A/N: (Thank you to those of you who did point a gun at my head, I appreciate it.)

The sweetest line in Takeru's character song, Focus,is perhaps this:

"The truth is, I've got a lot to say to you, but each time I try, it won't come out right."

HOW IS TAKARI NOT CANNON? Adgyasrvfehjas. Jhfeuirnfjk. Whdijge, thank you.

8. All Together Now

It seemed as if the both of them had become rather used to be in each other's company – however uncomfortable that was to them – because at the moment, Hikari and Takeru were once again sitting together in an empty classroom at Mrs. Kim's kindergarten. She was by the window, staring out of it, and he was by the blackboard, at the other end of the classroom, examining the bookshelves there. Mrs. Kim had gone off to make some more tea and fetch some more biscuits, and had insisted that Hikari stay in the classroom because she was injured, and had insisted that Takeru 'look after' Hikari.

Hours seemed to have gone by.

Mrs. Kim had explained that her kindergarten was the last checkpoint for the scavenger hunt; therefore all twelve hunters would have to gather there before they could march off to the fields again for the closing ceremony. When Hikari heard this, she had a hunch that the other hunters would not arrive at the last checkpoint for some time (because really, the final riddle was damntricky), and she was beginning to think that she was right. It had been one hour and twenty minutes since their arrival there, and no one else had knocked on the kindergarten door.

Hikari sighed deeply and glanced sideways at Takeru. He had his back facing her, and he was looking at the drawings taped to the wall. They had not said much to each other. Mrs. Kim had been pretty occupied, asking Takeru about his family and what he thought of Kurokuro so far – the usual inquiries. Takeru had, in return, apologized for the way Hiroki-kun had behaved the other day, and this had led to the many short conversations between Hikari and him.

"I'm sure Aoi-chan has forgiven Hiroki-kun," Mrs. Kim had said, smiling. "She's one very friendly girl, isn't she, Hikari-chan?"

"Yeah," she had agreed, nodding. "She's pretty much forgotten the whole thing – you don't have to worry."

"Right," he had replied, "that's good to know."

And that was when Mrs. Kim had excused herself to the kitchen at the back of the building. They had said nothing to each other since.

Hikari snapped out of her thoughts when she registered that Takeru had moved across the room: he calmly walked towards her and sat down on the chair next to Hikari's. There was a small table between them, on which they had both rested their arms. Hikari watched his chest rise and fall as he sighed. She wasn't even bothered to feel uncomfortable or anything right now – she was tired, both physically and mentally. Whatever the heck had convinced her that she could survive being in the same village as Takeru, she didn't know.


This came out so suddenly and so randomly, it made her turn her head slightly to the side and look at him.

"For what I said earlier," he explained, his eyes staring at the floor. "I've no doubt that Willis is a good friend."

"Hmm," Hikari managed to say as she tore her eyes away from his profile. She contemplated on whether or not she should pursue this topic of conversation, but after much consideration (during which they both had remained silent), she decided against it. Why bother, anyway? She would most probably end up in tears – again – and where's the progress in that? So in the end, she found herself turning her head to the side to look at him again as she muttered, "How on earth did you figure out the last riddle?"

Hikari watched as Takeru shrugged his shoulders and looked around the room as he thought of what to say. "Dunno. Read the last riddle and I just…saw the answer, I guess."

Hikari let out a huff and found herself smiling. "Right. You have six brains."

He sort of smiled at this. She wondered if he remembered when she had said these words to him before – and then she wondered why she was thinking of this. The last time she had accused him of owning six brains was five or six years ago, in a public library, when they were doing some research for their history project – so why on earth would he remember it?

"Listen, Hikari," Takeru said, sitting up straighter. "What you said earlier, about me running off to–"

Hikari stood up so fast, she knocked her chair against the table behind her. "I don't really wanna talk about this right now." She really didn't.

"No, listen." His grip on her wrist was as firm as his tone of voice. He pulled her back when she tried to walk away, and held her firmly by the shoulders in front of him. "Listen to me, I need to say this."

"You don't have to—"

He once more held her in place when she tried to turn away. He had his head bowed now, as if he was trying his best not to yell out his next words. "I need to say this," Takeru said again, his intense gaze now meeting her eyes. "Please?"

Hikari looked away, but didn't try to walk away this time. Perhaps this was enough to convince Takeru that she was willing to listen, so he let go of her shoulders. They just stood there for a moment or two in silence, where it looked as if Takeru was putting his words together carefully in his head before saying them. When he did speak, Hikari could somehow tell that he hadbeen thinking of this confrontation for years, because his words came out smoothly (as if he had practiced saying them a lot).

"I'm sorry I left, I truly am. I know that I can never apologise enough to you for leaving, but – but that's all I can do." Here, he paused, giving her the chance to speak up. When she simply folded her arms and looked at him, he went on. "Look…you're not the only one affected by this whole thing. I'm not trying to make excuses – but I know you've been upset and believe me, I was too. I'm probably the only one who understands how you feel."

She huffed at this. She wanted to say that no, he was not the only one who understood her feelings, because Willis knew and Willis understood, too. But then she realised that this was probably a lie. Willis did not understand.

"Everything happened so quickly, I lost you just like that. They said Catherine needed some treatment in France and…"

Hikari squeezed her eyes shut as she heard Catherine's name.

"And suddenly I found myself spending two years in a foreign country with a grandmother whom I hated, without you, without anyone by my side."

Hikari bit her lip and – this was indeed something she didn't know about. So he had only been in France for two years? And why hadn't his mother been with him during those two years? Hikari had always convinced herself that it was no use if she kept thinking of him, because surely his mother and grandmother would have brainwashed Takeru into forgetting her while he was there in France – but now that he had revealed this little information that he had been alone all this while in France, perhaps no such brainwashing session had taken place. Perhaps he, too, had had a difficult time trying and failing to forget her – she had never thought of this before (and she wondered why), but perhaps he, too, had been suffering a lot during these past five years.

When he spoke again, there was a note of urgency in his voice, as if he desperately needed her to understand. "I looked for you when I got back, I really did – but it's like you've vanished—"

"Great," she thought, "because that was what I was trying to do."

"—and then for three years,there's nothing and – and then suddenly you're here."

Takeru stopped talking, and Hikari thought that it was merely one of those pauses, but that seemed to be it. He seemed to not know what to say now.

"Why don't you say something?" he asked after a while, anxious for her response. Well, what was there to say? Hikari had now managed to pretty much sketch out what had really happened: Catherine needed a treatment in France; Takeru's grandmother had insisted that he come along, and he had only stayed there for two years.

Why two years, though?

"We lost Aunt Yukiko three years ago in a plane crash. She was in a flight from France to Japan with Obachan."

Takeru's words during their scavenger hunt slowly came back to her, and she finally saw the whole picture.

"There were no survivors."

He had broken off his engagement with Catherine upon his grandmother's death and had come back looking for Hikari.

Takeru hadn't said this, it was merely her guess, but that hadto be it – she was sure, sosurenow

"Where's Catherine now?" she found herself saying. Takeru's frown deepened.

"Why does it matt— she's in France, why?"

Hikari opened her mouth and the words, "Are you still engaged to her?" began to form on her lips, but she couldn't bring herself to ask him. "Well," she said, and he arched his eyebrows more as if to say, 'Go on.' "Well, I—"

"Excuse us! Hello? Hellooooo~?"

"Damn, those are Takeru's shoes, they're already here! Come on, Miyako-san!"

"Ah, Miyako-chan! And this must be…?"

"Ishida Yamato – nice to meet you."

"Hiroki-kun's other cousin, yes?"


"Nice to meet you, I'm Mrs. Kim. You two made it, congratulations! Sorry, I was in the kitchen preparing some tea. Do come in! May I see all your riddles, please?"

"So this is the last checkpoint, right? It says sunshine when put together and read from the bottom up."

"Very well done – yes, this is the last checkpoint. Come in, come in!"

Hikari and Takeru were looking at each other now as if both had something pressing to say, but they didn't get the chance to do so when Mrs. Kim entered the classroom, Miyako and Ishida Yamato following her closely.

"The runner-ups," Mrs. Kim said, gesturing at the Miyako and Yamato: she was grinning triumphantly as she took a little bow and he was smiling, obviously pleased at being the second pair to reach the last checkpoint.

"What's this, Takeru? Did you just lead the enemy team to victory?" mocked Yamato, and Hikari saw Takeru rolling his eyes.

"How did you get here?" Takeru shot back.

"Hey, you're not the only smart guy around, you know, Miyako here is pretty good herself."

Miyako grinned and held up a peace sign with her fingers. "The last riddle wastough, though. And I actually managed to forget what the kindergarten is called, so when we figured out that the letters spell 'sunshine' we didn't really know where to go. But then I remembered…"

Hikari sighed as Miyako went on talking, oblivious to what they had just interrupted. She was sure that Takeru had much more to say, and dammit, she still had a lot to ask – and she had just managed to gather up enough courage to ask him about Catherine… She snuck a glance at Takeru, and sure enough, he, too, looked distressed: he was clenching his jaw and was glaring at the foot of a stool nearby as he patiently listened to whatever it was that Miyako and Yamato had to say. Quite honestly, Hikari didn't know when she and Takeru were going to get the chance to talk to one another again – she was pretty sure she wouldn't have the courage to call him and say, "Hey listen, let's continue our little discussion the other day," because she really didn't think she was ready to do that just yet, and she was also pretty sure that he wouldn't know how to approach her properly after the Sports Day event ended. There was a huge gap between them now – five years of not talking to or seeing each other, five years of trying and perhaps failing to forget one another, five long years of guessing at how the other was coping with life – and closing that gap would surely require time and effort from both sides.

"…but I helped with the chord."

"Yeah, that you did, Matt! How awesome is that, eh, Hikari-chan? My favourite singer, helping me with something as small as the annual scavenger hunt!"

"Yes, that's…that's great," Hikari mumbled as Yamato gave Miyako a high-five. At least those two had become friends...

"Remember the look on Willis' face when we overtook him and Susumu? HAH!"

"He did look baffled."

"Well then – you kids go on and chat and stuff, I'm going to go and make some more tea," said Mrs. Kim, and right after she left, Takeru, who had sat down earlier, quickly sprang to his feet.

"A word, please, Hikari," he said, avoiding everyone's eyes as he took her by the hand.

"Eh? Wha—" She was sure that her face was red by now – Takeru had had a firm grip on her hand, and her head seemed unable to process this little action of his.

"Excuse us," he calmly said, bowing a little to his brother and Miyako before tugging Hikari by the hand. Both Miyako and Yamato stared at them in confused, and the former mouthed, "What's going on?" to Hikari, who mouthed back, "No idea!" She saw Miyako standing up and opening her mouth to say something, but then Yamato interrupted,

"Let them be – it's probably something about...well...something."

Hikari didn't catch what Miyako said after that, because Takeru had led her to the front of the kindergarten and he had proceeded to put on his shoes.

"Uh – where are we going?" she asked as she hastily tried to put her shoes on. He was still holding her hand.

"Outside," Takeru replied shortly. His voice was calm and he had schooled his expression into something unfathomable, so Hikari couldn't really tell what was going on in his head. He patiently waited as Hikari put her shoes on, and then he calmly proceeded to tug her outside and led the way to the playground at the side of the building. Only then did he let go of her hand. He walked several paces ahead before turning around and leaning against the wall, his blue eyes fixed on her brown ones. Hikari was quite clueless as to what she was supposed to do or say – and she was still pretty flustered by the whole thing – so she merely tried her best to stare back.

"So. You were saying?" he finally asked.

"E-eh?" Hikari nervously shifted her weight from one leg to the other.

"About Catherine. You were saying?"

"Are you still engaged to her? Have you two gotten close to each other during the past five years when I wasn't there in your lives?" Hikari didn't ask. Instead, she swallowed and looked away at the swings before saying meekly, "Oh...that.Well now." At least she was right about one thing: he wasn't going to let the chance to talk to her slip away just like that. "Well," she went on slowly, "you said – you said, earlier, that she's doing fine. Does that, umm, does that mean she doesn't need the treatment anymore? Does that mean she's...all right now?" she finished lamely.

"We went to France because she needed the treatment – she's still there, so, to answer your question, no. She's still anaemic."

Hikari nodded quickly. "Right. Of course."

"But she's doing all right," Takeru said. After a short pause, he said, "Anything else?"

It was as if he could read her mind, and that he was saying, "Come on.Here's your chance to really find out." Hikari took her time as she tried to form a question that wouldn't sound so desperate – "Are you still engaged to her?" was too straightforward, really, and, "Are you still together?" sounded too general. They could still be "together" as friends – and while it was possible that they weren't "together" as fiancés, they could still be "together" as a couple—or perhaps as really close friends, the type that bordered to the sibling type of love, like the ones she often saw in Korean dramas where the female character called the male character 'oppa' – which really meant, 'brother', right? But those kinds of dramas never end well...the 'brother' and 'sister' often fell in love in the end, and—


His voice managed to pull her out of her thoughts. Once again, Hikari felt as if Takeru knewwhat was going on in her head, and had merely interrupted to bring her back to the original question.

"Yes?" she answered, a little too quickly.

The way he was looking at her this time around confirmed her previous guesses – this guy really was trying to scan her head, like he could do an X-ray to find out what she was thinking.

"Anything else?" Takeru repeated, a little slowly this time, with a whole new tone to it. What he really meant was perhaps, "Just ask me the damn question, don't you wanna find out the truth?"

Hikari took a deep breath. "Will she be all right without you?"

Takeru actually looked amused at this, and Hikari congratulated herself on having worded the question so delicately. "She'll be fine," he said, "she has her parents. And we're not together anymore."

Well then, wasn't that the answer she'd been looking for all these years?

Hikari tried to look and sound casual as she took in the news. She bit her lips, nodding, and simply said, "Oh."

He nodded at this. "M-hm."

Cue the awkward pause, please.

Hikari was doing her best to avoid his eyes as she tried to sort out the wreckage in her head that consisted of 'Did he just say not together anymore?','Does this mean he's really broken off the engagement?', 'Oh God, I bet he's waiting to see how I'd react to this,' and 'Is he looking at me? Oh God, oh God, Oh God.'

Takeru opened his mouth and was about to say something when his eyes darted at something behind her. Hikari turned around just in time to see Willis' smile stiffen. He and his hunting partner were slowly marching towards the kindergarten, their legs still tied together.

"So this must be the last checkpoint, right?" Hokama Susumu said excitedly as he saw Hikari. "You two wouldn't be here if it wasn't right? Oh, and look! More shoes! We're not the last one here, are we?"

"No, you aren't," Takeru replied. Hikari realised that he was standing right next to her now. Whatever warmth that was present on his face before was gone now; his face was unfathomable once again, and his eyes had a hint of coldness about them as he steadily met Willis' gaze. "Teams one, two and four aren't here yet."

Susumu punched the air. "Yusss! C'mon, Willis, let's get inside before the others reach this place!"

"Yeah. Right," said Willis absent-mindedly as he continued to stare at Takeru. Hikari half expected the latter to take her by the hand again and lead her away from Willis and Susumu to continue their conversation, but he didn't.

"In fact, we should all get inside," suggested Takeru calmly.

"What were you guys doing outside, anyway?" Susumu asked, frowning, as he struggled to take off his shoes with his leg still tied to Willis's. "There aren't more riddles to solve, are there? I was just – goddammit, can we just cut this rope off? I can't take off my shoes!"

Willis rolled his eyes and sat down next to Susumu. "Honestly, they're just your normal shoe laces, what could be so difficult?"

Their bickering must have reached the kitchen because a moment later, Mrs. Kim was at the door, congratulating the new pair of scavenger hunters. She then ushered them all inside and while the six of them chatted in the classroom, the kindergarten teacher once more excused herself to the kitchen to fetch more cups and biscuits.

With Willis in the classroom, their little trio group was once more reunited. Miyako had a lot to tell them about Yamato – or Matt, as she sometimes called him – and Hikari and Willis would simply roll their eyes or laugh and mock her for being such a fan girl. The singer himself was sitting close to them, but was engaged in a conversation with his little brother. Hikari found herself sneaking glances at the two Ishida brothers now and again, wondering what they were talking about. Pretty soon, Takeru withdrew from any sort of conversation altogether, leaving Yamato free to join the others in their little chat. Hikari wondered why Takeru hadn't just ignored Willis's arrival – he was pretty determined not to let Yamato and Miyako's arrival stop their conversation just now, but it was different when Willis and Susumu came. It was as if seeing Willis had somehow made Takeru back off and shut down.

"So do you play any instruments, Miyako?" Yamato was asking when Hikari decided to return to reality.

"Nah, I'm too much of a computer geek to play any instruments."

"Psh, you said that like it's a bad thing. I know a computer whiz and he's awesome,to say the least."

Hikari wondered if this was a flirting session, but soon, she could see that Miyako didn't see Yamato – or Matt – in a romantic way. Instead, Miyako seemed to view him as her idol, someone she clearly respected and admired, because the questions never travel down the 'Are you single?' road and she didn't give Yamato the Sparkly Flirty Inoue Eyes (that's what Willis had named Miyako's flirty looks, anyway).

"What did you two talk about out there just now?" Willis's voice was low and his eyes reflected his concern. "Was he trying to explain himself to you?" Willis pressed on. Hikari shrugged and sighed, but decided not to answer this question. Willis seemed dissatisfied with her silence. In a lower voice, he asked, "What did he say? Are you all right?"

Hikari had to smile at this. "I'm fine, Willis, really."

"Well, what did he say to you?" he insisted.

Although she felt reluctant to share the details of her conversation with Takeru, Hikari felt that Willis deserved to know. After all, he was the one who had lent her his ears when she told him about Takeru all these years. In an equally low voice, Hikari said, "His grandmother died three years ago – he was in France for only two years."

Willis didn't say anything, and that was when Hikari realised that he was glaring at Takeru, who was quite separated from the rest of them really – he was by the window, staring out of it and occasionally sipping at his cup of tea and munching on a biscuit. His face betrayed none of what he might be feeling at the moment, and he looked as if nothing had happened earlier. He was, once again, that cold schoolboy Hikari once knew.

"He's been looking for me since," Hikari finished, looking away from Takeru's graceful figure by the window. Willis scoffed at this, shaking his head.

"What about his fiancé? Not dead, I hope."

"No, no. She's still in France."

"Hmm," said Willis, and he seemed satisfied at the moment. "They're still engaged, then?"

Hikari didn't know why she didn't reply. Instead, she merely shrugged.

"Well...you are okay, aren't you?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fineWillis, jeez."

"What? I had to be sure," he said, now offering her one of his goofy smiles. He bumped their shoulders together and Hikari's smile turned into a grin.

"What're you two whispering about over there?" came Miyako's accusing voice.

"Hikari was in a dilemma," Willis said (and Hikari saw Takeru's eyes move from staring out the window to staring at her). "She didn't know what to wear for tonight and I said she should just wear what she always wears, so that's settled now."

Hikari had been so occupied with everything Takeru-related on that day that she'd quite forgotten that evening's event.

"Why, what's with tonight?" Yamato asked. (In his corner, Takeru had started to pay attention to the conversation).

"The annual dinner, of course," said Miyako. "We do it each year after the Sports Day, just for the heck of it."

"Oh, oh yeah, I've heard my dad talking about it," said Yamato. "It's at Mr. Yamada's house, right?"

"Yeah, his place is huge," said Susumu, nodding enthusiastically. "The food's always delicious, too!"

"So you guys do this every year?"

"Yep – we're a tight community~"

"Well, we're looking forward to this dinner then," said Yamato, and Hikari saw him wink at Takeru a moment later when Miyako was talking about the dinner party.

Takeru merely rolled his eyes at his brother as a reply.


Twenty-two-year-old Izumi Koushiro pushed on the table so the swivel chair he was on could slide backwards across the room. He stood up and stretched before checking his watch – 6:20 PM, it said, so he still had time to get ready and drive to Kurokuro. This year, he had received two invitations to attend the small village's annual dinner party: one from his friend Taichi, and another from the chief of the village, Mr. Yamada. In previous years, Koushiro would feel awkward attending a dinner party where he knew pretty much no one but the Yagamis, but after three years, he had gotten used to it and had even befriend the people of Kurokuro.

He had known Taichi for a long time and they had remained friends even after Taichi moved to Odaiba, and later to Heiwa. They kept in contact through e-mails mostly, and then five years ago, Taichi lost his mother and his whole family had decided to move to Kurokuro which, coincidentally, was just an hour away from where Koushiro's university was. Five years ago was a really tough time for Taichi's family – not only did they lose Mrs. Yagami, but Taichi's sister, Hikari, had been quite depressed over something. Koushiro later found out that it had something to do with a guy, and that this guy had left Hikari-chan to go live in France. Taichi had also mentioned something about the guy being engaged to another (a family arrangement, Taichi had said), but it was such a sensitive subject back then, so Taichi didn't really fully explain everything.

Koushiro's phone rang just as he was about to enter the bathroom. He expected it to be Taichi, but it wasn't. The screen was displaying IshidaYamato.

"Hello, Koushiro speaking."

"Hey, it's me. Taichi said you're coming tonight... Are you?"

"Yeah. I suppose your whole family's going to be quite the celebrity tonight, eh?"

"Yeah, Mr. Yamada's still quite excited about having a new family in the village, so. Yeah."

"How was the scavenger hunt?"

"It was awesome. My team got second place this year – not bad, eh?"

"Yeah," said Koushiro, "what about Taichi's team?"

"Meh, they got first place, thanks to Takeru."

Koushiro frowned. "I thought your brother would be in yourteam."

"He was, but then Taichi had to twist his ankle—"

Koushiro grinned. "I've heard."

"—So Takeru paired up with Hikari for the hunt."

"How 'bout that," Koushiro said, impressed. He had doubted both Taichi and Yamato's match-making abilities, but they seemed to be doing the job pretty well.

He and Yamato met in an extremely weird way (in his opinion, anyway). Four years ago, the company that Yamato's band was under had decided to make an online competition for university students: whoever designed the best art cover for The Teenage Wolves' first album would get the chance to meet up with the band, and a live performance would be held at the winner's university. The internet is a powerful place, really, because even before The Teenage Wolves debuted, there had been numerous online forums and fan sites discussing the band.

Koushiro, of course, was clueless as to what The Teenage Wolves was (was it a group protecting wolves under PETA or something?), but only found out about them when almost 90% of the female members of the computer club (of which he was President) began to miss club activities. When questioned, one of them had explained about the designing contest, and that was when Koushiro found out that The Teenage Wolves was a rock band and not an affiliate of PETA.

The female members of Koushiro's computer club turned out to be the best of the best when it came to designing album covers, because five months later, Maeda Yoko emerged as the victor of the online competition – and the rest of the female population of Koushiro's university went crazy with excitement. Maeda Yoko herself was shaking when she finally got to meet the band, and since she was a member of the computer club (and since the computer club was pretty much her second home), the meeting was held at the computer room.

That was when Koushiro met Ishida Yamato. Little did he know that his childhood friend, Taichi, and this cool-looking future rock star, Yamato, were connected in a way.

Koushiro thought that Yamato – or Matt – was one of those snobby singers who only came over to the university because his manager had told him to do so, but he was wrong. Yamato and his band knew that they still had a long way to go, so they pretty much respected their fans the way a person would respect their great-grandfathers. "Because without the fans," Yamato would often say afterwards, "the band is nothing."

Maeda Yoko had introduced The Teenage Wolves to the rest of the female members of the club, and since Koushiro had been sitting there the whole time with an amused look on his face as this little meet-and-greet occurred, Maeda had introduced him to Yamato as well.

"And this is our computer genius president, Izumi Koushiro. Koushiro-san, these are the super awesome members of The Teenage Wolves."

"Hey, nice to meet you. Sorry to barge into your computer room like this," Yamato had said apologetically as the crowd of fan girls outside the room screamed, "WE LOVE YOU!" at the top of their lungs.

"Not at all," Koushiro had replied, still feeling a little amused. "So you're the rock band I've heard so much about, huh?"

That morning went on all right, Koushiro had often thought, and this Yamato fellow was definitely a nice guy, despite the cool facade he was putting on. They had kept in contact afterwards solely for the purpose of the online competition, but then somehow it turned into friendship. A year later, Koushiro learnt that Yamato's parents were remarrying and that he had been invited. Not wanting to be rude, Koushiro attended the modest wedding.

That was when he found out that Yamato had a younger brother who was in France, and he had wondered why this little brother was in France and not in Japan, attending the wedding, and...

That was when the creepy stuff began to happen.

"He's in France because he was forced into an engagement with someone our grandmother liked," Yamato had explained. Koushiro had then politely asked to whom was your little brother engaged to? And he had replied with, "Some French girl."

Then Yamato went on to tell a vaguely familiar story to Koushiro, except that the version that Yamato had told him was from a different point of view. Yamato told him how his little brother, one Takaishi Takeru ("Well, Ishida Takeru now, I suppose," Yamato had said, grinning), had grown quite depressed with the whole engagement thing.

"Why's he depressed? I mean, French girls are pretty, no? He should be happy he's engaged to one."

Yamato had teased Koushiro then – something about not knowing that a computer geek could have fine tastes in girls – before explaining that while French girls werepretty, Takeru had already fallen in love with someone else. Needless to say, Takeru was seriously pissed off when he was suddenly shipped off to France against his will. The girl that Takeru was in love with had taken the news badly and had completely cut her ties with Takeru.

"What's the name of this girl, may I ask?" Koushiro had asked as he ate the wedding cake next to Yamato.


He had simply shrugged. "Just curious."

Yamato had given him a suspicious look then, but had answered him anyway: "Her name's Yagami Hikari."

And that was when Koushiro had almost chocked on the cake he was eating. He had coughed several times before gasping out, "That's Taichi's sister!"

Yamato had to slap Koushiro's back for quite some time before his coughing subsided. "You know Taichi?"

"Well – do you know him?"

"No, not in person, but Takeru's mentioned him to me."

"Well Iknow him all right – he's been my friend since the first grade."

"So you know Hikari as well, right?"

The conversation then became fast and exciting – Yamato had grown really enthusiastic about bringing Takeru and Hikari together that he had pretty much demanded Koushiro to bring Taichi along the next time they meet up.

The meeting did come, but it didn't go as Yamato had planned. Taichi had been pretty upset about the whole thing, blaming Takeru for turning his sister into such a forlorn girl. Yamato had defended his brother then, telling Taichi that Takeru hadn't meant to hurt Hikari and that there was nothing Takeru could to stop the engagement from happening. The two had argued some more, and Koushiro often had to come between them when he thought that they were about to punch one another in the face. How they had managed to settle down to a civilised conversation afterwards was quite beyond Koushiro.

"Don't you think you're being a little unfair? Takeru couldn't do anything, and it wasn't like he'd tricked your sister or anything – he really genuinely loves her. And trust me, Takeru doesn't simply love someone that easily."

"Is that supposed to make my sister feel better?" Taichi had scoffed, and the conversation had ended pretty badly. But before he went home, Yamato had asked Taichi to please, ponder on something: had Hikari fallen in love again – as in, really fallen in love with someoneelseafter Takeru left her?

"Look, she's coping now and she's happy, so you leave her alone," Taichi had said before marching away.

But a week later, Koushiro had received a text message from Taichi, asking whether 'Mr. Rock Star' was free that weekend to discuss about their siblings. Yamato had quickly replied the positive when Koushiro asked – and that was the beginning of their many meetings. By the end of that year, Ishida Takeru came back to Japan, and Koushiro finally got to meet the kid. He was blond like Yamato and had blue eyes like Yamato, but was less friendly. Koushiro, Yamato and Taichi had agreed to not tell anyone about their meetings and discussions, so Takeru had not suspected anything when he met Koushiro. The kid didn't even know that his own brother had been meeting up with his ex's older brother.

And then somehow,Yamato managed to persuade his father to move to Kurokuro. A year after Yamato made the suggestion to move to the little village, the Ishidas really did move in. Koushiro heard that Mr. Ishida had been promoted to a higher position and had had to move to the city near Kurokuro.

Everything fell in place just nicely.

Yamato and Taichi's job now was to stand back and see how their younger siblings acted around one another, so Koushiro was pretty impressed that they had managed to get Takeru and Hikari pair up with each other for the scavenger hunt that year.

"Did you and Taichi plan all this?" Koushiro asked, taking out the clothes he had planned on wearing to the dinner party from the closet and transferring them to his bed.

"Nopetotally didn't plan this," said Yamato. "It just happened. At first I thought Taichi was faking the sprained ankle and all, but he really did trip by accident and the whole thing's just a coincidence. It was Mr. Yamada who dragged Takeru to pair up with Hikari. Gotta give the credit to him."

"Well, how did those two react?"

"They were so awkward with one another at first – it hurt so much just to look at them like that. But then they talked a bit and, I dunno, Takeru's being really secretive right now. I'm gonna go and bug him a little afterwards."

"Right – good luck with that. So, see you guys at eight?"

Koushiro sometimes wondered how he had been dragged into this whole 'Reunite Ishida Takeru with Yagami Hikari' thing, and why he was still there listening to Taichi and Yamato's plans – but there you go. That's life for you.

"Eight o' clock it is. Bye."



Takeru was lying flat on his back, his long legs dangling off the bed as he stared unblinkingly at the ceiling above. He really didn't feel like going to the dinner party, really, because he wasn't sure if he could face Hikari again. He thought he'd made a good job at explaining what had happened in France and after France – but he hadn't really found out what she thought about it. Was she still upset? Was she relieved? Displeased? Pissed off? Indifferent? (No, no – she couldn't be indifferent...surely not.) Takeru had been pondering on nothing but this for an hour and a half now, and he still couldn't fathom what Hikari thought of him now.

He sighed as he concluded that the reason behind his reluctance to meet up with her was the fear of being rejected. What if, after all these years, he had been the one who couldn't let go of her? What if she had slowly – slowly but surely – moved on? Takeru remembered how easily Willis could make her smile and laugh when she was in distress – and then he realised, with a pang, that he had never been the type to make anyone smile or laugh.

He was quiet, reserved, unsmiling – cold.

Takeru groaned as he rolled over to lie on his stomach, burying his face into the pillow beneath him. He went on lying on the bed, unmoving, for another ten minutes before he realised that his mother had been calling him from downstairs. Her knock sounded on his door just when he was sitting up, and the door swung open soon after.

"All right there, Takeru-kun?"

Takeru sighed, spreading his arms a little before letting them fall on his lap – a way of saying, "Well, what d'you think?"

"Yamato said you talked to Hikari earlier at the kindergarten. How did it go?"

He shrugged. "She was willing to listen. We talked a bit. That was it."

"Did she...say anything?"

Takeru shook his head. "That's the problem. She didn't say anything. I told her Catherine's not my fiancé anymore and she just – she didn't say anything. I don't know what's going on in her head."

His mother entered the room and sat down next to him. "Well, if you see her tonight, you might get another chance to talk to her," she said gently.

"I don't know if I wanna go or not."


Takeru felt his cheeks going red as he said, "Well – what if...what if she's, you know, moved on?"

He felt like a high school girl, sitting there talking about his long-time crush with his mother – but this wouldn't be the first time he and his mother talked about Yagami Hikari. Hikari might not know it, but she had been discussed about frequently by Takeru's family members for the past five years (however creepy that might sound like). She might not know it, but she was pretty much the reason Takeru's mother had remarried his father. In their many attempts to rescue Takeru from the engagement, Natsuko and Hiroaki had frequently teamed up while looking for possible ways to drag Takeru away from his grandmother's clutch and back to Japan – and they had consequently fallen in love once again. Takeru was in the midst of hurling an antique lamp at his grandmother one evening (don'task – they argued a lot about the engagement back then and their arguments often led to broken china and furniture) when Yamato had called, telling him, "Keru-kun, guess what, guess what, guess what? Dad thinks he's gonna propose to mum tomorrow!" Upon hearing Takeru's heavy breaths and their grandmother shrieking curse words at the other end of the line, Yamato had asked, "Did she just call you the devil's spawn? My French is rusty," and upon receiving no reply, had wisely decided, "You know what, I'll just call you back."

(And yes, Takeru did hurl the lamp at his grandmother afterwards, right after he hung up the phone.)

Of course, it had taken their parents more than two years to bond again, and their father did notpropose to their mother after that phone call. Takeru wasn't worried though, because Yamato's daily e-mail reports often include, "They're almost there, really, they need just one more push" and "I swear to God, these two are acting like high school lovers every day, I might just throw up in front of them one day."

Nearing the end of Takeru's second year in France, his parents and Yamato had finally managed to come up with something that might just rescue Takeru: the plan was to lie to their grandmother, telling her that a very old relative of dad's was dying and that Takeru, as family, had to come and visit before the old man died. The plan was to 'disappear mysteriously' afterwards with Takeru, and to never keep in touch with any of their mother's relatives in France.

Well – that was the plan.Things didn't go quite the way they had wanted.

Their grandmother had grown really suspicious of this news – "I 'ave never heard of this...this Ishida Tomoki person, and your mother has never mentioned him to me before" – and had decided to fly back to Japan herself to see if such terminally ill Ishida relative really did exist. Natsuko had begged her sister Yukiko to come along, just so she wouldn't have to face her mother's wrath alone when the old lady finally discovered that it was all a lie after all.

And then their plane had crashed on the way to Japan.

Suddenly everything was sombre, suddenly everything was possible.Takeru recalled being quite confused when the news of his grandmother and his aunt's death reached him: was he supposed to celebrate being a free man once more, or was he supposed to mourn the death of his aunt? Was flying back to Japan at once the wise thing to do?

He was lucky his mother had stepped up and made the decisions for him – yes, he was to come home immediately, and yes, he should be celebrating being his own person once more, but that did not mean he shouldn't mourn the loss of Aunt Yukiko.

His mother really tried her best to fly Takeru back home, but Catherine's parents would have none of it. This match between Takeru and Catherine had been planned since their infancy, they had reminded Natsuko, so surely it wouldn't be dismissed just like that? In the end, Takeru had to miss his parents' wedding because he had to stay in France, because the Leroys had insisted him to, and he had to wait until his parents came and explain everything and apologise to the Leroys.

The day his plane landed on Japanese soil was the day he could finally breathe properly.

They had slowly rebuilt their lives from then on. Natsuko had decided to take in Hiroki-kun, and their family expanded a little. Yagami Hikari continued to be discussed openly among them for quite some time, but then Takeru began to avoid the subject and his parents and brother sort of picked up the hint and had ceased to talk about the girl.

Until she reappeared in their lives in Kurokuro, of course.

Natsuko placed an arm around Takeru's shoulder. "If you don't go, you may never get the chance to know for sure. I'm sure she meant to give you a reply – she was just...preoccupied. You know it's a lot for her to process what you've just told her, right? She'll need time. Let's see if she's ready to say anything tonight, yeah?"

Takeru merely looked at his mother for a while before saying, "No. I don't think I'm going."

"Nonsense, you arecoming to the dinner party. We've talked about this."

"Do I have to?"


"Like, absolutely have to?"

"Yes!" said his mother, laughing a little. "Come on, it'll be all right, I'm sure."

Takeru groaned loudly.

"And you've spent so much time figuring out what to wear," she said, "it'd be a shame if you don't go."

Takeru gave a look that said, "Really, mum? Do I look like a person who cares much about clothes?"

"Well, okay, maybe you don't care much about clothes – but I heard the food is going to be delicious. C'mon, if you miss the dinner, you'd be hungry because I'm not cooking anything for dinner tonight."

"Oh, fine then,I'll go."



A/N: Sorry, that last line was for me. Yeah, I scold myself like that sometimes. :D

This is a rant.I've always wondered how Miyako, in Digimon 02, did not drool all over Yamato, because let's face it, she was pretty much into good-looking boys (Ken, and then Michael). Well, at least that's how she's portrayed in the English dubbed version. I haven't managed to watch all episodes the Japanese version and where I am currently, the internet connection is so slow that downloading torrent files is pure torture. Anyway, I've decided to not make her drool all over Yamato in this, but they're more like friends, really (becauseI'mintroducingKensoonKEKEKEKE). End of rant.

Did you guys enjoy the ~plot~ in this one? XD I'm throwing in Ken, Mimi and Jyou after this.

By the way, what are dinner parties usually like? What do you wear?