1. After The Wars

            "There, done."

            Ohgami Ichiro finally finished stapling together the last documents of paperwork.  He had been working non-stop since the workload was delivered to him.  Most of it only needed his signature, while the others needed serious consideration.  Nevertheless, being the hardworking ensign that he was, he read through each and every document given to him, and signed those which will do good the most.

            He sighed and stretched his arms, leaning on his comfy chair.  He had to admit, he had never been so bored out of his skull in his entire life.  He was trained to be a top Navy officer, not as a pencil jockey.  Yet, in the past weeks, that was all that he had been doing.

            Yet, even before those weeks, his life was filled with danger, uncertainty, and, though he'd never say it in front of anybody, excitement.  Those past months were a constant adrenaline rush for the young officer, always locked in constant battle with the Wakiji, demonic robots, not to mention the climactic showdown with Shinnosuke Yamazaki, the mastermind behind the Wakiji attacks, and his three subordinates, Setsuna, Rasetsu, and Kurenai Miroku.

            But that was all behind him now.  He was living now a living in a time of peace.  Though peace was what most people would prefer, Ohgami was getting rather tired of it.  He missed the fighting.

            Not only that, he missed fighting alongside the Hanagumi, a team of six women who were led by Ohgami.  All were excellent in terms of fighting ability and, though he found it odd at first, acting.  Not only were they soldiers, but they were also actresses on the stage.  It was believed, and proven time and time again, that through acting, they were able to increase their spiritual power, which extremely helped in the field of battle, as it fueled their attacks.  Not that they just acted; they were excellent actresses, in all kinds of parts and plays.

            He sighed again, and after placing all the documents under a paperweight, he went out of his office to take a small walk around the theater house called the Teigeki, which served not only as a place to stage their plays, but also as their base of operations. It was a vast building, made up of three floors and all sorts of rooms, including the theater, the kitchen, and the dorms for the Hanagumi.

            He strayed along the various corridors and rooms of the Teigeki, finding them empty.  Even the kitchen was empty, so for some food, he had to resort to some instant noodles.

            But it was still weird.  Where was everybody?

            He walked around more, slurping up some noodles.  Then it hit him, as he reached the parlor, where the Hanagumi usually stayed for pleasant conversation.

            "Yes, I forgot," he muttered, slapping his forehead, "They all went out.  I sent them out.  Stretch their legs for a while.  So, I'm alone in the Teigeki for a while, huh?"

            He recently sent the remaining Hanagumi, namely Sakura Shinguji, Maria Tachibana, Kanna Kirishima, and Iris, for a well-deserved break.  They had been training vigorously just a few hours ago.  Sumire Kanzaki was back home, however, and Ri Kohran went on a small trip to the Hanayashiki branch to help in the Kobu repairs.  The Teigeki's Kobu maintenance facility was still under repairs, due to Yamazaki's siege.

            So, he was alone.  Might as well give them a call, to check up on them.

            He went to the commander's, Ikki Yoneda's, office and found it empty.  He then remembered that he went with Major Ayame Fujieda to a Wise Men meeting, and said they might be gone until tomorrow.

He picked up the phone.  Dialing the number of Maria's phone (he asked the commander to give the assistant captain a phone), he waited for them to pick up.

            "Hello?" A small voice greeted.  The voice was unmistakably Iris'.

            "Hello, Iris!  How are you?"  Ohgami greeted.  He was always happy to hear Iris' voice.

            "Oh!  Hello, Onii-chan!" she said, her voice instantly becoming exuberant, "Hello!"

            "How are you?" Ohgami repeated.

            "Oh, we're fine!" She said.  She sounded really happy, "Everybody went on the roller coaster.  Iris is staying here because she is too young.  Iris is holding Maria's phone for safekeeping.  But, onii-chan, Iris never expected you to call!"

            "Heh, probably because I'm getting a bit lonely, but don't worry," Ohgami quickly added, noticing Iris' whimper, "I'm alright.  I want you and everybody to have fun, ok?"

            "Ok…oh!  Here they come…Maria! Kanna!  Onii-chan is on the phone!" Iris said, then her tiny voice suddenly changed into the loud, lively voice of Kanna Kirishima, resident brawler from Okinawa.

            "Hey, Taichou!  How are ya!  Feelin' lonely, aren't cha?  That's why yer callin'!" Kanna bombarded, so loud that Ohgami had to move the phone from his ear.

            "Hehehe, it's kinda like that, Kanna.  How was the roller coaster?  Iris told me."

            "It was INTENSE!  Woo-hooo!!!  Even Maria screamed!  A LOT!  Hehehe, don't look so shocked, Maria!  The Taichou doesn't mind!  Yo, Taichou!  Sakura's not here by the way.  She suddenly looked kinda green and wanted to go to the bathroom.  Dunno why, though…"

            Knowing Sakura, she was probably feeling sick.  Ohgami had to laugh.

            "Sounds like you're having fun!"

            "Oh YEAH!  Wish you were here, Taichou!  Wait a minute, Maria wants to talk to ya…wait a sec," Kanna's voice faded away, and was replaced by the somewhat quiet, sometimes lifeless voice of Maria Tachibana.

            "Taichou.  How are you?"  She asked, stern as always.

            "Me?  I called to check up on you guys!  But anyway, I'm ok.  I'm finished with the paperwork, by the way.  All I have to do now is to patrol."

            "Well, do your best then.  We're all doing all right here.  Iris is really happy with your idea, Taichou."

            "Glad to hear that."

            "And I did not scream a lot."

            Ohgami was somewhat startled to hear that.  "Well, Kanna had me really convinced.  Is Sakura there?"

            "Please wait…oh, there she is.  Sakura!  It's the Taichou.  He wants to talk to you."

            Maria's voice died down, and after a while, Sakura's timid, shy voice spoke, "Hullo?"

            "Sakura-kun!  Are you okay?  Kanna-san told me you got sick," Ohgami blurted out, almost all at once.

            "What?  Well, I'm ok now.  Thank you for asking," she said, her voice sounding somewhat apologetic.

            "How are you?  Having fun?"

            "Yes!  Very much!  Though I may have to lay off the roller coasters for a while…already saw my lunch…ugh, don't wanna talk about it."

            "Don't, then!  Well, I'm glad everybody's having fun.  I know all of you worked hard and you deserve this break.  Come back later for dinner, ok?  Don't be late, Sakura-kun."

            "Hai, Ohgami-san!  We'll bring you some souvenirs, ok?"

            "Thank you, Sakura-kun.  I'd like that."

            Then, for a quick moment, they just listened to each other's breathing.  Ohgami sort of liked it, but regained his senses all too quickly.

            "Er…Sakura-kun!"

"H-hai?" she said timidly.

            "Um, uh, see you later!"

            "H-Hai!  Bye!"

            Then she disconnected.  Ohgami turned off the phone and put it back in the commander's drawer.  He shut the office door behind him and shuffled back to his room to pick up his flashlight, his only companion in patrolling.

            "Ah, here we go," Ohgami muttered, and walked along the lonely corridors.

            Hours later, the girls returned with big smiles, lots of stories, and bags of souvenirs.  They found their Taichou drifting around the main hall like a ghost, waving his flashlight in front of him.

            "Oniiiii-chan!" Iris shouted rather happily, dropping everything she was bringing to give her "brother" a big hug.

            "Eh?  Oh, Iris!"  Ohgami blurted, finding a cute, blonde French girl tugging his shirt to get his attention.  He knelt down to allow her to hug her around his neck.

            "Onii-chan!  We brought you lots of gifts!" Iris said, smiling, after she nearly strangled him, which was strangely pleasant.

            "Arigato, minna," Ohgami said, bowing deeply to the four girls before him.

            "How are you, Ohgami-san?  I hope you weren't lonely," Sakura said, in her usual sweet voice.

            "Naah, I'm ok.  But we have to have something to EAT!  Kanna, Maria-san?" Ohgami asked.

            "Food won't be a problem," Maria blankly replied, "We have plenty.  We can cook, if you like."

            "Please!" Ohgami replied.

            "Well, Maria!  Let's go!  We have a feast to prepare!" Kanna said, guffawing all the way to the kitchen, with Maria silently following her.

            "Iris will help!" Iris volunteered, and followed, leaving Sakura and Ohgami in the main hall.

            "Well, I'm no good in cooking… Ohgami-san?"  Sakura asked.

            "Yes?"

            "Please help me bring the bags to the parlor.  If you like, we can wait for dinner there," Sakura said, and Ohgami quickly nodded.

            Sitting down on the comfortable couch, Ohgami eagerly looked at the white plastic bags placed on a table before him.  Sakura sat a few inches beside him, smiling.

            "Go on, open them," Sakura said, still smiling.

            Ohgami readily obeyed, and opened the bags carefully, not tearing the stapled plastic apart.  He was careful not to make a mess.

            "Oh, what's this…From Iris? Ah!  What a nice clock!  Let's see, another from Iris? A mini-Kobu!  Wow!  It's my model, too!  Can you see the two katanas?" Ohgami happily asked.

            "Yes.  Iris bought you a lot of things.  Well, keep going!" Sakura encouraged, and Ohgami was fueled for more.

            "Ah, this is great!  Um, what's this? From Kanna…a bag of goldfish!  And an aquarium!  Cool!  This must be from Maria…er, what's this?  A silver cross!  Ah, it's beautiful!  But I'm not Christian!  Ah, anyway, it's beautiful!  Eh, what's this…from Iris again!  A bag of candies!  Mmm, delicious!  Let's see, another one from Kanna… A SIDE OF BEEF!?  Whoa!  I didn't expect this!  Let's see…from Maria….ah, a necktie!  I need a change anyway…Oh, there's too much…Eh?  What's this?"

            It was a black and white picture of Maria, Kanna, Sakura and Iris by the carousel.  All were smiling and seemed to wave at him.   The picture was in a simple wooden frame.

            "Oh, it's beautiful!  Is this yours, Sakura-kun?"

            She was blushing furiously.  "H-hai," she timidly said, her hands and voice trembling as she spoke, "I didn't have much money…"

            "Oh, but it's great!"

            "Is it?  Is it really?  I was thinking that if you have this picture, anywhere you go, you'd have this to remember us by."

            "Eh?  I won't be going anywhere, but…thank you, Sakura-kun.  It's great!"  Ohgami thanked, smiling.

            "H-hai…" Sakura murmured, blushing even redder.

            "Sakura-kun?  Something wrong?"  Ohgami asked, placing a caring hand on her shoulder.  She instantly propped up at his touch, her face swiveling to look at his.

            And she gasped.

            Ohgami was looking straight at her, his dark black eyes penetrating deep into her azure eyes.  His handsome face had a concerned, yet confident expression, like it was saying, "You'll be alright."

            Sakura couldn't help blush even more.

            "Sakura-kun?"  Ohgami asked.  He was feeling a bit queasy.

            "Hai?"

            "Are you okay?"

            "Huh?  Oh, yes, I'll be fine.  There's no need to worry, Ohgami-san," Sakura quickly replied, brushing away Ohgami's hand.

            Ohgami, puzzled at her behavior, took the chance to look around.  No one seemed to be around.  They were alone in the room, or perhaps, in the whole floor.  Maria, Kanna, and Iris were downstairs.  Sakura and Ohgami were the only people on the floor.

            This is it.  Nobody's here, just Sakura-kun and me.  No interruptions, please.  Just grit my teeth and do it.

            "Sakura-kun?" Ohgami blurted out.

            "H-hai?" Sakura replied, looking at him.  Some of the reddish color of her cheeks seems to have finally subsided.

            "Are-are you doing anything tomorrow night?"

            He was feeling queasy, his insides squirming.  His hands went clammy and his back was rigid.

            "Oh, well, no…I don't think so," Sakura replied.

            "Um…well," Ohgami muttered, scratching his cheek with one finger, "W-would it be p-possible for y-y-you to g-g-g-g…."

            Dammit!  Concentrate!  Concentrate!!!  You've been rehearsing for hours for this moment!

            "Huh?"

            "Dyouwangaouwimme?"

            It wasn't Japanese; it wasn't even a word.  Sakura stared at him in blank puzzlement.

            "Huh?"

            "Do you," Ohgami said, finally slowing down, "want to go out with me?"

            There, I said it!  Let's just hope for the best…

            Sakura was just staring at him.  Her face was blank.  She looked like she was stunned.

            "Sakura-kun?"

            "I-I-I don't know what to say…this is the first time any boy's asked me out…" Sakura replied, feeling awkward.  Her head began to bow.

            "Please, just yes or no," Ohgami said.  He was oddly feeling brave.  But maybe it was because he was now desperate to know Sakura's answer. 

            Then steadily, she looked up into her jet black eyes with a smile on her face, and she said, "Hai!"

            It was incomprehensible.  "Huh?"

            "Hai!  Sure I'll go!  Of course I'll go!"

            "Huh?"

            "Ohgami-san, my answer is yes!"

            "Oh, it's all right.  I'll just have to move on and…WHAT?!"

            Smiling, Sakura nodded.

            Then, suddenly, Ohgami launched himself into the air, his arms raised in victory.  He was laughing like a maniac, and Sakura couldn't help but laugh as well.

            "YES!  YES!" He was screaming continually, then calming down, he knelt down and clasped her hands, "Sakura-kun!  I'll make it a night you won't ever forget!  You'll be really happy, I promise!"

            "You better!" Sakura said, smiling, waving a finger.

            "Yes I will!  Really!  I will!  You can trust me!"

            "Then, I'd better find a good dress to wear…"

            "Hai!  Yes, ma'am!  You won't be disappointed!"

            "Oniii-chaaan!"

            Iris's voice could be heard along the corridors of the Teigeki.  Sakura and Ohgami immediately shut up and moved to the opposite sides of the couch, both looking rather embarrassed.

            "Oniii-chaaan!  Sakura!  Dinner's ready!"  Iris said, entering the common room.

            "Oh, Iris," Sakura said, standing up and greeting her, "Ohgami-san liked your presents!"

            "Really, Onii-chan?  Did you really?" Iris gingerly asked.

            "Yeah!  Especially the mini-Kobu.  Thank you, Iris!" Ohgami said.  Iris blushed deeply.

            "Iris is so happy!"

            "Me too!  C'mon everybody, let's eat!!"  Ohgami said to Sakura and Iris, and bolted out. 

            Ohgami, as he walked, had a big smile on his face.  He had finally won a date with Sakura, and finally, Ohgami realized that the rest of his days wouldn't be as boring as he expected them to be.