"The Tatsumiya Junior High School Annual Date Auction"
Disclaimer: Soukyuu no Fafner and all its wonderful characters, trademarks, etc, belong to the awesome people at Xebec.
Genre: Humor, Romance
Warnings: Spoilers for the first half of the series (this fic takes place between episodes 18 and 19 of the TV series, probably).
Pairings/Characters: This is a pretty general fic, but will contain some light, sweet SouKazu in later chapters. ;-) Please enjoy!
Chapter 2: The Bidding Begins
"And that's it!" Yumiko cried, pounding her gavel happily. "Hino Michio, sold for the amount of 6800 yen!"
"Thank you, ladies! Thank you!" Michio was calling gaily, making sweeping, melodramatic bows to all sides while the audience cheered and squealed their delight. Yumiko could have kissed him; after the rather disappointing 3500 yen Mamoru had sold for, getting the charismatic Michio out next to excite and rally the girls out of their initial bidding shyness had been an excellent move. After this, they should have no problem leaping immediately to the attack when they saw what they wanted.
I knew I could count on you, she thought in silent thanks to her boyfriend, who was continuing his role perfectly, delivering a dashing wink in the direction of the winning girl. As he turned to make his way down the stage toward her, Yumiko couldn't help but give him a mischievous smack on the bottom. The audience exploded in screams and applause as Michio yelped and whirled to glare at her.
"Be good, baby," she said with a wink, and giggled at his sour expression.
"You owe me for this," he muttered under his breath before recovering his charming smile and heading off the stage to greet his date for the evening.
Time for another crowd-pleaser, Yumiko decided, happily soaking in the excitement of the crowd. Someone with a lot of personality.
"All right, ladies, it's time to welcome our next hunky bachelor! Put your hands together for our esteemed student body president and the brave pilot of the Fafner Mark Acht, Kondo Kenji!"
"All right!" Kenji cried backstage, pumping his fist excitedly. He had barely been able to contain himself when Michio began strutting around, calling out teasingly to the audience and getting absolutely raving cheers in return. It was an extremely receptive crowd and Kenji was dying to get out there to bask in some of that female adoration himself. Then, of course, there was the happy prospect of being sent out on what would hopefully be a steamy date to look forward to as well…
Please let the girl who wins me be totally hot! Kenji thought silently as he strutted confidently out onto the stage. The girls, still caught up in their excitement over Michio, were quick to cheer his bravado.
"Well, well, looks like we've got ourselves a firecracker here, ladies!" Yumiko called cheerfully as Kenji proceeded to make a florid bow and blow flirtatious kisses around the auditorium. The audience ate it up. There were soon trilling calls of "Kenji-kun!" coming from all quarters of the house. The bid jumped very quickly up to the 4000 yen range without any sign of slowing.
Bolstered by the cheers and attention, Kenji had soon escalated his antics from simply blowing kisses to striking dashing (and often ridiculous) poses, flexing his muscles and even giving his hips an occasional wiggle that sent the girls into hysterics. When a cute, plump girl standing within a crowd of giggly first-year junior high schoolers cried out "5000 yen!" Kenji even attempted a back flip that went almost perfectly, except for a slightly embarrassing stumble on his landing.
"No worries, ladies—I'm fine!" Kenji called immediately, hopping back to his feet and hoping the backstage crew had put enough stage powder on his face to keep it from appearing too red.
"5500 yen!" a tall girl with cascades of beautifully permed and dyed hair called out amid several other bids. Kenji turned and was surprised to find that the bidder was not a fellow junior high schooler, but the previous year's Tatsumiya Island Beauty Queen, Kanata Ayako.
No way—I don't believe it! Kanata Ayako is bidding for ME? Kenji caught himself in mid-gape and quickly pulled his face away from the slack-jawed shock it had been about to slide into. No, no, I've got to be a stud up here! he reminded himself, and recovered his charming smile in admirably short order. It wasn't hard to summon; Ayako was easily the hottest girl who had ever given him a second look—he could hardly believe his luck! He mentally kissed Yumiko for inviting him to be in the auction. If this night ended with him going out with Ayako, who was a grade above him and was rumored to be a fun type of girl…
Oh, man! This is it,Kenji realized, his heart suddenly thudding wildly in his ears. It's finally going to happen… Kenji, you sly dog, tonight's the night! Tonight, you are finally going to lose your virginity…!
But his fantasies were quickly interrupted when another voice from the giggly crowd of first years called, "6000 yen!"
Stupid, little kids, Kenji thought in annoyance, but catching the warning glance from Yumiko out of the corner of his eye, he made himself smile at them. The lot of them burst into renewed giggles and patted one another; it seemed to Kenji that they were pooling their money. Great, he thought, I'll have to put up with not just one but five giggling, blushing little kids for the whole night. He threw a hopeful glance back at Ayako, but she was watching the junior high schoolers in amusement and looked as though she didn't intend to bid any higher.
No! Kenji thought in panic. Not only did this mean he'd be spending the night babysitting—he'd be missing his big chance with a sexy, older woman whom he'd never have the nerve to ask out on his own. No way am I going to miss this chance, he thought. It's time for some desperate measures!
"Come on, ladies!" he called. "You can do better than that!" And with that, he pulled his shirt off and tossed it into the audience to a burst of screams and applause.
This was likely the sort of thing that Kaname-sensei had meant by "racy or suggestive actions," but the crowd was loving it and even Yumiko looked pleased. Glad I did those extra sit-ups this morning, Kenji thought, pleased to see the appreciative glances at his six-pack.
"Wow, ladies, we can't stop the bidding here! We're at 6000 yen!" Yumiko cried. "Do I hear 6500? 6500, anyone?"
"6500!" came a giggling voice from another corner of the room. Kenji smiled in her direction and then glanced again at Ayako. She caught his eye and grinned at him.
"7500 yen!" she declared, winning a round of appreciative "oohs" from the audience.
That's my girl! Kenji thought, wanting to crow with glee himself. Ayako grinned triumphantly up at him and gave him a suggestive quirk of her eyebrows. Kenji gave her a dashing wink in return, feeling incredibly debonair while his mind screamed excitedly, Oh man, this is it! Tonight's the night…! Seventy-five hundred yen was well above any other sum bid tonight and he doubted any girl who had just come for a light bit of fun and flirting would be willing to spend more. I'm going out with Kanata Ayako…! Kenji thought gleefully. And no one can blame me, since I'm doing this all in the name of a good cause!
"8000 yen!" A woman's voice suddenly cut through the din and left everyone glancing around for the source.
"8000?" Yumiko said glancing around for the bidder and catching her waving from the left stairs leading up to the stage. Both Yumiko and Kenji did a double-take.
"Uh—" Yumiko said, dumbfounded for a moment, and then recovering herself, called with a quickly-suppressed giggle, "I have 8000! 8000 yen to the lovely lady down by the stage~! Anyone else? Do I hear 8500? 8500 yen?"
But the murmuring and chuckling throughout the auditorium was the only sound that answered Yumiko's call. She pounded her gavel quickly, announced, "Sold!" and carted the shell-shocked Kenji down the left stage stairs.
"And here's your prize, Sensei!" she said brightly, obviously trying not to laugh herself. She shoved the frozen boy into the winner's arms. "Enjoy!"
Kenji caught himself just before he smacked into her. "M-Mom…?" he croaked.
"Baka musuko, we have a lot of talking to do!" Kondo Ayano snarled, shoving her son's shirt at him and dragging him, still quite shocked, toward the exit by the ear. The cool evening air outside seemed to revive him and anguished cries of "Mooooooom! How could you do this to me?" were heard fading into the night. It was undoubtedly humiliating for Kenji, but the audience was in even better spirits as they prepared for the next round of bidding. Yumiko looked about, pleased.
Things couldn't have gone better if I'd orchestrated them myself, she thought and threw a glance at the remaining boys in the wings.
Now's the time, she decided, and cleared her throat to get everyone's undivided attention as she brought out her trump card.
"Aren't those Fafner pilots hot? Even their moms get jealous!" She giggled as the audience burst into more cheers. "Well, I'm sorry none of you ladies will be taking Kenji out tonight, but we do have… one more!" And the audience went utterly wild.
Standing in the shadows of the wings, Kazuki gulped. Watching his friends go one by one and being left alone to wait and wait—and then to listen to the incredible cries and shrieks that Kenji had elicited… He was so nervous now that he seriously began considering making a run for it.
As if sensing his thoughts, Kaname-sensei suddenly materialized beside him—and began pounding his face with a powder-puff.
"You're turning red, Kazuki-kun," she said, dabbing a bit more around his forehead. She patted his shoulders and smiled down at him reassuringly. "Don't be nervous. Just smile and look around—everyone is your friend, Kazuki-kun. Just try to relax and have a good time, okay?"
Kazuki took a deep breath to try to still his fluttering heart. "O-okay."
"Good, take deep breaths like that… you feel better?" Kazuki nodded and she patted his cheek. Her headset suddenly buzzed and, cocking her head to the side to listen to the tinselly crackling, she nodded to herself. "Okay, you're on, Kazuki-kun!" She gave him a little push toward the bright lights of the stage. "Good luck!"
Kazuki threw her a last, apprehensive look and forced himself to walk toward the bright stage.
"Smile!" he heard Kaname-sensei whisper behind him and he quickly did just that as the lights hit him and suddenly he was onstage in front of what seemed like an endless sea of faces. He swallowed as he took the room in, feeling very small and outnumbered. Maybe Mizoguchi-san was right about this being scarier than facing Festums, he thought.
"And there he is!" Kazuki's head snapped toward the right, following the voice, where he was immensely relieved to find Yumiko standing there onstage with him. She bustled over to him and wrapped a reassuring arm around his shoulders to lead him toward the front of the stage.
"Get ready, ladies! Here's the ace pilot of Tatsumiya Island— Makabe Kazuki!" The audience burst into an unbelievable roar of cheering and Kazuki forgot to be nervous for a moment as he glanced around in surprise. Kaname-sensei had been right—he knew most of the faces in the room and they were all smiling at him, cheering for him.
That's right, they're all my friends, Kazuki echoed to himself and mustered a shy but genuine smile.
The effect on the audience was immediate; a burst of cooing squeals and heartfelt sighs quickly filled the entire auditorium.
"2000 yen!" a flustered voice blurted out from the midst of the crowd. Kazuki glanced down to see a girl from the grade below his gazing up at him with eyes as wide and round as saucers. He blinked in surprise, wondering at the nearly awed expression on her face.
Yumiko was chuckling. "No, no, we haven't even started the bidding yet!" she chided the red-faced girl good-naturedly. "But that seems like as good a place as any to get started." She shrugged then declared, "So here we go! We have 2000 yen as our opening bid for a dream date with Makabe Kazuki! Do I hear 2500?"
"2500!" another voice called out instantly, followed very quickly by an urgent, "2600!" and another voice crying, "2800!"
"3000!" called an older girl, one of Kanata Ayako's friends.
"3300!" Ayako declared, elbowing her friend with a mischievous grin.
"3500!" cried another girl.
Various voices continued shouting out bids one after the other, the calls sometimes made simultaneously or before the previous bidder had even had a chance to finish speaking. It was all proceeding at such a rapid-fire pace that Kazuki—who had been trying to do as Kenji and Michio had, giving a smile to each bidder—began to feel like he was watching a professional ping pong match, his head whipping back and forth from one side of the auditorium to the next. When the clamor became so loud that he couldn't discern individual bids anymore, he gave up.
"Ladies! Ladies!" Yumiko was crying out, waving her arms and attempting to wrest control of the bidding back into her hands. Finally, she raised two fingers to her lips and let out a high-pitched whistle straight into her microphone. With the squeaking reverb from the speakers and the magnified shrillness of the whistle successfully distracting the frenzied crowd, the buzzing voices dropped away enough for a single voice to call out very clearly, "4500 yen!"
At the call, the ebbing murmurs of the crowd seemed to take on a new but different energy. Kazuki glanced around, searching for the source of the voice, as did Yumiko and some of the audience members sitting further back. Those in the moshpit, however, seemed to know precisely who it was, and a sudden rustle of whispers rippled outward from the front of the audience.
Who was that? Kazuki wondered, squinting against the bright stage lights to see out to the crowd.
"4500 yen! Excellent, excellent!" Yumiko was saying brightly, looking pleased to have regained order. She squinted into the darkness as well and echoed Kazuki's own silent question. "And whose bid was that?"
"Onee-chan!" came the familiar voice again, half-exasperated.
"Oh! Maya!" Yumiko exclaimed, and then instantly burst into giggles as several members of the audience raised a teasing cheer. "Of course you're bidding this round! Ha ha, silly me!" She threw a gleeful sidelong glance at Kazuki while a horrified, "Onee-chan!" was hissed out from the dark auditorium. More of the audience had begun whispering now, and many wiggled their eyebrows meaningfully, or cast knowing looks between the new bidder and her prize.
Though Kazuki couldn't guess what had caused it, he felt the change in the mood of the crowd and was secretly relieved. As excited as he had at first that the bidding for him seemed to be as spirited as Kenji's had been, he had to admit that there was something about the way the girls had shouted their bids so frantically that was a little bit scary. With the violent wave of bids ebbing and Yumiko back in control of the auction's pace, he felt things were sure to go forth a little better.
But oddly enough, he found the bidding did not go forth. The giggling and whispering got louder, and though Kazuki thought it was much too soon for the auction to be over, no one called out again to offer a higher bid.
4500 yen? he thought, his heart sinking a little. He knew this wasn't a competition, and anyhow, he'd never thought of himself as popular enough to outdo the likes of Kenji or Michio when it came to girls. But after such a promising start, he'd thought he'd merit at least a little bit more.
Confused, he cast a look out across the audience and finally spotted Maya, standing alone in the middle of the crowd gazing up at him with her usual, heartfelt smile. When he smiled back at her, he was surprised to see her almost jump a little, as though she hadn't expected such a reaction from him, and then dropped her gaze in apparent embarrassment.
What'd I do? Kazuki thought, feeling even more confused. Between Maya's sudden, totally uncharacteristic shyness and the strangely unanimous cessation of bidding from the audience, Kazuki was becoming more perturbed by the minute. Had Toomi jumped in to bid because she had caught some signal from the other girls that the bidding for Kazuki was about to reach its lowly apex and she had boosted the final bid up to 4500 yen to help him save face? It hadn't seemed like they were about to stop the bidding, but with all the clamor of the last few minutes before Yumiko had restored control, he couldn't be sure. Kazuki couldn't think of a better explanation, but he still couldn't shake the uneasy feeling that he was missing something that everyone else in the room seemed to be privy to.
Oh, just let this night be over already, he thought miserably. Who cared if he was going to be the second-lowest-grossing bachelor of the night? At least his date would be Toomi, a good friend he knew he could find plenty of things to talk about with. Or at least, Toomi could find plenty of things to talk about, as she always did, and would be content to let him listen quietly as he always did. That plus the prospect of a free dinner sounded excellent to Kazuki at the moment, and he turned to Yumiko, expecting her to cheerfully announce the end of his auction. But instead of her bright auction mistress's smile, he found her brows furrowed, and her glossy, red lips puffed in a small sulk.
"Sorry, Maya, but this just won't do," he heard her mutter under her breath, so that no one else could have heard. Before Kazuki could question her, Yumiko raised her microphone to her mouth and cleared her throat.
"Ladies, ladies—don't tell me that you're going to let the bid rest here!" At her tone, the many heads in the audience that had turned aside to whisper together all snapped back toward the stage in surprise.
"Onee-chan…" Maya murmured, looking a bit surprised herself.
"I mean, take another look at who we've got up here! Makabe Kazuki—in the flesh! Remember, ladies, this could be your one and only chance to have this adorable bachelor all to yourself! And after all, what's one little night of fun? Don't tell me there's no one willing to bid higher!"
But as compelling a supplication as it was, the audience didn't seem fully convinced to let go of the mysterious bidding lethargy that had settled over it. A few girls whose eyes had regained something of their earlier zeal were glancing around at the rest of the audience, as though gauging whether or not they could really go forward. But apparently, the tide still held in favor of letting the bid rest and no further offers were made.
No, no, no! Yumiko thought in frustration. I can't let it end here! But what could she do? Every second she drew it out, the more awkward the situation was becoming, and the less likely even the most eager of Kazuki's admirers would be willing to defy the general consensus of the crowd that Maya should have her long-sought prize. And even as sorry as Yumiko would be to snatch her little sister's dream date out from under her nose, there was no way she could let Kazuki go for a mere 4500 yen. She would be wronging the very cause she was raising money for!
In an eerie echo of Kenji's earlier thought process, the auction mistress decided that it was time for desperate measures. If it worked for Kenji, it could work for this too, she decided.
"Oh, I see!" she said, letting a playful undertone slip into her voice. She slipped an arm around Kazuki's shoulders again and drew him to her conspiratorially, as though she were about to let him in on a secret. "Kazuki-kun, I think the audience is trying to tell us something. They're trying to say they need a little extra motivation…"
"Huh?" Her oblivious companion blinked up at her with the exact, fetchingly clueless expression that she knew the audience wouldn't be able to help but eat up. She shifted her body subtly to ensure the crowd had a clear view of him.
"You know, like they did earlier? With Kenji-kun?" Yumiko winked exaggeratedly out at the audience this time, drawing them into the "joke." It seemed to be working; the groups had broken off their whispering and were gazing interestedly back up at the stage. Now for the clincher. She gave Kazuki a hearty smack on the back.
"It's time for a little Kazuki ab action, is what I'm saying!" she declared, feeling the audience's excitement immediately reignite. "Off with that shirt!"
"You heard me! Off with it, off with it!" Yumiko ordered teasingly, while the audience broke into excited cheers. No one was thinking about Maya or long-burning teen crushes now, Yumiko wagered.
"Wh-what?" Kazuki stuttered disbelievingly. "Take my shirt off…?"
"Oh, come on, Kazuki-kun, Kenji did it already!" Yumiko said, not unkindly but with that definite edge in her voice that meant she should be obeyed quickly.
"Come on, Kazuki-kuuuuuuuunn!" a shrill voice from the crowd crowed. Her call was echoed by another voice, then another and another until the entire auditorium was echoing maniacally with shrill, incomprehensible cries. Kazuki looked out into the audience again and, unable to distinguish words amidst the din, found himself facing a sea of squawking, jeering faces all gazing fixedly at him. They looked hungry, somehow, like so many screeching harpies waiting to swoop in and tear his flesh to pieces.
"Maybe we should have him change into his synergetic suit, hmm?" Yumiko's magnified voice wafted out of the noise and startled Kazuki back to his senses.
"W-wait, what?" he sputtered, trying to make sense of the words amid the redoubled screams of the crowd.
"H-hold on a second, Onee-chan!" a stunned Maya was calling when another voice managed to break out from the din and declare, "5000 yen!"
Yes! The deadlock's been broken! Yumiko thought gleefully. With a silent apology to Maya, she stirred the crowd onward with encouraging shouts and ever escalating challenges. But her efforts were completely needless now; with the audience excited enough to overrule their respect for Maya's unspoken claim on the oblivious Kazuki, the bid was leaping up and up with no sign of slowing down. From 5000 to 6000 to 6500 to 7000 to 7500 to 7800—once a triumphant voice crowed, "8100!" and Kenji's former record was broken, the audience took a moment to pause and cheer for their collective efforts. Yumiko was exuberant.
"Ladies, I am amazed and speechless with thanks! Your efforts tonight will make this the most successful fundraiser auction this school has ever held! With this—we may even be able to afford fireworks for this year's summer festival!"
"Fireworks! Kyaaaa!" The reaction from the crowd was deafening. Yumiko patted herself on the back mentally—playing on an idea as romantic as fireworks on a summer's evening was just the sort of fodder this crowd needed.
"8500!" a girl in Kazuki's class called out. She caught his eye and gave him a shy smile which made Kazuki hopeful suddenly that she, too, might be fighting for his sake. He gave her a small smile in return which, unfortunately, had just the opposite effect he was hoping for. Her grin suddenly became bolder, and she called, "8600, if he'll take off his shirt!" At which, the girls standing around her began making rather frighteningly shrill catcalls.
Wrapping an arm around a paling Kazuki, Yumiko called, "For 9000, I think he just might!"
"Phenomenal!" Yumiko crowed, raising a hearty round of applause for the bidder. "Unbelievable! We have an unprecedented 9500 yen! It's fantastic! It's incredible! But still, I'll ask—do I hear 10,000 yen?" She threw a sweeping glance around the crowd, daring one and all to make the final bid, and the audience buzzed with irrepressible anticipation.
Kazuki glanced desperately back at Maya to see if she would bid higher and was startled to see she was no longer standing there. Feeling panicked to find himself without his only bastion of defense suddenly, he glanced around desperately to see where she had gone and found her trying to push her way towards the far side of the auditorium.
Where is she going? Kazuki thought desperately. Was he being abandoned? It's too much money, he realized. 10,000 yen? He didn't even have that kind of money himself—what made him think it was all right to make her spend that much on him, especially when he had gotten himself into this mess? It was a ridiculous amount of money, after all…
Still, he realized, somewhere deep inside, he had selfishly been hoping she would keep on going and save him from the impending humiliation. Always taking the easy way out, his conscious mind thought at him disgustedly. But he couldn't deny it—he wanted so badly not to be here, for all of this to be over or just some bad dream and he didn't have to take off his clothes or go on a date with one of these people who were screaming and staring and making him feel like some prize animal on the auction block…
"Come on, now!" Yumiko was calling. "Do I hear 10,000 yen or does the bid rest here? 9500 going once! Going—"
Kazuki's head snapped up. It was Toomi! Following the sound of her voice, he found her standing near the far wall beside Sakura and Canon, who were still holding their stacks of programs. He realized suddenly that the three of them must have been pooling their money. They didn't abandon me! Kazuki thought, hope flaring in him again. Both he and the rest of the room held their breaths.
"10,500 yen!" Maya cried triumphantly. Kazuki's heart leaped—surely he was saved! The crowd, too, was raising a cheer—when, all too suddenly, the same girl who had bid 9500 yen called out again.
Though Kazuki could hardly comprehend the words that had doused the sudden, aching hope as quickly as it had flared, the look of utter shock and helplessness on Maya's face told him enough—this was the end. His blood suddenly cold in his veins, Kazuki turned slowly back around to see the bidder and her two cat-calling friends triumphantly waving fistfuls of bills in the air. "11,500 yen! And his shirt comes off right NOW!"
Completely oblivious to Kazuki's plight now, the crowd was wild with glee, both at the winner's announcement and upon reaching the undeniable conclusion of the long and exhilarating bidding match. The overwhelming roar of the cheering smashed so hard into Kazuki that it was a nearly palpable weight, grinding out all thought except for one uncomprehending, terrified prayer: please, please no…!
"My goodness!" Yumiko was saying, gearing up for the close. "Well, ladies, this is it!"
"11,500 yen! This is just unbelievable—"
"At last, the end of the long and incredible bid for Makabe Kazuki! For the incredible sum of 11,500 yen, sold to—"
The crowd fell into utter silence. Even the cavorting catcallers stilled and stared. Certainly, the bid was high enough to make even Yumiko's jaw drop, but more than the bid, it was perhaps the bidder's voice that had frozen everyone in their traces. It had been, even through the din, quite clearly distinguishable as a male voice.
"Ah, what?" Yumiko said dumbly as the crowd of equally disoriented girls parted and glanced around and back to see who had spoken.
"20,000 yen," the voice repeated calmly, causing the crowd to part completely to the back of the room where the speaker stood leaning quite unruffled against the wall. Yumiko strained her eyes against the bright stage lights, picking a figure out of the darkness that looked disturbingly familiar. But surely, her eyes were mistaken in this case, she thought, until a whispered utterance from Kazuki confirmed her suspicions.
"Soushi!" the boy gasped.
Ho ho ho, I'm sure many of you saw that coming, but hey—SouKazu is my Fafner OTP, so it couldn't be helped. ;-P In the next chapter, find out how Kazuki and the rest of the island reacts, and what lame excuse Soushi is going to make for bidding for his hapless friend~
Also, thank you so much to the four of you guys who reviewed chapter 1! Reviews are so scarce these days… your kind words really encouraged me~~ ^^ I would love it if everyone who enjoys this chapter will kindly R&R too!