My apologies. I had my spellcheck set in error. I've taken care of
the problem. But hey, what do you expect for 17k words in one day.
A great thank you to Akamatsu-sama for creating such a wonderful world to play in. And also, a thanks to Fumiziki-sama for creating such interesting characters. All copyrights should devolve to the original holders for any gain from this work.
I've tried to remain true to the characters where I could. This story, however, just kind of created itself from the amalgamation of the two series (I'm reading through both manga right now), and am enjoying the experience immensely. Be warned, Naru lovers, this fic is probably going to raise some bile. My sincerest apologies if I've offended anyone.
Taeko from Ai Yori Aoshi finally comes to grips with the truth around Kaoru and Aoi's relationship and strikes out to forget him. Keitaro is bullied into a Mi Ai by his mother, who's threatened to find a way to remove him from the dorm if he doesn't do as she wishes. A blend of hilarity and bittersweet destiny ensue, thus the title.
Chapter 1 – Meet The Lovers
Taeko pulled her glasses away and rubbed her eyes. She could barely stay awake. Her daily chores had sapped her energy. The mistakes of the day weighed on her. She hadn't been able to do anything right at all, and each time Kaoru had been right there where he could see her failure, and usually close enough for her to land right on him. She sniffed softly, and a tear crept away from her eye.
She wiped at it as she made her way to her room, and as she passed his door she stopped. It was just a simple door, that was true enough, but she imagined she could feel his warmth when she reached out a hand and caressed the finish, her hand coming to rest on the knob. It was cold in her hand, and felt like a goodbye. She leaned up against it and sighed. She could hear mumbled voices inside, but she wasn't listening. Her heart was breaking as she pressed herself against it, wanting just a word or a feeling solely for her.
"This is so maddening." She heard Aoi say through the door, and nodded dully. It was an echo of her own feelings. "I'm your fiancé and I can't even be with you in front of anyone."
Taeko's eyes shot open and her heart thudded in her chest. She couldn't believe what she had heard. She pressed her head closer to the door, her ear in intimate contact with the wood. She could hear him comfort her, "It won't always be this way." And then silence. Taeko knew what that silence meant, and all of a sudden, she finally understood why the two of them went for walks at night, why Aoi-san was always so shy around him.
She could feel her heart fall to pieces as the tears started to roll down her face. She whimpered softly, and stumbled to her own room. There was simply no hope left. She thought about packing her things, but didn't even have the energy to do more than cry. She slept there, in the center of the room, curled up around her tears.
Taeko awoke early the next morning. The sun was being coy and she had to turn on a light before she could write out the letter she had planned. It was very simple, and not at all optimistic. She wasn't her usual self, and it showed. She'd wanted it to show.
Can I come stay with you? I've made a mistake that I can't bear to face. I'll do whatever I can to help. I'll earn my own way.
She thought better of it and added.
I gave my heart to him, and he belongs to someone else. I can't be here. It's too painful to see him every day and know that I can never be with him. Onegai.
With that she pulled her hair back into a pony-tail and began her day. She didn't bother to bathe. What did it matter anyway? There wasn't a reason to do her best anymore.
The trio were studying as always. It was only two weeks before Centers and Naru was on top of her game, but she couldn't let things slip now. The two 'ditz twins' as she called them, were busily playing with stickers. "See? You put one right by what you want to remember and then when you think about that sticker, you remember that Czar Nicholas died a horrible death at the hands of Herbie the Love Bug!" Mutsumi smiled.
Keitaro nodded emphatically with a huge grin on his face. "Yeah, now I get it!"
The both of them have finally lost it, Naru thought, and threw her pencil down. "Oh Narugesawa-san, did you decide to try my pencil trick?" Mutsumi said with a blank look on her pretty face.
The girl giggled, then started to laugh uncontrollably for a full minute.
Keitaro sat, a sweatdrop the size of Hokkaido on his face, "You know, it might be a good idea if we just took a break for a minute."
Naru continued to giggle into her hand. "You know? I think," she started, then let out another burst of nervous laughter, "you might finally be right about something!"
Shinobu poked her head into the door as Mutsumi got up and excused herself to make some tea. "Sempai. There's a phone call for you."
Keitaro huffed, then got to his feet. It had been kind of sweet, seeing Naru like that. It almost made her human. "Hai. Thank you, Shinobu-chan. I'll be right there."
He made his way down the stairs and picked up the phone. "Moshi, moshi? Okaasan? Hai. Chotto. Chotto, chotto! No, wait. When did you do this! No, I mean, thank you, but I've almost got into Tokyo U and there's…
The voice over the phone kept on sternly as Mutsumi made it down the stairs gracefully for once.
"No, I didn't say that, it's just… No, I won't go." Keitaro continued into the phone. "Alright, fine then! But I'm not marrying anyone!" and with that, he slammed the phone down into it's cradle.
Mutsumi walked toward him for a moment, then demurred, pulling her hand back. She could tell he was angry, and what was that about marriage? To whom?
Keitaro turned and saw her, and in an instant, the cold look that had displaced his usual tension was gone.
"Daijobu ka?" she queried worried.
Keitaro smiled, seeing his chance. "Ara, ara, nandemonaio." He said, and smiled.
Mutsumi giggled under her hand. "Would you like to help me make the tea? I think it will do us all some good, and would give Naru-san some time to recompose herself."
"Sounds wonderful." Keitaro answered, an erratic smile plastered to his face. "Let's do that." But his mind wasn't there, and Mutsuri, whether dazed or not, was sure that something had happened.
Taeko wasn't her usual self today. Her bags were packed and everything was ready. She looked over the bare room she'd stayed in for almost a year. The memories that it kept were few, but dear. She couldn't even bring herself to tell her friends what she was doing. She'd never been all that brave. She'd failed them in that too.
It wasn't until the little car that Obaa-chan had rented to pick her up honked that she really felt like she was going to go. She grabbed all her things, which wasn't that much, and packed them to the front door. Kaoru watched her run by quizzically. Tina was involved in her game, as she always was, but it was Aoi that caught her at the door as Taeko stumbled right into her.
"What is it, Taeko-san? Where are you going?" Aoi asked, holding the girl with both hands.
Taeko couldn't look at her, and had begun to cry. "Excuse me, Aoi-san. I really must go. My ride is waiting."
"What's wrong, Taeko-san?" worry was evident on the woman's face.
"It's… it's nothing, I'm just going to stay with my grandmother for a while so I can sort…" Taeko said, but she'd said too much. Taeko bowed deeply, then bellowed. "Gomennasai, Aoi-sama. I hope… I hope you'll be happy with Kaoru-sempai. I wish you the best."
And with that she shot out the door, dragging her suitcase and bag in tow. Aoi watched her from the doorway as she crammed herself and her things into the car and started down the driveway.
"What's going on?" Kaoru said from behind her. Aoi shook her head, still captivated by Taeko's retreat.
"I think something is very wrong with Taeko-san."
Kaoru listened as Aoi told him the story. "Let's check her room."
Tina joined the gang as they started for the small dormitory. Aoi apologized to the room and entered. Kaoru found the note on her desk.
I've enjoyed being here with you so much. I can't bear to stay any longer. Please take care of Kaoru-sempai for me, Aoi-san. Do your best for each other.
I love you all,
"You WHAT!" Taeko bellowed.
"It isn't like you to mope about, and for a man?" her grandmother began. "I've never seen you like this before, child. You were always so bright and happy, and here you are, sitting in your room for the tenth straight day. I had to do something, and your grandfather and I were happy."
Taeko couldn't believe what she was hearing. She loved her grandmother, and loved to listen to her stories about what life had been like when she was young, but Japan had changed, hadn't it? "But grandmother! That's simply not done anymore!" but as soon as she'd said it, the facts, undistorted, crept back at her. A vision of Aoi and Kaoru filled her head. She could see the two of them in what must have been their Mi Ai-the engagement interview.
The thought shocked her so much she sat back in wonderment and tried to pin together the rest of the thought. They were happy. When she thought back, it all made sense. She could see that now.
"Grandma." Taeko said dully. "What do I do?"
Taeko's grandmother gripped the girls hands and smiled. "I'll show you, dear. You just leave everything to me. You'll catch his heart."
"But," she said, the last of her will sapped. "what if I don't like him?"
"Ma iio." Her grandmother said softly. "Kasuga-san has good judgement. I trust her, and so should you."
Keitaro had managed to slip out of the house unnoticed. He still didn't understand what was going on. His mother had just told him that if he wanted her help ever again that he was to do this. She'd threatened to talk to his grandmother and get the deed placed in her name. He knew what she meant by that. He just couldn't give up living with Naru and the gang, and studying together with Mutsumi and Naru while he could do something about it. It was only an interview after all. It wasn't like in the old days when it really meant something.
Still, a Mi Ai in this day and age…
He stopped at the bottom step and looked up at the sky. It was clear that day. It had been good luck. A clear day meant the chance of happiness. Wait, he told himself. What am I thinking? He thunked his head with his fist.
A car pulled up in front of him. A tall man and woman, dressed in formal kimono stepped out and introduced themselves. "Urashima Keitaro? I am Kasuga Kyousuke, and this is my wife, Madoka. We are your nakodo."
Keitaro wasn't sure what to say to that. "Ah." Was all he could manage. But it was more than that simple statements that had tied his tongue. They were a wonderful couple. You could tell by looking at them that they were deeply in love. She was beautiful, and even more so every time she saw her husband look at her. And he seemed taller every time the two of them stood together. If they… but he stopped himself from that train of thought. He had Naru, and Mutsumi. And he had his promise. Why the heck did he want to even consider making another?
"Please, come with us." The woman said, motioning toward the door to the black sedan. "We have a stop to make along the way, and we must hurry."
They all got into the sedan and drove off. Mutsumi watched from the tea house. It could have meant something else, she'd thought. But that sedan. She went back into the small restaurant. "Haruka, where is Keitaro going?"
"Don't know." The woman said around the ever-present cigarette.
"Hmm… But that lady, I know I've seen her somewhere before."
Haruka polished a teacup to perfection, then placed it on the bar just so. She stood back and gauged it, then moved it slightly on the tray and poured straight sake into it, then spooned tea very carefully into the cup. Two spoonfuls, then wait, one drop more, now water. "Perfect!" she exclaimed, then claimed the cup and drank. "Ahh!" she said, setting the cup down and looked to Mutsumi, "What did she look like?"
Mutsumi went through her explanation with exacting detail. No wonder she aced her exam, Haruka thought. Then something had caught her about the description. "A long black sedan you said? A couple got out?"
"Hai." Mutsumi nodded.
Haruka looked about her, then dug under the bar and found a picture and dusted it off. "Is that them?"
Mutsumi's eyes grew wide and she smiled. "Ara! That's them! I knew I'd seen them before! But who are they?"
"The lovers…" Haruka was floored. She knew exactly who they were. They were 'the lovers'. "Na… na… nandemoniao!" Haruka bellowed. They were famous as matchmakers who had never made a bad match. The story went that they were so in love that they could predict a good marriage from across the continent. It's how she'd met Seta.
"The lovers? Wah!"
And so, the end of the first chapter. Keep going to find out how the cast handle the changes! Hope you all enjoyed the cameo!