You guys remember a few chapters back when I was talking about the play The Woman in Black? They made that into a movie and I forgot to go see it. Taro would be disappointed. I hope it was good.
Sorry again for the long wait, I hope I fixed Kasanoda this time. This chapter is un-beta'd so please forgive any weird spelling and grammar.
Kanadzuki had recommended talking to Nekozawa before Suoh on the matter of Haruhi's involvement with the Black Magic Club, but that advice had gone unheeded. Of course she would say that, she was Nekozawa's ally. What Kasanoda needed first was a counterpoint to Reiko's insistence that they weren't casting weird spells on Haruhi, which was why he had gone to the Host Club after school. He'd intended to speak to Haruhi herself, or even Morinozuka, since he knew he could trust them, but Suoh was the one he found.
However, earlier in the day, apparently knowing Ritsu was going to ignore her advice, Kanadzuki had left a package with him to deliver to the Host Club. This was exceedingly unnerving. It was just a small, plain white box, but even so, knowing who it came from, and the dark, strangely satisfied look on her face as she handed it to him, the box creeped him out. What was in it? Was it alive? Was it formerly alive? Would it rain a volley of curses on him and his house for generations? The longer he had the box, the more he thought about those things. And the more he thought about those things, the more he hated the box. He could almost feel the black magic seeping out from under the neat, orderly lid, and he was sure it was poisoning him, soaking into his pores, clinging to his clothes. What sort of blight was he unwittingly about to unleash upon Suoh and his club? What did Haruhi have to do with it?
He would have thrown the box away, but he couldn't be sure what was inside was even truly evil, or if it was just his imagination. Hell, the Host Club could have ordered it for all he knew. But he didn't dare peek inside to see. And besides, it wasn't very polite to throw a box that had been entrusted in your care. So at day's end, he delivered it.
By then, however, he'd had the package all day, and had for hours been fretting over its contents, and over Haruhi, and as a result was in a tumultuous bad mood when he finally ran into Suoh. Reflecting on it later, he realized he'd been unreasonably gruff with his upperclassman, and made a note to apologize later. Kasanoda had originally wanted to go in and speak with Haruhi, but he was so sick by then of holding that box, and in thunderously irritated spirits, so he asked his questions instead to Tamaki. This resulted in even more confusion for the mafia heir, as Tamaki was determined that Haruhi was, in fact, hanging out with a very bad crowd, even though Reiko had told him earlier it was fine. Kasanoda decided the next person to direct his questions to was Nekozawa himself. After finally delivering the hated box, he stormed away, not even waiting to see what was in it. If it really was a curse, he wanted to be far away when it was opened. Suoh's glass-shattering scream across the school was all the confirmation to his suspicions needed.
But the next day, after some time to cool down and think things through, a hot bath and a few hours without that terrifying white box and its mysterious contents, Kasanoda reflected that he should probably stick with the original plan and seek out Haruhi. If he was unconvinced, he would talk to Nekozawa after.
He found her the next day at noon. Haruhi, who was not especially fond of the cafeteria, most often ate lunch in her classroom. Hikaru and Kaoru were out picking up their own lunches, so Kasanoda met her there alone. He excused himself into her classroom and approached her, noting when she met his eyes and smiled that she didn't seem like she was being haunted by malevolent spirits. He had seen people smiling with their mouths while their eyes screamed in pain, but Haruhi looked the same as always. Cute, bright, and unaffected. She stood up to greet him, while her classmates formed a curious circle around them, whispering behind their hands and pretending not to be listening in. Kasanoda rubbed his neck awkwardly, embarrassed by the attention.
"Casanova-Kun," she greeted warmly, and he turned a little pink at her smile. "Did you need to speak with me?"
"K-kinda, yeah," he mumbled in reply. He considered asking her to follow him into the hallway to speak more privately, but thought that would look even more suspicious to her gossipy classmates. Instead, he leaned towards her closely and attempted to keep his voice down. However, his impressive height made for more than a little distance between them, and his sudden decent to level her with his piercing gaze caused Haruhi to flinch ever so slightly. This action, though unconsciously done and out of surprise rather than fear, did not go unnoticed by her classmates, who were quick to misinterpret it.
"Oh, man!" A boy whispered in shock from near the chalkboard, "For a second there, I thought he was going to bite Fujioka or somethin'!"
"If Nekozawa-Senpai is a vampire, this guy is definitely a werewolf," another boy shuddered in agreement. The girls in hearing range of this comment, however, did not take it for the horrifying implication it was meant to be delivered as, and their hearts pounded instead in fangirl rapture, their former opinions on both Kasanoda and Nekozawa now drastically altered as visions of homoerotic supernatural love stories flashed through their minds. Kasanoda grimaced, painfully embarrassed, but undeterred.
"I just... been hearing some mixed messages, and... er..." How could he phrase this? "...You're not being haunted, are you?"
Haruhi knew immediately what he meant. "Ah," she replied flatly. "This is about the Black Magic Club, isn't it?"
He was quick to attempt to explain himself. "It's just- you know the vice president is in my class, right? And she told me not to get involved, and I hadn't even asked about it, and then she gives me this creepy box to give to Suoh-Senpai, and he says you've fallen in with a bad crowd, and I just wanted to make sure no one was casting weird spells on you!"
Haruhi sighed heavily. It was bad enough her two groups of friends were at odds with each other, and now they had to drag poor Kasanoda into this?
"Okay, look," she began, minutely hoping that if no one else, she could at least convince Kasanoda that there was no harm to being friends with Nekozawa. After all, He and Nekozawa had similar reputations, and she was friends with him, so logically, he should be on her side. "Yes, I've been hanging out with Nekozawa and his club. No, I wasn't coerced, and no one is casting spells on me, that I'm aware of. No, I don't intend to join their club. Nekozawa is intelligent and interesting, and I like having conversations with him. That's it." She swept her arms with finality at the end. Her classmates in hearing range began murmuring behind their hands, unaware that Haruhi actually had been involved with Nekozawa. Some girls were already texting their friends in other classes and the cafeteria about this new development in their version of Haruhi's love life.
As it was, for the first time, the girls' version of Haruhi's love life, and their new idea of a Nekozawa-Haruhi-Kasanoda love triangle, was not too far off base. Except for the vampire and werewolf angle.
"Alright," Kasanoda agreed warily. "I guess that makes sense." He still wasn't sure that was all of it, though. If they were just casual friends, why would both Kanadzuki and Suoh have such strong opinions about it, strong enough to involve him in it? And if the Black Magic Club really was casting spells on Haruhi, well they wouldn't exactly tell her that, would they? But at the same time, he had no reason not to trust her.
Straightening his back again, Kasanoda nodded. He decided he did want Nekozawa's version of things, after all.
"I just wanted to hear your take, is all," he said, and waved. "I'm going back. I'll come visit you at your club later, some time."
"I'll see you later, then, Casanova-Kun," he waved as he lurched out of the classroom. The moment he was gone, there was a cacophony of muffled gossip behind him.
As Nekozawa was always the first to arrive at his club, he was also the last to leave. Being club president, he was entrusted with the keys and the responsibility to shut down the theater rehearsal room without incident- and since the Black Magic Club was the sort of organization the faculty would not hesitate to disband if anything was ever awry, he was very meticulous in his duties. He cleaned up any wax that had dripped off the candles, and carefully put away any relics of power or instruments of divining. The last thing he needed was his club threatened by an easily spooked drama professor again.
The click of the lock signified the end of his day, and as he pocketed the key, Nekozawa turned to find that he was not alone in the hallway. As Reiko had chosen not to share with her president the conversation she'd had before with a classmate, Nekozawa was slightly startled to find himself staring at Kasanoda's Hellish grimace.
Kasanoda was fresh from gardening club, and still had clumps of dirt under his nails and on the knees of his pants. He had left the club a few minutes early in order to find the Black Magic Club, hoping to catch the president alone. Waiting around a corner, he watched as the club members left the room, ducking to avoid Reiko, whom he was too embarrassed to have to explain himself to. After a few silent minutes, Nekozawa stepped out in his black hooded cloak, locking the door behind him, and that's when Kasanoda approached.
For an entire ill-planned moment, the redhead could only stare awkwardly, trying to remember what he wanted to say. This succeeded in giving Nekozawa enough time to regain his composure, and he smiled his brightly creepy smile, his eyes hidden under his hood.
"Kasanoda-Kun!" he greeted cheerily. "Have you come for a curse? I can't imagine you need one, but I would be happy to oblige. Or maybe you need a love spell?"
He hoped it wasn't a love spell, for a variety of reasons. Kasanoda looked at him stiffly, and scowled.
"Shut the Hell up," he finally mumbled. He didn't mean to come out so offensive, but the Black Magic Club made him nervous, and he could be extremely unpleasant when he was nervous. Kasanoda took a step forward, looming impressively over his upperclassman. It was all Nekozawa could do not to show on his face that the intimidation tactic Kasanoda was employing was working fantastically. The Yakuza pointed a threatening finger at his chest, His eyes menacing, though it could not be told exactly how menacing he meant to come off versus how much could be read. In fact, Kasanoda was not trying to look threatening at all, he was trying to look speculative.
"What's going on between you and Haruhi Fujioka?" He growled, his voice a demonic rumble. "Now that I've been involved, I need to understand, and I want an honest answer." Nekozawa decided it would be prudent to choose his words very carefully. Kasanoda instilled as much terror in his classmates as he himself did, but without the drawback of endless pranks and teasing. If instead of the Gardening Club he had taken an interest in black magic, Nekozawa was sure the taller boy could contend easily for his position as president.
But in the war for Haruhi's heart, he would not back down without a fight. Nekozawa grinned, meeting Kasanoda's chilling stare with his own level gaze.
"That's very broad, Kasanoda-Kun," He smiled carefully. "Could you perhaps elaborate on what it is you've heard, and I could clarify?"
A look of terror momentarily flickered across Nekozawa's as Kasanoda's scowl took on an unearthly, Hellish intensity . "I mean, why did Kanazuki approach me in class and say I should leave it alone, but Suoh says I should intervene? What does Fujioka have to do with the Black Magic Club?"
Nekozawa very slowly raised his hands in surrender. "You're worries are unfounded, Kasanoda-Kun," he assured. "Fujioka has nothing to do with our club. The only connection is her friendship with its members."
Kasanoda stared at him with eyes wide, astounded. In a low voice he growled, "What did you say?"
Nekozawa arched an eyebrow. Sure, he knew it was odd that Haruhi would know any of the members of the Black Magic Club of all possible clubs, but he didn't think it warranted that horrorstruck expression.
Then he realized what he had said.
Carefully guarding his expression, Nekozawa repeated himself, with one slight amendment. "I said, the only connection is his friendship with its members."
It was too late, though. He, who had boasted how tremendously good he was at keeping secrets, just let Haruhi's slip. The secret she had trusted him to keep, the secret he had been lying to his club members to protect. Kasanoda was staring at him, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. Nekozawa began calculating escape plans.
"You... You know," Kasanoda finally said.
There was a long pause as Nekozawa turned those words around in his mind. As comprehension dawned on him- as he realized, to his relief, that his mistake was not costly- a slow, eerie grin split his face.
"And so do you," he smiled his black magic smile. "And now, we both know that the other knows."
In a sudden movement though, Nekozawa found himself startled as Kasanoda's hand shot forward and twisted in his robe, pressing under his chin. With all the fury of Hell, the Human Blizzard demanded "HOW DID YOU FIND OUT?"
Kasanoda's mind was reeling with the memory of his own discovery- that expanse of smooth, soft skin, the curve of her hip, the small but plainly obvious proof of her gender contained in her lacy, feminine bra- if Nekozawa had shared this vision- if he had seen more- Kasanoda didn't know WHAT he was going to do.
"I... didn't SPY on her..." Nekozawa choked under the redhead's iron grip, clawing at his wrists in an attempt to lessen his hold. Kasanoda finally seemed to come to himself and released his senpai, backing away with an abashed look. Nekozawa fell to his knees, coughing.
"I won't curse you for that," Nekozawa wheezed as he rubbed his neck, "provided you don't do it again. I found out because Suoh is an idiot who can't keep a secret. No better than me, apparently," he added as an aside.
"S-sorry," Kasanoda mumbled. Rising to his feet again, Nekozawa waved it off. He dared not ask how exactly the yakuza had come to know Haruhi's secret to warrant such a reaction, for fear of his life.
"Kasanoda-Kun, lets lay everything out on the table, shall we?" Nekozawa pulled his hood back to reveal his face and gave his schoolmate an even look, spreading his hands. "We are both in a unique position, as the only students outside of the Host Club who are aware of Fujioka's true gender. In terms of Fujioka, that puts us on even ground. So let's not hold anything back. Tell me this one thing, and I'll tell you something in return."
"...Okay," was all Kasanoda could reply. He was still humiliated at having attacked his senior like that, but Nekozawa was being surprisingly forthright, and Kasanoda could only respect him for it. He wasn't wrong- they were on even ground, and he was sure now he would get some answers.
Nekozawa nodded. "Then let me ask. I heard some very interesting rumors about a trip you made to the Host Club, and your own relationship to Haruhi. But I know how rumors spread in this school, so I'd like to ask you yourself- how much is true?"
"Probably all of it," Kasanoda sighed, blushing with embarrassment. He leaned up against a wall with his hands in his pockets and tucked his head low- it was a gesture of a shy person trying to look invisible, but on him it only made him look like he was plotting something. "I went to the Host Club that day just to... I don't know, I guess be near her or something. But she was... overwhelmingly cute, and I started to confess. I wasn't thinking, I shouldn't have... but anyhow, I got rejected. Right in front of everybody," he added, putting his hand to his burning forehead in shame.
"I appreciate your honestly," Nekozawa replied, "and I won't make fun of you. Because I'm sure you'll understand me when I tell you this. Over the past few months, I, too, have started to develop feelings for Haruhi."
Kasanoda's Hellish gaze shot towards Nekozawa at that statement, a fire burning in his terrifying eyes. It was all Nekozawa could do not to flinch.
"You can't," Kasanoda seethed, leaning threateningly towards his Senpai. "You can't put her in that position. Do you know how awkward it must be for her to keep getting asked out by guys when everyone in the school thinks she's a guy?"
"Probably just as awkward as it is to be asked out by girls when in actually she is a girl," He responded coolly. "I haven't decided yet if I'm actually going to pursue this. In fact, I'm confident she already knows, and despite that hasn't shown any intention towards me but friendship. Nonetheless, should I decide to confess to her, I want you to respect my right to do so. You had your chance. I should at least be allowed to try. Even if she rejects me, I should be allowed to try."
This, Nekozawa knew, was a little bit unfair. Because what Kasanoda didn't know is that Nekozawa had tried. Twice. And both times, she had turned away from him. In all reality, he and the redhead were already in the same place. In fact it was probably ungentlemanly for Nekozawa to even consider that he would continue pursuing Haruhi when he had promised not to put her in such an uncomfortable situation again, and then did exactly that on the balcony. Although, he reasoned, what I actually promised was not to kiss her again. And I haven't done that. But when it came down to it, Nekozawa was not about to give up after just one failure, or even two. Not on her.
Because she really had kissed him back.
Kasanoda pursed his lips in thought. He hated the idea of other guys asking Haruhi out, especially creepy guys like Nekozawa, but he made a fair point. And though he would like to join Suoh's team in keeping them apart under the pretense of protecting the woman he loves, the fact was that Haruhi herself had already told him that she liked hanging out with Nekozawa, and he had no real right to intervene. Furthermore, she hadn't seemed particularly wistful or anything else when she talked about Nekozawa, so she probably didn't return his feelings. If Haruhi wanted to be friends with the Black Magic president, even knowing that he liked her, well, that would just put himself and Nekozawa in the same place, and he didn't have any reasonable arguments against that.
But that didn't mean he had to like it.
"Answer this question," the Yazuka growled. "Are you casting spells on Haruhi?"
"I am not," Nekozawa replied.
"And no one in your club is, either?"
"Haruhi received a divining," he answered, "but nothing more. She is safe from witchcraft."
"What do you guys even talk about together?"
"Books," Nekozawa grinned, knowing that Kasanoda had asked that question more to himself but was glad to indulge him with an answer nonetheless. "And poetry. And art, and destiny. And curses."
Kasanoda swept a hand through his red hair, exasperated. An irritated sigh escaped him. Finally, he drew up to his full height, eyes flashing, and pointed a threatening finger at Nekozawa. "If I ever find out you are casting weird spells," he barked, "I will find a way to make you sorry, somehow. If your intentions are less than pure- or if you hurt her- I have guys."
Nekozawa did not like the way that sounded. It was only by the skin of his teeth he wasn't enemies with the Ootori's- the last thing he needed was to have a mafia family hate his guts. "I would never do either of those things," he assuaged.
"I'm not gonna root for you," Kasanoda continued. "I'd much rather see your ass here in the God damned friend zone with me. But as a man, you have just as much right as I had to get rejected just as embarrassingly. So... you know..." he threw up his hands, unsure what point he was driving at, and unused to trying to sound threatening on purpose. Now he was floundering, and his face was turning red again. "So go mess it up!"
Nekozawa grinned. Good. While he didn't necessarily have Kasanoda's support, he at least didn't have him as an enemy. He didn't know who brought the Yakuza into this business, but it wasn't a surprise to see him involved, and Nekozawa was glad he could tidy this up as neatly as humanly possible.
"I'm glad we've come to an understanding," he said, pulling his hood back up over his eyes. "I'll take my leave, now. But I'll send someone to your club, later this week. You grow some wonderful herbs and flowers there that make for spectacular spell components. Have a good night, Kasanoda-Kun!" He chuckled darkly, leaving Kasanoda with a cold shiver down his spine.
Haruhi didn't think she'd ever been so busy in her life.
Maybe that was a slight exaggeration, as her life was a hectic one, but in the highs and lows of activities she often fell into, currently she was in a high. The club was as busy as ever and somehow Tamaki seemed feverish in his desire to keep it fresh and exciting, inciting all kinds of new themes and games and snacks. Kyouya was in support of this sudden upsurge in club interest, and managed their activities with his usual cool passion, marketing as the opportunities arose.
And when there was no club, there seemed to be endless field trips that would be organized for no apparent purpose. Tamaki would decide that he absolutely needed to see a movie, or a farmer's market, or any roadside attraction he could find in a gas station map (a gas station being another thing he decided needed to be seen). The twins were enthusiastically behind him in every pursuit, Hunny squealed in delight at every new adventure, Mori following obligingly, and Kyouya tagged along as if he had nothing better to do. At one point they did manage to pique Haruhi's interest by visiting a museum, but nearly managed to ruin it with their restlessness. Though some were respectfully interested, Tamaki would fidget anxiously and dash from display to display like an excitable puppy, and the twins quickly lost interest and played with things that were not meant to be played with. The whole party eventually culminated in the gift shop, which seemed to be the most interesting room in the whole place for a certain few.
For all the running around she'd been doing with her club mates, Haruhi barely had time to get any homework done, and almost no time was left for any personal activities- she could scarcely get to the market to go shopping without somebody ringing up her cell phone or popping up with the intention of helping but the end result of making a spectacle of themselves.
For almost two weeks, Haruhi had not been able to see Nekozawa at all, let alone take him to lunch like she had promised. She tried to reason that it wasn't such a terrible thing- she really did need to spend some time with the Host Club after the uncomfortable scene after the party, to assure them that she wasn't replacing them, and it was probably best to spend a little time apart from Nekozawa after that conversation on the balcony.
Haruhi couldn't help but blush every time she thought of that part. She knew she ought to feel awkward or uncomfortable- after all, she had already turned him down since he kissed her in his club room, so that should have been the end of it. In fact, she had every right to be angry that he was still putting her in situations like that even after he had promised to be a gentleman. But she just couldn't convince herself to be mad. Not when she could still feel the warmth of his body as his hands came to the railing on either side of her, caging her against him. Not when she could still sense the closeness of his lips, feel his breath on her face, and see the fire in his ocean blue eyes. Not when she could still hear the devilishly seductive words he whispered into her ear, making her skin shiver and her knees weak. These were all things she should be livid about- at both him and herself. But she just couldn't. Her logic failed her here, and not being a creature of emotion, she didn't know what to do with herself. She just couldn't reason it away that she missed him.
And so it was that she decided one morning as she was walking to her locker that as she had no club meet that day, she would forgo whatever activity the Host Club had planned and visit her other friends in the Black Magic Club, which did meet that day. As she was making this decision, the Hitachiin twins flanked her, having also just arrived to school.
"Morning, Haruhi!" They grinned brightly. She nodded her greeting to them.
"So word is, today after class Tono wants to try a karaoke lounge," Kaoru laughed. "We might pass on your turn of course, but I'm dying to see if we can get Kyouya to sing."
"Entertaining though that sounds, I think I'm going to have to pass today," Haruhi shrugged. She then decided to just go ahead and be honest. "I'm going to visit Nekozawa today. I haven't seen him since the party."
The mood darkened immediately. Haruhi could sense a definite that was the plan vibe from her companions as they stopped in front of their lockers
"Time for your date, huh?" Hikaru grumbled blackly. Hikaru sighed, seeming exhausted.
"Can't you just…. I dunno, pop in for a second to say hello, then come sing karaoke with us?"
Haruhi could see that Kaoru at least was trying to meet her halfway, and decided to compromise. "I will probably only stop by for a moment, but I can't go out afterwards. We've been out every day for a while; I haven't had much time to do my homework, so I've been sleeping poorly. I'm going to go home and study, then get to bed early."
That seemed to placate both the twins. Baby steps, Haruhi thought. They aren't going to agree to this all at once.
"Well, that seems fair," Kaoru agreed, putting his hand on his locker to dial the combination. "You won't stay our scholarship student if you don't keep top grades. But you better be ready for a very pouty Host King tomorrow at club!"
"I'll wear a helmet," she smiled dryly as the two of them opened their lockers.
There was a BANG! and an explosion of light and colour. Shocked, the three of them shot away from the lockers in a panic, hearts racing, ears ringing, only finally stopping to assess if anyone was hurt. Everyone in the hall looked over in surprise and some amount of fright. When the panic had worn off, it only took a moment to realize what had happened. And then Hikaru started laughing hysterically. Standing in the hallway looking dumbfounded and horrified, Kaoru was covered from scalp to shoulder in glitter.
"Someone glitter-bombed you!" Hikaru was clutching his sides from laughing so hard. "You- you look-" His words drowned away in another fit of giggles. Kaoru scowled, trying to brush the sparkling dust off himself with limited success. Haruhi attempted to help, concerned and annoyed.
"Somebody's looking to pick a fight," Kaoru said. "But why my locker and not Hikaru's?" Indeed, his brother's locker was wide open beside his, un-rigged. Hikaru was rolling on the floor.
"You look like a stripper fairy!" He finally finished between hysterical fits. It occurred to Kaoru that his twin wasn't the only one laughing- other people in the hallway had surrounded the scene, giggling into their hands, texting their friends. He immediately attempted to manage the situation, turning coolly towards everyone with his arms outstretched and a wry smile on his glittered lips.
"Looks like you've all caught me. Yes, it's true- I am a vampire."
For his efforts he managed to get everyone laughing with him rather than at him, but behind his smile he was still really annoyed.
"Who on Earth would do this?" Haruhi puzzled. Peeking inside his locker, however, she grimaced to discover her answer. On top of his glitter covered books and papers was a small, wooden Bereznoff doll.
"Oh, this just got interesting," Kaoru remarked when he saw it. Hikaru composed himself long enough to see what they were looking at. To Haruhi's surprise, he grinned.
"So they're gonna fight about it, huh?"
"A bold move," Kaoru agreed. Haruhi didn't know how to respond. She was annoyed with the Black magic Club for this prank- after all, how was she supposed to get everyone to agree to at least tolerate each other if they were going to start bullying one another? But to her great surprise, the twins seemed strangely impressed. Kaoru's annoyance had melted into contemplation, and Hikaru actually seemed excited. A sly look passed between them.
"What do you think, Hikaru?"
"I think this is a declaration of war, Kaoru."
"Agreed. Lets show them we can give as good as we get."