Gravaja Umbros: Hey everybody, it's been a while, huh? Well, quite frankly, I wasn't expecting to write anything more before I left on my mission. However, I finally received a request. Eliannora's request was for an angsty RanxRei fic. I must say, I don't really have much experience writing angst, so bear with me. But, while I can't be sure of the quality of the angst, I do think everything else will work out well. Also, as of now, I'm waiting for my mission call. Actually, I'm withdrawing my offer for requests as of now because of it. I suppose you could request something anyway, but I won't be doing anything with it for about two years. Anyway, with no further ado, I present you with "Chessmatch".
Rei sighed, not turning around. "I'm not paying for your lunch, or your new accessory, or whatever it is."
"Jerk. I wasn't going to ask you to buy me anything."
"Then what do you want, Kotobuki?"
"Do you know how to play chess?"
Rei turned around. "Chess?"
"Yeah, you know, white and black pieces on a board. Protect the king and-"
"I know what chess is. Why do you want to know?"
"Do you know how to play or don't you?"
"Yes, I know the rules."
"Great! You can teach me!"
Rei looked at the gal. She was always unpredictable. Always carried off by whatever caught her fancy at that moment. What was she possibly up to now? "I don't feel like it."
"You jerk! Why not!"
"I told you, I don't feel like it." Rei considered walking away, but his curiosity got the better of him. "Why do you want to learn to play chess?"
"It's Tatsukichi," she said. Rei frowned briefly at the mention of Ran's non-romantic boyfriend, but hid it quickly. "He said we should be doing more together, and Aya suggested shogi."
"So why aren't you asking me to teach you to play shogi?"
"Duh. Shogi has even more rules than chess." Typical Ran. "Anyway, Aya insisted that we need to do something more intellectual. She said it'd be good for us," Ran huffed. "I was just going to blow it off, but Miyu agreed with her, and Tatsukichi said it'd be fun."
"So why ask me to teach you?"
"Well, Tatsukichi doesn't know the rules either, so I can't ask him," Rei mentally huffed at the constant mention of Ran's boyfriend. Jealousy didn't become him, but he was becoming increasingly familiar with the vice. "And when I'm with Aya I just want to hang out, and she gets talked into into doing something else too easily."
"So you asked me because I'm stubborn?"
"Basically. Miyu can play, but not very well, and like hell I'm going to ask someone in my family."
"What about Yuya? Or Mami?"
"I'd never ask Mami to teach me something! She'd never let me live it down. And Yuya gets all weird and happy whenever something like this happens. It's kind of creepy."
"Well, you know why that is."
Ran tilted her head at the stoic boy. "Why is that?"
"You really don't know?" Of course she didn't know. When it came to romance, Ran was as dense as they came. Probably a good thing too, or she'd probably be avoiding Rei like the plague.
"Forget it," he waved it off.
"So, will you teach me?" Rei looked down at the shorter girl.
He shouldn't have looked. He knew he shouldn't have looked. She had such a cute little pout when she wanted something. It was no doubt why she always got others to pay for everything she wanted. Her bottom lip stuck out, glossy and full. Her pretty eyes trained on his. He had to work hard to keep his eyes on her face, and avoid exploring her creamy skin with his gaze.
"Fine," Rei said, turning away before he lost control. They were in the middle of Shibuya, and as appealing as it was, he couldn't start kissing her senseless here and now. Besides, before he could enjoy it he was bound to feel the wrath of Ran Kotobuki descending upon him, like some divine punishment. Enough of the men around Shibuya had already felt that wrath for attempting to woo her. Tatsuki had managed to remain safe because, despite his position as her "boyfriend", he had never really wooed her. Or tried to, at least not the way others did. Their relationship managed to appear strictly platonic. But still, Rei had to use all his mental reserves not to let poor, unsuspecting Tatsuki have it every time he saw him. As much as Rei hated to admit it, Tatsuki was a good guy.
"Yay!" Ran squealed. "Let's go!"
Ran. Was. Horrible. "Pawns take pieces diagonally," Rei reminded her as she attempted to take the rook two spaces in front of her piece. "And they can only advance two spaces their first move."
"Oh, yeah," she said, putting her pawn and his rook back where they had been. "And this piece?" she pointed to another of her own.
"That's your bishop. He can move diagonally."
"Right." Ran advanced her bishop as far as she could. Rei sighed. Her movements were completely random. She stood no chance against his carefully planned defenses. He had taken most of her pieces, and could checkmate her at his leisure. "Hey, wait, what's that piece again?" she asked, pointing.
"That's one of mine."
"Yeah, but which one?"
"It's my king." Rei then stopped to see why she was interested. Her bishop, somehow, had a clear line to her king.
"Isn't that check?" Ran asked.
Rei hesitated. "Yes, it is." His victory would have to wait a turn while he moved his king out of check. Rei surveyed the board. Ran's movements had been completely random, and had somehow overcome his carefully laid defenses. "Actually, that's checkmate. You win."
"I do?" Ran asked, skeptical. "Um, can't your king still move there?" she pointed to a spot.
"No, he couldn't."
"Oh, yeah," Ran said, looking at the board. "I do win!" she said excitedly. "My first game and I win!"
Rei had no idea how this had happened, but it had. A fluke, but just in case, next time he wouldn't waste time before checkmating the hyper-active gal. "So, we'll play again tomorrow, see if you can remember the rules."
"You mean I won again? Two in a row?"
It was incredible. Impossible. Inconceivable! But, remarkably, Ran Kotobuki, who if anything remembered less today of the rules of chess than yesterday, had maneuvered herself to victory using nothing but sheer dumb luck.
"That's right," Rei said, pinching his nose between his fingers. He had been so careful, setting up the perfect defense. He didn't play chess much these days, but when he did he almost always won. The game had been going his way the whole time, as he took piece after piece from Ran. But when all was said and done, somehow his defenses had been useless against the number one gal in Shibuya. He was painfully reminded of an old saying. Something about the best swordsman in the world not fearing the second-best swordsman, but the worst, because the worst swordsman is untrained and unpredictable.
But swordsmanship was all about reflexes, where an unexpected swing at the wrong moment could spell death. In chess, one had all the time in the world to think. To analyze the movement of your opponent, the position of their forces, and size up your own position. Yet, it seemed the same principle held true. Ran's lack of skill, which translated to unpredictability, was her greatest strength. It made her unstoppable.
While Ran jumped around, happy over her second victory, Rei sat, staring at the board, trying to figure out where he had gone wrong. In some ways, his own defenses had been his downfall. If his own pieces had been further forward, his king would have room to maneuver away from this. He had been trapped between Ran's random hopeful advances and his own defenses. Thinking about it made his head hurt.
"So, we play again tomorrow?"
"Do you really need to? You keep winning."
"Only twice. Besides, win or lose, I still can't remember the rules. How am I supposed to play with Tatsukichi if neither of us remembers where we can go?" she asked. Rei's expression remained the same, but he felt his insides squirming again. He thought he would've gotten used to her and Tatsuki by now. But if anything things seemed to get worse the longer they stayed together, despite the obvious lack of romance.
"Fine, we'll play again tomorrow," he said. He had to change the direction his thoughts were going. He blocked out all thoughts of her, of her boyfriend. He was just playing chess. Against no one. In his mind, he wasn't playing Ran, just her pieces. Feeling thoroughly in control again, he said goodbye, planning his strategies for the next game.
Today, Rei was ready. Even when his opponent spoke, he paid the voice no heed. Of course he processed the words, and answered the questions, but he never looked up, never paid attention to who it was who was asking. For all he cared, he was playing against Yuya.
"You're cheating! You moved two pieces at once!" his opponent said.
"I've mentioned this. It's called castling."
"Hmm?" A pause. "Oh, yeah. I remember now... I think."
His opponent moved a knight. He moved a bishop to take it.
"You can't do that."
"Yes I can."
"No, that would put your king in check."
He examined the board. Somehow, his opponent was correct. He returned his bishop to its original position. Carefully considering his options, he realized he was in a very awkward position. There was very little available for him to do. He moved his rook forward instead.
"Where could I go with this piece?" his opponent asked. A question he frequently heard. "And why won't you look at me!"
"That piece can go there, or there," he noted, ignoring the second question. All he got in response was a huff, and the piece moved.
It was checkmate. But his opponent said nothing. Perhaps he could get away with it. Perhaps, if he said nothing, and his opponent didn't notice, he could...
He looked up for the first time during the game. Ran was staring at him, bewildered. She was so... clueless. So utterly innocent. But so strong, with her absurdly absolute sense of justice. He could not cheat. At least, he couldn't cheat against her. "Checkmate," he sighed.
"You mean I win again?" her eyes lit up. She shouldn't have been surprised at this point. Rei couldn't help but be happy for her, even if he was upset at losing. Again. Against her.
"Yes. Are you sure you haven't played chess before I started teaching you?"
"Positive. Chess is way too stuffy a game," she said, frowning cutely.
"Because if you've secretly always been a chess master and you're just doing this to make fun of me it's a really bad joke."
"Nope. Way too much work for a practical joke," she waved it off. "Besides, you'd make a lousy subject. You're always so serious."
He shrugged. Something about this whole situation put him off. He wasn't sure what. It wasn't all the alone time he was spending with Ran. While that did do things to his mind, they spent enough time together that it wasn't more than he was used to. And it wasn't that she kept winning either. She always got what she wanted in the end, no matter what it was she was doing. So what was it about this that was getting to him?
It was when he realized he was going to lose his fourth game in a row that Rei finally realized what it was that was bugging him. It was how very similar these chess games were to life. At least, to his life.
He hated gals as a rule. But then he met her. She wasn't just a gal, she was THE gal. That made it even worse. Made her even worse. But he started getting attracted to her. Once he realized that, he began with his defenses. He carefully arrayed himself, his defenses. Ran randomly charged on, advancing willy-nilly. Each and every one of their encounters seemed to go Rei's way. Whenever they would butt heads, he would make Ran look foolish, while he emerged seemingly unscathed. He kept taking her pieces, while his defenses remained strong.
But then when he stopped and looked, there she was. Her few remaining pieces had slipped by his defenses unnoticed and checkmated him. Not only that, but his own defenses had trapped him there, helping with the checkmate. She had made him fall completely in love with her. And she hadn't know what she was doing at all.
"This makes... five, right?"
"Four," he corrected. It was only five if he counted her real life checkmate. "How do you do it?"
"I dunno," she shrugged. "I just charge forward with my goal in mind. And I don't care what I lose along the way."
How very Ran-like. "That's basically my plan in all I do. It always works in the end." Rei looked at her skeptically. Sure it always worked in the end, for her at least. But it caused no end of trouble. "C'mon," Ran said. "I know it's not like you but it really works. Believe me, things would work out much better for you if you tried it."
"And what, might I ask, hasn't been working out for me?"
"Well, you can't be having much fun the way you live your life."
"Your diplomacy knows no ends," Rei said, rolling his eyes. His life was working out just fine. The only time things didn't go his way was around Ran. Other than that, his defenses had never failed. He had no reason to change his approach when it was working.
He watched as Ran put away the chess pieces. Followed the way her long, colorful nails moved across the board. She stopped and looked at him. "What is it?" she asked, tilting her head. Looking at her curious eyes, her swaying hair, Rei realized that there was one thing that wasn't going his way. One thing he'd never manage the way he dealt with things now.
Ran. He wanted to be everything to Ran. But he didn't see how that was possible. Even Tatsuki, her boyfriend, was still no more dear to her than any of her other friends. No more special. Rei wanted to be special to her. He wanted her to look at him different than she looked at anyone else. But it seemed impossible.
"What?" she asked again. "Is something the matter?"
"No, nothing's wrong." Then again, his iron defenses had already fallen to her. Maybe he should try her approach; charging forward with no care for what he lost along the way. But Yuya did that, and it didn't work. How was she special? The only thing that occurred to him was that Yuya thought about things more. Ran made her decisions on the spur of the moment, while Yuya charged forward, but planned his moves first. So, a random charge? How does one do that to begin with? Rei supposed that meant just trying whatever came to him, when it came to him.
"What do you think of me?" he asked suddenly. Not much of move. That was really just advancing a pawn.
"Hmm?" She looked up at him. "You're a really great friend," she smiled.
This would've ended Yuya's attempt. But Rei understood that her first instinct was to view everything platonically. Was this her defenses? Was she defending herself against perceived advances already? If that was the case, it meant Rei had managed to reverse their positions. If he could keep it that way, and if trends held true, that would mean Rei would win this. "What do you think of me as a man?"
Ran hesitated. "I... I'm not sure what you mean."
She was hedging, he was advancing. He was still in Ran's usual position, while she was in his. "Let's start with this. Do you think I'm attractive?"
Ran laughed. "Feeling a little insecure, are we?"
"I'm serious. Do you think I'm attractive?"
She chuckled again, but this time it seemed forced. "Well, I suppose you're not too ugly."
Okay, so that was the most he'd get out of that line of attack. She had taken his advancing pawn. "I really like you." Whoa, where had that come from? In his mind, where this conversation was a chess game, he moved his knight forward.
Her eyes were wide, and she seemed frozen for a moment. "Yeah, Otohata, I like you too. I said you're a great friend." Oh, yeah. She was putting up defenses.
"I don't mean that, and you know it."
"Oh," she chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. "I'm going out you know. With Tatsukichi."
"Do you like him?" His mental bishop moved forward.
"I am dating him," she said indignantly.
"That's not what asked. Do you like him?"
"Why wouldn't I?"
Rei smiled. "Because, for a boyfriend, he seems to be nothing more than a friend. Everyone sees it. Even Tatsuki," Rei said. "You can't even call him by his name."
"Yes I can!" she growled. "I just choose not to. It's a pet name. Most couples have pet names."
"Perhaps it could be," he said. "But it's not. There's no affection in that nickname."
"Have you ever kissed him?" Rei asked. She hesitated. "Hugged him?"
"Look, what I do with my boyfriend is my business!"
"It's not what you have done with your boyfriend, it's what you don't do."
"It's the same thing!"
"Can you really see yourself with Tatsuki a year from now?" he asked, moving a rook in his mind now.
"I'm just a kid. I'm not saying I'm going to marry Tatsuki, but I'm not going to-"
"I love you, Ran." Rei surprised himself there. He supposed that this went right along with 'charge ahead, don't care what you lose' but he hadn't meant to take it nearly that far. Despite the seriousness of this confession, he couldn't help but picture moving a queen forward.
She stopped. Rei waited for her to say something, but she seemed practically comatose. "W-what?" she finally said, just when Rei was starting to get worried.
"I said... that I love you."
She blinked a few times and then grinned her normal grin. The type she got when she conned someone into paying for a meal. "Well, I suppose you could become my boyfriend. Of course you'd have to prove you're better for me than Tatsukichi first. How about you-"
"No," Rei said, picking up the chess set and getting up to leave. He saw where this was going. She was trying to take charge again. The same way she took charge with Tatsuki and Yuya. He couldn't let himself be in the same category as those two. Not if he hoped to stand out, and to actually win this.
"Wait, what's going on? You say you love me and now you're just going to leave!"
Rei looked her right in the eyes. For a moment he just stood there, looking, making her squirm a bit. "Exactly."
"That makes no sense!"
"On the contrary, it's the only thing I can do," he said. Ran was known for using ridiculous contests to decide things. But, he realized now, this was just another defense. If it was all just a game, she didn't have to have any feelings behind it.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Ran, I really do love you," he said. This was becoming easier the more he said it. "And I refuse to trivialize that by playing games with my love. I refuse to bet my love on any contests, or games, or anything of that sort. I love you, and that's not going to change anytime soon. If you love me, or like me enough that you want to try, then that's that and we can be a couple. If you don't love me, you don't like me enough to try, or if you really do like Tatsuki more than you like me, then I'm just out of luck. It's up to you. I can't change your feelings any more than you can change mine. The choice is up to you now, entirely dependent on your feelings. On who you like, who you don't like, and how much you like them. There's nothing more I can do now."
Rei turned around, and began walking off. Unfortunately he couldn't be sure exactly what his chessboard looked like now. But he thought he had her in check. The question was, was this just check, or was it checkmate?
"Rei, wait!" he was a good ten paces away when she called. Rei turned, looking at her. She was confused, debating within herself, but at least she hadn't refused him outright. "Rei, I'm not sure... I don't know..."
"You don't have to decide now," Rei assured. "Take all the time you need."
She hugged him suddenly. He couldn't see her face anymore, but she was still tense. He hugged her back, rubbing her back gently.
"Rei, I like you. I really like you. But... I don't know that I love you. I'm just not sure."
"I understand. That's fine."
"But," she stepped back and looked into his face. Her confusion was gone now. "I like you more than anyone else. I don't know that I love you, but I don't know that I don't. I'd like to try." She smiled.
Rei hesitated. "Are you sure? This is sudden, I realize. But-"
"I know. This might not work out. Maybe we're not right for each other. But, maybe we are, you know?" she said. Rei liked the smile she had now. He hadn't seen her use it before. Would this smile be his smile? A smile no one else would get to see? "I know Tatsukichi will be upset, but I think he's probably seen this coming."
"He knows how I feel about you?"
"Well, no," she admitted. "But, I think he's seen that I wasn't going to stay with him for much longer." She sighed. "I do hate to do this to him though. So, um... do you want to go... do something?"
Rei smiled, though perhaps grin is the more accurate term. "Sure."
"Hey, Rei," she spoke now in a sugary-sweet tone. Totally fake. She wanted something. "If you're going to be my boyfriend, how about you buy me lunch?"
Rei chuckled. "Fine. But first," he held her hands and turned her to face him. "If I may be so bold," he whispered, leaning in closer, inches away from her face.
"I might have to hurt you," Ran whispered, her breath warm on his face. "But you can try."
He gently brushed her lips with his, paused, and then kissed her with more force, releasing her hands and holding her around the waist. She kissed back eagerly.
"That was nice," Rei said as they broke apart, staring into each others eyes.
"Yeah, it was," Ran said. She suddenly punched Rei in the side of the head.
"Ow! What was that for?" he said, rubbing his sore cranium.
"Just letting you know not to get used to it. And I did warn you. Now buy me lunch!"
"Yes ma'am," he said playfully.
"But, it really was great," she said blushing, touching her lips. Rei held out his hand for her. She looked skeptical for a moment, but then took it. "Take me somewhere... nice."
He smiled. "Anywhere is nice with you."
"True," she acknowledged, grinning to herself. "But that doesn't mean I'll let you take me somewhere cheap for our first date!"
GU: Okay, that's that. Just so you know, I wrote the author's note at the beginning before starting this. I'm writing this one at the end after I've edited this. I wrote this pretty quickly, but didn't edit it until quite a while later. This is because our old computer died, and it took some time to get our new computer properly set up, as well as my taking time out to take care of things to prepare for my mission, as well as plain old laziness. Anyway, due to thing time gap some things have happened. Most notably, I am no longer waiting for my mission call. I have received it. I'm going to the Colorado, Denver South mission, and I leave mid-November. So wish me luck! If you don't understand what I'm talking about when I talk about a mission, you can look at my profile for more information. As always, I recommend you check out my other story's, "Detention" in the Fruits Basket section for Kyo/Uo shippers, and "Why Malak is an Idiot" in the Star Wars games section for KotOR fans. I also recommend any stories by my sister, under the user name Elina Trevison, particularly her KotOR novelization, "Some People Change". As always, thanks for reading, and please review, no matter how old this story is when you read it. Thank you!