An Awkward Couple
Love. What is it? For many people it is a sweet, fulfilling experience. Sometimes it lasts a lifetime, for others it is fleeting and over in the blink of an eye. Do you remember your first love? Ah… puppy love. It's something that no longer applies to just small children but is often used, although in a teasing way, about teenagers with raging hormones and such.
Two such teenagers that will be talked about at length in this story are a couple of young trendsetters in the city of Shibuya… well, at least, one of them is (the other one couldn't care less about fashion). Their names will forever be etched in the history of awkward couples…
Neku Sakuraba and Shiki Misaki.
Both of them were once Players in an otherworldly competition called the Reapers' Game. The two couldn't exactly stand each other during their time in the Game. Who could blame them? It was like a cat had partnered up with a dog. Shiki was a bubbly, giggly fashion-minded girl who wanted so badly to poke her nose into Neku's matters, which the latter hated because he was so anti-social he was the human equivalent of insect repellent.
But then, at a particular point, Shiki revealed her true self to Neku, who finally understood her plight. And with that, the two got along pretty well, though their time in the UG was short-lived at best. In any case, in a personality transformation that could only be described as borderline ridiculous, Neku cared about Shiki so much that she became his entry fee.
When Shiki at last found out that she became the most precious thing to Neku of all the people in the world, she couldn't help but be moved, although when she first heard about it she was nothing more than a spluttering, arm-flapping maniac with a beet-red face.
It was to be the start of their long and weird journey… Without further ado, let us delve into the world of Neku and Shiki, shall we?
It was the little things that eventually led to a relationship between the two. However, as it was their first relationship and they weren't exactly pros in the romance department, they got off to a rather awkward start.
The real Shiki was shy and reserved. And as for Neku, having been a social hermit for so long, he found it especially hard to talk to people, though he's improving as we speak. So doing something out of their comfort zones such as professing their love for each other was a mountain of a hurdle.
Of course, they couldn't bellow "I've been in love with you, you know!" the moment they saw each other, alive, in the RealGround for the first time; come on, even when they weren't experienced, they knew that'd be just plain silly, not to mention embarrassing. No, needless to say they took things nice, slow and easy. Although it was evident from a thousand little tell-tale signs that they really, really liked each other's company.
Such as the glow in Neku's eyes when he chatted with her, or the blush that would appear on Shiki's face whenever he got within a radius of two yards from her. Or how, whenever they're in a canteen or fast-food restaurant, and their hands accidentally brushed against each other as both reached for a canister of salt at the same time, they would simultaneously follow the same routine: quickly and profusely apologise, frantically look everywhere but at each other like idiots, and then finally resume eating wordlessly with faces so red and hot that they could contribute to global warming.
Eventually, after a few weeks of dodging around the issue, Neku finally got round to taking that first step. …No, you perverts, he didn't buy a condom; that's way too soon. I mean that he asked her out on a date.
Shiki was ecstatic but didn't know whether to say yes or refuse and act hard to get. However, the moment Neku mentioned that they would be watching a movie starring The Prince, of whom she was an ardent fan, she immediately agreed with eyes lit up. That left Neku a little uneasy, wondering whether she was more interested in the pop star than him.
But his worries dissipated when they sat down to enjoy the movie… Halfway through, in a flash of inspiration, Neku tried to wrap a tentative arm around Shiki's shoulder. As he was afraid she would bolt in disgust shouting "Eew! Molester!", he settled for resting it on her seat instead. She quickly noticed and both boy and girl ended up so distracted that they failed to concentrate on the movie.
Not that the money Neku spent on those tickets went completely to waste, though. He didn't mind because he got to spend some precious alone time with Shiki, and she felt the same way. Neither of them could sleep that night because they were so excited.
And the next day at school both of them looked terribly spacey and lethargic. What'd you expect if you slept for only two hours the night before?
Despite that first date, Neku and Shiki were apprehensive about spending time together, fearing great embarrassment when their friends would enquire about their possible relationship, which as it turned out would happen often.
The fact that they were quite comfortable with each other was painfully obvious. Everyone would roll their eyes to the heavens (behind their backs), thinking about how stupid and utterly useless it was to try and hide the truth that was in plain sight.
Apparently, for the budding lovebirds, if you keep denying something and no one can prove it, then it'd be alright. It wouldn't be so easy for the two of them, though, considering that their friends were all strangely enough the mischievous sort…
Shiki's best friend, Eri, would never pass up a chance to get the two of them alone together. She would be talking to Shiki about fashion and typical teenager stuff but whenever Neku appeared nearby, Eri would pipe up something along the lines of "Oh, Shiki, your husband's here. I gotta dash, have fun!" Which would leave poor Shiki blushing in annoyance and stuttering another useless denial.
Let us not forget the countless times when bubbly ol' Mina would secretly snap a photo of them when they were alone, set said photo as her cellphone wallpaper, and leave her phone lid open for Neku and/or Shiki to see and get all flustered about.
Or when Beat would offer to hand back workbooks to the class and he would swap the unofficial couple's on purpose, watching with glee as their faces slowly turned red. It was the perfect setup, for when Neku and Shiki would wait after classes to return the workbooks to each other, they would end up talking and be subsequently snapped in another photo with the paparazzi-like Mina's cell phone. Talk about tag-team action, eh?
Everyone really loved making Neku and Shiki's lives hell. Beat, Eri, Ai, Mina and even the seemingly innocent Rhyme. So yeah, their fear of embarrassment at the hands of their friends was kinda justified. Oh well.
But it wasn't all hopeless. One time, Neku managed to nab himself and Shiki an opportunity to enjoy each other's company without being stalked by their annoying friends 24/7. A chance so unbelievably rare, they treasured it like gold and diamonds. Now, all of them were high school students with quickly dwindling allowances, so Neku figured that his pals would never go into a sushi bar as things there could be quite expensive, so if they dined there they could do it in relative quietness.
He had saved up for this date. And if he could be left in peace with Shiki for even a few darn minutes, he would be immensely grateful.
Fortunately for them, no one came by to mess it up. Shiki chided him for being so extravagant, but he didn't mind. Even with the burning holes in his wallet, he was happy and in love. They had a second and most enjoyable date.
It was when he walked her back home that he noticed that Mina and company were hiding behind bushes and trees, giggling and taking photos and videos of them with their cell phones.
Neku could have chased the whole lot of them into the Pacific Ocean, but walking Shiki home was a much better idea.
The progress in Neku and Shiki's relationship had been horribly slow. For even though they had already gone out twice by now, they had not even held hands.
At this stage they were well aware of each other's feelings, but felt it would be taboo to ask the other directly about it. The time wasn't right for that kind of question, they thought, but when it came down to it, any time would have been fine. They just lacked the guts.
In any case, whenever Neku and Shiki went out for lunch or coffee at WildKat's, it was always as "friends", they would tell others. "Friends" and nothing more. Their pals pretended to acknowledge it but understood it was all a hopelessly stupid and transparent cover-up for the real purpose of their meetings.
Secretly, they hoped to find out if the two had gone further than just relatively silent and awkward dates, and moved on to more… interesting… things… Though, for the benefit of our audience, it must be noted that nothing X-rated is to be expected… Man, you guys need to clean out those dirty heads of yours. But anyway…!
The story of how Neku and Shiki got their first kiss was a rather interesting, if a little titillating, one. Brace yourselves.
So it was a dark and stormy Sunday afternoon, right? Yeah, I know the introduction's not dramatic, so what? Bite me.
Neku was busy doing nothing in his apartment when there was a set of rapid knocks on his door. The emo kid – or rather, ex-emo kid – got up rather grumpily because he was really looking forward to an afternoon all to himself. But when he answered the door he was pleasantly surprised, or at least shocked, to see Shiki standing at his doorstep, dripping wet all over.
She explained that she had got caught in the rain, and figured she could dry off at his place since she was close to his home at that time. For a good few seconds, Neku could only stare at her, wide-eyed, in silence. For one thing, she was completely soaked to the skin, and speaking of which, her clothes were clinging tantalizingly to her entire body.
He could have suffered a nosebleed right then and there, but he managed to clear his head when Shiki shook him to get his attention. Only then did he mumble a flustered apology and let her inside.
Actually, he literally let every guy's greatest dream inside his apartment, and that dream was to be able to have a cute girl come over to your place, or vice versa, when there was no one around to disturb you. Indeed, it was what Neku had been wishing for ever since he liked Shiki, and he was grateful to the brink of tears… almost (he had to restrain himself from crying because it would be strange if Shiki found him in tears for no apparent reason), but the current circumstances were a bit more… challenging.
You see, a boy with raging hormones would have problems trying to even keep still when he knew fully well that the girl of his dreams was having a shower in his bathroom. Which was right next to his room, where he was getting light-headed listening to the sounds of water splashing on Shiki's body… As he had a very active imagination, it's easy to envision what kind of thoughts he was having.
It didn't help matters that she emerged from the bathroom wrapped in nothing but a towel. Oh, of all the days to do the laundry! Neku had procrastinated doing this hateful household chore for many days now, and today, he had put his foot down and decided to get it over with. So everything went into the washing machine, and as a result, there was absolutely nothing for Shiki to wear.
A red-faced Shiki apologized to Neku for appearing before him in such an indecent state, but she hadn't even finished her sentence when she realized that he was struggling to stop his nosebleed, which was getting out of control. She fussed over him, attempting to help him by wiping his nose with a wad of tissues, but seeing Shiki so close to him with practically no clothes on sent him into an even more uncontrollable bleeding fit.
Eventually Neku and Shiki sat in silence on his bed, waiting for the latter's clothes to dry in the bathroom. That in itself was a Herculean task. They liked each other a great deal and were perfectly normal teenagers with perfectly normal urges…
With his hormones taking control, he gently held her by her bare shoulders... He had to admit she had nice smooth skin... This startled Shiki quite a bit, and she was about to say something but was cut short when he leaned in to kiss her on the lips. Much to Neku's expectations, he found the kiss very satisfying indeed, and was singing with gratitude in his heart, but it was a different story for Shiki.
Because kissing while dressed in a towel that exposed so much wasn't exactly a very comfortable thing to do, despite the fact that she really loved him.
Well, one thing led to another… uh, no! I take that back. Wrong phrase. Actually, they didn't get to doing that, if you know what I mean, although Neku did trap her limp body in his strong embrace and smothered her stupid. Shiki, on the other hand, was alarmed and genuinely frightened that she would get raped, but her faith in him was justified and nothing of the sort happened. Although it must be noted that for Neku, the urge to rip her towel off crossed his mind more than once. Can't blame him; healthy youngsters like him think about this kind of thing all the time.
And as for Shiki, well… she would be lying if she said she didn't enjoy her very first kiss, but if she wasn't deeply embarrassed by the fact that she was half-naked in a guy's room, she would have enjoyed it more… At one point though, she was more worried about Mina suddenly popping her head by the window and snapping a scandalous photo of them with their lips locked.
What a field day Mina would have spreading the news to everyone if that happened! Shiki shuddered.
When at last they broke for air, maroon-faced for obvious reasons, Neku finally whispered his love for her in her ear, causing the bespectacled girl to blush even more. Shiki didn't know whether to slap Neku or thank him breathlessly for their first kiss. One other unrelated thing was for sure, though. She needed to make an urgent trip to the bathroom.
And as she got up from the bed, neither teen noticed that the corner of her towel got caught in Neku's hand which was resting on the edge of the bed. When she stood up fully, her towel unraveled by itself and for a half-second she wondered why she felt colder than usual…
Neku's eyes could have popped out of their sockets.
Shiki looked down at herself…
Then she angrily slapped Neku who was already in the midst of suffering yet another nosebleed of Pompeii-like proportions before covering herself up hastily and locking herself in the bathroom for two hours until her clothes were dry.
Poor Neku. He was apologizing to her through the door for being so clumsy. The whole two hours too… And at the end of it she left with a huff and not another word…
Everyone noticed how Shiki was avoiding Neku for the next three or four days at school. Once or twice he would make an attempt at talking, at which point she would blush and scurry away quickly, leaving Neku to heave a sigh in dismay.
Which left his friends in a bit of a quandary: if they tried to comfort him, he would surely deny his relationship, which in turn would then render their comforting words somewhat useless. But they couldn't just leave him being so sad either.
In spite of that rather unfortunate (maybe a little fortunate for Neku) incident, Shiki couldn't bring herself to hate Neku forever. She still loved him for being such a caring, if at times forthright, person.
The image of Shiki in the buff was forever burned in Neku's memory, not that he minded… He just didn't expect to see her naked so soon…
Still, he knew that at the moment she was disgusted by him, and as a result he was quite depressed. It wasn't really his fault that she spent five seconds as a stripper… right?
At last, tired of being ignored, he confronted Shiki in the gentlest possible manner while clutching onto her shoulders to keep her from running away again. Ironically, it was the exact same way he held her shoulders before they kissed that day at his house, and Shiki half-expected him to smash his lips against hers in front of everyone.
But Neku simply told her that he still loved her and would be very sad if she let their relationship die down just from that one little mistake on his part. He asked for forgiveness. He was actually tempted to get down on one knee and say how truly sorry he was for being so clumsy and selfish, but Shiki, already blushing, stopped him from kneeling before her.
It was safe to say that she forgave him, and after that they were a happy couple again…
…who had to deal afterwards with lots of indirect but no less subtle teasing by the annoying friends they came to know and love… and hate.
Perhaps it was because Shiki slapped Neku that day, but ever since then he has not dared to hug or kiss her. And she was aching to feel the rush of kissing anew. Flirting with Neku a little should do the trick and get him to notice her needs as his other half…
Of course, she knew that dropping handkerchiefs in this day and age would be simply too silly for words, so she resorted to other means. But she had to be subtle. The last thing she wanted was to appear like a total slut in front of Neku.
Well, nowadays, to get a boy's attention, a girl would probably do something like patting his arm affectionately while talking to him. She could sit just a tiny bit closer to emphasize this point. And if she's feeling particularly bold and frisky, she might even ruffle his hair mischievously, though that could only be done when both parties are close enough to each other.
Shiki did all these things, but much to her dismay, Neku was either too dumb to notice or too scared to respond appropriately to her advances. She even considered asking her best friend Eri for tips on how to jerk him into action, but decided against it. The gossipy Eri would most likely rope in everyone's help, resulting in chaos she'd rather not imagine.
At one point, she thought about the feasibility of dressing a bit sexier. She was fond of her usual outfit which consisted of her slim green jacket and black capri pants, but it wouldn't get any guys drooling any time soon. Maybe showing a little skin would help, she thought one day in the privacy of a fitting room as she tried on a mini-skirt and crop top in the style of head-turning Eri. She was fine with it when she had Eri's body in the Reapers' Game, so she should have no problems, right?
Now, Shiki was actually a pretty girl, not the ugly duckling she once thought she was, and her surprisingly lithe frame could rival even Eri's. And yes, she actually looked quite decent in that outfit. Neku would love it, she knew. She allowed herself a small giggle.
But she started to have second thoughts as she continued to look at herself in the mirror with half of her skin exposed. What if Neku went crazy seeing her like this? A nightmare scenario played out inside her head. He might get so excited that he may be tempted to grope her or worse… Being cornered alone in a dark alley by a delirious cackling Neku with a bleeding nose was the last thing she wanted, even if she loved him… Of course, she knew he wasn't a pervert; he was simply too good to do things like that, but you never know…
She returned the clothes and left the boutique at 104 Building faster than Beat could say "curry". And if Beat was anything to go by, then Shiki was blazingly swift.
Just when she thought she had ruined their relationship, her doubts were proven wrong on a particularly boring afternoon. Her parents had gone out and she was left alone in her house. With no interesting TV programmes to watch and nothing to do, she simply lay on the couch looking blankly at the ceiling. She was also sighing sadly to herself. Maybe she was being too harsh. But Neku lacked the good sense to look away when she was… uh, you know… Then again maybe it was her fault, she wondered, for not being careful enough with her towel. Of course, the whole mess wouldn't have started if she brought an umbrella that day…
Shiki's thoughts were folding upon themselves like the layers in a Matryoshka doll. Suddenly there came a knock on her door. Expecting her parents, she answered it.
Neku Sakuraba was standing at her doorstep. She nearly jumped. But before she could enquire why he had come to visit her, he grabbed her and started smooching her deeply. Right in the hallway, where people were walking and wincing in shock at the sight that unfolded before them, while at the same time having the decency to leave the two in peace. Kids these days… they must have been thinking.
When they parted for air, a wide-eyed Shiki could only blink owlishly, completely dumbstruck.
And Neku simply said one word to explain himself. "Surprise!"
Grinning with gratitude, she let him inside the house where they immediately resumed kissing on the couch with such a vicious passion that Romeo and Juliet would blush. They agreed that they wouldn't do that sort of thing until they got married… but judging by their overflowing hormones, it probably wouldn't come as a surprise if their first time would happen while they were in college… I mean, granted, they were good kids, but what's to stop them from fooling around with each other especially when their parents weren't hanging around them to watch over like hawks…
It's entirely possible, right? Think about it. Here's a recipe to crack your brains over. The ingredients are:
An empty room with a comfy bed
One Neku Sakuraba
One Shiki Misaki
A generous helping of hormones
A heap of love
And a dash of lust
Mix all the ingredients together in that room and leave to marinade overnight. What happens?
…Okay, okay! I got carried away. I'd better refrain from any more innuendos… Otherwise my story will get banned for sure. So, ahem! Where were we?
Shiki returned his kisses whole-heartedly. It was what she was craving all along, and she was glad that at last, Neku understood her. Perhaps he understood her this whole time, pretending not to notice so the surprise attack he'd launch on her would be even better appreciated... in which case, it worked beautifully.
In her books, Neku got an A+ for romantic surprises.
Ah… the fun they had exchanging disgusting saliva with each other… until her parents came back.
And then Shiki had to explain herself to her horrified mother and grumpy father that they weren't doing anything… bad. It would be ages before they were fully convinced and Neku became a perfectly respectable human being in their eyes again.
There would be plenty of other challenges for Neku and Shiki to face in time to come, but whether they could tackle them without a red face or having to resort to ninja stealth tactics to avoid their snooping friends while they were dating… well, we would have to see. For now, they're glad they have each other.
Ah… what did I say about love? It certainly created a lot of awkward experiences for them. But when they're snuggled up on the couch watching TV by themselves, and they think back to all the times that they shared together, they can't help but feel that perhaps, it was all part of the cunning plan of a higher being to make their love life more interesting.
The relationship was one of bliss, though it wasn't exactly fairy-tale material to begin with.
But all the same, they were in love. And it was good.
Now if only Neku would stop getting nosebleeds whenever he thought back to the day when he accidentally saw Shiki sans the bath towel that was supposed to be covering her, all would be well in this world.