First, this story is the 12th in my 100-themes challenge. I'll try my best to pick up the quick updates again, but the prison known as high school may have other plans.

Obviously, this is going to be my next big multi-chapter story and unlike Downward Spiral, it actually has a solid plot... Rather than half a plot and just the urge to write fluff. I do hope you all enjoy this story, however. As it is a birthday present for Fiyerna who's birthday is in just a few days (so be sure you all wish him a happy birthday, hm?)

Regardless, the basic idea for this story was left for me in a review by someone and I'm afraid I don't recall their name. I thought about the idea for a while and it involved into this. Don't expect an update immediately, but I will have one as soon as possible. Let me know if it sounds interesting, hm?


Summary:

The Kirijo Group and Seta-Tech have both remained steadfast as the most powerful business in their respective home cities--the Kirijo Group in Port Island, and Seta-Tech in Tokyo. A business proposition arises, and the companies see an opportunity to merge together and expand their premises and influence. In order to make the business collaboration more appealing in the eyes of the employees and divert the possibility of public protest or intervention from rival companies, the families seal the bargain by arranging a marriage between their children.

When Souji and Mitsuru meet, they quickly befriend each other and recognize the similarities between them, but both of them agree that a romance would never work. While the pair put on masks and act like a 'happy couple' around their families, both teens already have someone precious in their lives.

Torn between pleasing their parents for the good of the companies and following their own hearts, they both stand at the same fork in the road: One path leading to that which they desire most, and the other patched together by lies, deception, and the destruction of far more than just their families' businesses.


Prologue

Around a small coffee table sat four elegant white plush chairs with detailed golden flower designs weaving throughout the cushions. The carpet was a deep royal blue with white oriental patterns repeating themselves throughout the surface, reaching to the far corners of the room. The walls were white but covered with large, exquisite paintings that looked as if they could have a retail value of over one million yen each.

The large double-oak doors swung open and a butler with a tray of tea entered, momentarily earning the attention of the five figures filling the chairs. Three of them—two men and one woman—were obviously adults in their mid-thirties to late forties. The fourth member of the group was a young female in her late teens with deep crimson hair, and of all of them, she looked the least comfortable with the small meeting.

"I agree with Takeharu-san, I believe it would be in the best interest for both our companies to join together. However… for us to randomly sign a contract to join together would cause a public uprising. Citizens might suspect foul-play and other corporations might attempt to stall our contact and keep it from happening." The younger looking man with unusual silver hair and dark eyes spoke, thanking the butler as he was served tea.

"A possibility I noticed as well," Takeharu Kirijo nodded, leaning forward as he rested his chin atop interlaced fingers. "The last thing we want is to cause a public uprising or give the idea that we're planning something."

"How do you plan to do that? The moment the contract manages to reach the public rumors will start… Depending on how bad and how fast—it is possible that they could heavily damage our business…" The female spoke, leaning unconsciously closer to the man next to her, her deep silver eyes—a near perfect shade made of the man's hair next to her—flickering with concern.

"I've both considered and thought about this; Hitomi-san, Kazuhiro-san and I have talked on the phone numerous times about it. You two have a son, do you not? He should be seventeen now, correct?"

"Souji?" The older female nodded slowly, a proud smile gracing her lips. "Of course, our Souji is the best child a parent could possibly as for."

Takeharu nodded slowly, leaning back in his chair before speaking. "So I've heard, Hitomi-san. The top of his class each year, an outstanding athlete… and from what I've heard, a very fine young gentleman."

"Yes, we're both very proud of him," Kazuhiro Seta nodded. "He's a fine young man, I wouldn't change a hair on his head. He is most definitely a very suitable man for any fine young woman."

Next to Takeharu, the crimson-haired girl tensed, gulping silently. She uncrossed her legs and subconsciously attempted to sink back further into her chair without anyone noticing. Crossing her arms, she dug her fingers into the fabric of her white shirt and glanced around the room slowly, dreading what she knew was coming. So this is why my father asked me to come…

Takeharu laughed lightly. "I see you jump straight to the point, in and out of business, Kazuhiro-san. Indeed he is a fine young bachelor…"

"Bachelor, Kazuhiro?" Hitomi repeated, glancing between the two males of the room. "Are you speaking of…"

Kazuhiro nodded, "I trust you took in the presence of the beautiful young woman sitting across from you?"

The teen jumped at being addressed so suddenly and sat up, nodding politely to Hitomi Seta, who smiled in return.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, ah…"

"Forgive me," Takeharu spoke up. "I've neglected to introduce you all—Kazuhiro-san, you two met earlier this morning. Hitomi-san, this is my daughter, Mitsuru. Like your son, she has been the top of her class for as long as I can remember."

"You speak lightly, Takeharu-san!" Kazuhiro smiled, turning to his wife next to him. "Mitsuru-san is an amazing young woman. Not only is she top of her class but she knows several different languages, is, from what I've heard, a brilliant fencer, and she already has numerous accounts showing fine leadership skills."

"You shine a light on me that is far too bright to accept, Seta-san." Mitsuru finally spoke up, trying to hide the unease in her voice. "I'm not nearly as accomplished as you make me out to be. I'm no different from many of the other students of my school."

"She's quite humble too…" Hitomi noted, nodding. "Quite a nice thing to see in a young lady."

Takeharu nodded fondly. "Of course, I wouldn't even consider such an idea for my Mitsuru if I wasn't sure both sides would complement each other nicely."

"An arranged marriage," Kazuhiro began, "Would not only allow our companies to join together without looking suspicious in the eyes of the public, but it would make things much easier for us in the end and show just how strong the bond between our companies is."

"Would this work…?" Hitomi asked, sounding worried. "Souji just recently returned to Inaba to stay with my brother for the summer. Surely if we wait too long someone is bound to find something out and take it the wrong way."

"We've already made plans for that as well. Port Island and Inaba are within reasonable distance of each other. We're arranged several meetings for our children to get to know one another. The wedding is scheduled at the start of next year."

"So soon?" Kazuhiro looked faintly surprised. "That leaves them only half a year to get to know one another and make the proper arrangements."

"I have all the confidence we will be able to do so, Kazuhiro-san." Takeharu said, "I'm sure there won't be a—Mitsuru? Is something wrong?"

Mitsuru jumped, not realizing how abruptly she had stood up. Her eyes shifted between each of the faces in the room, dimly aware of how pale her own appeared. Turning to her father, she shook her head slowly, speaking in a quiet, even tone.

"No, nothing is wrong, father. I've just realized the time and I must retire to my room for the night. I apologize for leaving in the middle of the meeting, but there are some classes I wish to take while attending school next year that requite entrance exams and I must study for them."

"Ah…" The elder Kirijo glanced at the other two occupants of the room silently, awaiting their responses.

"Of course, Mitsuru-san." Hitomi smiled kindly, "We don't wish to hinder your studies. If it's quite alright with your father, then please, don't hesitate to take your leave now." Kazuhiro nodded silently, agreeing with his wife's words.

"Well then, Mitsuru. You're free to go. Thank you for taking the time to join us tonight… I'll send someone up with tea for you later."

"Thank you, father." Turning to the Seta's Mitsuru nodded politely. "It was a pleasure to meet you both."

"And us you." Kazuhiro replied. "Good luck with your studies."

"Thank you, Seta-san."

Turning away from the adults quickly, Mitsuru crossed the length of the meeting room in long strides and slipped out the oak doors. Several maids bowed as she crossed the central hallway and made her way silently up the stairs. Her room was on the third floor and the quickest path to it was through the main halls. Normally, she would make it a point to avoid the maids who insisted on doting upon her every need on appearance, but tonight—thankfully—she ran into almost no one and was able to make it to her room without trouble.

Entering her room, Mitsuru leaned against her door, head bowed. Her face was almost completely covered by her hair as she pulled a small cell phone from her pocket. She flipped through her contacts, selecting one of the first on the list and pressed the phone to her ear. A soft voice on the other end answered, falling silent at the sound of shaky tone.

"…Can you come over here, please? Hurry, I… need to see you—to tell you something. Use that entrance."

The other line died without another word and Mitsuru knew they would be here soon. She dropped the phone on her desk and slowly began pacing around her room, hands wringing together nervously in a very uncharacteristic fashion. She had never openly displayed when she was nervous or unease, even when she was alone. Emotional control had always been something she was good at, but her nerves were almost completely shot and the control she took such pride in was slipping.

A knock filled the room and Mitsuru almost ran to the window as she threw it open and stepped back. A male dressed in a black pea coat over a white turtleneck and black pants slipped in. Dark-blue hair clung to a pale face, wet from the light drizzle outside. They'd barely had a chance to take their coat off before Mitsuru's arms were thrown around them and a muffled grunt of surprise filled the room.

"Minato-!"

"Mitsuru…" Minato's voice was soft, obviously not used very often. He wrapped his arms around Mitsuru's waist and slowly guided her toward a chair on the far side of the room, easing her down into it before sitting on the arm of the chair.

Minato's hand gently stroked her long hair, trying to ease the soft sobs Mitsuru attempted to hide by pressing her face into his side. He gave Mitsuru's shoulders a push, gesturing for her to shift her position. Sliding down into the chair, he arranged their position so that Mitsuru was half on his lap, half in the chair, making it easier for him to wrap his arms around her figure and comfort her.

The navy-haired boy couldn't begin to fathom what had upset Mitsuru so much so quickly. She had sounded just fine on the phone when they'd spoken earlier in the morning, but whatever it was, it sent an uneasy tingle down his spine. His own unease with the situation was pushed aside as he tightened his arms, muttering softly into the crimson-haired girl's ear.


A soft glow filled Souji's room where he and Naoto lay close together under a thick blanket. The table in the center of the room had been pushed to the side where the futon was normally packed away in order to lay the mattress out in the middle of the floor to create a comfortable place to watch a movie. It was late—nearly midnight, so the television's volume had been turned down to an almost muted setting so as not to disturb the other occupants of the home.

Discarded uniform jackets lay over the back of the small love-seat in the room above two bags that were filled with the books they had finished studying several hours previous. The original plan when the sleuth had come over was to take time to study for the summer classes they had both 'coincidentally' signed up for, but the plans quickly changed with Naoto casually mentioned that both Yakushiji and her grandfather had taken a leave of absence until Monday, leaving her alone in the house for three days.

Reluctantly, Dojima agreed to allowing the detective to stay the night, after Naoto assured him that—should Souji try anything that he wouldn't do in front of Nanako—the revolver she kept on her hip or close to her person at all times would be used in the least fatal way possible to get the silverette back in line. The elder detective had laughed, saying that wasn't necessary but the look in his eyes convinced both teens that it would be them who would wish they were looking down the barrel of a gun should they try anything. Of course, neither had any desire for anything beyond what they had now. It was more than enough to be wrapped in the other's arms and close enough that a slight tip of the head up or down would grace them the ability to peck the other affectionately.

A shrill beeping from Souji's cell-phone earned a small tongue-click of distaste from Naoto as the arms around her waist were removed and the warm body next to her disappeared. The light of the TV screen was blocked momentarily as the silverette crossed the room and picked his phone up from the metal shelf it sat on. The detective sat up quietly, noticing Souji's figure tense in the dull glow of the movie.

The phone conversation had been short, but it left Souji feeling sick. The phone fell from his hands causing Naoto to jump to her feet and quickly turn the lights on as Souji stumbled back across the room and dropped into the love-seat.

"Senpai…?" Naoto called softly, kneeling down in front of Souji. "Souji-kun, what's wrong?"

The silverette didn't reply, only causing Naoto to worry more.

"Souji-kun, please… speak to me. Please, tell me what's—" She stopped, as Souji glanced up, a pained look in his eyes. The silverette mouthed wordlessly, unable to voice the news he'd just received on the phone. How could my parents…? They hardly even see me! They have no right to just… just…

A choked sound escaped his throat as he leaned forward, pressing his face against Naoto's shoulder and pulling the detective close.

"Souji…kun…?"

The sleuth didn't know what was going on and it unnerved her, but right now, Souji needed whatever comfort she could offer him. Returning the embrace, she shifted closer to Souji, pressing her cheek to his as she rubbed his back slowly, trying to ease his tense muscles. Whoever was on the phone really upset him with whatever they had to say. I haven't seen Senpai this upset since Nanako-chan and Dojima-san… Were his parents hurt? Are they demanding that he return home? Senpai… What's going on? And... why can't you tell me?