Neku Sakuraba had almost seemed to stop seeing the world in color.
Everything was basically black and white. Good and bad. Light and dark. But when he had entered the Game, it had forced him to peer deeper and see that, indeed, there were many different shades between those two colors that represented so much.
The Yin and the Yang.
So he could see gray now. Ashen gray, delicate silver the nearer you got to the white, dark gray, any shade of the color was there. Gray.
But that didn't change the fact that everything was still monochrome.
Neku had never seen Shiki's house. It was part of a large silver apartment complex on the second floor actually not far from Hachiko. She must have passed it many times during their Game, and had said nothing. That's when he realized that there were many things he didn't know about the girl.
He smiled slightly as he threaded through the Shibuya crowds, not as disdainful at their presence now that he understood them better. The Game had really changed him a lot. No wonder Joshua never altered it.
The structure swept upward toward the sky, not as tall as the buildings around it, but still a reasonable size. In every window a light was on, and the tidy building had a comfortable sensation to it. Neku walked up the steps, ignoring everything else as usual. The apartment complex's pleasant, homey feeling to it was what Neku wished he had around his neighborhood. When Shiki had told him and the others where she had lived, she had said she had grown up here. For years. He could almost imagine a young Shiki running around the steps holding Mr. Mew in her arms, and he wondered how many times Shiki's closest friend, Eri, had headed up or down these stairs.
He paused outside her door. 303. The numbers were old but still shone in the sunlight, casting an iridescent brass glow against the floor as the light tilted toward the ground. Neku rapped his fist against the wood, and the doorknob turned not long after.
Neku heard her before she answered, and he smiled again.
"Neko, you've got to move. Please?"
Neko? Who's that? He thought, watching Shiki open the door. In her arms was a large black cat that was strikingly similar to Mr. Mew. She placed down the old feline with an embarrassed smile. "Sorry, Neku. That's Neko, the family cat."
Neko. Japanese for cat. "Not a very original name. You named your cat…Cat?" Neku raised his eyebrows skeptically, but what he was really interested in was Shiki's house. He wondered if it was as cheerful as she often was.
But that wasn't right. What was the real Shiki? He knew she had stopped being jealous not long before their final Mission together. Neku had a feeling she wasn't as continuously happy as Eri seemed to be, but the two had to be somewhat similar to have been friends for so long. That's when he realized she was saying something. He smiled at the fact she was waving her arms frantically as if to make sure he noticed her apology, and her words were running together.
"I mean, you know, Neko is a very old cat and not really mine more of my mother's I would have named him something else, something better and more calm and collected because he's a really-"
"Shiki." Neku crossed his arms and waited for her to calm down enough to form a coherent sentence. She paused, smiling vaguely and shyly, staring at the floor. "Er-yeah?"
"What kind of prick comes in and mocks the cat's name? I don't care." He noticed she lifted her head and searched his eyes for signs that he was being honest. Neku found it hard to hold her gaze, because that wasn't Eri's eyes looking at him, that was Shiki's. Her own dark brown, almost black, eyes…
Now that he actually looked, he saw some great similarity between her and Eri. She stood somewhat the same, but she had a more subdued tilt to her shoulders. Her hair wasn't some odd color that just highlighted her eccentric personality. Shiki's was dark brown, almost black with glasses that didn't magnify her eyes and less extreme clothes. Just a white shirt, blue jeans with some designs, and a loose green jacket.
All of this info was collected quickly, and Neku was already done with his silent assessment before Shiki even said, "Well, come on in, Neku." She stepped aside, smiling at him, and closed the door as he stepped within.
From where he was standing, he could see the apartment was about medium to small size. The kitchen was visible, all clean and white with new appliances that glittered gray and black. The living room had a good sized TV which was on some channel about fashion. The couches, desks, tables, lamps, and basically everything else was some kind of color that went with gold. Tan, brown, dark red, black, even white in some areas.
"My mom is hopeless at decorating…so I did it…" Shiki seemed to be waiting for his verdict as if he was some kind of executioner. Neku directed his gaze away from her neat home, eyeing the green plants that looked well cared for. The cat, Neko, rubbed against his legs. Neku saw a thin strip of silver around the cat's muzzle, and knew it was indeed an old feline. He rubbed it absentmindedly before saying,
"Are you worried what I think of your home?" Neku rolled his eyes, straightening up, and he knew he was right judging by the nervous, confirming smile he received in return.
"Um…Hey, are you thirsty or anything? I've got to go to the kitchen to feed Neko anyway." She stepped past him, and Neko immediately set off after her. Neku knew without her saying anything. The black cat had been her muse for Mr. Mew. It was obvious, and Neko looked like a live form of the plush cat as he trailed after her.
"I'll take a soda or something," Neku told her. He was curious to see what else was in her house, and he smiled as he silently made his way to a hallway that branched to the right before taking a curve. The hallway was lined with a table holding a white phone, another potted plant, and three doors. Opening one door revealed what must have been her mother's room, and even Neku wouldn't intrude there. He quietly closed the door before opening another that revealed a clean bathroom, the colors here were bright pink, radiant white, red and subtle purple. He opened another door…
And saw Shiki's room.
It had a kiddy feel to it, and yet it also had an underlining sense of maturity. Neku had heard from Eri herself what her room looked like, back during one of their meetings at Hachiko. Eri said her room was bright pink, her favorite color, with bean bags and pop music. On the other hand, Shiki's was an assortment of colors and though there was a stereo on a tall shelf to his left, there was no music.
There was instead a legion of things she must have made. Balancing on hanging hooks, mannequins, and laid across almost every available surface were cloths. Some had already been fashioned into amazing outfits, others were halfway through. A sewing kit, opened to reveal over a dozen different compartments, proudly depicted their well worn interiors. Shiki uses us often and almost always, they seemed to say. The ceiling fan's shadow cast four moving rectangles around the room, drawing Neku's eyes from the materials to whatever else was in her area, her unique residence.
The tall shelf beside him held stuffed animals she must have made when she was younger. The work wasn't as fine, and they held the same childlike tilt that Mr. Mew had to his design. Tigers, rabbits, bears, and even dragons were clustered on the surface, lovingly dusted and cared for. Many other animals were there besides, and Neku's smile increased when he saw a recently made addition, a light orange wolf with blue headphones, resting beside a white cat. Her bed was neatly arranged, Mr. Mew resting in the special, reserved spot just for him by her pillow. The pink and white patterned covers were folded elegantly, and the bottom of her bed held some more stuffed animal favorites. Her purse rested on the vanity beside the bed, a lipstick container having had fallen to the dark wood floor. A window set above her bed let in more sunlight to her already bright room.
A light shriek startled Neku slightly, and he whirled around to see Shiki standing in the doorway, holding two soda cans in her grip. At first he thought she was angry, because her eyes flashed, but then she handed him the soda, smiling. "It's…immature isn't it?" She gestured to her handmade creations. "Like what you thought I was, at first, back in the Game."
How to say this without being rude."Shiki, this room matches you. It's not juvenile, it's innocent. I can see your whole life in here." He pointed to the shelf. "You started off on stuffed animals." Neku thought he could hear echoes of the past in his ears, and he almost swore he saw an outline of a younger Shiki prancing from shelf to shelf. "Then you met Eri." Laughter seemed to sound in his ears, two girls, giggling.
"How can you tell?" Shiki sounded surprised, and she stepped nearer to him. He felt her arm brush his, but he didn't step away.
"Right there." He pointed to some of her clothed stuffed animals, right beside others that weren't. "Am I right?" Neku's cobalt gaze flickered elsewhere as she nodded. "Here the animals stopped and clothes took over. I can see how these animals are old; they're not as finely made as the clothes. Just a sign that you improved over the years, but you weren't bad to begin with."
He smiled as she beamed at him, and he knew the compliments were helping her fragile self-esteem she was trying to build up. The Game had been hard for her, he realized, and he wished he had the words to properly express to her how much he appreciated the fact she stood by his side.
"Neku, want to see something?" Shiki said after a moment. She stepped away from him, brushing her fingers along a small shelf filled with magazines and books. She then opened a door he hadn't noticed, its harsh metal surface partially covered by a poster of the Prince. When she opened it, Neku stepped into a small steel balcony that jutted from the back of the apartments. He looked around and saw the little alcove was filled with potted flowers, all growing and flourishing beautifully. There had to be over two dozen colors assaulting his eyes all at once.
"I didn't know you liked plants." Neku said after a moment. He didn't know a lot of things about her. It made him…somewhat sad. And she knew even less about him.
Shiki knelt down beside some beautiful pink flowers that reminded him of sakura blossoms. "Well yeah, almost every girl likes flowers. Eri and I used to come back here often and talk while we watched the flora."
Neku didn't miss a thing. "Used." It wasn't a question.
Shiki's eyes clouded slightly. "Well, Eri isn't a bad person, she's just a little scatter brained. A new fashion contest came up and she forgot about this project of ours. So I just watch it alone usually, though it's not very easy."
Neku heard her silent, wishful plea. "I'll help."
"Really?" Her eyes brightened immediately, and he wondered if she had been trying to get him into her quiet project since she invited him to her house. The others were all busy with something else today.
"Of course." He knelt down by her and asked, "What types are these?"
Shiki went into a hesitant lecture on the flowers, stopping and saying she honestly didn't know some of these, which made him laugh softly. There were more than a few moments when her hand and his brushed against each other, but they never pulled back, though Neku's heart beat a little faster and she blushed a bit. Yes, they were enjoying their moment together. After she had finished, Neku looked at her.
"Flowers are not your thing though?"
"Not nearly so much as fashion, no. It's just an interesting hobby I guess, when I don't feel like doing the needles." She averted his gaze from his. "Neku, you know, the world is a lot like flowers."
Neku's monochrome view of the world questioned the sanity of comparing the whole earth to plants. "Oh really?" He said skeptically.
Shiki nodded, brushing the red petals of a rose. "You know, my father used to say something before he died. He said, 'every flower blooms at a different hour'. You know what that means?"
Neku snorted. Of course he did. Noticing her hurt expression he immediately said, "It means every person opens at a different time." He didn't want to hurt her. Not again. The unending guilt still festered in his heart from where he had almost killed her.
Almost. Killed. Her. What was wrong with you?!
He couldn't do that to her because she was…she was…that word he couldn't find yet. He hoped she would wait until he could.
"Yeah it does…Neku, my mother and I tend to these flowers sometimes, when she isn't busy. She told me to plant a flower to represent every person close to my heart. The two roses are my parents, that yellow one is Rhyme, that white one is Joshua, and that dark blue one is Beat. Eri's are the pink ones."
Neku looked at each of the flowers in turn. He felt strangely humbled, noting that he was somewhere obviously important to Shiki and her mother and closest friend. "Where am I?" He asked, attempting to keep his tone teasing, though he was genuinely curious. Shiki smiled and took his hand in hers, pressing it to a large orange orchid, so beautiful that he was amazed just looking at it.
"That's yours." She told him quietly.
Neku was silent for a while, and he noticed Shiki remove her hand and look down. He hesitated. Oh dear God he always did this, unable to tell her something. He couldn't find the words, he couldn't do anything really. What do to?
Just wing it, Neku. A voice told him in his ear.
Neku was too preoccupied to notice anything besides the words, and he gently lifted her head. "Shiki…" She raised her eyes, hers not Eri's, and smiled again. Always smiling, almost like Rhyme. She had a questioning look on her face. Neku leaned forward, she did too, and the friends shared their first ever kiss. Neku was surprised at what he did, since he normally rarely showed emotion, let alone kiss anyone. It was further proof that Shiki had changed him for the better.
They pulled apart and he nervously touched the back of his neck with his hand, laughing a little. He felt a traitorous blush steal across his face as Shiki hugged him tightly, saying nothing.
"I've got to go soon," Neku said. She didn't object and neither did he. "I'll be back later." He felt Shiki nod, and she let go of him. He stepped back, and he saw Shiki give a little wave before leaning against the railings of the patio, looking thoughtful. Neku walked over to her, slowly, and he realized he finally had the words he had been struggling to say to her. He whispered three sweet words as old as time and even more valuable before stepping away.
Neku Sakuraba used to see the world in monochrome. Now, all he had to do was think of Shiki, and their small garden, and remember the wash of rainbow that would explode like silent fireworks all day long. Their sanctuary from everyone else. On his second visit to his house, before he left, Shiki took his arm and said the same soft words he had told her that day.
He remembered. And never forgot.
This…was probably sort of odd, yes? But I enjoyed it, I really did. Inspiration time:
Inspiration for this story
comes directly from Shiki's full name:
Shiki Masaki. The Kanji of her name translates literally to: four, seasons, beautiful, blossom.
And Neku's full name:
Neku Sakuraba. The Kanji becomes: sound, manipulation, cherry, garden.
Leave a review, if you please!