trying to pry her arms from around his neck. "You really need sleep. Come on, get off!"
She fell to the floor with a thud. "Owww," she whined, rubbing her rump. "Ueda, you're so mean!"
"Shut up. You're too loud." He made to leave, but Naoko stopped him easily.
"Aren't you going to ask me your question?"
He stopped in his tracks. How did she know? He purposely didn't turn around to face her. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Hnnn, and I thought you really wanted to know the answer to that riddle…"
This time he did turn around. She was still on the floor, looking up at him almost innocently. "How did you know?" He asked, clearly shocked. "You couldn't see my pupils shrink or my nose twitch or –"
Hehehehehehe!" she giggled, loud and shrill like always. "You can't lie to me, Ueda-san." She pointed up at him roughly, her arm swaying a bit. "I can see into your heart."
"My…heart?" he said slowly. "Don't you mean you can read my mind?"
"Stupid," she replied with a snort. "Of course I can't. No one would want to see in there, anyway."
There was a short span of silence before Naoko spoke again, flopping down on her back drunkenly. "I'll tell you if you stay here tonight."
"I mean," she said hurriedly, "I have a stalker. He just found out where I live, and I feel a little uncomfortable, so—"
"As if I'd believe a lie like that," he muttered, running a hand through his hair nervously.
"If you don't believe me, look out that window," she said, pointing to the one in question…with her foot.
"Tch." He obliged her and looked out the window. Sure enough, there was a largish man on the street below. The moment he saw Ueda's head at the window, he spun a little noisemaker in one hand. The other hand was holding his binoculars steady. Apparently, he couldn't tell who was actually looking outside, just that it was the proper apartment. Ueda pulled his head back in sharply.
"See?" she drawled.
"Fine. I'll stay. But you have to tell me what was in your envelope."
It didn't take long for Naoko to fall asleep, leaving Ueda wide-awake and leaning against the wall next to her. It was somewhat astonishing how quickly she could just pass out like that. He had been seriously considering putting her through a sleep study for some time now.
"Mmmmm…chocolate mousse cake…." she groaned. He hadn't been planning on staying the night, or he'd have brought his recorder with him. "Banana split…with strawberries…and sprinkles…" He could've used it to annoy her later.
"Zooooone again?" he grumbled, rolling his eyes. She really needed to let that one go.
He glanced at her, a bit alarmed. Was she dreaming about him?
"Ueda…are you awake?" she mumbled. Stupid sleep talkers.
"I'm sorry…I lied to you…" she snuggled deeper into the blanket he had draped over her earlier.
"That guy outside isn't a stalker?"
"Nnn….he's a fan."
"You don't have any fans."
"My only fan…goes to all my shows…follows us on trips…stands outside my window…"
"…Isn't that a stalker?"
But she wasn't done yet. "And I can't see into your heart…"
"I know that…flat-breasts…" no reaction. She was definitely asleep. And weirding him out.
"I took the envelope out of your pocket when you weren't looking…."
"OI!" He wasn't sure why he was so surprised. He knew she sometimes could amount to nothing but a common thief. But he tried not to yell at her TOO loudly, because he wanted her to keep going.
"And I was never going to tell you what was in my envelope…"
He looked down at the floor and muttered, "I knew that, too…" So why had he stayed?
"…because I never opened it…"
Well…this was new. She hadn't opened it? After she clearly said she would open it later? It had been months and her curiosity hadn't kicked in?
If he didn't know any better, he'd say he was a cad. But he'd only opened his because she said she was going to open hers, dammit! "It was all your fault!" he said aloud to make himself feel better.
"But it was all your fault…" oh, she was still rambling? He needed to remember to stuff alcohol down her throat next time he wanted the truth out of her.
"Left the treasure…because of your stupid message…"
There was that statement again. She'd never told him when she had seen the treasure, or why it just happened to be his fault that they didn't get it.
"…bet you didn't mean it anyway…baka Ueda…" she rolled over, and then fell silent.
"Didn't mean what? Be more clear next time," he muttered. Hadn't she completely ignored his message? How was that his fault?
…Wait a minute. Maybe….what if….
He reached over and snatched Naoko's tote-bag-like purse, digging around in it until he found a sharpie and a piece of paper to recreate the message he had carved into the log.
"Aitai ima kara. Shitsurana tehai," he read the message horizontally, as it was meant to be read. "I want to see you now. Prepare shizurana." She had only ran into him by accident, and she definitely hadn't prepared the antidote like he'd told her to.
But she had been so keen to keep him from reading that same message vertically later on…
"Aishite imasu. Takara wa iranai," he sounded out for the first time. "I love you. I don't care about treasure."
He slumped back against the wall, his breath rushing out of his lungs with a whoosh of air. Could it be? Had she read it vertically? His mind raced. Surely she must have realized that the odds of him accidentally phrasing his message in such a way to get two coherent thoughts were phenomenally low. She must have assumed that he had meant it, and then…and then…
He remembered her look of relief after he had escaped from the holding cell. She had run right into him, looking desperate…
She had left the treasure behind to go back for him.
Wait a second… Greedy, self-serving, loud, no-breasts Naoko had actually given up something valuable…for him?
He stared hard at the message. He was intending to tease Naoko mercilessly about her confession in the morning, but now he was thinking he should just let it go. For such a relevant message to surface like this – it couldn't just be a coincidence, right?
He regarded Naoko's sleeping form warmly, and tucked the message into his pocket. This message…his feelings, were they the same? It was certainly a matter that deserved contemplation.
And so he would think.
And then…and then he would tell her.