Chapter V: Ken's Rival
Koushirou buried his face against his pillows, biting back a curse.
'No! No! No!'
How could this happen? He falls for Miyako and suddenly it turns out she doesn't like him after all? Did some god he'd denied the existence of decide that he would be the perfect target for revenge? Was it some kind of joke? Worst yet, was he really that stupid? She'd said yes because she knew he only wanted to cheer her up! She wasn't interested in him at all!
And now his chest felt like it was being squeezed in a vice and his mouth tasted bitter and dry. Now, he admitted, he was royally screwed, and all because he thought she liked him. He was so stupid! To think a girl like Miyako ... he shook his head. Even if he hadn't thought that, it would've been inevitable. He could tell. He'd been so busy telling himself that he didn't want to like her that he didn't notice it was all a big lie. Of course he liked Miyako. How could he not? She was perfect! He'd finally realized it and now he was lost, a hopeless fool trying to figure out what to do next. The feelings clearly weren't mutual, so what could he do? What could he say?
The phone rang. Koushirou didn't answer. He wanted to sleep, now, to make the world go away. Just to sleep ...
A knock at his door. His mother's voice.
"Koushirou? Taichi's on the phone!"
The gears in his brain whirred. A nanosecond passed before a thought clicked into his head. He rose like a thunderbolt, snatching his handheld off its cradle and placing it to his ear.
"Taichi?" He asked, hearing his mother hang up on her end. Koushirou knew his voice sounded earnest and he tried to calm down, taking deep breaths.
"Well, lover-boy, how'd it go?" Taichi asked, seemingly oblivious to Koushirou's odd tone. He was clearly more interested in teasing his friend about the date than the shorter boy's welfare. Koushirou groaned in response, banging his forehead against a nearby wall.
"That bad, huh?" Came Taichi's reply, and Koushirou quickly shook his head despite the fact that his friend couldn't see him do so.
"You don't understand." His voice was pitiful and he didn't bother to try and cover it up. Jyou, Taichi, Sora ... they were his best friends. If anyone was allowed to see him acting differently from his usually emotionally indifferent self, it was those three. Koushirou wasn't like Yamato. He didn't push away his emotions and mask them as if they didn't matter. Rather, he simply acknowledged them, recognized them, and put them aside for later when he could deal with them in a logical way. At the moment, however, he wanted help now. Not later. He took a deep breath.
"Miyako doesn't like me." He mumbled.
"Yeah … and?' Taichi prodded. Koushirou winced, wishing Taichi would sound at least a bit surprised. Obviously this wasn't coming as news to him. He took another breath before going on.
"I want her to like me." He admitted, quietly. Taichi was silent on the other end of the line, so Koushirou went on.
"I can't believe how stupid I was …"
A burst of laughter cut him off, and Koushirou crinkled his brow.
"Taichi?" He asked. His friend giggled lightly before taking repeated breaths in an attempt to calm down.
"That's rich. Perfect, really. 'I want her to like me.'" Taichi mimicked, chuckling. "Really? You don't say? Yeah, I wish that came as a big surprise, Izumi."
Koushirou felt his cheeks grow infuriatingly warm and her rubbed at them with a free hand. So was that it? Another injustice? Everyone had realized that he liked Miyako before even he knew it?
"So what are you going to do now?" Taichi asked, his chuckles gone and his now supportive. Koushirou relaxed, shrugging. He stretched out his free arm and paced about his bedroom.
"Nothing I can do." He said, sighing. "If she doesn't like me, she doesn't like me."
Now a groan came from Taichi's side.
"How can you be so smart and so dumb at the same time?" Taichi asked. "You have to MAKE her like you, then. And what a better chance than now? She's having trouble writing a romantic story, right? So inspire her, for crying out loud!"
Koushirou said goodbye a while later. After he turned out the light and lay in bed, waiting for sleep to claim him, he considered his ceiling, pensively.
It wasn't that easy. He wasn't his friends. He wasn't outgoing like Taichi or popular like Yamato or even reliable like Jyou. He didn't know how to be attractive, as he'd never had to do it before. Taichi had told him that step one was getting to the best friend.
'Make the best friend like you, and then you have someone to support your name.'
He pictured Ken telling Miyako that he was a prime choice and shook his head. Ken was extremely friendly and Koushirou liked him a lot, but the idea of him helping Miyako get into a relationship seemed inconceivable. It was pretty much assumed that he still wanted Miyako as more than a friend, and Koushirou found himself angered by the idea. He clenched his hand into a fist but closed his eyes, willing himself to go about this logically. There was only one way to find out for sure whether or not Ken would support him or compete with him.
Koushirou sat nervously, his hands tapping quickly on the keyboard that sat before him. He'd called Ken to meet him for lunch and the younger boy was already 10 minutes late, making Koushirou grad to have brought along the laptop in front of him. Although not as widely known as a warm bath or a good book, Koushirou knew that the common cure to anxiety was neither of those things, but actually programming, and it was helping him to calm his nerves. He was almost perfectly fine when the door of the quaint smoothie shop – Bubbo T – jingled. Koushirou's heart jumped and he looked up, slowly tearing his gaze away from the glowing screen of his notebook, and meeting the intense violet eyes of Ken. Koushirou smiled, closing his laptop and pushing it to the side.
"Hello, Ken." He said, hoping he sounded casual. The newcomer returned the smile, taking a seat in the booth, sitting across from the older boy.
"Hello." He answered, folding his fingers together and resting his chin upon his propped-up hands. Koushirou got the feeling he was sitting down for a job interview, and a nervous smile played across his lips as he mused that it might just be what it was. An uncomfortable silence reigned over them for a moment before a waitress came to take their order. Neither of them asked for anything big, as Koushirou didn't have much of an appetite and Ken never really indulged, either. Koushirou stifled a sigh, having the urge to adjust his collar but not wanting to make his anxiety obvious. He studied Ken out of the corner of his eye, sizing him up.
Upon changing from Digimon Kaizer, Ken became one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Still somewhat enigmatic, he was always there to help someone in need, and under regular circumstances, Koushirou wouldn't have hesitated to confide in him. However, there were not regular circumstances. Koushirou was attempting to court Ken's best friend. It was widely known that Ken loved her dearly. Whether or not it was romantic, no one was quite sure. Koushirou was not keen on provoking any hostile emotions from Ken.
He met his gaze, considering just turning the conversation towards his schooling, but Miyako's smile popped into his mind and he nodded, determined. Ken's hostility was worth Miyako's affections. He smiled, finding it amusing that when he thought she liked him, he would have nothing to do with her, but now …
"What may I help you with, Koushirou?" Ken asked, bluntly. "Interested in a collaboration? A new project involving the Digital World? Or …" He leaned in, gesturing for Koushirou to do the same, and whispered.
"You wish to discuss something a bit closer to the heart." He suggested. Koushirou froze, unsure of what that implied. Ken knew? How could he! It was expected that his best friends would suspect Koushirou would one day like Miyako, but this wasn't the same. He rarely talked to Ken, and now the younger boy was confronting him with the fact that he desired his best friend in a romantic way. He was unsure of what to say. Ken couldn't know …he must be talking about something else.
"I saw you two enjoying lunch together a few days ago." He said, simply. His voice was soft, not accusing, and full of respect for the other Digidestined. Koushirou, however, felt like he was being placed beneath a hot lamp.
"Ken..." He started, nervously. Ken blinked, seeming surprised.
"I don't know how Miyako feels about you, Koushirou, so I can't say I'll help you. But you have no need to worry about telling me. I won't tell her and I won't turn into the overly protective type. You can trust me." He insisted, calmly. Koushirou breathed a sigh of relief, feeling much less intimidated. He couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed, however, that Ken didn't know if Miyako liked him or not. He nodded, smiling weakly.
"Thanks." He didn't know what to say after that, feeling awkward. Ken had already said he didn't want to help him with Miyako. He shifted uncomfortably and it became Ken's turn to sigh.
"The truth is," he started, gaining Koushirou's attention, "I want to be overly protective. I can't help it, I know it's selfish and impossible and I have no right, but I still want to be in charge of who Miyako dates." He leaned in, his eyes serious, and Koushirou tried to subtly lean back, away from Ken's intense gaze.
"Just know this. If it had to be someone, I'm glad it's you. As things are, though, I'm not interested in helping you. You're on your own." He rose from his seat, taking one last sip from his drink. "I'm assuming that was all you wanted to talk about, so I won't take up anymore of your time." He nodded, leaving Koushirou speechless.
"Goodbye, Koushirou." He walked away, the bells above the door announcing his departure just as they had upon his arrival. Koushirou rubbed at his eyes with weak hands, taking a shaky breath. This would not be easy. He reached for his notebook and pulled it towards him, flipping it open. Time to start up that programming again.
Ken entered his home, falling against the door and sighing, leaning his head back. His morals were conflicting with his personal interests. Koushirou was a good guy. Ken respected him a lot and knew that he was kind, trustworthy, honest, intelligent ... perfect for Miyako! But he didn't want to see her spend more time with other people, let alone other males. She was his greatest friend, and he wasn't keen on giving her away. He scolded himself at the way he made her sound like a possession, but he couldn't help it!
He pushed away from the door, removing his shoes and slipping his feet into a pair of dark blue slippers.
"I'm home!" He called out, walking down the hall and entering his room. No one called back, so he shrugged, dropping his jacket on his bed and scuffing back into the kitchen. He plucked the phone off the wall, holding it in his hand and dialing the number with his thumb. He placed it to his ear, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes. It rang twice before someone picked up halfway through the third.
"Hello?" An older, male voice asked.
"Hi, it's Ken. May I please speak with Miyako?" He answered, sleepily. Miyako's brother replied.
"Sure thing, Ken. Hold on, I'll get her." There was the sound of him setting the phone on the counter and Ken heard the dull thumps of footsteps mixed in with a TV and a light chatter, before a dominant voice called out.
"Miyako! Ken's on the phone!" Ken allowed himself a smile. Miyako's family didn't even know Koushirou very well, but all her siblings liked Ken. He was already well known – and liked – by everyone in her family.
Miyako picked up the phone and Ken heard the sounds fade along with the thud of a closing door.
"Hey, Ken!" She said into the receiver.
"Hello, Miyako. How are you?" He asked, politely. Regardless of how nice Koushirou was, Ken would always be a perfect gentleman. He would never treat Miyako with anything but respect.
"I'm good. Yesterday I saw Moulin Rouge. It was fantastic!" She answered. She could always talk about anything with Ken. They were completely honest with each other.
"Oh yeah? See it with Hikari?"
"No, actually …" Her voice took on a strange tone. "Koushirou asked me out. I saw it with him." She sounded uncertain when she spoke.
"Oh … wow. Can't say I didn't see it coming, though." He would always support whatever decision she made. He was behind her 100%.
"No, not like that!" She assured him, quickly, "He only asked me out because he knew I needed inspiration writing that story. It's not like he likes me or anything."
And someday she would see all that. She'd realize that she and Ken went really well together.
"Are you sure?" He asked.
"Well … I think so."
He'd always be there to help her if she needed it.
"I mean," she went on, "I don't want to get my hopes up. The idea of Koushirou liking me is kinda appealing."
No matter what she decided …
"But I think he was just being a good friend, like you, Ken … Ken? You still there?"
He would be a good friend.
"Yeah, Miyako, I'm still here."
And just a good friend.
"Don't banish the possibility, Miyako. He'd have to be an idiot not to like you. What would you say if he asked you out again?"
"I don't know …" She trailed off, her voice hesitant. Ken furrowed his brow, clenching his eyes shut. She'd say yes. She just didn't know it yet.
"But I think it's best just to forget about it." She suggested, her voice sounding a bit sad. Ken felt his heartstrings vibrate.
"No, don't give up. Wait a few days and see what happens. Who knows-" He forced a laugh "-he could be the love of your life, right in front of you, and you didn't even know it."
He said goodbye, placing the phone back on the wall. His eyes stared blankly ahead as he tried to stomach his emotions. His hand remained on the phone until he lifted it again, his other hand reaching over to open a drawer, drawing forth a small number book. He flipped through it, finding the page he wanted and dialing the number.
A couple of rings.
"Hello, may I please speak to Koushirou?"
"Hi, Koushirou, it's Ken. I'll help you with Miyako."