Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me...blah blah, read first chapter.
The sun hadn't completely set yet but it's slow disappearance provided Japan with cooler air. Unlike Tokyo, Edogawa was not as congested with bright light and signs so the stars shone quite brightly in the see indigo sky.
"The cicadas are really loud," Yoh commented, letting go of her hand as they climbed the stairs of her building, "For sure, summer is almost here."
But his comment was lost when he caught her face, her eyes staring at their separated hands.
"Come off it, I don't want your landlady to think anything bad."
Her lips turned into a comical 'O' shape as she realized what he meant.
He shook his head despite of himself. They were no longer at home where almost everyone close to them knew they were a couple. This was different. They were different.
"Welcome back, Haruna," the landlady greeted her with a smile, a smile that quickly turned mischievous as Yoh came through the entrance doors.
"Um, he's going to help me unpack," explained Haruna, hoping to the Gods she wasn't blushing.
"Of course, of course," said the auntie, while half-dragging a bewildered looking grandmother out of her office. They both stared at Yoh like he was an alien from another land.
"Nice to meet you, I'm Yoh."
He bowed to both women who bowed back in return, never letting him out of their sight.
"We spoke on the phone a few weeks ago," Yoh continued politely, "please take care of Haruna."
The grandmother let out a small, teenage-like giggle while the auntie tried (quite unsuccessfully) to hide her wide smile.
"Of course, young man," said the grandmother, slowly walking over to Yoh, who towered over her small stature. She held his hand and turned it over, examining it before turning to Haruna.
"My, you don't see such handsome and polite men around here. Haruna-chan, you're a lucky girl!"
Both Yoh and Haruna blushed. Grandmother led Yoh to the elevator while chatting with him, Haruna quietly dragging behind. Grandmother didn't let go of Yoh's hand until both he and Haruna were in the elevator.
"Remember now, no boys allowed after midnight Haruna-chan!"
"But we'll long be in bed by then!"
With auntie's cheerful warning, grandmother's roguish reply, and Haruna's splutter of surprise, the elevator's door shut closed.
There was a long, pregnant pause while the elevator reached the eight floor. Once the doors opened, she stiffly walked out, her limbs moving robot-like all the way to her door. Her hands trembled as she tried to stuff the key into the keyhole. Never had she encountered such a hard task before; the keyhole seemed to be dancing wildly around the key. After a few unsuccessful minutes, Yoh's hand wrapped around hers.
"You ok?" his deep voice rumbled somewhere near her ear and she jumped in fright, her head connecting with his nose.
She turned in time to see him stagger back, holding his bleeding nose.
With surprising speed, she opened the door and led him inside, not caring enough to pay attention to his protest over his shoes. She made him sit on her bed while she rummaged through her luggage, throwing things haphazardly around the room until she found her first aid kit.
"It's fine," he said calmly, taking the gauze she thrust under his bleeding nose, "It's not as bad as it seems."
But she wasn't listening. She was already taking off his shoes, throwing them by the open entrance and raising his feet.
"This will stop the bleeding!" she exclaimed wildly.
He tried fighting her off but it only made her grab on harder. She climbed onto the bed in an effort to keep his feet from getting away from her.
"We have to stop the bleeding or you'll bleed to death!"
She grabbed hold of his thigh in order to reach for fresh gauze and skirmished her way to his face.
"I told you I'm fine-" but she wasn't listening. They both seemed to realize the awkward position they were in, where her hand was at the moment, not to mention how close their faces were. He could count all her eyelashes. She felt his hot breath on her lips. Without warning, the year apart seemed to hit them hard and suddenly.
"Haruna-chan, I forgot to give you the-"
Both whipped their heads around to the open entrance and the auntie's shocked face.
Haruna fell off the bed in her haste to put distance between she and Yoh.
"It's not what-"
"His nose was-"
Their explanations drowned each other out but the auntie wasn't listening anyway. She merely smiled widely again, her eyes going from Yoh's bloody nose to the red gauze on the floor.
"I'll leave it on the counter then," she said with a smile while placing the piece of paper on the kitchen counter, "and I'll close the door, just in case."
It was a while after the door closed that either of them moved. When they did, neither looked at one another, but scrambled around the apartment, wondering loudly whether the walls were painted white or shell colored. After a while though, Haruna started to laugh and Yoh joined her, both extremely relieved to let out their anxiety in any way.
He was soon helping her unpack, slowly and far more calmly, all the while talking about Tokyo and her new classes. Surprisingly enough, she wasn't too nervous about her new life, not when Yoh was around. He made it sound simpler, far more easier than she had imagined. It grounded her, made her feel safe despite the fact that she was miles away from home, quite alone.
After she unpacked, they ate a simple bento outside the supermarket next to her building and by ten o'clock, Yoh announced his departure.
"I have to work from ten to six tomorrow," he told her, holding her hand and inspecting it as if it was the most interesting thing in the world, "but if you want to catch dinner afterwards, I'm up for it."
She smiled and threw her arms around him.
She skipped all the way home.
"Good morning, Haruna-chan! Oh, what happened to your long hair?"
"Good morning, grandmother, auntie!" she beamed at them both, "My hair?"
She touched the ends if her hair, barely reaching her shoulders.
"I forgot to be careful in the bath," she sighed, looking a bit sad at her own clumsiness, "I'm just not used to having so much hair."
"Mmm," hummed auntie, looking like she wanted to add something naughty but instead she asked, "Where are you going today?" while leaning against the broom she was holding. She smiled wickedly at grandmother who was sitting behind the reception desk.
"I'm off to find a job," Haruna announced proudly, as if she had announced she had been crowned queen of Japan.
Haruna paid for a week's worth of dinner and was waiting for the grandmother to give her the tickets when she felt the auntie behind her.
"And how's Yoh-san? I'm sure he doesn't mind shorter hair."
Haruna blushed to her roots.
"We really didn't do anything, auntie!"
Auntie let out a good-natured chuckle.
"I know, Haruna-chan."
"It doesn't stop us from teasing you though," the grandmother reappeared, handing Haruna her tickets, "No, and with a man like that…I'm surprised you're so controlled!"
"Grandmother!" exclaimed both auntie and Haruna. It almost caused Haruna to melt from embarrassment when she told them she'd be going to dinner with Yoh tonight. By the time she stepped outside, her face was as red as if she had been tanning for hours at the beach.
Once she reached the train station, though, she had her old confidence back and brandished her map like a weapon.
"All right!" she exclaimed, a raised fist hanging in the air, "Let's go find a job!"
Yoh turned around to see his professor and employer walking towards him. He clapped his hand on Yoh's shoulder and Yoh was surprised to see his professor smile proudly at him.
"That report you handed in three days ago-" his professor shook his head disbelievingly, "Well, let's just say I knew then that it was a good idea to hire you for this internship. Amazing. Simple, concise, precise, and amazing."
Yoh blushed slightly at such high praise. Professor Yamashita was not an unkind person but he was not a person who was easily impressed. It had taken nearly two year of hard work to be given a chance to prove he could do this internship and only a few weeks ago had it turned from a mere internship to a paid one.
"There are a few things I'd like to discuss with you, if you have the time."
Yoh glanced at the clock. He was supposed to meet Haruna at eight but if he stayed, he'd surely be late. This professor however, was no mere professor. If Yoh could manage it, he could soon be fully employed under one of the greatest evolutionist thinkers of this age.
"S-sure thing, Professor. Let me just make a quick call-"
But his professor chuckled knowingly.
"Have a date, huh?"
Yoh took a moment before smiling apologetically at his phone.
Professor Yamashita looked quite surprised at this statement.
"Will she really?"
Yoh was used to this look. It only reminded him that he was lucky to have Haruna in his life. She, out of all people, would understand.
"Yeah, she will."
His professor spluttered in such a way that he reminisced Haruna almost exactly. It took Yoh back by surprise.
"Lord, if that's true then we can talk about this tomorrow!"
"Huh?" Yoh exclaimed. His shoulder was clamped again by Professor Yamashita's enormous hand.
"If she's willing to accept your lateness without a doubt in her mind, then she's a keeper," he tapped his noise knowingly, "If I tell my wife one more time I'll be late for dinner, she and I will never get started on that family, if you know what I mean!"
He chuckled at his own joke, despite Yoh's embarrassment.
"Don't worry. How about you earlier to work tomorrow and we'll speak then."
"Thank you, professor," Yoh bowed at his teacher. Professor Yamashita waved his hand in a nonchalant way.
"Now make sure you don't do anything tonight that'll make you late tomorrow morning, eh?"
If Yoh could have melted into the ground, he'd surely would have at that moment.
He hurried off to the café nearby, where they had promised to meet. Now that she was in the city and close by, the day had been long and tiring. He was happy with his studies (though the semester was not yet in session) and even happier with his job. He felt like he could accomplish something in this life, and the sense of future achievement filled his life with confidence. But Haruna seemed to fill that emptiness nothing else could replace. It was strange, really. In his first year, he had learned how evolutionary thought had described emotions such as love as mere attachment behaviors that led to the most primal instinct in animals which is to reproduce. Concepts like love and affection were something human beings had made up, to romanticize life and give meaning to more basic instincts.
He was able to believe this and he had little to no doubt about it. In fact, it was a paper based solely on that idea that bought Professor Yamashita's attention to Yoh in his first year. But when he thought back to Haruna, it was difficult to think that all he wanted to do with her was merely to procreate and pass on his genes. Surely, when her eyes shone happily when looking at him or when she had some crazy ideas coming out of her mouth and all he wanted to do was kiss her and shut her up, it was not merely his reproductive instinct controlling him.
He entered the café, his eyes searching for her familiar face, only to find a dark, gloomy spot by the corner of the room. The other patrons had cleared a radius around her, sitting as far as away as they could from the dark presence as possible. But Yoh became immediately worried. No one else could give off such an aura, especially when she was distressed. With three long strides, he was immediately by her side.
"What happened? What's wrong?"
She mumbled rapidly, showing with her hands what apparently had happened to her. Something to do with her hair, he guessed, by the way she kept tugging her short strands (part of him was very relieved to see the extensions were gone) and quite a few times, she pointed at her chest, much to his embarrassment.
"All right, so you didn't have a good day," he guessed as she continued to ramble on, "Let's go for a walk, maybe that'll help."
He paid for her untouched drink and set off. She was still in a gloomy haze, enough to clear the sidewalk all the way to the nearest park. There, he sat her down and crouched in front of her. He cupped her small face in his hands so he could take a good look at her. He didn't like what he saw.
"Why do you look so defeated?"
At this, she let out a wail.
"My breasts are too small!"
She sobbed loudly, the rest of her words lost between her tears and his embarrassment. He was extremely thankful he chose a rather remote area of the park.
"I'm afraid to ask," he started with a sigh, "but what happened?"
"I could have done plenty of jobs, I'd be a good waitress, right Yoh?" he tried to answer but she continued, "And then the manager said I had to fit into the shirt but I didn't fit too well, even when he gave me the smallest size, there was still space on my chest!"
She had wailed the last part out. Yoh was quiet for a minute before chuckling mirthfully. She gaped at him, disbelievingly.
"Why are you so happy at my pain?"
He gave her a slightly reproaching look at this comment.
"You should be happy I'm not angry. Didn't I tell you not to start searching until I had time to help you?"
She pursed her lips, clearly not happy with this statement.
"Well, I figured you'd be busy and I didn't want to trouble you too much."
"Trouble me? You're my girlfriend." He spoke as this settled all matters on the subject. She looked rather touched, her eyes filling up with tears again.
"Yoh…" she whimpered and threw her arms around him. He patted her back until she let go, looking a bit sour still.
"Why can't I look for a job without you?"
Yoh rolled his eyes.
"These jobs were mostly in Akihabara, right?"
"They paid really good, didn't they?"
"And the only requirement was to fit into the maid's clothes, yes?"
She vehemently nodded.
"Clothes that looked like they belonged to Barbie, yes?"
He was sure her head would fall off with all that nodding.
He lightly rapped her head.
"That's not a job I want you to have. They only want you parading around in small skirts and tight clothes in order for all the men to gawk at you!"
She seemed to be thinking about this carefully. After a short pause, she broke out in tears again.
"That means I wasn't attractive enough!"
Yoh let out a tired chuckle.
"You're attractive to me. That's all that should matter."
"Even if my breasts are too small to fit in a maid's outfit?"
He narrowed his eyes at her. He let her hear what she just said and was rewarded with a gasp and a tomato-colored girlfriend in front of him.
"Anyway," he continued, "It's only your first day. I'm sure we'll find something."
She smiled gratefully at him and had enough courage to peck his lips.
And though her smile was watery and her eyes hadn't regained the bright sparkle he was used to, he had half a mind to revise that paper he had done in his first year.
~chan: cute, almost childish way of calling someone. Best friends use it with one another, a mother and her child, and so on. It's very informal and mostly used by women.
~kun: male version of chan. Also used when a higher up is speaking to a person in a lower 'position'. It's informal and used by males, although once in a while you'll hear it used with women too.
~ san: This is the default when speaking to anyone. It's like Mr/Ms. It's polite and should always be used when you don't know a person.
Yoh and Haruna call each other by their first names without any honorifics (at least in the translated versions of the manga). This is a huge indication that they are in a close relationship. It can also be extremely rude to call someone you don't know by their first name.
Akihabara- known as a geek's paradise with all sorts of anime stores and electronic shops. There's a lot of maid cafe's in the shadier parts of the district that are...well...shady. And knowing Haruna, she wouldn't know the difference between the normal maid's cafe and the weirder maid's cafe.