Durch Leiden Freude ~The Forgotten Side~
The moment the posh black European car was parked in the neighbourhood, its dazzling existence immediately drew attention from the suburban residents around. Adding to the effect, stepping out of the car was a charismatic man in dark charcoal Italian suit, ignorant of the glances he attracted. With the remote on his key ring the man locked the car before he headed towards an ordinary standard looking apartment block contrasting the enigmatic aura he carried.
It was not his first time at the apartment complex. Still, every time he had to climb the stairs to reach his destination, the man would murmur within as to why there was no elevator built for this building.
No, it was not because he was not fit enough to climb the stairs, in fact, he was fitter and healthier than other men of his age considering that he would never forget to spend at least an hour at the gym everyday despite his hectic work schedule. Rather, to him, any extra effort was considered a waste of time for him. I mean, why do the maximum when you can get by with the minimum?
After the few minutes of complaining within, the man finally reached his destination. To his slight relief, he did not had to wait long when the door opened, and a girl with locks of dark red looked up at him, her beautiful brown eyes widened in surprise. "Kira-san? Today is Friday right?"
"I know," with a short simple reply, the charming businessman entered the apartment most naturally as if he owned the place.
Knowing that she was not going to be able to send the man away, the girl followed after him as she asked. "Have you eaten yet? If not, I can prepare something."
"The beef stew you always make would be fine." Calmly loosening his tie, the man comfortably seated himself down on the sofa in the living room.
"Beef stew it is then, Kira-san." Nodding, the girl smiled and headed into the kitchen. "Would you like some cold beer too?"
After the girl returned to the lounge with the icy cold beer, she found the man had already fallen asleep on the sofa. Despite the sofa being a three-seater, it was still too small for the 183cm man who was considered a rare tall range for Japanese men.
Smiling within, the girl placed the cold beer on the coffee table and took another look at the handsome man. It had always confused her why Kira Akihiko was able to sleep on her uncomfortable sofa. Gently placing a blanket over Kira, the girl took another look before she returned to the kitchen again to prepare the beef stew he requested.
Noticing the girl watching him eating a normal standard home cooking, Kira asked. "Aren't you going to eat?"
"I have already eaten." The girl replied. "In case you haven't noticed, it is already nine."
"Well, the meeting went longer than expected today." Kira said as he took another bite of the cooking. There was nothing extraordinary about the food, especially not the extravagant type he was used to at the flash restaurants he often visited. For some reason, Kira found himself returning time after time to eat this home cooking. It could be the simple taste, or the calm atmosphere in this apartment that drew him back here.
"…Are you staying over tonight?" Softly the girl asked, her voice sounded stiff with the question.
"Yes." Kira replied simply without any particular reaction.
"Do you know that the nosey housewives in the neighbourhood all thought I was your aijini." A little testing, the girl asked.
Unfortunately, unmoved, the man before her eyes answered. "Let them think whatever."
Knowing unlike her, Kira was calm and poised; the girl got up from the seat and said quickly. "I will go set up the bath."
With the hot water filling the deep bath tub, the girl felt her heart and mind confused. There was no wonder all the neighbours thought she was Kira's aijin because she was doing everything aijin would do, all except the sex.
This strange relationship she had with Kira started from three months ago. She could still clearly remember that it was a rainy day, it was pouring terribly as if the sky was weeping.
It was a fine day in the morning. Hino Kahoko felt that it was a perfect day to do laundry and to her dismay, later in the afternoon, without prior warning the storm came and in panic she ran out into the garden to rescue her washing when she saw a posh European car parked by the side of the road with hazard lights on.
Contrasting to the other people on the streets running for shelter, Kahoko saw a tall business man standing by the car investigating the busted tyre. Kahoko was even more surprised when she recognised the face of the businessman as she immediately ran back into the house to return once again with an umbrella.
While the businessman frowned in displease as he studied the tyre, he noticed a covering came on top of him and a person was standing by him with an umbrella. "Kira-rijichou! Are you crazy to be standing out here in this pouring rain? You will get sick and your expensive Italian suit is totally wrecked!"
Kira's stunningly handsome eyes studied the girl before him as he finally greeted, a little surprised how he could actually come up with the correct name. "Hino-kun, I am surprised to see you here."
"No time to chit chat," Kahoko urged. "You should either wait under a shelter or wait in your car until help arrives."
"I am not returning into the car, the water would wreck the leather seats." Kira said stating his view of priority. "Besides I just need to change the tyre and I would be on my way."
"But you are not expecting to change the tyres in this rain right? You have to at least wait for the rain to stop." Kahoko paused as she gave a sigh. "If you want, you can wait in my apartment until the rain stops. It is also crucial that you change out of your soaking suit."
Knowing the rain wasn't going to stop anytime soon, Kira followed Kahoko back to her apartment. To his surprise, after he took a hot shower, there was a set of clean dry man's clothing for him to change into. Not only so, Kira noticed the size of the man's clothing was around his size, which was rare in Japan. With that in mind, Kira entered the lounge room to find Kahoko serving up a nice cup of coffee.
"Would you like sugar and milk with your coffee?" Kahoko asked when she saw Kira.
"No, black would be fine."
Kahoko smiled at Kira's answer as she teased. "Just as I pictured, you are a black coffee person."
Sitting down on the sofa, Kira studied the apartment. It was not a flash place, but the place was clean and nice, very well colour coordinated, giving a warm homey feeling. "So you are no longer living at home?"
"Of course not." Handing Kira his coffee, Kahoko sat down on the other sofa. "I am already working, I can't possibly still be living at home."
"So you moved in with your boyfriend?"
Kahoko nearly choked on her own coffee with Kira's sharp straight question. "What, what gave you that idea?"
"Well," Pointing to the clothing he was wearing, Kira calmly said. "This obviously isn't yours, and I noticed also that there were shaving cream, razors, and another toothbrush in the bathroom."
Stunned at how perceptive Kira was, Kahoko's face turned bright red as she finally muttered. "It's not that…I, I am sharing this apartment with my brother."
"Ah, anyway," Not wanting to dwell further on the topic Kahoko asked instead. "Since it is still pouring outside, do you want to stay for dinner? I already cooked something."
Seeing no harm in staying a big longer, Kira accepted the offer and to his surprise, the food he ate that night was in fact delicious although it was simple. "Isn't your 'brother' coming home for dinner?"
For some reason, Kahoko noticed Kira emphasised on the word brother showing how he obviously did not believe her explanation. Blushing a little, Kahoko replied. "He was sent to Osaka for a few days by his work, so he won't be home today."
"I see," Kira replied half-heartedly. "You mentioned that you are working, are you a professional violinist?"
Kira's eyes narrowed a little when he saw the look of sadness showed from Kahoko's eyes with his question. But quickly hiding it, Kahoko replied with a bright smile. "No, of course not. Playing the violin was only a hobby, it can never really become my career."
"I am surprised to hear that from you, Hino-kun." Kira frowned while his eyes looked sharply at Kahoko causing her to lower her head in guilt. "Wasn't it only less than a decade ago that you wanted to prove your belief in music and held a Christmas concert to prove me wrong?"
"That was nearly a decade ago…" Kahoko muttered. "Also, can you stop calling me Hino-kun? I have stopped being a student at your school for many years already."
It was indeed a long time ago. Too many things changed in this long period. Eight years ago, Kahoko was a teenager, she had dreams and she worked towards that dream. Unfortunately as time pass, Kahoko realised her dream had vanished when Tsukimori left her life too. Five years ago, she was given another chance when her first love Tsukimori Len returned to participate in the Madama Butterfly Production. Unfortunately, unable to resolve the situation between her heart and Tsukimori's feeling for her, Kahoko turned down Maestro Schinkle's offer of scholarship for the vain reason that she could not bear to spend any more time with Tsukimori.
After her graduation from Seiso University, Kahoko did not continue her career in music like Tsuchiura and Hihara, rather, Kahoko started her life like everyone else, just a normal office lady, and music to her was no longer a dream but a mere hobby.
Kira noticed the melancholy in Kahoko's heart, but he did not delve into it. Instead, he took a look out the window and stated calmly. "The rain has stopped. I guess I better get going." Standing up from the chair, Kira smiled. "It was a lovely meal, Hino-kun."
Just when Kahoko thought that would be the last she would see of Kira, he returned a few days later with the clothing Kahoko provided for him on that rainy day.
"Here, all cleaned and ironed."
Surprised at the quality of the cleaning, Kahoko teased. "Your wife must be excellent at housework. So professionally done."
"I don't have a wife." Kira replied simply for some reason made Kahoko's heart feel slightly afloat. "I had it professionally cleaned at the cleaners."
Kahoko was rather surprised considering with Kira's qualities and not to mention his age, he could not possibly still be single. As if he understood what was going through Kahoko's mind, Kira added. "Too busy at work to even take time to look at woman. If I could find a wife by going to convenient stores, then I would be married by now."
"Women are not items you can buy off the shelf!" Kahoko disagreed immediately.
"I know, that is why I am not married." With that statement, Kira calmly and most naturally seated himself on the sofa of the lounge displaying a message that he wasn't planning to leave straight away.
"Well, since you always come at the perfect timing, if you have time, dinner would be ready in a few minutes." Kahoko smiled as she put the apron back on. "Unfortunately I wasn't expecting you to come, so it would just be something simple."
After Kahoko returned to the kitchen, Kira took a look around the room and immediately noticed some things different. Although it was a few days ago that he was here, Kira discovered items were missing. It was as if someone was moving out.
"Is your brother back from Osaka?"
"My brother?" Kahoko asked while she poured the chicken curry she cooked onto the rice.
"Didn't you say that your brother went to Osaka for a few days because of work?" Kira asked again.
Finally Kahoko discovered the trap Kira had set up, and carelessly she fell right into it. "Ah, no, he, he is not back yet. Apparently he needed to spend a few more weeks there."
"I see." Kira replied and asked no more.
Kahoko took a peek and found Kira's face still confident and calm, it was as if there was something going on underneath that attractive face but he wasn't planning to let her know. In fact, he really took Kahoko by surprise when he returned to her apartment again a few days later. He did not even bother to come up with a reason for his visit, other than simply because he felt like it.
Kira's 'feeling like it' attitude started their strange relationship. After work, Kira would come to hang out at her apartment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For some unknown reason, Kahoko's apartment became like Kira's second home.
The first night he stayed over because he was too tired and couldn't be bothered to drive home. Kahoko nearly died of nervousness but nothing happened at all as Kira slept in the second bedroom and the next day he went to work just like that! It was as if he really just couldn't be bothered to drive back home and none of the possible scenarios for a man and woman sleeping under the same roof that went through Kahoko's mind even crossed Kira's.
Kahoko soon learned that it was because, eight years ago Kira took her as a little girl, eight years later, to him she was still a little girl. It did not matter that she was already twenty-five and she was no longer a student at his school. Kahoko also remembered Kira once told her that he probably would take an interest in her if she had become a successful violinist, and knowing she was not one, there was no way Kira would even take a second look at her anyway.
With the understanding, Kahoko prepared spare toothbrushes, spare toiletries, and time after time, Kira's items started occupying the empty spaces in the apartment. The spaces in the apartment that once belonged to another man, and although Kira probably already know the man was not her brother, he never asked.
Slowly opening his eyes, Kira took a look at his watch and found the time displayed as 9:25am. Sitting up from the bed, Kira frowned knowing although it was a Saturday morning, he had actually slept in.
"Hino, why didn't you wake me up?" Entering the lounge room Kira asked. To his surprise, no one was in the house, but a note was left on the table.
I had to rush to work this morning, breakfast is in the fridge. I wasn't sure whether I need to wake you up so, but I guess there is no harm sleeping in on Saturday because you need it!
Sitting at the dining table eating the breakfast Kahoko prepared, Kira suddenly remembered what she said the night before. "All the neighbours thought I was your aijin."
A smile came onto his face with the thought. To be his aijin, he would have to be married first, not to mention Kahoko was no aijin material, rather, she would make a sweet wife…
Kira halted his thoughts immediately when that idea popped up in his head. Gradually, he was beginning to understand the reason why he kept visiting this ordinary apartment.
While he was thinking, Kira heard the sound of keys outside the front door. Knowing Kahoko had returned home, Kira stood up from where he was as he headed for the door. However, the moment the door opened, it was not the sweet beautiful face of Kahoko that Kira saw, rather, it was another man, a man around his height.
The man was obvious shocked too to see him as he called out in shock. "Ki…Kira rijichou?"
Kira frowned as he could not match a name to the face. "Do I know you?"
"I am Tsuchiura, Tsuchiura Ryotaro." The green haired man said as he gave a sigh when he saw Kira continued to stare at him blankly. "You know, the pianist that played in the ensemble with Hino Kahoko?"
"Sorry, I am never really good with names." Kira finally stated giving up on linking the boy to his memory. No longer interested, Kira turned and returned to the dining room. "Hino-kun is not home if you were looking for her."
"Ah, no, I am not looking for her…" Tsuchiura replied as he too entered the living room.
"I guess not." Kira replied calmly as he took a sip of the coffee. "It was more that you came because you knew she was not home."
"Huh?" Tsuchiura frowned immediately with Kira's statement.
Although Kira was unable to link Tsuchiura to his memory, he figured this much out. Tsuchiura had keys to the apartment, and he entered without hesitation, there was only one explanation. Tsuchiura was the man that lived in the apartment with Kahoko. The clothing Kahoko lent him that raining day belonged to Tsuchiura.
Returning a few days later, Kira noticed things were missing, showing whoever Kahoko lived with started to move out. Yet, Kahoko lied about the man being her brother, it was more than clear to Kira that Tsuchiura and Kahoko had another relationship.
"I just came to pick up the rest of the items I left behind." Tsuchiura muttered as he placed the keys on the table. "And to return the keys."
"Do as you please." Kira said while his eyes continued to read the newspaper in his hand.
Unlike the unruffled man before him, Tsuchiura was most annoyed with Kira's attitude. No, to be exact, he was more annoyed with Kira's existence. This apartment once belonged to him and Kahoko, and having a man treating it as his own home bothered him to no end.
Tsuchiura's heart sank even more when he noticed another man's toiletries occupying the bathroom and they do not belong to him. But who could he blame? He was the one that made the decision to move out, he was the one that ruined everything he and Kahoko had.
"Kira-san, you are still here?"
Maybe Tsuchiura lost track of time reminiscing, that he had forgotten his original plan to come and leave as quickly as possible. His heart immediately thumped harder and harder when he heard the sweet voice of the girl he was trying to avoid.
"You're back fast." Tsuchiura heard Kira conversing with Kahoko calmly as if he was the man of the house. "From your note, I thought you will be caught up at work for a whole day."
"Well, the disaster was resolved faster than we thought, so I get to leave before lunch."
"By the way, you have a visitor."
Tsuchiura cursed Kira again for bringing that up although knowing he could never avoid facing Kahoko eventually. With Kira's cue, Tsuchiura finally entered the lounge room.
Upon his appearance, Kahoko's face turned white immediately. Seeing that reaction, Tsuchiura felt a prick at his heart. "Yo…I came to pick up the remaining things and," Pointing to the keys on the table he added. "To return the keys."
"…I see." Was all Kahoko could say.
"Now that you're back," Interrupting Kira said. "It's my turn to return to work."
"Eh? But it's Saturday…" Kahoko said quickly for some reason hoping Kira would not leave her and Tsuchiura alone.
"There are no weekends and public holidays for me." Kira stated as he grabbed his coat and suitcase. "I will see you later." Unfortunately not granting Kahoko her hope, Kira left the apartment leaving the awkward pair alone.
As expected a gauche silence followed and an extreme intense air filled the room.
"Hino, I am sorry…" Finally breaking the silence, Tsuchiura sighed.
"Please don't apologise!" Kahoko covered her ears immediately. "Whatever happened has happened, it was not your fault, it was, it was…" Not knowing even how to put the words together Kahoko fell silent again.
Kahoko thought Tsuchiura would be the last person she would ever experience such awkwardness with. After Tsukimori returned to Vienna five years ago, Kahoko did not accept Kaji and Hihara's feelings. She felt her heart was so hurt that she wasn't ready to love again, and with such an attitude, she could not be with anyone.
But Tsuchiura was different, he was always a great friend to her. Kahoko was glad that she was able to continue to remain friends with Tsuchiura even after they have all became adults. With her new job situation, Kahoko and Tsuchiura decided to rent an apartment together, sharing rents. It was something so simple, so pure, something great friends do right?
The two friends were great flatmates for over a year, keeping each other companied. It was also with Tsuchiura's help, Kahoko could be working at her current job, although she had given up on her music pursuit, Tsuchiura granted her the chance to have a career associated to it. Everything was going great until that day, the day of Kahoko's 25th birthday.
As a great friend, Tsuchiura held a party for her at their apartment. At the end of the party, when the apartment was left with party left-over and a miserable Kahoko, Tsuchiura brought out more alcohol for more celebration just for the two of them.
"Why so gloomy?" Tsuchiura teased as he passed Kahoko another glass of wine. "It's your day, smile!"
"I can't believe I am twenty-five already." Kahoko sighed as she took a sip of the wine in her hand. "You know what Amou-chan said to me? She said that if a woman doesn't get married before twenty-five, they would be like a Christmas cake on sale."
Nodding, Kahoko gave another sigh. "You know how Christmas cakes are expensive and fancy before the 25th of December? But once it is past the 25th, you only see those unsold Christmas cakes on sale. The price drops just like that."
With the analogy, Tsuchiura burst out laughing. "And you are comparing yourself to a cake?"
"It's true!" Kahoko puffed her cheeks. "No one would ever want me once I past 25! I would be forced to be on sale, or get thrown away…"
"You won't get thrown away…"
"It's easy for you to say." Kahoko continued on, talking more than usual obviously affected by the alcohol she had been drinking. "You are a man, men only become more valuable as time goes on. You can be a fifty year old bachelor and there would still be woman crazy about you!"
"It doesn't work that way, besides, you say this now and who knows, you could get married this year." Tsuchiura replied, obviously also affected by the alcohol because he heard himself said. "If no one would marry you, fine, you can marry me."
"Ah, it would be a good idea!" Kahoko laughed with Tsuchiura's suggestion. "If by the time I am fifty, and you are fifty, we could probably get married."
Tsuchiura grinned. "Alright, that would be our pack. So don't worry, you will never end up alone."
To Tsuchiura's surprise, tears rolled off Kahoko's face suddenly. Quickly passing her a box of tissue, Tsuchiura asked. "What's wrong now?"
Shaking her head, Kahoko sobbed. "I don't know, I just feel so alone and sad. You only make the pack as a joke, but you will surely get married anyway, and still I would end up alone at fifty, old and unattractive…"
Tsuchiura remained silent at Kahoko's words as he continued to look at her beautiful face, her pearl white cheeks reflecting a shade of pinkness from the alcohol. Feeling his heartbeat racing, Tsuchiura said. "You are not unattractive…"
Although all these years Tsuchiura remained Kahoko's friend, it did not mean he had no feelings for her. Unlike the rest, Tsuchiura chose to never reveal his feeling for her because he believed she needed him as a friend, and he was willing to play the part.
"Yes I am unattractive." Kahoko insisted.
"No, you're not. I know a few guys at work are interested in you…"
"But they will soon lose interest once they know I am twenty-five…"
"They already know! Some of them even came to the party today right?"
"There isn't really anyone, you only made that up to make me feel better…"
"I didn't!" Tsuchiura groaned. "At least even I thought you are…"
"You thought I am attractive?" Opposite to her original personality, Kahoko suddenly became extremely sharp and asked.
With Kahoko's eyes looking at him like that, Tsuchiura blushed and turned away. "Never mind."
"Tell me~~~~~" Kahoko insisted. "This would be your chance to tell me the truth!"
Chance to tell her the truth? Tsuchiura felt his heart thumping hard with Kahoko's words. How could he tell her how he feels? This feeling he hid for many years in order to protect their friendship?
"Tell me," To make it worse, Kahoko got up from where she was and crawled slowly onto him. "Do you find me attractive or not?"
With Kahoko's body on top of him, Tsuchiura thought he was going to die. "Oi, Hino, seriously, don't play with fire!"
"Ah…you have extremely toned arms, and wide broad chest." Smiling Kahoko held onto Tsuchiura. "I wish I was as attractive as you~"
"Oi, you would not be attractive if you have these features too." Although knowing Kahoko only acted this way because she was drunk, Tsuchiura realised he could not push her away. Not to mention due to the effect of alcohol, he was not thinking straight and his usual strong self-control has become as thin as ice.
The moment Kahoko called his name in such an intimate, seductive way, Tsuchiura knew it was going to be bad, really bad because he heard himself responded. "Kaho…"
The moment Tsuchiura opened his eyes, a moan escaped his mouth when a throbbing headache hit him by surprise. Damn, cursing within, Tsuchiura made up his mind to never drink like that again because the hangover was not worth it.
Getting out of bed, there were only two words repeating themselves inside his head. Water and pain killers, water and pain killers…until he suddenly noticed that he was totally naked. Startled with his appearance, Tsuchiura finally took a second look at his surroundings and discovered—that this was not his room.
Although he tried hard to figure out what had happened, that headache and the constant ringing in his head were preventing him from thinking fast and clearly. Looking over to the bed again, Tsuchiura suddenly felt all the blood in his body rushed straight to his feet when he saw Kahoko sleeping there, and although her body was covered under a blanket, Tsuchiura distinctively saw little dark red marks along her neck, proving to him the passionate exotic dream he had was after all not a dream!
"Shit…" Tsuchiura cursed because he regretfully could not remember the details of it. Something obviously did happen between them, but he could not remember whether it was a mutual expression of love or simply two drunk animals acting beyond logic.
When that thought hit him, Tsuchiura felt his hands turning colder. What had he done? The precious friendship he endeavoured so hard to keep between them was obviously ruined! How was he ever going to look at Kahoko again?
On his side, Tsuchiura wanted nothing more than to have Kahoko by his side for the rest of his life, yet, this was not the way he wanted it to happen! Not when he had taken advantage of the girl he found most precious in a drunken state!
Most of all, if he was already acting this way, how much worse would it be for Kahoko when she wakes up to discover the shocking truth? He must not be here when she wakes up! He needed time to figure out what to do next! With that, Tsuchiura picked his clothing that were scattered over the floor and left Kahoko's room quickly.
Slowly rubbing her temples, Kahoko prayed the effect of the pain killers she just took would work quickly. She had never drunk like that before, and she had heard of hangovers but never in the world could she imagine it to be this horrible.
Most of all, she woke up with not only a terrible headache, but a shocking discovery of what had actually happened between her and her best friend. Although she could not remember the details, but everything else, the kiss marks on her body, the stains on the bed sheet were more than clear to her that something serious had indeed happened.
She was kind of relieved that Tsuchiura was not in the house when she woke up for she was not sure what sort of face she should put on when they come to see each other face to face. At the same time, Kahoko was not sure how to best interpret Tsuchiura's actions. Was he regretting whatever happened between them? Would he now treat her differently because he was disappointed with the way she handled herself so shamefully?
There was one thing Kahoko was sure of though. Both Tsuchiura and she could never return to the pure friendship they once had. Sinking her head into her hands Kahoko exhaled deeply in self-hatred and shame. What the hell happened to her? She was indeed feeling miserable and alone last night, but this was not the way to deal with it! How could she throw away the wonderful relationship she so treasured between she and Tsuchiura?
For the next few days, Kahoko learned that she was not the only one suffering from what had happened. Tsuchiura was obviously avoiding her because he had not come back home. Kahoko could blame no one but herself.
Finally after a month of absence, Tsuchiura came home.
Although it has been a month, but the two soon realised it was not long enough to lessen the pressure both have been experiencing.
"Hino, I am sorry."
Kahoko's body jumped when she heard Tsuchiura apologised. Blushing like a red tomato, Kahoko shook her head. "Why are you apologising?" With her head lowered, she stated, the tone in her voice sounded hurt. "So after a month, this was your conclusion?"
Sensing the tone in Kahoko's voice, Tsuchiura clenched his fist. "I could not think of anything other than apologising to you. I know I have taken advantage of you and it was irresponsible and unmanly of me…" Stopping, the man concluded, giving Kahoko the answer. "I will move out."
Kahoko did not respond immediately as she tried hard to take everything in.
"I will continue to pay my part of the rent until you can find someone to move in with you, meanwhile I will crash at my friend's place until I find a new place." Mistaking the reason to Kahoko's silence, Tsuchiura said quickly.
"You don't have to do that." Kahoko finally responded, her voice sounded mild.
"No, I should." Tsuchiura insisted. "Once I have found a place, I will start to move my things over. I will come and return the keys when it's all done."
Although Kahoko did not know how to deal with their situation either, she discovered the last thing she wanted from Tsuchiura's mouth was an apology, but that was what she received. As Kahoko watched the items in the apartment slowly disappearing throughout the next few weeks, Kahoko felt her heart more and more lost. The only thing that prevented her from going crazy was Kira's unexpected visits. She knew the neighbours were talking but she didn't care. Maybe she was just scared to be alone. Without another person, Kahoko felt the apartment was too big for her.
When Tsuchiura came to return the key, he knew it would be the last time he would ever step into this apartment again. He did not expect however, that there would be another man in the apartment. With Kira sitting so comfortably drinking his morning coffee, Tsuchiura could not help but see that Kahoko had found a man and he had lost his right to this little place where he once called home.
"So I guess this is it." Tsuchiura forced out a smile as he looked at the bag in his hand.
"I guess so too." Kahoko nodded.
Tsuchiura did not know what more to say as he moved up and held Kahoko in his arms. "Take care of yourself, okay?"
Sensing the urge to cry, Kahoko held it in as she embraced the man who had been by her side, who treated her the same no matter what she did.
Finally letting go, Tsuchiura headed for the front door. Before he stepped out, Kahoko suddenly stopped him. Looking back at the girl who called him, Tsuchiura felt as if he was electrocuted when he saw the tears in her eyes.
"I am sorry, Tsuchiura-kun." Kahoko sobbed and gave him a sincere bow. "I was the one that ruined everything. You have been nothing but kind to me, I am grateful that I had a friend like you."
"…me too." Tsuchiura gave Kahoko a gentle supportive smile before he turned and left the apartment.
Tsuchiura thought that would be the last time he would see Kahoko because she no longer needed him. Unfortunately as he walked down the steps of the apartment complex, he overheard the conversation from the neighbours that bothered him so.
"Have you heard about Hino-san from apartment 408?"
"Yes, I have. The young girls these days are really despicable."
"Exactly, they use their youth and beauty to act as aijin for rich business executives."
"You mean that attractive man with a flash European car?"
"That's the one! Seriously, if I knew my husband was cheating on me and have aijin somewhere else, I would hunt her down and burn off all her hair!"
"I would too! How can she have no shame stealing someone else's husband?"
From the daily gossip of the housewives, Tsuchiura never expected to hear such shocking news. He thought Kahoko had found happiness with Kira, but in fact she was only aijin to him? What the hell? Although he already said that he had no right over Kahoko's life, but there was no way Tsuchiura would watch Kira play with Kahoko's heart like this!
The next thing he knew was, Tsuchiura found himself storming into the chairman's office in Seiso Gakuin.
"Kira-rijichou!" Since it was a Saturday, Tsuchiura had no trouble breaking into Kira's office without resistance.
Lifting his head from the piles of paperwork on his desk, Kira's scarlet eyes looked up at the intruder, with boredom they moved back onto the documents again.
"What are you thinking? How could you play with her heart like this?!" slamming his hands onto Kira's desk Tsuchiura yelled.
"I had hoped to be able to get some work done on a Saturday, first it was Lili and now you…" With a sigh Kira put down the pen in his hand and crossed his arms.
"Lili?" Tsuchiura paused for a moment remembering that name sounded familiar.
"Oh! Tsuchiura Ryotaro! Long time no see!" Appearing suddenly in mid-air was the music fairy who vowed to bless the school with music, and the very culprit that dragged Tsuchiura into the Annual School Concur.
"Wah!" Not expecting that, Tsuchiura backed away from Kira's desk.
"What is with the reaction? It's not very nice when you see an old friend." The little fairy crossed his arms and complained.
"Why are you still around, Lili?" Tsuchiura asked starting to settle down a bit.
"That's the same question I wanted to ask…" Kira muttered while he returned to his work.
"How impolite, the both of you!" Lili groaned. "I am the Fata that blesses this school, without me, this school would have fallen apart!"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever…" Still not moving his eyes away from the paperwork, Kira muttered again.
With puffed cheeks, Lili sighed. "Hino Kahoko is the only person who treated me with respect. How I miss her…"
With Kahoko's name mentioned, Tsuchiura finally remembered the reason he was here in the first place. Turning back to Kira, he interrogated again. "If you already have a wife then leave Hino alone! Stop playing with her heart like that!"
"She told you that?" Still not looking up Kira asked.
Tsuchiura blushed with Kira's words and replied. "No, but as her friend I can't see her go down this path knowing she would only end up being miserable."
"Then if I don't have a wife, I don't have to leave her alone anymore?"
"Yes, that's right...huh?" Tsuchiura stopped immediately not expect Kira to say that. "You don't have a wife?"
"No, I don't." Finally looking up, Kira said. "Besides, I don't think I was the one that hurt her, Tsuchimori-kun."
"It's Tsuchiura!" The green haired pianist thought he would never hear anyone call him that way again but he was obviously wrong. "Anyway, what do you mean?"
With a sigh, Kira replied. "I am kind of busy here, Tsukiura-kun. Can't you figure that one out yourself?"
Before the conversation started going round in loops, Lili suddenly interrupted. "Oh, Tsuchiura Ryotaro. You mentioned Hino Kahoko. How is she doing? Is she still playing the violin?"
With Lili's question, Tsuchiura sighed and shook his head. "No, she stopped. Or rather, she would only play it from time to time as a hobby."
"What? Why?" Lili was obviously disappointed with the answer. "She's not the type of person to give up like that! Not to mention the gifts she has!"
"I know, Lili. But many things have since happened." Tsuchiura sighed again. "I guess she just needs some time."
"I see…" Lili lowered his head with the outcome.
"Alright, if you guys would like to mourn, please go to another room." Kira suddenly spoke up as he gestured for Tsuchiura to leave. "I do have some work to finish by the end of the day if you don't mind."
"Fine." Tsuchiura said as he headed out the door. "Kira-rijichou, if you are not married and are serious about Hino, make it clear so her reputation won't be destroyed because of it."
"Your advice is noted." With that, Kira closed the door and shut Tsuchiura out.
"Fine, I won't disturb you anymore. I have other music students to attend to." Lili said and vanished giving Kira back the peaceful silent he wanted. Returning to his desk, Kira pulled out the file drawer and after a few seconds of search took out the Music Concur records from eight years ago. Flipping through it, his hands stopped when it came to the files related to Hino Kahoko. Attached to it were photographs of her standing on stage performing.
"Kira-san?" Kahoko's eyes opened wide in surprise when she saw the tall sexy executive appearing in front of her office. She had expected to see him appearing at her front door, never was she prepared for him to show up at her work.
"You have finished for the day right?"
"Yes." Nodding Kahoko still could not figure out what Kira's intention was.
"Good. We still have time for you to go back and change into something nice." Taking a look at his watch Kira stated.
Not sure what Kira had in mind, Kahoko did as told and since Kira mentioned 'dress up', Kahoko put on an evening dress and applied appropriate make up to go with it. Returning to the lounge where Kira was waiting, she was glad when she noticed the look of praise on Kira's face when he saw her. Maybe she purposely did it so he would know that she was no longer a little girl, but a woman.
Sitting in the passenger seat of Kira's car, Kahoko felt her heart pounding in nervousness although it was not her first time in this spot. Back in the days when she was attending schooling at Seiso, Kira already took her around in his car. However, back in those days, as a teenager, she knew not what to expect, but now as a grown up, Kahoko was starting to feel the charm Kira possessed slowly taking over her mind.
It was even more intense because she noticed from time to time, Kira's eyes would move over and study her, and they weren't the eyes that were simply amused, finding her interesting, rather, she sensed that he was admiring her as a man to a woman.
Unfortunately, despite the fact Kira openly admired her with his gaze, he did not touch her. He took her to a fancy French restaurant, had a normal conversation with her. After the meal, he led her to the concert hall not far from the restaurant.
"This is…?" Kahoko asked when Kira led her to the front entrance.
"It's the violin concert of an ex-candidate of the Seiso Gakuin Annual Concur. As the chairman I was invited so I thought I would invite you along." Kira replied while they were led to their seats. However, Kahoko had found the situation ironic. It was like reminding her that a person who had the same status as her had now become a success and she was just…ordinary.
Although feeling uncomfortable and restless sitting here listening to the concert, Kahoko soon found her heart captured with the music, the performance. How could she forget this feeling? How could she abandon the one dream she truly believed and loved? For the first time in a long while, Kahoko wanted to play her violin again, she wanted to hear the beautiful sound being produced by her fingers. She wanted to stand on stage like the violinist before her, she wanted to become part of that world again.
Without noticing, Kahoko held onto Kira's hand. Looking up at the girl next to him, Kira saw Kahoko's eyes stilled on the performer, and the lively expression Kira once remember seeing on her face returned to her.
"It was a beautiful concert, I had a great time, Kira-san." Kahoko said as Kira dropped her back to her apartment.
Kira did not say a word as his sexy eyes looked over at the girl sitting in the passenger seat beside him. Noticing a different type of glance, something dangerous, Kahoko felt her heart skipped a beat. Before she had a chance to say good night and flee, Kira unbuckled his seatbelt and without warning leaned over and pressed his lips deeply onto hers.
Although taken by surprise, Kahoko did not struggle. Maybe because she sort of was hoping for it to happen or she was no longer a little girl who would find this type of act outrageous, Kahoko closed her eyes as she responded, unlocking her lips to allow Kira to explore her deeper, taking her to a passionate heat that Kahoko had not experienced for a long time.
When Kira finally left her lips, Kahoko slowly opened her eyes as she tried to calm her mind although her body was still burning with passion. Looking up, she saw the charismatic drop dead sexy man looking deeply at her, but instead of leaning down to kiss her some more, he just looked at her, as if he enjoyed studying her every detail.
Unable to take the intense gaze, Kahoko lowered her head and asked softly. "…Are you staying over tonight?"
It was the simple question Kahoko had asked many times before, but tonight, she knew it had a different meaning. The man that although stayed over many times at her place never touched her, and yet, if he had kissed her, does it mean he no longer treats her as a little girl?
After a period of silence that seemed like eternity, Kahoko felt her heart thumped hard when she heard Kira replied.
"Where is your violin?"
After Kahoko gave Kira his cold beer, to her surprise instead of getting physically close and personal with her, Kira asked instead.
"It's in my room." Kahoko replied.
"Play me a piece." Was Kira's demand.
"No." Kahoko shook her head. "I haven't touched it in ages."
"Very well then," Kira took a sip of his beer and said. "I will play you a piece."
Despite the fact Kahoko did not want to touch her violin right now, with Kira's shocking offer, Kahoko could not help but be dead curious to hear Kira perform. She remembered Kira was once an ex-candidate of the Seiso Annual Concur as well, in fact, like her, he had given up on his skills and ability as a talented violinist and became 'ordinary' too.
Quickly returning with her violin, Kahoko passed it to Kira, her eyes beaming with anticipation. After Kahoko handed him the violin, Kira studied the instrument carefully to find, despite Kahoko declared that she no longer played, it was very well maintained and taken care of—very much like his own violin.
Placing it on his shoulder, Kira played the first string to find, there wasn't even much tuning needed. With the thought, Kira smiled as with a fast tuning he started playing. The moment the music was produced, Kahoko felt her eyes fell looking at Kira performing. It was like watching Tsukimori performing, the skills, the talents…
"Wow…" Kahoko gave a sigh of admiration after Kira's performance. "Although you said you never play anymore, but your performance says otherwise."
Kira did not answer as he passed the violin back to Kahoko instead. "You said you hardly touch your violin anymore, but the condition of the instrument also says otherwise."
With Kira's words, Kahoko held the violin in her arms as tears fell down her cheeks again. "I know…but it's all too late now, because of the mistakes I made I can never pursue my dream again. All I have left are regrets and doubts."
"People make mistakes in their lives, but not all live in regrets and doubts." Kira said returning once again to his chilling cold beer. "An opportunity goes but another will come."
For some reason, Kahoko thought she heard the words of wisdom from Kira's mouth. True she made many mistakes in her life, but was it really the end? She thought she made the biggest mistake that night with Tsuchiura, but was that really wrong? Was that an opportunity gone or a new open door? At the same time, Kahoko believed Kira did not reappear in her life for no reason. Could he be the new prospect set for her?
Finally with her mind so clear, Kahoko dried her tears and gave Kira a smile. She knows what to do now, two opportunities were set before her, it was about time she took initiative and grasp it for she no longer wants regrets.
I would like to start anew with Tsuchiura.
I would like to accept Kira.
i Aijin is the Japanese term used to describe a 'lover'. So an unofficial relationship, but just like an affair.