My first Yakitate! Japan fic.

Don't own. Enjoy!

First night

"My turn!" The cheerful girl shouted, excitedly, as she made her way to the stage. She took the microphone from a middle aged man walking back to his table. She chose some generic, bubblegum pop song about love and started singing her heart out.

I could only look on as the girl made a fool of herself. Other boys seemed to look at her in awe, even Azuma-kun, which was beyond me. I find Tsukino to be quite insignificant. Sure some might argue that she is physically attractive, to the point of being referred to as 'pretty' and she did not have such a bad character, but to me she just seems bland and ordinary, without much to offer. And she also insists to partake in such pointless activities as karaoke, which are simply annoying.

This was one of the evenings when the Southern Tokyo Branch employees insisted to head out somewhere to celebrate some futile event. And as always Tsukino chose karaoke. The rest of the gang agreed cheerfully, but I can't imagine that reaction being sincere. We had gone to the karaoke club some many times before, it must have become an incredible bore to someone else, other than me. At least I would hope so. As usual, Mushroom-head-what's-his-face was keeping the shop open. Sometimes I felt bad for the guy. I mean, normally, no one but him actually does any work. Honestly, right now, I would almost rather be working with him than sitting here, listening to Tsukino's ghastly singing.

Almost...

I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the boy sitting next to me, sipping on his soft drink, laughing, smiling and paying careful attention to the girl standing on stage. I wouldn't pretend to have a good time and sit through the horrible performances of amateur singers who should definitely not quit their day jobs without complaining incessantly, if it wasn't for Azuma Kazuma.

It took me a long time to admit it to myself. After all, a genius like me would not easily succumb to the vain pleasures of 'love'. But the boy simply fascinated me. Not only was he adorably cute, but his happiness was contagious, he was incredibly generous and caring and he was always so kind to me and everyone else, without expecting anything back. Throughout my life, others have always expected a great deal out of me, to succeed, to behave perfectly, to obey without a word. Azuma expected nothing, he gave me his friendship and opened himself to me and wanted nothing back. And yet he has given me so much. Whenever I'm around him, I feel at ease. He just seems to never have a care in the world, he's always so optimistic. I envy that very much. When he smiles at me, I smile back. A genuine smile.

A few weeks ago, I had finally come to terms with my feelings. There was no other logical explanation. The attachment, the longing for him when he's away from me, the sheer state of happiness I am in when he's around, how I always found myself staring at him, all of him, they could only mean one thing: I am in love with Azuma Kazuma.

Next thing I knew, Tsukino was rushing back to the table where Azuma, Kawachi, Manager and I were sitting. Thankfully, my musings had spared me from much of the school girl's performance. "So how was it?" She enquired as soon as she sat at her chair. That she so quickly sought others' approval was quite humorous. I thought one would participate in karaoke for their personal amusement, not to empress or satisfy others.

"It was wonderful, Tsukino-san!" Kawachi answered, with his usual dumb smile. The blond boy dragged his chair closer to Tsukino's and stared uncontrollably at her. "You're so talented, Tsukino-san!" It was pretty obvious to everybody, Tsukino as well, that Kawachi was hopelessly in love with her. As he was never taken seriously, all just pushed his feelings aside and ignored them. Tsukino would always answer to his advances with a warm, friendly reaction, but really she was shunning him with her cold indifference. I almost pitied poor Kawachi. And then, I remember he's a total idiot.

"Thank you, Kawachi." Tsukino smiled, as she pulled her chair away from Kawachi, and in doing so, closer to Azuma. My heart skipped a beat. It annoyed me profoundly when she was close to him. I was surprised at how possessive I am of the boy.

"At least you were much better than the old guy before you!" Manager said, with his obnoxiously loud voice, before letting out an ear-splitting laugh. The man had had quite a few drinks, which I found irresponsible and almost rude, considering that most of us are underage, and that he is the adult in charge of our outings. "Well, we're all here to have fun, so it doesn't really matter if you can sing or not!" Tsukino explained with her annoying smile. If she was sincere, she wouldn't care whether we liked her singing or not.

"What did you think Azuma-kun?" Tsukino asked, giving Azuma a charming look and a coy smile. It annoys me so much how she comes on to him constantly.

"I think Tsukino-san is a great singer!" Azuma replied with his usual cheerful voice. "T-thank you, Azuma-kun..." Tsukino seemed a bit disappointed. Perhaps she expected a more romantic response. She had probably purposefully chosen a love song to appeal to Azuma, but he didn't even notice. I have seen Tsukino try to seduce Azuma or express her interest several times, but he would never notice. Perhaps, one day, she will understand and give up.

"What about you, Kanmuri?" When I heard my name, I snapped out of my bitter daze and stared at the person who had spoken. Azuma was looking at me with an insisting smile. I was caught off guard and didn't know what to say. "Y-yes! Tsukino-san, you are a terrific singer!" I answered, with the best fake smile I could manage. Azuma seemed satisfied by my answer. Tsukino also smiled back at me. Had it been anyone else asking that question, my answer would have probably been incredibly sarcastic and unpleasant. I was glad Azuma spoke.

I was surprised that he had been the one asking. It was probably because I was the only one who hadn't spoken and Azuma wanted to include me in the conversation, so that I wouldn't feel excluded. Yes, that was most likely the reason. I have noticed however, that Azuma often enquires my opinion, whether it's about baking or other topics. I am quite knowledgeable and perhaps Azuma finds I am a reliable enough source. Or maybe, Azuma truly values my opinions and trusts me... Surely, I am overanalyzing the situation. So he asks for my help often, it's nothing special, many people ask me for information... I am after all, a Harvard graduate.

We all drank and talked as we listened to other amateurs performing on stage. Most were utterly talentless, but I could console myself in Azuma. I looked at him, without looking too suspicious. He was smiling and laughing and he looked so beautiful... I tried my best to ignore the girl sitting next to him. Tsukino was all over him, touching his arm, talking to him in her high-pitched voice, mostly about bread. Azuma was smoothly keeping his distance; he probably didn't even understand she was coming on to him. He had a hard time entertaining a conversation that didn't revolve around bread and he always came back to the subject. It was so cute...

After a while, the stage was free. With a light blush on her face, Tsukino grabbed Azuma's arm. "Azuma-kun... Let's go sing together." She offered. Azuma was taken by surprise and didn't know what to answer. "Huuh... Sure?" He said. Tsukino giggled, got up and ran to the stage, dragging Azuma along. The boy seemed a bit distressed and unsure. I was fuming. I did my best to hide my profound jealousy, but surely I was frowning at the least. Kawachi also seemed a bit disappointed. I would much rather Tsukino clung to him than to my Azuma.

I could only look in horror as the two teenagers sang together on stage, some other generic love song today's youth enjoys so much. I tried to imagine Azuma was singing the song to me to calm myself down. But then, I would see Tsukino standing next to him, holding his hand, touching his arm, his shoulder, dancing with him, singing the song to him and only him. With every passing second, I would get angrier and angrier. I couldn't believe how pissed and jealous I was. Luckily enough, the two people sitting at my table were either too drunk or too stupid to notice me. For the first time, I let my mask slip. My face only showed an intense expression of anger and disgust. I looked away from the stage as I couldn't stand the carnage anymore.

For what seemed like an eternity, I could only hear the sound of their combined voices as they sang of how much they "love each other", of how they are "perfect together", of how they would "be together forever". It sickened me.

Finally, when their dreadful song was over, they made their way back to the table. I was still looking away, as Tsukino was probably still holding his arm and I couldn't stand the sight anymore. Tsukino and Azuma sat back at their places, facing the stage, therefore sitting where I was looking at. And she was holding him even after they had sat. But I couldn't look away. "Wasn't this fun, Azuma-kun?" Tsukino asked with her syrupy voice. "Yes, it was, Tsukino-san!" Azuma answered with his cheerful voice. "I love this song!" "I like it too!" "I especially like singing it with Azuma-kun..." Throughout their conversation, Tsukino was clinging to him, smiling at him, laughing at his every word. And I couldn't look away. I was mad.

"Kanmuri-kun? Are you okay?" I snapped out of my infuriated daze. I stared at the boy who had spoken again. Azuma was looking at me, he seemed worried. Surely, my anger showed and Azuma actually noticed. "I..." I couldn't answer. Tsukino was still holding him and speaking. "It was so much fun!" She said, as if Azuma was still listening. "Kanmuri? What's wrong?" "... It's just..." "Let's doing again, Azuma-kun!" Shut up, he's talking to me! She was giggling and laughing, I couldn't put a word in. Azuma was still looking at me waiting for my answer. I grabbed my glass of water and took a sip, to calm myself down. "It's like we're a real couple, Azuma-kun!"

When she said those words, I hit my breaking point. I set my glass on the table with a bit more strength that I had anticipated. It made a loud bang and everyone stared at me. At least, she shut her trap. Azuma seemed shaken. "Kanmuri-kun...?" I got up from my seat, I couldn't stand their looks anymore, I couldn't stand her holding him anymore, I walked away, out of the club and no one followed me.

It was dark outside, but the street was lighted by lampposts. I found a bench not too far from the entrance of the karaoke club and sat. I was incredibly pissed. I couldn't believe I could let myself get so angry and jealous. I took a few deep breaths and cleared my mind. But I couldn't get him out of my mind. Azuma... Tsukino was clinging to him. And he never stopped her, he doesn't mind. Perhaps he does love her back... The thought scared me immensely. I couldn't stand the thought of losing Azuma to her, of losing him to anyone. Whenever I'm around him, I feel so good. If he was to direct his attention to one person, her or anyone else, and not pay attention to me anymore, it would be devastating. I'm so used to being around him, sharing his happiness...

My anger was slowly turning into sadness. Why won't Azuma love me back? Why does he like her? What does she have that I don't? I'm way smarter than her, I'm good looking, and I'm nice, most of the time. I don't understand!

Listening to my train of thoughts, I realized I sounded just like a love struck teenage girl. I'm way too intelligent to be thinking like this. A genius of my calibre shouldn't give in to such childish feelings. If he loves someone else, that's his choice. As long as he is happy, I should be happy for him...

"Kanmuri-kun!" I heard footsteps coming towards me. Next thing I knew, Azuma was sitting next to me. "Kanmuri-kun... Are you okay? Are you feeling sick?" He asked, worried. I smiled at how oblivious he was. "I'm fine, Azuma-kun." "Do I sing that badly?" He asked, looking slightly hurt. I was surprised by the question. "Why would you ask that?" "I don't know... You were looking at me funny while I was on stage with Tsukino..." I was shocked by his answer. Perhaps Kawachi and Manager hadn't noticed my attitude earlier, but Azuma-kun, all the way from the stage, had. I was a bit conflicted, on one side, I had hurt Azuma's feelings, but he had also been looking at me from the stage, instead of looking at Tsukino, or any other girl in the audience.

"I'm sorry, Azuma-kun." I finally answered. "I did not mean to worry you. I was a bit irritated, about... something else. Worry not, I find you're a wonderful singer!" I offered Azuma my most sincere smile to comfort him. "Really? Thanks Kanmuri!" He said with his usual cheerfulness. I was glad Azuma wasn't gloomy anymore.

"But, what's bothering you, Kanmuri-kun?" He asked. "Oh... it's nothing." "Of course there's something! You just told me! You can't fool me Kanmuri!" Azuma gave me a wide smile and a short laugh. Of course I can't fool him. Whenever I'm around him I just melt... "So, what is it?" "It's not important, Azuma-kun. Don't worry about me."

"But you seemed so sad and angry... I don't like seeing you like that." That he cared so much for me touched me very much. But then I remember this was Azuma-kun I was thinking about. He cares about everyone and wants everybody to be happy, I wasn't getting a special treatment, I'm nothing special. "I'll try to be more cheerful from now on." "It's not that I want you to pretend to be happy. I want you to really be happy, you know. If something concerns you, you should tell me, I'll help you out! Okay, Kanmuri?" "Okay, Azuma-kun." I smiled again. He is such a sweet boy.

I followed Azuma back into the karaoke club, where Kawachi, Tsukino and Manager were waiting patiently. I quickly apologized for my behaviour and sat back down at my chair, trying to have a good time. We listened to the singers, even Kawachi and Manager had their turn. We laughed, we drank, we chatted. Throughout the rest of the evening, Tsukino still clung to Azuma, laughed with him, smiled at him. I was still uncomfortable, but I tried not to let it show to not bother Azuma. Ultimately, the evening went by pretty well, nobody really seemed to care about my inappropriate outburst.

Later, we all walked home. The karaoke club was only a few streets away from Pantasia's Southern Tokyo Branch. Along the way back, Tsukino held Azuma's hand. I was standing behind, sulking, but trying not to let my annoyance show.

After a few minutes, we got to the bakery. Mushroom-head, who had been cleaning the shop after closing it about an hour ago, went back home, so did the Manager, who was wobbly as he walked, as he had had quite a few too much to drink. Tsukino hung around for a few more minutes so she could tell Azuma how much fun she had, how much she liked being around him and to tell him goodnight. She placed a careful peck on his cheek, before finally turning around and running away, giggling. I looked away, hurt. Kawachi, Azuma and I occupied the small apartment over the shop. I made my way up the stairs, as I only wanted to lock myself away in my bedroom. As I did, I heard Kawachi whine. "Why did she kiss you, Azuma? It's not fair." "I don't know. I guess she likes me a lot!" Azuma answered. By his answer, I could not figure out if the feeling was mutual or not. It sounded as if he only stated a fact, but he must have an opinion about this, he must.

I unlocked the apartment door, walked in and held the door open as my two roommates walked in behind me. I quickly walked to my bedroom, not letting anyone see my saddened expression. As I closed the door behind me, I could finally relax. Luckily enough, I had my own room. Azuma and Kawachi shared the larger of the two bedrooms and I occupied the smaller one. Sometimes, I wished I could share my room with Azuma, but I knew it would be much too painful to see him lying right next to me, just out of my reach. I changed to my night clothes and went straight to bed. I wanted this day to end.

Images of the evening that had just passed went through my mind. Azuma chatting with Tsukino, who was holding his arm, Azuma and Tsukino singing a love song together, Azuma and Tsukino walking home, hand in hand, Tsukino kissing Azuma's cheek... It should be me, not her. I couldn't keep in my jealousy anymore. I buried my face in my pillow, I screamed in silence, as I knew I would bother my roommates. I punched my mattress and gripped my sheets. As I did, tears stared flowing from my eyes. Crying calmed me down, my body relaxed from its tensed composure. I cried silently, hugging my pillow. My anger had turned to sadness.

I cried a few minutes in total silence. Suddenly, I heard my bedroom door open. I jumped in surprise and held my breath, as my crying instantly stopped. "Ne, Kanmuri?" A familiar voice asked. The voice sounded almost sad. "Next time, let's sing together, okay?" It was Azuma, standing in my doorway... I was stunned for a moment and couldn't say anything. But Azuma was waiting for an answer. I quickly cleared my throat so that it wouldn't sound that I had been crying. "Sounds good, Azuma-kun." I finally answered. I heard Azuma backing out of my room and closing the door behind him.

My sadness had turned into momentary happiness. Azuma was so kind. Perhaps, he really does care about me. Slowly I fell asleep, with images of Azuma's sweet smile in my mind.

Thank you for reading! Please review!