Damn, it hurt.
Junpei pushed himself up, groaning as he pressed his palms against his temples as the hangover ravaged through his head.
Oh god, even the groaning hurt.
"Wha-?" he said blearily, as he noticed the unfamiliar bed. It wasn't the bed he shared with Tsukasa in their apartment. Heck, he wasn't in their apartment.
Then it hit him like a cannonball into his face. Tsukasa had…
Junpei pushed his face into his hands, as he recalled the moment when his girlfriend of two and a half years; seven if you count the four years they were apart and their brief half year relationship when they were much younger, got into a fight with him. One that got them both so catatonically mad that she practically threw him out of the house and told him that they were over.
His thought were interrupted, as he heard a snore, which sounded more like a moan that rang like a gong. His eyes widened in surprised and turned to look at the source of the sound, which came in the form of Kitaooji Satsuki.
Junpei blinked at the sight, blushing as he tried hard not to let his eyes trail down the loosened yukata that the beautiful landlady was garbed in, to resist eyeing the bit of cleavage peeking through the front and refrain from feasting his eyes as the lower half of the garment fanned out, precariously revealing her silken thighs for all to see.
Junpei gulped at the sight in front of him. He might still be recovering from a shocking breakup, but he could not deny the fact that many a time his eyes strayed towards Satsuki in the restaurant, appreciating the full effects of her feminine charms now that she was learned in etiquette.
In fact, the way he now saw her was already different from their high school days. She was more mature now, and her etiquette classes obviously paid off, as every move she's ever made so far made her seem so much more feminine than she already was, so alluring.
Junpei steeled himself and got up shakily, and brought his comforter over to Satsuki to cover her up and then slowly tumbled across the room, exiting from the room's other door that leads to the backyard. He managed to make his way over to the other side of the pathway, leaning again the wooden pillar, taking comfort as the warmth of the sun-soaked pillar pressed against the side of his head and shielding his eyes from the glaring sunlight.
Hearing the thudding footfalls approaching, Junpei turned around and looked up to see Satsuki's aunt who helps her man the restaurant.
"Mimura-san," Junpei uttered as he tried to bow, "Good morning."
"Good morning to you too, Manaka-san," the older woman greeted in return, settling down beside him. She handed him a small dish, in which a single pickled plum was contained.
"Thanks, Mimura-san," Junpei said as he accepted the dish, before picking the pickle up and biting off a chunk off.
The lady waited calmly as Junpei allowed the pickle to sober him up from the hangover, the sour taste of the plum seeping through his fatigued body..
"The restaurant…" Junpei said as his head cleared and took note of the time. Mimura answered his uncompleted question.
"The necessities have already been taken care of," she answered, "We'll get started after Satsuki-chan wakes up."
"Shouldn't she be up already, then?"
"She stayed up late last night to take care of you," Mimura replied, "I would believe that she fell asleep at the break of dawn."
Hugover or not, Junpei definitely heard the chastising tone in the matured lady's voice. Feeling a little rueful, Junpei shifted his position to face Mimura, bowing.
"Sorry for intruding then," Junpei said, before continuing, "If it is alright with you, I'd like to watch over Satsuki, so you can go ahead with the rest of the work that Satsuki will not be available to attend to."
Mimura cast a searching look, one which caused Junpei to shrink just that little bit as the intensity overwhelmed him.
Junpei looked back at his elder, his earnestness just as much as her intense judgment. The madam merely sighed and smiled, before pushing herself up.
"I understand, Master Junpei," she answered in jest, causing Junpei to pop his eyes wide in surprise and staring into nothing, blushing slightly at the older caretaker's implication, as she went about her work.
Deciding that he'd had enough of the sunlight and sober enough with the tangy help of the ume, Junpei got up and returned to the room.
Settling down beside Satsuki, Junpei decided to wait for her to awake. Goodness knows his old friend needed rest. Surveying her sleeping form once more, Junpei reached his hand out to brush her fringe aside that hid half her face. Such cuteness, he decided, had to be appreciated.
Perhaps she felt it, but as soon as Junpei drew her hand back, Satsuki groaned, a long one at that, awaking and surveyed Junpei for a moment.
"Morning," she said groggily as she pushed herself up, but nonetheless cheerfully. "Feeling better?"
"Hey, you," Junpei greeted in return. "Yeah, I'm feeling better. Mimura-san gave me some pickles to take the edge off."
"Mhmmm… Meticulous as ever, Obaa-chan," Satsuki trailed off, before looking at wall clock hanging by the door.
"It's this late already?!" she cried. Jumping up, she turned and glared at Junpei. "Why didn't you wake me?" she scolded, as she hastily folded the futon that Junpei had been sleeping in.
"Relax," he said, as Satsuki placed the folded futon in a cupboard. "Mimura-san said she'd be taking care of the rest so that you could sleep longer."
That made the rampaging woman stop in her tracks. "Oh," she simply said. She looked embarrassed for a while, before saying "Sorry about that just now, Junpei, shouting at you."
"It's all right," he said, shrugging it off, as he pushed himself to his feet. "You were only being responsible for your business, after al-… What?"
Junpei was referring to the smirk that had plastered itself on Satsuki's face.
"Oh, nothing," she said in a sing-song voice, prancing out. "Hurry up," she called from the hallway, "I'll get some toiletries so that you can wash up."
A/N: I'm sorry the chapter took so long to come out. I too, know that a chapter like this is hardly worth over half a year of not updating. I'd blame manga reading for distracting me, but that'd hardly count as an excuse now, would it?
In any case, this chapter has been released on the anniversary of me joining the Ichigo 100% discussion thread on the OneManga Forums, which also marks a year after I finished reading the series that made me start writing this fic. This chapter's dedicated to you guys at OMF!