"Ah, school's been too boring lately..."
I wasn't too happy with my lessons today, they were all mostly focussed on the upcoming exams, and I wasn't looking forward to them.
It's not like I'm a bad student, my grades are good, but I need to be better if I want to get into university.
The class erupted after the last school bell, and everyone burst out of the doors, happy to be free.
I'm suddenly bowled over by a loud thump on my back.
"Oww!" I steadied myself on my desk with both my hands, "What was that for Arihiko?"
My flame haired fried grinned widely, "Hey Shiki, you must be troubled about tomorrow, huh?" He was smiling with a hint of jealously in the edges, "So many girls in your life, it must be hard to choose."
"What?" I had no idea what be was on about, "Why is tomorrow so special, why do I have to 'choose' someone?"
Arihiko stared at me, first scoffing at my puzzled look, then letting his jaw drop, "You mean, you forgot?"
"Forgot? Why, what -?"
For some reason, the next day had this aura of doom surrounding it, and I knew that for that day, my attentions would be sought after by everyone I knew.
"It's Valentine's Day, Shiki!" Arihiko cried tears of disbelief and sadness, "It's the best day of the year for men, because they get gifts from the girls who like them. You're going to be stuffed with chocolate!"
That's the problem.
I know of at least five, six including Len, girls who would be happy to give me some.
But that means that I'm going to have to accept all of them, and their feelings at the same time.
Inwardly, I felt a chill as I left the classroom to walk outside into the cold, not happy for the coming day.
February 14th, Sunday
The sun filtered through my curtains, flooding the room with bright yellow rays. One of them happened to pass over my face, waking me prematurely to the day.
I recalled that after leaving the half-day of cram school yesterday, I didn't do much, just sunbathed outside in the courtyard, getting scolded by Akiha for not acting like someone of a higher class, eating another excellent dinner by Kohaku, and then after a quiet tea I fell asleep in my own bed.
I knew that today would be trying on my nerves, so I vowed to make it through without breaking anyone's heart and to be nice to them, at least more than usual if possible.
Ah, that must be Hisui.
The door opened, and in came the stoic neutral faced Hisui, her maid outfit neatly pressed and smelling of a fresh ironing. She bowed once.
"Good morning Shiki-sama."
"G-Good morning Hisui, it's good to start the day with you."
Oh great, what kind of stupid lines am I spouting now? Somehow, she didn't think me strange, and just nodded back.
"Thank you Shiki-sama, it is my job to wake you, though you already seemed to be up at this time." She stared at my face and switched to a frown, "Are you feeling okay Shiki-sama? Your face is a little red, are you ill at all?"
I quickly touched my face and knew what I was thinking about that caused me to flush with worry. "No, it's nothing Hisui, just a little too much sun on my face." I gave her a smile to alleviate her concern, "I'll be down for breakfast in a minute, are the others awake?"
"Yes, Akiha-sama and Nee-san are sitting in the living room." She bowed once more, "I will inform them of your arrival." Hisui left just like that.
Well, I'd better not disappoint Akiha, lately she's been getting a bit edgy for some reason, snapping at me more. I'll get ready now...
Five minutes later
"Good morning, Nii-san."
Akiha spoke as she was putting down a newspaper, it looked like some broadsheet with lots of everyday news, politics and financial information. Sometimes I miss the tabloids the Arima family would get sometimes, I know that Akiha would immediately frown upon my getting one of those.
"Good morning, Akiha, how are you today?"
She raised her eyebrow at this, but didn't question it further, "I'm fine, just waiting for you so we can eat breakfast, the same as always." Her sharp eyes looked at me suspiciously, "And you, how are you?"
"Oh, I slept well, I feel nice and refreshed today."
No point in lying, despite my angst about today's coming events, I did actually feel good and healthy.
"Well, as long as you're feeling good," She pulled a portion of her hair back and smiled lightly, "we'll go in and have breakfast now."
Nodding, I followed her and Kohaku into the dining room. Breakfast was a quiet affair, and standard for our home, by now I was used to it.
Ten minutes later
"Nii-san..." Akiha spoke as we left the dining room.
"Yes, Akiha, what is it?" I asked in a friendly manner, she usually just leaves me alone after the meal to do her own thing.
"Today is a beautiful day, the perfect weather, so we're going out for a picnic together to a place I know of." She glanced away for a moment, before turning back with a somewhat questioning look, "Will you come with us?"
"Uhh, s-sure..." I didn't expect to see her sad eyes so early in the morning, "What time do we leave?"
"The car will pick us up at around one o'clock, so please be sure to be here by then."
"Do I need to bring anything, food, money?"
Akiha shook her head, "That's all being taken care of, Kohaku's been preparing the food since last night. Maybe you should bring a jacket just in case it turns cold or windy."
"Okay," I smiled, it would be nice to get away from the mansion every once in a while, "I'll gladly come, it sounds like lots of fun."
Akiha's brilliant smile appeared, before she composed herself, returning to her nonchalant self. "Right, we'll I'm off to my room now to do some studying, I hope you're doing well with yours Nii-san."
Ugh, she had to mention that...
Seeing her sneaky face made me shiver inside, then she turned away and retired to her abode. I turned about once to go into the living room, only to hear an evil laugh.
A figure in a kimono appeared from a corner, grinning whilst baring her teeth.
"I saw that, Shiki-san..."
Hey, what do I have to be afraid of?
"What? I was just talking to my sister, there's no need to make something more of it, Kohaku!"
"Come with me, Shiki-san..."
She ran behind me and started pushing and nudging me towards the kitchen, and I began to worry what was waiting for me there, perhaps some bad medicine, or maybe she'll turn into that hooded witch again...
We were here now, the scent of the recently made breakfast still wafted through the room. Kohaku scurried away, picking up something from inside a cupboard.
I began to sweat, that face was scaring me!
"Take this, from me, Shiki-san!"
My yell of fright was changed into a confused one as she held a small box in her hand. Opening it tentatively, I saw a beautifully handmade chocolate heart inside.
She just gave me a Valentine's chocolate...
Her mask that took the form of a smile slipped away, as her lips moved to a more level plane. She's waiting for my reaction to the gift.
To be honest, I still hadn't prepared myself to come up with something to say to each person, if they did give me something.
So I just said something off-the-cuff.
"Thank you, Kohaku! It means a lot to me that you gave me some chocolate. I'll really enjoy eating this!"
Her face, to put it mildly, could light the mansion, as her real smile beamed out fully, her cheeks becoming rosier.
"It has caramel inside, with hints of cinnamon, vanilla and even apple. It's my best recipe for you Shiki-san!"
I returned the smile and held it close to me. "I'm going to go out for a bit now, I'll eat this all the way. Tell Akiha not to worry, I'll be here on time."
Kohaku nodded, "I'll do that Shiki-san."
With those words, I left the room, just catching her whisper of 'Thank You' to my back.
Thirty minutes later
Wow, Kohaku really went overboard with the chocolate, it tastes like something you could only get in the best restaurant. I ate it so fast because it was so good.
I had to buy some water afterwards though, so drinking that, I debated where to go, and thought about visiting Senpai. Despite her age, she's still living alone, so paying her a visit wouldn't be too presumptuous.
Well, it's only a short walk from here, so why not?
When I reach there, I knock on her door.
"Coming!" Light footsteps padded louder, and the door opened, showing Senpai wearing an apron over her school clothes. "Oh, Tohno-kun, are you here for lunch? It's a bit early..."
Senpai's glasses were clouded over, it looked like she was working hard over the cooker.
"Uh, no actually, I just wanted to see how you are."
Senpai moved out of the way, "Then, come in Tohno-kun."
I did so and saw that from a glance the kitchen was in a state of disarray, Senpai saw me staring, and blushed.
"Forget you saw that!"
She pushed me away further into the flat, so I couldn't see the mess any more. Sighing I sat unwillingly in a chair.
"So, how have things been, Senpai?" I shouted back at her over the clattering of pans.
"Good so far, the Dead have been quiet lately, so I'm thinking that my time will be up soon in this city."
That's bad, this means Senpai is going to leave here...
"Wh-When are you leaving you think?"
"Leaving, who said I was leaving?" Senpai popped her head around the corner, her eyebrows raised.
"Well, you just said..."
"Ah, I get it now." Senpai put away her apron and came nearer to me. "Well, I'm thinking of getting the Church to keep me here on a permanent basis." She smiled, "Seeing as my immortality is gone, I'm a little too vulnerable now to fight every Dead or Apostle that may appear."
"Th-That's great news!" I let her know my real feelings.
"Hey, don't get worked up now! I don't know if they'll accept the request. But I mentioned how Arcueid is living here too, and then there's the issue with your sister."
"Ah..." She was talking about the Inversion Impulse no doubt.
"Does it mean that much that I stay here?" Senpai looked away for a moment, her expression unreadable, before turning back with her serious face.
"Of course! School without Senpai isn't interesting at all. You've also saved my life a few times too, and I'd miss you too much if you left."
Her smile and blush returned, "That's what I wanted to hear." She pulled out a freshly made chocolate from the inside of her discarded apron. "Here you go Tohno-kun."
Again, I received another one, and this one was still hot from being recently made.
"I... Thank you Senpai..." I broke a bit off and admired the smell, "I'll treasure this...!"
Putting it in my mouth, I found it had a strange taste, and that the heat didn't just come from being recent, but certain spices inside...
Oh God, it's burning my tongue!
"How is it Tohno-kun?" Her wide and happy eyes were gleaming, "I tried a new recipe, what do you think?"
Please, give me water! I'm on fire!
"It's... really special... Senpai..." I smiled painfully, tears coming out of my eyes, "Only you could make something like this!"
"Ahh, I'm glad you said that!" Senpai beamed, "I was worried I messed up, and look at you, it's so good you're crying!"
"I know, I'm so happy!"
I finished the chocolate there and excused myself.
An hour later
I think that after those two litres of water, I managed to nullify the taste of the curry chocolate.
My tongue must've been red-raw, I doubt I'll be able to taste anything else for the next few days while my taste buds regenerate.
However, it was nice to see that the sun was still out. The park was filled with people just enjoying themselves.
There haven't been any strange murders lately, so there is no more fear any more to be out in the open. I would be joining them in their happiness, but there was no one to share it with.
I turned my head, hearing the voice. I recognised the girl there.
"Akira-chan, nice to see you here!"
The underclassman of my sister was there, looking rather bright, probably due to the weather.
"Yes, Shiki-san, I thought I'd come visit your home to speak with Tohno-senpai over some student government matters, but I also wanted to find you."
She made a cat-like smile here, and I wondered why.
"Err, why me?"
"Here, for you!"
Another pack of chocolate, this time something relatively cheap that you can buy anywhere, but the sentiment was the same.
"I... I don't know what to say..."
"It's okay, as the brother to Tohno-senpai, I have to show my consideration by by giving you obligation chocolate." She gave me a meek smile, "Do you like this brand?"
I didn't need to pretend, "Yes, it's my favourite kind. Thank you Akira-chan!"
She clapped her hands together, "That's good, I knew you would say that, I'm happy now... I can go home I suppose, the student government can wait until school starts again tomorrow."
Jogging away, waving to to me as she left, it suddenly occurred to me that she made the trip exclusively to give me this.
I checked my watch and saw that I had to get going in order to be back at the mansion to freshen up before leaving.
I took my time, there was no need to run back, and absorbed the sun into my skin.
"Nii-san, are you ready?"
Akiha's voice bellowed up the staircase to my room. Despite it being early, she wanted to be doubly sure that I would leave on time. I didn't bother answering her, because I just needed to put my shoes on.
Two knocks on the door, an acknowledgement by me, and Hisui came in.
"Shiki-sama," She bowed, "We are ready to leave with the picnic hamper. Are you prepared for the journey?"
I looked over myself quickly and nodded. I had brought a jacket, just like Akiha recommended, to keep away the cold. Aside from that, I was fine.
"Yes, let's go Hisui."
She held the door open for me as I walked by her. She closed it securely and followed me downstairs to the lobby, where Akiha and Kohaku were waiting, the former with her arms crossed and foot tapping on the carpet.
"Well, Nii-san, what's the reason for your lateness?"
I looked at my watch, and I was on time.
"Akiha, are you trying to make me sad on purpose?" I pretended to be upset, because teasing her was fun, "I went out in the morning and came back as you asked, and I am on time despite all that. Are you saying that I'd forget this and break a promise with you?"
Her mood flipped around, and her angry stare fell, becoming more sombre and sad. She looked at me with those puppy-dog eyes.
She couldn't think of what to say, or how to apologise for an insult that did not affect me. I didn't want to make her brood over this, so I walked over, smiling and patted her head lightly.
"Come on, Akiha, let's go and have our picnic. It'll be nice to chat with you for once."
"Ahh..." She blushed faintly before looking to one side, becoming her usual superior self, "Then, we shall go to the car now. Kohaku, bring the food, Nii-san, please follow me."
Grinning to myself, I did so.
One hour later
Outside the city
I don't know how Akiha found this place, but it was a beautiful field. It had grass and flowers, but also in the distance you could see some farmland, fields of corn and wheat.
It was so peaceful here.
We were somehow on the part that was beneath a tree, so the leaves slowly moved in the breeze, letting the sun filter down to us.
We were on a blanket, and the picnic had been laid out for us by Kohaku and Hisui.
Akiha was looking off into the distance, a soft, lonely expression on her face. We had been eating some sandwiches for a few minutes, so the conversation was stilted at best.
I scooted closer to Akiha, who was sitting nearer to Kohaku and spoke to her.
"So, Akiha, what's troubling you?"
Kohaku saw me wanting to speak with Akiha, so she winked and went closer to Hisui, probably to start a conversation with her sister.
She jumped a little at my voice, growing redder before facing me. "Sorry, Nii-san. I was just thinking about school."
"School?" Even I didn't want to think about it on my day off, a Sunday no less. "Why don't you think of something else, something happier?"
"That's the thing you see..." Akiha looked at me, lips pursed in ambivalence, "I can't decide yet whether to stay at Asagami College, or to go back to your school."
"You mean, the transfer? But why are you thinking about it now?"
Akiha's angry face came back, ah, she's back to normal now.
"Think about it Nii-san! I can't keep switching schools. Both of them want me to make a decision by the end of the week."
I sighed and laid down on my back, arms behind my head.
"You're too tense, Akiha," I stared up at the sun from beneath the tree, memories of my childhood with her coming back, "you need to learn to relax more..."
Then, I decide to do something a bit daring. I pulled on the back of her top, not too hard, but enough to make her lose her balance.
"Wha- Wait, stop Nii-san!"
Yanking it a bit more, she begins to topple over, but I have my hand there to cushion her head as she lands on the mat. Growling, she turns to look at me.
"What are you playing at, Nii-san?"
She was about to get up but I wouldn't let her, instead choosing to hold her hand in such a way that meant if she moved, the contact would break.
"Ahh..." She blushed cutely and just stopped moving. She too looked up up at the tree.
"Remember when we were young, Akiha?" I start talking to not make her feel too uncomfortable, "We were in the mansion together, but we went to the forest to play."
"Y-Yes..." She had a gentle face, as the melancholy swept over her, "We were playing hide-and-seek, and we even carved our names..." Her face grew angrier, and I knew why.
"Forget about SHIKI, he's dead. I only want to remember you." With that, I stared at her, and she also looked at me, her eyes gazing in wonder at mine.
"N-Nii-san..." Her blush spread as her smile grew, "I-I only want to remember you too... You're my only Nii-san."
"Come to think of it..." I thought something was strange about today, "We're on a picnic, I didn't think you liked doing 'common' things any more?"
Akiha shifted her eyes away, the subtle guilt obvious to me, "Well, Nii-san says that I don't have enough fun, so I thought that maybe we should go out and do something together, like the old days." She moaned as the sun heated her up nicely, "It's good to be out here like this."
"Is it better alone, or with me?" I cheekily asked her, expecting a punch to my gut.
Instead, her fingers intertwined with mine and she smiled, "It's always better with you, Nii-san."
We stayed like that for another hour, just experiencing nature at her best and before long I fell asleep.
A voice is laughing, an evil toned one that indicated bad things would happen.
I ignored it, not caring because my blanket was nice and cosy.
Another voice, a cool, collected one, but with a sense of urgency and panic.
This one attracted my attention the most, and I slowly opened my eyes to see what was wrong.
Yes, I wasn't actually wearing a blanket, but was in fact hugging, or should that be cuddling, my little sister who wore a content sleeping face.
I noticed that somehow, my arm was underneath her head, and the my other arm was looped around her hip, keeping her nice and close to me.
Naturally, the first thing I tried to do was release myself from her, and the top arm was easy to remove. The second one was proving a little bit harder to do the same. If I moved a centimetre towards me, then her head would also move with it.
I knew that the two people behind me were showing looks of extreme amusement and shock respectively, so I shrugged them off to try to free myself of my burden.
Sadly, that was when she mumbled to herself.
"Nii-san..." Her brow was furrowed, so she must have been having a bad dream, "Don't go..."
Her mumbles ceased as her body moved more, before it found my arm to be an uncomfortable pillow, and then she woke up.
"Mmm... Morning Nii-san..." Her eyes closed slowly, before springing to life again, and I think my eyes registered a colour change in her hair.
Oh dear... This was going to be painful...
Ten minutes later
I felt hot, so hot from the sun.
But when I really thought about it, as my body did some internal checks, it was more like my body was freezing cold.
It also discovered that my head was elevated, on a warm platform of some sort.
I managed to open my weary eyes to see those of the person who attacked me.
"A-Akiha...!" I can't deny I was worried, despite seeing her hair back to its usual brown colour, the determined expression made me worry again.
"Shhh, Nii-san, don't move..." I felt her stroking my hair softly, and it was then I found out that my head was on her lap.
My face became wetter, and the water came from the girl above me, from her tears.
"N-Nii-san, I'm sorry..." Her scrunched up face didn't suit her, "I used 'Plunder' by accident... I thought you..."
Despite seeing her pitiful face, she was beautiful. Her hair was now splayed around my head, keeping our conversation private, and the tree above her shadowing the light. The smell of grass was strong, and I never felt happier.
I reached my hand up to her and cupped her cheek, letting it sweep up her tears. She leaned into it for a moment.
"It's okay Akiha, I forgive you. It's not your fault." In spite of my telling her to forget it, that day in the summer came back to me, "You're always trying to protect me, even if you do almost kill me..."
She only cried more at this point, but at least it was accompanied by a smile, "Nii-san, you're such an idiot..."
I sat up now, feeling a lot more energy from just being outside. Akiha still knelt there, the hair no longer tucked away behind her hair-band, and hanging freely in the wind.
I think that maybe I've upset her too much today, even for me, this teasing is a little too intense.
Without saying anything more, I moved closer and simply hugged her.
I can't remember the last time I did this to her. Even when I arrived home after the eight years of abandonment at the Arimas, Akiha was completely neutral and a bit angry at my leaving her all alone. In that situation, I would've expected one hug from her, but she had grown into a real upper class lady.
But now, to my cursed eyes, and my dying body, all I saw in front of me was a weak, scared, and lonely girl, who I considered above all others, as my sister, my only family remaining.
I think she continued to cry as I held her, even after she began to return the hug. I didn't say anything more, as I was expressing myself through this rare act with her.
No, that wasn't true, I had to say one thing that summed up all we've been through together.
"Thank you, Akiha." I whispered into her ear.
She stiffened, her arms not moving for a second or two, but she slumped into my hug.
"No, thank you, Nii-san." She spoke under her breath.
Thirty minutes later
We were finishing off our picnic now, all the food had been eaten, and we were just now drinking tea, as we always do in the mansion. Akiha had returned to her classy self, and pretended as if nothing had happened earlier.
"So, Kohaku, have you arranged everything for tomorrow?"
"Yes Akiha-sama, I've ensured that the gardener knows where to work."
Akiha spoke to me at my puzzled face, "We're having someone come over to take care of the plants around the detached house. They're growing too wild over there, and we can't have them ruining the effect of that building."
I nodded mutely, though I could guess that she wanted to keep it perfect for the future. Perhaps it was because I liked that place.
She coughed once and handed me something. "By the way, Nii-san, since it is that special day of the year, here, for you..."
Yes, another chocolate, but this was an extremely expensive looking one, from the best brand available. It looked handmade, and had Akiha's name on it.
"It's just a little something to show my appreciation for Nii-san."
"W-Wow..." My stomach was already complaining about how much of it I've eaten today, but I wasn't about to start refusing it now, "Thanks Akiha! It looks delicious!"
I took a bite into it, and sure enough, it was moist and at the same time sensual, the feeling on my tongue. The curry chocolate from Senpai must have been killed off by now.
As I moved around on the blanket to get a good position, I had to remove something from my pocket, dropping it on the cloth, only for Akiha to pick it up.
"Oh?" Her voice was angry, "And who was this from?"
She glared at me, holding up the bar I had only begun to eat earlier today.
"Umm... I can't tell you that Akiha, it wouldn't be fair on her."
Akiha was checking out the standard retail package, before a malicious grin cracked, "I see..." She turned it over to show me a highlighter pen having written the name of the sender. I was worried, for the girl in question, "So Akira gave her chocolate to Nii-san before I did? Perhaps I'd better thank her for that..."
Akiha's red hair flared into view, as her hair moved about of its own accord.
"A-Akiha, why did you Inverse?"
"Huh?" She didn't act any different, "There must be some mistake, I haven't..." She looked at the chocolate and got sad, though I didn't think it was sincere, "Oh dear, look at it now, the sun must've melted it. What a shame..."
In fact, her hair was curled around the chocolate and had sucked all the heat out of it, making it into a brown glob that appeared to be fairly inedible.
"Kohaku, Hisui, time to go..." Akiha stood up, still Inversed, and strode off to the street in the distance, where the car was waiting.
I sighed, and said a prayer for Akira.
Later that evening
Dinner was a quiet affair, and normality had returned to our home. Akiha was muttering something beneath her breath, but all was well.
I stayed in my room for a short time, before getting up again. I recalled Hisui saying that she was going to be working on cleaning the dining and living room, so I went to find her.
Sure enough, she was dusting the dining room and wiping down the large table, she heard my footsteps and paused to look at me, before bowing.
"Shiki-sama, how may I help you?"
I was not fond of the way she kept calling me, but I had to endure it after all.
"Hisui, I'm going out for a short time, I won't be back too late, so if you could leave the front door unlocked, I would appreciate it."
Her plain face became worried, her eyebrows curling up in the middle. "Are you going to be okay, Shiki-sama? Will you get in any more fights?"
This must have given her bad memories of those days in the past when I used to come back early in the morning, cut up and bruised from fighting the Dead, Nvrnqsr Chaos, or SHIKI, let alone that recent series of events.
"No, I'll be fine, Hisui, I hope..." I added, "I'm meeting a friend, so I don't think anything will happen tonight."
Hisui smiled lightly, "Then please take care, Shiki-sama."
Thirty minutes later
This was our favourite place long ago, though it wasn't by choice. Several horrific events led to us sharing this space frequently, fighting, shedding blood. I was no a place to be happy in.
But tonight was different, it was just going to be the two of us.
"Hey Shiki, how are you?"
I responded to the cheerful person standing nearby my bench.
"Quite good actually, today's been hectic, but a lot of fun at the same time."
Her smile came again, this time wider, "Aah, good good, I'm happy to see you like this, Shiki."
"How about you, Arcueid? How's your body?"
"Never been better!" She stretched her arms up and behind her, like a cat, "I could run to China and back without a sweat."
I disregarded the fact that there was the small matter of an entire sea between there and Japan.
"So, where do you want to go tonight?"
"I don't mind!" She hooked her arm in mine, "Pick any place!"
"Okay... Come with me!"
An hour later
The choices for taking Arcueid out were limited. Still being too young to go into bars, I ended up settling for a cosy café with low lighting. Somehow this seemed to interest her a lot.
"Why are the lights so low, do you think they have a problem with the building?"
The way she so innocently said that made me laugh.
"No, it's not that, it's to set a 'mood', a romantic or more personal one."
Arcueid widened her eyes in surprise, "Really? Wow, they really think a lot about these things!" She purred and moved her face closer to me across the table, "So, why would you take me to one of these places?"
Uh oh... I didn't think about this, I'm not liking the turn in our nice evening.
"W-Well, I just haven't taken you anywhere recently, so I thought a place like this would suit you."
She had a smouldering lilt to her gaze, which made me hotter.
"Shiki, you don't have to be so coy, just say you like me and it'll be over with quick."
Great, now she's got me in a corner again. If I say I don't like her, she'll get upset and whiny, and it'll take me a while to get her to calm down. If I say yes, then she'll really get on top of me, and I don't know what I can do to stop her.
"Well, Arcueid, you see, it's like this..." I loosened my collar for a second, "I just want you to know how to live in our era, Arcueid." Her face lost some of its joy, "I mean, I know I'm the one who takes you out for fun, and shows you places you've not been before, but you need to do some things for yourself."
"But I do!" She huffed and folded her arms, annoyed that the moment was lost.
I shook my head, because I knew what she was talking about, "Yes, but going out for a meal isn't the same thing as 'going out', which means to have fun and do or see interesting things."
Arcueid scratched her head cutely, cocking it to one side, before sighing, "Shiki, you know how to depress someone you know..."
"Ah, come on on Arcueid, you're always happy, aren't you?"
Her smile beamed back, "Yeah, I suppose I am." She pouted childishly,"But, like you said, I don't know how to have fun..."
I laughed to myself, "You'll learn, don't worry, it's easy once you start doing things on your own."
"But, I'll always have you to help me, won't I Shiki?"
I closed my mouth, not wanting to reply, but I changed the subject, "You want to walk somewhere? It's a warm night for this month."
"Okay!" She instantly changed and was happy again.
Thirty minutes later
We had walked around the streets, safe in the knowledge that there were normal people around. The fact that the moon was up served to make me feel a little bit more secure next to Arcueid, since she was almost invincible.
I showed her some new sights and places that we might visit in the future for her to sample. As we walked back to the park, I could feel that Arcueid was somewhat unhappy, but I would see her soon another day.
Yet, when I got to the park, she stopped me.
"Shiki..." She looked at me with kind eyes, "I don't know much about human culture and practices, but I heard that today was a special day for girls." She smiled and gave me a round object, "Here's a little something to show you how I feel about you, Shiki."
It was a quaint collection of chocolates from a nearby sweet shop, which she must've gone to before meeting me. To say I was surprised was an understatement.
Her smile expanded, "Ah, that's good, it looks like I made the right choice to get something today." She leaned forward, peeking at my face whilst looking up at it, "Hmm, Shiki, are you okay?"
"Y-Yes..." I didn't want to open it, not yet, "You shouldn't have... It's too much..."
She waved her hand casually, "Don't be silly, I just saw how many girls were giving men these, so I wanted to do the same."
"But, don't you know what it means...?" I deflated slightly.
Her smile was warmer and she came closer to me, "Yes, I do..." She hugged me, and startled by her, I did the same.
We stood like that for minutes, but to me the time ran slower, so it felt like an hour.
Eventually we parted, but the heat was still there. "That's how much I think about you Shiki, and I what want is to be with you forever..."
"Arcueid..." I smiled back, how could I not by those words? "I never want to leave you either... You are very special to me."
Arcueid giggled, then clapped her hands together, "Great, now we've formed a life binding contract, I can't wait!"
"Huh, hang on... Life binding contract?" Arcueid began jogging away, and I ran after her, "Wait a second, what is that?" She stuck her tongue out at me and jumped into the trees, disappearing.
I knew finding her now would be impossible, so I just sat down at my favourite bench and sighed, "Now, I wonder what I've gotten myself into this time..."
A life binding contract? Is it like a marriage proposal? I just hope she's joking.
I sat there in the coolness, scanning my surroundings idly as time went on. I wasn't waiting for anyone, but it was rare that I could just pass my time peacefully, alone at night.
I heard a small rustling behind me, and I tensed up, only to calm down.
"Ah, so it's you..."
Whoever it was didn't reply, but light footsteps scraped across some grit on the ground.
"It's been a while, I was wondering if you decided to leave me, I haven't seen you around..."
The quiet was disturbed by an animal jumping on the bench, besides Shiki.
"You have? You must be hiding well if even I can't see you. Have you been looking at my dreams lately?"
The black cat with the large bow tied around the back of its collar stared up expectantly, before shaking its head side to side.
"If you want, you can, I don't mind." I patted her head, and the cat purred from my contact. "Just don't do what Arcueid did back then..." Shiki shuddered at the dream he had a while ago.
He pulled his hand back whilst turned away and felt the presence next to him grow larger. He faced the pale blue haired girl in the black outfit.
"So, Len, how are you? Is your body holding up?"
She nodded slowly.
"That's good, you seem better from that last crazy battle..."
Len blushed slightly, but returned to her plain face. She held out her palms and materialised a chocolate, one in the shape of a cat. She passed it to me, her face unusually determined.
She nodded, and the look insisted that I eat it now. Seeing as it was the size of a biscuit, I ate it fast, savouring every moment of it. It was probably the best one I had all day, it hit all the sensitive parts of my taste buds.
Len cocked her head to one side.
"Oh, that is clever!" I smiled, "So it's made of dream-like material, and you picked all the flavours and sensations that I liked too."
She blushed lightly and nodded.
"Hmm, maybe that would be nice... Could you visit the others I know, like my family, Senpai and Arcueid, and give them a nice dream for tonight?"
She moved her eyes strangely, and those large eyes were slightly narrowed.
"N-No!" I quickly waggled my hands in a negative fashion, "Not like last time! Just give them a happy dream about whatever they want. Just try to keep the sex out of it, if you can..."
Len just nodded.
"If you get time, and if you can, give yourself one too..."
This time she shook her head, I guess it isn't possible for that to happen.
I looked at the clock in the park, and noted the late hour. "I'd better be going back, I don't want to upset Akiha any more, do you want to come with me?"
She nodded and turned into a cat in front of my eyes, walking onto my lap.
"You want me to carry you? Okay then..."
Picking her up, I walked home in dark streets, occasionally stroking the black cat, who nuzzled into my top and settled into a warm nap.
Twenty minutes later
The lights were off, so I had arrived home after curfew. However I could tell that the door was unlocked, so I silently thanked Hisui for doing that for me. Len jumped out of my arms and scurried off somewhere into the bushes, probably to get started on those dreams, so I left her to her own devices.
Entering the mansion, the lobby was dark, the moonlight not really penetrating the room, but I could sense a strange tension in the air.
A crack came from my left, the sound of something being broken.
It was a bit strange for there to be burglars in the Tohno household, given our reputation, but I wasn't going to take any chances.
I took out my family knife, unconsciously I took it with me when I left, and slowly opened the door to the dining room. The lights were still off in here, but there was a sliver of pale yellow seeping out from under the door to the kitchen, with a shadow moving across often.
Thinking about what a burglar would want from the kitchen, I remembered how all our cutlery was real silver, and seeing as it was a full set for ten people, that was a lot of potential for profit.
Leaning against the door, I heard a panting, whoever it was was tired, meaning that my chances of success were higher. I wasn't going to lower my glasses, but if it wasn't human, then we'll see...
Knowing that there was no subtle way of opening the door without a loud click and wooden creak, I burst in at a full run.
Raising my knife, approaching the crouched figure, I gasped and skidded to the floor, seeing who it was as she stood up in shock.
"Sh-Shiki-sama!" Hisui was holding her hands over her heart, "Wh-What are you doing in here?"
Feeling a bit stupid, I hid the knife quickly and got up off of the floor,"I heard a noise and thought it was burglar, or worse..." I cleared my throat, "Never mind that, what are you doing here so late?"
"Ahhh..." She was blushing now, as I looked around to see dozens of pots, pans and dishes scattered around the surfaces.
"Are you cooking, so late?" I recalled her trying to make a simple sandwich for me, and ending up creating a huge mess and stressing out over it. "Why don't you have something ready-made?"
She returned to her professional manner, "Yes, that would be easier, but I wish to make this myself."
"But, what could be so important?" I wondered out loud.
Hisui was apprehensive, "If Shiki-sama asks me, then I cannot tell a lie."
I shrugged, just wanting to get to my room before Akiha finds out I'm awake, "Go ahead, tell me Hisui."
She clasped her hands on her apron, and her head titled forwards, making her fringe cover the upper half of her face. However, her bright red cheeks could be clearly seen.
And then I understood, seeing a mixing bowl with a brown substance in it and her shyness. I sighed loudly, "Hisui, you don't have to go through so much trouble for me..." I gave her a casual look, trying to relax her, but it wasn't working.
"But Shiki-sama has done so much for me, and has been in many fights..." She turned to one side, "The least I could do is this."
"Hisui..." I smiled and moved closer by a step, "Just having you wake me up in the mornings, and seeing me off when I go to school, and all those little things you think are irrelevant and normal for you, to me, they're very special that you care enough for me to do them."
"But it's my duty..." She was shaking her head at my answer.
"Even so, you still do it, and you care enough to ask me how I am while doing it, a real maid wouldn't ask anything." Hisui was silent, "But, I like you the way you are, I don't want you to change, and for that, I'll help you make a good chocolate, and we'll share it together." I could see her open her mouth to argue, "No disagreeing, we're both up past curfew, we should sleep as soon as we can, so let's get to work!"
And so we did, after licking the bowl and growing a little greener at the taste, I added sugar and some other ingredients from the recipe to save it. Somehow we managed to do it in less than thirty minutes. There wouldn't be enough time to let it set, so I poured a bit into a a small cup to drink.
"We can put the rest in the fridge for tomorrow, Hisui."
"Yes, Shiki-sama, Happy Valentine's Day." She passed me the warm chocolate drink.
I shook my head, not wanting it like this. Seeing her hurt look, I elaborated. "Don't call me Shiki-sama, just this once, please?"
Hisui blushed fully, then with her head bowed, she handed it to me, "H-Happy Valentine's Day, Shiki..."
Accepting it happily, I drank the liquid, and found it to be average, but nicer because we worked together on it.
"Thank you, Hisui. I'm looking forward to the rest tomorrow."
She bowed. "I will ensure you get them when you are alone." She moved to the door, "It is time for us to retire for the night."
Agreeing with her, we left the kitchen area and parted at the lobby.
15th February, Monday
"Haah..." Arihiko wandered into the class, having already missed the first lesson of the day.
"It's not like you Arihiko, you usually come in after lunch if you skip the first period."
"Yeah... I guess so..." The normally vibrant and boisterous person was stressed and holding his stomach.
"What's wrong? Something happen yesterday?"
"You could say that..." He began to recount his evening to me.
The doorbell rang alerting the occupants inside. Sighing loudly, the elder sister Ichigo went to the door and opened it, her cigarette hanging from her mouth.
"What do you want?" She drawled, not in the mood from having been woken from her evening nap in the living room.
"Ah, Ichigo-san, is..." The female voice replied, but Ichigo just pointed up the stairs.
The small blonde skipped in, and almost floated up the steps to Arihiko's room. She knocked lightly, and not waiting for a response, she burst in.
"Awaaah!" Arihiko fell off his bed in surprise, and then facefaulted at seeing who it was. "N-N-Nanako-chan?"
"Yep!" The bubbly petite blonde hybrid giggled.
"What are you doing here?" Arihiko backed up against the wall as Nanako moved closer.
"Nothing, just a little gift, here!" She handed him a carrot-shaped box.
Her opened it to find a curious chocolate, which had a strange smell to it. "Uhh, but..."
"It's okay! Just obligation only, for taking care of me before!"
"What kinda flavour is it?" He asked, doubtful because of the shape as well as the vegetable-like smell.
"What do you think?" She put her hooved hands on her hips, "Carrot of course!"
"Eww..." Her furious eyes then terrified him, "I mean, yum, sounds delicious!"
She suddenly brightened, "I thought you'd say that!" She pointed to it, "Now, eat."
"Eat... As in the chocolate?"
"That's right, even if it is obligation chocolate, you have an obligation to finish it."
"Ugh, I've just had lunch, I'm not up to it right now." Arihiko sighed.
Her sly look returned, and she was getting upset, "So, you're refusing my chocolate then, huh?" She narrowed her eyes further, "Do you really want me to get angry with you?"
"Man..." He picked up the chocolate and bit into it, "Guh..." He began to cry, "So disgusting..."
"What was that?" Nanako smiled, so happy that he ate some of her chocolate, that she didn't hear him.
"I mean... The taste is... indescribable..."
"Oh, just so you know, it's not made with cows milk."
Arihiko paused just as he was about to take another bite, his eyes shifting down to the brown substance he just swallowed. He did notice an odd texture to it.
"Okay..." He knew he was going to regret asking, "What's it from then...?"
Nanako flushed red, and instantly, he held down the bile, "Well, you probably don't understand, but I was part-unicorn, so..."
"Nonononono!" He yelled, dropping the horrid excuse for a treat, "You can't be serious!"
Her eyes now changed, and Arihiko suddenly had an image of thousands of pages fluttering about within them, and his skin began to tingle from static electricity.
"Eat it all up please, or God will be most unhappy..." Though she had closed her eyes with that same smile, the sounds of pages flapping in the wind did not stop.
"Please, help me God..." Arihiko began to wolf down the chocolate, not even letting it sit on his tongue for too long lest he taste it any more.
"All done?" Nanako cooed at his greener face, "You need a drink I think, you need some water, or maybe some mi-"
"Water's fine!" He shouted loudly, "I'll get it later..."
Feeling suddenly ill and defeated, he gave up and just let his body relax onto the floor of his room.
"Thanks for the chocolate Nanako... I'm a bit tired now..."
"Okay, I'll leave then." She was happier by far, "I'll just put this here..." She put another one on the table, this time it was a different shape.
"Oh no..." He looked at it in horror.
"Don't worry, it was made by my Master, as thanks for taking care of me back then. A spell has been put on it too, which will give you 24 hours of bliss."
"Spell? What?" Arihiko rubbed his face, "Okay, this is confusing me now."
"It's okay, I'm going now." She waved to him as she opened his window, "Bye for now!"
Jumping out, he didn't even check to see if she was okay, knowing that stranger things have happened to him before.
Glancing at the chocolate on the table, he got up and sat on his chair, moving his face closer to it to sniff it.
"What the hell, is that curry?"
Screwing up his face, he took it downstairs to put in the fridge, ignoring the mirthful look on his sister's face, and proceeded to down an entire litre of water, crying as well because of his ordeal.
Outside, Nanako met up with a woman in a dark outfit, wearing sunglasses and walking slowly.
"Thank you for letting me out, Master."
"Did you do what you wanted?" The woman asked.
"Yep!" Nanako was cheerful, "He really enjoyed it, thanks for your help making it with me."
Her master looked around the area, sensing that no one could see them, "That's good news." She pulled out a hardback book, only all the pages inside were missing, "It think it's time you slept for a bit, your powers will vanish otherwise."
"Aww, no fair..." Seeing a glare from the taller woman, Nanako was annoyed, "Fine, do whatever you want then!"
As the taller woman muttered a few words, Nanako became to unfold page by page, until finally she no longer stood beside her, instead becoming all the missing papers in the book.
Sighing, Ciel took off her glasses and knocked on the hard cover, "Such a troublesome girl..."
Placing the Seventh Holy Scripture back into her robe, she felt a punch from within the book to her chest, winding her slightly.
"Still, maybe she is cooped up in there for too long sometimes." Ciel looked at the blue sky, "She might even get along with Len-san, though I'm not sure Akiha-san will allow me near there."
Thinking of how she gave her chocolate to Shiki, she smiled.
"I'm glad Tohno-kun liked it."
Arihiko began rocking in his seat.
I didn't know what to say to him, he seems pretty traumatised by it all...
"Look, I'm sure she won't turn up again soon." He didn't look convinced, "It was just a once off."
"I hope so, I can't much more craziness like that..." He shook his head and suddenly became cheerful, "So, anyway, tell me about your day."
Oh dear... He won't be happy with what I have to say...
Dinner was as formal as ever, Akiha sitting at one end of the long table, with myself at the other, with Kohaku by her side and Hisui by mine.
"By the way, Nii-san..." Akiha spoke up just as I had finished my meal, "Two parcels arrived for you today after you had left for school, one international priority and another locally."
"Oh?" I was surprised, not many people have any reason to send things to me, "Who were they from?"
"Nii-san," Akiha began her scolding mode, "You should know that even though I wish for you to respect the rules of the house, I too follow them. One of these rules is that whenever property belongs to someone else, no one other than that person can use it." She looked at me piercingly, "That includes private letters and parcels."
"I'm surprised, Akiha..." I laid back in my chair, "I would have pictured you or Kohaku opening it to check for bombs first."
Uh oh, her eyes were peeved now.
"My, Nii-san, what poor faith you have in your own sister no less." She stood up from her chair and walked to me, "Were there any bombs in the parcels, surely the mere fact of opening them would trigger them, no?" She indicated her servant, "Kohaku has special technology which does check to see if any dangerous substances were inside, and found nothing of the sort."
"That's a relief." I sighed loudly, though I doubt that any Apostles would do something as mundane as a bomb to kill me, "At least we don't get any bombs sent here, isn't that right, Kohaku?"
"On the contrary Shiki-san, we get approximately ten to twenty bombs per week, we don't know who from, but they are all defused safely and discarded."
"Wh-what...?" This was new, "Why so many...?" I held my head, "On second thoughts, don't tell me, the less I know, the better for my sanity."
"As it should be, Nii-san" Akiha smiled superiorly, "Hisui has your parcels, they're in your room."
"Shiki-sama." She bowed lightly, "Allow me to show you to your room."
"Okay, Hisui, thanks." I waved as I left the dining room, "See you tomorrow Akiha, Kohaku."
I didn't see them, but I sensed a disapproving look and a plain smile from the twosome.
Hisui opened the door and they were simply on my desk, not hidden away as I thought.
"I would recommend that you open the international parcel, it is the one with many stamps on it."
"Thanks, Hisui." I sat at my desk, "I think you're right."
As she bowed and left, I went about opening the larger box, with my useful knife, I didn't need to take off my glasses this time.
Surely enough, it opened at the seams and inside was a letter from a friend.
I am aware that this most likely will not reach yourself in time before the 14th, however I felt it prudent to express my gratitude for helping me at that time when I was in need of your help.
Please accept this albeit paltry offer, cooked by the best chefs in Europe, for your consumption. I have added something in them to prevent the long journey from affecting their texture, something of a trade secret within our organisation, one which I felt would be helpful in this situation.
As before, I am waiting for the time when you require my help, from one friend to another.
Sion Eltnam Atlasia"
Indeed, the packed chocolates were still moist looking, and did look delectable. Having just had a large dinner, I wasn't feeling up to eating all of them at this time.
Opening my cupboard, I found the mini fridge that Akiha had placed in there at my request and put the chocolates in there, along with some bottles of water and some strawberry Haagen Daz which were in the freezer section.
Turning to the other parcel, I opened it quickly and saw a very cheap pack of chocolates, with a small note on top.
"Oniichan, when are you coming home? Don't forget me!"
A cute picture of a frustrated girl was beneath this, and I had to stifle a giggle.
I guess I haven't been a good brother after all, I should go and check on Miyako every now and then, going for the summer to have some melon was nice, but that was the last time I saw her.
Sighing loudly, I placed her chocolate in fridge as well, having had so much chocolate recently has given me a sugar high and I felt my head had begun to spin from so much energy. My naturally weak body had grown stronger over the past few months, but it still wasn't enough to process all this internal energy just yet.
Like people have said before, my physical body is in good condition, and does remarkably well in normal everyday activities, and of course the odd life-or-death battle or five. However if I catch a cold or a virus, I'm incredibly weak to that.
Still, I had to think of what to get them for White Day now, since I can imagine that they would be looking forward to something. I'll just leave that for another day...
Been writing this for 3 years now, waiting to upload it on Valentine's Day, but despite everything, I simply forgot to do it this year.
Doesn't matter, better late than never.