Disclaimer: I almost owned Nabari No Ou, but a sandwich slapped me in the face :'(
Kiko was mindlessly watching cartoons from her upside down position, lightly swinging her legs back and forth before letting them rest against the pillow, only to restart not even six seconds later. The little girl felt lethargic but also antsy at the same time. Kiko grabbed a pillow that she had earlier knocked off the couch, and hugged it before turning to the other child next to her.
Shi was sitting next to her, brushing a Barbie doll's platinum blonde hair, eyes flickering towards the television once every few minutes. Once in a great while, Shi would look up at the clock then glance back at the doll, her short hair covering her expression. Kiko wouldn't be surprised if Shi was worried or sad about everything, about Yukimi.
"I'm bored!" She finally complained, nearly smacking her twin-who was seated on her other side-in the face by accident. The boy merely sighed, and tried to attempt to read, but couldn't focus.
"I'm bored too!" Noriyuki agreed from the floor where he and the other three were engaged in another UNO game, "It seriously has to be against some law to leave us here for three hours! I'm bored as hell!"
"There most likely is a law prohibiting it, but I never want to be stuck at that restaurant again." Yuu stated, his nose crinkling at the memories that had transgressed just the previous day. Shi shivered from the couch in agreement, recalling the sushi.
"Remember what Mrs. Kazuho said." Hydrangea reminded as she placed her doubles onto the pile, "UNO."
Noriyuki threw his cards into the air in exasperation, "I know, but he can't seriously expect us to sit around and do nothing, right?" And there was the doubt. Each one of them weren't used to these circumstances. Usually they would be sleeping at parks and rummaging around town for food by now, but this time was different. They had a place to sleep, food to eat, and someone who was, in a sense, looking out for them.
"He's not used to the idea of children and their needs." Akiyo darkly commented.
Yuu only sighed, knowing that Akiyo wasn't the most trusting when it came to outsiders being 'kind'. It was true that they should be weary, but they all felt rather anxious, like something good may come out of this, "Akiyo, there is no need to be so harsh on him. He actually agreed to take us in, so for the time being we should show some gratitude."
Akiyo only glared at the wall while his grip on the UNO cards tightened to the point that they were nearly bent in half. Noticing their state, he loosened his grip and attempted to smooth them out, "I know, but you can't deny that this feels weird."
He was about to add that after the set eight months they'd probably be returned, when Kiku turned off the television, purposely coughing to stop him. Akiyo only inwardly sighed, he knew that he should stop being a wet blanket, but he couldn't help it... he didn't want them to get hurt.
"You never know, somethin' good might jus' come outta this." Noriyuki stated with a far off look. Yuu noticed but didn't say anything; some things are better left unsaid, after all.
"I wanna go outside. It's too stuffy!" Kiko suddenly piped up, sitting right-side-up on the couch excitedly, "We could go to the park."
Noriyuki jumped up, bumping fists with Kiko, "That's an awesome idea!"
The others instantly perked up at the thought of getting some fresh air, but there was one issue they would have to resolve first.
"What about Yukimi?" Yuu asked, knowing that everyone else didn't want to anger the man by just leaving, even if they all were just a few blocks away. "He may arrive back before we do."
"Dude, I got it!" Noriyuki exclaimed before hurrying around the room before coming back with a sheet of paper and a pen, "We'll leave a note!" He beamed like he'd just discovered something truly amazing. The others though weren't too sure, it was Noriyuki's idea afterall, but it was the only idea they had; besides, Kiku was beginning to look a bit green from being cooped up in the apartment for so long.
In the end Hydrangea wrote the note, laid it on the table were Yukimi would see it, and left.
Yukimi cursed profanities under his breath as he glared at his car, which looked oh-so-innocent, but he knew the truth! It was evil, and was getting revenge for all the times he'd nearly burned out the engine, complained about mileage, about the price of gas, and for not cleaning the inside or outside properly (Which was gross since he found some strange species of insect living in his trunk...It's a good thing the kids didn't notice). So, of course, of all the times it chose to break down it would be the moment when he needed to get home, call that bed-head for updates, whip up some dinner to keep everyone quiet, work on his article, and ,more importantly, to go buy some painkillers! In a fleeting moment of anger he kicked his car, cringing when the pain coursed up the nerves in his leg.
"Damn it!" He cursed, holding his injured foot in pain. There was just too much stress being piled on him at the moment, and now he had to add his car to the list, "I really hate you right now." The car remained silent, but Yukimi knew it was mocking him, laughing at his pain.
'Great now I think a car can laugh. I really need to cut back on those sci-fi movies.' Yukimi thought to himself as he facepalmed.
"Do you need a lift?" He turned around to see Keiko, one of his editors, staring at him from inside her car. He tried to deny it, but she wasn't buying it. The woman got out of her car and opened up the hood on his car, "Some of the wires have been cut."
"What?" Yukimi stood next to her and peered under the hood and sure enough most of the wires were cut. "Just great." He mumbled, it probably was a warning to stay away from the case he was currently on. Too bad, that asshole messed with the wrong man's car! For that, they would pay dearly.
"Hmmm, I'll call a tow." Keiko stated, already dialing the number. She talked for a few minutes before hanging up, "Would you like a ride? You seemed to be in quite the rush earlier."
With no other options available he slid into the passenger seat, mulling things over and making a mental reminder to get the parking lot footage sent to him later on to see if the perp was caught on camera. Man, he really did not need this right now! Things like this weren't extremely uncommon, but this was different. It was a warning from both sides, he was sure of it.
Yukimi was distracting himself from the pregnant silence by checking out the car. The paint was a dark black, the body work was excellent, and he could tell the car was only a month old at the hit him as he looked at the car: It was an English car, a Jaguar, if he remembered correctly. He had written a small article about it once, but this was a newer model.
"What car is this?" He asked.
"Jaguar XKR-S coupe." Keiko replied, her eyes never leaving the road as she fiddled with the radio.
Yukimi whistled, "Must of cost an arm to get this, it's not even supposed to be out for another few months."
"A friend of mine who I worked with pulled some strings. It was repayment for a favor."
Yukimi didn't push further, his attention was snagged by the music coming from the speakers, "Opera?"
"What, you don't like it?" She replied. Yukimi just shrugged, "Just didn't peg you as the type to listen to opera."
"It's soothing, but also great to have on while thinking. The way the tempos change and the how the singer's voice rises and falls is comparable to the life's rises and falls." Keiko glanced his way from the corner of her eyes, smiling a bit, "Besides, it's far better than most of that pop music. What do you listen to, rap?"
"No, never could really get into the whole rap thing. The older music is what I like, stuff that has a meaning to it and doesn't make my ears bleed." He replied offhandedly. It was the truth, he listened to more alternative or rock, but it was mainly from America. He had gotten stuck on it during his sophomore year in high school when he had to help out an American transfer student who was failing language arts, and worst of all was that the guy decided to befriend him. He would have failed at it too if it wasn't for Yukimi failing his English class, which he hadn't wanted to take in the first place, but in the end they became friends, though, Yukimi hadn't seen him since the summer before Senior year, apparently he had gone back to America.
"I never pegged you as the old type," Keiko teased, throwing his own words back at him before fiddling with the station again. Eventually it ended up on some station that played a mix of older and newer music, which satisfied both of them.
Yukimi let his fingers tap along to the beat, reminiscing about the summer he once visited America with aforementioned transfer student. The guy lived somewhere in Rhode Island in one of the bigger cities. Yukimi remembered some of the bigger things about the place, like a few of the art museums and then the road trip they took to New York for a concert. Another thing was as soon as they landed at the airport his friend went to this 'Dunkin Donuts' place and downed about twenty of these donuts, which were fat too sweet, before buying a crap ton of lemonade, saying something like how he couldn't get that stuff in Japan. It was true, and Yukimi had been thankful until he had eaten some girl scout cookies. He couldn't recall what kind they were, only that he really liked them.
Shaking his head to push the memories away, he refocused his attention towards the road but caught sight of a photo. He leaned closer and saw it was a picture of five dogs, each of a different breed, but he recognized a Hokkaido and a Japanese spitz.
"The one on the far left is an Akita inu, the one next to it is a shikoku. The black one is a Kai Ken, while the other two are a Hokkaido and a spitz." Keiko suddenly stated, "Their names are William, Alice, Kuro, Rinto, and Murakumo."
"All of them are yours?"
"Only Alice, Rinto, and Murakumo. William died two years ago and Kuro had a tumor, but he was too old for surgery."Keiko replied before quickly changing the topic, "Do you have any pets?"
"I had a cat but he died." Yukimi replied, remembering the cat he'd taken care of until it died of old age a few years ago.
"Why not adopt another cat then?"
"My apartments cramped enough as it is." He replied quickly, wanting to end the conversation. It was one thing having to explain things to his sister and the others-all of whom who had jumped to repugnant conclusions at first-now just imagine how it would sound to a stranger. Not pleasant.
Thankfully Keiko didn't pry into it, instead asking for the address to the apartment complex. Yukimi told her the coordinates and relaxed as all conversation ceased. He listened to the hum of the car, watching pedestrians carry out mundane tasks such as talking with neighbors or buying groceries. That was another thing. How was he going to afford getting his car fixed? As of right now he only had enough for rent, food, and electricity, yet he also had other bills to pay.
Yukimi sighed, there was no way he would be able to get all the money he needed to pay off everything. He would have to pick and choose: No more take out, which means he would have to cook. Yukimi wasn't a terrible cook, though his sister was the real chef, he was efficient. It was his lazy habits that stopped him from really cooking.
"Do you know anything about that restaurant?" Keiko suddenly asked, indicating towards his window. Yukimi looked out and instantly recognized the place.
"Yeah, my sister and her husband run the place. It's nothing fancy, but their sushi is really good."
"Really, then I'll have to stop by sometime and try it." Keiko replied, the stop light turning green.
"Do you live around here?" Yukimi asked mainly out of courtesy.
"No, I live closer out near the Redwood Forest."
"That's pretty far from here." Yukimi absent mindedly replied, doing the math in his head. It would take her just over forty-five minutes to drive home from here, and another fifty minutes if there was traffic.
"It's manageable, but that's why our usual meeting place is a bit from here. It's in the middle of both our residences." Keiko informed him while pulling up towards the complex, "I believe this is your stop."
"Thanks for the ride." He replied while getting out of the car.
"It's not a problem. I'll see you at the meeting tomorrow morning. If you need a ride, you know my number and I'll have the auto company call you."
Yukimi rubbed the back of his head as she drove away, thinking of how much those repairs would cost before sighing again at the thought of what awaited him once he walked through his door. Without a doubt someone would complain about being bored, then they would be hungry, Yuu and Noriyuki would fight over something ridiculous, and then they would find some other way to bother him. On top of that was the Nabi world, finding a bus route to his meeting, and attempt to keep his landlady from listening to his neighbors, some of whom who were intent on getting him kicked out, which would lead to questions, which would lead to answers, and then he would be kicked out and have to live with his sister until he found another apartment, but he probably never would find another, so he'd have to ask Thobari for help while nearly dieing in the process, fall into a depression and eventually lose his job, and-
'I really should stop watching those soap operas, they're really fucking with my head.' Yukimi sighed, something he was doing a lot of these past few days, as he reached his door and was surprised to find it unlocked. He knew he had made sure the door was locked before leaving, even telling all seven kids to keep it locked and to not answer the door unless it was someone he'd introduced to them or himself, which was just for safety since every year, without fail, someone's apartment would be robbed. The robberies never occurred in the same month or day, which made the whole thing seem random. Yukimi had yet to be robbed, and he planned on keeping it that way.
As he was about to finish opening the door his thoughts took a darker turn. Earlier the wires in his car had been cut, which was a warning since they could've just killed him by messing with a few things, such as the brakes. What if they had gotten to his apartment too? 'Well, they probably weren't expecting a bunch of kids.' Yukimi thought to himself, imagining the look of surprise when they encountered all seven kids. It probably didn't happen, but just in case he clutched his gun that he concealed in his suit jacket as he walked inside. "Hey, brats!"
He glanced around, noticing the box of UNO cards on the coffee table, the pillows on the sofa weren't properly in order, and a book was laying on the couch. He stalked through the apartment like the ninja he was, checking rooms, before finding a folded sheet of paper on the table. Yukimi opened it and read through it:
The others and I shall be going to the neighborhood park for air.
He relaxed briefly that they were alright. He placed the paper down and made a mental note to scold them later, just as he spotted an envelope by the window which was now open. Cautiously he moved towards it and picked it up, tearing it open and reading through it, his fingers crumpling the paper. A flurry of curses flew through his mind as he raced out of the apartment, locking the door behind him, hurrying to take out his cellphone.
"Cut the pleasantries. There's a problem." Yukimi snapped, dodging a car as he ran across the street.
"Man, the sun feels awesome!" Noriyuki exclaimed, rolling around on the grass with relish at the feeling. He planned on getting at least twelve grass stains, throwing dirt at Yuu, and ruining at least one moment before he called it quits for the day.
"Your skin will start to itch if you keep rolling around like that." Yuu warned while pushing the swing Kiku was on.
"oh, shut it ya ol' man."
"What did you say, pig?"
"I'm not a pig you horse-head!"
"Kiko, get down from there!"
"She's fine, mother."
"Stop comparing me to women!"
"Yuu, your blood pressure is going to skyrocket if you don't calm down."
"Don't tell me to calm down!"
Hydrangea and Akiyo were a bit further off, sitting on the weather worn monkey bars, blocking out the two boys' bickering while idly chatting and enjoying the warm weather. Every few minutes Akiyo would look over to make sure no one was injured, Hydrangea doing the same but subtle when doing so. At this point in time Noriyuki was trying to tackle Yuu, causing Akiyo to sigh as he messed with something in his pocket.
"It is normal for them. It means they must be enjoying themselves." Hydrangea stated with her head tilted towards the sky.
Akiyo smiled at her before looking up at the clouds also, liking the feel of the wind blowing against his skin and through his hair. Laying back he closed his eyes for a moment before beginning to point out certain clouds and named what they looked like. His companion was quiet, but paid attention and sometimes would add something. It was times like these that he really felt slightly content.
"Go fall in a ditch!"
"Go jump off a bridge firecracker!"
Just seconds later Noriyuki flew in between them, successfully ruining the moment, while laughing. Yuu came charging after him, screaming about having dirt thrown at him. Noriyuki gave another laugh before racing off again.
"Good grief." Akiyo mumbled, before looking back to where the three others should be. They all were accounted for.
Nearly twenty minutes later Hydrangea and Akiyo decided that they all should head back in order to, hopefully, beat Yukimi back or if not, they wouldn't be in too much trouble.
"Where's Shi-chi and Kiku?" Kiko asked, drawing everyone's attention before they all started to look around for the two.
"Didn't they go towards the sandbox?" Yuu voiced.
"We should find them and leave. Yukimi will be back soon." Hydrangea advised, gesturing towards the sky where the sun was on a course to the horizon, only a few hours remained before twilight would creep in.
Shi glanced around the tree quietly, looking in fascination at the small creature before her. It was tiny, had gray fur, and two teal eyes but the left looked a bit strange. It limped slightly, sniffing at trees until turning to face Shi, ebbing back a bit towards longer blades of grass that would hide its small frame.
"Here kitty, I won't hurt you." The cat looked at Shi's outstretched hand critically before slowly drawing closer to her and leaning forward to sniff the doll and then her hand before nudging it, purring happily. Slowly, Shi petted the cat softly, before looking behind her to tell Kiku, but he wasn't there. "Kiku." She called out. He had been right behind her just a minute ago.
Hearing rustling to her left she turned, catching sight of someone dressed in strange gear. As quietly as possible, Shi hid behind one of the trees, the cat at her feet, watching silently as the person walked around, seemingly looking for something.
"Shi!" Kiku called, sounding not too far away. The girl's attention moved towards the area where it was coming from before hearing a branch snap behind her just as the kitten hissed in warning. A large hand clamped itself on her shoulder before she could turn around, the cat hissing and swatting at their feet.
Shi caught a flash of something and looked over just in time to see Kiku throw a butter knife that he'd 'borrowed' from the kitchen earlier right at the man's head, which was dodged, but his grip had lightened enough that Shi could get away. She ran for ten seconds before taking a sudden turn and encountered Kiku.
"Shi!" Kiku called out in a whisper, "Did you bring your yo-yo?"
The girl nodded, taking it out and showing it to him, "We should hurry back." Kiku nodded, slipping a fork out of his sleeve.
The two continued running, not stopping until Shi and Kiku tripped on something and toppled over one another, landing by a picnic table in a more open area. "Ouch." "Owwww."
"Are you alright?"
Shi nodded as they both glanced at their skinned knees and hands. Hearing rustling, the two crawled under the table, trying to stay low so the wild, long grass covered them. Kiku held the fork tightly as Shi clutched the yo-yo, both watching and waiting but after a few minutes of nothing happening they lifted their heads only to jump in surprise when something heavy landed on the table above them. They scrambled out to avoid the man as he tried to reach for them. Kiku threw his fork blindly as they rolled out from under the table and tried to run away, which worked until the guy teleported in front of them.
They backed up a bit, but the man simply walked toward them, his longer stride equal to four of their steps. He reached forwards to grab them only for a steak knife to implant itself at his feet, a flaming card following and landing on his arm. Another steak knife was thrown and was dangerously close to grazing the man's elbow.
Seeing her opening, Shi used her yo-yo to hit the man in the face before running away with Kiku towards the area the knives and flamming cards were coming from.
"Are you both alright?" Hydrangea asked, falling back towards the path with them and Kiko. Akiyo glanced back at them, whispered something to Noriyuki and Yuu, who were lighting cards on fire, before throwing one last card and falling back as well.
Back at the park, the group stayed in a well populated area to regroup. Noriyuki was shuffling his deck of cards, expertly doing a few hand tricks while Yuu fiddled with the lighter he'd picked up a few months back. Hydrangea was assessing the damage, thoroughly examining Kiku and Shi's hands and knees. Once Kiku's examination was finished Kiko nearly tackled him, hugging him before offering him one of the butter knives she had on her, which he calmly accepted, hiding it in his sleeve.
"Uh-oh." Kiko suddenly said while looking over towards the woods and spotting a familiar blonde man, who happened to look over and see them. He stalked towards them looking angry, out of breath, and...relieved?
"We're in trouble." Noriyuki said tiredly.
"You don't know the half of it." Yukimi heatedly stated, and thus began the walk back to the apartment.
Yukimi remained in a stony silence as he led them back, his mind reeling from the what-ifs that could have happened today. He had caught sight of the ninja in the forest and knew that it was the person who'd been hired to warn him. They probably planned on kidnapping or threatening him through the kids because they were defenseless. Shit, wasn't Yoite and his car enough? Though Yoite was probably more of a warning for Miharu to stay away, shit he really didn't need this. Both of his jobs were trying to kill him! How unfair is that?
He glanced back at the kids, taking in their unusual silence and how Shi was cradling her shoulder a bit while looking at the ground, nearly tripping a few times. They all looked really worn out. Looking forwards he decided that he would set some rules down, something he really should've done in the beginning, and scold them. Besides, he had other things he needed to do.
Once they arrived back Yukimi sent them to take showers, relieved when no one argued, and instructed them to put their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper. It was only twenty minutes in when something went wrong. At that time, Hydrangea, Kiko, and all the boys, excluding Kiku, had finished and were seated on the sofa in fresh pajamas when Kiku appeared in the doorway looking rather pale.
"What's the matter?" Yukimi asked, hoping that the boy wasn't getting claustrophobic again.
"Well, I know we're not supposed to say anything but," the smallest boy avoided eye contact with everyone, "C-could you take a look at Shi's shoulder."
"What's wrong with her shoulder?" Akiyo asked, standing up. Hydrangea also awaited the answer with hidden apprehension.
"I don't know, but I saw a bruise."
"Hey, what are you talking about?" Yukimi demanded to know.
Kiku looked at Akiyo for the OK before speaking, "Shi encountered someone in the woods before I arrived and distracted him long enough for her to get away. We later encountered him again, but the others arrived in time to help us."
"What did he look like?"
"I don't know, he was dressed all in dark clothing and wore a mask."
"Shit," Yukimi muttered just as Shi entered the room. He called her over, "I need to take a look at your shoulder." The child replied and let him pull her collar down to reveal her shoulder, which had a brown and yellow bruise in the shape of a hand. Shi slightly winced when he poked it, tears gathering in her eyes, but she didn't cry.
"Both Kiku and Shi scraped their hands and knees." Hydrangea remarked, ignoring the look Akiyo was giving her.
Yukimi sighed as he stood up and went to get two washcloths and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. He poured some of the liquid onto the rags and had them place the rag on their knees after warning them it would sting. For Shi's shoulder he simply told her it would be sore for a few days, but there wasn't much he could do for a bruise.
"Now listen up you brats, there's going to be some rules around here: 1. No leaving without my knowledge. 2. Keep the door locked at all times. 3. Don't answer the door unless I've introduced you to them or it's me. 4. Unless it's an emergency do not use the phone. 5. Do not touch or turn on the stove. 6. Do not keep things from me. 7. You will eat all your vegetables. 8. If you make a mess then clean it up. 9. More rules will be added later. 10-"
"Why is there a cat in my house?" Yukimi asked, staring at the small gray fur ball that was pawing at Shi's pant leg.
"Technically, this is an apartment." Noriyuki corrected, but was ignored in favor of the cat.
"So cute~" Kiko suddenly yelled, scooping the kitten up and hugging it close to her, talking to the cat as it mewed, purring.
Yukimi watched quietly, his temper getting the better of his as the others gushed over the cat, before reaching his breaking point, "Enough!" He took the cat out of Kiko's hands and held it, "Why on earth is there-" The cat licked his face and he paused, staring at the kitten.
"Can we keep her?" Shi asked, Kiko and her putting on their puppy eyes.
"Puppy dog eyes don't work." He lied as the cat climbed up his arm and tried to stand on his shoulder. "Where did it come from."
"It followed me from the park." Shi spoke. That explained why she nearly tripped every few minutes on the way back.
"Can we keep her, please?" Kiko begged.
Yukimi sighed inwardly. He couldn't win, he had a weakness for cats. "Fine, but all of you will have to take care of her."
As Kiko and Shi rejoiced, Yukimi couldn't help but feel that there was irony somewhere in his words.
A/N: Sooo, before you decide to hit me for updating so late...I can explain. This will probably be un-betaed since my friend is confused with my writing style, she says I'm a bit vague, but I rather like it. I want you all to understand what's happening, but I want to leave some of the setting to your imagination. There's also the fact that her computer is broken and she doesn't have the time. Now for those facts that I promised ^_^
-Hydrangea's character design is based of the character that shares her name from the manga Gentlemen's Alliance. The only thing they have in common is probably the looks, but there are a few differences.
-The best way to describe Shi is by looking at Scar from Fullmetal alchemist, her skin tone is just a shade or so lighter and of course her eyes are different.
-Yuu, from what I've realized, has the hairstyle of Hakuren from 07-Ghost and sort of acts like him too.
-Noriyuki is extremely, in the looks department, based off of his namesake in Gai-rei zero, and his headband, for lack of a better description, looks like Barrett's from Rune Factory two.
-Kiku's character is based off of Japan in Hetalia while his sister is my own creation whom appeared originally in Frozen Music, only with different looks and wasn't as hyper, but I'll just say she looks like a genderbent Japan.
-Akiyo, by far, is my own creation, but I've decided on doing something special with him.
-Keiko is original, I wanted her to be kind of a plain Jane but have something to her. By far, when I write her I get this voice actor in my head that talks for her. I don't remember the voice actor very well, but if I remember, I'll let you all know.
-I looked up all the dogs, cars, places in Rhode Island, foods that aren't available in Japan, and even a few other things. I'm not an animal person, but I still included them :')
-Along with the things I looked up, I found out from a blog that most Japanese students take 6 years of English, so if English class is ever mentioned I'm talking about legit American and British English, so language arts will be the Japanese class for legit Japanese u less someone enlightens me to what it's called.
-I don't know why, but I can see Yukimi having an American friend in high school and liking 70-90's American music... I don't know why but it was really unplanned. In the first two drafts, mentions of his high school life were never mentioned. Oh, well.
-William and Alice are named for William Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland, both English. Rinto is the male version of the Vocaloid Rin Kagamine and Murakumo's name will later be revealed upon.
-I learned that Yukimi likes cats? Yup, so I put it in there.
-This chapter has been rewritten three times and I'm satisfied with the end result... For now.