Disclaimer: I don't own 'Hanasaku Iroha'. I have just borrowed the characters for penning down this fanfic. And pretty obviously, any resemblance to any of the characters or incidents mentioned in this work of fiction is purely coincidental, duh.

Chopping onions had never been this difficult. He was beside her; their arms brushing against each other now and then. Since Ren was on leave, it was just the two of them in the kitchen– Minko and Tohru. Minko stole occasional glances at Tohru from the corner of her eye without making her act seem too obvious. As the whiff of grilled fish filled the air and Tomoe ordered a plate for the Wave Room, Tohru reminded Minko to hurry up. In haste, Minko only ended up hurting herself. A bright, red dot appeared on the edge of her ring finger and she winced as blood oozed out of the cut.
"Careless again, huh?" Tohru sighed.
"I–I am sorry," Minko apologized. "It's not a big deal though."
"Are you sure you are going to be fine?" Tohru said, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes. Yes, I will be," Minko assured, dipping her wounded finger into a mug of cold water.
"I don't think so. The cut is pretty deep. Wait. Let me bring the first aid," Tohru insisted, examining the cut.
"Ah, no. It is alright. You should look after the kitchen, Tohru-san," Minko said, trying to hide her blush.
She hurried out of the kitchen and into her room upstairs, smiling to herself at the thought of Tohru caring for her.

Minko fished out the first aid box from the wardrobe and carefully dressed the wound. As she was putting back the box, an envelope fell down. It was pretty—deep pink, illustrated with flowers and sweet scented—the kind a girl would prefer except Minko of course. Oh, wait. It was addressed to… Ohana? She would have cared less about the seemingly flamboyant love letter if her suspicion didn't raise her curiosity. And so, she did the most obvious thing. She tore open the envelope, took out the neatly folded paper and unfolded it. The letter was all 'I like you' but what followed in the end was enough to leave Minko gape in astonishment, turning her suspicion into bitter truth.
I'll be waiting to hear your answer.
Your admirer,
Tohru
The ground slipped away from her feet. I like you… I was caught off guard ever since you arrived here… Please go out with me… I'll be waiting to hear your answer… Your admirer, Tohru… I like you… I was caught… The words played over and over in her mind. She clenched her fists, trying hard to fight back her tears. She put back the letter into the envelope and kept it where it was— tucked under mattresses and books in the wardrobe. She didn't want to go back to the kitchen. She didn't want to see Tohru for if she did, she feared, she would break into tears and lose her mind which she already had anyway. And so, she thought, she would just pretend to be sick as an excuse for not going to the kitchen. But for how long? How long was she going to avoid Tohru? One day, fine. Two days, maybe. Forever? Impossible. No, this was not her. She was not being herself. She desperately wanted to be a chef, didn't she? She didn't join Kissuiso for Tohru to begin with. She joined because she wanted to fulfil her dream. While her conscious side said she was being a total idiot; her other side—hurt and distressed—said she needed some time to get over with it.
Tomoe who happened to be passing by noticed Minko.
"Ara!" Tomoe said. "You are here. Tohru is looking for you. He needs your help."
"I am sorry. I don't feel well today," Minko mumbled and ran out of the room.
"Minko-chan…Minko—"
"Oh my, what's wrong with this girl?" Tomoe muttered to herself.

Minko hurried downstairs, tears forming in her eyes. She wanted to be anywhere but Kissuiso at that moment and above all, she didn't want to bump into anyone. But she did. She bumped into someone she wanted to avoid at all cost—Tohru, who returned from the local market with some groceries.
"Where had you been? I was looking for you. I needed help with these groceries, you know," Tohru said, picking up the bags from the backseat.
"Isn't Ohana there to help you?" Minko snapped and turned away.
"Huh?" Tohru was taken aback by the unexpected reply.
"You like her. You like Ohana, don't you?" Minko mumbled, clenching her fists.
"I—"
"You liked her all this time. I was an idiot. No, I am still an idiot. Damn! I hate myself now," Minko interrupted; tears streaming down her eyes, her voice shaking.
"Listen, I don't know from where you dragged Ohana into all of this," Tohru said, bewildered.
"You wrote a love letter to Ohana and I accidentally ended up reading it, and I hate myself for doing that."
"Love—Love letter?" Tohru shrieked, embarrassed. "To O–Ohana? I didn't write any love letter. What the hell are you talking about?"
"Liar!" Minko shot back.
"What? Aren't you the one lying right now? Accusing me of writing a love letter to a girl. Man, I am so embarrassed right now."
"Liar," Minko repeated.
"Wait up, guys!" a voice called out.
Yuina and Ohana rushed to the scene.
"Listen," Yuina panted. "I have got to tell you something. I have got to make a confession."
"Say it already," Ohana groaned.
"That love letter… I put it there… to tease Ohana," Yuina said. "I am sorry."
"Ah, I see. So, you were the culprit. Wait, WHAT?" Tohru exasperated.
"I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry," Yuina bowed in apology. "My intention was not bad. I just wanted to tease Ohana a bit. After all, she teased me as well about… err, doesn't matter. Anyway, after I put the letter there, I felt it was not right as, I feared, it would create misunderstandings among the people involved. And so, I told Ohana about it. She gave me a real good scolding for it. I am sorry again."
"Minchi—" Ohana walked over to Minko.
"Just shut the hell up, you balut!" Minko snapped and walked away, embarrassed.
"Minchi—" Ohana followed.
"Man, what on earth was all that about?" Tohru sighed.
"Ara! Haven't you realized yet?" Yuina smirked at Tohru.
"Realized what?" Tohru raised an eyebrow.
"Well, I guess it's best to realize it by yourself when the right time arrives, but I will give you a hint," Yuina said, "Everything is fair in love and war, and this is love."
Yuina giggled and ran over to the two girls, quarrelling among themselves at a distance.
Tohru was left there pondering over what Yuina meant; Minko sulked in embarrassment while her girl friends pulled her leg. God help these two.

A/N: So, this wasn't exactly romance (or was it?) ._. I didn't want it to be an OOC otherwise I could have throw in some cheesy romance to make the story, err, more appealing to *drum rolls* YOU! Now, please review *puppy eyes*