After finally seeing and buying the series dubbed, I fell in love with it all over again (not that I ever fell out of love for it. more like it was reawakened) but anyways I just needed to write a little something about this part. This takes place after episode 11. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi :(
Things Left Unsaid
It was another beautiful day in Otogibana City, just like any other.
It was Springtime, so the breeze was slightly cool while the temperature was just warm enough for the flower buds to start blooming.
The Otogi Bank was getting its usual steady chain of requests for the day. However, the pettier requests, such as cleaning this or that part of a classroom or helping with this romance or studying for this test, were being increasingly replaced by more serious requests.
It had been a week since Ryouko had been kidnapped by Onigashima, and the school of demons did not seem to be taking the Bank's threats seriously.
A young girl sat on the couch of the Otogi Bank conference room, where across from her sat Alice, Ryoushi and Ryouko; this was their third request for a bodyguard since Ryouko's kidnapping
"So let me repeat this just for clarity," Alice cleared her throat before continuing. "You felt thugs from Onigashima have been lurking around on your way home, and your friends have reported similar situations. Therefore, you want us to scare them off so that you can all have a peaceful walk home."
"Yes. That's correct." The client shifted in her seat. Alice narrowed her eyes suspiciously; this would not have been the first time a client had been hired to lure out the Bank's members into an ambush. However this girl looked Alice straight in the eye with no signs of deceit or discomfort, which made the accountant girl give a small nod of satisfaction.
"I see." She concluded. "Well then, what do you say?" She inquired, turning to Ryouko.
Liszt had insisted that Ryouko take no part in the previous two requests for bodyguards against Onigashima's thugs. He said she needed to rest emotionally and had sent Tarou, Ryoushi and Majolika both times instead.
The mad scientist's contraptions had been sufficient distractions as the boys took out the thugs. But during the last fight two days prior, Otohime, who had been on the sidelines, waiting for her beloved Tarou's victorious return, had been dragged into the fight and injured. Needless to say, the jerk who had done it had been beaten severely more so than the others by a furious Tarou, but she had come away with a broken arm.
Just rethinking the entire situation made Ryouko's blood boil; if she had been in that fight as well, they probably would not have gotten as far as where Otohime was hiding, and so Ryouko blamed herself for her friend's injury. Ryoushi knew she felt this way, but could do nothing to convince her otherwise.
After the incident, Liszt had given Ryouko permission to resume taking on fighting requests; she was fully healed now, and they had lost Tarou who was dutifully taking care of his lover.
As Alice posed the question of Ryouko's opinion on taking on the request, the fierce-eyed girl nearly snarled, "Do you even need to ask? Of course I'll do it."
"I'm coming, too." Ryoushi added immediately. Normally, Ryouko would have tried to talk him out of it, but surprisingly this time, she had no complaints; he assumed she wanted to beat these thugs as much as possible and anyone else was welcome to join.
"Then it's settled." Alice confirmed. "Unfortunately it's too short of notice to send them today because we don't have the necessary equipment prepared. So for this evening, please tell your friends to take another route home. We'll deal with them tomorrow." She informed her client professionally. Truthfully, Majolika was still making adjustments to the Neko Neko Knuckles. But despite the lack of her most effective weapons, Ryouko seemed eager to take the goons out bear-handed, though it appeared she would have to wait.
"Thank you very much!" The girl bowed deeply to the three of them before they wished her a safe walk home and sent her on her way.
"You're certain about this?" Alice checked, turning to Ryouko.
"I am." She assured the President's cousin.
"Okay." Alice pushed her glasses up farther onto her nose, something she only ever did when in business mode or when she was concerned. "Don't push yourselves too hard out there."
"Got it." Ryouko replied as if she had barely heard.
"Don't worry. I'll make sure nothing happens to her." Ryoushi added.
But this time, Ryouko did not snort or get flustered at his chivalrous statement; instead, she remained silent as a form of acceptance of his stern seriousness. In other words, she was thankful for his words.
"See that you do that." Alice agreed before turning and exiting the room.
Ryouko and Ryoushi were left alone for a moment, and the girl let her anger seep away until she could breathe normally again. Then, she wondered if now would be a good time to tell Ryoushi what she had tried to tell him several days ago.
After she had been rescued, Ringo had convinced Ryouko to go with Ryoushi to walk his dogs. Upon meeting up with him, she had tried with all her heart to thank him for saving her, but due to a gawking group of passing children, Ryoushi had collapsed under their stares and had failed to hear her thanks. She had been debating ever since when she should attempt to repeat the things that had remained unheard until now.
And so, she presently gathered herself to tell him once more, squeezing her fists against her sides but avoiding looking up at him, but to spare herself the embarrassment, not to spare him from being looked at.
"Listen, Ryoushi..." her voice suddenly sounded foreign to her.
"Yes? What is it?" He wondered, sounding as polite and eager to help as always.
But as she had done every other time before, she ducked out at the last second.
"N-Nevermind. Let's go visit Otohime before we leave." She suggested, following Alice's leave.
"Right." He agreed, still curious as to what she had intended to say but not insensitive enough to press the matter.
The pair walked back into the lounge area of the Otogi Bank where Alice was discussing reports with her cousin and Otsu was tidying up, as always; Majolika was still working in her shop. On one side of the couch sat Ringo who was sipping some tea, and Ryouko and Ryoushi walked over to sit beside her.
Opposite them was Tarou, who had an uncharacteristically solemn expression on his face; though he tried to smile past it, he found he could not force his anger away. Similar to Ryouko, he could not forgive himself for letting what happened happen, but unlike Ryouko who would soon get to take more physical revenge, all he could do was wish for the assailant's misfortune, because right now, Tarou had much more important things to deal with.
Otohime sat at his side in the crook of his arm that rested protectively over her shoulders; her broken right arm hung in a sling across her chest. It seemed she was just dozing off with her head resting on his shoulder when her friends entered and she blinked her watery aqua eyes back open.
"Welcome back." She said in an exhausted voice. "How did the request go?"
"Fine." Ryoushi answered. "We'll be dealing with more of Onigashima's students tomorrow afternoon."
"Is Ryouko-san going?" Tarou asked.
"Hell yes, I'm going." She smirked.
"That's a relief. Give 'em all a good punch for me, will ya?"
"You can count on it." She promised before changing the subject. "So how are you feeling?" She asked, turning her russet gaze onto Otohime.
The girl seemed even smaller and more fragile than ever before, curled up in Tarou's strong yet gentle embrace. The hyperactive couple had not engaged in any of their usual antics since the accident, and nearly three days without the usual chaos was beginning to weigh down the atmosphere.
"Better." Otohime replied with a weak smile. "I still feel a bit tired for some reason."
"You should have stayed in the hospital longer." Ryouko sympathized. "I've had my fair share of broken bones before, but the first is always the most painful."
"No, I'm okay. Plus, Tarou-sama has been taking such good care of me." She gazed affectionately up at the sturdy young man beside her, who in return pulled her closer.
"I think I'm going to take her home now." Tarou decided, helping her to her feet. "Good luck tomorrow, you two." He added before heading toward the door where Otsu assisted him in leading Otohime out.
"This really sucks." Ryouko sighed heavily.
"It's hard to watch." Ringo agreed. "Otohime's been jumping at every little thing all day long, as if she's expecting to be attacked again, despite Urashima-san's best efforts to calm her down. She's still really shaken and can't seem to get enough sleep."
"Those bastards will pay for this." Ryouko gritted her teeth until she tasted blood.
"Now, now." Liszt butted in. "Normally I'd tell you not to be too hasty," the three on the couch looked up as he spoke and were frozen into statues when they saw one golden eye creak open, "but this time they've hurt one of our members, so it's personal. Therefore, I have no reason to tell you to hold back tomorrow."
"Right." Ryouko agreed with a smirk.
"Well now, we should all be on our ways. Majou-san will have your gloves ready for you tomorrow so please rest up well for tomorrow's assured battle."
"Got it. I'm headed for the gym now anyway."
"Well then, see you all tomorrow!" And with the President's words, they were dismissed.
The cousins filed out after the maid and Majolika assumedly left from her workshop. Ringo quickly hurried out as well, throwing Ryouko a devilish look that suggested she knew everything going through her friend's mind at the moment. Ryouko became flustered at her little roommate's bizarre sixth sense to see into her heart, but decided to take the opportunity nonetheless.
"Ryoushi!" She called out when they were the only two remaining.
"Yes?" He turned back to her.
"I... well there's something... I have to tell you..." she fumbled for words as she felt her pulse beat harder.
"A-Are you alright? You seem flustered." He informed her.
"N-Nevermind!" She shouted similarly to before as her second opportunity of the day went out the window. "I'll t-tell you tomorrow for sure, okay?" And with a little 'hmph!' she stomped past him and out the door.
A confused but now curious Ryoushi followed her lead, walking just a step closer to her than usual.
The next day had a bit of a chill in the air as the members of the Otogi Bank gathered in their meeting room before beginning the day's request-fulfilling duties.
Majolika presented Ryouko with two new and polished Neko Neko Knuckles, complete with their tazer-like shock effects.
Liszt cleared his throat once they had all gathered and made his announcement. "Right then, for today we have Majou-san feeding an upperclassman's pet lizards, Otsu-san and Akai-san are cleaning the literary club's room, Alice-chan is helping me with some documents, while Otohime-san and Urashima-san are still on their leave, and of course we have Ookami-san and Mornino-kun's Onigashima request today." He turned his face to each of them in turn, as if to confirm their current statuses.
They all gave nods of agreement, but Ringo kept her worried gaze glued onto Ryouko. Ryoushi noticed this and shifted over to her, whispering, "Don't worry, you know I won't let anything happen to her."
"That's certainly true." She sighed a bit in relief. "I know I can count on you to watch her back, Morino-kun. But I want you to call me, whether things go right or not. Even if nothing happens at all, I want you to call me!" She insisted.
"I'll do that." He promised.
"If she's any more than an hour late in coming home, I'm going to come look for you guys." She persisted.
"I'm sure we'll be fine."
"Hey! Are you two finished gossiping over there?" Ryouko's sharp tone pierced their conversation; however, it was clear she was not angry at them, but merely ready for her payback battle.
"Y-Yes!" Ryoushi quickly jumped to his feet, and with one last reassuring look toward Ringo, he crossed the room to stand at Ryouko's side.
"Good luck, you two." The President wished them as the others did the same before dispersing in their separate directions.
"Let's go." Ryouko turned on her heel and stalked out the door, Ryoushi trailing behind, his slingshot already strapped to his arm.
The two of them walked in silence as they neared the designated park, the same place so many other clashes between the two school's students had occurred previously. They did not speak, for they had already discussed strategy plans before they had left.
Upon nearing the park, Ryoushi broke apart from her; the plan was, if there were more than seven men, then he would take up his position in a hiding spot and cover her back, because if he were amidst the fray, he would only get in the way, since he was no good at close-range for too long and against multiple opponents. However, if there were six or less, he would fight beside her and end it quickly, so for now he hung back to wait and see how many, if any of Onigashima's thugs would show their ugly faces.
Ryoushi hated staying back as Ryouko went on alone; he could not stand the thought of her being ambushed right in front of him when he could have been there to stop it. So he swept his hawklike hunter's gaze around the park, alert for any signs of strange movement, but at first, there was nothing out of the ordinary, aside from the lack of people altogether.
Then, several moments later, he heard the unmistakable indications of people, a group of them, and he quickly shot a glance at Ryouko. Judging by her stance, which was that of an angry wolf with hackles raised, she had sensed the approaching trouble as well. Ryoushi quickly deduced that there were 5 men, and was relived that he would be able to fight alongside her. As the Onigashima students appeared, Ryoushi dashed up to Ryouko to face them together, and he thought he saw her relax slightly as he got next to her.
"Wow, the boss was right." One of the men sniggered. "Hang around here for a few days and soon someone'll request for the little wolf girl to come by and make us go away."
"Didn't think it'd be this quick." Another added. Ryoushi's eyes narrowed as he took into account the weapons they held; each was equipped with a metal crowbar, and three had pocket knives handy.
"What the hell do you bastards want from us?" Ryouko growled, trying her best to keep her cool; even though she assumed it was pretty much inevitable, she knew it was better to avoid a fight than be dragged into one unnecessarily.
"What we've always wanted." The first man answered. "You."
Ryoushi clenched his fists until he felt his fingernails pierce his skin, but Ryouko still remained calm.
"Honestly, isn't this getting a little old?" She said quietly.
Initially, Ryoushi thought she was faltering, but when he stole a glance at her, he realized she was fuming with a cold, calm rage that was just begging to explode.
"Apparently not." A different man spoke now, and as Ryoushi looked up at him, he realized the sheer size of this adversary. He was at least seven feet tall and had a broad body that casted a humungous shadow over the grass. Ryoushi recognized him immediately from his previous battle, and the wounds on his face confirmed Ryoushi's suspicions; this was the one who had injured Otohime. "So let's do this." And with that, he charged with a roar, and the other four did the same, flying at the Otogi Bank members like demons out of hell.
Ryoushi leapt to one side to avoid a punch and braced himself to send a kick to his opponent's gut. A crowbar grazed his shoulder and he gritted his teeth in more annoyance than pain; he was supposed to be guarding Ryouko's back, but these jerks just would not get out of his way.
However, it appeared Ryouko did not require his assistance just yet. She was moving extremely quickly, as though the past few days without fighting had been spent with extra training to prepare for this moment. She landed blow after blow on the same three who kept taking turns at surrounding and attacking her. Her kicks were ten times stronger and more accurate than before, and Ryoushi noticed with surprise how quickly and efficiently she was handling things on her end. She was snorting every breath through her nose, getting exceedingly more furious with every passing second, and Ryoushi knew why. She was eager to take out some steam on these punks after everything they had done both to her and the students of Otogibana.
She had managed to escape the first two attackers unscathed, but her next opponent was three times her size and weight. Yet Ryoushi knew that would not cause her to hesitate in the slightest; her russet eyes were ablaze with cold, unforgiving fire, and he shuddered involuntarily. He then was forced to refocus on his own attackers as one took a swing at him.
"You're in my way!" He spat as his fist collided with a jaw. He realized that Nekomiya's training had provided him with sufficient hand-to-hand combat moves, and he had not once had to use his slingshot yet.
Only one man remained standing before him and Ryoushi smirked when he saw the flicker of fear in his eyes, but he took the thug out quickly, like a lion squishing a pesky fly.
Ryouko remained occupied with the last of the men, the largest one, who scoffed disgustedly at how easily the others had gone down.
Bastard. Ryouko thought angrily. They don't even care when their own team is down.
With a long shout, she sent a flurry of punches at his body, hurling herself forward and blasting her modified boxing gloves into his bulk. But even the shocks emitting from the knuckles had little effect on him due to his sheer size. But Ryouko was no longer entitled to playing fair; she was blatantly pissed off now.
"This is for breaking my friend's arm!" She screeched. Kicking off the ground, she jumped briefly with a spin and her boot collided with his chin, sending him tumbling over backward to land on the ground with a loud thud. Ryoushi froze in awe at her utter strength, but tensed again when he realized this fight was not yet over.
"You little bitch." The colossal demon grumbled as he sat up.
"Why don't we just end it here? We both already know who the winner is."
Ryoushi could tell she was holding back her true feelings of wanting to continue beating him, but she did not let the the blood rush to her head; just as Nekomiya had advised him, she was keeping her head cool and not letting her emotions fight for her.
"Like hell, you won you annoying little wolf girl."
Ryoushi stepped forward, ready to meet him with a tight fist.
However, he was so focused on the one in front of him that he failed to notice the enemy that snuck up behind him. Similarly as to when he had first met Ryouko, Ryoushi was taken out with a crowbar to the back of the head and he fell forward.
"Ryoushi!" He heard her cry out and he looked up. He was still conscious, just numbed, and therefore he was forced to watch everything unfold without being able to do anything about it, just as he had originally feared.
The stinging in the back of his neck made it impossible for him to do anything but keep his eyes open; he could not even move his fingers to reach for his phone.
Enraged upon seeing him taken out by such a cowardly move, Ryouko turned her attention to the one who had hit Ryoushi. Without even a second thought, she roundhoused him from the side in the place that counted; he slumped to the ground like the pathetic pansy he was and did not get back up.
"Woah! That wasn't very nice, now was it?"
"Shut the hell up, you bastard!" She yelled furiously, at her remaining adversary; the punch looked like it could have broken whatever bone it made contact with if it had hit, but upon meeting only air, it felt as if her arm had been dislocated from the socket. But she bore her fangs nonetheless and continued her attack, aiming heavy punches and kicks whenever she could manage.
At first, the Onigashima delinquent seemed to be toying with her, simply dodging her attacks or blocking them. But he soon noticed he was not going to wear her out like this, so he resorted to fighting back.
Ryoushi managed to get enough feeling back into his body, enough to move both of his arms as he watched the two fight, their movements matched as though it were some kind of play. For every kick Ryouko aimed, he dodged it, and every punch he threw she blocked. He had the advantage of sheer body mass and strength, but she had the agility and speed he lacked.
They were equally matched somehow for a good several moments, but Ryoushi soon realized with dread that things were turning against her. Aside from having fought the other thugs off before, she was still probably recovering from her past injuries, not to mention her opponent had only come into the battle at the last moments.
The hints were subtle, but Ryoushi knew her so well that he could tell she was wearing down; her stance was slightly unbalanced as her left knee kept trembling from where she had been struck, her arms were tingling from colliding with such a solid target so often within so little time, and despite her best efforts to keep steady, her breathing was harsh.
It was a wolf against a grizzly bear, so naturally the odds were against her.
Ryoushi was amazed she had lasted this long, even for her, but he knew she needed to end this quickly.
She obviously knew this as well, for she dashed forward again and kicked his knee out from behind with a neat and powerful kick. He cursed as he fell backward, but did not miss his chance along the way. He extended his fist and grazed it against the side of her head, and with a yelp, Ryouko lost her balance and they both went down with crashes.
"Ryouko...san..." Ryoushi gritted his teeth and tried to push himself up. "No! You've got to... get up." He rasped. He did not think she had heard him, so he was shocked when she responded.
"I know." She growled, forcing her sore body to its feet once again. "This is survival of the fittest; once you're down, you're out." She gave her unmoving opponent a hard stare before she allowed herself to turn her attention toward Ryoushi, putting her gloves away at last. "Hey, are you alright?" She crouched clumsily down beside him, due to the intense throbbing in her temples.
"Y-Yeah, I'm okay."
She reached forward and helped him sit up, but it seemed she needed to lean on him just as much.
"You were great." She told him with a tiny smile. This was something new he was only just getting used to, how she was beginning to talk to him more comfortably.
"Not as great as you. You were amazing!" He informed her.
"S-Stop it." She blushed, looking away and he chuckled before she spoke again. "Hey, Ryoushi? You know that thing I mentioned I'd tell you today? W-Well-"
But as she spoke, Ryoushi had been so fixated on her that he had failed to notice until it was too late.
"Ryouko-san!" He tried to warn her. She gasped and jumped to her feet, her arms spread to the sides instinctively in a defensive position in front of him, like a wolf protecting an injured companion.
But she did not even have the time to catch a breath before the monster of a man landed a direct hit on her.
Ryoushi heard the sickening thud as it collided with her chest, and he was sure it had shattered her collarbones. There was a rush of air as it all left her lungs and Ryouko was sent flying several yards away from the brutal hit.
Ignoring the numbness that ensnared his body, Ryoushi surged upward the second after the attack on his beloved and took out her assailant with a single punch of his own that landed between the eyes; he hoped he had cracked the thick skull underneath as the delinquent fell again for the last time.
"Ryouko-san!" he raced to where she lie in the dust, crumpled into a ball on her side. He was afraid to touch her, but even more fearful when he saw she was not moving. "Ryouko-san! Ryouko-san, can you hear me?" He cried, receiving no reply. He gently turned her onto her back and bent his head down to her chest, listening for her breath. Her heartbeat was pitifully faint, as though she had been stunned, but after an agonizingly long moment, she flinched. "Ryouko-san!" He called out to her again, encouraging her to open her eyes.
At last, he saw those beautiful irises flutter to life behind her eyelids, but she could not breathe yet, let alone speak. Her chest heaved with fast, insufficient gasps that did not seem to get past her lips before being forced out again. "It's okay." He soothed. "You lost your breath pretty badly, but just concentrate on breathing. Slow, deep breaths, in and out." His voice was calm and collected, putting her at ease and canceling out her fear. The panic faded from her eyes and she closed them again, listening to his voice.
Slowly, he helped her sit upright, supporting all of her weight completely in his arms. Her shoulders were trembling and her neck was tilted awkwardly from where she had been punched, but aside from her shaky breathing, nothing else seemed to be the matter.
"That's it." He repeated patiently. "Just breathe."
After a few moments, Ryouko finally reopened her eyes and released one last shuddering breath before finding her voice again.
"Ryoushi..." she panted.
"Shh. Don't talk just yet. Please."
"I'm fine now."
"A-Are you sure?" He checked.
"Yes." She assured him. He gently leaned her back against a tree trunk and knelt down beside her.
"Are you really sure you're all right?" He persisted. "I swear I heard something break when he hit you just now!"
"I doubt this is reassuring, but I'm pretty sure it was his fist." She told him with a small smirk.
"Huh? R-Really?" At first, Ryoushi seemed somewhat impressed somehow, but then he realized the true meaning behind her words. "W-Wait! He hit you that hard?"
"L-Like I said, I'm okay."
"Really?" He asked again.
"For the last time, yes!" She huffed. "Do you want to check for yourself?" She offered. "Here." Caught up in the moment, she grabbed his hand without really thinking and pulled it against her chest, his palm pressed against her collarbones.
At first she stared at him as if to say 'See? Happy now?' but the blush on his face made her realize exactly what she was doing and she finally snapped back into reality. Her heart rate kicked into overdrive as though it were just because he could feel it now before Ryouko thrust his arm away. "S-S-S-See? Everything's fine. N-Nothing's broken or anything..."
"R-Right!" He quickly latched onto the subject change. "I'm just so glad you only got the wind knocked out of you and nothing worse." He sighed, thankfully.
A moment passed by as she regained her composure and managed to look back in his direction.
"S-So..." she began. "I'm sure the message is sent to these idiots now. Do you think we should be heading home?"
"I think that's entirely up to how you're feeling." He reasoned.
"Just... help me up, maybe?" She mumbled, utterly embarrassed. Ryoushi blinked once, wondering if this was real.
"Sure thing." He smiled. Carefully, he slid his arms around her shoulders and stomach, letting her lean against him as he helped her stand. She stumbled a bit and Ryoushi took advantage of her imbalance and held her a moment longer than necessary; she did not seem to mind.
"Thanks." She mumbled.
This was something Ryoushi had noticed a while ago; she always acted tough and gave the cold shoulder when there were others around, but when it was just the two of them, alone like this, she let him see the other side of her. He had figured out that she only showed her less distant side when there were no other people around to be embarrassed about. He knew she let her guard down around Ringo, but not in the same way she did with him, and this made Ryoushi silently beam with happiness.
"O-Oy. Are you okay?" She wondered, giving him a curious glance; in his reverie, Ryoushi had stopped walking and left her to wallow in silent confusion as to why.
"Oh yeah! Sorry!" He quickly looked away because her face was just a little too close for his scopophobia to handle at the moment. "S-So I think we should head back to the Bank. It's closer and we can rest up a bit before going home."
"I guess so." She said in a way that tried not to sound like she agreed with him wholly.
They limped slowly down the sidewalk, shifting their weights and taking turns supporting one another. Ryoushi was on the verge of collapse just because his head was aching so terribly, and Ryouko seemed to be avoiding moving her body certain ways as to not further annoy her own wounds. He knew her chest must be in pain as it looked like it was getting difficult for her to breathe again, so Ryoushi came to a stop as they both reclaimed their bearings.
"How's your head?" She asked, her eyebrows furrowed with concern; a rare sight indeed.
"I'm fine." He said, holding back a wince.
"Liar." She growled.
"Don't think you can lie to me about this kind of thing." She clarified. "I know it hurts like hell. You think I didn't notice just how hard he hit you? You think I don't know just how serious and painful a head injury can be? What do you take me for, an idiot?" By the time she had finished her accusations, she had lost the breath she had just recently gotten back.
"I...I'm sorry! That's not how I wanted it to seem at all." His shoulders slumped miserably.
But Ryouko knew she was the one at fault here, and mentally kicked herself before she sighed.
"No, I'm sorry." She apologized. "That's not what I meant. I mean, I didn't want it to sound that way... W-What I'm trying to say is, I guess... Gah, never mind!" She cried, whipping her face away from him.
But Ryoushi looked at her incredulously. Could it be she's...she's worried about me? He thought he might die from happiness right then and there, but forced himself to snap out of it and give her a proper answer.
"No, I shouldn't have taken offense to what you said." He murmured. "It was wrong of me to lie, and I caused you more worry than if I'd just told the truth in the first place." At his words, she slowly turned to look back at him, and nodded once in acceptance at his apology. "My head does kinda hurt, but I think a good night's rest will do the trick. What about you?" He looked over her once again; her legs were still shaking, her hair was frizzled, and she was still breathing unevenly, but aside from that she looked to only be ailed by pure exhaustion.
"Sore, but I'd say all I need is a good rest, too." She assured him. "So let's get going."
This time, despite his best efforts to let him help her, she stubbornly convinced him to letting her lead. She pulled his arm across her shoulders and continued to walk slowly, trying to concentrate on moving forward and not look in his direction.
"Listen, Ryoushi." She spoke up after a few moments of silence; she knew if she did not get this off her chest now, she would have to suffer yet another sleep-deprived night. "Last week, after...you know..." she coughed once as an excuse not to mention how she had went on that little date with him. "Ah..."
Now she fumbled for words; she had planned this out in her head many times, but now that she was actually saying it, she found it even harder to breathe.
"Oh, right!" It seemed he remembered how she had been interrupted by his moaning as the group of passing school kids had awakened his phobia. "You...you were trying to say something. I'm sorry-"
"Don't start that again." She snapped. "Just... l-let me try to say it now." It was already embarrassing enough for her to do this right now; she did not need to be reminded of the previous week's embarrassment as well. "I...I just..." she stopped, took a deep breath and forced herself to continue. "I just...wanted to say... you... you saved me." She felt a fraction of the weight lift off her chest as she continued to speak. "If...if you hadn't shown up like you did...I don't know what he would have done..." her voice cracked and faded away on the air, and she had unconsciously stopped walking, her legs trembling once more.
"Ryouko-san..." he watched helplessly as a tear rolled down her cheek, but he was not going to let her cry like that while he was around. Carefully, he shifted his weight until the arm resting atop her shoulder had pulled her in close to him.
Idiot! Ryouko internally shouted at herself. What am I doing? This isn't how it was supposed to be! I still have something I need to say to him... Dammit... why am I crying? She pushed herself away from him and raised her head, attempting to finish her confession.
"No... Ryoushi... listen..." she choked.
"I am listening." He assured her. "And I don't want to hear any more of this right now." He said firmly. "I can't bear to listen to you like this. You can tell me any time; I'll always listen to whatever it is you have to say. But I don't want you to have to say anything when you're this hurt."
"You're wrong." She sniffed. "I'm not hurt. Not like that... I just... for some reason I can't..." she felt like a complete idiot, whimpering like that and not knowing how to stop.
"It's okay. Tell me when you're ready. Just for now, please calm down." He smiled at her lovingly, and at that moment she hated herself, and she was not entirely sure why. Why do I keep causing problems for him?
"Okay. Sorry." She wiped her tears with the back of her hand.
"There's no need for you to be." He reached forward and took her arm again, pulling it over his shoulders and wrapping his other arm around her waist. "Come on. We're almost there."
The two of them gradually made their way back to the academy. Upon arrival, they met up with Otsu who had just finished cleaning the entrance to the secret meeting room.
"Oh my!" She exclaimed upon seeing the pair. "Are you two alright? Quickly get inside!" She urged them, taking hold of Ryouko's other arm and assisting them into the meeting room.
Liszt sat at his desk, putting away some papers and raised his head when they entered. Otohime and Tarou, who had just been about to head home, were sitting on the couch next to Ringo. The three of them gasped and Ringo jumped up immediately, racing over to them.
"What happened? Are you two okay?"
"More or less." Her roommate replied ambiguously as she and Ryoushi slumped down onto the couch. She recollected the events of the battle, skimming over unimportant details, but concluded with their victory.
"And," she directed her attention toward Otohime. "We gave that jerk a broken jaw in return. I hope that's enough." Ryoushi perked up a bit when she said "we".
"That's awesome." Tarou grinned widely as he pulled his princess closer.
"Well that's good to hear." Liszt smiled briefly before it turned into a frown. "But you two seem in no condition to be going home with the rest of us right now. You're welcome to stay here the night if you'd like."
"I don't think-" Ryouko's refusal of his offer was cut off by none other than her notorious, meddling roommate.
"Yes! That sounds best, I think." She chirped. "I think it would be too strenuous to have the both of you walk all the way back to your homes."
Ryouko stiffened as she saw the dangerously mischievous gleam in the redhead's eyes.
"I think that's a reasonable suggestion as well." Otsu put in quietly.
"Yes it sure seems that way." The President concluded. "The couch might not be the most comfortable bed for the night, but you're both much better off not straining yourselves tonight."
"B-But-" Ryouko tried again to no avail.
"Okay then, it's decided!" Ringo declared. "Ryouko-chan and Mornino-kun will stay here together tonight! Now come on everyone, let's get out so they can get some rest." She sent an evil smirk in Ryouko's direction; the blood drained from her friend's face as Ringo cleared the room of everyone else. "Alrighty then, good night! Don't do anything too naughty while we're gone!" And with that she had vanished.
Ryouko was still mortified and unable to process what had just happened, and Ryoushi remained utterly speechless; before they knew it, they were alone together.
"T...That Ringo! She's so going to pay for this!" Ryouko snarled, clenching her fist.
"I guess we really don't have a choice now, huh?" Ryoushi mumbled, pushing himself up and crossing the room to sit on the couch across from where she sat. "All we can do is take it easy." He was doing his best to keep his cool on the outside, but inside he was about as refined as a pile of cotton.
His plan was just to close his eyes, fall asleep, and pretend he was in his own room. But that plan became impossible when he heard footsteps approach his side of the couch. He jumped when Ryouko sat down beside him, her arms crossed and her head turned away.
"I still hadn't finished what I was trying to say before." She huffed.
"A-Ah...O...kay..." he stuttered at first, but then cleared his head. Be serious, idiot! "I'll listen to whatever you have to say." He turned to her, his gaze serious.
"It's...not that important..." she mumbled, her shoulders stiffening a bit as she finally faced him, though her eyes were still glued to the floor. Ryoushi waited patiently, trying to hold back his amused smile as she twiddled her fingers.
At last, she lifted her eyes, the gorgeous russet irises he had come to love so much shimmering with sincerity, and something else.
"Ryoushi." Her voice was steady and unwavering now. "For some reason, I just couldn't say it before, but... for last week, for today, and for everything up until now..." she hesitated and took a deep breath. Then, she reached forward and placed her hands over his, causing his eyes to double in size.
Then, at last, she got herself to say what had been left unsaid for so long: "Thank you."
They were only two words, and they had been so hard to say, but now, they were the reason behind both of their smiles.
Her voice was earnest and full of truth, as though she had said the words for the first time and actually meant them with such feelings. Her voice echoed in his ears for a second, and for some unknown reason, he felt tears stinging his eyes, even though he was smiling.
"Ryouko-san..." he slid one hand from beneath her grasp and placed his over hers. "I need to thank you too." Then, he boldly reached upward and placed his arm around her shoulders, pulling her in to him. She squeaked adorably, but did not move away.
"Y-You... why?" She asked, her grip on his other hand tightening.
"I just need to thank you for being here." He said simply. "If you weren't at this school, I don't know where I'd be, what I'd be doing, who I'd be with. And I hate thinking about it. It may sound stupid, but I'm just really thankful that you're here." He rested his chin on her shoulder, brushing his hand through her soft, auburn hair.
"It's not stupid." She chastised in a small voice. "I... I don't know where I'd be without you either. I definitely wouldn't have been able to move on and get to where I am today. I'm glad you're here too, Ryoushi." She allowed her body to give in to her heart, and she shyly nuzzled his shoulder.
A warm teardrop landed on his has knee, but this time he knew she was crying for the best of reasons.
They stayed that way for a moment before Ryouko finally drew apart from him, despite the cold rush of air that hit her when their bodies pulled apart. With a quivering sigh, she leaned back against the couch and wiped away another tear as Ryosuhi entwined the fingers of their left hands. Then, Ryouko suddenly slid closer to him, pulling on his hand so that he fell sideways slightly, his head falling onto her shoulder.
"Your head still hurts, doesn't it?" She cleared her throat as though it was no big deal. "Just rest there."
Ryoushi assumed he was dreaming, but decided to go with it, be it real or not.
As he closed his eyes, he slid his right arm behind the small of her back and pulled her closer by the waist. She tensed up all over again with a tiny squeak, but as the seconds went by, she relaxed against him.
Eventually, Ryouko too let her eyelids fall shut, and Ryoushi's headache seemed to fade away, as if she had been the cure all along.
He listened to her soft breathing for a while, letting it lull him into a sweet slumber he only would have dared to dream about. But before he fell asleep, Ryoushi managed one last thing.
"Ryouko-san, I love you." He whispered, hugging her tighter.
"Thank you, Ryoushi." She breathed as another tear slipped past her closed eyelids. "Thank you so much..."
The two of them then fell asleep simultaneously, shrouded in the soft, comfortable warmth shared between them.
There was an ease in the atmosphere now, a burden that had been removed with a few simple words.
And as they slept, hand in hand, there was a quiet feeling in the air that did not need to be mentioned, but merely appreciated.
A/N: End! I hope you guys enjoyed! I'm sorry my Ookami-san fics are kinda redundant sometimes, but I feel this had to be done.