Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Chapter 4 - Wish Upon a Star

Tanabata. Traditionally celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, this now legendary star festival has become a prominent and most festive time for making wishes. The ancient Chinese legend, which later made its way to Japan, tells the story of Orihime, the weaving princess, and Hikoboshi, the cowherd, who are both represented by the stars Vega and Altair, respectively. Orihime would weave beautiful cloth on the bank of the river, representing the Milky Way, for her father, Tentei, the Sky King. Becoming worried for his daughter because she worked so hard, he one day decided to introduce her to Hikoboshi, who lived across the river. Instantly falling in love upon meeting, the two were then soon married. Although they were extremely happy together, they soon began to neglect their duties; Orihime would stop weaving while Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. Angry with the two, Tentei decided to separate them by placing the Milky Way between them. Begging her father to let them meet again, Tentei succumbed to his daughter's tears and agreed to let them meet once a year, but only if she worked hard and finished her weaving. If not, he would make it rain on that night, causing the river to become flooded and she would therefore not be able to cross the Milky Way to see her beloved, forcing the two to wait another whole year. On this particular Tanabata night, the skies were impeccably clear, which meant that the two star-crossed lovers would once again be permitted to reunite.

The Fuka Academy student council, as they do every year on this seventh day of July, had once again festooned the school grounds with various banners, streamers and miniature lights, which surrounded the numerous food, gaming, souvenir and other entertainment stalls, making for a most festive carnival-like atmosphere. Stalks of bamboo also adorned various parts of the academy, as well as the local shrine, to which students and faculty alike would then attach small strips of paper, called tanzaku, on which they would write their wishes or even poems.

And, as is customary at most Japanese festivals, various students, but mainly the girls, were wearing a yukata, a summer kimono typically made of a lightweight cotton material, a most comfortable attire to wear in the summer months. However, a small handful of students and faculty could also be seen sporting the more traditional silk kimono. Hiromi, for one, had on an elegant, vintage style, blue and white kimono with an intricate floral pattern running throughout, complimented by the matching obi, or sash.

With the setting of the sun, dusk had now descended upon the area, soon compensated for though by the thousands of now brightly-lit strings of miniature lights that adorned the festival grounds. Basking in its glow at a nearby gaming booth, Takumi, Hiromi and Kyoko were watching intently as Hajime, with a softball in hand, took careful aim at his target.

"Aw man! I really thought I had it that time," a disillusioned Hajime expressed after a failed fourth attempt at the carnival game, knocking only five of the six intended milk jugs down.

"Oh, just forget about it, Hajime," Kyoko consoled. "It's not worth it. Save your money."

"No, no, I almost got it that time. Just one more try."

Insistent that victory was within his grasp, and knowing that she had her heart set on the winning prize, Hajime paid the carnival barker another three hundred yen of his hard-earned money for one last fervent attempt at procuring a shot at winning a small plush figure for Kyoko. Giving it everything he had into this last pitch, Hajime finally managed to knock down all six of the metal objects.

"And the boy wins a prize for his sweetheart!" the barker loudly proclaimed.

Regardless of what it had cost him, Hajime felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction when the barker handed him his prize, a large plush figurine of Mokona from the manga and anime series "Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle".

"Aww, kawaii!" Kyoko excitedly expressed, tightly embracing the plushie when she received it. Then wrapping her arms around Hajime's neck and planting an appreciative kiss upon his cheek, she exclaimed, "Hajime, you're the best!"

"Way to go, Hajime-san," Hiromi congratulated.

Even though he was happy for him, Takumi couldn't help but envy his friend's good fortune at that moment, recalling how he too had felt when he had won a similar such item for Akira.

"Takumi-kun, what's wrong?" Hiromi concernedly asked, sensing a tinge of sadness in his expression.

"Huh? Oh, ah, it's nothing, really. I was just thinking back to the time when Akira…" Stopping himself, he suddenly realized he might be making Hiromi feel a bit uncomfortable. "Uh, sorry. I'm sure you don't want to hear me talk about her."

"No, no, it… it's fine," she awkwardly responded.

"Hey, ah, you guys hungry?" Hajime jumped in, quickly trying to change the subject. "I hear they've got some really awesome tasting mitarashi dango here."

"Yeah, I could go for some of that right now," Kyoko eagerly anticipated.

"Sounds good to me," Hiromi concurred.

"Okay, then you girls wait here," Hajime indicated, "and we'll go get you some. Come on, Takumi."

"Huh?" Takumi said in a sort of stupor, but then finally acknowledged, "Oh, ah, sure. Coming."

Heading over toward the food stand, first making sure they were out of earshot of the girls, Hajime then implored of his friend, "Come on, Takumi, would you lighten up. You've been moping around ever since we got here."

"I'm sorry, Hajime, I don't mean to be such a downer and ruin everyone's evening," he despondently replied. "I don't know, maybe it was a mistake for me to come here. It's probably best if I just went home."

"Would you snap out of it! Jeez, listen to yourself! Now you're going to go back to Hiromi-san," he forcefully stated, "with a smile on your face, I might add, and you're going to enjoy yourself for the remainder of the evening… even if it kills you!"

"Okay, okay," Takumi finally grasped, forcing a smile. "But you're right. I did promise Hiromi-san that I would show her a good time and that's exactly what I'm going to do."

"That's the spirit. Oh, ah, four please," Hajime then requested of the vendor, who proceeded to hand him four skewers, each containing three large dumplings that had been brushed with a caramelized coating of a sweet and sour type mixture. Digging through his pockets as the vendor waited patiently for his money, Hajime then looked to Takumi, who had already paid his share, and embarrassingly confessed, "Uhh, I think I may be a bit short. You suppose you could…"

"Oh, don't worry about it; I got it," Takumi graciously offered, reaching into his pocket and paying the vendor the balance due.

"Thanks. Looks like I spent more on those games of chance than I realized, ah heh heh," he awkwardly laughed.

"No problem. Besides, it's the least I could do for all your help as well as being so patient with me. Plus, I know first hand how easy it is to lose track and spend a small fortune on those kinds of games," Takumi admitted. "But the satisfaction of finally winning and then seeing the expression on the face of Akira when I handed her…"

Smiling as he shook his head in amusement, Hajime was forced to declare, "You're hopeless. You've got Akira on the brain."

"I can't help it, Hajime. Ever since our fight, I just haven't been able to get her off my mind."

"Well that's because she's not just in your mind," Hajime pointed out, indicating then with his hand to the center of Takumi's chest, "but also in here."

Takumi certainly couldn't argue the point, nodding only in agreement with him as they made their way back to the girls.

"About time you got back," Kyoko impatiently remarked, snatching one of the dango skewers from Hajime's hand and instantaneously taking a bite out of it. "Mmmm, so good. Thank you, Hajime."

"Here you go, Hiromi-san, "Takumi said in a more upbeat manner, handing her the skewer. "Careful now, it's hot."

"Thank you, Takumi-kun," she acknowledged, happy to see that his mood had changed.

"You guys want to head up to the shrine now and make your wishes?" Takumi then inquired.

"Sure," Hiromi anxiously replied, "and I already know what I want to wish for."

"Me too," Kyoko corroborated.

"Great, so then let's…" Takumi then suddenly froze in his tracks when he spied Akira, along with Wataru, over by one of the gaming stalls that featured target practice.

Standing behind Wataru, who was hunched over the counter with an airgun aimed at a target, Akira then unexpectedly placed her head directly alongside his, sensing that Takumi was watching them. Wataru was certainly taken aback by her sudden display of affection, causing him to blush, but didn't attempt to dissuade her. Resting her chin upon his shoulder, in addition to having her hands placed atop his, she then attempted to help him with his aim.

"Come on, Takumi, don't do this," Hajime pleaded with him as he continued to eye the two. "Just leave them be."

"Yeah, I know, but… look at her," he indicated, extremely bothered by her rather carefree behavior as she now excitedly hugged Wataru when he successfully hit his target. At the same time, he couldn't seem to take his eyes off the elegant yukata that she wore, staring intently at its gorgeous, flowery pattern that only helped accentuate her beauty even more so.

"So? They're just trying to have a good time, same as us."

"Well, she seems to be having too good a time if you ask me."

"Oh would you relax," Hajime implored.

"Yeah," Kyoko now chimed in, "try and keep those jealous rages in check."

"Jealous? I'm not…" Hesitating as he looked over at Hiromi, Takumi was then reminded of why he came here this evening. Feeling remorseful, he then took a deep breath and proceeded to take Hiromi's hand in his.

"Takumi-kun," she pleasantly expressed, as a tinge of pink overcame her cheeks.

"I'm sorry. You didn't come here to watch me brood," he firmly stated with an affable smile, "you came here to have fun. Now I promised that I would show you a good time and I intend to keep that promise."

"Well, that's more like it," Kyoko thankfully replied. "Now let's head up to the shrine because somebody here really needs to have their wish granted."

As he turned around in the direction of the steps leading up to the shrine, Takumi had the misfortune of bumping into an all too familiar individual.

"Oomph! Oh, I'm so sorry," Takumi profusely apologized.

"Look where you're going, will you pal. You almost… Well, well, look who it is."

"Y… Yoshida-sempai?"

Sure enough, Takumi found himself staring up into the intimidating eyes of the scraggly, goatee-sporting, third year student who had slugged him only a week earlier.

"I see you still have a bit of a remnant from our last encounter," Yoshida observed, referring to the still lightly bruised left side of Takumi's face. "Maybe you'll think twice next time before trying to mess with me."

"Lay off, Murata," Kyoko warned, "or I'll tell Yumi that you've been acting like an ass again."

"Ooo, like I'm scared of my kid sister."

"It's not your sister you should be afraid of, it's her boyfriend. You know, the captain of the Kendo club."

"Yo, why you gotta be like that? Besides, I'm not trying to cause my boy here any trouble," Yoshida attempted to reassure her by throwing his arm around Takumi. "See, we're cool. Right, Tokiha?"

"Uh, yeah," Takumi uneasily replied, taking a step back to release himself from Yoshida's so-called friendly gesture.

Now recognizing that his cousin, Hiromi, was accompanying him, Yoshida crassly remarked, "Well, looks like you're not doing too badly for yourself, Tokiha. I'm glad to see that you at least agreed to take my advice."

"Advice?"

"Yeah, dumping that ninja chick. I told you she was holding you back. Now maybe you'll… Hey, where you going?"

Not wishing to give him any more of his attention, an exasperated Takumi just ignored the big blowhard and turned to his friends. "Come on guys, let's get out of here."

"Oh, I see how it is," Yoshida called after him as they began walking away. "You're just afraid to admit that I was right about that lesbo bitch."

Stopping dead in his tracks, his back still turned to Yoshida, Takumi's anger slowly began to build within him, gritting his teeth as he then warned, "I'm going to tell you this one last time: you had better apologize and take back what you said."

"Ooo, looks like I hit a nerve. Wait, don't tell me you still got a thing for her?"

"Shut up! Now apologize!"

Hahaha! Or else what?"

"Takumi, don't even think about it," Hajime warned, observing his enraged friend's tightly clenched fists.

"Takumi-kun, you mustn't," Hiromi pleaded, grabbing hold of his arm as he turned back around to face Yoshida.

"Better listen to her, Tokiha," Yoshida mocked, "otherwise I'll have to give your face another reminder of what it means when you try to go up against me."

"I… I don't care," Takumi persisted.

"Takumi, please, just walk away," Hajime implored.

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Hajime. He's a bully, pure and simple, and I refuse to let him badmouth Akira, or anyone else for that matter, any longer. It stops here!"

"Still haven't learned your lesson, have you?" Yoshida remarked while cracking his knuckles. "You're just asking for it, aren't you? Well, come on, what are you waiting for? I'm wide open. Hit me! I dare you," he continued to egg him on.

Tremendously agitated from Yoshida's antagonizing, Takumi now raised his fist, preparing to charge at him. Just as he was about to throw a punch, Hajime suddenly stepped between the two.

"Yo, Moriyama, what gives?"

"Hajime, what are you doing?"

"I can't let you do this, Takumi. This goes completely against your convictions."

Takumi just gave his friend a puzzled look. "What are you talking about?"

"Have you forgotten already?" Hajime then reminded him. "You're the one who's always preaching the four principles of self-defense to other kids who've been bullied. You always tell them to either avoid being put in such a situation, to walk away, talk their way out of it, or, if all else fails, to defend themselves. You've done none of those. Instead, you've let him get to you to the point where you yourself have now become the aggressor. So did you even mean any of what you said, or was it all a lie? You've somehow gotten pretty good at that lately."

"Hajime..." a dispirited Takumi remarked as Hajime now stepped off to the side and continued to eye him with a look of disappointment.

"Yo, we gonna do this or what?" Yoshida impatiently demanded.

Giving serious thought to his friend's harsh criticism, a now humbled Takumi looked to his opponent and offered, "Sorry, but I'm not going to fight you."

"You're not going to… Look, I don't think you understand, but you don't exactly have a choice in the matter."

"Yes, I do. And I choose not to fight."

Breathing a sigh of relief, Hajime shot his friend a smile, thankful that he had decided to listen to reason.

Just as Takumi began to turn and walk away from the volatile situation, Yoshida, as in their past encounter, waited until his back was turned, raised his fist, and once again took a swipe at Takumi. Fortunately, Takumi was prepared for him this time as he swiftly took up a defensive stance. Using his forearm to block the punch, while simultaneously rotating his body by pivoting on the ball of his right foot, Takumi successfully managed to sidestep Yoshida's initial attack.

"Been practicing, I see," Yoshida commented just before he threw his next punch, once again missing his mark.

"Leave him alone, Murata!" Kyoko insisted.

"Yeah, can't you see that he doesn't want to fight you?" Hajime added.

"Stay out of this, you two," Yoshida warned, who by now was getting extremely frustrated that he hadn't yet been able to land a hit on Takumi. "You're pretty quick on your feet, kid, but you can't avoid me forever. So let's see you dodge… THIS!"

Leaping into the air and spinning his body around three hundred and sixty degrees to build momentum, his leg extended outward, Yoshida attempted a jump-spin kick for his next onslaught.

"Takumi-kun, look out!" Hiromi cried as she instinctively jumped out in front of Takumi, holding him closely in her arms in an attempt to shield him from the attack.

Caught off guard, Takumi was forced to react quickly by spinning their bodies around so that he would be the one to bear the brunt of the assault. Bracing for the inevitable impact by hugging Hiromi tightly up against his body, Takumi was then naturally surprised when it never came, hearing only the painful cries of Yoshida.

"YOW! Son of a..."

Letting up somewhat on his embrace, Takumi was suddenly taken aback when he turned around to find Yoshida lying flat on his back, but was even more surprised when he saw who was standing over his body.

"A… Akira?"

"All right, Takumi, what the hell is going on here?"

Realizing the awkward position that he was in, still holding Hiromi in his arms, Takumi immediately released her from his embrace as he then nervously offered, "Uh, it… it's not what you think. Hiromi-san was just trying to protect me from…"

"I'm not talking about that. I want to know what you're doing fighting this oaf."

"Hey!" Yoshida strongly objected as he slowly began to sit up, still rather shaken up from the impact of the fall. "What did you just call me? You're going to be really sorry for what you… Oh crap, it's you," he then recognized when he finally looked up and saw Akira's menacing expression.

"I'd keep my mouth shut if I were you," Akira warned, placing her foot upon Yoshida's chest as he was about to get up, pinning him down.

"Akira-san, there you are," a rather anxious Wataru came running up to her, sounding somewhat out of breath. "Why'd you run off like that?"

"Sorry, Wataru-san," Akira apologetically replied. "I just had some unfinished business that I needed to take care of. I promise I'll explain later."

Then noticing Yoshida lying on the ground Wataru concernedly inquired, "Uh, is he alright?"

"Oh, don't worry about him," Akira said with a hint of malice in her voice, applying some more pressure with her foot onto Yoshida's chest.

"Akira, please, let him go," Takumi requested. "Besides, this doesn't concern you."

"The hell it doesn't!" Yoshida loudly objected as he now began to stand up. "She's the reason why you're so crazy!"

"What do you mean?" Akira curiously asked.

"I mean every time I mention you in conversation, he freaks out! The same thing happened last week."

"Last week?" Akira suddenly realized. "Wait, so are you the one responsible for hitting him at that club?"

"Hey, he was about to hit me first. I was just defending myself. I merely tried to offer my buddy here some advice, telling him that I thought that you weren't right for him. That's when he snapped."

"Oh that is such a load of crap!" Hajime protested. "Your buddy? Please! You're just acting nice all of a sudden because you're afraid that Akira will kick your butt. In the first place, Takumi never even laid a finger on you and was about to walk away when you suddenly attacked him from behind once he turned his back on you. And secondly, how can you blame him for getting upset with you after you insulted…"

"Hajime!" Takumi unexpectedly interrupted, shaking his head in objection, not wishing for him to disclose any further details of that evening."

"Oh, what's this?" Yoshida delighted in hearing. "You never told her, did you? Well, don't worry, pal," he reassured Takumi by placing his arm around him. "I won't embarrass you. But I still stand by what I said back then and think that she's…"

Leaning over and whispering the remainder of his thoughts, Takumi's face turned beet red after hearing the disparaging comments that Yoshida had made, causing him to become positively livid.

Just as Yoshida had predicted, Takumi abruptly grabbed him by the collar with one hand and stood ready to punch him in the face with the other.

"Takumi!" Akira conveyed with shock.

Looking around him, Takumi now also noticed the stunned look of his friends as he continued to clutch Yoshida by the collar. With a feeling and look of regret, Takumi turned and glanced up at Yoshida, only to be met with a grin of contentment.

"I… I'm sorry!" Takumi remorsefully expressed, instantly releasing Yoshida from his grip before bolting off in embarrassment.

"See, what'd I tell you?" Yoshida reiterated. "Crazy."

Unable to restrain herself any longer, Hiromi now angrily stomped over and fiercely slapped Yoshida across the face. "You jerk!" she cried, just before running off after Takumi.

Shaking her head in disgust, Kyoko looked over at Yoshida and expressed, "You really are an asshole, you know that?"

Cutting through the festival crowd and apparently not looking where she was going, Hiromi accidentally bumped into a familiar couple.

"Whoa, watch where you're going," her cousin Yumi's voice came, who was accompanied by her boyfriend, Kenichi.

"S… sorry," Hiromi hurriedly apologized.

"Hiromi?" Yumi was surprised to see. "Are, are you alright? What's wrong, why are you in such a hurry?"

Not wishing to waste time explaining, she simply inquired in a rushed tone, "Did you happen to see which way Takumi-kun went?"

"Uh, yeah," a puzzled Kenichi replied. "I just saw him running up toward the shrine."

"The shrine? Thanks."

"Uh, say, was that you that I just saw slapping Yumi's brother?"

"Sorry, I'll explain later," she hastily responded before rushing back off.

"Huh? Now what do you suppose that was all about?" Kenichi wondered.

"If it involves my idiotic brother, I can only imagine," Yumi seethed as she now came over and confronted Yoshida. "Onii-chan! What have you done this time? So help me if you've done anything to hurt Takumi-san, I'll…"

"Take it easy, sis. I never touched the kid. Besides, I'm the victim here. He's the one who attacked me first, just like last time."

"Yeah, after you provoked him!" Hajime argued. "I can only imagine what you must have whispered in his ear about Akira."

"About me?" a surprised Akira reacted.

"Um, yeah," Hajime uncomfortably informed her. "I'm afraid he's been saying some rather unflattering things about you again."

"Again? What do you…"

Before she could receive clarification on his comment, an incensed Kenichi then chimed in, "Wait, he's been saying things about Akira? That true, Yoshida?"

Terrified at the thought of having to explain himself to the captain of the Kendo club, in addition to Akira, Yoshida stammered, "N… no, uh, that is I…"

Coming directly up to him, Kenichi stared menacingly into his eyes, their noses practically touching, and warned, "Let me tell you something. I don't appreciate you bad-mouthing my star pupil."

"Sempai," Akira softly uttered, moved by her captain's kind remark.

"When you disrespect Akira, you disrespect the entire Kendo club. I swear if you weren't Yumi's brother I'd…"

"Yeah, well, don't let that stop you," Yumi reassured him. "It's high time somebody taught him a lesson."

"SIS! What are you…"

"Come on," Kenichi forcefully said as he grabbed hold of Yoshida's arm.

"Whe… where are we going?" Yoshida frighteningly asked.

"We're going to have a nice little discussion on respecting other people's feelings as well as how to properly behave yourself, because if you don't, then we're going to have a serious problem."

"Yeah, and I won't try to stop him either," Yumi made it clear to him.

"You guys enjoy the rest of your evening," Kenichi bid them as he dragged Yoshida by the arm.

"Hey, come on," Yoshida objected, clearly trying to weasel his way out of his predicament. "I was only kidding. I didn't really mean what I said. Can't you guys take a joke?"

"Just shut up," Kenichi told him.

"Sorry for the trouble that my brother may have caused," Yumi offered, apologetically bowing before catching up with Kenichi and her brother.

"Poor, Yumi," Kyoko lamented, "having to put up with such a jerk of a brother."

"So what exactly was it that he said about me?" Akira curiously asked.

"Oh, ah, it's really not worth repeating," Hajime awkwardly replied rather hesitantly. "He basically just spouted off the same crap that he did last week. That's why I can't blame Takumi for lashing out at him the way he did. I probably would have done the same thing."

"Well I certainly hope so," Kyoko emphatically stated. "If anybody said something like that about me, I'd at least expect you to speak up and defend my honor."

"Aww, come on, you know I would," Hajime reassured her.

"Wait," Akira wanted to clarify, "so are you saying that Takumi was standing up for me when he got into that fight with Yoshida last week?"

Kyoko and Hajime now looked at each other rather dumbfounded upon hearing her inquiry, leading them to draw the same conclusion.

"He didn't tell her," they announced in unison.

"Tell me what?"

Hajime now just shook his head in disbelief, sighing heavily as he quietly uttered under his breath in frustration, "Oh, Takumi, Takumi, Takumi."


After ascending what seemed like an endless array of steps, which was made all the more difficult for someone wearing a kimono, Hiromi had to stop and catch her breath for a moment when she reached the top of the hill. She was relieved, however, when she finally spied Takumi by the Fuka shrine. Not approaching him just yet, she opted to wait until he had finished hanging his tanzaku, containing his written wish, upon one of the numerous stalks of bamboo that lined the walkway leading up to the shrine.

Slowly approaching him from behind, Hiromi first paused and glanced at the poem that he had written before announcing, "Takumi-kun."

"Uh, Hiromi-san," a startled Takumi reacted.

"Are, are you okay?"

"Yeah I'm… fine," he despondently replied. "Just fine."

"Liar. Why did you run off like that?"

"Well, let's just say that I'm not too proud of my actions lately."

Observing the downtrodden look upon his face, Hiromi then took Takumi by the hand, gently tugging at his arm, and proposed, "Come on, let's take a little walk."

Feeling too dejected to raise any objection toward her request, Takumi simply went along with her as she proceeded to lead him by the arm along a stone walkway through the woods until they came upon the ridge of the hill.

Overlooking the academy from one direction, the picturesque view of the mountainous countryside from the other was quite breathtaking.

"Wow, Yumi was right," Hiromi gasped in awe, "the view from here really is breathtaking."

"Yeah, it really is," Takumi acknowledged. "I always like to come up here with Akira and… well, that is I used to."

"And you will again, I'm sure of it," she proclaimed, "and sooner than you think."

"I wish I could be as optimistic as you are," he yearned, letting out a sigh of remorse before apologetically declaring, "Listen, Hiromi-san, I'm really sorry. None of this has been very fair to you, getting caught up in the middle of our little fight. Although, apparently it's not quite as little as I had once thought."

"Oh, Takumi-kun, you mustn't be so hard on yourself. And really, I don't mind."

"Thanks, that's nice of you to say. But I promised that I'd show you a good time tonight, yet instead I run off and abandon you."

"It's okay, really. I…" Hiromi abruptly stopped when her eyes observed that everything had suddenly gone dark down below. "Oh, Takumi-kun, look!"

"Huh?"

"There must have been a power failure," she figured, pointing out how all the lights at the academy had suddenly gone out.

"No, it isn't that," Takumi corrected as he began to explain, "You see, Fuka Academy, along with numerous other regions throughout the country, participates in what's called the 'Tanabata Light Down' initiative. So on this particular night, people agree to turn off all unnecessary lighting after dusk, thereby causing the stars to appear brighter, and also saving energy at the same time."

Sure enough, with the majority of the academy's lights now turned off, along with most of those from the city that usually would be visible from across the bay, the stars in the nighttime sky now stood out quite prominently.

"Wow, I've never seen the stars like this before," a mesmerized Hiromi noted as she continued to gaze upward. "Being from the city with all of its light pollution, I guess I never realized what I was truly missing. It's so beautiful."

"Look, Hiromi-san," Takumi indicated with his hand, "there's the Milky Way. And those two bright stars are Altair and Vega."

"Where?" she excitedly asked, struggling at first to spot them. "Oh yeah, I see them now. So then those are the two stars that represent the fabled star-crossed lovers."

"Yup," Takumi confirmed. "Altair, the one to the west is the cowherd, Hikoboshi, and Vega, just to the east, is the lovely maiden, Akir… uh, I mean, Orihime."

Rather amused by his little slip of the tongue, Hiromi couldn't help but to smile at the now blushing Takumi, causing her to chuckle while observing, "Oh, Takumi-kun, you're so cute."

"Sorry, guess I can't seem to get her off my mind," he admitted. Then, casting his eyes upward and sounding a bit melancholy, he professed, "You know, when I look up at the stars, I like to think that she too might be looking up at them at the exact same moment; it just somehow feels as though she's that much closer to me. And yet, when I reach out my hand… I can't touch her."

"Aww," Hiromi sympathetically cried.

"But even if I can't touch her, I can't help but to believe that there's still something there in our hearts."

"Ooh, Takumi-kun, you're going to make me cry," she sniffled. "That is so sweet."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to..."

"No, no, it's fine. Honestly, you've got to be one of the sweetest boys I've ever met."

"Uh, thanks."

"You know, when I first moved here, I was afraid that I might have trouble fitting in. But right from the start you helped to ease those fears, welcoming me with open arms and immediately made me feel right at home. So in all fairness, I think it's about time that I returned the favor."

"Really, Hiromi-san, that isn't necessary."

"Oh but it is," she insisted, proceeding to take both his hands in hers, inching closer toward him till he was backed up against a tree. Now standing face to face with him she resolutely added, "And therefore…"

Takumi was at a loss as her head now slowly began to lean in, causing him to nervously stutter, "Hiromi-san, wha… what are you…"

"I'm going to make your wish come true," she softly whispered into his ear.

"My, my wish?" Takumi gulped.

"Of course," she stated, now taking a step back. "It's the least I can do for all the trouble I've caused you."

"I… I don't understand."

"Oh, you will. Now just promise me that you'll wait right here, okay?"

"Uh, su… sure," he stammered, not knowing what to make of the mixed signals she seemed to be sending.

"Great!" she happily replied as she then turned and prepared to depart. Hesitating for a moment, she then turned back around to face him again and commented, "You know, even though your heart belongs to someone else, I'm really glad that I got to know you."

Caught unawares, Takumi suddenly felt Hiromi's warm lips brush up against his cheek momentarily. "I really hope everything works out for you," she caringly wished him. Amusingly looking on at his stunned expression, Hiromi then simply announced, "Well, guess I'll see you around. Good night, Takumi-kun."

Watching as she now made her way back up the stone walkway, Takumi just smiled as he reflected upon her kindheartedness.

"Thank you, Hiromi-san," he quietly uttered under his breath.


"I don't get it, Akira-san," Wataru tried to comprehend. "Why did you guys allow this argument to escalate to this point? I mean, from what you all have told me, the whole thing seems so petty."

"Because they're both stubborn," Hajime pointed out as he finished hanging his tanzaku onto one of the bamboo stalks in front of the shrine.

"Hey, I'm not the one who was being stubborn," Akira argued. "Maybe if he had told me in the first place that the fight was over something Yoshida had said about me, I would have understood."

"But did you ever really ask him to explain," Hajime posed the question, "or give him a chance for that matter?"

Akira had no answer, for she knew that he was right.

"So why do you suppose Takumi-san chose not to tell her what the fight was over?" Wataru questioned.

"That's because he wanted to spare Akira's feelings," Hajime replied, "figuring it best not to repeat Yoshida's cruel insults."

"That's our Takumi for ya," Kyoko chimed in, "sincere to a fault."

"Don't forget loving and caring," Hiromi added, now rejoining the four.

"Hiromi-chan!" Kyoko was glad to see. "Did you manage to find Takumi?"

"I did. He's under a tree just beyond the clearing, and we had a nice little talk."

"How, how is he?" Akira asked somewhat apprehensively.

"He's holding up okay, considering the circumstances."

"Oh. So ah, what exactly did you two talk ab…"

"Wait, before you say anything else," Hiromi interrupted, sounding a bit defensive, "I think there's something we need to clear up."

"Uh, okay."

"Now I realize we got off to a bad start and that you probably don't like me very much, but I give you my word that there's nothing going on between me and Takumi-kun. I would never try to…"

"I, I know," Akira remorsefully replied. "Hajime already explained everything to me."

"He did?"

"Yes. And I realize now that he was just being his usual courteous self in trying to make you feel welcome." Swallowing her pride, Akira then deeply bowed before her and apologetically offered, "I'm… sorry, Hiromi-san. I jumped to conclusions and in the process said some very unflattering things about you. I'm really sorry."

"Oh, no, it, it's fine, really," Hiromi reassured her. "Don't worry about it, I understand perfectly. I'm just glad that you're not upset with me anymore. After all, if he were my boyfriend, I probably would have acted the same way. But of course, he's not. In fact, from what I've been able to gather from talking with him is that he's a one girl kind of guy. Why do you know that while we were talking, even when the conversation wasn't about you, your name still somehow managed to slip off his lips. So you see, Akira-san, you have absolutely nothing to worry about."

"She's right you know," Hajime concurred. "In fact, he did the same exact thing earlier this evening while we were talking. You're all he seems to think about. So if that's not devotion I don't know what is."

"Thanks, you guys," a rather relieved Akira gratefully replied. "It means a lot to hear you say that."

"Akira-san," Hiromi began to motion with her hands, "there's something I think you should see."

Leading her and the others over to one of the many bamboo stalks along the shrine's walkway, Hiromi then pointed to one particular strip of tanzaku hanging amongst the numerous others.

Immediately recognizing the handwriting as that of Takumi, Akira, along with Hajime, Kyoko and Wataru, began to read his rather heart wrenching aspiration.

Though my foolish pride and white lies were serious blunders

I was blind to the fact that it could tear us asunder

And while my arms no longer hold you since we're apart

I shall forever hold the love we once had close to my heart

So the tears I now shed are because you're so far

Causing me to hopelessly wish upon a distant star

Observing Akira's quite emotional reaction as she quickly rubbed a finger along her eyes in an attempt to conceal her tears, Hiromi then seriously stated, "You'd have to be pretty disheartened to write something like that, and from what I've witnessed, that boy is completely heartbroken."

"He's miserable without you," Hajime added. "Trust me, I can personally attest to that."

"And on a night intended for lovers," Hiromi noted, "he's sitting under some tree looking up at the stars… alone! Now where I come from that just ain't right."

"Akira-san," a concerned Wataru then began to point out, "you're the only one who can make his wish come true. And deep down, I know you desperately seek the same thing."

"Wataru," a deeply moved Akira replied. "Listen, there's something you need to know. I'm afraid that I used you for my own selfish gains as a way to get back at Takumi."

"Yeah, I kind of figured that," he confessed. Then with a rather weak laugh he added, "But then, it was kind of silly of me to even think that I could ever hope to replace him in your heart."

"Aww, Wataru-kun," Hiromi compassionately reacted.

"I'm really sorry," Akira remorsefully stated. "I feel terrible for what I've done."

"Hey, don't worry about it," he tried to reassure her. "Besides, it's better this way; better for you, and certainly better for Takumi-san."

"But, what about you?"

"I told you, don't worry about me. I'm fine."

"You sure seem to be taking this well," Hajime noted.

"Hey, despite everything, I still had a good time," Wataru cheerfully pointed out.

"Thank you, Wataru-san," Akira graciously replied.

"No problem. Say listen, you'd better get going. After all, you should never keep someone who's mending a broken heart waiting too long."

A very appreciative Akira nodded, acknowledging him. Then, reaching between a fold within her obi, she pulled out a small charm with a strap hanging from it.

"I suppose I should return this to you," she reckoned, proceeding to hand him the cell phone charm that he had won for her earlier in a game of chance. "It wouldn't be right for me to keep it, plus it would probably make Takumi feel a bit uncomfortable."

"I understand," Wataru clearly grasped as he received it from her.

Leaning in and giving Wataru a quick peck on the cheek, Akira then amiably remarked, "Watarua-san, you're a true gentleman. I'm sure you'll make some girl very happy someday."

As she hurriedly ran off, a stunned Wataru just stood with a hand up against his cheek.

"First kiss, huh?" Hajime teased, playfully jabbing Wataru in the side with his elbow.

"Uh, well I… That is to say…"

"Oh, Hajime, leave him alone," Kyoko scolded.

"Well uh, I guess I'll be going," Wataru nervously announced. "It's getting kind of late."

"Uh, yeah," Hiromi subsequently agreed as the two then began to go their separate ways. "See you guys later."

Shocked at the scenario that was playing out before her, and unwilling to let the little indiscretion pass, forced Kyoko to loudly proclaim, "Alright you two, freeze!"

"Something wrong, Kyoko?" Hajime asked.

"I'll say there is. Honestly, do I have to do everything?" she incredulously remarked.

"Yah!" a startled Wataru cried as Kyoko grabbed him by the arm and forcibly pulled him over toward Hiromi. "Ah, Kyoko-sempai!"

"Humph! Some gentleman you are," Kyoko said in disgust. "I do hope you weren't planning on letting Hiromi-chan walk home all by herself, now were you?"

"Uh, n… no, of course not."

"Glad to hear it. So, as your senior, I must insist that you escort the young lady safely back to her dorm room." Turning then to Hiromi for her approval she inquired, "You don't mind, do you?"

"Why no," Hiromi seemed rather happy to oblige, "not at all."

"Good, then it's settled," Kyoko complacently said as she then took hold of each of their hands and persuasively joined the two together, causing them both to blush profusely.

Hajime, meanwhile, seemed dumbfounded at his meddlesome girlfriend's antics. While not interfering, he still looked directly at her and silently mouthed, "What are you doing?"

Kyoko merely shot him a devious grin, pretty much indicating for him not to interfere with her little matchmaking scheme.

"Oh, one other thing, Wataru-san. I want you to escort her home," Kyoko subtly added, discreetly shoving two five hundred yen coins into his hand, "by way of the coffee shop."

Stunned at her generosity, Wataru exclaimed, "Uh, Kyoko-sempai, this is…"

"Call it a small investment into your futures," she slyly hinted to him in a faint whisper. Immediately thereafter she turned back to Hiromi and suggested, "Oh, Hiromi-chan, there's this one latte that you've just got to try. It's called a Peppermint Mocha Trio."

"Mmm, sounds delicious."

"Believe me, it's to die for. Oh, then there's also…"

While Kyoko continued to praise the merits of the shops various lattes, Hajime happened to catch a closer glimpse of the cell phone charm that Wataru was holding. Thinking back for a moment, he then surreptitiously signaled to him, "Pssst, hey, Wataru-san."

"What's up?"

"Listen, when you get to the coffee shop, I want you to…"

After whispering the remainder of his idea into Wataru's ear, Hajime had a most satisfied look about him.

"Are you sure?" Wataru questioned.

"Trust me. I have it on the best authority that she'll love it. Plus it'll help break the ice and make a great conversation starter."

"Really? Thanks, Hajime-san."

"Don't mention it."

"You ready to go, Wataru-kun?" Hiromi asked.

"Huh? Oh, ah, yeah."

As they began to leave, Wataru was somewhat startled, yet pleasantly surprised, when Hiromi took him by the hand, only this time without being prodded by Kyoko.

"Bye, you two lovebirds," Kyoko audaciously called out to them. "Try not to keep him out too late past his bedtime, Hiromi-chan."

"Kyoko!" Hajime scolded. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Isn't it obvious? I was merely helping along a budding romance."

"Hmmm," he skeptically stared at her with his arms folded.

"Oh, come on, don't act so shocked. And besides, I saw you whispering something to Wataru-san. What was that all about?"

"Well, uh," he stammered, "since you had already stuck your nose into their affairs, I figured I might as well give the kid a few pointers. You know, to give him a fighting chance."

"Oh yeah? What kind of pointers?"

"I told him to give Hiromi-san that 'Negima' cell phone charm once they get to the coffee shop, because I happen to know that she likes that particular anime series."

"Really. So now who's sticking his nose into their affairs?" she brashly accused. "And by the way, how exactly would you happen to know what types of anime she likes, hmmmm?"

"Oh darn it, you caught me," Hajime lightheartedly responded, attempting to keep a straight face."

"Uh huh," Kyoko suspiciously said with her arms folded. "Come on, out with it."

"Well you see, darling, it was a chance meeting at an anime convention last year. We were both going through the same bin of used anime when our hands suddenly happened upon the same title. We looked up, staring intently into each other's eyes, and declared our undying love for our favorite anime and manga series. Well, one thing led to another and…" Hesitating, Hajime then teasingly revealed, "You know, now that I think about it, I think it actually may have been at the club last week when I happened to overhear her telling Takumi about her favorite series. Yeah, I'm sure that was it. But you got to admit, my original explanation sure sounded better."

"Very funny," she annoyingly replied, not seeming too amused. "Think you're pretty cute, don't you?"

Now proceeding to wrap his arms around her waist he declared, "Not half as cute as you, my dear."

"Flattery will get you nowhere," she stubbornly replied, turning her head off to the side to avoid his advances, then playfully remarked, "You know, I'm beginning to think you might have a thing for her. You are both otaku after all."

"Hmmm, do I detect a hint of jealousy?"

"Certainly not," she adamantly denied.

"Come on, I swear to you that I never went anywhere near her… manga," he suggestively stated as he pulled her in closer, her breasts now tightly pressed up against his body while their lips then passionately began to engulf one another.


Approaching the clearing, Akira anxiously began to scan the area. In addition to the Astronomy Club, which had several telescopes set up for any interested stargazers, she also spied several couples scattered along the edge of the hill, most of whom had their eyes fixated on their partner as opposed to the constellation. Eventually, she spotted Takumi sitting under a lone maple tree, resting his eyelids.

She couldn't help but smile when she observed the tranquil expression upon his face as she stood before him. Not wishing to wake him just yet, Akira simply leaned up against the tree alongside him.

"Incredible," Akira finally articulated. "Tanabata only comes around once a year and you decide to sleep through it."

"A... Akira," Takumi startlingly reacted, abruptly coming out of his slumber and then promptly sitting up.

"No, no, don't get up," she advised. "Hiromi-san told me that I'd be able to find you here. Mind if I join you?"

"Uh, no, of course not."

Gently sliding her body down along the edge of the tree so that she was now seated perpendicular to him, Akira then inquired, "So ah, how you holding up?"

"Good! I'm… doing good," he hesitantly replied, following up by quietly uttering, "Although I'm actually doing a lot better now that you're here."

"Well that's good," she was glad to hear. Then, in a more serious tone added, "Anyway, I really need to talk to you about, well, us. I think it's time we put an end to it."

"What?" Takumi was shocked to hear. "No! Akira, you can't mean that!"

"Well of course I mean it. What, are you telling me that you want to keep this fight going?"

"Fight?" Takumi suddenly then realized. "Oh, oh, our fight," he said breathing a sigh of relief. "You meant put an end to our fight, not… uh, never mind."

Raising her arm, Akira then lightly bonked Takumi on the head with her fist. "Idiot!"

"I deserved that," he admitted as he rubbed the top of his head. "Listen, Akira, I'm really sorry about the way I acted back there, I…"

"Okay, Takumi, stop. I think you've done enough apologizing. I've already got a clear picture of what happened after hearing explanations from both you and Hajime. And you know, the more I think about it, the angrier I become at myself for allowing this to drag on for so long."

"But, you didn't do anything wrong. This whole mess wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been so stupid and lied to you."

True, but at least I know that it wasn't intentional. You panicked, I get it; it's no big deal. In fact, when you finally did tell me what had happened, I was all ready to forgive you right then and there until…"

"Hiromi-san showed up?"

"Yeah," she despondently remarked, not seeming too proud of herself. "I was basically the one who freaked out that time and wound up saying some really nasty things about her. In short, I was a total bitch to her."

"A… Akira," Takumi expressed, quite taken aback by her harsh denunciation of herself.

"Well it's true. I mean, when she first showed up and I saw how friendly and jovial she was around you, I started jumping to all sorts of wild conclusions; my jealous nature just basically started taking over. I've already apologized to her, but I'm still pretty upset with myself for behaving like that."

"Don't worry about it, really," he tried to reassure her. "You were perfectly justified for feeling that way. And of course I didn't exactly help matters any, especially after I started giving her my bento lunches in the beginning. I was basically just throwing more fuel on the fire."

"Still, this isn't exactly the first time that I've allowed my jealous temperament to get out of control. It's definitely not healthy."

"Yes, but you know, not all forms of jealousy are unhealthy in a relationship. In fact, they say that jealousy is usually displayed as a means to guard your territory. So in that sense, I guess I should be flattered."

Glancing over at her with an appreciative grin on his face, a flustered Akira then quickly turned her head off to the side.

"Although," he continued, "we obviously took this a bit too far. And then we had to go and drag Hiromi and Wataru-san into it in a foolish attempt to make one another jealous. Man, are we pathetic or what?"

"You'll get no argument from me on that," she unmistakably concurred. "I'm just glad that those two were both so understanding and forgiving."

"Yeah. And I'm also glad that you intervened when you did back there, stopping Yoshida I mean, otherwise Hiromi-san might have gotten hurt because of my stupidity."

"Speaking of which," Akira recollected, sounding somewhat annoyed as she then rose to her feet and stood directly before him, "why didn't you just tell me right from the start what it was that Yoshida had said about me? So all this time your fight with him was an attempt to defend my honor, not that I approve of that sort of macho bull crap, but still, I would have understood and we might have avoided this entire fiasco."

Feebly staring up at her angry expression, Takumi was only able to remorsefully utter, "Sorry."

"Damn it, Takumi, were you afraid that I might get my feelings hurt?"

"Well I…"

"You know what your problem is? You're too nice! And what happened earlier is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. You didn't hesitate for one second, opting to put yourself in harm's way in order to shield Hiromi-san from Yoshida's attack. Why do you always have to be so damn chivalrous? You know, that's just like you; always thinking of others, never yourself. And yet…"

Becoming quite emotional by this point, Akira was forced to turn her back to Takumi in an attempt to conceal the tears that were beginning to build up within her.

"A… Akira?"

"And yet," she sniffled, "I don't ever want that to change, because… that's just one of the many qualities about you that caused me to fall in love with you."

Coming up from behind and enveloping his arms firmly around her waist, Akira was all at once at ease when she felt the warmth of Takumi's cheek caressing hers, his head now resting upon her shoulder.

"You don't ever have to worry about that," he softly whispered, "because my love for you could never change."

Taking out a handkerchief, Takumi then proceeded to gently dab the tears from her eyes.

"You see, it's little things like that," she happily cried, turning back around to face him. "It's like you're the Galahad of the Arthurian knights; so noble and pure of heart."

"Knight, huh?" he said with amusement.

"It's no wonder girls are always fawning over you."

"Really? I hadn't noticed."

"Yeah, right," she skeptically replied. "You'd have to be blind to not notice something like that."

"I am."

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

"I mean I'm blind to all other girls, because in my eyes," he indicated, now getting down on one knee and taking a hold of her hand, "I see only you, my lady."

Touched by the lovely, albeit corny, sentiment, Akira attempted to restrain herself, not wishing to give him any satisfaction just yet, folding her arms as she then gave him a rather cynical look.

"Why Takumi, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that you were trying to sweet talk me into forgiving you."

"Uh, no, I ah…"

"Well you're going to have to do a lot better than that if you think that you can just use your charm and good looks to weasel your way out of this."

Taking her words rather seriously, Takumi, still kneeling before her, helplessly looked up at her and apologetically offered, "I'm sorry, Akira, but I really wasn't trying to…"

"Oh would you please stop apologizing already. I keep telling you that you're too polite. You know sometimes you just have to throw proper etiquette out the window and just take what you want."

Catching him totally unawares, Akira, unable to hold herself back any longer, threw herself on top of Takumi, knocking him flat to the ground.

"Mmmmph!" he startlingly reacted as her lips practically swallowed up his. Immediately reciprocating the passionate sentiment, he pleasantly expressed, "Ooh, Akira."

"Ooooo!" she moaned, letting up momentarily and confessing, "You have no idea how much I've missed this."

"Mmmm, likewise."

Rolling over onto her side, her breathing somewhat labored, Akira now stared up at the nighttime sky through an opening of the tree's overhanging branches. Reflecting back over the past week's events, she opined, "Man, this had to be one of the worst weeks of my life. I still can't believe we allowed this stupid argument to escalate to the point that it did. I'm just glad that it's finally all over with."

"Yeah. But I gotta tell you," Takumi confessed, "as the days passed and with no apparent resolution in sight, I became frightened; I honestly thought that I might actually lose you. I tell you, this really made me think and take a long hard look at what's truly important in my life."

Rolling onto his side and looking her directly in the eyes, Takumi slowly began to bring a hand up to her face, caressing it ever so gently.

"Takumi."

"I'm sorry for putting you through this."

"Oh, let's just promise each other that we'll never fight like that again," Akira tearfully suggested.

Rolling back over onto his back, Takumi focused his eyes directly upward and, with a more serious look about him, professed, "I'm afraid I can't do that, Akira."

"Wh… what do you mean?"

"Well, for one thing, I'd be lying if I did. I mean, who's to say what other types of disagreements we may have in the future. In fact, I'd have to say that it's pretty much inevitable."

"Wait," Akira tried to comprehend, now sitting up and looking to him with a rather worried expression. "So are you saying that there's no hope for us, that we're destined to continue having these types of horrific fights?"

"No, no, you misunderstand. What I'm trying to say is that an occasional disagreement from time to time is perfectly normal in a healthy relationship, so long as the couple involved is able to talk things out in a calm and rational manner. Now granted, yelling and screaming serves no meaningful purpose, and in the end only creates tension, so we'd be wise to keep that in mind for future reference."

"Still, I really don't want to have to go through something like that again."

"And there's a pretty good chance that we probably won't," he reassured her. "The point is we managed to get through this because we were finally able to talk things out with each other. And of course having good friends, like Hajime and Kyoko, to knock some common sense into us helped a great deal too. You know some couples would have broken up over lesser things, but we didn't. We stuck it out and in the end endured, and do you know why?"

"Actually, I do," Akira finally comprehended, rolling back over so that she was now lying directly on top of Takumi. "It's because our love for each other is too strong to ever be broken up by some petty argument."

"Couldn't have said it better myself," Takumi smilingly said as he began to wrap his arms around her. "You know what the best part of a fight is, don't you?"

"Making up?" she surmised.

"Making out," he corrected, now resuming where they had previously left off.

Oblivious to their surroundings, the two continued to maintain their carefree displays of affection for one another, their bodies fervently engaged while spread out beneath the majestic maple.

"I think they have them set up over here," Hajime's voice came from off in the distance, approaching the clearing while walking hand in hand with Kyoko.

"You know I've never viewed the stars through a telescope before," Kyoko confessed, "and I'm really anxious to see Vega and Altair close up."

"Well this should give us a really great view of…"

Stopping dead in their tracks as they came upon the maple, Hajime and Kyoko then both turned to each other, their initial expression of shock quickly changing to one of delight.

"Forget the telescope," Hajime gleefully remarked. "We've got a front row view of an even more interesting pair of star-crossed lovers right here."

"Uh, A… Akira," Takumi managed to verbalize, attempting to get Akira's attention who didn't seem quite ready to relinquish her possession of his lips. "Ha… Hajime and... mmmm, Akira… uh, I mean Kyoko are here."

"So, let them find their own tree," she let up long enough to convey to him.

"Hajime," Kyoko urged, "we should probably go."

"Yeah, you're right," he agreed as a wicked grin then came over his face, prompting him to remark, "but at least they have the right idea. Maybe we should follow their example."

"Hajime, you're bad," Kyoko lightheartedly admonished, "but for once I agree with you."

"Well, in that case…" Hajime began, extending his elbow out to her as an invitation to join him. "Shall we?"

Just as they started to walk off, ready to give the two their privacy, Takumi finally sat up and called out, "Hey!"

Stopping and directing their attention back toward them, Takumi then gratefully expressed, "Thanks, you guys."

Shooting him a complacent grin, "Hajime then wittily warned, "Hey, you just make sure you hang on to her this time. I don't want to have to keep bailing you out."

"Not to worry," Takumi expressed, pulling Akira tightly in toward him, "because I have no intention of ever letting her go."

"Glad to hear it."

"I owe you big time, Hajime," Takumi professed. "Thanks."

"Yeah, yeah," he modestly replied. "Save your appreciation for my stomach, say in the form of a beef sukiyaki bento on Monday."

"Hahaha, you got it my friend," an amused Takumi resolutely agreed. "So would you prefer cabbage with that or… Whoa!"

Growing rather impatient, Akira grabbed Takumi by the arm and forcefully yanked him back down so that he was lying beside her once again.

"Sorry, Hajime," Akira offered, "he's kind of busy right now. He'll have to get back to you later on that. Right now there's something else that requires his complete and undivided attention: Me!"

"Heh, heh," Hajime chuckled. "Lucky dog."

"Come on, Hajime," Kyoko prodded, "I think they'd like to be alone."

"Of that I'm sure. Well, see you guys later."

Taking their leave of them, Hajime and Kyoko made their way over toward the scenic overlook, pausing when they came upon a fence that lined the edge of the hill.

Leaning against it and taking in the breathtaking view of the constellation, Hajime reflected, "Man, what a great night. There may be something to this Tanabata legend after all. Takumi and Akira are back together again, and it looks like there might be something developing between Wataru and Hiromi-san. Overall, a very fulfilling evening."

"I'm proud of you, Hajime," Kyoko affectionately expressed, giving him a tender kiss upon the cheek as she stood alongside him. "You really stuck by Takumi when he needed you the most and helped out tremendously in getting them back together."

"Well, I can't take all the credit," he humbly replied. "What about you? That little matchmaking scheme of yours between Wataru and Hiromi-san may just bear fruit. So it looks like we're two for two since we've now got two very happy and satisfied couples. Not bad, huh? We should think about becoming marriage counselors."

"Well as long as we're on a roll," she began to suggest, "why not try and make it three for three?"

"Three? Well what other couple do we know that might need our help?"

"No silly, I'm talking about us."

"Us?"

"Of course. After all, we deserve to be a happy and satisfied couple too. Right?"

Coming together and embracing each other, their heads now resting on each other's shoulders, Hajime approvingly responded, "Mmm, you got that right."

He was completely caught off guard, however, when Kyoko sensually and suggestively whispered into his ear, "So how about it, Hajime, would you like me to… satisfy you?"

"Uhh…" he nervously gulped.

Looking out over her shoulder as they continued to cuddle, Hajime's initial stunned expression quickly changed to one of immense pleasure, prompting him to cast his eyes upward to two very particular and prominent stars in the nighttime sky and silently mouth, "Thank you."