As always, thank you a million times for your reviews, and I apologise for the wait. I know it doesn't always seem like it because it's been over three months since my last update, but I really do appreciate all the support I've received.

A Losing Game
Chapter 24

It was the kind of perfect morning that came very rarely. He woke up early and fully rested without the help of any external alarms. He washed, ate breakfast and felt motivated to work his hardest. Lately, that motivation had been difficult to come across.

Then, as cruel as life was, the moment he sat down at his desk, the doorbell rang and his mother informed him that he had visitors.


"Yo, Izzy."

Izzy stared at his two visitors, feeling too upset by their sudden, unwarranted presence in his workspace to properly greet them. Tai Kamiya and Mimi Tachikawa, two people who probably were best at distracting him, were standing at the threshold of his door, inviting themselves inside.

"Hmph, how rude! We're your guests, Izzy! At least say hello!"

"I told you he wouldn't want to see us."

"What are you doing here?" he settled with finally, still haven't moved from his chair.

"No manners," Mimi huffed, crossing her arms. "I forgot how rude you all are. You guys really need to learn some etiquette!"

"We'll start by rudely pointing out how rude people are every chance we get," Tai muttered sarcastically, earning him a hard fist being slammed into his shoulder. He grinned at her, making her scowl further.

Were they flirting? Never a big flirter, he had no idea, but there had been whispers of a summer fling that had spread throughout their group. In all honesty, that was a major reason as to why he didn't want them here. He had seen Tai with his exes. He didn't want to be around that. He had also heard Mimi's baby voice when speaking to her ex. He definitely didn't want to be around that.

Call him a sceptic, but he thought Tai and Mimi made a horrible couple, but quite frankly, he didn't have time to care. He was in the middle of writing the most important essay of his life. It was only his future on the line.

"Er, is there a reason you two…" he trailed off, not wanting to complete his question in case Mimi would once again christen him the rudest human being of all time.

"We've come because Tai is acting stupid, and you're the smartest person I know! Are you busy?" She stared at him with those large, doe eyes of hers. He found out throughout the years that they were dangerously deceptive.

"Actually, I—" He stopped himself. Why was he even going to bother when he was up against Tai and Mimi, two people who always got what they wanted? "I have a little bit of time, I guess."

"Do you see how nice Izzy is compared to you?" Mimi immediately hissed, glaring at Tai.

"I'm here, aren't I?" he said back, his voice that nonchalant, uncaring tone that only made Mimi glare harder.

"Hmph!" Mimi huffed, flipping her hair in Tai's direction. Her eyes widened as she saw the books laid out on Izzy's desk. "Wow, Izzy! Look how much you read!"

She then proceeded to pick up every single one of his study materials, possibly turning the page after he had spent a good part of the previous evening perfecting everything. Too passive to say anything aloud, he simply put his hand over each book Mimi tried to pick up until she got the hint.

"You're already starting your summer homework?" Mimi cried. "It's the beginning of August!"

Even though he doubted either one of them cared, he explained anyway. "Actually, I was selected as a candidate for a merit-based scholarship, and I have to write a research paper on the legal implications of nanotechnologies. These are just some reference materials I borrowed from the library."

"Mmm… okay!" Mimi said cheerily, the expression on her face indicating that she hadn't really listened. "When you're done, will you help me with my summer homework?"

Izzy smiled tightly as an answer, then looked over to Tai. "Is there a reason you two are here?"

"Of course there is!" Mimi answered for Tai, jumping right into Izzy's line of vision. "Tai here tells me that you know everything!"

He gave her a puzzled look until she elaborated further.

"About his undying love for Sora!"

"Can you stop?" Tai muttered immediately.

Izzy narrowed his eyes at his friend. This again?

"Mimi's mental," Tai tried to explain, though by not giving him context, he was not really explaining anything.

"Tai's lazy!"

Suddenly realising what this was, Izzy carefully asked, "Are you two fighting and making me be the mediator?"

Tai and Mimi both gave him puzzled looks, even though they were the ones who came by unannounced with no explanation.

"You two are fighting about something, and you're making me be the tiebreaker, right?" Izzy explained. "I'm not really comfortable with butting into your relationship…"

Mimi burst into laughter, making Tai glare and Izzy blush.

"I'm sorry, Izzy," Mimi gasped when she had finished laughing. "I just find it so funny that people believe I would ever go for someone like Tai."

"Because I'm clearly better-looking than you are."

She frowned. "Er, excuse me, Tai, but I think anybody with decent vision can tell which of us is the more attractive one. Izzy, tell me, who do you think is prettier: me or Tai?"


"That isn't fair! He's going to pick you because you're a girl."

"No, he's going to pick me because I'm prettier than you, but if you're going to get all technical, should I ask Sora? I bet she'll say me too."

It was Tai's turn to glare, and he raised his arms in the air with frustration. "I can't take this. I can't take you. Get away from me. Go back to New York."

She stuck her tongue out at him. "You're just angry because it's true."

"I'm angry because you drive me up a wall, Meems."

"I'm helping you!" Mimi seethed, driving her fist into Tai's shoulder.

"Do you see this?!" Tai instantly barked at Izzy, pointing at his shoulder. "Do you see what I deal with?!"

Izzy sighed. Why had they come all this way just for this? Why couldn't they deal with their disagreements by themselves? They were probably the only two people in the world who thought he was a great listener. He was a terrible listener.

"Anyway, we've come because Mimi is crazy, and you should knock some sense into her," Tai explained.

"No, you're crazy!" Mimi hissed. She then turned to Izzy. "Tell Tai that he has to follow his heart to be with his one true love!"

Tai frowned. "For the millionth time, stop saying things like that." He turned to Izzy. "Side note: Mimi knows everything about Sora. She's here to convince you to convince me to do something crazy. Stop her."

"I'm not crazy!" Mimi snapped.

"I told you. If you can get Izzy to agree with you, I'll do whatever you say."

"I really don't have time—"

"Tai won't go after Sora even though he's in love with her!" Mimi interrupted angrily. "Izzy, will you please tell Tai he's stupid for giving up his chance just because Sora is in a relationship that is doomed anyway?"

He had to admit he had been about as interested in Tai and Mimi's squabble as he was the topic of this horrendous essay he had to write, but when the realisation struck that Mimi was trying to make Tai break Matt and Sora up, to make him go down that destructive path again, he couldn't help but show concern.

"What are you two planning?" he asked sternly.

"I'm not planning anything," Tai corrected nonchalantly, making himself comfortable by lying on Izzy's bed. "I'm only here so I can watch you freak out at Mimi like you did with me. Believe me, this is rich. What Mimi has is pure gold."

Mimi shot Tai another look, shutting him up.

"Just listen!" Mimi pleaded, turning to Izzy. "I know you're busy with school, but these are our friends!"

He sighed but agreed, knowing it was the only way to get rid of them.

His indifference turned to horror as Mimi filled him in on what he could only describe as an evil plot to destroy four friends forever. He almost thought this was a prank, as there was no way on earth that she was being serious.

When Mimi had finished explaining, Izzy turned his head to Tai, who was watching with a pleasant smile on his face.

"Please tell me you aren't actually thinking about going through with this," he asked robotically, already dreading the time it would take him to convince the stubborn Tai out of this madness.

Tai propped himself on an arm. "You tell me. Should I go through with it?" Izzy felt his brain nearly explode with frustration, but then Tai smirked, sitting up. "Of course I'm not thinking about going through with it. She's mad."

"You actually are," Izzy agreed without thinking, somewhat relieved that Tai thought the same, though he still worried that a part of Tai wanted to go through with it. "Is that why you two have been acting so into each other?"

"See!" Mimi cried happily to Tai. "I told you people are falling for it! Even Izzy believed it! I'm telling you, Tai. I could be an actress if I wanted to."

"You aren't hot enough to be an actress, Meems."

Izzy watched in half-frustration, half-disbelief as his friends argued with each other, Tai saying things he knew would make Mimi angry while Mimi got angry even though he was obviously joking.

Why were they here?

"Don't you dare check your phone while I'm talking to you! Are you ignoring me?!"

Tai, who had evidently stopped paying attention when his mobile beeped, looked up from the device. "I have to go."

Mimi darted in front of him, as if that'd stop him. "This is important."

"We can plot to destroy the world some other time, but I've got soccer practice, so—"

Tai and Mimi were still bickering, but Izzy zoned them out, feeling an anger burn in him, even though he wasn't quite sure if Tai was joking around or not.

Regardless, this was unacceptable.

"Are you two quite done?" he snapped loudly, not really knowing if he had just interrupted their conversation. "Whatever the hell you two are planning, you should feel ashamed—"

"I'm not planning anything," Tai interrupted with a calm shrug, annoyingly unfazed. "This is all Mimi. I only tagged along because she made me."

"Well, you shouldn't have come at all. I have things to do, and honestly listening to this mindless scheme is at the bottom of my list, especially if it means you are trying to intrude on a perfectly good relation—"

"Oh, blah blah blah! Yuck, Izzy, don't be such a grouch!" Mimi cried. "We aren't 'intruding.' We're helping them."

Tai laughed, making Mimi smile, and Izzy briefly wished he had the kind of personality where he could blow up on them and they'd take him seriously. But it was Tai and Mimi. Neither of them took him seriously.

"Anyway, I really have to go," Tai pleaded Mimi. "I made the mistake of telling my coach that I wasn't going anywhere for the holiday, and he won't let me join the team again unless I put in extra practice. I think he's trying to teach me a lesson."

"Honestly, Tai, what's more important? Some silly sport, or your future happiness?"

"Sport." Tai gently nudged her out of the way. "I'll see you guys later. Have fun studying, Izzy."

Mimi scowled, glaring at the door that Tai had just walked through. "He is so rude. I seriously can't stand him."

It took a lot to break Izzy's patience. He didn't get angry often, and even when he did, he got over things fairly quickly.

She stood up from her seat, smoothing her dress with her hands. "I guess I'll go too then, since you're so busy. Thanks for having us over, Izzy!"

He almost felt wrong for getting so angry at her, but he couldn't blame himself either. They were the same age, but she was still just a child to him.

"Hold on. Can I talk to you for a second?"

She looked down at him, bright eyes twinkling as she smiled that pretty smile of hers at him. "Sure! What is it, Izzy?"

"You—" He stopped himself, his bravery slipping for a second. As simple as he found her, she could get intimidating. He collected himself again. "Don't meddle in Tai's life."

He felt like nobody ever took him seriously, Mimi most of all. Indeed, her expression showed no hint that she had even taken his words in.

"Don't be silly, Izzy. I'm not meddling." She put a hand over her mouth, giggling.

He frowned. "I'm being serious. We aren't children anymore, and Tai isn't your doll for you to control. He was in a really bad place before you came around, and if you had seen him at his worst, you wouldn't be so eager to 'help' him right now."

"Tai?" she asked with a roll of her eyes. "He's fine."

"No, you don't understand." Though a part of him felt like he shouldn't disclose Tai's privacy, especially to somebody like Mimi, he thought it was important that she understood the situation entirely.

In all honesty, he along with everyone else had also thought it was only a matter of time before Tai and Sora would start dating each other, but if it turned out that they were only meant to be friends, it wasn't anyone's place—not his, not Mimi's, not even Tai's—to try to alter that.

He found himself a little surprised that Mimi's expression turned more serious. "That's horrible."

"Exactly, so don't—"

"But you haven't been living with Sora the way I have," she interrupted, speaking over him. "I've seen Matt and Sora together, and they aren't good for each other at all. They just try extra hard to please each other, so they don't even know what the other is like. They only like the idea of something that isn't even real. As their friend, shouldn't I do something?"

"I don't know what you're talking about, but whatever it is, it doesn't justify your actions. You have to understand that whatever your opinion is, it doesn't mean you get to play God. Tai was out of control, and he finally found a place where he's healing, but you pushing him back isn't doing him any favours. Aren't you his friend too? So why are you trying to ruin him? I know you aren't purposely trying to be so selfish, and I understand that you think you're doing a good thing, but you keep forgetting that you only come here once a year, Mimi. You come during the one moment in the year when we all get together for your sake, but that isn't what we're like anymore. I've seen more of Joe since you got here than I have in the past year combined." He ignored the sudden look of sadness on her face, not wanting it to distract from his message. "Your plan is mad, but Tai is already in a state of mind where he won't be able to distinguish that. You aren't, so why are you feeding him? Are you really that naïve, or are you just that selfish? Are you sure you're even their friend? It doesn't really sound like you are."

Mimi was a crier, and he knew he had pushed her limit when he saw her eyes mist over.

Perhaps it had been a little much. He had felt himself get angrier with each point, but he hadn't realized he had gone too far.

"I'm sorry," he said immediately, growing alarmed but trying his hardest not to succumb. "I shouldn't have been so harsh, but I saw Tai at his lowest point. It was bad."

She sniffled.

"A-and I'm really stressed out because of this research paper too," he said, glancing at his desk.

It was an excuse, but it wasn't a lie. He had stupidly picked the nanotechnology topic because he thought it would be something he could excel in, but because it focused on the legal impact, he couldn't really follow anything and had to start from scratch. He was used to things coming naturally to him, and this did not.

"You think I'm horrible, don't you?"

Mimi pulled this pitiful look sometimes that was rather good at making people feel sorry for her. It had never really worked on him, but maybe because he knew he was the source, today it did.

"I don't. I just think you have an unrealistic perception of reality."

She looked down on the floor, playing with her fingers. "I just want everyone to be happy."

"Then leave them alone."

"It's just…" She looked up at him again, her eyes watery and her voice breaking. "I would have really appreciated it if somebody had helped me too when I started dating Michael. Then maybe I wouldn't regret it so much."

At first he was just confused, but to his utter horror, she started bawling—loudly—definitely enough to where his mother could hear.

"I… er…"

He felt panic erasing every thought in his head, and he stood there as Mimi sunk to the floor, her crying growing louder by the second.

He didn't understand. Why did she always cry to him?

"He doesn't love me anymore," Mimi explained through sobs. "But I love him and he knows it and he uses it to his advantage and I know this too but I don't even care because I love him so much and we went camping and he told me he didn't like me anymore but I went bloody camping for him and you know how much I hate that so why doesn't he like me?! Am I ugly?!"

She lost him somewhere in that rant.

He could still remember the first time she ever cried to him. He had just zoned her out and left her be, but now that he was older, he knew that was an unacceptable reaction. Not knowing what else to do, he robotically walked over to her, squatting by her as he awkwardly patted her shoulder.

"Everything will be fine. You'll find someone else."

This didn't help, as she started to sputter sentences he couldn't make out. His thoughts went back and forth between her wellbeing and his mother's inevitable entry, unable to think of anything else other than patting her back, which so far was having no effect.

However, another thing he knew about Mimi was that she swapped between moods in a blink of an eye. Indeed, less than a minute later, she stopped bawling, wiping away at her eyes.

"You'll be fine…" he stated awkwardly again.

She sniffled, the sobbing gone but her face still miserable and wet. "I know you're smart because you're writing a paper on nano-whatever, but how do you know?"

He shrugged, using the timing to remove his hand from her back. "We're just in high school. Even if it may seem like it now, what happens here isn't going to be the end of the world."

She huffed. "You don't know that. We're the same age, Izzy. You're in high school too. You might know more science than I do, but it doesn't mean you know more about life."

"Come back to me in five years and see if you agree with me then."

He passed her a box of tissues, and she took one to dab away at her eyes. "And what do I get if you're wrong?"

"Nothing. I already know I'm not wrong. He won't matter, Mimi, the same way Tai will eventually forget Sora too."

Mimi was too focused on applying her nail varnish to look up, but Sora could sense the excitement in her tone. "Tomorrow will be fun, don't you think? I haven't gone to a Tanabata festival in ages!"

Sora agreed, proud of herself for having arranged everyone else to go too. It was just the older ones in the group, plus TK and Kari, but it had been a bit of a nightmare to get everyone to agree. Joe especially had been a struggle, as he was convinced missing a day of his internship would inevitably lead to his termination.

"I can't wait to eat all the food," Mimi cried happily. "Japanese food in New York isn't the same, you know?"

Sora smiled as she nodded. "We'll eat a lot."

"Can we tell people to dress up?" Mimi asked, giggling. "How cute would that be?"

Sora thought about it for a second. TK and Kari would be easy to convince. Joe and Izzy would do it if they were forced. Tai would be impossible. Matt probably wouldn't do it either.

"I think that's pushing it," Sora concluded with a giggle.

Mimi giggled too and closed the cap of her nail varnish. "Well, I'll least have festive nails. Look, aren't they pretty?"

Mimi held out her hands to her. Sora was just about to respond when she saw her mobile light up on her nightstand. She reached over to see who was ringing her.

"Hey Tai."

Mimi looked up curiously.

"So, just to warn you," he started off, "you're going to be mad at me. Prepare yourself."

"Uh-oh… How mad on a scale of one to ten?"

"A solid seven? Maybe eight."

She frowned. "You just saying that already brought me up to a four."

He laughed on the other end. "I'm trying to ease you into it. Maybe I should have started off with something else? Sora, even though I can't see you, you look very nice today."

She rolled her eyes. "Shut up, and tell me what you're going to say."

He sighed. "Fine, fine. It's about tomorrow. I can't go anymore."

"You can't go tomorrow?!" she repeated angrily. "Are you kidding me?"

Mimi looked up again.

"Coach pulled me in for another one-on-one tomorrow."

"You can't go because of soccer? You're prioritising soccer over Mimi's short stay?"

"I'm not prioritising anything over anyone," he countered. "I thought I could go, but now I can't. Can't we just go the day after tomorrow?"

"Tanabata is one day, Tai!"

"But the festival isn't."

"We aren't going to reschedule because of you! Besides, we've already bought the train tickets. Nobody is going to buy them again."

"Exactly, so you guys go and have fun, and tell Mimi I'll make it up to her later."

"No!" Sora hissed, annoyed that Tai wasn't seeing where he was being rude. "Mimi's looking forward to everyone being there! Tell your coach that you already have plans for tomorrow, and you'll have to reschedule."

"I can't. I'm already walking on thin ice. Look, it's not a big deal—"

"Tell that to Mimi!"

"What are you guys talking about?" Mimi asked, her expression full of confusion.

"Okay, also, remember how you told me you wouldn't nag at me for a month if I beat you at that soccer match that one time? That's still four more days from now according to our agreement, so stop nagging at me."

Furious that Tai was not taking her seriously, she hissed, "Fine!" and hung up on him.

"What happened?" Mimi asked again.

"Tai is the worst person on the planet, that's what," Sora fumed. "He says he can't come because he has soccer practice. Can you believe him?"

"Oh no…"

"He knows how much planning went into this, and he backs out not even twelve hours before we're set to leave! He always does this, you know. I bet you anything his coach told him about this ages ago, but he forgot about it until just now, or he was just procrastinating to tell us until the last minute. I can't stand him. I honestly can't."

"I just saw him. It's no big deal. Don't fight because of me…"

"We aren't fighting," Sora said with an annoyed sigh. "He's just annoying. He's not even sorry! That's what makes me the angriest. Do you see how I hung up on him, but he isn't calling me back? This is exactly what I'm talking about. He just always assumes I'll get over it, and it's my fault because I'm an enabler. I hate him."

"You two are like an old married couple."

She frowned. "Even if I ever did get married to Tai, I would never grow old because I'd die of stress within the first year."

"Well, like I said, I'm okay with it. I just saw him. It's not a big deal."

Even though Mimi was okay with it, and even though it was stupid to get worked up over it because Tai obviously couldn't care less, she still found it annoying.

They were all meeting at the train station in an hour, and even if Tai couldn't make it, Mimi was still excited. Although Sora had spent some time complaining about Tai the night before, she eventually got over it and was excited as well, saying seven out of eight was still quite good for a group as busy as them for a weekday afternoon.

"Should I bring entertainment for the train ride?" Mimi asked, rummaging through her suitcase for the book she had planned to read on the aeroplane ride home.

"Oh, hold that thought, Meems." Sora pulled her mobile out of her pocket and held it up to her ear. "Hi Matt."

Mimi left Sora to talk to her boyfriend and went back to debating with herself whether she wanted to take her book or buy some fashion magazines at the train station to read instead. She decided to go with the magazines, as Japanese magazines always came with gratis products. Perhaps she'd find something cute to take home.

He got so caught up in her inner struggle to decide between a novel and a magazine that she didn't even notice when Sora had finished her call.

"Mimi, I have bad news."

She looked up to see Sora appearing slightly nervous.

"What's wrong?"

Sora hesitated. "…Matt can't go today…" Looking upset, she quickly added on, "He's really sorry. He's been extremely busy lately, and he really wanted to go, but he has band practice. You know, there are four people, and it's a bit difficult for them to find times when all are available, so they each have to make sacrifices. I hope you can understand. I know you must be disappointed…"

Mimi smiled gently. "Of course I understand. That's fine."

Sora looked relieved. "Oh, good. I just want you to know that he's really sorry about it. He really wanted to go."

Mimi tried to think of Matt feeling really sorry. She couldn't imagine it, and she certainly couldn't imagine it for something like this. Sora was probably exaggerating it so she wouldn't take it the wrong way.

"He's lucky to have a girlfriend like you, Sora."

Her friend looked confused. "What do you mean?"

Mimi shrugged her shoulders. "It's just you're really understanding of him."

Sora's cheeks turned a light shade of pink. "Well, I just don't want you to misinterpret his intentions…"

Mimi smiled again and turned back to her suitcase.

Sora hadn't picked up on what Mimi was actually thinking.

Matt had essentially done the exact same thing Tai had done the night before, but Sora had reacted in a completely different way. To be honest, she wasn't really sure what to make of that.

Sorry it's a bit rushed. I just knew if I didn't upload this now, it'd be another week before I got around to it.

10 June 2013
(This date doesn't mean anything. I just want to keep track of when I upload moving forward.)