"Look a little brighter, Onodera. This is a chance to meet other manga authors as well as literature authors. For example, over there is Lord Usami Akihiko," Takano tried to cheer a dead on his feet Onodera.

Usami Akihiko…?

"Takano," Isaka-san's voice hardly reached Onodera's exhausted ears. "Can I steal Onodera for a minute. I want him to meet someone."

"Sure, I'm gonna go out for a smoke anyway."

Onodera found himself being hauled away. He found himself standing before Usami-sama Akihiko only a moment later. His senses snapped back to him out of shock.

"…Usami Akihiko, Onodera."

"Usagi, this is Onodera Ritsu, son of Onodera publishing owner. He works in shojo manga here at Marukawa."

"Uh, hi. Pleased to meet you, Usami-sama. Your work really is amazing. I hope your enjoying the party."

The silver haired man smiled slightly. "Yes, it's pleasant. Thank you, Onodera-san."

Excited now, Onodera rushed off to find Takano.

Wait, why am I getting so excited to tell him? I'm acting like a kid…again.

Voices floated down the hall.

"…trusted you do something useful with your life. Shojo manga is as joke, a waste of your talent and life, Masamune."

Masamune…? Who the hell had the gall to talk to him that way?

Not thinking, Onodera marched out to confront Takano's offender, having absolutely no plan.

"Uh, Onodera…" Takano started.

Onodera didn't even hear him in his surge of anger toward the older man facing Takano.

"Listen you! I don't care who you are to Takano-san. You have no right to talk to him like that! He has more talent for this than you could dream of! He pulled Emerald magazine out of the fricking ground! If you can't say anything decent, stay the hell away! Moron!" He grabbed Takano's arm and pulled him down the hallway. "Come on Takano." He didn't know where, just away from that awful man.

He pulled him into the first door he saw, which happened to be the men's room.

What the hell am I doing? I didn't even know that man! Shit, is Takano mad?

"You're shaking," Takano pointed out.

Onodera clenched his fists. "Because I'm still pissed. Who the hell -"


Onodera found himself yanked into Takano's arms, pressed against his chest. Any words on his tongue vanished and his mind went blank for a moment.

"Thank you," Takano murmured.

His warm breath raised the hairs on Onodera's neck and caused a different kind of tremble to shake his body.

No, not here…

"That man was my father, at least, legal father."


"Uwa! Sorry, I didn't -"

"Don't you dare apologize," Takano nearly whispered. "I hate…that man."

Right, Takano told me his parents got divorced. It must have been awful.

"In that case I'm glad I yelled at him, since he…"

Takano sank down against the wall, dragging Onodera down too.

Takano's arms tightened slightly, but his body went limp. Onodera felt his black hair brush his neck, his hot breath sent shivers down his spine.

"Sorry, just let me stay here awhile, where I'm safe." His voice…

"Sorry, I shouldn't have brought that up," Onodera apologized. "If you want to talk about it though, I'm here."

Did I really just say that? What's wrong with me?

A warm hand ruffled his hair softly. "We're not in high-school anymore. My family's problems aren't mine anymore. You defended me. If only you knew how happy I am right now."


"It proves you do love me, even if you won't say it…yet."

Onodera's heart throbbed. Even if I do love you, the smallest bit…I still won't say it.

"Ritsu, my little savior…I love you," whispered that sweet, velvet voice that pierced Onodera's heart.