Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. Ookami Kakushi is property of Ryukishi and PeachPit. This takes place during the "Driving Out Those Harbouring Wolves" chapter in the VN, but this can still be read by those who only saw the anime; just keep in mind that some details will be a bit different.
Also, yaoi. No explicit sex, anything that happens is implied rather than shown. But still, yaoi. You have been warned.
Shunichirou Sakaki was not sure how he had gotten himself into this predicament. When he had first met Hiroshi Kuzumi after rescuing him from his assailant, he viewed him as someone who could be valuable in helping him learn the truth of what happened to his lover. What he did not see him as was a baby-sitting charge.
It had begun while Sakaki was relating his life story to Hiroshi in the park, about how those bastards had taken his lover away from him, and how they were out to investigate the truth. At some point, his voice had begun to wear down from his ranting, and the two had gone off to get something to drink. While Sakaki was downing a bottle of mineral water, Hiroshi was relating his own life story about how his father was a writer (funny, Sakaki had never heard of him, but whatever) and how his sister was in a wheelchair and blah blah blah. The entire time, Sakaki had been nodding and smiling in agreement, not paying much attention.
Looking back, Sakaki wished he had paid attention, for it was towards the end of the conversation that Hiroshi mentioned his father recently had a new book about to be published, and that he'd be leaving town for two days next Friday. He had mentioned that although his father knew Hiroshi was old enough to look after himself and Mana and would leave them alone under any other circumstances, Hiroshi had insisted that he wanted someone to look after them. "If something were to happen to me while we investigated and dad was gone," Hiroshi had said, "who would look after Mana? I need someone to keep Mana safe until dad comes back."
"If you're really that desperate, maybe I could do it," Sakaki had suggested. "We could use that time to investigate further, and who's to say your father would know if you got into any trouble? I'd cover for you. I'm sure your sister would cover for both of us, if we came up with a convincing story."
At the time, Sakaki was just making a loose suggestion. He hadn't realized Hiroshi had actually taken it seriously until, while at his apartment later that night, Sakaki had received a call from an enthusiastic-sounding man thankful to him for agreeing to look after his two children for the weekend. Sakaki had begun to tell the man to fuck off and go bug someone else until the man had said:
"My son, Hiroshi, says he's good friends with you. He said you were the one to make the offer. I didn't know he made any friends outside school, but I am glad to see Hiroshi make the effort to go beyond his age range!"
"Yes. This is Masaaki Kuzumi, Hiroshi's father."
And so Sakaki found himself standing inside the Kuzumi's apartment shaking hands with Masaaki, wondering if it was too late to double over in agony and claim to need to have his appendix removed. He was wasting time by baby-sitting. Mieko's murder was not getting solved any faster if he just sat around all day watching two brats old enough to take care of themselves!
…Or maybe he could make the most of the situation and somehow convince Mana to go along with the investigating. Maybe all hope was not lost. Maybe.
"Again, thank you very much for the favour," said Masaaki enthusiastically, nearly wrenching Sakaki's hand off with his shake.
"Think nothing of it," said Sakaki, wringing his hand out of Masaaki's grasp. Masaaki gave him an assortment of lists of phone numbers and potential medical problems to arise. He began blabbering on about which number to call in this situation, while Sakaki looked over his shoulder to see Hiroshi and Mana huddled together near the TV, whispering.
"You're sure about this guy, onii-chan?" whispered Mana. "I remember seeing him near Kaori onee-chan's a few times, and he doesn't really look like the baby-sitting type."
"Well, yeah, Sakaki-san can be a little…pessimistic," admitted Hiroshi. "But he really is a good guy, and I'm sure he wouldn't harm a fly."
"…and if those rumours going around town turn out to be true," Masaaki finished, "Hiroshi tells me you have the adequate fighting skills to ward any attackers off. Well, I'll be going now." He waved to his children. "Goodbye, Hiroshi, Mana! I'll be back Sunday evening!"
"Goodbye, dad!" said Hiroshi and Mana.
Masaaki gave them one, last friendly smile and closed the door behind him, leaving his children in the care of Sakaki. There was an awkward silence for several minutes before Sakaki said, "So…what do you usually do Friday nights?"
"Um…well…" Hiroshi began, but Mana jumped in: "We do homework. And I'm supposed to see Kaori onee-chan in a couple minutes. But I'm fine going alone—"
"Your father gave me orders to accompany you," said Sakaki. "Your brother and I will go with."
"No worries, Mana," said Hiroshi quickly. "As soon as we drop you off, Sakaki-san and I will leave you alone." He looked over at the older man. "We have our own errands to run, don't we?"
Sakaki nodded. "Ah, yes we do." He thought, Maybe this weekend won't be a total waste of time.
"So you know Kaori-san from before?"
After dropping Mana off, Hiroshi and Sakaki went for a walk around town before stopping just outside the central market. Today, there weren't too many people around, but Hiroshi figured it would probably be filled up later once everyone got home from school and changed out of their uniforms.
"Yes, we've spoken a few times," said Sakaki, observing the few people around him. They look so normal…you'd never suspect this is the kind of town that would cover up brutal murders, he thought. Then again, he hadn't realized it at first glance, either. As much as he despised these people, he had to admit they did a very good job at making everything appear like a scene out of a picture-perfect calendar.
"What?" said Sakaki, turning to Hiroshi.
"Ah…forgive me for asking," said Hiroshi, rubbing the back of his neck, "but Mana and I are just…curious…do you have any feelings for Kaori-san?"
"Ah…" Sakaki looked over quickly at the bookstore, but he realized dodging the question was just about the same as giving a positive answer to the question. "Maybe I do," he admitted. "But there's nothing between us right now. I have other things to think about."
"Like…what happened?" said Hiroshi in a low voice.
"Exactly," nodded Sakaki. "Have you found out anything new since we last spoke?"
"Um…not really," said Hiroshi slowly. He tried to think back to any conversations he had over the past few days. "I don't know if this is important, but one of my classmates transferred out the other day."
"Transferred out, huh…" said Sakaki with a smirk. "That's just what they want you to think."
"Maybe it's just a weird coincidence," said Hiroshi. "What struck me about it was that this happened only one day after I walked in on this person licking my eraser."
"They licked your eraser?" said Sakaki, his smirk growing wider.
"Yeah, I went to go to the bathroom and when I came back, I found him going through my desk with one hand and using the other to hold my eraser and lick it," said Hiroshi. "And when I asked him what he was doing, he said he was just joking and went back to his seat. I remember he had a really scared look in his eyes, like he saw a ghost standing right behind me."
"You don't say," said Sakaki, thinking, We are not dealing with humans here.
"And then the next thing I know, he's gone to Tokyo," Hiroshi concluded. "I wouldn't think too much of it except I have other classmates who play similar "jokes" on me."
"I don't think your classmates are 'joking'," said Sakaki, stroking his chin. "I think there's something not right about them. Something not human."
"But if they're not 'human', then what are they?" Hiroshi asked.
"That's a very good question," said Sakaki. "Have you noticed anything else strange?"
"Well, Isuzu-chan is acting kind of weird," said Hiroshi, reflecting on Isuzu's recent mood swings. "She'll go from being happy about us being a 'couple' one day, then act gloomy and depressed the next. She's been acting like this since her brother moved to Tokyo."
"To join your classmate?" said Sakaki. "No, I think this is a much bigger conspiracy. I think that whatever happened to this girl's brother, and to your classmate, could have been the same fate to happen to my lover." He clenched a fist. Just thinking about it was enough to make his blood boil, and he had to remind himself to stay calm around the Kuzumi boy until he knew for certain he really could be trusted.
"What about you?" said Hiroshi. "Did you find out anything, Sakaki-san?"
"No," sighed Sakaki with frustration. "I'm still going around in circles."
Hiroshi leaned against the wall. "I'm sorry I couldn't be of much help to you."
"Oh, trust me, you've been plenty of help, Kuzumi-kun," said Sakaki. He thought, But how much help will you be to me when the time for my revenge comes, if it ever does?
At supper, Mana happily recounted her day with Kaori, the three sitting around the table eating curried rice. Sakaki held on to her speech with much interest, reflecting on those precious few hours he had spent with her thus far. To be happy again, to be in love again…wouldn't that be a precious treasure?
Mana stopped suddenly and her smile changed from bright and happy to sly. "Ah, onii-san, I think you've finally cracked," she teased.
"Eh?" said Sakaki.
"I can see you smiling, you know," said Mana, still holding on to that sly grin. "Is there something about Kaori onee-chan you like?"
"Ah…ahem," Sakaki cleared his throat, "Not…one thing in particular…"
Mana and Hiroshi shared a smile. Hiroshi thought to himself how nice it was to feel something close to love, if not strong infatuation, for Isuzu. Although, her gloominess did keep him worrying about her condition, and he wondered if he were somehow the cause of her unhappiness. Would it be a good idea to give her plenty of space and time for herself? No, even if he tried, she most likely would not let him. But even so…the closer they became, the more hurt Isuzu appeared to be…
He looked over at Sakaki. He wondered if Sakaki faced this kind of difficulty with his lover. Had they gone through a period where this girl had been highly temperamental? Or had things been relatively smooth up until her death? Hiroshi couldn't imagine Sakaki having any difficult with her. With his dark hair, violet eyes, and occasional smile, he was good-looking in Hiroshi's eyes.
Well, except for those bangs. When Hiroshi looked at Sakaki's bangs, he thought back to the age-old question, "If you were an animal, what would you be?" If Hiroshi were to take this question and apply it to Sakaki, he would say, "Sheep dog."
"What?" said Sakaki, looking up from his meal.
Realizing he had been staring, Hiroshi turned away and said, "Uh…sorry…" His cheeks lightly flushed, though he wasn't really sure why.
As Sakaki lay back in Masaaki's bed, he thought about his situation. So far, things weren't quite as bad as he had dreaded. While he and Hiroshi hadn't made much progress, at least it was better than none at all.
But still…ah, but still…
"Now what, Mieko?" he muttered. "What am I supposed to do?"
"I'm sure that young Kuzumi boy will be of great help to you. Earn his friendship and trust, and everything will fall into place."
"But he's not doing much right now, apart from running in circles."
"Oh, he knows much more than you give him credit for. Why don't you take him around town tomorrow?"
"But the murderer, what about the murderer…"
"You'll have a hard time figuring out who killed me if you don't take the time to get to know the one person who could be the key to your vengeance."
"…Maybe you're right. Yes…tomorrow, I will—"
"Sakaki-san?" The door creaked open and Hiroshi stood in his blue pyjamas. Sakaki sat up and Hiroshi said, "I'm sorry, did I wake you? I just heard you talking and I wasn't sure if you were asleep, or…"
"It was nothing," said Sakaki, hoping Hiroshi hadn't heard too much. "Anyway…I've been doing some thinking: Maybe we could get more work done if we were more relaxed. Tomorrow, I'll take you around town for a bit."
Hiroshi stood, waiting for something related to solving his lover's murder to come out of Sakaki's mouth. "And that's it?" he said.
"Maybe it's being on-guard that's getting us nowhere," said Sakaki. "If we were to take a walk, we might find something useful. We might even stumble across a piece of this damned puzzle. What do you say?"
"Hmm…I guess that might be okay," said Hiroshi slowly. "Though I usually go out with some friends from school…we'll see." He walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge. "I'm sorry about springing this on you. I should've asked first. It just came out as a suggestion to dad, and before I could tell him it was just a possibility…well…"
"As long as we use our time wisely, I don't think this'll be too big of a waste of time," said Sakaki. He rolled over and yawned, "Good night."
"Good night," said Hiroshi. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. With a yawn, he closed his eyes and, without realizing it, fell asleep next to Sakaki.
Sakaki had been the first to realize it when he woke up early the next morning and rolled over to see Hiroshi lying next to him. With a sigh and shake of his head, he picked up the sleeping boy and carried him back to his bedroom.
The next day at school, in the few minutes they had left before class officially began, Isuzu and Kaname talked to Hiroshi at his desk. "Hey hey, Hiro-kun," said Isuzu, "what are you thinking about?"
"Eh? Oh, nothing in particular," shrugged Hiroshi. In truth, he was thinking about Sakaki's offer from the night before. Just the two of them hanging out around town without investigating…as if they were almost…friends? Nah, maybe "friends" was too strong a word. "Kinship"? Didn't that mean the same thing, though?
"You know, Hakase-kun," said Kaname, "I have done some thinking…we really should hang out more, don't you think?" She turned to Isuzu with a smile. "And Suzu-chan, I think spending more time together might make you feel better. You just haven't been yourself since Issei moved to Tokyo."
The corners of Isuzu's mouth turned down. "Um…yeah…maybe…"
"How about we go out together tomorrow?" suggested Hiroshi. "Maybe we could meet up at my apartment and we could go out to the market for, I don't know…maybe lunch or dinner?"
Isuzu's face lit up. "I'd love to, Hiro-kun!" she exclaimed. She threw her arms around Hiroshi and shoved her face right next to his and sang, "We'll have a parf~ait or two, maybe an ice cream ca~ke, or maybe we'll share a lover's drink~…"
"Lo—lover's—drink?" gasped Hiroshi, feeling the air in him slowly being squeezed out.
"Suzu-chan, I think you're suffocating our dear Hakase-kun," chuckled Kaname, stroking one finger across her chin. As Isuzu let go of Hiroshi, Kaname went on to say, "But still, I do like your suggestion, Hakase-kun. I'll be available tomorrow. What about you, Suzu-chan?"
"Yes, yes!" said Isuzu, repeatedly bowing her head. "And I'm really, really sorry, Hiro-kun!"
"I'm all right, Isuzu-chan," said Hiroshi, rubbing his rib cage, which was surprisingly undamaged. "I'm good for tomorrow, too, but what time should we meet up? Are either of you good for the evening?"
Kaname's brows furrowed. "Hmm…I'm not too sure about that. My parents also want to go out for dinner tomorrow evening. But I think the morning might be manageable for me."
"And me, too!" piped up Isuzu.
"Then what time?" asked Hiroshi. "Would nine o'clock be too early?"
"Probably," nodded Kaname. "How about ten-thirty? That should be enough time for all of us. I'll stop by Suzu-chan's apartment first as it's close to yours, right, Hakase-kun?"
"Uh-huh," nodded Isuzu. "It'll be hard to wait for Kana-chan first, but it'll be worth it just to have lunch with one of my closest friends and my beloved Hiro-kun!"
"Speaking of your friends," said Hiroshi, looking over at Nemuru who was quietly reading, "do you think maybe we could also invite Kushinada-san to go with us?"
"I don't see why not," shrugged Kaname. "What do you think, Suzu-chan?"
Again, Isuzu grew solemn. "I guess so," she said.
"What's the matter?" said Kaname. "I thought you and Nemuru-san were friends."
"Oh, we still are," said Isuzu, "but…well…it's kind of, um…complicated…but she can come. It's all right with me."
Hiroshi looked over at Nemuru, then back to Isuzu. In truth, he had a strong feeling that, because she was Isuzu's friend, she might possibly know something about the reason for Isuzu's depression. So maybe if she came with, she could possibly help cheer Isuzu up.
Hiroshi walked over to Nemuru's table and said, "Kushinada-san."
Nemuru's eyes darted from the pages of her book to Hiroshi. "Yes," she said.
"Isuzu-chan, Kaname-san, and I are going out for lunch tomorrow and…um…" He rubbed the back of his neck. Did Nemuru still view his existence as an annoyance? Would she be pleased by the invitation or annoyed? "Well, we were wondering if maybe you'd like to come with us? You don't have to if you don't—"
"I will," said Nemuru. She went back to her book.
"Huh? What? You will?" said Hiroshi, surprised by how easy that had been.
Nemuru gestured for Hiroshi to come in a bit closer. He leaned in and she spoke in a low voice: "I'm a bit concerned about Tsumuhana-san's behaviour. There are some things you can't know just yet, but…there is a chance something could happen tomorrow that I want to prevent."
"Like what?" said Hiroshi.
To this, Nemuru only said, "What time?"
"Uh...ten-thirty," said Hiroshi. "But what were you—"
"Where are we meeting up?" asked Nemuru.
"My apartment," said Hiroshi. "Do you know where it is, or should I—"
"I can ask Tsumuhana-san about it after school," said Nemuru.
And with that, she went back to her book, leaving Hiroshi to wonder what to make of her cryptic words.
After school, Hiroshi met up with Mana and Sakaki outside Mana's school. From there, they dropped her off at Kaori's and went for a walk through the neighbourhood.
"So, um….don't these Old Town houses look nice?" said Hiroshi awkwardly.
"Some of them," muttered Sakaki. He wore his usual scowl and gave no hint of even enjoying this walk.
Hiroshi cleared his throat and said, "I forgot to tell you when we picked up Mana, but tomorrow, I'm going out with my friends for lunch. They'll be stopping by at ten-thirty."
"So go," said Sakaki with a shrug.
"Um…uh…you found out anything new?" said Hiroshi. He took a step closer to Sakaki.
"I was talking with Kaori earlier," said Sakaki, looking straight ahead. "Have you heard of a deity called "Hakuro-sama"?"
Sakaki shook his head. "Never mind. It's a wonder you learn anything about this town at all. I'm no closer to what happened to Mieko than I was at the start."
"I'm sure we'll find something out," said Hiroshi, lightly touching Sakaki's arm. "Maybe you're right and we're just looking too hard. Maybe we'll stumble across something tonight."
"Yeah," said Sakaki dully. "Maybe."
Hiroshi's hands rested by his sides. "You must've really loved that girl."
"She was everything to me," said Sakaki, using a soft tone that surprised Hiroshi. "We had our plans…we were going to be married…" He clenched his fists. "And then those bastards took her away from me."
Hiroshi looked down at the dusty ground. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said. "I can't imagine what I would do if something happened to Isuzu." Then, "Sakaki-san…did you ever, um…feel like dying after…?"
Sakaki suddenly stopped walking. "What?"
"Um…I'm sorry if that was too personal," said Hiroshi quickly. "But…it's just that if she meant so much to you, I'd imagine it would be hard to go on living without her day after day."
Sakaki said nothing. He looked off to the side, and this was enough for Hiroshi to hear. He grabbed Sakaki by the hand, which startled him into turning back to face Hiroshi. "If it ever feels like too much for you to bear, then…then just talk to me," said Hiroshi, fighting back a lump in his throat. "Don't ever think about doing anything stupid. I'll listen to you. I'll be there. And I'd miss you if…"
"I never said anything about feeling like dying," said Sakaki coolly, but he did not struggle. "Although…it was hard. But I don't need any sentimental talks."
Hiroshi let go of Sakaki's hand and looked away, his cheeks red. Sakaki also looked elsewhere and muttered low enough for Hiroshi to not hear, "Thanks anyway."
After Mana was picked up from her lesson, it was dinner time. After dinner came Mana's favourite travelling program, which she had made tasty banana-cakes for such an occasion.
"Do you want some?" she had offered to Sakaki.
"Uh…no thank you," said Sakaki. Much as he hated to admit it, he was starting to get used to looking after these two brats, even if he was making absolutely no progress in his investigation. He had a feeling that strange man tailing the Tsumuhana's might have something to do with it, but what? Nothing particularly suspicious had been done on the man's part.
What about the young man who had attacked Hiroshi, though? Looking back, Sakaki wished he had stayed out a bit longer that night, but all he knew was that the attacker had mysteriously vanished and had also been a member of the Tsumuhana household, which was now being tailed by that guard.
Tsumuhana…attacker…guard…it's all useless. But I can't give up now. Absolutely not.
"Oi, Mana," said Sakaki, "your brother and I will be going out for a little bit, just to investigate those rumours your father told me about."
"We'll see you in an hour or two, Mana," said Hiroshi, getting up from his seat.
"See you later," said Mana with a wave as the two older males began to walk out together. She wasn't sure why, but she had an odd feeling that this was going to end very, very badly.
"Did you set your alarm clock for ten-thirty?" asked Sakaki as the two walked down the streets of the New Town. At this time of night, the darkness felt unnaturally peaceful, like there was something hiding in the dark waiting.
"Yes, I set it just before dinner," said Hiroshi with a nod. "So where are we going? Back to the park?"
"Actually," said Sakaki, "I was thinking of stopping by the bar and getting a few drinks."
"Drinks? You mean alcohol?" said Hiroshi.
"Don't act so surprised," said Sakaki. "I've gone out drinking many times. I'm past the legal age for it."
"Have you been drinking…since…you know…" Hiroshi rubbed the back of his neck.
"I have my drinking problems under control now," said Sakaki as the two began to turn around the corner. "Now, I allow myself a good, stiff drink once in a while. Why don't you wait outside while I go in?"
"Uh, sure," said Hiroshi, not entirely certain as to what Sakaki was up to.
Rather than immediately gulping down a drink, Sakaki had suggested the two go to the park and talk for a bit. As soon as they sat down on a bench, Sakaki got out two thermoses from his knapsack, along with the drinks bought earlier. "Kuzumi-kun," said Sakaki, "how would you like to have a drink?"
"Eh? Me?" said Hiroshi, surprised. "But isn't this illegal?"
"I don't see anything wrong in letting you have a taste before you're twenty-one," said Sakaki, pouring a liquid from a small bottle into the thermos. "You'll be a man soon enough."
"Uh…" Hiroshi picked up the thermos and said, "Okay…" No harm in just one drink, right? What's the worse it can lead to?
Hiroshi swigged down the drink, but too fast, and coughed up the bitter, burning liquid. Sakaki laughed, "Sorry, sorry, I should've realized you're not ready to handle the intense stuff just yet. Here, let me give you something milder."
Sakaki poured the rest of it onto the ground and got out a different drink. After pouring this drink into Hiroshi's thermos, he poured the rest of the whiskey into his own. He took a gulp of his drink and Hiroshi did his. This one was a little bitter but not quite as awful as the other one.
Hiroshi finished all of it, thinking, I guess that wasn't TOO bad, but maybe it's an acquired taste or something? Maybe just one more drink won't hurt.
"Sakaki-san," said Hiroshi, "may I have a little more?"
"Sure," said Sakaki. He hesitated. Which drink was which? Did it really matter?
Ah, right, the taller one. He poured it back into Hiroshi's thermos, then a little bit into his own. He reached for another short bottle and poured the rest of it into his own.
With another long gulp, Sakaki let out a satisfactory sigh and said, "You know, Kuzumi-kun, I think that we'll be able to get those fuckers where it hurts soon enough."
"Hell yeah!" yelled Hiroshi with a laugh. He held out the thermos. "More?"
"We'll see you in an hour or two, Mana."
That was what he had said three hours ago. It was now eleven o'clock, and while Mana had already changed into her pyjamas and brushed her teeth, she did not feel tired enough to go to bed. How could she sleep when her brother was wandering around town this late at night? Even if he had company with him…what if something had happened to that company, too?
"Where could they have gone?" muttered Mana, her eyes darting between the clock and the door. If they weren't back in five minutes, maybe she'd call the police. Or would it be a better idea to start off with the Tsumuhana's? Maybe Isuzu had some idea where Hiroshi had gone off too? But would it be a good idea to wake her up at this time of the night?
Before Mana could make a choice, she heard loud, obnoxious laughter ringing up the stairwell. That couldn't be…could it?
The door burst open and in came Sakaki and Hiroshi, who were staggering and leaning on each other, both laughing loud enough to wake up the world. Sakaki kicked the door closed behind him and waved, "Oi, Mana! What are you still up for, huh?"
"Sh, she's not a baby anymore, Sakaki-sa-*hic*," said Hiroshi, blinking and smiling stupidly. "She can look after herself."
"Where have you been?" cried out Mana. "I've been worried about you!"
"That's no-*hic*-none of your business," hiccupped Hiroshi. He and Sakaki stumbled forward into the apartment, and he said, "By the way, Sakaki-san, thanks for *hic* getting us home on time. You're my hero, you know what? You're my, um…my…uh…"
"Kuzumi-kun, am I your prince on a white horse?" said Sakaki, each word glued to the other.
"Yeah, yeah that's right," said Hiroshi with the same, stupid smile. "You're my horse on a white prince…"
"Are you drunk?" said Mana, wrinkling her nose at the bitter stench.
"Why the hell do you want to know?" snapped Sakaki. "Is there a law against drinking in Jouga?" He pumped his fist in the air and loudly declared, "Fuck Jouga!"
"Wait, we don't wanna wake up the neighbours," said Hiroshi, and the pair stumbled forward another step. "I think Isuzu-chan is really, really nice and pretty and I don't wanna wake her up."
"If she wakes up, tell her to join us!" quipped Sakaki. He and Hiroshi laughed over this like it was a long-time inside joke between best friends while Mana just sat there in her wheelchair and blinked at the sight of her drunken brother. What could she say at a sight like this? Scold them? Joke about it? Threaten to tell their father?
At last, she spoke, and it was the wrong thing to say:
"And I thought this evening would be boring…"
"What's that?" said Sakaki, attempting to shake a fist at Mana but only succeeding in clumsily waving his hand. "You think we're boring?"
"Uh, no, that's not what I…" But it was too late. The damage had been done.
"I'll show you!" declared Sakaki. "I'll prove to you I'm not boring!"
Mana had expected Sakaki, in his drunken state of mind, to do a variety of things to prove he wasn't boring. She had thought he would get up on the table and dance. She could picture him singing opera. She even imagined him doing a striptease right in the middle of the kitchen.
What she hadn't pictured Sakaki doing was grabbing her brother firmly by both shoulders and kissing him right on the mouth.
And yet, this was what he did.
Mana's jaw dropped at the sight of the older man stealing her brother's first kiss. "Wh..what…"
Sakaki separated with a satisfactory sigh, still holding Hiroshi by his shoulders, and turned to Mana with a smirk. "See? I told you I'm not boring."
"Sa, Sakaki-san," slurred Hiroshi, "I think she still needs some convincing, eh? She knows you're not boring, but what about me?"
Before Mana could stop him, Hiroshi returned the kiss, adding more fire and more…tongue? Yes, there was definitely tongue, as Mana could see by Hiroshi's lips parting and tongue slipping right into Sakaki's mouth.
"Onii…chan?" squeaked Mana.
Sakaki glanced at Mana out of the corner of his eye and returned the tongue kiss to Hiroshi.
Mana's face reddened and she muttered, "I'm going to bed now. Good night." She pushed her wheelchair forward towards her room, not looking back at the two men's French kissing growing more intense.
"Ah…ah, Saka…ki…ah," breathed Hiroshi as his cheeks flushed and Sakaki's tongue explored the insides of his mouth, arousing sensations Hiroshi was certain he shouldn't be feeling, and would possibly regret ever having felt in the morning.
But who the hell cared right now?
Sakaki broke off the kiss and slid his tongue back into his own mouth, leaving behind a small trail of saliva on Hiroshi's chin. He whispered, "Did that feel good, Kuzumi-kun?"
"Y…yes…" said Hiroshi, still in a drunken daze. Sakaki, equally as drunk, growled, "Then how about this?"
He placed one hand on Hiroshi's shirt, then slowly, slowly slid that hand down towards his pants. He was about to slide that hand right down the front when Hiroshi clumsily swatted Sakaki's hand away and said, "Wait…if we're gonna do this…my room?"
Sakaki bared a wolf-like grin. "I thought you'd never ask, my dear, sweet, Kuzumi-kun."
Mana lay back in her bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to get the image of her brother making out with Sakaki out of her mind. She'd be fine with her brother being gay if only it wasn't…that guy. Not because he was bad or anything; she remembered him actually being kind of nice on the one time he had stopped by during her violin lesson, but just because he was so much older. She never did like the age of consent being only thirteen, and thinking about someone at least ten or thirteen years older than her own brother making out with him made her die a little on the inside.
Now if only Issei hadn't moved to Tokyo, then she might be okay with it. Hiroshi would be sixteen in November, and from what she remembered during her last talk with Isuzu, Issei was nineteen. So it was only a three years' difference, it wouldn't be that bad. Besides, she wouldn't mind having the Tsumuhana's for siblings-in-law.
That is to say, if her brother were gay. Maybe he was straight, and he was just acting on a drunken impulse back there…maybe. Either way, he was still the same brother, gay or straight.
Mana sat up straight in bed at the sound of a thump and a yelp. "Onii-chan?" she called out. The only replies she heard were muffled gasps and yelps and barely intelligible dialogue. She thought she could hear: "Ah, yes, right there…arrghh, that hurts, gyahh…not enough lube, gwaahh…"
Mana shook her head. "Nah," she muttered, "they're probably just making me think…nah."
She lay down and closed her eyes, trying to block out the loud sounds from across the hall.
Mana woke up at ten-thirty the next morning. When she looked over at her alarm clock, she struggled to think for a moment, still fuzzy and half-awake. What was important about the time this morning? Something about Isuzu…Hiroshi…the other girls…
"Ah, right," muttered Mana. She yawned and stretched out her arms. The girls would be here in a couple of minutes to take Hiroshi to the market, and Mana would be joining them. "Might as well get ready," she said, pulling herself up.
At that moment, there was nothing Sakaki despised more than the sound of an alarm clock. Gah…my head…
His eyes still closed, Sakaki knocked the clock off the dresser and rubbed his pounding temples. "How much did I drink last night?" he muttered. He knew he would eventually have to get up and make breakfast, but right now he wanted nothing more than to lie here in bed and—
Did the father's bedroom even have an alarm clock?
Yes, it did…but not on this side; the other side…
"I really am hung over," sighed Sakaki, vowing to never drink like that again. He forced himself to open just one eye. The room was much bigger than he remembered it being. He could see the desk near the window, some boxes still being unpacked, the walls an entirely different colour from…
"This isn't my room," said Sakaki out loud.
That was when he was aware of a slightly cool breeze. He looked down and realized he wasn't wearing even a stitch of clothing, the blankets coming down to his waist. He looked around the room, and found his clothing lying at the foot of the bed, mixed with someone else's clothing. "But what am I…?"
A soft snoring. Kuzumi-kun…?
Sakaki rolled over, and saw Hiroshi with the blankets also around his waist, apparently also lacking clothes.
It was then that Hiroshi began to stir. The first sensation he felt was his aching bottom. Oooh God it huurrts, he thought, screwing his eyebrows together in a wince. His mind was blurry as he struggled to remember just how exactly his bottom had come to be in such pain, and why his skin felt bare beneath the sheets. Had he taken some sort of fall? Was it hot last night?
Hiroshi began to remember a very odd dream he had last night, one that involved him, Sakaki, a few drinks, and this bed. It had been a very perverted dream, one that he wouldn't dare repeat to Isuzu when the girls came for breakfast and—
"Isuzu-chan!" gasped Hiroshi as his eyes opened and he sat up straight in bed. He began to turn to get out of bed—only to find Sakaki sitting up next to him, apparently not wearing anything either. The two shared the same frozen, shocked expressions as they began to realize just what had happened between them last night…
"Oh shit," was the only thing Sakaki could say.
As the memories hit Hiroshi full force, Hiroshi could only stammer, "Sh-sh-shit? SHIT is all you can sa-sa-say! You and I—we—three drinks—and then—and then—UWAAAAAA!"
"Onii-chan?" said Mana curiously as she smoothed out the front of her favourite white dress. It didn't sound like Hiroshi was in any danger, but she couldn't help but be worried. She rolled her chair out into the hall and heard Sakaki sigh, "We had too much to drink last night."
His voice came from Hiroshi's room.
"You THINK!" cried out Hiroshi's panicked voice. "How can I even face them when they arrive and—"
"They don't need to know," said Sakaki, his voice calm but irritated. "This'll be our little secret."
Her curiosity now reaching its peak, Mana called out, "Onii-chan?"
A sudden silence fell, and Mana said, "Onii-chan, what's going on in there?"
"Your brother had too much alcohol and was sick all over the floor," called out Sakaki. "I'm helping him clean it up. Just give us a few minutes and we'll be out, all right?"
"Um…okay…" said Mana slowly. She wondered if that was the truth, and if not, if she should even find out the truth at all. Part of her wondered if it was somehow related to Sakaki and Hiroshi kissing last night, but before her train of thought could go any further, she heard a knock on the door, followed by a cheery, "Mor~ning!"
"Mana, could you get that?" said Sakaki.
Mana rolled into the kitchen, still curious as to what was going on in there. She opened the door and there stood Isuzu, Kaname, and Nemuru. "Morning, Mana-chan!" said Isuzu cheerfully, her face bright and sunny. "Is Hiro-kun ready for our outing? He didn't forget, did he?"
"No, I don't think he did," said Mana. She paused and spoke in a hushed tone: "I think there's something weird going on in his room, though. Maybe you should check it out?"
"Something weird?" said Kaname. "Like what, Mana-chan?"
"I'm not too sure," said Mana slowly. "But onii-chan is acting really weird right now and refuses to come out."
"Ah, maybe he's just a little sleepy," said Kaname. "I'm sure he wouldn't mind having us three give him a wake-up call."
"Perhaps he's exhausted, and we should just give him a little more time," suggested Nemuru.
"Uh-uh!" Isuzu shook her head firmly. "I say it's time we go in there and act as Hiro-kun's personal alarm clock! Are you coming with us, Mana-chan?"
"Nah," Mana rolled a few feet back to allow the girls to come in. "I think I'll wait out here." Truthfully, she was afraid to know exactly what was going on in there, and needed to send in her best soldiers to take the first, dangerous step forward.
After an awkward silence between the two men, Hiroshi finally said, "You know, I thought I heard Isuzu-chan at the door. I think I should probably get dressed now."
"Yeah," said Sakaki stiffly. "Good idea. Better do it now before—"
He was interrupted by the door bursting open, which startled Hiroshi and caused him to fall across Sakaki's chest, just in time for Isuzu to march in and declare, "Go~od mor—"
She stopped mid-sentence, Kaname and Nemuru stopping right beside her, to see Hiroshi Kuzumi, the love of her life, the boy whom she would break the rules for, the boy whom she would die for, lying sprawled across an older man's chest. In bed. Naked.
It only took three seconds for the girls to realize what this scene looked like, and the reaction was instantaneous. First, they all gasped and their cheeks reddened; next, their following reactions differed. Kaname covered her mouth to stifle a grin; Nemuru buried her face in her hands; and Isuzu, poor, poor Isuzu, cried out to the heavens "HIIIIIIRRRRROOOOOO-KUUUUNNNN! NOOOOOOOOO!" while spinning around in circles before collapsing to the floor and curling up in a ball in a corner of the bedroom, rocking back and forth, tears streaming down her face, her eyes pale with despair.
"I—Isuzu-chan!" burst out Hiroshi. He tried to get up, but became entangled in the sheets and fell out of bed and onto the floor, still wrapped up within. In the process of falling out, his heel had accidentally kicked Sakaki in the forehead, which did absolutely nothing to help his hangover, which was now made worse by Isuzu's screaming and crying.
"Isuzu-chan?" Before anyone had a chance to stop her, Mana came rolling in and said, "What's go—onii-chan?" she cried out. "Onii-san!"
"Would everyone stop shouting?" groaned Sakaki as he took Hiroshi's pillow and folded it over his head.
"I—I—Isuzu-chan!" Hiroshi cried out again. "It's not what it looks like! I can explain!"
"Oh, I believe this sight says everything for itself, Hakase-kun," said Kaname, lowering her hands and revealing the twitching corners of her mouth. "My, my, you should've told us; I wouldn't have judged you…but then…to be honest, I expected to come across this scene with Issei-san…"
"STOP IT STOP IT STOOOP IIIIT!" cried out Isuzu, still rocking back and forth, tears still pouring down her face.
"Why don't you stop it?" snapped Sakaki, wishing he hadn't left his bottle of aspirin and gun at his apartment.
"Um…I know how this looks," Hiroshi began, "but…um…uh…"
"Hakase-kun, it's fine if you prefer men," assured Kaname. "We're your friends, and we'll accept you no matter what."
"That's because you have boys' love manga hidden under your mattress!" screamed Isuzu, still in the same ball.
"….Please…stop it now…" muttered Nemuru, her ears growing red.
"So…so what if I do?" said Kaname defensively. "I'm just…interested…in all kinds of love, since love is what makes the world go round…"
"But this wasn't done out of love!" said Hiroshi quickly. "This was…this was…"
"Temporary insanity," Sakaki spoke from beneath the pillow.
"Right!" said Hiroshi, nodding furiously. It was then that Nemuru began to take her head out of her hands. As soon as she did, Hiroshi leaped up and said, "Last night, Sakaki-san took me out, and we had a lot of drinks, and—"
He stopped when he noticed Isuzu, Kaname, Nemuru, and Mana were staring directly at him. Nemuru placed her face back in her hands, her ears redder than before, and muttered, "Kuzumi-kun…please…"
Then Hiroshi remembered he still wasn't wearing anything, nor was he wearing anything in the company of his female friends, his sister, and the man whom he had lost his virginity to last night. Hiroshi cried out and tried to grab a blanket to cover himself up; in doing so, he tripped over the back of his feet and fell on top of Sakaki. Isuzu cried out, "WHHHHHYYYYYYY?"
After this, the girls finally had the common sense to leave to allow Hiroshi and Sakaki to get dressed. Isuzu had to be dragged out by Kaname, but was finally calmed down after Mana recapped the latest storyline of her favourite soap opera. Mana wasn't sure just why exactly she was doing this, but she suspected it was to keep her own sanity intact.
The girls wondered if they were still going out at as planned, and had begun to get up to leave when Sakaki came out fully dressed and announced, "Yo. Kuzumi-kun has insisted to me that to make up for…that sight…I should make you all some breakfast. Just give me a minute to…wash my hands."
Shortly after this awkward announcement, Hiroshi came out of his bedroom fully dressed, his face redder than everyone else's, his hands rubbing his still-sore bottom. "Does it hurt, Hakase-kun?" said Kaname gently.
"Uh…yes," muttered Hiroshi, looking at anywhere but the eyes of his friends and sister. Sakaki had already gone off to the bathroom. Hiroshi wasn't sure if this made facing his friends more awkward or less.
Hiroshi stiffly walked over to the table and began to sit down when Kaname said, "Here, sit on this pillow; it should be a bit more comfortable for you now."
Kaname placed a pillow from the couch on Hiroshi's chair. Hiroshi sat on the pillow and found that while it didn't lessen the pain it at least lessened the discomfort by a little bit. "Thanks, Kaname-san," he said, still unable to look anyone in the eye.
The other girls sat around the table and for the first few minutes, not one of them said a word. The silence was still thick in the air when Sakaki came back and said, "So…what do you want?"
"We're fine with just a small bowl of that miso soup from the other day," said Mana, unable to look at her brother or Sakaki.
The silence continued as Sakaki got the leftover soup out of the fridge. He broke the silence by saying, "Want it warmed up?"
"Doesn't matter," said Mana, playing with her hands. With a shrug, Sakaki began to serve the cold soup in small bowls. After he had given each girl one bowl, he grabbed a bowl for himself and sat at the head of the table just in time for Isuzu to cry out:
"I still love you!"
"Eh? What?" said Hiroshi, looking up.
"When people are in love, they accept each other no matter what they are!" Isuzu babbled, not caring about the fact that everyone around the table was staring at her. "And if this is who you are, then I accept it! If you prefer guys, that's fine! I'll still love you, Hiro-kun!"
"Uh…thanks, Isuzu-chan," said Hiroshi, who tried to look into Isuzu's earnest eyes. "But, um…it was just a one-night stand. And that's it."
Isuzu blinked. "Oh, um…okay." Then, she shot up from her chair, picked up the newspaper off the counter, and whacked Sakaki over the head with it while screaming, "Stay away from Hiro-kun! He's MINE! MINE MINE MIIIIIIINNNNNEEEE!"
Sakaki grabbed the newspaper mid air and flung it into the recycling bin without even looking behind. "Are you still in Kindergarten?" he asked irritably.
"Bu-uh-uh-uh-buh-buh-!" stammered Isuzu.
Sakaki said, "Look, I'm not interested in young boys, so—"
"But why Hiro-kun!" cried out Isuzu. "If you have to go after someone our age, then why not…um…uh…" She looked around the kitchen before realizing that Nemuru was sitting next to Sakaki, looking as though she were trying to stay out of this until it was time to leave. She shoved Nemuru in her chair next to Sakaki and declared, "Like Nemuru-chan!"
Isuzu turned Sakaki and Nemuru's heads towards each other and said, "Why not date Nemuru-chan? You two would be the perfect couple! Just imagine waking up next to her face every morning! Just imagine what your babies would—"
"Forget about it," said Sakaki, sharply turning back to his breakfast.
"Same here," muttered Nemuru, also turning back to her breakfast.
"You know, Sakaki-san is perfectly straight," piped up Hiroshi. "In fact, he once had a girl he loved and now he's devastated over losing her, and…uh…" His voice faded out when Sakaki glared at him.
"You had a girl you loved and lost?" said Kaname. She smiled gently. "Do you need a hug?"
After a two-second pause, Sakaki snapped, "No."
Nemuru cleared her throat and said, "While this morning may have gotten off to an awkward start, I'll think nothing of it." With a small bow of her head, she said, "Sakaki-san, thank you very much for the meal. I think that in a few minutes, we should head off."
"See you outside," said Hiroshi, waving to the girls in the stairwell. "Thanks for letting Mana come with us."
"It's no problem at all, Hakase-kun," said Kaname. "You know we enjoy Mana-chan's company."
"See you in a few minutes, onii-chan," said Mana with a wave. She and the other girls went to wait outside while Hiroshi stayed behind to have a chat with Sakaki about their little, ah, "moment".
Of course, the problem with this was that it would require looking Sakaki in the eye and talking to him after getting drunk with him, after seeing him naked, and after doing all sorts of things with him that culminated in the loss of virginity.
Hiroshi forced himself to speak: "About what happened last night—"
"We are never talking about that ever again," said Sakaki sharply. He glared and added, "Ever."
"Uh…I hear you," said Hiroshi. "Just…don't say anything to my dad about this, all right?"
"In exchange for you not saying anything either," said Sakaki, "I'll tell your dad that any rumours about these streets not being safe are false and that he can feel safe letting his two children go out alone. All right?"
Hiroshi nodded. "Sounds fine by me."
Another awkward silence fell between them. Knowing that he would eventually have to meet up with the girls outside and not just keep them waiting, Hiroshi said, "But, um…it wasn't that bad…"
"I said," said Sakaki tensely, "we are never—"
"Sorry, sorry," said Hiroshi quickly. Then, "This doesn't make me think any less of you. I'm still willing to help…anytime you need it…" He shook Sakaki's hand and said, "Are we still in on this together?"
"Hmm…" Sakaki looked into Hiroshi's eyes. Then, he shook his hand and said, "Yes, we'll find out the truth together."
Hiroshi used one arm to hug Sakaki, but the hug only lasted half a second before Sakaki backed off and said, "Don't push it, Kuzumi-kun."
"R, right, sorry," laughed Hiroshi nervously. "Well…see you later." He skipped off down the stairs and thought absentmindedly, Is this love?
Sakaki stood at the top of the stairwell and waited for Hiroshi to leave before smiling to himself and saying, "I look forward to your help, Kuzumi-kun."