A/N: I'm beginning to think I should call this a one-shot collection instead of a drabble series.
To Hitoyoshi Zenkichi, meeting Naze Youka and Kurokami Medaka on this moonlit night was a complete coincidence.
"Ah, Zen-chan," Youka raised her hand slightly in greeting. Though she no longer covered her face with bandages, her expression remained unreadable. Her words, however, felt somewhat mocking. "Fancy meeting you here. Oh, and you might want to pick up your jaw before someone steals it."
As if her sarcastic chiding, though regally spoken, were magic words, Zenkichi was promptly snapped out of the stupor he fell under when graced with such a bewitching sight.
"Naze-sempai," Zenkichi smiled slightly as the pair neared him. He scratched the back of his head nervously as his eyes trailed to the younger Kurokami hiding a step behind her sister. "Medaka-chan."
The beautiful carmine eyes that met him were disinterested, and Medaka nodded at him stiffly. "Hitoyoshi-kun."
Though his heart constricted at his love's monotone, he did not wither. "That kimono looks great on you." His eyes quickly darted to Youka. "Yours as well, Naze-sempai. You're both really dressed for the occasion."
"Hm." Medaka nodded before seemingly looking at a point beyond his head.
Zenkichi's heart sank and he struggled against the sudden daggers of insecurity piercing his flesh. Thankfully, Youka chose that moment to intervene, or he may have looked piteous before his love.
"Flatterer." Youka grinned predatorily, drawing both Zenkichi's gaze and attention to her buxom frame. She stalked the few steps between them until their clothes were just touching. "You'd best watch that tongue, Zen-chan." She cautioned him softly, encircling him as she studied her once protégé; she could feel Medaka's stare boring into her back, but she ignored it. "There's no telling how much mischief that would land yourself in. Though," A pink tongue glimmered under the festival lights as it sauntered across her lips enticingly, and Zenkichi shivered at the flicker of arousal he saw in Youka's face at the thought of his displeasure. "I certainly wouldn't mind being called to watch...or participate."
"D-don't make that face in public!" Blood rushed to his head while steam left his ears. Zenkichi took a cautious step back to safety.
"Hnnn." The lascivious gleam in the former Kurokami's eyes never wavered. In fact, it intensified at the fright her student showed. "You're irresistible tonight, Zen-chan."
Thankfully, Zenkichi was saved the trouble of figuring out what exactly was running through Youka's mind by Medaka's swift interjection.
"Neesama," Medaka began, drawing both their attention. There was a hint of irritation in her tone that managed to slip by her control. "The night is still young, and there are many more stalls to visit."
Youka glanced back at her younger sister's stiff posture, then back at Zenkichi, whose teeth ground against his lower lip no doubt in an attempt to stop himself from reaching out to his ladylove. She sighed dryly at her younger sister's uncompromising idealism but smirked nonetheless- her hypothesis had already been proven with this exchange. With this, her mind was set.
It was time to move past the experimental phase and into the application.
"Sure." Youka drew herself back and absently patted her kimono. While not as flattering as Medaka's chosen by far, it was still one that merited consideration. She glanced back at Zenkichi with a knowing grin. "We shall see you later, Zen-chan."
Medaka's eyes darted towards Zenkichi's and, for the first time that night, he could feel her registering him. Sadly, there was a plea in her carmine eyes to decline her sister's offer.
Zenkichi swallowed the lump in his throat when his need to be with Medaka-chan clashed against his desire to make her happy. "W-we shall see." He smiled, albeit strained. If at all possible, he would have loved to spend the evening with Medaka but he respected her wishes, no matter how unreasonable they were. Should this be truly what Medaka wanted, star-crossed until their marriage, then he'd live every day at the ten meter distance without so much as a peep.
"Medaka-chan." He called before the pair left.
Medaka watched as her beau rounded the stall he was tending to, feigning disinterest. He stopped before her, a warm and patient smile framing his features. There was an unordinary twinge on her chest, but she chose to ignore it.
He raised a paper bowl of takoyaki for her to feast on. "It's on the house." He grinned. "It can get quite chilly in this shrine, I'm told, so this should keep you warm. Ah, both of you."
Youka snorted. "Smooth, Zen-chan."
Still, even if Kurokami Medaka was a difficult woman to fall in love with, he would fall in love with her all over again if he had to, regardless.
Medaka stared at the offering for a good while before nodding her head and accepting. Her fingers traced against his but did not linger. "Thank you."
"You look really gorgeous tonight, Medaka-chan." Zenkichi muttered to her truthfully. Medaka stiffened, but did not blush. "Have fun." He bade them, not once allowing his spirits to dampen.
As Zenkichi returned to the stall, his partner and employer, a middle-aged man and one of his mother's contacts, looked at him questioningly. "Who was that?"
Zenkichi smiled brightly. "The best woman in the world."
Shaking his head, he returned his attention back to the job at hand after paying for Medaka and Youka's meal and spraying his hands with detergent.
Five stalls down and out of Zenkichi's sight, Medaka rounded on her sister with an accusing glower.
"You planned that, neesama." Despite her anger, Medaka still took a bite out of the treat her Zenkichi had gifted her.
Youka stared at her sister with bored eyes and arms crossed under her breasts.
"Don't sound so upset, Medaka-chan." She spoke patiently as if speaking with a child. "You can't fool me. You were searching for him as soon as we arrived."
Medaka's cheeks flushed though she continued pointing out. "You knew Zenkichi was here."
"And you figured it out when I invited you." Youka replied nonchalantly and swiped another ball of takoyaki from her younger sister then swallowed it whole. She enjoyed the way the fried treat seared her tongue. Delicious. "Why else did you wear your best kimono if not to show off?"
"It…" Medaka's blush deepened at Youka's blunt accusation. "…is only appropriate for one to wear their best attire when celebrating."
She- she really had not intended on running into Zenkichi nor gathering compliments from him. Really. It was just an uncanny coincidence that she was dressed up in her finest in the off-chance of a chanced meeting with the man who stole her heart. It was not like she wanted him to compliment her this evening.
"Ah, Medaka-chan,-" Of course, Youka was not fooled by her younger sister's lies; it showed clearly in her bored tone. "-such attitude really doesn't suit you."
"Regardless!" Medaka regained her composure. "I would like to know what you are scheming, neesama."
"What makes you think I have something hidden in my sleeves?"
Medaka's eyes narrowed at Youka's dismissive tone. Her fan was immediately upon her free hand and against her lips, carmine eyes narrowing as they bore into Youka's own. "Though I am happy at your change in lifestyle, it is still uncharacteristic for you to want to enjoy this trip, and now that I have confirmed your endgame concerns Zenkichi,-" She ignored the knowing nod Youka made at the mention of her sweet beau, "-I need to know what you are planning."
They stared at each other intently. Medaka's gaze beyond her fan silently commanded an answer off the stoic former Kurokami; Youka merely sighed without care.
"You're the clever one, Medaka-chan. Surely you could guess."
"Are you planning to hurt him?"
Youka contemplated her reply. "I suppose that is a possibility."
"You are not intentionally going to hurt him then." Medaka expertly deduced without pause. "Does it concern our time apart?"
"That is an excellent motivation." Youka hummed aloofly.
At the reply, Medaka frowned behind her fan. "I don't see why you need to intervene, neesama. Zenkichi and I are happy to wait."
"I doubt that." Youka suddenly grinned maliciously; she had been waiting for this. "Very much."
Medaka's fan snapped shut at the sudden chill in the air. "What do you mean, neesama?"
"Are you waiting happily?" Youka's dead eyes bore into her younger sister; she was unsurprised by the hint of surprise in Medaka's eyes.
"We will be happy once we are married." Medaka pointed out, her tone brimming with confidence. She swallowed the last takoyaki, nodding to herself and concluding the subject. "Until then, this is only a matter of endurance."
Unfortunately for the youngest Kurokami, Youka thought otherwise.
"It may be a matter of endurance, Medaka-chan,-" The maliciousness in Youka's features now ignited her eyes. "-but you're not the only one enduring, are you?" Medaka stiffened at the cold reminder, but Youka still was not through. In a mocking tone, the former Kurokami struck the heart of Medaka's confidence. "Zen-chan has endured your whims for thirteen years; two more can't hurt when you both will spend the rest of your lives with each other, right?"
"That's beside the point." Medaka felt her shackles rise in agitation at her sister's vivisection of her thoughts. "Zenkichi respects my wishes."
"Zen-chan only wants your happiness." The clarity in Youka's statement rang like a bell in the silent night. Medaka's lips pursed as she swallowed her sister's words. Youka continued matter-of-factly; a true scientist. "The question now becomes twofold. First: are you happy with this choice?"
Youka allowed a short pause, waiting for Medaka to counter her. She was unsurprised by her younger sister's silence.
"From where I stand, you're not. This is precisely why you call this an endurance, after all." Youka seemed almost amused, in a derisive way, at her assessment. Still, moving on, "Second: is the sacrifice you have imposed worth not making Zen-chan happy? There is no doubt in my mind that Zen-chan will be there right beside you at the end of this farce, and both of you will live a long and happy life together, but can you stomach the knowledge of imposing this ordeal on him? After all,-" Once more, a malicious gleam etched itself across the former Kurokami's features, "-isn't your type of love one that makes your partner happy?"
By the end of Youka's assessment, Medaka's shoulders were trembling from the weight of her whims. Medaka was in love with Zenkichi ever since they first met that fateful, serendipitous night. It was abnormal, yes, to know and be certain of love at such a young age, but that did not make her feelings any less than honest and true. She was so very certain of their feelings, however, for Zenkichi never wavered, that maybe, just maybe, she was taking his love for granted.
Zenkichi had always catered to her whims to make her happy, but she had ignored his own wants and needs in return. So, was this really right- to impose her will upon her love once again?
Despite this overflowing love for him, however, had she truly made him happy? Was she happy with the way things were?
"You have this evening to find your answer."
Youka hadn't even made a single step before Medaka spoke.
"I'm not happy." It sounded more like a declaration than an answer. Fierce determination smoldered in Medaka's carmine orbs and she continued with as much certainty as before. "I want to be with Zenkichi. I want to make him happy."
Youka nodded with a smile.
Though seemingly impulsive, Medaka's words were exactly what she felt. After all, while it was truly abnormal to be so honest of one's feelings- to never hesitate in the face of changing paradigm- that did not mean their feelings were any less sincere. No amount of experience or training could ever make absolute certainty something normal.
"Good." Youka praised with just a slight upwards curve of her lip. "Leave."
Medaka smiled at her sister gratefully.
"Thank you, neesama."
As Medaka scampered off to reunite with her love, Youka leered with no amount of sanity, and whispered darkly.
"Don't thank me yet, Kurokami."
It was time to begin the next phase of her plan.
Back in the takoyaki stand, a sudden shiver running down Zenkichi's spine made him pause.
"Boy?" His employer called, "Everything alright?"
"Ah, yeah." Zenkichi shook off the uneasiness he suddenly felt. He grinned up at the aged man."Yeah! Sorry about that, boss. Should have packed a thicker happi. Or a hanten."
"Or you may borrow my scarf." A haughty, presumptuous, but nonetheless melodic voice cut in; it was one Zenkichi could recognize anywhere, and one that made his heart still. "Of course… I would want it back by the end of this night." Medaka's eyes were coy as they peered beyond the fan covering the bottom half of her face; the fan, however, could not hide the smile she smiled just for him.
Zenkichi stared at the offered scarf in her hands, and then locked eyes back with Medaka's carmine orbs. Was this- was she really…? "What do you have in mind, Medaka-chan?"
"Zenkichi," Her fan snapped shut and in that one moment it wouldn't be a stretch to say she was glowing. "Would you like to go out on a date?"
Spelling it clearly.
"He's got a job to do, missy." The owner of the takoyaki stand suddenly cut in with a one-eyed, seemingly unamused stare. Zenkichi and Medaka both opened their mouths simultaneously to protest and bargain, respectively, when he raised a hand to silence the young couple. "However, it seems Zenkichi-kun's efforts have allowed me to meet my quota this soon. I've got three more batches to sell before calling it a night."
Zenkichi's grin widened and he looked at the smiling Medaka happily. "Great! I mean," he cleared his throat. "Ah, is it alright if I take my leave now, boss?"
"On one condition." The man smirked at the eagerness on the faces of the young couple. By their looks, he could ask for the world's weight in gold, and they both would deliver. "Zenkichi-kun; you be a man and ask her out!"
Zenkichi blinked before letting out a barking laugh. "Of course!" He turned towards his childhood love with a warm smile.
Medaka's face was decorated with a light flush that seemed to make her all-the-more lovely in his eyes.
"Medaka-chan," Zenkichi started, taking her offered scarf but never letting go of her hand. "Would you like to enjoy the festival with me?"
Somehow, Medaka's smile brightened. Her fingers intertwined with his. "Of course, Zenkichi."
"Well, that's settled then!" The owner clapped his hands to dissipate the atmosphere. He idly noted that the couples' hands were still wrapped around their partner's. "Enjoy. Thanks for your help, Zenkichi-kun. I'll send your pay through your mother. Expect me to come knocking next time I need help, though!"
"Not a problem, boss." Zenkichi was grinning again, and though, beside him, Medaka blinked in puzzlement at the exchange, the smile on her lips never faded. There was a certain air of anticipation surrounding her man while he thanked his employer; it was as if, in Zenkichi, there was a newfound motivation, one that she had never seen before. "I'll be looking forward to it."
"Thank you for taking care of Zenkichi." Medaka bowed at the older man.
"Not at all a problem! I might still be here for another hour in case you both get peckish!"
With a final wave, Zenkichi lead Medaka, who had nestled her head against his shoulder after wrapping her scarf around his neck, away from the stalls and into the festival.
"What was that about, Zenkichi?" Medaka questioned purposefully, intent on swiftly unveiling her curtain of confusion. After all, she was not the type to beat around the bush in wait.
"What was what about?"
"You were different with him." Medaka explained. "Are you looking for a job? Because if money is what you need, then I can assure you, the Kurokami fortune is nothing but vast." Her eyes fluttered close in contentment. "Despite our marriage, I am still the heir. Though I would rather we earn our own, if you are in an emergency, then I am more than willing to assist. To the best of my abilities."
Zenkichi smiled wryly at his fiancée's thinking. "Tempting as that is, Medaka-chan, I'd rather earn a living for myself as well." He stopped walking and turned towards her; Medaka let go of his arm but never his hand, and stared up at him. She blushed at the warmth of his hand cupping her cheek. "I- Medaka-chan, have you decided what you want to do after graduating?"
It was an honest question. In one moment of normalcy, Medaka's eyes widened when she realized she hadn't. Her life had been planned out for her, after all; by her second decade she was to be wed to a member of the branch house, and then integrated into the family's hierarchy.
Then, beyond her wildest dreams, the Jet Black Wedding Feast happened and she won the right to marry him whom she loves with all her heart. As the Kurokami blood filled her veins, to love one man above all meant a lot.
Regardless, her life was now in her hands. Medaka could choose what she wanted; use both her and her family's resources however she wanted.
"I want to spend my life with you." Medaka muttered to him softly.
Everything she wanted to do, every place she wanted to visit, every experience she wanted to experience, she wanted Zenkichi by her side.
Zenkichi smiled. "I want to live with you forever, Medaka-chan." He held her close, warm arms snaking around her waist to rest just under the knot of her obi. "Whatever you decide, I want to be there with you, every step of the way. It's why I've been getting as much work as I can; learning as much as possible. And, well, there's one more thing," butterflies were already fluttering in Medaka's stomach, but her heart raced at the embarrassed flush on her Zenkichi's cheeks.
"I- er," Zenkichi's eyes seemed to find a spot to her side interesting. "Ahem. I've got two years to decide on a wedding ring, too. Medaka-chan?"
Zenkichi's eyes widened when Medaka suddenly buried her face against his chest, obscuring her features from his view.
Medaka's cheeks were a furnace. She had never imagined Zenkichi was already considering their future so seriously. He had always been so impulsive and driven by the moment, putting off the consequences for later.
And a ring; a ring! A ring from Zenkichi!
She was so happy, and embarrassed to be honest, that she didn't know how she could face him after hearing this.
"Zenkichi," she called him softly, peeking upwards from his chest after finally ready to face him. Zenkichi's breath lodged in his throat at the adorable sight. "Will you propose to me again? I just want to hear you say it one more time; then we can go explore the festival."
A pregnant silence descended upon the pair as Zenkichi digested her request.
Seeing his Medaka-chan look so endearing, Zenkichi was attacked by a sudden nervous fright; what if he fumbled his words? However, despite all this, he cleared his throat and extricated himself from her. Falling upon bended knee, Zenkichi looked up at Medaka with warm but serious sapphire eyes.
"Kurokami Medaka,"He started amidst his heart pounding against his ears. Beside them, onlookers paused to watch the spectacle. "Would you do me the greatest honor,-" he nearly bit his tongue and he could feel a cold trail of sweat form on his back. Was he rambling? Was he too formal? She was wearing a kimono for crying out loud, while he was severely underdressed with his happi!
"-by being- I mean!-"
Oh god, he fumbled, and was that a camera that flashed?! He shook his head roughly to clear his thoughts, and focused on the waiting woman before him.
And then suddenly, all was right again.
After all, with his Medaka-chan smiling like that just for him… how could he be anything less than certain?
"Will you marry me, Medaka-chan?" He reached out for her hand and, tenderly, gingerly, traced kisses on the skin of her knuckles before locking eyes with his Medaka-chan once more. "Will you be mine?"
Medaka's hands cupped his cheeks, and her eyes shimmered with indescribable happiness.
"Of course, Zenkichi." There was nothing but the sincerest honesty shimmering in her dewy eyes. "Forever and ever."
The crowd erupted in cheers for the pair, though Medaka's sharp ears did catch a few muttering questions of the appropriateness of their age or if this was a rehearsal for a drama, but with her heart aflutter as it was, she ignored them instead as she pulled her fiancée to his feet.
Zenkichi coughed against his fist to clear his throat and then scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. Offering her his arm, Medaka was only to happy to accept and once more wrapped herself against his limb to nestle her head against his shoulder.
"Now, Medaka-chan," Zenkichi turned to his fiancée, eager to get away from this spot and the cheering jeers it contained. He was very happy; his heart was still pounding against his chest, and he was certain Medaka could feel it as well. Nevertheless, he wouldn't trade this moment for anything. "Wanna hit the games first while there's still time before the fireworks?"
They both found Zenkichi's suggestion silly when Medaka, finally able to express the overflowing love she held for this man - her Hitoyoshi Zenkichi - that she had foolishly tried to contain, crushed her lips against his.
Unseen by the happy couple, however, was a shadow with calculating carmine eyes that had watched the entire spectacle, hidden behind a nearby tree.
Naze Youka's grin had widened disturbingly; events were unfolding so much better than she expected. After all, the deeper in love this stupid couple was, the more likely her proposition would be accepted.
"Before the night is over, Zen-chan, Medaka-chan," she licked her lips predatorily, and stalked after the couple when they began to move. "all will be well. For all of us."
She was delighted by the twinge in her chest.
A/N: Bit of a challenge as I made an attempt to not use scene breaks while telling the first half of this story. Oh, and I'll proofread this eventually. Though the last scene of part 2 is already typed out (and part 2 is probably going to be shorter than this), I'm saving it for later. After all, a lot has already happened thus far.
In other news, woohoo~! There's another Medaka Box writer =D If you've somehow missed it, check out Puratinamu's Normal story.