A/n: For the month of November, I'll be on hiatus because I'm doing NaNoWriMo (I'm super excited).
And for this story: It may be brilliant, or it's not. But it's definitely one-of-a-kind. Just bear with me.
The Guardian Table
Three things happened in succession, either each caused the other, or they were all destined to happen on that day for Tadase.
One: Kukai knocked over the reports that still needed to be graded.
Two: A kitten was dropped onto the Guardian's table.
And three: Tadase's Japanese tea was spilled off of previously mentioned table by previously mentioned cat onto previously mentioned reports.
Tadase almost had himself thinking that he actually wanted to know about the summer escapades of first graders. Previously, of course. Now he almost had himself thinking that Kukai's going to clean that up.
"Look at my frickin' bobcat."
Tea dripped onto Tadase's lap as he started cleaning up the mess with sheets of paper, until he realized he was soiling the remaining reports. Content with swirling wet papers around, Tadase glanced at the kitten and shook his head. "Not a bobcat."
Kukai slapped his hands onto the wet tabletop, but then made a face and wiped his hands on his pants. "She's totally a bobcat. Look at her tail. And her teeth."
" . . . I don't know. But look."
Sure enough, the kitten had the telltale stub of a tail and black tips on her ears. There was just one problem . . .
"This is Japan."
Kukai nodded. "Yep . . . Oh . . . ohyeah."
Tadase faintly raised his eyebrows while scratching behind the she-bobcat's ears. "Yeah."
"So she might not really be a bobcat. Who'll know?" Kukai grinned.
"Well I think just about every—"
"So anyway, Bobby here needs a place to stay, so I was thinking 'Hey, what about the Royal Garden?' It's perfect right? Water, foliage—"
"—Foliage? —" Were these three syllable words coming from Kukai?
"Plants, Tadase. Plants. Seriously, man. Pay attention in school sometimes. So yeah, plants and open spaces and Yaya to play with—"
"—I don't think we should keep a possibly feral cat near small children—"
"Nonsense. No small children enter the Royal Garden unauthorized. She might try hunting the chara though so be careful, kay?"
It also seemed destined for Tadase to lose every single logic match he ever had with Kukai, and resigned himself to properly dry the table. Kukai, of course, was oblivious to help, instead running around the Garden to build a makeshift bed for the cat, which promptly slunk off into the green foliage.
Finished cleaning at last, Tadase began to compose an apology letter to the teacher who assigned the reports, whilst (yeah, whilst) Kukai sat and shrugged off his backpack and rummaged around until he found what he was looking for. Leaning over the table in deep concentration, Kukai's tongue stuck out as he wrote in his tattered black college notebook that he probably bought for twenty cents at the nearest supermarket. He kept at it for several minutes, really getting into what he was writing, until Tadase noticed that Kukai was actually quiet for once and asked him what he was doing.
Kukai slammed the notebook shut. "I just have to keep up a journal for my class. She told us to write a lot."
"Can I read it—"
"No!" Kukai clutched it to his chest. "This is personal stuff, man."
Tadase stared at him in that half-squint that those diagnosed with confusion get. "You do know that the teacher might read that, right?"
Kukai looked down at his notebook, perhaps seeing it for the first time, understanding dawning on his face. "Oh . . . I wrote some sick stuff. Maybe . . ."
"Yeah. That'd be a good idea."
"I'll probably keep it though." Kukai shrugged, and flipped through the pages. "Make it seem more believable."
Yet another logic match suffered in defeat, Tadase pretended not to care. It seemed more dignified.
Tadase's life can get weird sometimes. He accepts that, lives with it, and will endure it until death or insanity takes him. But this week had its own brand of bizarreness. Maybe Tadase will laugh about it fondly when he's older, but right now he's just not sure how to take it.
If Monday was random, then Tuesday was awkward.
Awkward, as in watching Nagihiko and Rima flirt slash verbally abuse each other.
Yeah. That sort of awkward.
Not that it was his fault. He was sitting down at the table way before they came into the Royal Garden. As usual, neither noticed him sitting down at the table, and nobody noticed that Tadase [unconsciously] quieted his snack consumption.
Rima glided in, Nagihiko falling slightly behind her.
"Rima, I was wondering if you—"
"No." She cut him off mercilessly.
"You're just slamming the door in my face before I'd even fin—"
"So," Nagihiko changed tactics and stuck his hands in his pockets. "I think you're afraid of realizing the truth that you really care about me."
Rima spun on her heels to face him (Nagihiko, that is, Tadase was still being ignored). In a completely innocent voice, she told him, "I think you're afraid about everyone knowing your little secret so you want me to have feelings for you. So that I keep my mouth shut." She smiled sweetly.
Nagihiko leaned forward to be eye-to-eye (Tadase made a note to suggest heels for Rima). Quietly he mimicked her tone of voice, "Then why haven't you said anything yet?"
The tension in the air. Time may have stopped. Tadase could only see the back of Rima's head, so he had no idea what she was thinking. He only knew that he had stopped breathing.
To be quiet blunt, Nagihiko kissed Rima.
She kissed him back.
Tadase felt like he was watching a movie, until he realized this was actually some form of voyeurism.
Nagihiko took a few steps forward, and Rima fell onto the Guardian's table.
She knocked over Tadase's tea.
They realized that it was Tadase's tea, because he was sitting at the table they were on.
This is the part where Tadase figured he and Nagihiko and Rima might all laugh at this one day, maybe when he's giving a toast at their wedding, or holding their firstborn child. They would both smile with him and look at each other endearingly, and Tadase won't be skinned alive.
Tadase watched the tea form thin veins of tributaries and streams, most collecting at his end and falling off the table, others seeping into Rima's hair. It was better than watching their faces.
Nagihiko's wide eyes and hanging mouth showed how utterly shocked and horrified that his friend had to watch this exchange. Because really, Nagihiko's a gentleman. And gentlemen don't have girls pinned down to a table.
And Rima, well, Tadase expected Rima's scowl. It was not in the least less effective just because she had to turn her head around to see him. Pushing Nagihiko away, she sat up and said, "What are you doing here?"
Tadase looked around at the table and it's tea rivers. Eyebrows raised and shaking his head at the table, he shrugged. "Just, nothing. Paperwork. You?"
"Well, you could have said something, instead of sitting there." Rima sniffed her hair, and frowned. "Japanese tea?"
Nagihiko attempted redemption by wiping up the spilt beverage. "Tadase, were we suppose to have a meeting today? That was why we, er, were here in the first place."
"Doesn't look like it, now. But wereyou going to tell us that?" Rima sat in a chair.
Tadase tried to look anywhere but their faces. "Uh. Yeah. No meeting Tuesday."
Nagihiko and Rima left, but they left holding hands. Tadase thought they might have been laughing at him, but that was okay. It's been awhile since he laughed so hard.
It was not a table.
It was a mountain.
Tadase knew that he shouldn't have waited for Nagihiko.
Quite simply, because this happened.
Or, at least Tadase assumed it was Yaya, because it was her rear end that was sticking out from the bushes.
And what Tadase at first assumed were sugary delights on his, excuse me, the Guardians' table turned out to be open cans of gray and brown stuff.
Immediately repelled by the stench, Tadase and Nagihiko stumbled over to Yaya.
Bending over to perhaps see what she was seeing in the bushes, Nagihiko spoke. "Yaya, what exactly are you doing?"
"Gotta find him, Nagi. He's hiding."
Tadase, still appalled by not only the mess and smell smothering his table, wanted to say something witty and suave yet still getting his point across. Like Nagihiko. It's already been quite apparent that Nagihiko can do that. Yet, all he could utter was utterly dim-witted. "Is that cat poop or chocolate?" Tadase covered his mouth to prevent throwing up in his tea thermal.
Yaya backed up from the bushes and sat on her heels. She glanced over to the table, but was obviously still preoccupied with finding 'him'. "Yaya thinks both. Yaya made bait but he always run away."
It took the boys 1.07 seconds to figure out what she meant. That might have been 0.79 seconds longer than Google, but they still had great personalities.
"Are you looking for Kukai's monstrosity?" Tadase asked. In the three days Kukai had literally dumped his un-bobcat in the Royal Garden, the world became its litter box and its stomach a sucking black hole. Tadase, somehow getting pulled into responsibility, brought nine plastic bags of cat food into the Garden, and ten plastic bags of, well, you know, out. And of course Kukai is always "super busy" to actually help, but back to the story, yes?
Tadase and Nagihiko later realized that Yaya had depleted their entire supply of tuna and cat food, but this information is irrelevant, of course. What the reader may note was that Yaya, curious as she was, tasted both. She promised Nagihiko and Tadase that she'd share with them next time, but this time it was for the cat.
Tadase sighed that the Guardian's future laid with this child, and hoped Kairi could transfer soon.
Clearing the table, Nagihiko and Tadase sat down for Guardian Business. Setting his thermal down, Tadase sniffed. The table smelt funny. He breathed in his tea.
But Yaya would not shut up. Kitty this. Cat that. Bobcat or not? It hissed!
Tadase and Nagihiko exchanged tired and irritated looks. Really, Yaya? Really.
She couldn't stay in her seat either, because Amu and Rima had not yet arrived to distract her with their "girl problems". Those sure sounded nasty.
Without any surprise, Bobby the Un-bobcat would not approach the girl, instead chilling in the "green foliage". But with the miracle (or curse?) of tuna, Yaya eventually yanked it off the comforts of solid ground and into her arms.
She skipped over to the table with the wriggling cat. "Aww, look at the kitty-cat." Bobby meowed loudly and increased its attempts to escape.
Nagihiko looked at the pair exasperatingly. "Yaya, the cat wants down."
"Nooo, kitty loves—ow!" Bobby bit Yaya's hand. No bleeding occurred.
Bobby jumped towards the table.
Tadase breathed a sigh of relief when it missed his tea.
But then Yaya scrambled to get the cat and knocked it over anyway.
At least it spilled onto Nagihiko this time. Karma can be interesting.
His pants stained dark, Nagihiko flew out of his seat and politely told Yaya to not help when she tried to stick the retrieved cat in his face. Padding his pants dry and muttering to himself, of what Tadase could only assume were quietly polite swears aimed at Yaya and Karma (so far this week Nagihiko was not adding up to the gentleman everyone presumed he was), the other Guardians entered for today's events, which they had already missed.
Rima looked at Nagihiko's pants with open disdain. "Please Nagihiko, you don't need to get excited to see us."
It's amazing how a joke and a table can bring people together.
It was one of those days.
When everything seems to be pilling up, and all of the sudden Tadase doesn't just have homework, but quizzes and projects and a buttload of other stuff to do.
Being a Guardian was just another obligation.
He had scarcely set his boulder of a backpack down next to his thermal when Kiseki informed him of another mass X-egg flock forming down the street. All he could think of was the bit of trivia that a flock of crows were called a murder when the Guardians set out. This time Kukai was with them, for he had came to visit his cat. He totally forgot that he left his journal out, and Tadase hoped for his sake that the demon cat didn't shred it.
So the whole Amulet Heart thing happens, but Utau was there too, and Tadase was just so confused amidst the chaos of "getting the job done". He was just too tired and stressed and frazzled to really care about the quality of work he was putting out (ah, the woes of sixth grade, raise your hand if you don't think he'll survive high school). But to skim the details the anime most definitely do not summarize, with the power of friendship and that good stuff Amu and Utau cured the eggs and sent them on home.
Utau and Amu walked ahead of the rest them back to the Garden. Tadase's mind kept wandering, from Amu's pink hair, to Nikaidou complaining about the gum on the desks, to the history project he had to do by next Tuesday, and that is where his contentedly distracted mood went screeching and swerving off a cliff. He groaned. Homework.
Upon arriving Tadase noticed Utau had picked up Kukai's school diary. Instead of really caring, he walked over to see her skimming the pages and flipping them rapidly.
She and Amu (who albeit uncomfortable, was also reading it), glanced up furtively. Utau flipped another page. "Kukai had to put me in here. Now where—ha! There we are."
Starting it excitedly, Utau's expression darkened as her eyes ran down the page, until by the time she flipped the page she was absolutely scowling.
Slightly concerned, Tadase drank from his warm thermal and read over her shoulder.
Today I hung out with my friend Utau. Yeah, Yoshida-san, that Utau. Okay, so she seems super cool and stuff, right? Yeah well she's not like that all the time. Yeah I know her really well that I get to see her dark side. Now don't go tell the tabloids and stuff but Utau here likes to hit me constantly. It doesn't hurt, because she's a girl and stuff, but who does that? Anyway Utau also—
The print was jerked from under Tadase's eyes when Utau spotted Kukai entering.
"What is this, Kukai? I am not heartless, and . . ." She glanced back down at the notebook in her hand. "'Earsplitting when I talk'."
Instead of being extremely embarrassed, which Tadase knows he himself would have been in this position, Kukai seemed to shrug it off. "Sometimes you are. Like right now, I guess."
Her temper always quick, her insults always quicker, Utau burst in anger "Like right now? I, oh you, I'll!" Utau threw the journal at Kukai, and without asking Tadase, who should have backed away when he could, snatched his tea thermal and flew the contents onto Kukai's face.
Tadase wished people would stop doing that.
He sat at the table and pulled out his Guardian Work. Who'd of thought that being a Guardian was such a desk job?
The one person who could even be more serious about Guardian work than Tadase sat at the table, across from the girl who . . . well okay, this girl is just Amu. She's not lazy like Rima or intensely into saving the world with the samurai code like Kairi. He's at the table too, by the way.
And Tadase. He has trouble defining himself sometimes. He likes to think he's a pretty nice guy who just wants to help people out. And . . . that's it. He can't really think of much else he has going for him. He's knows that can't be true, because he has friends, but while it's so easy to define someone else, for himself he just . . . can't.
So. Kari. Amu. Tadase. Looking at the positions they're at around the table, they sort of look like a peace sign to Tadase.
And while the group may seem peaceful, there was some definite sexual tension there, underneath. Tadase felt uncomfortable himself. Kairi's just, too serious. Tadase doesn't want to use the word passionate, but that's sort of what Kairi is. He's passionate in everything he does, but completely objective in his reasoning. Tadase, on the other hand, feels that his own feelings are always sort of watered down, and his thoughts are always muddied with his opinions.
And Amu. Tadase just doesn't really know too much about her. He had seen her when she was very emotional, when she was very determined and when she's just a normal stressed out schoolgirl. If he had to say, she could be called passionate too, and while he doesn't really know if she has trouble making decisions like he does, her view of justice can be sort of—
Great Gatsby! He did not get this distracted!
He looked around startled, but neither Kairi nor Amu noticed. Tadase slouched slightly. That's right. He became bored.
Why was Kairi even here? He came to visit for the weekend, but the others had already gone home.
Tadase wished he could go home too. Or better yet, have Kairi go home.
Tadase is in a decidedly bad mood. He knows he doesn't really think that about Kairi.
And Tadase failed to realize that Kairi asked him a question. "Hmm?" He stared down at his tea and swirled it.
"The King obviously is not interested in the happenings of the club, then?"
Slightly alarmed, Tadase looked up. "Not at all. Being a Guardian means very much to me."
Tadase could tell Kairi wanted to roll his eyes. "Not the Guardians, King. Your fan club. I assume you hold a low opinion of it, but what do you have to say about the society?
Oh. That. Tadase flushed a bit, because as embarrassing as it was to have to reject the girls constantly, to also have a club of this caliber of creepiness represent these girls didn't speak well of the type of person he had to be to attract such weird beings. And to the fact that Kairi was bringing the topic up in front of Amu obviously spoke of sabotage. Of what Tadase couldn't comprehend.
"I told them to stop it once, but they ignored me." He remembered it clearly; it had been disastrous. Their image of him had only become more popular as a humble hero of their compassion.
So maybe he could add humility and likability to his list of decent traits. That's good, right?
If Tadase were girl, instead of the poor representation of a man this author is trying to convey, maybe he would have felt bad for Amu when Ikuto literally dropped from the ceiling.
And naturally whenever Ikuto enters the room, everyone has to stand up in surprise.
"Ikuto?" It doesn't really matter who said it, because they all were thinking it.
In fact, him showing up didn't elicit feelings of indignation or anger, but only surprise. He could have used the front door; it was open. But one of Ikuto's qualities is spontaneity, and he has a reputation to keep.
Ikuto strolled around the Garden. "Yoru's been telling me that there's something of interest here."
Amu blushed and the boys' minds instantly went to the gutters.
Ikuto stopped in front of them and looked around nonchalantly, "So . . . Where's the supposed bobcat?"
Embarrassed . . . okay, relieved.
Not long after he showed up, the cat, obviously recognizing one of its own in Ikuto, approached the four of them. Ikuto crouched on his heels to pet it.
Kairi recovered himself and pushed up his glasses. "Supposed is correct. I haven't had the opportunity to examine it, though the idea of it actually being of the lynx rufus is prepost—"
"It's a bobcat. Don't know where the kid found it, but it's legit."
Tadase walked over to look down at the predator kitty. It was large enough to be considered a full-grown house cat, but it was only considered by all of the Guardians to be a year old, at that.
Kairi, flustered at the impossible, stood on the other side of Ikuto to glare at the bobcat. "That's entirely unfeasible. I refuse to believe an amateur."
"I already told you, don't know how he did it, but it's an honest-to-God bobcat. End of story." Ikuto stood up to walk over to Amu, Kairi remained examining the Real Bobcat in Japan, and Tadase sat on the table to consider the cat in a new light.
As King, the safety of the other Guardians and the entire school was his responsibility, so obviously he'd have to get the bobcat out of here. But to have Kukai take care of it only promised danger to his neighborhood. So that meant getting the animal shelter. And talking to Tsukasa. And getting Yaya rabies shots, if she needed them. Already Tadase could tell he'd be busy. And he might even have to write an apology letter to the school—
Tadase's thoughts were interrupted by Amu's small shriek, and he spun around from his perch on the table. It was only Ikuto's teasing that made her jump, but before Tadase could decide to be angry or not, his hand felt familiarly wet.
You have got to be kidding.
His drink having been tipped over in his alarm, Tadase closed the week with more spilt tea than he could [never] drink, a real bobcat, and a pile of Kingly chores to be completed. And while his life whirled by in the daily struggles that makes everyday extraordinary, a foundation he could always rely on were his friends. And where could he always find these friends? That's right. His Table.
And as a plus to all of this, every great king had his own Round Table. Maybe this could be considered Tadase's. Because Amu sure isn't.