Chapter 10. It feels grand—like a milestone of sorts. Wow. We've all come this far! \^o^/
The very few reviews posted for Chapter 9 disappoint me. T_T I wish more of you would post reviews. I would just love to know what you think of and how you feel about this fanfic so far. Which scenes and/or lines you especially liked. Which ones you absolutely didn't. Which ones in particular you want explained soon. (I know—even I long to spell them all out! XD) Questions. Suggestions. Protests. Anything. Just please let me know you're still reading this.
You know, I write and edit this fanfic with such painstaking, sometimes painful, meticulousness… that I might be becoming somewhat dyslexic. (Or cross-eyed. O.O) At some point in Chapter 8, my fingers, eyes, and mind failed me—I had accidentally typed "bit back gasp a" (as if there were such things as gasps "b" and "c"! XD) and even missed it come editing time—to my horror!
But I feel that my pains are all worth it when I read your reviews. So please, REVIEW. I truly appreciate it. ^-^
Chapter Kaname is lovingly dedicated to
Kaori Minamino-san (Kaname and Setsu make a badass couple to me! XD And… Kurama has a "favorite gal"? O.O) and
GlassTier a.k.a. Reclun-san (That's understandable. After all, Sniper and Gamemaster were from the same saga… Still, I wonder who read whose mind, all right. ^-^).
Thank you—both of you—for your continued support! With your reviews, I no longer feel so alone.
All the same… Happy reading!
Slanted lavender eyes darted from a blank sheet of paper to a girl in a sky blue apron.
One of Hagiri Kaname's many—too many—female classmates sniffled, huge hazel eyes welling up. "Why does that jerk Rei always pick on me?"
Hot tears blurring her sight, Akasaki Minaku eyed the golden splash on her apron. The class bully of Grade Three, Section Lotus of Mushiyori Elementary had just sloshed paint on her. Again. "What did I ever do to him?"
Nami covered her eyes with her hands and wept into them, sniffing in between sobs.
"Hey." A high-pitched yet male voice sighed into Kaname's ear. "What happened to Akasaki?"
His face as blank as his eyes, Kaname looked away. "The usual."
He dipped a small, thin paintbrush into the cup of murky water between him and his seatmate. The indifferent, uninterested Kaname was already aiming his brush towards his watercolor palette when a low yet female voice caught his attention.
"If you want to cry it out, Nami-chan, then I won't stop you. But it's really no big deal."
That was new to him.
To the nine-year-old boy, the most—no, the only—natural response to someone shedding tears was to stop him or her. "Don't cry." It was as simple as that.
Apparently, not for that classmate of his.
From his desk at the far back of the room, Kaname glared at a wave of sandy brown hair rippling all the way down the girl's back, past her waist, and slowly swaying from side to side as she stooped and studied Nami's apron.
As she wiped her teary eyes with her wrists, Nami suddenly felt a finger running along her torso. "Eeh?" She looked down and found her brunette seatmate spreading out the paint stain on her apron. "Why are you doing that, Setsu-chan? Mama's going to get really mad at me if you dirty my apron even more!"
But the girl with the boyish name continued finger-painting on Nami's apron as if she had heard nothing at all. "It's not as bad as you think." Ice blue eyes met nut brown. "Look."
A tearful, fearful Minaku from up close—and a curious Kaname in denial from afar—blinked at the sky blue apron. A radiant golden sun now shone where the splotch of yellow paint used to lie.
"What did you just do, Setsu-chan? Did you just turn that nasty stain into a sun?" Nami voiced out Kaname's sentiments exactly.
He hated her name. But she herself didn't seem so bad.
"You saw a problem. But I saw art. Now you see it too, ne?"
Kaname harrumphed to himself.
"Stupid. Got paint on her hand."
The ill-tempered third grader had to attend to his watercolor drawing for art class soon.
But he could not look away.
10: The Unknowing, Unknown Rival
Alternative Chapter Title: Kaname
The second photo in the album revealed a thick red liquid dripping from Kaname's cheek and staining his shirt. While one of his hands dug into her hair and pulled her closer to him, the other cocked the barrel of a gun to an enraged Setsu's temple.
What is this?
"Kitajima," Kurama began, eyeing the peculiar photograph closely. Both Kaname and Setsu appeared to be in their pre- or early teens.
She had a ningen past after all, he concluded. But it still doesn't seem "normal"… "Do you know anything about this picture?"
Shyly tucking a wayward brown strand behind her ear, Kitajima Maya leaned closer to him and gazed upon the image that had caught Kurama's eye. "Oh, that? I thought they had shot each other in that one!"
As she giggled to herself, green eyes analyzed the photo. Both Mayonaka-san and Hagiri-kun were armed. But strangely, only the Sniper appeared to have been shot. Okashii, Kurama's brows furrowed. He intended to shoot her as well. What happened? And how did they resolve this?
"The first time I saw that, I yelled at Kaname-chan for being so violent with a girl!" Maya laughed at her own confession, her fingers lightly touching her lips. "Then he told me they were just playing paintball!"
Paintball? Kurama sweat-dropped. So that wasn't blood on him after all… And those were just paintball guns… "These guns," he pointed out the metallic-looking rubber pistols in the photograph. "They look real."
"They sure do!" nodded Maya. "But you know, Minamino-kun, what fooled me most of all was Kaname-chan's girlfriend!" She pointed to the thirteen-year-old Setsu. "She looked pretty angry in there!"
Did what was supposed to be a mere game turn out for the worse?
"But it was only because she lost their paintball game!"
A now informed Kurama sighed to himself. It all makes sense now. Green eyes drifted from the female face—she really must learn to choose her battles wisely —to the male. Never play a shooting game with the Sniper!
"They go on really fun dates…!" Maya murmured to herself dreamily, clasping her hands to her heart. "Last time, they rode all the way to a pottery shop and made clay pots together!" Again she lightly touched her lips. "Her hands shaping the clay mound… His hands around hers… It's so romantic!"
A sexy, romantic alto brought Maya back to (what she hoped would become a just as romantic) reality. "What is it, Minamino-kun?"
"Do you know how long they have been together?"
Maya blinked at him curiously. "Why, Minamino-kun! I never thought you could ever be interested in other people's lives like that! And their love lives, too!"
I know what you're thinking, Kitajima. But it's not that. Kurama told her in his mind. I just seek…
"You were right, Minamino-kun! You have changed!"
… proof of her humanity.
A green marble whacked into a violet one.
"Ha!" cried a freckled boy on his knees, proudly pointing to the new (dis)arrangement of toy marbles dotting the ground. "Take that, Hagiri!"
"Was that supposed to impress me?"
A confident smirk crossing his face, the now eleven-year-old Hagiri Kaname crouched further down, his chin nearly grazing the playground asphalt. He pressed his right thumb against his curled right pointer finger and expertly flicked another violet marble away. The small glistening ball knocked a blue one right off the boys' chalk circle on the floor.
"Aw, man!" Kaname's freckled playmate slapped a hand on his own forehead. "You did it again!"
The fifth grade class representative nudged his glasses back up his nose. "Sasuga, Kaname-kun! You're incredible at this game!" The amazed student officer whirled around. "That marble went so far, I didn't even see where it flew off to!"
"Yeah, where did it go?" The boy with freckles shielded his eyes from the blinding noonday sun high overhead. "You better go get it!"
"Aa." Kaname rose to his feet, dusted off the cakes of mud crusting his knees, and eyed his friends suspiciously. "Be right back. Don't touch those marbles."
He had not even taken one step away from them when the kid with freckles accidentally dropped a brown marble he had secretly hidden behind his back. "W-W-What are you talking about? We would never do that!"
Their class representative sweat-dropped.
A distrustful, knowing eyebrow shot up. "Hmph. You better not." Throwing a heated glare at his mischievous playmate, Kaname strode downhill—towards the oldest apple tree in the Mushiyori Elementary schoolyard. "Should be here somewhere…"
He found it. His purple marble had rolled all the way to someone's foot.
"Who's there?" snapped the boy.
He eyed the filthy sneaker right beside his marble, its sole even muddier than his bare knees. Curious yet cautious lavender eyes wandered from the stranger's feet to legs clothed in wrinkled knee-length white socks.
Then a skirt.
It was a girl. Not just any girl. The one with the awfully ugly name.
She was alone again. With her slouched back propped against the trunk of a most miserable-looking apple tree, Kaname's even more miserable-looking classmate was busily penciling on the drawing book on her lap. She did it everyday—doodling away in that trusty sketchpad of hers with neither a care in the world nor for it.
Kaname treaded closer to his preoccupied classmate of five years now, unaware that he was quieting his steps. She did not look up at him. Even when he stood right before her... towered over her… glared upon her face.
Even when he hunched down and picked up his strayed marble, she remained entirely absorbed in her own world.
Wasn't she lonely like that? Didn't she ever want to just put the pencil down and play some fun game?
Kaname cleared his throat, his pride forbidding him from direct eye contact with her. "Wanna play?"
Was this girl deaf or dumb or something?
She still did not look up. So much for trying to be polite! That proved to be a waste of time and saliva.
"Hmph." Dissatisfaction crumpling his face, an offended Kaname turned his back on her and returned to his friends. Neither of them knelt on the asphalt anymore.
"What took you so long, Kaname-kun?" asked their class rep, adjusting his spectacles again.
"Yeah! My knees hurt real bad already!" The freckled boy picked tiny pebbles off his own grubby knees. "Was another chick hitting on you again?"
"Huh?" A suddenly uncomfortable Kaname blinked. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"We saw the skirt behind you, Hagiri!" The freckled boy grinned impishly, clacking his tongue twice and winking at his heartthrob friend. "What did she say?"
A long pause. "… Nothing."
"Eeeeeh? You expect me to believe—"
One hand on his eyeglasses, the class rep took another glance towards the apple tree. "Ah, but it was her."
Smoldering lavender eyes narrowed.
"I can believe she didn't say anything to you," nodded the bespectacled boy. "I don't think she talks to anyone else in our class aside from Akasaki-chan."
"Some people like having just one friend instead of a lot," shrugged Kaname. "Mayonaka could be one of those people."
"Mayonaka?" exclaimed the boy with freckles, disapproval scribbled all over his face. "If you know what's good for you, Hagiri, you'd stay far, far away from that weirdo!"
"Weirdo?" repeated Kaname. She was more of a snob, and could be artistic, but a weirdo?
"You heard me! She's weird!" Kaname's now-excited freckled friend gripped both his shoulders. It didn't hurt, but just what was the big deal about that girl with the boy name? "I saw her talking to a flower once! A flower, Hagiri!"
The student officer's glasses hid his eyes from view. "I, too, have seen her talking to a tree." He cleared his throat nervously, all too aware of—and, to some extent, shameful for—backstabbing their notoriously unusual classmate. "She's forgetful with shoes, too. After Physical Ed class, when we change from our rubber shoes back to school shoes, she always forgets one shoe." He sweat-dropped. "As class rep, I have to keep reminding her of it."
"And one time, in art class, she used fruits and vegetables as her paintbrushes!" gasped the freckled boy. "She dipped a banana, an okra stalk, a tomato slice, and some other stuff into paint and made her project out of them!"
Kaname collected the marbles scattered around them. "What's wrong with that?" He stuffed the glassy balls into his pants pockets. "That was kinda creative."
"You can say that now, but wait 'til you hear what happened after art class!" The boy with freckles pointed out. "She ate them for lunch!"
"If you haven't noticed, Hagiri, that's really, really weird!"
"Nothing wrong with it." The unfazed boy shrugged it off. "As long as she didn't eat the parts with paint."
In complete surrender, the freckled boy threw his hands up in the air and groaned. "Dude, what's wrong with you?"
His elbow on his desk and his chin on his elbow, a visibly bored Kaname cracked a drowsy, misty eye open. Yet another petite hand shyly slipped a frilly pink envelope onto his table.
"F-f-for you, Hagiri-sama!" A silky black scalp fearfully bobbed up and down before him. Another girl from his class was wasting his time. She was the third one today. "P-P-Please read it!"
He had not even opened his other eye when the furiously blushing girl bowed again and broke into a mad dash away from him.
Not again. A sigh escaped his lips just as the school bell rang.
"Oh, no…" moaned a familiar melodious voice. Kaname's eyes darted from the love letter on his tabletop to a most distressed Nami. "Lunch period is over, but Setsu-chan isn't back yet. Where could she be?"
Suddenly, a bolt of thunder rolled and crackled in the sky. Within seconds, heavy nimbus clouds shadowed over the City of Mushiyori and spilled brimming bucketfuls of rain.
Still leaning on his classroom desk with his elbow, Kaname buried his cheek in his palm. "If she's still out there…"
Fifth-grade heads whirled to find a soaking wet figure by their doorway.
A now comforted yet still concerned Nami rushed to her rain-drenched best friend. "You're late! It's a good thing Sensei isn't here yet! Where have you been?"
"People-watching." The girl behind dripping brown bangs mumbled nonchalantly, as if nothing was amiss. A wet mop of long hair clinging onto her back, Setsu raised her now-soggy sketchpad for Nami to see. "Then people-drawing."
"That's it?" Shaking her head in stubborn disapproval, Nami ushered Setsu back to their adjacent seats, ignoring the watery trail that her best friend left on their recently waxed floor. "Why did you take so long?"
"Well, I was drawing three people at first," Setsu eyed her drawing book, its pages now damp to the touch. Her light pencil drafts—they were ruined! A tranquil loneliness crossed her face. "But I changed my mind at the last minute."
Nami reached down Setsu's back and wrung sandy brown hair dry. "Why?"
"One of them suddenly stood out."
Kaname bit back a gasp. The girl with the boyish name… She was headed straight for him.
She tore a moist page out of her pad. "Aa. I noticed your marble earlier. I heard your question, too. But I was too caught up in the moment to stop drawing. So," she handed the now blurry pencil painting to him. "Here you go. I hope you don't mind it wet."
Lavender eyes narrowed at the paper. "What's this?"
"Not one of those letters you're used to getting," chuckled Setsu to herself as she weaved past classroom chairs going back to her own. She shot him a glance over her shoulder. "I don't know how to write one of those. And I don't believe that I want to know, either."
Kaname found himself face-to-face with a rough yet remarkably realistic portrait of himself. So that was how he looked playing marbles! Her portrayal of his eyes was noticeably larger than how they appeared in a mirror—all his limbs were ridiculously out of proportion as well—but hey, the artist was but eleven years of age, after all.
Finally. He had finally beheld one of the pages of that secret sketchbook of hers with his own eyes. Now he understood why she always kept it by her side. Her devotion to drawing was paying off.
Below the bottommost toy marble in the illustration were the words: "Thank you. You aren't so weird to me yourself."
Lost violet eyes strayed from the artwork to its artist.
"… You heard us."
"Haaai!" A dainty, hyperactive hand shot up. Nami scurried to the front and pounced onto the platform beneath the blackboard. "Sensei, minna-san, this is my drawing of my family!" She pointed towards two stick figures with oversized heads and triangles for skirts. "This is me and my mama!" Then she motioned to a short stick figure with another triangle-skirt and a longer one without. "And this is Papa and Mifuyu-'nee-chan! Me and Mama live here in Japan, but Papa and 'Nee-chan moved away!"
"Where did they go?" An interested girl from the front row piped up.
"Very far away," Nami nodded for emphasis. "So far away, Mama said we'll never see them again!"
Sorrowful blue eyes hid beneath brown hair. Her parents must have had a divorce. Setsu bit her lip. And she doesn't even know it.
"Sometimes I miss my 'Nee-chan…" murmured a wistful, dreamy Nami, more to herself than to her audience. "She sings very well! She's joined many singing contests and won! Someday, I want to be just like her!"
"Thank you, Akasaki-chan!" The fifth-grade art teacher of Mushiyori Elementary applauded, encouraging her students to follow her lead. "Just keep practicing, and you could have a singing career in the future! Next—Mayonaka!"
Setsu rose from her seat and sighed to herself, her calm silence hushing her classmates as well. Never had she been fond of public speaking—especially before attentive yet sinfully judgmental eyes. Here goes nothing.
She stood before them and held her family portrait up. The class held their breaths, oohed, and ahhed at the lifelike masterpiece right before their eyes. No one—arguably, not even Akasaki Minaku—fully, truly understood the class weirdo, but everyone was well aware of her flair for fine art.
"The name of my Oyaji is Tsuzuku. My Haha, Kiseki. We are only three, but that does not make us any less happy a family."
Their Sensei nodded in agreement. "That's right, Mayonaka-chan! But there is one thing I want to ask…"
So she noticed. A calloused hand threatened to ball into a fist. Darn it.
"In your drawing, why is your mother farther from you than your father is?"
A blue gaze fell. "That is because she is in real life." I don't believe that I did anything wrong by including her here. She may be gone, but she will always be a member of our family…
A hand from the back of the room flailed for her attention. "Did she go far, far away like Minaku-chan's daddy and sister?"
"You could say that." But even farther. "But I still believe that we'll see each other again." Which I know is less likely than Nami-chan seeing her father and sister again, but I'm not deluding myself, anyway…
"I'm sure you will, Mayonaka-chan. Thank you for sharing with us." Their schoolteacher nodded as she clapped. "Next—Hagiri!"
"Aa." Kaname could not care any less for his turn in the limelight. As he and Setsu passed each other, violet flames met eye to eye with blue ice.
What? Blue eyes narrowed menacingly. Are you on to me?
Lavender eyes returned the defiant glare as quickly as they then looked away. "A family of three isn't small. Mine is." He pinched the top middle of his sheet of bond paper, revealing a blank page for all to see. "It's not worth it—drawing my family. 'Tou-san's been dead for years. I live with just 'Kaa-san."
The members of the Hagiri Kaname Fan Club gasped and gushed all over in perfect unison.
"Awww! Hagiri-sama doesn't have a dad anymore!"
"Oh, that's so sad!"
"My poor baby!"
Her arms folded across her chest, a Setsu seated on the far corner rolled her eyes and grunted to herself. So he lacks one parent as well. Big deal.
"Don't you and your mother ever miss your father, Hagiri-kun?" asked their art sensei, more upset with the sudden news of death in the young Kaname's family than his blatant disregard for her homework assignments.
Kaname shrugged, casually jamming one hand into his pants pocket. "'Kaa-san's seeing this Kitajima guy. He has a son and a daughter. If they hit it off, I could have a new 'Tou-san and siblings."
"KYAAA!" squealed the Hagiri Kaname Fan Club with one voice. "We might still have a father-in-law!"
He couldn't possibly marry all of you! An exasperated Setsu massaged her temples. Rabid fangirls. So reliably annoying.
Stronger, broader fingers gripped one diamond-shaped crisscross of metal wires.
Kaname inched closer to the wired railing bordering the rooftop of the Mushiyori Junior High School building. Every wall of the roof deck had been fenced with crisscrossed wires for the safety of students.
In his opinion, they didn't need it. At their age, junior high students should already know way better than to jump off the top floor of any four-storey building. Then again, the school did accommodate them suicidal psychopaths like some of his classmates were…
One of his hands still clenching the wires of the barrier before him, he stuffed his other hand into his pants pocket and stared at the students on the ground slowly, casually entering and exiting the building. From where he stood, Kaname could observe them all—small, insect-like figures leisurely crawling into their haven and hive.
He closed his eyes. "This isn't so bad." A secret smile curled his lips. "People-watching."
Kaname retrieved two small spherical objects from inside his pocket. For a while, he eyed the blue and violet marbles in his palm, reminiscing of those good old grade school days when he could just kneel anywhere he wanted, scatter his pebble-sized toys before him, and flick his troubles away.
He tossed the two marbles up into the air and caught them both with one sweeping grab.
"Oi, pretty boy!"
Kaname whirled to the fire exit door. One by one, three rugged, ragged boys from his class stepped into the view deck, the tallest, stoutest one in the lead.
"I see ya haven't lost yer marbles yet!" gibed the leader of the freshman class bullies, even elbowing his accomplices to sensationalize his timely taunt. The two smaller boys flanking him sniggered shamelessly.
"GYAHAHAHA! Good one, Rei!"
Hagiri Kaname held little to no respect for suck-ups. They disgusted him. Since they were never the masterminds themselves, they could eventually feign innocence and claim no willful involvement in any incident that backfires on them. To him, they deserved to be condemned even more than their leaders—for at least the brains of the outfit actually had "brains" to speak of, while they merely played the role of puppets, mindlessly fulfilling their bosses' every whimper and whim.
But in the case of this messed-up bunch… Even their leader was no cunning intelligence scheming in the shadows. All three of them were equally disgraceful.
"Aren'tcha a li'l too old t' be playin' wit' 'em marbles, pretty boy?"
"What do you care?" spat Kaname, lavender eyes narrowing, burning. "What do you want?"
"Hmph!" The burly Rei spat on the ground and heavily trudged towards him, his cohorts following right by his side. "As if you got anythin' I want—"
"But Rei, aren'tcha pissed at 'im 'cause that hot babe y' like likes 'im—"
"URUSAI!" Rei instantly jabbed his idiot subordinate square in the jaw and turned back to Kaname. "Where were we? Oh, yeah! Ya don't got anythin' on ya, pal! You make me SICK!"
The bully imposed himself before his smaller, lankier classmate. Rei had grown three inches taller over the vacation. And worse, he knew it. The massive thug seized Kaname by the polo shirt collar, stocky hands all too ready to wring some scrawny neck.
Kaname harrumphed to the brute's face. "If this is about some girl, leave me out of it," he squeezed his fist around two marbles digging into his palm. "Just ask her out—if you dare."
"YOU CALLIN' ME A COWARD?" Rei hoisted Kaname clean off his feet.
Kaname glanced downward and winced to himself. The bastard was now stronger than ever before. He himself had never been lifted so high off the ground in his life.
"If she turns you down, that's not my problem."
"KUSO! Yer gonna pay for that wit' yer pretty li'l face!"
The frequent bully victim ducked in time to dodge an incoming fist. Rei soon found his tightly balled punching fist stuck in between a diamond of wires in the fence. "WHAT THE—?" Eyes nearly popping out of their sockets, he summoned his sidekicks to his side. "YOU IDIOTS! HELP ME GET OFF THIS!"
Kaname gritted his teeth. "This is pointless. Just leave me alone!"
"Ya kiddin' me?" Rei and his cohorts heaved all together and wrenched his fist off the diamond-shaped gap in the metal wiring. "I'm jus' gettin' started, pretty boy wit' the pretty face an' the pretty name!"
A frown crossed Kaname's face. "Name?"
"Don't tell me it never hit'cha!" scoffed Rei, the words rolling off his lips with contempt. "'Kaname'! What a girly name! Fits a bitch like you!"
Of course he had realized it a long, long time ago—much earlier in life than this pathetic bully ever had. "Kaname" was indeed a unisex name. He had never been too fond of it. In fact, he had spent his entire childhood trying to come up with some other cooler, more masculine name for himself—even just an alias that oozed mystery… machismo.
"Hmph." The slighted Kaname seared the bully alive with nothing more than smoldering eyes, secretly agreeing with the derogatory remark yet openly resenting it all at once.
Startled gasps escaping their lips, four boys whirled towards the direction of that low, mellow voice.
Much as he hated to—and would never!—admit it, the voice never failed to soak and soothe Kaname's senses. It wasn't tiny and shrill, like those of other girls his age. A mysterious maturity calmed it more and more with each passing school year.
She didn't sound thirteen at all.
"If I had been born male, the name 'Kaname' would be just fine with me." Mayonaka Setsuki emerged from the fire exit door, her arms crossed before her chest.
Rei and his accomplices finally wriggled his fist loose and yanked it off the rooftop railing. "Mayonaka! Who asked you anyway, ya weird li'l freak?"
Kaname's expression flinched. Bullying him was one thing. But if those bastards dared to lay one finger on that girl—
"You must not have any real problem with Hagiri-kun, ne? Considering the only fault that you could find in him is his parent-given name—"
"Get lost, Mayonaka!" barked a minion, one of whose cheeks was visibly redder than the other.
"Or should we call ya 'Setsu' instead?" smirked Rei. "It ain't a girly, pretty name to me!"
Kaname took one step forward, willingly nearing himself to danger. "That's enough!"
"Really? Last I checked, 'Rei' isn't so manly a name, either."
"CHIKUSHO!" Rei stampeded towards Setsu, dull gray eyes clouding, blinded by a vivid mental image of her face ripped to shreds. She was already raising her hand, her palm facing away from her, when a stone flew straight into Rei's right eye. "ITTEEEEE!"
A gasp broke from Setsu's lips. A few inches away from her, Kaname held his left palm up, his right pointer and thumb curled together right above it.
"You asked for it."
"HAGIRI!" The leader of the first-year bullies slapped a hand over his injured eye. "THAT HURT, YA—"
"Go to the clinic. Now," snapped a visibly upset Setsu, turning to Rei's two friends now frozen in a corner. "Go with him as well, onegai. He shouldn't go blind if no nerve was damaged."
"H-H-Hai!" stammered the two bungling sidekicks, promptly steering their blinded boss out the door.
Once their backs had disappeared from her view, Setsu turned to her other classmate bending over to pick up the projectile that had stabbed their class bully in the eye—a violet marble.
Smoldering lavender eyes glared at ice blue. "Are you on their side?"
"Iie." Icy eyes refused to melt. "I believe that you have every right to defend yourself from bullies picking on you. But I don't appreciate how you handled this."
Purple flames blazed even more. "I did it to save you—"
Kaname gasped. Never in their many years as classmates had he heard her low, mellow voice yell out loud.
"But you still could have blinded him!"
"Should I have just stood back and let him treat you like some punching bag—"
"I could have just run to the door and screamed for you to follow. And we could have just locked them in here until we tell the school authorities about what they tried—but failed—to do to us." She bit her lip, a tranquil remorse eclipsing her face. "Think about it, onegai. As it turned out, we had hurt them—not the other way around."
"What are you so guilty about?" he scoffed. "You only hurt him with words. That mouth of yours got you right into trouble. Next time, don't say anything that could provoke him in the first place!"
"One stops being a victim when one strikes back."
That was random of her. But she hardly surprised him anymore. He was used to her by now.
"Chigau." An unconvinced Kaname shook his head. "There is such a thing as self-defense."
"If you say so." She looked away. "One stops being a victim when one strikes first."
"No, it still depends on the situation."
Setsu grunted to herself, more exasperated than ever. "Fine. If you really want to be all politically correct about this: One stops being a victim when one strikes one's attacker with the intention of hurting him."
"You're hell-bent on telling me I stopped being a victim and turned into an attacker just now."
"Oh, but I never said anything like that, Hagiri-kun. But if you think so, then I must say that I agree."
Lavender eyes narrowed. This girl with the boy name… That voice so peaceful, yet so inviting of big trouble…
"But our classmates," Kaname retorted in his defense. "They're mean. They use every opportunity to make you, me, and everyone else feel bad—"
"But as long as we did not do anything wrong, we should have nothing to feel bad about."
All fell still and silent.
Suddenly Kaname strode towards her, eyeing the violet marble between his pointer and thumb. "Keep it." He took her hand and pressed the orb onto her palm. "If I don't have it, I can't use it to attack again."
Without another word, he stepped through the fire exit door and left.
Setsu gazed upon the small ball now cradled in her hand.
"I know that you meant well…"
Shy, thin lips threatened to curl up.
Sighing to herself, Setsu wilted onto her bed, tugging the Mushiyori girls' ribbon off her collar. As soon as her head flopped onto her pillow, she folded one arm behind her head and undid the topmost button of her blouse. "What a day."
She jammed an exhausted hand into the breast pocket of her school blouse and fished for a violet-colored marble. She eyed it closely.
Violet… Smoky as those smoldering eyes…
"I might have been too hard on him."
Sighing to himself, Kaname wilted onto his bed, tugging the Mushiyori boys' necktie off his collar. As soon as his head flopped onto his pillow, he folded one arm behind his head and undid the topmost button of his polo. "What a day."
He jammed a guilty hand into the side pocket of his school pants and fished for a blue-colored marble. He eyed it closely.
Blue… Glassy as those chilling eyes…
"I hate it when she's right!"
A pointer and thumb casually fingered a violet marble between them.
"Why did I assume that he was capable of intentionally aiming at that creep's eye?" Blue eyes narrowed. "Is it because…"
Setsu's fist clenched and swallowed a marble whole.
"… his reiki is much stronger now?"
A playful hand casually tossed a blue marble into the air.
"Why did I do that?" Violet eyes narrowed. "I could have just left her alone!"
Kaname's fist clenched and swallowed a marble whole.
So Nami-chan has choir practice… Oyaji will come home from work late, as usual… Lost in thought, Setsu kicked the stand off her mountain bike and pedaled away. Looks like it's just me and my doujinshi again tonight.
Suddenly, the front wheel of her bicycle ran over a bump on the gravel. "Nani?"
Within seconds, she found pedaling difficult… grueling… next to impossible. Her front tire now appeared much narrower than it once was. Did I just get a flat?
She parked her feet onto the ground and dismounted her bike. Hn. A brutish grumble boiling in her throat, she knelt upon jagged asphalt and inspected her quickly deflating rubber tire. So I did. Good thing I'm still inside the school. But how—
"Your front tire's flat."
Where did he come from? "I know," Setsu said matter-of-factly, not even bothering to look up at the nosy newcomer.
An ignored—and consequently insulted—Kaname folded his arms across his chest. "Hmph! There you go again! That mouth of yours is a real troublemaker, Mayonaka!"
"But I was just telling you that I already know—"
"Do you want my help or not?"
"Iie," she shook her head. "Thanks, but no, thanks. I would rather not be indebted to you—"
"I wasn't actually asking," scoffed a snide Kaname, taking her bicycle by its handlebar. "You're coming with me whether you like it or not."
"Hn. Someone's trying to sound less helpful than he really is," chuckled a sarcastic Setsu, raising a knowing eyebrow.
Violet flames glared at blue ice. "Shut up."
His right hand pushing her wobbly bicycle forward, Kaname eyed the crooked nail in between his left pointer and thumb. "I saw Rei and his guys with a box of nails this morning." He shot a sidelong glance at the girl steering his own bike alongside him. "Think they could have had something to do with your—"
"As far as I'm concerned, a pesky nail on the road deflated my tire," Setsu studied the black mountain bike in her care. His bike, she grudgingly confessed to herself. It's so well-maintained. Even the spokes of his tires are clean through and through. "I don't believe in attaching human faces to what could have been mere circumstance."
"Well, aren't you being nice," his young baritone dripped heavily of sarcasm. "For once."
"Hn. You mean I'm never?"
"You're nice to the wrong people."
"You're mean, Hagiri-kun. I don't know what your rabid fangirls see in you at all—"
"What?" A wide-eyed Kaname blinked. "What did you just call our classmates?"
"Not all of them. Only those who fawn over you so much—"
"Did you just call them 'rabid'?"
"Clean your ears more often, onegai," a harrumphing Setsu looked away. "I don't want to have to repeat myself all the time."
"Or 'rapid'?" Kaname continued as if she had uttered nothing in edgewise at all. "Or 'rabbit'?"
Is he serious? Setsu's face contorted into a sour, awful mess. "Hagiri-kun, you sound stu—"
"Careful, Mayonaka." A smug smirk lit his face. "Your smile is showing."
True enough, her lips threatened to curl up at any moment in spite of herself. "If you don't want to see it, then don't make me laugh in the first place."
"But I want you to."
Nani? Setsu froze. Uh… Is there something wrong with you?
"You're always…" Kaname cleared his throat and looked away, visibly far more than uncomfortable in his own skin. "… sad."
So? Big deal. Why would you… "I'm just not as bouncy and bubbly as our other classmates, but I'm fine—"
"Your 'Kaa-san's been dead for years, hasn't she?"
Setsu bit back a gasp and fell silent. So he did figure it out! Since when…?
"This is weird," Kaname chuckled to himself. "That mouth of yours all quiet and not getting you into trouble."
Setsu stared at him blankly, not knowing what to say and not wanting to say anything, either.
"Your eyes told me," he tossed the nail into the trash bin they had just passed. "Years ago. In art class."
And it took us this long… "You must have read my body language at that time—"
"What 'body language'?" he scoffed. "I told you, your eyes can talk!"
"Not literally," Setsu casually lifted Kaname's rear bike tire off a pothole in the road. "If you so insist, then what are they telling you right now?"
He stopped towing her bicycle and locked eyes with hers. At times those blue orbs looked so cold that they were unspeakably inhuman. This was one of those times. "Our classmates," he spat with disgust. "They're wrong about you. You're not weird. They just can't understand how your mind works. And no matter how hard I try, I can't ever figure you out myself."
Dimples shyly revealing themselves on the corners of her cheeks, Setsu grinned at him for the first time. "So I'm not such a class anathema after all."
"A what?" Kaname cocked a confused brow.
Hagiri-kun, are you… blushing? "Still believe I'm not as weird as they claim?"
"Getting less and less sure by the minute."
She chuckled to herself. Oh, ningen can be so amusing.
They had walked each other's bikes all the way to the corner gasoline station.
Kaname pulled the hose beside a box-shaped apparatus and attached the end of the hose to the air valve of Setsu's deflated front tire.
He seems experienced with this… "Hagiri-kun, have you done this before?"
"Aa." The thirteen-year-old boy pushed the control buttons of the box-like machine, masterfully adjusting its settings. "You don't know how many times that stupid Rei and his guys gave me a flat while I wasn't looking!" He double-checked the connection between the hose and the tire, and pressed the Start button. "See this?" He pointed to the box, intending to impress her. "It's called the pneumatic pump."
"Pneumatic?" repeated Setsu, the technical term seemingly impacting her more than he did. "It has something to do with pneumonia, ne?"
"Maybe," shrugged Kaname, chagrined over his failed attempt at showing her his smarts. "Both the pump and the disease have something to do with air. Air in tires… in people's lungs…"
Word association. Setsu regarded Kaname secretly. He's not too bad.
"'Tou-san died of pneumonia." Lavender eyes hid beneath raven hair. "What did your 'Kaa-san die of?"
Blue eyes hid beneath caramel hair. You will never let this go, ne? A slightly calloused hand rolled into a tight fist.
For a long, windy while, the two shared a still, sorrowful silence.
"Mengo." Setsu's trademark apology dropped not from her lips, but his. "I'm sure it wasn't your fault."
Hagiri-kun, you just—
"See, I've figured that out, too. Give me more." A mischievous, meaningful smirk lit his face. "I want to solve you."
"I'm not a puzzle, Hagiri-kun." You must not know of me. If you do… Even I don't know what could possibly happen… "Not one of those kiddy games that you used to play."
"Hey, those 'kiddy games' were fun," retorted the playful little boy in Kaname. "If you want, I could teach you to play—"
"And why do you believe that I would ever want to learn of those?"
He shrugged. "I've never seen you play any games with our classmates. So I thought you just didn't know how. Maybe your 'Tou-san forgot to teach you how to have fun. Made you grow up too fast."
So you believe that I don't act our age, then? It's not because Haha passed on too early… "How about you, Hagiri-kun? Did your mother raise you the same way?"
… But because thirteen is not my real age.
Kaname bent down and took the hose off the air valve of Setsu's bike tire. "Nope. She told me to grow up whenever I want."
I am older than you mistakenly believe I am, Hagiri Kaname.
"All done." He gave her newly inflated tire a casual kick to test its solidity. "You can ride this baby home now."
"But I…" Setsu knocked herself on her temple lightly, penalizing herself for what she was about to confess. "… don't want to. Not yet."
Lavender eyes suddenly blazed aflame. "I know where we can go."
A reddish pink sun shamefully blushed at the two, hiding from them in between mountains across the horizon. It was getting late. The swings of the Yukimi City park playground creaked and groaned under their weight, but neither of them minded.
"How old is your bike?" Short, broken raven hair flailed with the crisp dusk wind.
Her swing swayed backward just as his went forward. "I've been riding it since we were ten." His question took her by surprise. "Why?"
"It looks that old, all right!" chuckled Kaname, the metal chains of his swing laughing along with him. "Why don't you ask your 'Tou-san to buy you a new one? Tell him you've outgrown that one."
"I don't need a new one," murmured a tranquil Setsu, shaking her head. "It still works perfectly fine."
"Mayonaka, it's rusty in places I can't even reach."
"Well, I still wouldn't want Oyaji to spend for a new one." Her eyelids slid closed on their own, as they always did when a soft, kind wind combed her hair. "Single parenthood must be hard enough as it is without me imposing an impractical wish-list upon him."
Kaname harrumphed. "I'm not as thoughtful. 'Kaa-san knows I want a motorcycle soon."
Languid eyelids suddenly snapped back open and blinked. "But your bicycle still works perfectly well—"
"It's too slow."
Setsu heaved a hopeless sigh. "You're spoiled, Hagiri Kaname."
"No. I'm normal for our age. You're not."
One hand still hanging on to one of the metal chains of her swing, she massaged her temple with her free hand. "You're a pain."
Kaname hung his head low.
"You kept my daughter out this late?"
His elbows on their dining table, the man of the Mayonaka household parted his fingers and pressed their tips together to form a steeple. Setsu's Oyaji had been restlessly sitting—not to mention waiting for his only child—in their dining room since he arrived home.
An accountable, guilt-ridden Setsu stepped in between them. "I lost track of time. Leave Hagiri-kun out of this, onegai. He was only keeping me company."
"Kisetsu, you wouldn't have gotten home this late if he wasn't 'keeping you company'!"
Sighing more in defeat than acceptance, Setsu turned to the boy at their front door. "Mengo, Hagiri-kun. You don't deserve this."
Lavender orbs took refuge beneath raven hair. The apologetic Kaname refused to meet anyone else's eyes. "Again, I'm sorry."
"You should be."
A fuming Mayonaka Tsuzuku slammed the condominium door smack on the boy's face.
Setsu felt a headache coming on. A slightly calloused hand massaged a pulsing temple. "Why? Was it because I arrived home criminally late, or because he just happened to be male?"
The authoritarian father ignored her question altogether. "Go to your room."
Resisting all irrational bodily urges, she turned her back on him and obeyed his order with neither problem nor protest. She closed her bedroom door behind her and leaned her back against it. This is not going to be easy.
Have a safe trip home, Hagiri-kun.
Why had they never been seatmates? Why was he always assigned to sit rows and rows behind her? From his classroom chair, all he could see of her was her hair.
Hers was the longest hair in their class now. He secretly, silently hoped that she would never have it cut. It stirred a fond memory in him. He just loved nuzzling into his mother's soft brown coat of locks as a coddled, toddled child.
Suddenly, from the corner of his eye, Kaname spotted two male hands inching closer and closer to that glorious head of hair. The boy sitting directly behind Setsu was slowly, carefully tying handfuls of her hair around the back of her seat.
"Idiot," he muttered to himself, gripping the small white pencil eraser in his hand. "Don't think I don't see what you're doing."
Why couldn't she feel what was going on behind her back—literally? Oh, right. She was busy either furiously jotting down notes or doodling in her notebook.
Most likely doodling. As usual.
Refusing to take his eyes off the ongoing practical joke in their midst, Kaname pinched the white chunk of rubber between his right pointer and thumb.
"Get mad at me if you want. But I don't want you getting up from your seat and carrying it with you."
And in the blink of an eye, a rubber eraser knocked a prank-pulling hand away.
"Itte!" cried the prankster, breaking the holy silence in the room. The junior high sophomores of section three all whirled to eye him curiously. The lecturer scribbling on the blackboard paused and raised a suspicious eyebrow at him.
But Setsu knowingly glared at another boy.
It was you, ne? Those cold blue eyes of hers… They pointed an imaginary accusatory finger at him. What did he do?
Reveling in a private victory, Kaname smirked at her from across the room. "Tell you later."
They had planned on doing it for some time now. Finally, Setsu and Nami pushed their desks together, facing each other's, right by the Year Two Class Three door. They will rearrange them back to normal after lunch, anyway.
"Ehhhhh? Are you serious, Setsu-chan? You haven't had a crush on anyone your whole life?"
Nami raised her chopsticks to her lips, shoving a heap of glutinous white rice into her mouth. "Buth we're oh-ready churning fifcheen! It'ch rearry, rearry rare for girrsh rike ush not to rike anyone at aw-ll!"
"Nami." A brutish grumble boiled in Setsu's throat. "Swallow before you speak, onegai."
"Okay." Nami hurriedly gulped down the last of her rice. "Hey, I know what you're doing! You're changing our topic again!" Her cheeks puffed and pinked all over as she pouted. "Are you avoiding this conversation because you do already like someone and you're just not telling me?"
Setsu brought the rim of a cup to her lips and quietly sipped her spicy soup. Then she looked up. "I don't believe that I see anyone that way, Nami-chan. But I do enjoy drawing someone. Aside from you and Oyaji, of cour—"
"WHO?" Minaku practically sprung from her seat in senseless excitement. "Tell me! Tell me! Tell me!"
Setsu sighed at her best friend's hyper energy. "Nami-chan, you must promise me that you will never—I repeat, never—even dare speak his name. That is, if you manage to guess who he is."
"Ehhhhh? No fair, Setsu-chan!" Pouting cutely again, Nami crossed her arms before her chest and harrumphed. "I want to know his name!"
"You might figure it out for yourself after I tell you everything else about him…" Small, shy lips curled up. "… If only you would let me."
"Okay!" Impatient hands clapped together. "Go!"
"He is Japanese, just like we are."
"Uh-huh…" Nami nodded mechanically, almost like a toy bobble-head.
"In junior high school as well."
Hazel eyes widened. "Ooh! He's our age!"
"I can't say." A blue gaze fell. "He lives with his mother."
"A mama's boy!" cried Nami, snapping her fingers. She couldn't believe it. The distant, disinterested Mayonaka Setsuki actually had a secret someone to share with her! They had known each other since they were six, yet Nami had neither known nor heard of Setsu's secret human art subject before. Such a mystery!
"Unfortunately, he no longer has a father."
"Wait…" A brain wave washed over Nami. "Is… he… who… I… think… he… is…?"
"Don't say it."
All of a sudden, icy blue eyes sent shivers down Nami's spine. "If you want me to go on, then don't say it, onegai."
An intimidated Nami sighed in resignation. "Okay."
"Something makes him… different."
"Different?" echoed Nami, blinking repeatedly. "Different how?"
"Unique. Not like anyone else in this world."
The bridge of Nami's nose wrinkled. "I don't get it."
"He's strong. He gets into many fights, though. At least he never starts them."
"I'm losing you, Setsu-chan!" moaned a Nami seemingly suffering from throes of actual physical pain.
"Lastly, when you spell his name in English—"
"MOU, Setsu-chan!" A chibi Nami magically raised a picket sign of protest from out of nowhere. "Just give it to me in Japanese!"
"Iie," refused Setsu, an annoyed yet amused chuckle escaping her lips. "When you spell his name in English…" she repeated. "… It has six letters… and begins with a…"
Her fingers tingling while touching her lips, Nami held her breath.
A stunned Nami staggered back in her seat, jerking it forward and nearly toppling her rice bowl off her desk. "So it IS—"
"I can't say." Her eyes now closed, Setsu calmly took another sip of her soup.
"Are you sure you just like drawing him?" grinned Nami meaningfully. "You know Setsu-chan, if you've been drawing this guy for a long time now, you could learn to love—"
"I have known him for years," Setsu responded especially quietly, her eyes still closed. "But I don't love him. I just don't want to…"
"… make the same mistake again."
Behind the Year Two Class Three door, lavender eyes narrowed.
"I know," Setsu tucked her hands behind her back and clasped them together. "You have choir practice. I'll go on my own."
"I'm sorry, Setsu-chan…"
She turned her back on Nami and walked away, momentarily looking over her shoulder. "Call you tonight, ne?"
Setsu strode back into the Year Two Class Three room, roving eyes in search of someone. Two girls swept chalk dust off the platform… One dusted the teacher's table… A boy clapped two spent blackboard erasers together… And he was mopping the floor.
All the student janitresses of the day whirled towards her at the mere mention of his name. Glamorously plucked and shaped eyebrows crumpled into intense, telling frowns. Since when had Hagiri-sama and that Mayonaka freak been on speaking terms with each other?
The visibly unwilling janitor Kaname wiped sweat off his brow with his wrist, his ears slightly perking up to that voice he knew—and silently loved—so well. "Mayonaka."
"You took the Meiou Private High School entrance examination too, ne?" she asked, already knowing the answer to her own question. "According to Nami-chan, the results have just been released. I'll go check if our names are on the list of passers."
"Don't bother looking for my name," harrumphed Kaname, sliding a wet mop across the tiled classroom floor. "I didn't make it."
"Really? Last I checked, you aced a test that you were sure you failed."
A teasing smirk twisted his lips. "You checked? You actually gave a damn about me?"
Setsu looked away and promptly trudged out the room, leaving a cheeky command in her wake. "Shut up."
She had just stepped into the City of Yukimi and was only halfway to the Meiou private campus when a thin needle of rain pricked a warm, rosy cheek.
Setsu held her palm up and gazed upon the gloomy heavens, swollen gray clouds shadowing the city, promising her a shower at any moment.
Great. Another icy bead fell onto her outstretched palm. Just when I didn't take my bicycle.
To Kaname, the rain was always much more pleasant to listen to when it came down in tempestuous torrents. Still gripping the handle of a school mop, he fondly looked out the sliding glass window.
Suddenly it hit him.
"Stupid," he muttered between gritted teeth. "Doesn't have an umbrella again." Lavender eyes hid beneath raven hair. "Always asking for trouble."
The student janitors of the day jolted in shock upon hearing a heavy wooden mop handle loudly smack their newly cleaned floor. One startled girl caught sight of a familiar flash of jet black hair bolting out the door.
"Hagiri-sama!" she gasped. "Where are you going?"
Her uniform and yet-uncut hair clung to her like second skin.
A drenched, wretched Setsu silently stood before the Meiou entrance gates, crossing her arms before her chest. But it was no use. She could not keep herself warm that way. Not with her soaked sleeves.
She tilted her head and eyes up to read the announcement posted on the campus billboard. Meiou. If I made it, then I could finally be in the same—What am I thinking? I must not…
She sighed to herself, a cloud of cold mist escaping her lips. A gust of rain-chilled air wrapped around her and froze her to her core.
Glassy blue eyes scanned through the list of surnames beginning with the letter A. The name "Akasaki Minaku" lit them up. Nami-chan was accepted!
The same eyes were already ferreting out another name in the list when they suddenly betrayed her. From the corner of her eye, a Meiou student strolled past the school gate. A gasp caught in her throat.
"Damn, this is slow!" An impatient, irritated Kaname candidly cursed his bicycle under his breath as he sped up his pedaling. She must be soaking wet by now.
From the distance, he could make out the gates of the Meiou campus, its students casually, leisurely walking out in umbrellas. A boy and a girl took cover under the same umbrella, the guy clutching its handle between them as his girlfriend blissfully chatted away with him, her arm flailing wildly at her side.
And there she was, tacitly trembling before the entrance bulletin board.
She was holding herself close, trying to warm herself from the biting cold of the driving rain. Were her teeth chattering? Or was she biting her lip?
What—or who—was she looking at like that? Those haunting eyes of hers weren't as cold as he had expected them to be. She was just staring off into the distance in a strange silence, those ice blue eyes especially glassy… blank… lost… absent…
A well-maintained black bicycle suddenly collapsed by her feet. Its owner clapped a hand on her forehead, feeling for her temperature.
His hand, Setsu's eyes remained still, tranquil. It's so warm. Or am I just—
"You're hot!" exclaimed a visibly upset Kaname, entirely unaware of the color flooding to his cheeks. "I—I mean, you've got fever!"
A long, listless pause lingered between them. "… I know."
"Let's get you back home!" He raised his bike, propped it up against the wall, and scooped her up in his arms.
HN? Cautious instinct instantly arched her spine and legs away from his carrying hands. Put me down! "What are you—"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Kaname spat to the miserable, vulnerable creature still stubbornly squirming against his chest. He set her down on the seat of his bicycle—whether she wanted him to or not. "You need to get dry, fast!"
He swung a leg over his bike and plopped onto what remained of its seat behind her. They were neither comfortable nor safe in his trusty vehicle, but it would have to do for now.
"Tsuki." A rough, gruff whisper warmed a frostbitten ear. "Pull yourself together."
"I'm fine, Hagiri-kun. You don't have to do this." A most ungrateful Setsu shot a defiant glare at the boy pressing against her back. Wait. Nani? "What did you just call me?"
Kaname choked on a gasp just as he wheeled away, his left hand on the steering handlebar of his bike, his right arm curling round her waist. She needed not hear that slip of his tongue again. "Don't fall. Hold on to me."
"Hagiri Kaname." A shaky Setsu still managed to snap threateningly in spite of her blurring vision and growing lethargy. The steady rise in her body temperature was slowly but surely draining her of all energy. "What. Did. You. Just. Call—"
"Tsuki!" cried a reluctant, red-faced Kaname, suddenly feeling her body slipping away from his and pulling her closer. It may have served him well all this time, but he was still disappointed with his bike for its individual seating capacity. Now more than ever, he badly wanted that motorcycle. A big one. And a two-seater. "I've been thinking. Don't like it? Sounds much better than 'Setsu' to me."
Tsuki…? "Go back, onegai." Hiding her eyes beneath her hair, an ill-at-ease Setsu deliberately dismissed the nickname, stiffly refusing to speak of endearments at the moment. "I haven't found our names on the list yet—"
"Forget it." That strong, warm arm tightened around her, smoldering lavender eyes burning more brightly than ever before. "I'm taking you home no matter what."
"Iie. Oyaji's not home. Remember what happened last time? If he catches you there—"
"What about my home?"
"That's even worse. He'll have more ammunition against you."
"That's not necessary, Hagiri-kun. I'm fine."
"Oh, yeah? Well, I'm not!"
"Hn?" Blue eyes widened and blinked.
Lavender eyes hid beneath dripping raven hair. "It makes me sick."
Setsu hung her head low. You're blowing this out of proportion, Hagiri-kun… If you would only leave me alone, I could just turn back—
"I never want to see you that sad again. Ever."
She threw a sidelong glance behind them. Two small silhouettes sharing one umbrella headed in the opposite direction, slowly ebbing in the distance. She sighed to herself.
And so we part again.
"Keep that hair of yours away from your face," commanded a demanding yet distressed Kaname. "You're getting real pale and I can't see it."
She hung her head even lower, dripping wet streaks of brown bangs veiling her face from his eyes all the more. "Why should I? That's not a good thing to see, anyway."
"Do you always leave it alone like that?" A frown crossed his face. "Don't want to make your 'Tou-san buy you stuff for your hair?"
"Too bad." He buried his chin into that damned damp scalp. "You don't care for it at all. Maybe I like it better than you do."
Setsu found her cold cheeks warming up by themselves. Hagiri-kun… She snubbed his unusual display of affection with a brutish grunt. "Arigatou. Now shut up."
She followed her own advice and fell silent. Suddenly her eyelids sank. She resisted the lure of their urge, but they were closing on their own…
Iie, Mayonaka Setsuki. Your ningen body isn't this weak. Don't let that fever get you down…
"You know, you could cry if you want."
Weak, heavy eyelids snapped back open.
"Guess who I learned that from a long time ago."
Blue ice met violet flames. "But I don't feel like crying."
"Don't worry." The arm keeping them together clutched her even closer. "I won't look if you don't want me to."
An exhausted hand, slightly calloused from habitual drawing, reached for Kaname's shirt sleeve and gripped the fabric tight.
Peaceful lavender orbs softly gazed upon a paling female face, unable to tell if the drops rolling down those colorless cheeks had fallen from not so blue skies or all too blue eyes.
He sneezed for the eighteenth time in five minutes. His disgusting, deafening reflex reactions should have awakened her by now.
But she was still out like a light.
After drying it, the kindly nurse had tied the soundly sleeping Setsu's hair with a rose-red ribbon. The strangest smile threatened to curl Kaname's lips. Ribbons in her hair suited her. If only she was feminine enough to accept it.
"Huh?" Kaname froze for a split second. The girl of his dreams was speaking in hers. Taking care not to place any of his weight anywhere on her, he sat upon her bed, slowly sliding beside her right arm.
"… a… ma…"
Still fast asleep, Setsu squinted her already shut eyes.
"Mama?" A frowning Kaname filled in the blanks, attempting a wild guess at what—who—she saw or spoke to in dreamland. "Is it your 'Kaa-san?"
She suddenly bit her lip. She sank her front teeth so deep into her lower lip that the soft layer of labial tissue broke and bled.
"Tsuki, don't do that," warned Kaname, seizing the sleeping form by her shoulders.
Within seconds, a thread-like leak of blood trickled down her lower lip. Her face wrapped, wrinkled, and writhing in an unspoken agony, the unconscious Setsu parted her lips and screamed without a sound.
"Stop that!" cried a now fretful, fearful boy on a local hospital bed. "Shut up!"
Kaname dug his fingers into the sandy brown locks blanketing her neck, drew her face to his own, and silenced her lips with his.
Stay… Go away…
A strong yet soothing pressure touched her lips and refused to let go. A heavy but warm breath tickled her once-numb nose. Reluctant eyelids carelessly fluttered open.
She gasped into his mouth. A calloused hand clenched a thin hospital bedspread.
"It's really so nice to know the things you're curious about, Minamino-kun!" giggled Maya, her fingers lightly touching her lips. "Kaname-chan and his girlfriend were classmates from grade school to junior high. But they didn't grow apart even when they went to different high schools! It's so romantic!"
Sou ka. Green eyes narrowed. Hagiri-kun didn't attend Meiou.
"Is there any particular reason you asked about them?"
"Iiya." Kurama held his hands up before him in denial.
"You couldn't have been interested in Kaname-chan's past…" A sudden realization hit her. She clapped her hands together. "So that must mean—!" She eyed Kurama squarely, suspiciously. "But I thought you and Kaname-chan's girlfriend were related! You can't—"
Chigau! Chigau yo, Kitajima! "You are mistaken, Kitajima—"
"But I saw how long you looked at that picture, Minamino-kun!" She held her hands to her heart, wringing her fingers especially tight. "You—"
"Warii kedo." His eyes closed, refusing to meet hers. The same growing discomfort from earlier now twisting his very being, Kurama rose from the Hagiri-Kitajima living room couch and strode to the front door. "I better go."
A gasp escaped Maya's lips. "Minamino-kun!" She shot up from the sofa and sped to his side. "Please don't leave! I—!"
Two petite, elfin hands clasped Kurama's cheeks and cupped them with care.
At that moment, Kitajima Maya finally claimed her longtime beloved Minamino Shuuichi's first kiss.
No, Kaname-kun, she didn't murmur "Mama." She might have meant to say "Ama... numa." XDD What do you think?
And Setsu-chan, I think you forgot to mention: He's drop-dead gorgeous and has fangirls throwing themselves at his feet. *wink*
Err… This was a kissy chapter. XD *throws up at the side* I know, I know—yuck. But one of the genres of this fanfic is Romance… And without this chapter, we wouldn't know what happens next. ^^
Look out for Omake (Bonus / Extra / Special) Chapter 11! It's an omake for a reason! ^_^
P.S. Please review! I would love to hear from you!
Japanese to English translations and abridged YYH glossary
aa and un. Slang for yes and other such words of agreement or affirmation
akasaki. Red tip / red point (aka is the color red, and saki is tip or point), used as a name in this fic
anou, eh, hn, and yo. Disfluencies of speech (much like the English uh and um), not limited to the Japanese language
arigatou. Thank you, less formal than arigatou gozaimasu
-chan. An honorific used to address girls, animals, or anything that the speaker considers to be cute; indicates great closeness or intimacy when used to address boys
chibi. Literally meaning small / little (in size), refers to a Japanese animation style wherein characters are drawn or portrayed with oversized heads and undersized bodies to add a comic relief effect to the current scene
chigau. You are wrong / I disagree (with you / with what you have just said)
chikusho. A slang variation of kuso (as if kuso weren't slang enough already XD)
doujinshi. Manga created by fans of the original manga
gya. An onomatopoetic word for a male shriek or scream
Haha. An informal address for one's own mother
iie and iiya. Formal and informal no, respectively
itte. A slang variation of itai, an interjection expressing pain
'kaa-san. A contraction of Okaa-san, a respectful address for one's own mother
Kaname. Strength, used as a name in this fic
kiseki. Miracle, used as a name in this fic
kisetsu. Season, used as a name in this fic
-kun. An honorific used to address boys or boyish girls
kuso. A swear word, roughly translated to damn (it)
kya. An onomatopoetic word for a female shriek or scream
manga. Japanese comics, such as YYH
mayonaka. Midnight, used as a name in this fic
mengo. Not an actual Japanese word; Mayonaka Setsuki's version of sorry
Minamino. Southern field, used as a name in this fic
minna. All / everyone
mou. Used in this fic as an expression for whining or complaining
nami. Wave, used as a nickname in this fic
ne. An expression for seeking confirmation (much like the English tag questions isn't it or okay)
'nee-chan. A contraction of Onee-chan, an informal yet respectful address for one's own older sister
ningen. Human / human being
oi. An expression similar to the English hey, not limited to the Japanese language
onegai. Please, less formal than onegaishimasu
oyaji. Old man, used to address one's own father in this fic
rei. Spirit, used as a name in this fic
reiki. Spirit(ual) power, wielded by ningen (as opposed to youki)
-sama. An honorific used to address someone very respectfully, like lord or master
-san. An honorific used to address someone politely
sasuga. As (I) expected (of you), a term of praise synonymous to impressive
setsu. Opinion, used as a nickname in this fic
Shuuichi. Excellence first, used as a name in this fic
sou ka. That's right / I just remembered
-tachi. A pluralizing suffix (much like the English -s and -es); to be used with discretion because Japanese words can be singular or plural even without it, depending on the context
'tou-san. A contraction of Otou-san, a respectful address for one's own father
tsuki. Moon, used as a nickname in this fic
tsuzuku. Continuation, used as a name in this fic
urusai. Shut up
warii kedo. An informal way of saying warui, meaning bad; used in this fic to mean My bad / Sorry (said informally)
Again, if I missed anything that you need translating or explaining, just say so in the Reviews page. Please REVIEW! Thank you so much! ^-^