For the Love of Akira
Chapter 2 - I Wanna be Your Teddy Bear
"So what do you think of this one?" Hajime eagerly inquired of his friend, holding up a garment of a most personal nature. "Think it'll make her look sexy?"
"I can't believe you're even asking me this," Takumi incredulously replied, shaking his head.
"Yeah, you're right. She makes anything she wears look hot."
"No, I mean I can't believe that you're asking me to help you pick out lingerie for Kyoko."
Perusing the local shopping district for White Day gifts for their respective girlfriends, Takumi had unwittingly found himself dragged into a shop selling intimate apparel by his rather overzealous friend.
"So, what's the big deal?" Hajime nonchalantly remarked. "You know if you're worried, I can help you pick something out for Akira too."
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Takumi exasperatingly said, observing the grin of delight upon Hajime's face.
"Oh come on, Takumi, lighten up. You should be enjoying this."
"Well I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I don't quite share the same enthusiasm as you do for this sort of thing."
Having grown up around a sister who was extremely well-endowed, Hajime figured that he may have become desensitized and began to feel somewhat sorry for his friend.
"Alright look, I won't force it on you. It's just that this is a time of your life that you should be enjoying and I don't want you to miss out on it, that's all."
"I know, and I appreciate what you're trying to do, but Akira and I aren't quite ready for that yet."
"She's not ready?" Hajime tried to clarify. "Or you're not?"
"Uh, neither one of us are," Takumi replied with a bit of uncertainty.
"You sure about that?"
"Okay, okay, I'll drop it."
"Thank you. Now I'd appreciate it if you could hurry up and make up your mind because I still need to pick up a few ingredients from the market. I've still got a lot of chocolate to make."
"A lot? Say, just how much chocolate are you planning on making for Akira anyway," Hajime curiously asked. "You just bought her an expensive necklace; no need to go overboard."
"Oh the chocolate's not all for Akira," Takumi clarified, "I mean, some of it is of course, but the majority of it is for all the girls that I owe giri-choco to."
"Say what? Takumi, are you telling me that you're planning on giving all those girls homemade chocolate? Don't you think that some of those girls might misconstrue the meaning of your gifts?"
"Well it's not like I have a choice in the matter. I told you last month that this day can run into quite a bit of money for me, especially after receiving gifts from so many different girls."
"You poor thing," Hajime sarcastically mocked. "You'll forgive me if I'm not feeling too sympathetic toward your little dilemma."
"Gee thanks. Still, after spending all that money on Akira's necklace, I realized that I wasn't going to have enough money left to buy chocolate for all those girls, unless of course I just bought the really cheap kind, and there's no way that I could do that. On top of that, White Day gifts are supposed to be three times the value of their Valentine counterparts."
"Hmm, I see your point," Hajime now comprehended. "You know, I'd like to get my hands on the marketing genius who came up with that little stipulation. But somehow I'd be willing to bet that it was a woman."
"Anyway, I figured that it would be cheaper just to make my own chocolate. Plus, it would taste a lot better than any store bought brand, if I do say so myself."
"Well, I suppose if you have no other alternative, and so long as you make it clear to them that it's only giri and not honmei-choco, then I guess it'll be alright."
"Thanks, I was hoping you'd see it my way."
"You know there is something about all this that I'm kind of looking forward to," Hajime contemplated. "I absolutely cannot wait to see the look on Miyuki-san's face when she finds out that she won't be receiving anything from you."
"Wait, you're not planning on giving her anything I hope, especially after the way she treated Akira last month."
"Hajime, I can't do that. She still went through the trouble of making me all those chocolates, so I at least owe it to her to…"
"Oh my god, Takumi!" Hajime incredulously remarked. "It's no wonder that girl never leaves you alone. If you keep on acknowledging her like that she'll continue to cling to you, unless of course you actually enjoy that sort of thing."
"Don't be ridiculous, of course I don't. I'm just trying to be polite, that's all."
"Yeah, I know, and I'm afraid that's your problem; you're simply too nice. Then again, it does seem to be working for you, "Hajime conceded. "There's no denying that the chicks dig the whole nice guy routine."
"Routine? Hajime, I wouldn't exactly call it a…"
"May I help you gentlemen?" a young attractive salesclerk endeavored to assist, cutting Takumi's argument short.
"Oh, yes, I was just trying to decide which of these two silk teddies I should get for my girlfriend," Hajime enlightened, indicating to two rather revealing undergarments. Then pulling out a small photo from his wallet and presenting it to her, he offered, "Here's a picture of her, if that'll help."
"My, she's very attractive. And judging by her build, I think this one would suit her very well," she advised, pulling a red-laced teddy from the rack and holding it up. "Yes, this will definitely accentuate her figure quite well."
"Really?" Hajiime excitedly expressed. "I was kind of hoping you'd say that. I was sort of leaning toward that one myself."
Takumi couldn't help but cringe, unable to comprehend how his friend was able to openly discuss such personal matters.
"Now regarding her size," the salesclerk began to query. "Do you happen to know…"
"36D" Hajime proudly stated.
"I don't even want to know how you knew that," Takumi said in disbelief.
"Hee hee hee," Hajime snickered, flashing a mischievous Cheshire cat-like grin.
"Here we are," the salesclerk said, handing him the appropriate size garment.
"Thanks. Oh boy, Kyoko's going to flip when she sees this."
"So will you when you see her in it," Takumi humorously offered.
"You got that right, my friend."
"Can I also interest you in one of our exclusive teddy bears?" she recommended, picking up one of the furry creatures from an island display and handing it to Hajime. Wearing a shiny black spandex Speedo, the twenty inch tall plushie was positioned in a seated position and had one its eyes sewn shut, giving off the appearance that it was winking.
"Hmm, it is pretty cute," Hajime noted, yet still sounded a bit uncertain. "But I'm not sure if…"
"Go on, I think it's actually quite appropriate, Hajime," Takumi teased, "or should I say… Snuggie Bear."
"Snuggie Bear?" the intrigued salesclerk inquired.
"Uh, yeah," Hajime embarrassingly responded. "It's her uh, pet name for me."
"Aww, how sweet. Do you have one for her too?"
"Cuddle Bunny," Takumi audaciously retorted.
Covering her mouth while trying to contain her laughter, the salesclerk then attempted to resume, "Yes, well, the uh, the unique thing about our bears is that they have a secret pocket concealed in the back allowing you to place a gift inside, such as lingerie, jewelry, or any other small object."
Turning the bear around and lifting up on a hidden Velcro fastener, Hajime now seemed intrigued as he remarked, "Oh say, that is clever. A teddy within a teddy, what a great idea. Alright, you talked me into it. I'll take it!"
"Excellent choice, sir. I'll just go ahead and place this," holding up the red teddy, "inside the bear for you and then put it all in an attractive gift bag. I guarantee that your girlfriend will be quite delighted with it."
"That's what I'm counting on, right Takumi? Uh, Takumi?"
Looking over at his friend, Takumi also seemed to be fascinated with the rather charming stuffed figure. Carefully examining it as he pondered his options, Takumi then decidedly stated, "You know, I think I will get something after all."
"Now you're talking," Hajime was happy to hear. "I'm sure the saleslady will help you pick out something that'll look really smokin' on Akira."
"Not that, Hajime. I'm talking about the bear."
"I figure that I could put the necklace inside of it while at the same time adding my own personal touch to the little guy, you know, like maybe placing a miniature sword or bamboo blade in its hands."
"Yeah, I suppose you could do that," Hajime unenthusiastically said. "Of course, it's hardly romantic."
"What are you talking about? I think she'll really like it."
"And I'm sure she will too, but a necklace wrapped inside a cute stuffed animal won't exactly generate the same type of reaction as some sexy lingerie would."
"If I may say so," the saleslady opined, "I think that presenting your young lady friend a necklace in the fashion that you described is quite romantic indeed. After all, if you know that she'd feel uncomfortable receiving a more intimate gift, such as lingerie, then of course I'd advise against it."
"See!" Takumi justifiably countered.
"Okay, okay. I was just trying to help your love life along."
"Well, I appreciate your concern, but Akira and I had decided long ago that we would wait until the time was right."
"Okay, suit yourself," Hajime replied, shrugging his shoulders. Then in a singsongy voice added, "But you don't know what you're miss-ing."
"Th… thank you, Takumi-kun," a flustered classmate uttered upon receiving Takumi's White Day offering.
"You're very welcome. Enjoy them, Maho-san," Takumi bid her as he then redirected his attention over to his friend, who was now reemerging back into the classroom after checking the hallway. "Any sign of her, Hajime?"
"For the last time, no! Look, would you just relax! She'll get here when she gets here. I swear, you act as though you're about to ask her out for the first time. You were the same way on Valentine's Day."
"Sorry. Guess I'm just a little bit anxious to give her her gift."
"Okay, a lot," Takumi confessed.
"Well, I can't say that I blame you. I'm a bit eager myself to see the expression on Kyoko's face when I give her my present. The moment school lets out, I'm hopping the first train out of here to go and see her."
"Oh, so that's why you brought her gift along with you," Takumi then realized, looking over at the fancy white, lace-trimmed bag sitting by his desk, a practical doppelganger to his own since they both came from the same store.
"Yup! I'm not wasting a single minute."
"Good morning, Takumi-kun," Miyuki cheerfully greeted. Then, briefly glancing over at Hajime, she coldly addressed, "Oh, hey, Moriyama-san."
"Yo!" Hajime brusquely acknowledged.
"Oh, Miyuki-san, good morning," Takumi greeted as he reached inside a nearby tote bag and pulled out a rather large, white rectangular box, proceeding then to hand it to her. "Um, this is for you."
Hajime couldn't help but to shake his head and roll his eyes in disbelief, while Miyuki gleefully accepted his generous offering and loudly proclaimed, "Oh my, Takumi-kun, it's so big!"
Freezing dead in her tracks and cringing upon hearing this, Akira, who had just entered the classroom, immediately shot Miyuki an enormous look of contempt.
"Oh, Takumi-kun, thank you so much," Miyuki gratefully replied, proceeding then to give him a big hug of appreciation, all the while maintaining her icy glare with Akira.
"Morning, Akira," Hajime loudly greeted in an attempt to get his friend's attention.
"A… Akira!" a startled Takumi acknowledged, quickly breaking free from Miyuki's grasp. "G… good morning."
"I'll thank you to keep your grubby paws off of him," Akira said with disdain.
"Well, somebody certainly got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," Miyuki observed.
"Don't start with me!" Akira warned.
"Uh, I uh, made these for you, Akira," Takumi informed her, promptly handing her a similar box of chocolates as that of Miyuki's, albeit somewhat smaller, in an attempt to quell their fiery confrontation. "They're cream-filled, by the way, your favorite."
"Thank you, Takumi," Akira gratefully replied, immediately opening the box and pulling out a piece of his homemade confections.
Just as Akira was getting ready to pop it into her mouth, Miyuki couldn't help but notice the size difference between their two gifts, prompting her to gloat, "Oh, poor thing, looks like you got the short end of the stick. But, what can I say, I guess there's no denying the fact that size really does matter. Ahahahahahahaha."
Seething with rage at her incessant, mocking laughter, which she maintained all the way back to her desk, Akira forcefully clenched her teeth and fists, completely disregarding the chocolate ball that she held in her right hand. Upon the initial crunch of its outer shell, she soon thereafter felt the sticky feel of the cream-filled center oozing between her fingers.
"Why that lousy, no good…"
"Oh, Akira, why do you let her get to you like that?"
"Takumi," she continued to fume, "Would you mind telling me why you… Ohh, never mind."
"What?" he failed to understand, yet figured it best that he not question her any further, considering her present disposition. Instead, he proceeded to hand her a napkin that he had retrieved from his book bag. "Here, and I think I might have a moist towelette in my desk."
"Don't bother. There's still a little time before class starts, I'll just go to the restroom and wash up."
"Uh, okay," he uneasily replied as she began to leave, still a bit irritable.
Closing the door behind her and then making sure that no one in the hallway was watching, Akira began to lick a small portion of the cream from her hand, quietly uttering to herself, "Mmmm, raspberry."
After witnessing Akira's little flare-up, Hajime approached Takumi at his desk and remarked, "Yeesh, that was ugly. I tell you that girl sure knows which buttons to push to set Akira off."
"You know it's a good thing that you didn't give Akira your other present yet."
"Are you kidding? In the bad humor that she's in, she would have ripped the head of that teddy bear clean off."
Although his friend had a tendency to exaggerate, Takumi didn't argue the point with him in this instance, realizing that he was probably right.
"I hope you've had a chance to calm down a bit," Takumi optimistically anticipated as the two sat facing each other at their desks during lunch.
"Look, I'm sorry," Akira apologetically expressed. "I didn't mean to take my anger out on you. It's just that she pisses me off so much that…"
"I know, I know. So let's just not talk about her then, okay?"
"Gladly. But there is one thing that I'm curious about. Not that it matters to me one way or the other, but would you mind telling me why you chose to give her a larger portion of chocolate than me?"
"So that's what's been bothering you."
"Look, I just told you that it didn't matter to me. I was just… curious, that's all."
"Well clearly it does seem to matter to you. Look, I'm sorry, but her Valentine's gift was rather generous, so proper White Day etiquette dictated that I…"
"Etiquette? Hmph. Of course, I should have known."
"Akira, I swear to you that I was only trying to do what I thought was right. And besides, the chocolate's not your main gift anyway; I got you something much nicer. So please don't be upset with me."
"Oh, Takumi, I'm not upset with you," she attempted to reassure, "I just… I just don't want you giving her any more ammunition to make her think that she still may have a chance with you."
"Wow, you actually sound like you're threatened by her."
"Idiot! She doesn't threaten me!" Akira loudly protested.
"No?" Takumi lightheartedly continued to prod. "You sure about that?"
At a loss, Akira simply began to bury her head into her bento.
"Hmmm, interesting," he amusingly noted, observing as she avoided eye contact and proceeded to shovel rice into her mouth. While resuming consumption of his own bento, Takumi offhandedly commented, "Never even knew that I had a chance with Miyuki-san."
Freezing dead in her tracks just as her chopsticks neared her lips, Akira glanced over at Takumi who nonchalantly just continued eating.
Finally looking up at her and making eye contact, Takumi shot her a smile and casually remarked, "Eat your bento, Akira, it's getting cold."
Fortunately for her, Akira's awkward little moment was suddenly interrupted by Hajime's sudden outburst of excitement. "You're where?"
Jumping up out of his seat, an overjoyed Hajime hugged his cell phone to his ear, making sure that he had heard the party on the other end of the line correctly. Rushing over to the window, he frantically began to scan the school grounds and then did a double-take when he spotted his female caller, waving up at him.
"Holy mackerel, it really is you! Okay, okay, I'll meet you down there in two minutes. No, make that one minute. Love you too. Bye." After ending the call, Hajime pumped both his fists up in the air and euphorically shouted, "Woo Hoo!"
"Hajime, what's going on?" Takumi inquired as his friend madly rushed over to him and Akira to break the news to them, doubling back first to grab the white, lace-trimmed bag from his desk. "I take it that it's good news?"
"I'll say!" he elatedly replied, briefly setting the bag down on the ground alongside Takumi's. "Remember that I told you how I was going to hop the first train out of here right after school and meet up with Kyoko?"
"She's here now, huh?"
"Uh… who told you?"
"Believe me, that jubilant reaction of yours speaks volumes, my friend."
"Oh, well I just can't help myself. I mean, it's been over a month since we've seen each other. Plus, she felt so bad that she wasn't able to make it over here for Valentine's Day, on top of the fact that our schedules kept conflicting afterwards, that she decided to cut class today and surprise me."
"Well?" Akira then queried.
"Well what are you waiting for? Get going!" Akira amiably urged. "You don't want to keep her waiting."
"Oh, right," he abruptly realized, hastily then grabbing one of the bags from the floor. "Oh boy, I can't wait to see the look on her face when I give her this."
"Now there goes one lovesick puppy," Takumi humorously commented, shaking his head as he watched his friend dart out of the room.
"As I recall, you were like that yourself," Akira pointed out.
"Were?" Takumi corrected, leaning over his desk and giving Akira a quick kiss on the lips. "I'm still lovesick to this day and I hope that they never find a cure for it."
"Takumi," a blushing Akira tenderly replied.
"Ugh, I think I'm going to be sick," Miyuki could be heard commenting to her friend, Hazuki.
Seeing the look of rage beginning to form in Akira's eyes, Takumi quickly cautioned, "Akira, just ignore her."
"Believe me, I'm trying," she seethed through clenched teeth, "but it's not easy." Trying to take her mind off of Miyuki, Akira glanced down at the remaining lace-trimmed bag and inquired, "So what exactly did Hajime get for Kyoko?"
Thinking for a moment, Takumi cautiously chose his words and answered, "Oh, an article of clothing."
"Clothing, huh? Well it must be something pretty revealing for him to be that excited."
"You have no idea," Takumi uttered off to the side as he took another bite from his bento.
"Cuddle Bunny!" Hajime ecstatically shouted while running up to greet Kyoko with open arms just outside the school's entrance.
"Snuggie Bear!" she excitedly cried out as their bodies met, throwing their arms around each other in a passionate embrace.
Their ardent infatuation for one another naturally drew the attention of several other students in close proximity of them, most of whom were spread out on the grassy field along both sides of the entrance, enjoying their lunch. The two however remained oblivious to any gawkers or other onlookers, completely spellbound by each other's presence.
"Mmmph, I've… mmmph, I've missed you so much," Hajime breathlessly expressed between kisses.
"Not as much as… mmmph, I've missed you," Kyoko countered.
After several minutes, the two finally collapsed onto the field, their bodies spread out alongside each other and their breathing now somewhat labored.
"Wow! You still got it," Hajime satisfyingly commented, attempting to catch his breath.
"Likewise. But you know, we still have a lot of catching up to do," she sensually suggested.
"Heh, heh. Well you know that I'm definitely looking forward to that."
"Oh, I almost forgot," Kyoko suddenly recalled, reaching over and grabbing a red a pink bag that she had brought along. Containing her handmade Valentine's chocolates, she then proceeded to hand it to him. "Sorry, I know it's a month late, but…"
"Don't worry about it. In fact, I'm sure they still taste just as sweet as the lips of the person who made them."
"Aww, still the ol' flatterer, I see."
Now retrieving the white, lace-trimmed bag that was directly behind him, a beaming Hajime enthusiastically presented it to Kyoko. "Hope you like it. It's actually two gifts in one."
"Really? Why thank you. Ooo, quite a fancy bag," she remarked as she anxiously reached inside and proceeded to pull out the teddy bear. "Aww, Hajime, it's adorable."
Hajime's jaw dropped when he caught sight of the toy bamboo blade held within the bear's paws. "Oh no, it can't be."
"Hajime, what's wrong?"
"I… I must have grabbed the wrong bag," he said in a panic. "Then that means Takumi…"
"What about Takumi? Hajime, just calm down and tell me what's going on?"
"If he gives that to Akira, then…" Promptly jumping to his feet and snatching the bear from her hands, Hajime worriedly proclaimed, "I'm sorry, Kyoko, but there's been a terrible mix up."
"Huh?" she said in confusion while he frantically stuffed the bear back into the bag.
"Oh man, I'm such an idiot!" he cursed. "I'll be back in a few minutes. I've got to straighten this out before it's too late!"
"Ha… Hajime!" Kyoko helplessly called after him as he ran off in a frenzy.
"Miyuki-chan, look!" Hazuki nudged her friend on. "I think Takumi-san is about to give Akira-san another present. I thought you said he already gave her a box of chocolates that was smaller than yours."
"Huh?" she was startled to learn, then looked over and observed as Takumi placed a white, lace-trimmed bag upon Akira's desk. She then exasperatingly remarked, "Ohhh, who cares?" While pretending not to mind, she still continued to keep a close watch on the two.
"Told you I had something a lot nicer than chocolate for you," Takumi reassuringly stated with a big grin.
"Aww, you didn't have to do that, Takumi, but thank you."
Reaching into the bag and pulling out the bear, Akira looked at it with keen interest and contentedly remarked, "Oh, how cute. Thank you, Takumi."
"Say, Miyuki-chan," Hazuki observed, "isn't that one of those bears from the lingerie store?"
"Huh? Oh yeah, you're right."
"You don't suppose that Takumi-san got her…"
"Hmmm," Miyuki mischievously schemed. "You know, Hazuki-chan, this suddenly got a whole lot more interesting."
"That's funny," Takumi reacted quite puzzled when he noticed the absence of the bamboo blade. "It must have fallen off," he figured as he then grabbed the bag and turned it upside down, emptying the remaining contents onto the desk.
"Takumi, what are you doing? Did you lose something?"
"It's got to be here," he said with alarm as he tore through the tissue paper that was now scattered across Akira's desk. Yet when he didn't find what he was looking for, he became hysterical as he then realized, "Oh crap! Hajime must have..."
"Takumi, what's wrong?" Akira concernedly asked. "What are you…"
"Why, Takumi-kun, you naughty boy," Miyuki deviously remarked as she came over to them. "I never knew you had it in you."
"What uh, what are you talking about?" he nervously asked.
"Oh, come on, you and I both know what's in that cute little bear."
"Inside?" a mystified Akira expressed, beginning to examine the bear more closely.
"Of course I seriously doubt that you would get much use out of it," she callously commented to Akira. "Why I'll bet that you haven't even set foot inside a store that sells…"
"Miyuki-san, please!" Takumi pleaded for her to desist, seeming quite on edge.
Unable to listen to another disparaging word out of her mouth, Hiromi now made it a point to intervene by angrily marching over to where Miyuki stood and demanded, "Alright, what are you up to this time, besides no good?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. I warned you once before to stop causing trouble for these two. Now leave them the hell alone!"
"My, my, such crude and unrefined behavior, I must say," Miyuki snobbishly retorted.
"Unrefin… Now you look here, Miss high and mighty, I'm going to tell you this one last time for your own good. Quit bothering…"
"Take it easy, Hiromi," Wataru urged, coming over and placing a supportive hand upon her shoulder. "She's not worth getting yourself all worked up over."
"You're right, Wataru. I'm sorry."
"Well, that's more like it," Miyuki arrogantly said. "Oh, and for your information, I wasn't attempting to cause these two any trouble. I was merely about to offer this poor girl here some much needed fashion advice, particularly regarding her figure, or rather lack thereof."
"What did you just say?" an enraged Akira fumed, about ready to lunge at her.
Attempting to hold her back, Takumi then defensively stated, "Uh, Miyuki-san, I really think that was uncalled for."
"Well I'm sorry, Takumi-kun, but I was merely stating the obvious. And I'm afraid that you'd just be deluding yourself by giving her that gift of yours."
"What, a teddy bear?" Wataru tried to comprehend.
"Wait a minute, I've seen that bear somewhere before," Hiromi began to recall. "Now I remember! Those darling little things have a hidden pocket in the back. I came across a whole table full of them when I was out shopping for some… uh… Oh my. Takumi, did you…"
"No, no, it's not what you think."
"Oh this is ridiculous!" Akira said in frustration, now turning the bear around and beginning to undo the concealed Velcro strap. "Why is everybody making such a big deal out of this? What is the big mystery with this bear anyway?"
"Akira, wait!" Takumi pleaded, "Please don't…"
Having grown impatient, Akira reached into the pocket and proceeded to yank the intimate garment from inside the stuffed animal.
"… look inside," Takumi concluded as his warning attempt went unheeded.
"Ta… Takumi…" she speechlessly stammered, now holding the teddy up in both hands for all to see. Akira's expression of shock was most evidenced by her blushing complexion, whose redness was practically rivaled by that of the see-through teddy.
"Oh my," Hiromi reacted in astonishment.
"Ahahahahahaha," Miyuki continued to mock. "Why the poor girl is in such shock that I'll bet she doesn't even know what she's supposed to do with it."
Fed up with her constant ridicule, there was no way that Akira was about to give Miyuki the satisfaction of the doubt. That's why, in a passionate display of affection, she unexpectedly threw her arms around Takumi and exclaimed, "Oh, Takumi, I just love it! Thank you so much!"
"Huh?" he said in wonderment. "You… you mean you like it?"
"Why it's positively alluring," she declared, continuing to hug him rather tightly. While maintaining her look of elation, she began to grit her teeth and, with displeasure whispered to Takumi, "We'll discuss this later. But for now, just play along."
Preceded by a nervous gulp, he then quietly acknowledged, "Uh, right."
Letting up on her embrace of him, Takumi then looked upon Akira at arm's length and, perpetuating the ruse, proclaimed, "I'm so happy that you like it. You don't know how much I'm looking forward to seeing you when you wear it tonight. I just know that you'll look positively sexy, even more so than you already are."
"Uhh…" Akira's lips began to tremble, caught completely off guard by his rather candid response, uncertain if he was being honestly sincere or merely putting on an act for her benefit. Nevertheless, she was still overcome with emotion. Finally managing to compose herself, she sensually replied, "I'm greatly looking forward to tonight too… Ta-ku-mi."
"Now wait just a minute!" Miyuki skeptically snapped, observing the two in disbelief as Akira once again proceeded to take Takumi into an affectionate embrace. "There's something funny going on."
"Funny? I hardly find your constant harassment of them very amusing," Hiromi asserted.
"That's not what I meant, and you know it."
Maintaining her hug of Takumi, Akira looked out over his shoulder and now eyed Miyuki directly. As a small form of retribution, Akira then stuck her tongue out at her.
"Uh, did you see that? She's mocking me!"
"Can't say as I blame her," Hiromi uttered.
"She obviously has him totally bewitched!" Miyuki reasoned.
"Oh, would you get a grip!"
"I'm telling you, there is just no way that my Takumi-kun would ever give such an erotic piece of lingerie to that, that… that creature."
"Okay, that'll be quite of enough of that," a rather perturbed Hiromi insisted. Grabbing a hold of Miyuki's arm, she then started to drag her away. "I tried to be patient with you, but apparently you insist on doing things the hard way."
"Take your hands off of me, you Neanderthal!" she demanded, looking then to Wataru as Hiromi continued to pull her along. "Don't just stand there, do something! She's your girlfriend, so say something already!"
"Hiromi, wait a minute," Wataru then interjected.
"Well, finally," a relieved Miyuki expressed.
"As long as you're taking out the trash, would you mind stopping by the vending machine on your back and getting me a can of green tea?"
"Sure thing, sweetie."
"Trash? Who are you calling…"
"Oh, just be quiet already," Hiromi implored.
Coming upon the classroom's entrance, they were both briefly startled when Hajime came bursting through in a panic. Pausing only briefly as he glanced at the two, and observing the grip that Hiromi had on Miyuki's arm, he frustratingly inquired, "Okay, what did she do this time?"
"I didn't do anything!" Miyuki screamed. "This bimbo here is the one causing trouble."
"Does that answer your question?" Hiromi bluntly stated.
"Running off at the mouth," Hajime concluded, sighing heavily, "I should have guessed. But I trust that you've got everything under control, Hiromi?"
"Nothing I can't handle. In fact, we were just on our way to have a nice little chat on the subject of respecting other people's privacy."
"You can't treat me like this!" Miyuki continued to protest while struggling to break free from Hiromi's grasp. "I'm warning you, I can have you expelled for this; I know the student council president personally."
"Is that a fact?" Hiromi was intrigued to hear.
"You better believe it," Miyuki intimidatingly responded. Then proceeding to hold up two fingers and bringing them together she added, "Why Sayuri-chan and I are just like that."
"Well then maybe we should pay her a visit," Hiromi suggested. "Although I'm sure she'll be quite disappointed to learn that you've been harassing two of her best friends."
"B… best friends? HA! You're bluffing."
"Well, don't take my word for it, you can ask her yourself," Hiromi casually replied before forcefully asserting, "Now let's go."
"W… wait a minute, can't we talk this over?" Miyuki anxiously proposed as Hiromi proceeded to drag her out into the hall.
Meanwhile, an out of breath Hajime now stood before Akira and Takumi, bag in hand.
"Hey guys, you want to hear something funny?" he attempted to make light of the situation. "In all the excitement when I ran out of here earlier, I think I may have gotten our bags…"
With a look of aggravation, Akira proceeded to hold up the red teddy before him.
"… mixed up. Uh oh," he awkwardly replied, followed up by a rather weak laugh, "Aheh heh. Oops."
"Riiiight, oops," Akira reciprocated, shaking her head in disgust.
"Oh man, I am really sorry you guys, but I was just so stoked when I found out Kyoko was here that I must not have been paying attention and grabbed the wrong bag by mistake."
"Oh, don't worry about it," Takumi sighed, realizing that that his friend had meant no harm. "I kind of figured that's what happened the moment I noticed that the bear was missing the bamboo blade."
"You mean this bamboo blade?"
"K… Kyoko?" Hajime startlingly reacted, turning around to see her standing before the three and in possession of the toy sword as well.
"You dropped this just before you ran off," she informed him, proceeding then to hand it to Takumi.
Looking inside the bag, Hajime then realized that the blade was indeed absent from the bear's paws.
"Been acting rather careless today, haven't you my friend?" Takumi amusingly observed. "But I can't say that I blame you. After all, love does make one do crazy things sometimes."
"The only one going crazy right now is me," Kyoko frustratingly stated. "Now would one of you please tell me what the heck is going on?"
"Well you see," Hajime uneasily explained, "both my gift as well as Takumi's are somewhat similar and even came from the same store. So when you called me…"
"Let me guess, in all the excitement you grabbed the wrong bag," Kyoko surmised.
"Oh, honestly, Hajime," Kyoko said shaking her head. "You really need to be more careful. Well, no harm done I suppose. So then if the bear in the bag is really Akira's, then I take it that the one sitting there on the desk is mine?" Looking at Hajime as he simply acknowledged her with an embarrassing nod, she then proceeded to pick it up and curiously noted, "Funny, they both look the same, aside from the little toy blade that the other one was holding. I really don't see what all the fuss was about."
"Actually," Akira began to point out, "It's what's inside that all the fuss was over."
"Um, yeah," Hajime uncomfortably replied. "You see, there's hidden pocket on the back of each of the bears. And while Takumi's contained a necklace for Akira…"
"Hajime!" Takumi cried out.
"Oop!" he embarrassingly expressed, abruptly slapping a hand across his mouth, well aware of his little faux pas. "I'm so sorry, Takumi, it just slipped out."
Slumping back in his chair, Takumi just sighed heavily and shook his head in disappointment.
Feeling bad that he had spoiled the surprise for his friend, and realizing that the element of surprise for his own gift to Kyoko was also ruined, Hajime reluctantly proceeded to hand the correct bag to Akira while weakly requesting of her, "Go ahead and give it to her."
Still holding the intimate red garment, which she was concealing behind her back, Akira then awkwardly began to present it to Kyoko.
"Well what on earth?" Kyoko reacted quite taken aback. "Hajime, this is…"
"You like it?" he anxiously anticipated.
"Well I…" Hesitating momentarily when she observed Akira attempting to reassure a disheartened looking Takumi after having his surprise ruined, Kyoko then had a mischievous idea pop into her head. With a rather nefarious expression on her face, she made eye contact with Takumi and cunningly winked at him before turning back to face Hajime. "Actually, Hajime, I don't think 'like' is quite how I'd describe how I'm feeling right now."
"Wha… what do you mean?"
"Well, the thing is," Kyoko disappointingly expressed, "this gift is obviously one of a very personal nature."
"Well, yeah, I know. But I thought…"
"Yeah, I know what you thought."
"But, Cuddle Bunny…"
"Don't Cuddle Bunny me!" she angrily shot back. "You know you seem awfully sure of yourself, Hajime. I must say that's rather presumptuous of you."
"I… I'm sorry, I didn't realize that…"
"I tried to talk him out of it," Takumi couldn't resist joining in on the deception, "but he was rather insistent. He even tried to talk me into buying one for Akira."
"Takumi, come on! Whose side are you on?" Hajime helplessly replied.
"Trying to corrupt your best friend too?" Kyoko incredulously remarked. "Honestly, Hajime, I'm very disappointed in you right now."
"Sorry," he lamented, hanging his head in shame, then pleaded, "Please don't be upset with me. I'll do anything I can to make it up to you."
Looking down at her watch, while at the same time trying to keep a straight face, Kyoko then conveyed, "Alright, look, your lunch is almost over, plus I'd like to go say hello to some of my old teachers and friends, so we'll talk about this some more when school lets out."
As she began to depart, Takumi thought for a moment before running off after Kyoko.
"Kyoko, wait," Takumi called, catching up with her just outside the classroom.
"Takumi, what's up?"
"Don't you think you may have overdone it a bit?"
"Nah! Besides, this is just to get back at him for spilling the beans about Akira's present."
"Yeah, I know, but I feel kind of bad for him. I mean, he really thinks that you're upset with him."
"Don't worry, it's just for a few more hours. I'll let him in on the gag immediately after school."
"Well, alright. Say tell me something," Takumi inquisitively asked, "Are you actually okay with him giving you that teddy? And I'm not talking about the bear."
"Absolutely. In fact, his exquisite taste in lingerie kind of surprises me."
"Yeah, it sort of caught me off guard too," Takumi awkwardly conveyed.
"Takumi, I don't mean to pry, but did you ever consider getting Akira…"
"No, no, I… I couldn't. I mean…"
"You're afraid of how she might react?"
"Well, yeah, and plus I just don't think that we're quite ready for that yet."
"She's not ready, or you're not ready?" Kyoko attempted to clarify.
"You know that's the same thing that Hajime asked me."
"I could talk to Akira for you about this," she offered, "you know, sort of feel her out on the matter."
"Please don't. I know it would only make her feel uncomfortable."
"You sure you're not one who would be made to feel uncomfortable?"
"Kyoko!" Takumi embarrassingly protested. "Look, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but as I told Hajime, I don't feel that the time is right just yet."
"Okay, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pressure you," she attempted to assure him. "Listen, I'm gonna get going. I'll see you this afternoon, okay? Oh, and, Takumi?"
"If not now, then when will the time be right? Ask yourself that question. See you later, Takumi."
Now staring blankly off into space as he stood just outside the classroom, Takumi seriously pondered over what Kyoko had just proposed to him.
"So humiliating," Miyuki could be heard angrily grumbling under her breath. "Who does that bitch think she is? She's just lucky that… Oh, Takumi-kun," she then noticed.
"Huh? Oh, Miyuki-san. Sorry, I didn't see you there for a moment."
"Is everything alright? You seem a bit distracted. Of course hanging around with that dreadful ninja girl is bound to have that kind of an effect on you."
"Unbelievable. Did any of what we discussed get through to you?" Hiromi frustratingly remarked as she came up behind Miyuki, holding a can of tea in her hand.
"I was merely asking how he was doing. There a crime against that? Sheesh!"
"Well you certainly have a funny way of asking, especially the way you work Akira into the conversation. Now leave him alone and get inside!"
"Okay, okay. Back off already."
"I swear, some people just never learn," Hiromi commented, shaking her head while Miyuki entered the classroom. Then looking with concern at Takumi she commented, "Well, you seem rather deep in thought. Something on your mind?"
"Oh, it's nothing really," he tried to blow off. "I was just thinking."
Not wishing to discuss the issue, Takumi hesitated for a moment before finally disclosing, with a rather straightforward and succinct response, "Time."
"I can't believe you guys tricked me like that!" Hajime incredulously expressed to Kyoko and Takumi as they exited the school. "And here I thought that I had done something wrong."
"Aww, I'm sorry, Snuggie Bear," Kyoko apologetically replied, laying her head on Hajime's shoulder and nestling up alongside him. "I hope I didn't make you worry too much."
"Well, it was a little upsetting thinking that you were mad at me, and then even having Takumi gang up on me."
"Don't be upset with Takumi, it was all my idea. I just wanted to get back at you for spoiling Takumi's surprise gift to Akira."
"Guess I did kind of have that coming to me then, huh?" Hajime then admitted.
"Sorry for the deception there, pal," Takumi conveyed. "No hard feelings?"
"No hard feelings," Hajime graciously accepted. "Oh, and by the way, when you opened my gift by mistake, I hope it didn't cause you guys too much embarrassment, especially for you, Akira."
"Well, it did at first," Akira acknowledged, "but it actually wound up being a blessing in disguise."
"What do you mean?"
"It got Miyuki-san off Akira's back," Takumi explained.
"And boy did that ever feel good! Why the look of disbelief on her face when she thought that Takumi had actually given me that lingerie, it was priceless. Finally got back at that bitch!"
"Oh come on, Takumi, let me have this one. I've had to put up with her crap and hold my tongue for far too long now."
"Wow, now I'm sorry that I missed all the excitement," Hajime lamented.
"So, you guys have anything special planned for this evening?" Takumi inquired.
"Actually, I haven't really had much time to think about it," Hajime confessed. "I mean, I was originally planning on going out to visit with Kyoko, even had reservations made at a local restaurant by her university. But when she surprised me with her visit, all my plans got thrown out the window."
"Oh, Hajime, I'm sorry," Kyoko regrettably replied, "I had no idea."
"Don't worry about it; we can always go to a nice restaurant around here too."
"If we can get a reservation at this late date," Kyoko reminded him. "This is after all one of the busiest holidays when it comes to dining out."
"Hmm, I never thought about that."
Looking to Akira, who gave him an approving nod, Takumi then suggested, "Listen, we have a booth reserved at L'Artemis, this really quaint French restaurant. You're more than welcome to join us; we could make it a double date."
"Wow, really?" Hajime excitedly expressed. "Oh, but we don't want to intrude on your date."
"Nonsense, we'd love the company," Akira insisted. "Besides, it's been awhile since we've gone out together."
"Well in that case, we'd love to join you!" Kyoko graciously accepted, then suddenly realized, "Now the only problem is that I didn't exactly bring a change of clothes, since this was only supposed to be a day trip for me. Oh well, guess there's just one thing for it then. Akira, you and I are going shopping!"
"Uh, we are?"
"Yup! I've been meaning to buy myself a new dress anyway. And after I do that, I'm going to help you pick out something special to wear too."
"But, I already I have something to wear for this evening."
Leaning in, she confidentially whispered in Akira's ear, "I meant something special to wear underneath, if you know what I mean."
A now red in the face Akira stood staring at Kyoko with a stunned expression yet had no response to her shocking suggestion, not wishing to arose any suspicions in Takumi.
"We'll call you later this afternoon once we're finished shopping and decide on where to meet up," Kyoko informed them as they prepared to depart.
"Oh, uh, wait a minute, Kyoko," Hajime called after her, hesitantly inquiring, "You, uhh, never did tell me what you thought of it."
"Thought of what?"
"You know," he apprehensively described, "My gift."
"Ohhh. Well, to tell you the truth," she began to tease, "I won't exactly be able to give you my honest opinion until I've tried it on."
"Oh, uh, of course, I understand," he disappointingly replied.
"Tell you what. To make up for teasing you earlier, I promise that I'll slip into it later this evening and model it just for you… Snuggie Bear," she seductively accentuated, secretively then whispering something into his ear before nonchalantly announcing, "Well, we'll see you boys later. Come on, Akira."
With his mouth agape, a stunned Hajime stood staring blankly after her as Takumi prodded, "Uh, Hajime?" Proceeding to wave a hand in front of his face to try and get his attention, Takumi then humorously asserted, "Come on, buddy, come on back down to earth."
Blinking several times and finally coming out of his stupor, Hajime then turned to Takumi as a huge grin slowly began to materialize upon his face. Placing a supportive hand upon his friend's shoulder, Hajime steadfastly proclaimed, "My friend, I've said it before and I'll say it again. You don't know what you're missing."
"Man, I'm wiped!" Takumi expressed as he and Akira got off the elevator, having just returned to the girl's dormitory. "I wasn't exactly planning on going clubbing right after dinner."
"Well, you know Kyoko," Akira reminded him, "she just loves to party. Kind of reminds me of your sister, so you actually should be kind of used to it by now."
"That's true. Mai always did tend to cut loose any chance she could get. Of course after working hard at her job and on her schoolwork, not to mention trying to support me, she deserved to have a good time. I guess it's the same with Kyoko, on top of which she doesn't get to see Hajime that much anymore. Still, I don't know where she gets all her energy from."
"I think she even wore poor Hajime out," Akira commented as they approached her dorm room. "He sure seemed pretty anxious to get out of that last nightclub."
"Well, I think he may have had an ulterior motive for wanting to get back to his room," Takumi surreptitiously suggested.
As she was about to insert her key in the lock, Akira couldn't help but notice the brief chuckle that Takumi had just let out. "What's so funny?"
"I was just thinking," he amusedly replied, "about those pet names that they call each other."
"Say how come we never did that? Give each other nicknames I mean?"
"What, are you kidding? It seems rather silly and somewhat childish if you ask me."
"Aw, I don't think so. I think it's kind of cute."
"Cute, huh? Well if I recall, you didn't exactly consider that last nickname I gave you cute."
"When did you ever give me a nickname?"
"A few years ago, back when we first met actually. Of course you didn't exactly care for it, so I finally stopped using it."
"Funny, I can't seem to remember…"
"Sister Complex Boy."
"See, I told you."
"Very funny. Anyway, that's not exactly the kind of nickname that I'm talking about. A nickname needs to more, I don't know, endearing."
Turning and facing him directly with her arms folded, Akira lightheartedly challenged, "Alright then, pick one!"
"A nickname, pet name, or whatever you want to call it; give one to me."
"Sure, why not? You've got me kind of curious now. So here's your chance."
Caught off guard, Takumi apprehensively struggled, "Uh, I, I don't know. I mean, something like this requires a bit of thought." Contemplating for a moment he then mentioned, "Well Baby, Honey, and Sweetie-pie seem to be pretty popular. Of course, they're also a bit overused. I know! How about Love Muffin?"
"Uhh, I don't think so."
"Okay, now you're just being silly," she remarked rather unamused, rolling her eyes as she observed him snickering off to the side. "Look, just forget it, okay? I don't want to be referred to by some nauseatingly sweet pet name anyway."
"Okay, okay, sorry I brought it up."
Now finally opening the door to her room and motioning with her arm toward the inside, she invited, "You want to come in for awhile?"
"Uh," he hesitated, "I better not. It's awfully late and I'm really tired."
"Oh," she expressed in disappointment.
"After all, traipsing through all those nightclubs was pretty exhausting," he explained.
"That's fine. Well, guess I'll see you tomorrow then."
Just as he was about to kiss her goodnight, Takumi happened to observe through the open door two rather familiar looking bags sitting on Akira's kitchen counter.
"Say, Kyoko stopped by earlier after the two of you went shopping, didn't she?"
"Well I think she may have left her bag here," Takumi noted, indicating over to the all too familiar white, lace-trimmed bags. "I mean, I know one of them is obviously yours, but the other…"
"Huh? Oh, no, she didn't leave it here; they're actually both mine," she explained. "Kyoko just happened to drag me into the same store where you had bought your gift and I just wound up buying… uh, a few things for myself."
"Oh," he replied, his curiosity now piqued as he continued to stare at it rather intently. As much as he wanted to, there was no way that he was going to press the matter and inquire about its contents. Instead, he took this opportunity to ask, "Uh, as long as we're on the subject, there's something that I've been meaning to ask you."
"What is it, Takumi?"
"What if, and this is just hypothetical mind you, but what if I really had gotten you one of those teddies, you know, like Kyoko's?"
"Like Kyoko's? Hmmm. Well, in that case I most likely would have told you to take it back."
"Really? That's… that's kind of what I figured," he said sounding somewhat relieved, while at the same time feeling a bit disappointed. "Guess it's a good thing I didn't let Hajime talk me into it."
"I'll say. After all, red's just not my color."
"Well that's what I tried to tell him, but… Wait, what?"
"Why certainly," she replied in a devious tone of voice. "Black's more my color, wouldn't you agree?"
"Huh? Oh ah, yeah, sure. I suppose," he quizzically responded, appearing most perplexed. "So ah, then does that mean… wait, what exactly are you saying?"
"I'm saying," she continued to tease, clearly enjoying messing with his mind, "that it might not hurt for you to take your friend's advice from time to time."
At a loss, Takumi just gazed blankly on at Akira as the essence of her statement now started to sink in.
"Well, I know you're tired so I'll let you go. Thanks again for the lovely necklace and a most wonderful evening." Leaning in, she then proceeded to place an affectionate goodnight kiss directly upon his lips. "Goodnight, Takumi."
As she slowly began closing the door on him, Takumi continued to maintain an emotionless expression.
With the door now staring him in the face and still quite stupefied, he finally managed to softly utter, "Uhh… goo… goodnight, Akira."
Only now beginning to fully realize what the true consequences of his actions had been, Takumi just shook his head in disbelief while continuing to stare vacantly at the door.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid!" he cursed himself under his breath while making his way toward the elevator, quietly lamenting, "Man, why didn't I listen to Hajime?"
Suddenly, a very loud and resolute voice came from the far end of the hall, "Hey, get back here!" just as Takumi had pressed the elevator call button.
Standing out in the middle of the hall just outside her room, Akira appeared to be motioning to him with her finger, prompting Takumi to immediately rush back over to her side and concernedly inquire, "Something wrong?"
"I'll say there is," she sternly chided. "If you think I'm going to let you leave here with that dour expression on your face, you are sadly mistaken."
"Wha… what are you talking about?" he stammered. "I'm fine."
"Oh really?" she skeptically remarked, her arms now folded. "So you mean to tell me that you're not in any way second-guessing yourself or perhaps having some feelings of regret? Hmmm?"
"Uhh… well I… I mean, maybe just a little."
"That's what I thought. Come on," she determinedly insisted, grabbing hold of his arm.
"Wa, wait a minute," Takumi resisted, refusing to budge.
"Look, I just told you," she attempted to explain. "I don't want you leaving here feeling all down and gloomy. I… I want to make you happy," she blushingly avowed.
"Akira," he touchingly replied.
"So ahh," Akira hesitantly and nervously requested, "I'd really like it if you'd stay for a bit and… keep me company."
Feigning shock, Takumi expressed, "Why, Akira, are you trying to seduce me?"
"What? Uh, no, of course not," she sternly denied, becoming all flustered until noticing him snickering under his breath, clearly having a laugh at her expense. Somewhat irritated, but more embarrassed than anything, Akira awkwardly turned her head off to the side and timidly chided, "I… Idiot! Don't say such things."
Amused at her sense of modesty, Takumi just smiled and watched an ill at ease Akira dishearteningly enter her room. Reaching a hand across the threshold, he grabbed hold of her wrist, forcing her to slowly turn to face him. Then in a soft, comforting voice he happily consented, "Of course I'll stay."
Akira's disillusionment was short lived when she unexpectedly felt Takumi's warm lips covering hers. Guiding their united bodies till they were inside the room, Takumi then instinctively kicked the door shut, all the while maintaining close intimate contact with Akira. Her body now pinned up against the wall, Akira groaned in delight as she found herself succumbing to Takumi's fiery kisses of passion, which undeniably filled her with pleasure.
"Mmmm, Takumi," she fervently uttered, never once relinquishing her tight embrace of him. "I think I'm going to have to start calling you Hot Lips from now on."
"Heh, heh. Works for me." he smugly replied, seeming most eager to resume where he had left off.
Just as his lips anxiously began closing back in on hers, Akira's hand abruptly shot up between them, whereby she playfully teased, "Whoa, slow down there, Hot Lips. What do you say we save some of that energy for later?"
"Huh? Oh, ah, sure," he reluctantly agreed.
"I'm going to go make us some tea," she then nonchalantly informed him. "That okay or would you like something else to drink?"
"Uh, n… no," he stammered, not quite over the initial rejection of his recent advance. "Tea's fine. Thanks."
"Oh, now don't act so disappointed. Besides, I thought you said you were tired?"
"Uh, well, I am. I mean, I was," a tongue-tied Takumi attempted to explain. "That is to say…"
"You're never too tired for this?" Akira concluded, demonstrating by grabbing hold of Takumi's shirt and forcefully pulling him onto her lips. Caught off guard, a wide-eyed Takumi just stood staring at her with his mouth agape. Then leaning over closely to his ear, she seductively whispered, "Later."
A bright red glow now permeated his cheeks as he observed Akira pursing her lips, followed up immediately with a most amorous smile.