January 1st is Kazuki's birthday

Whisper of the Strings
One: Kazuki's confession of love

"Hi, Juubei. What are you doing here?" Emishi asks when he sees Juubei standing on the street corner.

"I'm waiting for the Lighting Lord and my sister." Juubei answers, "Kazuki's birthday is coming up. I want to get him something special but I don't know what, so I ask Sakura and the Lighting Lord to come help pick out a birthday present."

"Aww…that's soooo sweet. You want to get a present for your pretty girlfriend." Emishi teases. Juubei grunts and tries to throw needles at the blood joker when his cellphone rings.

"Hello?" Juubei answers the phone.

"Juubei, sorry but I can't make it today." Sakura says over the phone, "MakubeX is having a hangover. He drank too much eggnog last night not realizing there is alcohol in it. I have to watch over him."

Yohan appears out of nowhere and stands next to Juubei. "You're getting a present for Kazuki, right? I'm going with you." Yohan says.

"Huh?" Juubei blinks. Where did Yohan come from?

"Got a problem with me going?" Yohan asks. Before Juubei can answer, Ban walks up to them.

"Hey, Needle boy. Ginji couldn't make it today; he ate too much X'mas cookies and now he is having a stomachache so he sent me to come shopping with you." Ban says, "you people are getting a birthday present for the Ito-maki, right? Let's go and get it over with."

"Did you just call Kazuki Ito-maki?" Yohan glares at Ban.

"I can see that you're going to have a fun day, Juubei, I won't keep you. Goodbye." Emishi leaves.

"Juubei, tell Ban Mido that no one is forcing him. He can leave if he doesn't want to go. We're better off without him." Yohan scoffs.

"Needle boy, you can tell Yohan that I would love to leave, but I promised Ginji I will come and help." Ban replies.

"You two…" Juubei asks, "any idea what Kazuki will like?"

"Hmm…." The two looks at Juubei. Juubei sighs. There is no way the three of them can find a present for Kazuki. "Just forget it."

"Well, we're all here already…. might as well go to a mall or something…" Yohan suggests. Ban offers, "I can drive…"

The three arrive at the mall. As they walk past the window of a jewelry store, Yohan says, "Juubei, those gold bracelets with dragon and phoenix engraving will look great on Kazuki."

"I can't get those for Kazuki. Those are Chinese wedding bracelets for brides." Juubei says, "Kazuki is not a bride."

"But you want him to be a bride…YOUR bride." Yohan says, "those bracelets will be a good way to tell him that."

"That's outrageous talk." Juubei's face is red. Yohan keeps on, "you can't win Kazuki's heart if you never make a move. Don't you feel stupid that you just stand next to him and do nothing when his heart is well within your reach? Must Kazuki throws himself at you before you take action?"

Ban looks at the Lingerie store and exclaims, "Hey, Juubei! Get a sexy pink silk kimono lingerie for Kazuki! Think about how wonderful it is to hold and touch Kazuki when he wears that. You can feel the smooth silk…and the skin under the silk…" Before Ban can finish the sentence, black strings shoot toward every one of Ban's body vital points.

"How dare you suggest getting that trash for Kazuki!" Yohan shouts as he attacks Ban mercilessly. Ban dodges the lethal strings, "Stop it, you nut job!"

"Get off your sick fantasy of holding and touching Kazuki, pervert!" Yohan yells as he continues to attack, ignoring the fact that he is in the middle of the mall and there are tons of shoppers around. Ban yells back at Yohan, "holding and touching aren't sick or perverted! It's a good feeling to be hugged by the one you love! Don't you think your big brother will want Juubei to hug him? It shows him how much Juubei Needs and Wants him. It Tells him that Juubei LOVE HIM."

Juubei's face is red as a tomato now. Ban didn't just yell that out loud in the middle of the busy mall. "Calm down, you two. Don't think too much of anything! Really, Kazuki just sees me as his best friend and nothing more." Juubei shouts. The two just ignore him and keep fighting.

Flying strings, pink kimono…those things remind Juubei about the first time he goes to the Fuuchouin's mansion. Lovely music filled the place and the curious young Juubei follow the melody to a secluded cabin where an unearthly beautiful girl in pink kimono plays the Koto. It was like a dream to see and hear her play. When the girl thought Juubei was an intruder and attacked Juubei with Koto strings, Juubei found out the angelic 'beautiful girl' is actually the Fuuchouin heir Kazuki.

"Stop! I just remembered something from long time ago." Juubei says to Yohan, "I think I know what to get Kazuki for his birthday."

"Really?" Yohan stops shooting threads at Ban.

The guys arrive at a specialized music instruments store. They picked out the Koto that is made with the best wood and strings. "This is so beautiful! It's perfect!" Yohan says.

"The music Kazuki made with a Koto is out of this world." Juubei says. Ban smiles, "good thinking, Juubei. You manage to find the perfect gift."

Juubei isn't listening to Ban. There is a young girl playing Koto in the store and Juubei is listening to her song. The girl sees Juubei and stops. "That was a wonderful song you were playing. There was no need to stop." Juubei says.

"I only play the song for him." The girl smiles and points to the boy next to her. The two youngsters then leave the music store.

"I didn't mean to interrupt. I was just listening because I recognize that song. It was Kazuki's favorite song to play. Every time when I went to see him, he would be playing that song over and over again with a smile on his face." Juubei says, "He only played that song when he was alone though. He always stops playing when other people came."

"Kazuki wasn't alone, dummy. YOU were there. He was playing that song for you and you only, just like that girl only plays that song for her guy." Ban says.

"Why?" Juubei asks.

"That song is an ancient Chinese piece 'whisper of the string'. Once it was consider improper for girls to talk to guys. So when a girl likes a boy, she would play this song to tell the guy her feelings." Ban explains, "'The strings are whispering my secret affections to you', that's what the song means. Girls had been confessing their loves to guys using that song for over 3000 years."

"Confession of love?" Juubei's heart skips a beat.

"Seems like Kazuki thinks of you as more than his best friend, lover boy…" Ban smirks.