ORI'S NOTE: HAPPY TURTLE WEEK EVERYONE! Especially you, Kohaku-Koneko! Please enjoy your request! And happy birthday! Takato wishes you the same, too! –Zijian\Ori


TRANSLATION\CULTURAL NOTE:

The surname "Li" means "Plum." In Japanese the word for plum (using the same Kanji\Hanzi as "Li") is "Sumomo," though the Li family is called "Li" by Japanese speakers both in this fic and the show, NOT Sumomo.

"Ume" is the other, more common, word for plum\apricot – But it's spelled with a different symbol, in Mandarin it's "Mei."

Also, in Chinese culture (possibly Japanese, too, but I'm not sure) peaches are held in higher esteem than plums (Examples: One of the Thirty-Six Stratagems is "Sacrifice a Plum to Save a Peach," Emperor Ai of Cut Sleeve fame shared a peach with his male lover Dong Xian and in Romance of the Three Kingdoms Liu Bei, Guan Gong and Zhang Fei swore their oath of brotherhood in a garden of peach blossoms). Peach is "Momo" in Japanese and "Tao" in Mandarin Chinese.

Also, as usual, the Lis will refer to certain people\things by their Mandarin pronunciation while Japanese speakers will use the Japanese pronunciation. Quick list of prominent examples:

Japanese – Mandarin

Li Rinchei – Li Lianjie
Li Jaarin – Li Jialing
Li Jenrya – Li Jianliang
Li Shiuchon – Li Xiaochun
Manju – Bao Zi
Wo Ai Ni – I Love You

Also, Xiaochun (Shiuchon's) given name means "Little (Xiao) Spring (Chun)."

–Zi Jian\Ori

China Kara No Tegami


?: Wo Ai Ni


To my Lensed Love,

For a long time I've been admiring you, whenever I see you my heart
skips a beat. The fact I see you so often makes me happy every time!

You're so much fun to be with and I love every moment with you. I don't know how I 've managed to keep this a secret for so long but now I have to tell you those three, beautiful words that I wish you would also say to me someday (soon!):

Wo Ai Ni.

I love you.

I hope you can love me back because I love you so much. I've dreamed of you so many nights, we're always happy together with our partners playing around us. Sometimes I wonder, if we fell in love, would your mega-friendly-always-happy-and-laughing-partner fall in love with my floppy-eared partner, too? I think that would be funny if they did. We' d be one big happy family.

Before I end this love letter, I want to give you this poem I wrote:

You are my knight in shining armor, the one I dream of every night.
You are the red dragon that guards the treasure of my heart.
You are the sweetest Peach in summer and I am your Plum…

Please, meet me at the park tonight at sunset, near your partner's old hiding spot. I want to tell you how I feel in person. I wish I had the nerve to do it now but I'm still nervous about telling the nicest, most wonderful, most awesome person on Earth that I love him.

I love you with all my heart.

I love you,
Your Plum

PS: In case you don't find this letter right away, I'll be at the park at sunset for three days. Take your time deciding on your feelings if you need to, today is the third.

…This is soooo romantic! I just know he'll like it! He's sorta the romantic type, y'know? I reeeaaally like that! I mean, I've caught him looking in the romance section of the manga store a few times – Most boys aren't really into romance but he definitely is. He's him, you know? He's sorta sensitive and stuff, which makes him a lot better as a boyfriend than someone like Hirokazu or Ryou. And Ryou's waaay too old for me, but he is super cute…But my "Lensed Love" is waaay cuter! Ryou just has more fangirls, but who wants a boyfriend with a ton of fangirls? Too much competition!

Plus I know he loves romance, I see him in the park in that tree all the time. And, now, with someone he loves, it'll be SUPER romantic! I hope after today it's OUR tree, now! We'll carve our names in the trunk and everything in a heart! Our tree forever!

We're going over to his place in a little bit (no matter what a certain someone else says this time!), I'm going to hide my love letter so he can find it. But not too well so he won't show up tonight, but it's possible he might still use a day or two to decide how he feels. He's really in touch with his feelings, that's what I love about him sometimes! If he needs to think on it (which I hope he doesn't), he'll put a lot of thought into it!

Hehehe, you have a secret admirer...This is going to be fun! I'm sorta playing around with the "secret," thing, though, I wanna be a little on the romantic side. He knows me really well, he'll figure out who I am and then we'll meet, he'll confess that he's always felt the same—I mean, ever since The Digital World, he's been really nice to me, I think he might've had a crush on me back then, looking back…And after D-Reaper, he's been even nicer and he comes to visit a lot. We're still waiting on our partners to come back (Yamaki-san's making progress, he says, but we're kinda not sure about that, y'know?). But I wanna see my partner again someday soon! I really, really miss him. And I know he misses his partner even more…

…He feels the same, I'm sure. He always brings me candy and stuff when he visits, 'cause he's super nice. We've known each other really well for about four or five years, even though we met closer to six years ago – It wasn't until a little after the Digital World I really began to "notice" him (plus he was always coming over or we'd be going over to see him). And now…

…I really like him. He's so cool, the way he's always thinking of others – Especially me! That's why I think he feels the same! Like I said, he almost always brings me candy or breads when he visits. Always my favorites, especially strawberry candies! We both love strawberries…

…But not as much as each other~!

So in a little bit, he's gonna get my confession letter! I'm gonna drop it off first thing this morning, he'll find it and read it and, if all goes well, I'll have a cute boyfriend! Just like I've always wanted!

I can't wait…! Especially since I couldn't do it yesterday like I wanted…Someone wanted baozi instead of delicious, delicious, delicious bread! Well, okay, Mom's baozi is awesome but…

…This is for love! I had to rewrite my letter 'cause of it, too! He needs those three days!

I head over to one of the bedrooms, knocking on the door. "…You awake…?"

…The snoring inside tells me: "No, but please wake me, it's early and we need to go to a bakery! FOR TRUE LOVE~!"

…If you say so! Hehehe!


Matsuda Takato: Breakfast


Jen lets out a yawn, he opens up the iced coffee drink from the cooler up front. I gave him one on the house with some Guilmon bread he picked out. Jen showed up about an hour before we're supposed to open – Sorta half-dead with Shiuchon in tow with this huuuge grin on her face. She's sorta hyper this morning, actually. I don't know what's going on but I thought Jen could use some bread and caffeine to help him function. He spent a minute or two trudging around to pick something out, actually, he's…Yeah, he's really out of it. But he's told me: It's the price he has to be for 'being part of the Li family.' Ha ha ha, Jen doesn't get why I wish I had a brother or sister or both like he does.

I always tell him I want "a big happy family."

He says, "I do, too. A big happy family." Ha ha ha! It's sort of a joke between us, since he tells me how much his "big happy family" drives him insane.

I sit with Jen as he, slowly, eats his Guilmon bread and drink, yawning now and then but…Smiling, he always smiles when we eat bread. He says it's because of how much he likes it.

I'm allowed to give out free items to friends now and then, just as long as I make a note of it at the register. Hirokazu tends to take advantage of that but I don't mind too much. And my parents told me the Lis are more than welcome to free bread, both of our families are good friends. My Mom and Mrs. Li, especially, they visit each other and have tea a lot. And Jaarin comes by to buy custard-pan so much that my Dad gives her a discount, Rinchei gets one for Guilmon bread.

Today's the first day of Spring break, so no school for two weeks. Today, I have the day off from the bakery. Kenta and I were going to spend the day at the arcade: They got a ton of new games, including some new Digimon Card Battle games, the kind that display your battle on a screen as you play: It's really cool, Hirokazu's addicted! He likes actually seeing his Guardromon 'kick ass like the real thing.' Especially when it takes down Ruki's cards…

…Granted, that scenario only exists in his head. Ruki's still the Card Queen and Ryou's still the Card King. And yet, the two haven't played each other in that game. Ryou says it's because he and Ruki would rather keep 'who the better player is' a mystery: Only one of them really knows, they've only played against each other in private. No witnesses. Not even us, and Hirokazu and Kenta have begged to watch at least one turn…

…They once humored them: Both laid down a card and shouted "Forfeit" in unison. Hirokazu was so angry, Kenta laughed.

"Thanks for the bread and drink, Takato-kun," Jen says after another yawn. "I woke up extra early this morning. I needed this."

I nod, "Anything for you, Jen-kun. I was surprised to see you, especially so early." Not that I mind seeing him this early, I'm always happy to see Jen.

"Xiaochun insisted on it," Jen glances away from the table up front, we added a small dining area for customers a couple years ago. "Find your breakfast?"

"Yep!" Shiuchon holds up a bag of…Ha ha ha! Choco-pan.

"Xiaochun, Mom'd kill me if she knew you were eating choco-pan for breakfast…" Jen rolls his eyes. "Put it back."

"She's not here…Pleeeaaase?"

"Get something else and we'll split the choco-pan for dessert," I say with a smile, Jen gives me a mock-annoyed eye-roll. He knows I like to make Shiuchon happy, she's his little sister and all. And she's like the little sister I always wanted. I once said that, actually, Jen said, "Your birthday's coming up, right? She's all yours! Happy Birthday, Takato-kun!" Ha ha ha!

"Takato-kun, don't spoil her…" Jen jokes with a quiet laugh, but breaks into a yawn. Sorry, Jen, but…I like to spoil that little sister you almost gave me for my birthday, ha ha ha!

"Thanks, Takato-kun!" Shiuchon smiles, she looks around the baskets of bread.

"Custard-pan doesn't count," Jen quickly adds.

"Aww…What if it's the green tea flavored kind?"

"That's debatable," Jen replies. Kenta loves our green tea custard-pan, he actually buys it on the way to school now and then for breakfast (Hirokazu's not into green tea that much, so it's one of the few things Kenta can eat that doesn't end up in a 30\70 share with Hirokazu) "But no."

I sit across from Jen with my own breakfast, some red bean filled rolls and a bottle of strawberry-milk 'coffee.' "Why was Shiuchon so insistent on coming by this early? Not that I mind but…" I look over to her, she's looking through almost every display basket. She sometimes has trouble deciding, especially since Jen tells her not to "take advantage" of our "free bread for friends" policy…Not that she really could, we always give extra bread to Jen's family! They're our best customers even without the free stuff! Jaarin comes by constantly to buy custard-pan, Jen's Mom, too.

Jen shrugs. "She woke me up and told me she had to go to the bakery as soon as possible. She wanted bread for breakfast, I guess, but... This was the second day in a row, actually. Yesterday, I said 'no.'"

"Why's that?"

"No offense, Takato-kun, but my Mom was making bao zi for breakfast – I never miss bao zi. I'm amazed Xiaochun was willing to, it was her favorite filling and everything."

I laugh, "I don't blame you, your Mom makes the best manju! Thanks for bringing me some for lunch the other day." Jen brings extra manju for me whenever he brings it for lunch, it's to the point where his Mom gives him two bags: One for Jen, one for me…Jen's really nice, so I always like to repay him with items from the bakery. My parents know this, too, so it's not a problem if I give him and Shiuchon a full breakfast or anything like that. If anything, they encourage it a lot, they know how close Jen and I are as friends. Plus, I think my Dad wants Jen's Mom's manju recipe for the bakery – it's that good! We've never had luck with manju, any new recipe we try…

…"Best" one lasted about three months.

"Anytime, I owed you for the Guilmon bread…And now for all this."

"Don't worry, my friends are welcome to our bread. And if Hirokazu hasn't eaten us out of business yet, you, Shiuchon or even your entire family definitely won't." We've even done that a few times: We invited the Lis over to try a bunch of new recipes to get their opinions, we consider Rinchei, Jen and Shiuchon our 'official taste testers' for new items.

Jen laughs, "I take it he eats a lot of bread?"

"Guilmon bread profits would triple if he actually paid for what he eats," I joke, Jen laughs.

"Got it!" Shiuchon comes to the table with a bag of choco-pan and one of our three main Digimon breads: Renamon bread. It's sort of like Focaccia bread, shaped like Renamon's head with marinated vegetable slices making the detail on her face (Ruki's favorites, too, we asked her what she liked since, well, it is her partner, after all). Guilmon bread is a special, savory dough shaped like Guilmon's head while Terriermon bread is a sweet bread with green tea icing on the ears and raisins for eyes (again, an all-time favorite of Kenta's that Hirokazu won't steal a majority of). My parents added the other two in honor my "Fellow Digimon Tamers." We've tried other breads based on the others now and then but those three are always the most popular (Impmon bread was pretty good, a sweet-spice bread, while we, um, had a lot of trouble figuring out what Guardromon bread should be other than an "Iron Enriched Flour" my Dad accidentally bought once that…Tasted better than we expected, let's say). We'll sell MarineAngemon bread around Kenta's birthday, though, since he really likes seeing his partner again in "strawberry-frosting coated shortbread form." It's more like a cookie than a bread but people seem to like it. We give Kenta a huge box for his birthday, he looks forward to it every year, I think 'cause he's always got this big smile when I drop it off. He also shares it with me every time to thank me, even though I feel a little bad eating his gift while I can get as much as I want at the bakery but Kenta says it tastes better eating it with a friend (especially one that won't end up taking a 70\30 share, like a certain someone who's more or less his "not-so-conjoined" twin, as some of the others have called Hirokazu).

"That's much better," Jen says with a nod.

I reach over into my book bag, smiling, "And something tells me you'll want this with your breakfast…" I pass Shiuchon a bottle of strawberry-crème iced "coffee." Same brand as Jen's, but it's just a (lightly) caffeinated iced pseudo-latte. I like the strawberry flavor like Shiuchon, too, actually.

"You're the best, Takato-kun! Thanks!" Shiuchon smiles, taking the drink. Its her favorite, we both like strawberries a lot, so I always make sure to have something like that for her. And I'll usually split anything strawberry flavored with her, too, like MarineAngemon bread.

We all eat our breakfast.

My parents come up front while we're eating, Dad's putting out more fresh bread while my Mom watches the register. "Oh, Shiuchon, have you opened that choco-pan, yet?" My Dad asks, looking to her from the choco-pan basket.

Shiuchon shakes her head.

"Good," my Dad comes to the table, he sets down another bag. "These are fresh, I was going to toss out the other bags. Unless you two want to take them home, we can't sell them after so many days, you know." Three-to-five day limit, depending on the bread it either sells for half-price or we throw it out. The dessert breads get thrown out, usually. Or given away to our friends…

…Though I have caught Hirokazu raiding the dumpster out back once in a while if he's in a serious need of a dessert bread fix and strapped for cash. It's less gross than it sounds, though: The breads are thrown out sealed in bags (The Digimon were the only ones who took the unsealed breads).

"My Mom and sister would love that!" Shiuchon nods, quickly. "Thank you!"

My Dad nods with a smile, he goes to the basket, saying, "I'll get a bag for you, take them home."

"Thank you, Mr. Matsuda," Jen bows his head. "My Mom loves choco-pan, especially the Matsuda bakery's."

"And Jialing won't even try anyone else's custard-pan!" Shiuchon adds. "Really, she loves it! Only time she eats anyone else's is if someone else buys it that doesn't know this place! And she'll always tell them to try the Matsuda version!" Ha ha ha, Jen's family recommends a lot of customers to us, too, usually to thank us for breads. We appreciate the free advertising. A little after D-Reaper, we got a huge increase in customers who said Mr. or Mrs. Li (or Rinchei\Jaarin) recommended the bakery. Oh, and a lot of little kids started coming by for dessert breads (spending their lunch money, apparently) after Shiuchon's birthday that same year: Mr. Li gave her a HUGE bag of choco-pan to share with her entire class! The bakery became huge between our Digimon breads and the Li family: My parents really appreciate all of their help, we even tell Jen he doesn't even have to ask: He can just walk in, take as much bread as he wants and walk out without a word…

…Not that he'd ever do that, Jen feels a little guilty sometimes when we give him so much bread. Ha ha ha! Rinchei once asked, "If my little bro won't do it, can I?"

My Dad laughs, "Thanks, Shiuchon." He finishes putting out some bread and goes to get a bag for the old choco-pan. It's still good and everything, but, with the filled breads, we can't keep bread on display for more than three days, so some of it always ends up in the dumpster out back…

…Impmon and Culumon frequently raided the dumpster out back when they discovered this, actually. Our bread sucks, according to Impmon, but he'd "choke it down" if he had to…Ha ha ha! Culumon just loved the sweet stuff, especially the kind Juri tends to buy. She says they used to split her purchaes a lot. Culumon had no trouble saying 'yes' to 'more Matsuda bread!'

Memories like that really make me miss our partners and the other Digimon. Especially Guilmon, I wish I could bake up a huge batch of Guilmon bread just for him and we'd split it together.

"I'm going to the arcade with Kenta in a couple hours," I say. "Want to go with us? Kenta wants to practice on their new card battle games."

Jen shakes his head. "I wish I could but I have to meet Shifu Zhao soon for my Tai Chi class, maybe after that?"

"We'll be at The Blue Shell Arcade if you can make it," I say.

"Blue Shell? Oh, tell Lianjie I said 'hi' if you see him, he got a part-time job there," Jen says.

"Really? What's he do?"

"You know that little café they have near the entrance, with the bar-like thing?" Jen asks. I nod. "He works behind the dessert bar." Yeah, The Blue Shell is a really cool arcade. They have a small area closed off as a café with a dessert bar – Kenta and I are going there first, actually, Kenta loves their desserts. I've tried a few, they're pretty good! Not Rinchei's shift, apparently, I wonder how he is with dessert (Jen always told me, "if you count lighting it on fire as cooking, he can cook.").

Plus it's the only quiet part of the arcade because it's closed off. Otherwise…Gods, I can't believe how loud that place is!

"How's the job?" I ask.

"He says 'if I'm gonna be behind a bar, I'd rather be mixing drinks than shaving ice,'" Jen says, we both laugh. "They really like him there, though."

"Why's that?"

"Because half of his paycheck ends up back in the arcade on pay day." Jen replies. Shiuchon and I laugh.

My Dad comes back with a bag filled with choco-pan. "Here you go, I also threw in the old custard-pan. It should still be good for three more days, at least, just don't store it anywhere warm."

"Thank you again, Mr. Matsuda, I'm sure my Mom's going to be thrilled to see this," Jen says.

"Thanks!" Shiuchon smiles, she puts her old bag of choco-pan into the bag of old breads.

"Anytime, enjoy yourselves," my Dad goes back to setting out breads.

We open up the fresh pack of chocopan, it's still warm from the oven. The best way to have choco-pan. It's basically a sweet roll filled with chocolate but, up until Digimon breads, it and custard-pan were our best sellers. My Dad's an expert with dessert breads! I'm not as good as he is with them, but I know all of our Digimon bread recipes by heart, even the ones we stopped selling – I make them for the other Tamers around their birthdays or other holidays, they love them! Even Ruki likes them enough to say 'Thanks.' Ha ha ha!

Shiuchon and Jen finish their breakfast and stay for a little bit before Jen has to go to his class. They both thank us for the bread, Jen promises to repay me with some manju the next time his Mom makes it – I can't wait!

I clean up the tables up front while my Dad finishes setting out fresh bread.

"Huh? Takato," Dad calls, I turn and face him. "I found this in the one of the baskets." He holds up an envelope with my name on it. "It's sealed with a heart sticker…I think you have an admirer." A what?

"When did it get there?" I ask.

Dad shrugs. "I just found it in with the Terriermon bread." Terriermon bread? "Heh, congratulations son." He walks back to the kitchen and passes me the envelope, patting me on the back as he walks by. "Hope she's cute!" …A-An admirer? Me?

"Ye-Yeah…" I open the envelope and sit down at one of the tables.

Is this really from a secret admirer? I mean, if it didn't have the heart, I'd assume Jen or Shiuchon left it and it's some sort of note. I mean, Jen's not

…Then again…

Terriermon bread...

I pull out the folded piece of paper, it's held closed with a heart sticker, too. I gently lift the sticker and start to read the letter…

To my Lensed Love,

Lensed…Love…? Um…

Does this person mean…my goggles? I-I guess, though I haven't worn goggles since Guilmon went back to the Digital World. Th-That means…It has to be one of the other Tamers, no-one else would know about my goggles! I mean, even when I did wear them, it was only when I was "taming," you know?

This was in with the Terriermon bread…?

For a long time I've been admiring you, whenever I see you my heart skips a beat. The fact I see you so often makes me happy every time!

You're so much fun to be with and I love every moment with you. I don't know how I've managed to keep this a secret for so long but now I have to tell you those three, beautiful words that I wish you would also say to me someday (soon!):

…Wow…

Someone I see 'so often?' That's definitely one of the other Tamers and…I can rule out Ruki and Ryou from that group already since…Well, the love letter aspect alone rules out the former and the latter? Um, wouldn't leave me a love letter.

And this doesn't sound like Hirokazu (in which case, this would be a prank) or Kenta (also a prank)…

…So, that means Juri must've left this. But, um, we…I-I said we worked better as friends when she asked if we could go out a while back. It couldn't be her, unless she wanted to "try again," but…

Terriermon bread

…Impossible…

Wo Ai Ni.

…Chi-Chinese…? It has to be…

Terriermon bread…

…I-I can't believe it…

I-I thought it was weird that Jen would come by so early, I mean, we aren't even open yet and someone was pounding on the door to get our attention...And it took Jen a minute to really get his bread, usually he just grabs his favorite and sits down…Shiuchon, um, depends on her mood when it comes to picking out bread. Especially if she wants something sweet but can't spoil her appetite, she plays the 'happy medium' game, like green tea custard pan earlier.

I love you.

I can't really be reading this.

I hope you can love me back because I love you so much. I've dreamed of you so many nights, we're always happy together with our partners playing around us. Sometimes I wonder, if we fell in love, would your mega-friendly-always-happy-and-laughing-partner fall in love with my floppy-eared partner, too? I think that would be funny if they did. We' d be one big happy family.

…Guilmon and Terriermon…?

Ha ha ha, it…It would be funny!

A-And—Wait…! A "big happy family?" Th-That's…What Jen and I say when we talk about siblings! That's our joke…A big happy family is something we both want!

I-I…I can't believe this! I mean, I never thought…Jen would ever feel this way! Th-This is…I can't believe this! This can't be real!

…Jen…

Th-That's why you came by so early…? It was sort of weird that he and Shiuchon just showed up like this…

Before I end this love letter, I want to give you this poem I wrote:

You…wrote me a poem, Jen? …I-I didn't know you were…Ha ha ha! This is amazing! Je-Jen…! You like me that much? A poem?

My heart is pounding, I can't control the smile on my face! I couldn't even if I tried, I don't want to control it…I-I don't think I've ever smiled like this!

Terrerimon bread!

Wo Ai Ni!

A big happy family!

JEN! This…This has to be from JEN! Th-This can't be real but it is! Jen…You feel the same? I-I'm afraid I'm going to cry

Because I'm so happy right now!

I'm so happy right now! I-I'm reading a poem…Jen's love poem to me! A real love poem!

You are my knight in shining armor, the one I dream of every night.
You are the red dragon that guards the treasure of my heart.
You are the sweetest Peach in Summer and I am your Plum…

…Uh…?

…Er…I-I…I, um, think Jen could use a little practice with his poetry but if this is from him, then I won't criticize! At all! Jen, this is…the greatest poem on Earth!

A-And that last line…Jen told me, peaches are, um, sacred or something like that in China. Well, not sacred but…What did he say? Gods, I should know this…!

Wait! Now I remember, they're a Taoist symbol of immortality or something like that. And some other things about how they're really important culturally.

Why would he—Wait…

Jen told me his surname means…Plum.

Jen is my plum? Does that mean he's saying his heart is mine? Th-This is…This is real?

Please, meet me at the park tonight at sunset, near your partner's old hiding spot. I want to tell you how I feel in person. I wish I had the nerve to do it now but I'm still nervous about telling the nicest, most wonderful, most awesome person on Earth that I love him.

…Jen…

I-I never thought in a million years this could be possible! I-I've felt the same for so long!

Thank you, Jen.

Thank you so much.

I love you with all my heart.

I love you,

Your Plum

PS: In case you don't find this letter right away, I'll be at the park at sunset for three days. Take your time deciding on your feelings if you need to, today is the third.

Th-The third? That is today…That means it had to have been left here by Jen!

…Jen's gay...

I-I never suspected you, Jen. Ever. It's why I never told you or even considered hinting at this! I-I was so afraid you would hate me for this and instead, you love me.

Thank you!

Gods, please, don't let this be a dream. I'll do anything to keep from waking up if it is!

"…So, do I know the lucky girl?"

I let out a shout and bolt straight up in my as my Dad puts his hand on my shoulder. "N-No idea! Just…some girl! Se-secret admirer! Definitely a girl!" Er…I-I shouldn't have said that but…H-He won't…He won't suspect Jen…I know I never did!

Dad laughs, "Takato, you have to work on that. Can I see it? I saw the way you were smiling when you read it…" Oh, crap! Ma-Maybe I should have tried a little to control that…

"Um…It's….really personal…" Especially since…It's obviously from Jen. All Dad would have to read is 'Wo Ai Ni' to know that. No-one else we know speaks Chinese besides the Lis. That would be a dead giveaway and…

..The last thing I want right now is to lose Jen before I have him. I-I'm not letting this letter leave my side all day—No, EVER! I-I can't let anyone else read it, especially a 'proud parent!'

I know this isn't…something he'd be nearlyas thrilled about as I am. More the exact opposite…

"Heh heh heh, really romantic, right?" Dad laughs.

…I'm sorry, Dad. But...If I can be with Jen? ...I-I have to be with Jen!

"She, um, wants me to meet her at the park tonight…" I say.

"Are you going to?"

I nod.

…I want to meet my Plum.


?: Dui Mian De Nue Hai Kan Guo Lai!


She's…really hyper this morning! I mean, she's dancing around Jenrya. Jenrya's obviously annoyed but he's not sayin' anything.

I always sorta liked that about her, she's always happy and smiling! And, um…

…She's pretty…

I saw them go into the Matsuda Bakery before they opened. I didn't know they knew Takato-san that well that they can get bread before the bakery even opens! That's so cool! My sister'll probably be jealous, she loves Guilmon bread!

I really wish they kept Impmon bread on the menu. It was good! Sorta spicy but in a good way, ya know? There were some things that burned a little but they also used sweet spices like cinnamon and stuff! It was a sweet sort of spicy, which, definitely fit Impmon….I really miss him but they only keep the 'big three tamers' and MarineAngemon bread on the menu. And the last one only at a certain time of year.

I've been trying to be casual as I follow after Jenrya and Shiuchon. I do it sometimes, they usually don't notice me. If they do, I pretend I didn't notice them. Or, well, usually it's just Shiuchon.

I whisper under my breath, "Shiu…chon…Xiao…Chun…Xiaochun…" …I think I'm pronouncing her name right… "Jen…Rya…Jian…Liang…Jianliang…" Same with her brother's name but it's easier to pronounce. Not as easy as "Wo…Ai…Ni…" I look up, stopping about twenty steps away from Jenrya and Xiaochun, they're waiting for a walk signal.

"Thanks again for going to the bakery with me! I really needed you!"

"…Why? You come here alone all the time."

"Yeah but this time I needed someone with me," Shiuchon says with this huge smile on her face. "This is gonna be a great day, Jianliang! I just know it! Especially tonight! Maybe tomorrow night or the night after but…Sunset's gonna be great!" What's…so special about sunset? "But, either way, it's a great day, Jianliang!"

"Uh-huh, yeah, great to wake up to you jumping on my bed screaming 'Guilmon bread! Let's go get Guilmon bread!'" Jenrya lets out a sigh.

"Sorry I landed on your head those couple'a times."

"Sorry you didn't manage to knock me unconscious and get Lianjie to take you instead." Hey! Be nice to your sister! She's Shiuchon!

"Lianjie wouldn't work, though! I needed Jianliangge!" Shiuchon says, turning to show a really cute smile, I like that smile a lot!

"Why did you need me with you? It's…Just Takato's."

"Exactly! You'll see in the next three days…Hehehehehe!"

"Huh?" Yeah…What is she talking about?

Shiuchon just laughs.

"You're weird today, Xiaochun. You didn't get into Lianjie's part of the fridge, did you? Drink anything bitter and carbonated? That's not soda, you know…" Shiu-chan does not drink, Jenrya! Don't even joke about that! She's pure and innocent! And cute! Definitely cute, too!

"Hey…!"

I walk up to them and stand a few steps behind her. "…Ni hao ma, Xiaochun?" I whisper to myself, I know she didn't hear me.

I've been practicing Chinese. I wanna impress her, kinda. It's really hard 'cause of tones but…I bet she'd like it! We're in the same class. I sit across from her, too. I pick up a little bit of Chinese from her now and then when she does a report on her heritage or something like that. I'm actually supposed to be a grade below her but, when I first started school, I skipped from first to second grade because of how well I tested. My parents were really impressed (and my sister was super-jealous!) but…

…When I told Shiuchon, the day we were assigned to sit together, she told me she thought that was really cool! She's nice, I mean, really, really nice!

Jenrya and Shiuchon keep walking, I follow at a distance…I do this sometimes when I see her on the street. Our house isn't far from the Matsuda Bakery and she and Jenrya go there a lot after school and it's on the way to mine and Shiuchon's school, too, but…I don't walk alongside her too often, not unless she notices me and wants to talk…

…And I always sound like an idiot, I just know it! It's hard not to because, well…She's pretty, I get stupid around pretty girls. So I usually keep my distance.

Not that I'm stalking her or anything, I just…I-I get nervous when I try to talk to her.

…'Cause…

Wo Ai Xiaochun


Kitagawa Kenta: Games Of The Heart


Good thing the arcade got those Digimon Card Battlers, 'cause I wouldn't have been able to think of any other excuse to go besides my real one. The Blue Shell doesn't have many games I like and everyone knows it, even Takato.

I'm a little early to meet Takato at the Bakery but he won't mind. I'm not going to buy any bread, I need my appetite. There's a special someone behind the counter at the dessert bar, I'm going to spend my time there before and after a few card battle games…

…Crap, did I remember my card deck?

Ye-Yeah, good. Last time I went, I forgot my cards and Hirokazu wanted to leave early because of it. I got him to stay by offering to buy snacks…That cost me a month's allowance.

I could go alone, yeah, but…Then that someone might, um, notice me staring. And I don't really want that… Having a friend with me gives me an excuse, kind of. Or, at least, makes me a little less obvious, I think.

Last thing I need is Jen saying, "Rinchei says you were staring at him for, like, three hours with these cartoony hearts in your eyes. What gives?"

"Your brother's cute, Jen. Deal with it."

Probably won't go over too well.

I approach the Matsuda Bakery, Mrs. Matsuda is at the cash register. "Kenta-kun, welcome!"

"Hi, Mrs. Matsuda. Is Takato ready to go?"

"He's in his room, I'll call him," Mrs. Matsuda goes to the back hall and calls Takato, I look around the bakery. I love the smell of fresh bread in here. Especially around my birthday since the smell of strawberries fills the bakery, which means they're making MarineAngemon bread!

…I miss that little pink mega of love… I wonder if he'd be able to help me when it comes to Rinchei. Ha ha ha, Cupid's Arrow Attack! Or, at least, Find Kenta Kinda Cute Attack!

…I can wish!

Takato steps out into the front of the bakery after about a minute. "Hey, Kenta-kun! Want to grab a bite before we go?" He's got a backpack with him over his shoulder. He also has this grin on his face like…I dunno. Takato's just in a better mood than usual today. A much better mood and considering that Takato's always happy…I wonder what's got him smiling more than ever.

"Actually, I wanted to try something from that dessert bar they have over there," I say. "Want in?" Plus, unlike a certain someone, I feel bad if I eat too much of Takato's free bread. Really, Hiro-kun, you take advantage of how nice Takato's family is…But he's been doing that ever since we found out Takato lived at a bakery. It was kindergarten: Hirokazu wanted to know why 'that weird kid's' parents always gave him cinnamon rolls and custard pan with his lunch…

…He stopped calling him 'that weird kid' after Takato started sharing his lunches with us, especially dessert breads. Then Takato's nickname became, ah…"Thanks for the awesome bread, Weirdo!" (Hirokazu's manners have improved slightly through the years…Just slightly). It's how we became friends with him. The way to Hirokazu's heart (platonically or romantically) is through his stomach, after all. A girl who liked him once made him a ton of lunches but…

…According to Hirokazu she wasn't the best of cooks. He still appreciated the thought and effort (amazingly!). She moved away a few years ago, before they became "official," Hirokazu wasn't as upset over it as she was, though.

Takato nods. "Sure, sounds good!"

"Have fun you two," Mrs. Matsuda says.

"Bye, Mom. If I'm really late, I'll call. I need to go to the park tonight," Takato says. The park?

"All right, but try to stop home at some point first, okay? Before sunset," Mrs. Matsuda says. Sunset? We both wave and head out. "And don't forget to drop off my books and pick up the ones they're holding for me."

Takato holds up his backpack. "I won't."

"Thanks, Takato."

"What's happening at the park?" I ask as we start down the street. The Blue Shell is about five blocks from the bakery.

Takato looks to me with a huge grin. "Something really, really amazing. I'll tell you tomorrow." He says, I notice him feeling a pocket of his backpack, making sure the zipper's closed.

I nod. "Does it have anything to do with how happy you are all of a sudden? Crap, Takato, you're…Happy!"

Takato chuckles to himself. "Something great happened this morning."

"What?"

"I-I really wish I could tell you, Kenta-kun, but…Maybe tomorrow."

"Ah, no fair…You can't keep secrets, Takato-kun."

"I have to keep this secret for a little longer," Takato says. "Just trust me."

"All right, I won't force it out of you like Hirokazu would." Hirokazu'd never let Takato keep a secret, I'm amazed I keep as many things from his as I do. Hirokazu does not like to be kept in the dark about anything

"Speaking of Hirokazu, he told me you really like this dessert bar they have," Takato says.

"Yeah, it's…interesting. Lots of shaved iced flavors, they have all kinds of milk teas, boba drinks, you name it. Great food at great prices, can't get enough," of Rinchei Li in that adorable uniform – They have him in this sort of bartender's vest with a dark green bow-tie and black pants. "And it's the only quiet part of the arcade."

"Good point about the quiet part," Takato nods, covering his ears for a moment with a laugh. It really is the only quiet part – It's closed off by a pair of glass doors. This is a pretty upscale arcade, it's been around for about two or three years and it's big draw is the dessert bar and some of their more high-tech games like the Digimon Card Battle games, some racing sims and this, according to Hirokazu because I almost puked in one of them (it's that damned realistic), "AMAZINGLY, MEGA, AWESOME, SUPER FAST, WORTH EVERY FREAKIN' YEN, I WANNA GO AGAIN, I WANNA GO AGAIN, I WANNA GO AAAGAAAIIIN…!" Roller coaster simulators (three of them lined up together)…

…For what's essentially a box on hydraulics...That thing is nauseating! Takato refuses to look at it after he saw me walk out of it and dart for the nearest waste basket…Ugh…! It costs 500 to 1,500 Yen a ride and has a line just like a real roller coaster! The ride lasts up to about two to six minutes (depends on how much you pay, each track is a different length\price\intensity – Hirokazu's favorite is the three minute track because of the RING OF FIRE!).

We get to the arcade and immediately I lead Takato over to the bar. Right behind it is Rinchei. He's cleaning a glass like a bartender…Hehe, he told me he wishes he was a real bartender but, at the very least, he's working for "another industry" that he "loves and admires."

"Oh, hey, Glasses!" Rinchei waves to me. "And Takato-kun. Did you see Xiaochun and Jianliang this morning?" Huh? Jen and Shiuchon were at the bakery this morning…?

Takato nods. "Bright and early."

"What was with Xiaochun? I mean, I was just waking up to the new Disgaea game when I heard her wake up Jianliang—Well, the sound of him screaming after she jumped on his head at one point," Rinchei says with a laugh as we sit at the bar. It looks like a real bar (partially because the arcade used to be a dance club, Rinchei once told me) but there's a ton of bottles of flavored syrups and stuff like that behind it instead of booze.

The room itself is decorated sort of like a cross between an upscale bar and, well, an arcade. They have a wall of 'celebrity sketches' in black and white that's all famous video game characters – Save for the big autographed picture of Shigeru Miyamoto – with some slightly dimmed lighting from Pac-man shaped plastic light fixtures on the wall. In the carpeting is a gem-pattern that's the color and shape (sort of, they went for the closest they could find) of the Chaos Emeralds from Sonic while a couple of the support beams in the middle of the room are painted like green warp pipes from the Mario games. The place really went all out with its video game theme! It's why Rinchei loves working here, he says.

What's really cool is the tables: They're all broken old, old, old, old, old school arcade games: Like Pong or the original Pac-man. The "sit at a stool and stare at a flat screen" kind of game. That or classic air hockey tables. The screens all play video demos of the games they used to be able to play. Some of them still work, though, they're usually among the first taken. I sat at the pong table once, Hirokazu played it with me and…

…Stated the obvious, "Cool, it's like square ping pong!" …Why the hell else do you think they call it PONG, Hirokazu? Gods, help me, my best friend is an idiot!

And, of course, there's the blue koopa shell over the bar in neon lights with the name "The Blue Shell" spelled out in blue cursive neon!

It's really cool!

"They just stopped by for breakfast," Takato says…That smile that's on your face now says otherwise, Takato. What's Jen got to do with that grin?

"Uh-huh," Rinchei nods, a grin spreading across his face. I think he picked up on Takato's smile, too. "Either way, hope they didn't eat you guys outta business."

"They can't," Takato says. "We sent Shiuchon home with a huuuge bag of old choco-pan and custard-pa by the way."

"You did?"

Takato nods. "It's too old to sell but still good, just keep in the fridge and it'll last at least another week!" No it won't, Takato. No Matsuda bread lasts a week in any of our houses! Especially the Li household, from what Jen's told me.

"Awesome! Thanks, Takato! Both of you, first order's on me! Go nuts!" Rinchei grins. Oh, yes! I gotta take Takato here more often, usually the first order's on me…Then the second, third, fourth, fifth…You get the idea. That's what happens when you take Hirokazu any place that costs money. "What'll it be?"

"Thank you, Rinchei-san," Takato bows his head. "But…"

"Don't worry, they let me give out free food to the occasional friend. They really like me here," Rinchei says with a grin. "Come on, anything."

"Um…I-I'd really like to try the strawberry shaved ice," Takato says.

"And you, Glasses?" Rinchei asks, looking to me. Hehehe, that's my nickname since I come here so much. I like it since it means he noticed me…

"The usual," I reply, smiling.

"One strawberry shaved ice, one matcha smoothie with extra boba and extra, extra, extra matcha, got it!" Rinchei goes back and makes our drinks.

"You and green tea…" Takato trails off.

"Can't get enough of the stuff," I shrug. Especially given how much Hirokazu hates the stuff! Mine! All mine! For once! "Jen and Shiuchon came by the bakery this morning?"

Takato nods. "Jen claims Shiuchon insisted on it for some reason. Either way, it was great seeing Jen." …There's that grin again.

Takato…? Why is Jen making you so…HAPPY?

Takato sets his backpack on the counter. "Don't let me forget to drop these off at the library, my Mom's been on a mystery novel binge thanks to Mrs. Li." Oh, yeah, Jen told me his mother is hooked on mystery novels these days, looks like she got Mrs. Matsuda in on it, too. I know since Jen told me she actually borrowed his old collection of Detective Conan manga at one point for a "mystery fix." She actually became a fan, he says, enough to where they're both caught up on the series (save for one or two old issues his Mom's still trying to find).

Our food arrives, Takato sets his backpack on the seat next to his and starts eating the strawberry puree-covered bowl of ice (Rinchei gave him a ton of extra strawberries, that's gotta be triple the usual amount!). I start drinking my green tea smoothie while Rinchei goes back to washing glasses.

I hear the sound of Takato messing around with his backpack but I don't pay attention…Hard to when Rinchei Li has his back turned, y'know?

Jen, your family lucked out on the "good looking genes," like you each got between half to about three-quarters of Ryou's…Rinchei got the most, though!

After we each finish our snacks, we order some sandwiches for a quick lunch.

Takato finishes first. "I'm going to check out the Digimon Card Battle Game, Kenta-kun. If there's a line, I'll save a spot for you."

I nod. "Thanks, Takato-kun. I'll try to finish quickly." Not really.

Takato nods and heads out to the arcade. For the split second the doors are opened as he walks out, a ton of music and game noises FILL the room. Gods, the arcade is loud…I don't know how Hirokazu or anyone else can put up with it! This place has to be Shinjuku's leading cause of deafness!

I finish my sandwich and order one quick square of green tea cake before I head into "The Land of Eternal Silence" (Once you go deaf from entering, that is). I still eat it a little faster than usual since I don't want to keep Takato waiting. But every time Rinchei's back is turned…

…I might have a little crush on him… Not that I expect him to like me back or anything, I just like admiring him. Rinchei's really cute, I can't help myself. I'm not normally "boy crazy" or anything. If I was, Hirokazu or someone else would have figured out my orientation a looong time ago and my mental health would be much worse right now. Ruki's occasional joke is bad enough…I'm worried she might even suspect or know at this point, given some of them. Especially my reaction to her joke about why I come here so much…

"…Yeah, I hear Jen's brother works there. Kitagawa, is that why you've gained, like, five pounds this month…?" And cue cutting five years off my life with a minor heart attack! Good going, Ruki, that's, I think, thirty years total you've cut from my lifespan!

Then again, if those estimations were remotely true, between her and Hirokazu, I should've died in 1756.

I just have someone I like to admire…A lot. Damn it, like I said, Jen's family won the "good looks" genetic lottery. The Lis and Ryou! Takato, too, a little but…I see him as more...Um…

…I know how "gay" this sounds but...Takato's adorable. He really is, I'd ask him out if I knew I had a chance but, well, the whole "crush on Juri" back in primary school sort of shot down those chances a long time ago. Even if they're "just good friends" right now…We see them being high school Prom King and Queen at some point in the near future. Even Ruki, Queen of the Gay Jokes!

I admit, though, if I wanted someone who had a chance of liking me back, I should obsess over Jen. He's straight but, well, Rinchei's got a little bit of an age difference between us. He's a lot older…

…And so handsome…

I stand up and get ready to head to the arcade. I got my daily dose of vitamin Rinchei…I'll get some more after some games.

"Thanks for coming by, Glasses," Rinchei says. "Always happy to see ya!"

"Re-Really?"

"Yeah, any friend of Jianliang's is a friend of mine," Rinchei gives me a smile, adding, "Especially a fellow gamer. You come by this arcade a lot, after all. I like gamers." You…like gamers…?

I-I know, he's just being nice but…Okay, Brain, set the "Flirtiness Filter" to +30% for this memory, will you? Thanks, I owe you some Daiken fics when we get home!

"I really like the desserts here, too, Rinchei-san! I like…your desserts, especially," I say in a playful tone—Wait, am I really flirting with him now? Shit, that's…unusually bold for me. I guess Takato's good mood is rubbing off on me…

…Screw it, this is fun and he's cute.

"Heh, dude, I suck at making desserts…More customers send their stuff back than they eat."

"Rinchei-san, don't sell yourself short…Takato loved that strawberry shaved ice!"

"Takato'd drink strawberry syrup straight from a flask, I can't give him too much strawberry! Jianliang told me how much he loves those things when I started working here, 'If Takato comes by, go nuts on the strawberries – Trust me!'" Rinchei laughs. "Thanks, though. I do my best."

"You're great, Rinchei-san!" I start over to the arcade.

I step out no more than five feet into the deafening arcade when I feel someone tap my shoulder. "Huh?"

Rinchei's standing behind me, he's holding a piece of paper. "HEY! GLASSES!" He tries to shout over the noise. "YOU DROPPED THIS!"

I look down at the paper…I-I didn't have…anything on me—Wait, is that…a heart sticker on the paper? Yeah, it's folded like a letter with this glitter heart sticker stuck on the back…

…What the hell? "THANK YOU, RINCHEI-SAN!"

"ANYTIME, GLASSES! SEE YA LATER, MY SHIFT JUST ENDED!" Rinchei nods his head once and heads out the front doors.

…A letter with a heart sticker from Rinchei Li…

Yeah, right, the Universe doesn't like me that much. It doesn't like me period…

…But, still… Wouldn't hurt to check it out…

I carefully remove the heart sticker and read the letter inside…

To my Lensed Love,

…Holy shit…Le-Lensed…Love? Li-Like GLASSES? Ri-Rinchei…?

Gods, please, let this be from Rinchei. I-I mean, why the hell else would he just give me some letter saying 'you dropped this?' …The Universe must hate me less than I thought it did. Like, not at all if this is going where I think it is…!

Please, Gods, please, please, please, please, please, PLEASE!

For a long time I've been admiring you, whenever I see you my heart skips a beat. The fact I see you so often makes me happy every time!

You're so much fun to be with and I love every moment with you. I don't know how I 've managed to keep this a secret for so long but now I have to tell you those three, beautiful words that I wish you would also say to me someday (soon!):

Wow…If this really is from Rinchei, then…I-I didn't know Rinchei could sound like this. Talk about hidden depths…Gods, this makes him even greater!

Wo Ai Ni.

I love you.

…Wo Ai Ni, too, Rinchei…Th-This has to proof! Rin-Rinchei likes me? Gods, THANK YOU!

I hope you can love me back because I love you so much. I've dreamed of you so many nights, we're always happy together with our partners playing around us. Sometimes I wonder, if we fell in love, would your mega-friendly-always-happy-and-laughing-partner fall in love with my floppy-eared partner, too? I think that would be funny if they did. We' d be one big happy family.

…Wha? …Pa-Partners? Rinchei…doesn't…

…I knew it…The Universe is having another fun game of "let's tease Kenta with something he really wants and yank it away from him!" Gods, I'm amazed there's no cosmic fishing line attached to this thing—Actually, there probably is, it's just invisible…

…But…Wait…Floppy Eared partner and Mega-friendly-always-happy-and-laughing-partner? …Wa-Wait…

Did JEN write this? A-And ask…Rinchei to give it to me? I-I mean, the "floppy eared" partner is obviously Terriermon and that's a pretty good description of MarineAngemon: My little angelic seal of love.

Terriermon snd MarineAngemon, though…? Well, I could sorta see it. MarineAngemon is a little love magnet after all. Freaked out that Juri-Clone-D-Reaper with the "power of love." He's like that one kid from Captain Planet…Except, y'know, USEFUL!

Before I end this love letter, I want to give you this poem I wrote:

You are my knight in shining armor, the one I dream of every night.
You are the red dragon that guards the treasure of my heart.
You are the sweetest Peach in summer and I am your Plum…

…Wait…Knight in shining armor? Red dragon?

…Rinchei was right, someone did drop this…

…A-And…That someone…?

No way…Ha ha ha…N-No…No way!

Please, meet me at the park tonight at sunset, near your partner's old hiding spot. I want to tell you how I feel in person. I wish I had the nerve to do it now but I'm still nervous about telling the nicest, most wonderful, most awesome person on Earth that I love him.

I love you with all my heart.

I love you,

Your Plum

PS: In case you don't find this letter right away, I'll be at the park at sunset for three days. Take your time deciding on your feelings if you need to, today is the third.

…This wasn't meant for me, this is…This is meant for Takato.

…Jen's gay and he's…confessing to Takato! I-I can't believe it, I-I don't know how I'd be able to handle coming out let alone confessing—Wait…

…Is this why Takato's in such a good mood? H-He…He feels the same?

Universe, I take back what I said about our usual "take away something Kenta really wants" game…Because I never wanted to be alone like this…Jen and Takato…We're the same…

I-I have to talk to— "KE-KENTA?"

Takato? I look up, Takato's staring at me with his letter in my hands. He looks pale. "TAKATO! RINCHEI GAVE THIS TO ME, HE THOUGHT I DROPPED IT!"

"I-IT'S MINE, PLEASE DON'T TELL ME YOU READ IT!" Damn this place, I can barely hear him!

"COME INTO THE SNACK BAR! NOW! WE HAVE TO TALK, TAKATO! WE HAVE TO TALK!" I shout, hoping that shouting doesn't make it sound like I disapprove, so far from it, Takato. You're so lucky, Takato! I mean, seriously, getting anyone we know with the surname Li?

Love. Lottery. Jackpot!

Takato can only give me a forced (upon him) silent nod as I walk to the snack bar. As soon as the doors close behind me, the sound level drops from that of a shuttle launch to the world map theme from Final Fantasy VII quietly playing over some speakers. The new attendant takes our orders at a table, I get another green tea drink, Takato keeps quiet for a moment, nervous as hell. I order him a strawberry shake.

"…How much did you read?" Takato whispers, avoiding eye contact. Gods, please, don't be so nervous, Takato! Th-This…THIS IS AMAZING!

Takato wins the love lottery, I find out I have two gay friends (who are apparently in love with each other – Not complaining about missing out, though! I like not being alone a million times more!) and I got to spend the morning admiring my favorite snack bartender…

…Best. Day. EVER!

"Just…wait until the food comes here," I say. I know from my experience of once trying to come out to Hirokazu at a restaurant: Waiters have this amazing ability to interrupt the words 'I'm gay' with 'What can I get you?' 'How is everything so far?' 'By the way, we're running a special on appetizers!' 'Here's your order!' 'Do you need a refill of your drink?' 'Are there any problems with your food?' and 'Sir, why do you look like you want to strangle someone?' EVERY. SINGLE. TIME!

In the end, Hirokazu thought I was trying to tell him I hated his choice in restaurants…

…I sorta did!

Takato just gives a quiet nod…I feel bad since he's obviously freaking out. That definitely confirms things, though, that letter is for him and it is from Jen…

…Gods, you are so lucky Takato…

Our orders arrive, I pay for them up front and tell the waiter to keep the change. That should keep him away!

"…Thanks for the drink," Takato says, quietly, though he's more staring at it than drinking it. Again, completely avoiding eye contact…Yeah, I know that look: It's the "why did I forget to lock my closet door?" Look.

I pass Takato the letter back, saying, "Rinchei thought I dropped it, I read it thinking it was from him."

"…Why would you think it was from him?" Takato asks.

I take off my glasses, holding them in one hand, saying, "Well, lensed love doesn't just apply to goggles, Takato," I say with a smirk. That was fun to say, especially with the shocked look on Takato's face.

"Wh-wha...?" Takat stammers. "Yo-You mean…You…Were you, ah…ho-hoping…?" He's finally stopped avoiding eye contact, just staring at me in shock.

I smile and nod.

"Yo-You, too…?"

I put my glasses back on, nodding. "You have no idea how lucky you are, Takato. I-I mean, let's just cut to the chase: Jen. Is. Cute."

Takato nods. "He…came by this morning, really early. Him and Shiuchon, I think he hid the letter while picking out bread. It was really weird the way they just showed up out of nowhere like that."

"Are you going to meet him tonight? I-I mean, you don't really need to think about it, do you?"

Takato shakes his head, smiling, "I never thought there was even a chance…Or that…I wasn't, um, 'alone.' You, too, Kenta-kun?"

I nod. "You're the first person I've told, but…Um, the reason I come here so much is, well, let's just say you're not the only person here with a Li-infatuation…"

"Rinchei? Really…?"

"The Li family has a monopoly on sexy-genes," I reply. "Jen and Rinchei are proof of that. And Jaarin, too, if you ask Hirokazu…" Jen almost strangled himfor the time he said his sister had a 'nice rack.'

Takato laughs, "Ca-can't argue about that, um, 'monopoly'…Does he have any idea…?"

"Nah, and the massive age difference, Takato-kun? No chance on his side, I should have known that letter wasn't for me just from that." I say. "So, how do you think it'll go? Kiss from Jen, maybe?"

Takato blushes, just nodding. He's also relaxed, finally, he's drinking his shake.

"How long have you liked him? I mean…Takato, I really didn't suspect you." Juri alone made that clear, even if Takato's…Not all that subtle once you get 'confirmation,' let's say. Even after he turned her down, we all figured it was 'Takato's usual I-Can't-Say-Love-Without-Turning-Bright-Red shyness.' Not any alternatives, Ruki would've said something—Well, more of something. We're all gay according to Ruki Makino.

Takato shrugs. "Um…I guess since about a year after the Digital World was when I really realized it, but…Maybe, um…" He quietly says, "Forever," then clears his throat. "W-We spend so much time together and all, I realized I was, uh, 'attracted' to him. Really attracted to him."

"Like…Madly-in-love-I-wish-he'd-kiss-me-now attracted?"

"…More or less, we even, um, I picked out a tree in the park we hang out in...One that, um, doesn't have a lot of room, y'know?"

"You sly little Goggle Boy..." I smirk. Bold, Takato, but not a bad idea...

Takato laughs. "Do you like anyone besides Rinchei?"

"No-one who could like me back, unless Ruki is onto something about how Hirokazu and Ryou can't find dates," I say. But, knowing how much The Universe loves me, that just means Hirokazu's going out with Ryou.

Plus the other person I might consider going out with is obviously taken…You are so lucky, Takato. I-I mean…You got someone you like! He confessed to you! Tha-That's…That's the only way I'd ever tell anyone I liked them: They'd have to say they liked me first.

"Sorry, Kenta-kun, I hope you find someone…"

"Just going by how happy you are from a letter, I hope so, too," I say. "Just do me a favor and give Jen a kiss for me, 'kay?" I know I'd be asking Jen to give Takato a kiss for me…I might do that when they decide to tell other people, just not tell Jen how cute I think his boyfriend is.

…Jen's boyfriend…Lucky Jen, too, I guess. Ha ha ha! I don't mind not having someone that much, especially since I know for sure I'm not alone anymore. This is just the sort of luck Takato has, too, from creating his own partner to, well, getting JENRYA LI for a boyfriend!

It's not fair to share all that good luck Takato-kun, can I borrow it just for an hour or two? Please? Preferably while Ryou or Rinchei are around…With some sake, maybe?

That's probably the only way I'd get so much as a kiss from either of them, I'm sureof it.

Takato nods. "I will."

Takato and I keep talking about the letter and, well, our "secret" for a while. Naturally, the waiter interrupts at the worst possible moments (as is my luck), such as when Takato told me how he suspects Ryou might be bi…Universe, you may do whatever you wish to me on the condition this is true and I get at least one kiss from him! I don't care if I get hit by a bus right after: I WANT THOSE LIPS JUST ONCE BEFORE I DIE!

After we finish out drinks, we head out and play the Digimon card battle game, grinning like maniacs the entire time. I'm sure a few people saw it, too, I see one or two people in line whisper…I can't read lips but, going by expressions, it wouldn't surprise me if one or two probably said, "Are those two…in love or something?" One of us is!

And he's so damned lucky!

Me? Not with anyone who'd like me back, but…

…I'm soglad not to be alone!


Jianliang Li: Confusion


I hope Takato doesn't mind I couldn't make it to the arcade today, Shifu Zhao noticed how tired I was…Mainly by the fact I fell asleep during our meditation before practice (that was a first for me, too, I was…a little embarrassed by it, thank the Gods he just laughed it off, I didn't want to come off as at all disrespectful to Shifu Zhao of all people). He let me sleep for a long time and served tea after our lesson to help keep me awake for my walk home. It's getting really late, I can't believe I spent the day there…The sun's just about done setting.

I explained what happened this morning. He laughed, saying, "Xiaochun is Xiaochun, do you have any idea why she suddenly wanted bread from your friend's bakery? Granted, this is that bakery you told me about…" Yeah, even Shifu Zhao goes to The Matsuda Bakery, now. Ever since D-Reaper, my family bought him a ton of Matsuda breads to thank him for letting us stay with him during that ordeal. He likes their green tea custard-pan. And regular but, as he claims, "Green tea is…very healthy, after all, Jianliang. Everyone should…ingest more of it." Ha ha ha, I never knew Shifu Zhao had a sweet tooth, actually. I bring him some now and then as thanks for his lessons.

And to be honest, I have no idea why Xiaochun wanted to go there so badly and insist that I go with her! Xiaochun loves The Matsuda Bakery but…Not enough to wake us up at five in the morning begging to go with her (especially since she's more than capable of going on her own) or willingly turning down Mom's bao zi! I mean, it was her favorite filling, too! She was…sorta upset, even, but didn't let Mom catch on. She was more mad at me for putting my foot down and saying "not when we're having bao zi! Takato will understand, trust me!" Even Takato knows why I'd pick Mom's bao zi over the bakery, he loves it just as much as we do! It's why I always bring him some, plus I think his Dad wants the recipe…

…Mom might reveal it someday "if Jialing ever marries Takato." Ha ha ha! Sorry, Takato-kun, but that recipe has to stay in the family. It's actually from her Japanese side of the family, when her surname was Shizumura. The fact her family makes such good bao zi is how she and my Dad met, actually. Their families (our grandparents) were really close friends and Grandma Shizumura owned a tea house that was sort of famous for that bao zi. Sort of like how I know Takato through the Matsuda Bakery, my Dad met my Mom through Wo Mao Chaguan – The Sleeping Cat Tea House. They still own and run it, actually, Mom is going to take it over the day they finally decide to retire (which they say is never!), so Takato and one of us might end up each inheriting some form of bakery-slash-tea-house at some point…

...Not that I expect him to marry Jialing (Juri, definitely), but if Mom's joke was prophetic… I wonder if that would become the "Matsuda-Li Wo Mao (Sleeping Cat)Bakery."

Not gonna happen, though, I think Takato might be afraid of so much as joking about that after an…incident with Hirokazu commenting on her nice rack of all things! Augh, he could have at least picked his wording better, but...This is Hirokazu...

…I was still a little annoyed from a 'train incident' I witnessed with Jialing. Good thing she knows a few years of Dad's Tai Chi (I know Tai Chi from Dad and Shifu Zhao, Jialing and Lianjie just learned from Dad), so 'justice was served' and I apologized to Hirokazu in private with an explanation.

"O-Oh, shit, sorry, Jen…I'd have kept my mouth shut if I knew…I hate those train assholes, too."

"Yeah, but…Sorry about that."

"It's cool, trust me, if it were my sister, I'd have been the same way…Can I still say she's cute, at least?"

"If you want…"

…Hirokazu does have a little crush on Jialing, I know that much.

Anyway, there's something up with Xiaochun and that bakery and I don't have any clue as to what it is. At least Takato didn't mind the visitors or offering us breakfast like that, I always feel bad when we take food from him, even though he says we're more than welcome (especially with all the choco-pan and custard-pan we got today, Gods that stuff is good!) to the the point where I don't even have to ask or thank them! …That, I wouldn't feel at all comfortable doing, though (Lianjie? No problem!), I even went as far as thanking them just "for the offer."

I step into the apartment, yawning. "I'm home," I say, taking off my shoes. I still have my uniform on, actually, I didn't bother changing out of it when I left since it was so late.

"Jianliang, what held you up? It's past sunset, I think Xiaochun even went out looking for you," Dad says, looking to me from the living room couch.

"I fell asleep at Shifu Zhao's, he let me sleep for a while and stay after my lesson to make sure I didn't pass out," I reply. I'm really glad I know Shifu Zhao so well, he's always helping me and my family with…Anything! From something like today to staying with him when D-Reaper attacked. He's the best, I'm really glad he's such a close friend of the family, he taught my Dad Tai Chi when he was younger, too.

Lianjie's in the living room with dad, they're watching television: A documentary on the Jin Dynasty, going by the Emperor's Surname: Sima. Lianjie's finishing a beer. "Hey, little bro. Wanna watch this with us? Just gettin' to the invasion…"

I nod. "Sure." I sit at the chair by the couch, yawning. "If I can stay awake."

"Your Mother and Jialing are making bao zi for dinner," Dad says. Oh, great! I could use some bao zi. "Chicken filled, I think."

I smile. "My favorite. Can't wait."

"We were worried you were gonna miss it," Lianjie says. "Too bad you showed up, would'a been a lot more for me that way. Xiao can take her time, though…" He chuckles.

"If she wanted to miss bao zi for bread…" I trail off.

"Oh, yeah, I saw Takato and Glasses over at the arcade today," Lianjie says.

"Glasses? You mean Kenta?"

"Yeah, he dropped a love letter or somethin'," Lianjie chuckles. A love letter? "I glanced at it before I realized what it was. Some girl called him her 'lensed love' or something. Figured it was his."

"Ha ha ha," I laugh. "Didn't know Kenta had a girlfriend…"

"Yeah, weird, too, since…I thought he was, um, ga—"

The front door is thrown open. We all turn in its direction, Xiaochun is standing at the front door, kicking her shoes off. She looks to me with this glare. I mean, she's enraged! I've never seen that kind of look before, especially from my little sister of all people!

Why is she…so mad? Xiaomei, wha-what's wrong?

As soon as her shoes are off, she slams the door and storms over to me, her fists clenched at her side. Dad and Lianjie are completely silent, I see Mom and Jialing poking their heads out of the kitchen.

"…Xiaochun…?" Jialing whispers.

Xiaochun's standing in front of me, staring me down with that glare from Hell in silence. But, after a few moments, I notice she also has tears welling in her eyes. She's breathing heavily, too, she sounds like she's doing everything not to cry right now…

…What did I do?

"Xi-Xiao—"

"YOU STOLE MY BOYFRIEND, YOU JERK!" I DID WHAT? "I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN! I HATE YOU!" She takes off running to her room, crying…Jialing and Mom are running after her immediately while Dad and Lianjie just stare at me in shock!

I can only sit as far back in the chair as I can, stammering like an idiot as my Dad and older brother are giving me this…VERY shocked look, especially given what she said to me!

...I stole her boyfriend…?

Dad speaks up, "Jianliang—"

"HOLD IT!" Lianjie bolts up, standing, throwing out his arms wide with his palms open. "Nobody move!"

"Wh-What is it?" Dad asks, we both look to Lianjie.

"I don't know what the hell's going on but…I gotta get a beer and I don't want to miss a second of this!" Lianjie darts to the kitchen, he comes back after about three seconds with an armful of beers. He passes one to Dad and sits down. "…Please, continue." He holds out his hand, palm up, to Dad and I.

"…Lianjie…" Dad groans, I do the same. Mom comes out from the hall to our rooms.

"Mom, what is she talking about?" I ask.

"I-I have no idea, Jialing's trying to calm her down but…I-I've never seen her cry like this! E-Ever! She's…" Mom shakes her head, sighing and then looking to me…Confused as hell. "Jianliang, she has…a boyfriend?"

"News to me and…I-I didn't steal anyone! Especially not a boyfriend!" I shout. I'm not gay!

"Yeah, um, that's…kinda weird," Lianjie speaks up. "I mean, um, who'd she like that, um, you'd steal? Hypothetically speaking, I mean, I-I know you're not gay, Jianliang."

I roll my eyes, saying, "Says the brother who's repeatedly called Takato my..." I trail off, my eyes going wide. Lianjie suddenly has a similar expression, my parents, too.

…Did…Xiaochun confess...to…?

"…You don't think…?" Lianjie trails off. "Ta-Takato?"

"Come to think of it," I begin. "Xiaochun really wanted to go to the bakery for the past few days. She finally convinced me to take her this morning actually, but…" …Xiaochun, do you have a crush on Takato?

A-And…He's…? Takato? Yo-You're gay? I-I…I mean, Ruki's made the odd joke about you (and everyone else!) but…I-I never suspected it could be…

…Holy shit…

Just as I'm about to go on, the phone rings. I answer it. "Hello?"

"Je-Jen?" …Shuo Cao Cao, Cao Cao jiu dao.

"Takato…?" He…sounds close to crying. Actually, like…He'd been crying and finally calmed down enough to where he's just on the brink of starting again. I-I know that tone, trust me, I've known Takato long enough to know that tone very, very well. And it's especially alarming right now since Takato's not the "crybaby" he used to be.

"I-Is…Is Shiuchon there?"

"Ye-Yeah, um, she just…She came home, um, really upset and she's in her room with Jialing, now," I say.

"…I'm sorry, I-I'm so sorry, Jen-kun, I didn't mean to…" Takato actually starts crying before he can even finish that sentence. That alone is, um, probably confirmation that he's the one Xiaochun, um, confessed to…

…And the boyfriend that I, apparently, stole from her. I-I don't know how the subject came up, I mean, all I can really gather right now is that Xiaochun confessed to Takato and…

…I know Takato, he'd turn her down as nicely as possible. Something had to somehow lead up to this and I know Takato would be incredibly reluctant to say he liked me. If I didn't know how nice Takato was, I'd think he jokingly said "I'm in love with Jen" just to get rid of her. I could easily see Hirokazu doing that, not thinking of how it'd upset Xiaochun or lead to someone with the surname "Li" beating the hell out of him – Possibly two people: Myself and Lianjie…We take things like this with our younger siblings very seriously…More than our friends would ever realize before it was too late, let's say.

But don't worry, Takato, I-I know you…This was not intentional. You're the last person in the entire Universe who would do something like this on purpose. I'm not going to be mad at you…Just…Shocked as Hell!

I-I never suspected him as gay! EVER! I-I mean, even Ruki talks about him and Juri being "destined" for each other (sarcastically, but if you knew Ruki you'd know that's a good sign for a couple's future, let's say). This…really is not something I saw coming!

Not that I'd take issue with this, though…I'm sure he's probably afraid I would. I-I need to try to control my tone and level of shock here, I don't want to give Takato the wrong idea. At all.

So, whatever happened, I don't blame Takato, this was…Something beyond his control. That's…Xiaochun in a nutshell, she's beyond anyone's control.

"Ta-Takato, calm down, it's…It's okay," I say. I know Takato's probably worried I'm mad at him, he saw the 'Hirokazu incident,' too. And, um, given why Xiaochun suddenly hates me…

…I'm sorry, Takato. I-I'm sure this was hard for both of you to face. Not to mention awkward…I-I mean, um, Xiaochun…You're a little young for Takato!

Takato manages to calm down enough to speak, "I-I just…I-I…Did she…Did she say…anything?" He sounds scared as he asks that. I can guess why.

I swear, Takato-kun, this isn't a problem for me…I-I just didn't know you felt that way…

…About me? I-I…I can't—Well, now that it's out in the open, looking back…I sort of can but…I-I don't want to dwell on that right now!

"…She, um, came in saying she hated me—" I'm interrupted by Takato suddenly breaking down. I-I should have picked a better choice of words. "—Ta-Takato! Ca-Calm down! Re-Really, I'm not mad at you!"

"Di-Did she…say why?"

…I'm not sure if I should tell Takato why or not. This isn't something I really want to address over the phone, last thing I need is a panicked Takato hanging up on me and me trying to figure out where the hell he is. "…Takato, um, where are you right now?"

"A-At the park, I-I…I've been here for…a while. A-At Guilmon's…old spot. I-I'm sorry, Jen, I'm so sorry…" He's sobbing. Takato, please, you haven't cried anything like this in years. My little sister is bad enough, right now, not you, too!

Takato, PLEASE, for once believe someone when they say 'I'm not mad,' he…He gives himself bad enough guilt trips over the stupidest things, so something like this?

…I'm going to put him on seppuku-watch for a while…

"Wait there, okay? I-I want to talk to you in person. I'm not mad, though, okay? I-I just want to know what's going on." I try to sound as calm as possible, Takato just starts to cry again. "Takato, please, don't cry. Whatever happened, I know you didn't do this on purpose. Really. Please, just wait for me, okay? And…Takato, I won't get mad at you over anything, okay? I promise." …I hope he gets that hint, I really don't want to talk about this over the phone. This is one of those things I have to talk to him about in person. I'd feel better talking face to face and…

…I know how "gay" this is going to sound but I don't care: Takato's going to need a hug.

"…Okay," Takato whispers. "Please, tell Shiuchon I…I'm so sorry."

"I will, before I leave. I'll be at the park as soon as possible. Just, please, wait there for me," I say.

"I-I won't leave…I pro-promise…" Takato whispers, hanging up.

I look to Lianjie and my parents, putting away the phone. "I-I'm going to talk to Takato. Look, um, I know how bad this looks but…"

"Dude, trust me, I know Takato and I agree with you: He didn't do this on purpose," Lianjie says. "If I thought there was, like, a zero point zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-ONE percent chance he did, I'd already be at the park kicking his ass. Trust me…I know your friend, he's too damned nice to do something like this…He sees someone take candy from a baby, he'd give the baby twice as much candy back, y'know? That's Takato. Not…Whatever the hell this might look like, ya know?" …Wo-Wow…That's…Lianjie knows my friend better than I ever realized. Especially since, well…

…I can see why Xiaochun might've gotten that impression from Lianjie's analogy: Takato, often, brings candy over for Xiaochun when he visits. Stuff his parents sell at the bakery counter that he knows she likes. Strawberry candies, especially, they both love the stuff and Takato often splits his strawberries with her if they get some with their food – I divide mine up between the two of them, half the time. Because he's Takato and, like us, he likes to see Xiaochun smile. Hell, Takato's…I kinda always saw him as the brother I always wanted. Not that I don't like Lianjie but…

…Takato wouldn't routinely drive me insane. He's part of that "big happy family" we like to joke about.

I look to my parents, my Dad just nods. "Takato's not that kind of person, I'm sure this is just a misunderstanding."

"Anyone who gives Xiaochun as much free bread as he does is not someone who would purposefully upset her like that," Mom adds. "Though, um, given what she said about…you stealing him…"

"Yeah, uh…Takato? For real?" Lianjie asks, looking to me with a raised eyebrow. My parents have a similar look.

I nod. "I…I didn't ask and he didn't say it, but given how scared he sounded. I think it's likely."

"Wow…Dude, I knew he was kinda, uh, 'different' but…Wow," Lianjie sips his beer, saying, "Not that I got a problem, though, I mean…I got a regular at The Blue Shell that I know has a thing for me, let's say. Hell, I'm kinda flattered! He really likes my ass, I think!" …I'll inquire into Lianjie's delusions later. I'd like to be sane when I see Takato later. Seriously, Lianjie? Even guys are after you, now?

"Well, when you think about it," Dad begins, "Takato does come here a lot and I noticed just, um, how much he smiles when Jianliang is around. Combine that with, well, how close he is to you, Jianliang, and the sheer volume of bread he'll bring us at times…" …I can't believe my own father is talking about this.

But, actually, he has a good point. I-I remember how much free bread he gave me on my last birthday. Among other things, but…"Enough bread for Jen-kun and his whole family!" He claimed he gave me so much extra so I could "have one piece to myself," the rest was to distract my family from it.

"Ye-Yeah, it…Um, knowing that he, um, might like me…makes more sense when you factor all of that—"

"Especially the look on his face that time you suggested he go with you to that bath house last month," Lianjie speaks up. Gods, NO! "Remember? I-I mean, seriously, I should'a known just from that grin! You know, when the hot water was out and you spilled all that red bean paste in your hai—"

"LIANJIE!" I shout, my jaw limp while both of my parents try their best not to laugh but my Father fails miserably.

A-Actually, now that he mentions it…

…Takato did look, um, unusually excited about the idea of... …Yeah, um, well, that's…That's okay with me, actually…It's not like, um,I purposefully peeked on him or—Well, okay, I accidentally slipped at one point and… …Even without Takato's feelings, that was a very awkward, um, 'position' that we…Er…

…We agreed to never speak of it again, let's just say that. Takato, um, though…Was somehow more freaked out over it than I was, so…

I groan, "Ju-Just so we're clear, though…No-one is upset with Takato over any of this, right? He…He didn't upset Xiaochun on purpose and I think we're all clear on the fact that, um…'It's' not a choice."

"We know, Jianliang. Sorry for teasing you but…" Dad trails off. "It is, um, a rather…interesting revelation."

"We'll be more careful around Takato when it comes to this subject. I know he's probably very embarrassed about us finding out," Mom adds, she looks to Lianjie. "Right, Lianjie?"

"…No promises," Lianjie just drinks his beer with a smirk. I should warn Takato that Lianjie is not going to let this go without at least embarrassing him once a week—Who am I kidding? HOUR!

Despite Lianjie's answer, I bow my head to my parents, saying, "Thank you." I was worried about how everyone else would take this since, well, we don't forgive people who make our younger siblings cry. Lianjie, especially. When I was a kid, a little after Xiaochun was born, some older kids at the park were teasing me and pushing me around…

…Lianjie came up behind me as they started to gang up on me and said, "One more move against my little bro and you guys are gonna eat every grain of sand in that sandbox over there, got it?" They called his bluff, though, thinking Lianjie wouldn't really beat up a bunch of little kids (he was, I think, eleven or twelve at the time, I was four or five)…

…So, when one of them went to push me down, Lianjie showed off some Tai Chi Dad had taught him. Namely punching a nearby tree so hard he left a HUGE dent in it! He just left his fist against the tree and stared down the kids, saying, "Gonna keep bugging my little bro?" He had the Li Lianjie 'I'm going to defend my family to the death' look, which is actually very intimdating…

The kids ran away, terrified! One of them was even crying, he was so scared. Lianjie's message was very clear: "Don't mess with my family."

…But…Um, once they were gone, I noticed Lianjie hadn't moved his fist from the "dent" he left in the tree. I approached him, cautiously, thinking he was still really angry.

"Li-Lianjiege? A-Are you—"

"OW…! Ge-Get Mom and Dad for me, please, Jianliangdi. PLEASE! …Ow, ow, ow…!" …That was also the day Lianjie went to the hospital for the first time: He broke two fingers by punching that tree. Dad was proud of him for defending me but...

"Lianjie, this is exactly why I refuse to teach you how to break a cinder block with your head." Yes, my father can really do that! He did it once to show us, that was it! But, to this day, Lianjie begs for him teach him that technique…

…But my Dad's not stupid: He knows Lianjie will end up fracturing his skull against the next tree he has to sacrifice to prove a point! And, as Jialing would say, "Lianjie can't afford to get any dumber than he is now!"

Of course, reasoning with a twelve-year-old Lianjie… "But that's so awesome! Please teach me, now! I mean, I can't use this hand for a while!"

Jialing, of course, chimed in, "You should, Dad, it's not like he'll use his head for anything else, obviously."

"…Love you, too, little sis…" A phrase frequently uttered by Li brothers…

…So, yeah, the fact Lianjie really isn't out kicking Takato's ass (or a tree) right now is a sign he knows this wasn't something he did on purpose.

I go to get my coat from my room, I stop by Xiaochun's room and knock on the door. "…Xiaochun?"

Jialing opens the door. "He-Hey, Jianliang…"

"…How's she doing?" I ask, I hear Xiaochun crying. I glance behind Jialing, she's on her bed. Her face buried in a pillow, sobbing…Gods, I hate seeing her like this. I'm sorry, Xiaochun, I really am. I'll do anything to make both of you feel better…

…But Takato needs me a little more right now. And you have Mom, Dad, Lianjie and Jialing for this.

Takato, though? I'm sure you're the probably the first person he's ever told. And I know it wasn't by choice. I'm so sorry for both of you.

This is going to be one hell of a night.

"Um, not too good," Jialing sighs. "She, um, confessed to someone and, um, he likes you, apparently."

"Did she say who?" I ask, wondering if Jialing's trying to protect Takato. "If she did, you can tell me. I know, it's…Nothing I'd end a friendship over. Ever."

"She didn't," Jialing shakes her head. "Really. And I'd tell you, Jianliang, I know you're not homophobic. You don't complain about my manga anything like Lianjie does…And I know he had a gay dorm mate in college." …Really? I'll…inquire later but…

Really?

"Honest?"

"Honest," Jialing nods. "Why?"

"Can I say something to her real quick?"

Jialing steps aside, turning to Xiaochun. "Xiaomei, Jianliang wants to talk to you."

Xiaochun just sobs harder. I walk into her room and sit on her desk chair, Jialing moved it next to her bed. "…Takato says he's sorry, he didn't mean to upset you."

I hear a quiet gasp from Jialing. "Ta-Takato?" She whispers. Jialing, you have excellent gaydar, you mean you never suspected him? He did a good job at hiding it, it seems. I'm worried that just makes this worse for him, now.

I look up, nodding. "Ye-Yeah, he just called." I'll leave the part about going to meet him out, I'm worried that might upset Xiaochun a little more.

"How did…you…?" Jialing trails off.

I sigh, "I didn't."

"You did…" Xiaochun whispers. "H-He thought it was from you…" She cries again. "He's so stupid!" …Thought what was from me?

I just nod, putting a hand on her shoulder. "He's really sorry, Xiaochun. He didn't mean to hurt you."

Gradually, Xiaochun calms down. She stops crying, taking a deep breath and letting out a long sigh. "…I know…I'm sorry I said I hated you," Xiaochun lifts her head up for a moment, then falls face first into her pillow, crying again. I know, Xiaochun. Every Li sibling says they hate one of their other siblings once a month at least. It's a family tradition: The more we hate each other, the more we really love each other in the end…

…One big happy family!

"It's okay, I know you didn't mean it," I say. "Just…feel better, okay? Mom's making bao zi right now. That'll cheer you up, right?"

Xiaochun just lets out another sigh. …Maybe not. I'd suggest some of the leftover bread but…That might be worse, actually.

I get up, saying, "I've got to go…Feel better, Xiaochun, I'm sorry and, trust me, Takato's not going to forgive himself anytime soon for this." That is an understatement. "He's really sorry, he was crying, too." I know, normally, I wouldn't say that about a friend since it's incredibly embarrassing but…

…This is Takato! If Takato wasn't crying, we would be shocked. Crying? …He's definitely sincere in how hard he's taking this. Takato still cries now and then, yes, but only sincerely. He can't fake crying, we've seen him try on dares from Ruki or the time he helped Kenta practice for a school play: Takato cannot fake crying, which we all found amazing.

Xiaochun just nods, going back to crying. Jialing takes the desk chair and tries to comfort her, I leave and go back into the living room. I look to my Mother. "Mom, is any of the bao zi done yet?"

"First batch is cooling right now, why?" Mom asks.

"I'd like to take some to Takato, to show him we're not mad."

"Good idea," Mom nods. She goes into the kitchen and comes back out with two plates of bao zi covered with foil. "One plate for each of you. Ten bao zi total." Perfect. Takato loves our Mom's bao zi, just like how we love his family's breads. We, um, sort of have an "exchange" when it comes to free bread: Whenever he surprises us with it, my Mom makes him an extra big batch of baozi for his family!

And, if he's been having a bad day (like now), I sometimes ask Mom if she can make a batch just for him. It always cheers him up, just like his breads do for me.

Please, cheer up, Takato…I'm so sorry this happened. You're always going to be my best friend. I swear to the Gods and on my family name: You and I are friends forever.

I remember, when we were younger, and he started reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms with me: A ton of peach trees were planted in the park that spring…I wanted to ask him if he wanted to swear an oath of brotherhood like Liu Xuande, Guan Gong and Zhang Fei did. I never did but…I sort of thought of us like that: We're brothers, though not related by blood...

…Takato just felt a little bit stronger than that, apparently. I wonder how long, actually…Is this recent or how he's…always felt? I know, by time our partners went back to The Digital World, we felt like we'd been friends for our entire lives.

I bow my head, smiling a little. My family really forgives Takato. I-I couldn't bear the thought of Takato being unwelcome here all of a sudden. "Thank you, I'll go see what happened." I say, taking the plates. I go to the door and put my shoes on, leaving.

This is going to be difficult. Please, forgive yourself, Takato. We didn't even have to think on it.


Takato's at Guilmon's spot, our usual meeting place. It's obvious he's been crying.

He looks up at me for a moment, then lowers his head, sobbing and holding his forehead up with his hands, resting his elbows on his knees. I haven't seen him like this in years.

I approach with both plates of bao zi. I sit next to him, passing him his plate. "Here, a sign my family isn't mad at you, okay? We know this didn't happen on purpose and I'm still going to be your friend, no matter what. This was an accident, we know. We're not mad. None of us, not in the slightest. You're always welcome at our place, Takato-kun." I have to make this clear to him, Takato's the king of guilt trips. And they're always self-induced.

"…Je-Jen?"

"Just tell me what happened, okay?" I say, taking the foil off Takato's plate of bao zi. Five steamed buns filled with chicken, one of Takato's favorite fillings, too. Mine are the same.

"…I-I don't…deserve—"

"Takato, eat them or they'll go to waste. And you know my mother wouldn't forgive someone who throws away her famous bao zi," I say, jokingly. Takato forces a laugh and takes a bao zi from his plate. We eat one in silence until I finish my first, I take a second from my plate, asking, "So, what happened? And…Takato, um, whatever happened. It's okay. Don't be afraid to tell me…Anything." I'm doing my best to hint at what Xiaochun meant when she accused me of stealing her boyfriend, just like I did on the phone.

It's okay, Takato. I-I'm…flattered, actually. I mean, I didn't know anyone loved me that much. Male or female, I'm really flattered by it.

"Th-This…This morning, my Dad found a letter for me in the…Terriermon bread. It was just after you and Shiuchon left," Takato begins. I just nod, I knew her sudden obsession with the Matsuda Bakery had something to do with all this. "A-And…It was a love letter. I-I didn't know it was from her, though. He-Here…" He reaches into his pocket, pulling out the folded up letter. "Th-This is…what she wrote. I'm so sorry, Jen…I-I had no idea…"

I nod. I look over the letter…

Lensed love? …Xiaochun, um, that's…That's sort of a stretch, it sounds more fitting for Kenta than Takato. He hasn't worn goggles since D-Reaper, too.

I keep reading. Actually, I'm amazed by how, um, well-written some of this is for Xiaochun.

…And now I see where Takato, um, got "confused," let's say.

"Sometimes I wonder, if we fell in love, would your mega-friendly-always-happy-and-laughing-partner fall in love with my floppy-eared partner, too? I think that would be funny if they did. We' d be one big happy family."

…Takato must have assumed that 'floppy-eared partner' was Terriermon. And the fact he said it was put in with the Terriermon bread…

And…One big happy family…That's the in-joke between us about how Takato wishes he had a family like mine. I don't think Xiaochun knew about it, though, she might have overheard it since she wrote it but…

…She didn't know how Takato would definitely take those words. I'm so sorry, Takato. This…This was definitely a huge misunderstanding. I can see how he thought this was from me instead of Xiaochun. And, well, I don't think anyone thought Xiaochun had a crush on Takato at any point. I know I never suspected it. Then again, I tend to stay out of my siblings' love lives beyond the news of Lianjie's latest break up over skipping a date to wait in line for a midnight Dynasty Warriors release party (No, really, he did that TWICE! Apparently, Lianjie does not learn from his mistakes, as the many hand x-rays he's had through the years would prove).

"I'm sorry," Takato whispers as I get near the end of the letter.

"You…thought this was from…someone else, right?" I ask, knowing who Takato was hoping it was from but I'd rather bring that up later. "That's…That's what happened?" I can sort of see how it played out in my head…Xiaochun sees Takato at the park, thinking he returns her feelings, while Takato is, um, given how much he smiles when we're together…

…Waiting for me thinking (and not to sound like Hirokazu) his dream came true: I felt the same. And things just go downhill from there—No, things plummet off a sheer cliff from there. I'm sure Takato tried to do as much "damage control" as possible once he realized who the letter was really from. Because I know two things:

One, Takato would never intentionally upset Xiaochun. Ever. He'd "turn her down" as nicely as possible with, at least, a thousand variations of the phrase "I'm sorry."

Two, I know Takato would do his best to avoid saying "I thought you were Jen" at all costs. I seriously doubt Takato would have ever told me he was gay unless, well…

…Unless I really did write him a love letter. Xiaochun and Takato both had their hopes up higher than Mount Fuji tonight. This was bound to end in disaster.

I feel terrible for both of them, I really do. Takato's…been forced out of the closet and Xiaochun is, well, heartbroken.

Takato lets out a quiet sigh before starting to cry again, setting his plate and a half-eaten bao zi aside.

"It's okay, Takato, be honest, all right?" I say, trying to sound as comforting as possible. "No-one blames you for any of this, okay? And no-one's upset over…Anything, okay? Nothing you did upsets any of us, especially me." Again, I-I…I don't want to flat out say I know how he feels, I don't want to embarrass him.

"…I'm sorry, Jen, for everything," Takato whispers. "I-I waited here for…about ten minutes before she came over. I-I started to ask her what she was doing here and…She hugged me, saying, 'I knew you didn't have to think about it.' A-And then I realized that it was her letter. No-Not…Not…Not…" He stammers, glancing to me for a second then looking back down to his feet.

"…Not mine?" I finish, which makes Takato cry harder. I expected that, I should have let him say it…Sorry, Takato-kun. "O-Okay, be-before…Before we, um, go on about Xiaochun, I guess we should, um, address this, first."

Takato just takes a deep breath, nodding and choking on a sob.

"You're…gay?" I ask, mostly just to get it out in the open. I mean, the answer is…sort of obvious. I just…I think he needs to acknowledge it before we can go on. I'm sorry, Takato, please, don't be scared. Don't be ashamed, either. This is nothing to ever be ashamed of.

Takato just nods, letting out a quiet sigh, saying, "I'm sorry—"

"Don't."

"What?"

"Don't apologize, Takato, really," I say. "I-I'm not homophobic, this…This would never upset me, okay?" I put a hand on his shoulder, smiling. "You're my best friend, always, okay? This won't change that. Ever."

"Thank you," Takato whispers. "I-I…I thought the letter was from you, I had no idea Shiuchon…"

"I had no idea she liked anyone," I say. "I mean, um, well…It explains why she wanted to go to the bakery so badly the past few days but I didn't think that was the reason."

Takato nods.

"Sorry you got your hopes up, Takato-kun," I say.

"I'm sorry that happened to Shiuchon…When she hugged me, I-I…I realized it was from her and even asked, 'This was from you?' A-And…She gave me this upset look asking what I meant. I apologized, saying I thought the letter was from…someone else…And she, um, said, 'Who else could it be?' She even, um, 'ruled out' the 'obvious,' um, 'candidates' for me…"

"Ruki and Juri?"

Takato nods. "Ruki…is Ruki, after all." Yeah, Xiaochun barely speaks to Ruki and she knows that much about her. "And Juri wouldn't…talk about partners. She, um, started to get angry, I kept apologizing saying I had no idea it was from her but…She wanted to know who I thought it was from. She, um, finally guessed when she pointed out that she even mentioned Lopmon." He sighs. "I-I forgot how Lopmon is also a 'floppy-eared' partner…"

I nod. "Given how you didn't suspect Xiaochun liking you and the fact that, well, Terriermon is the one who we usually talk about when it comes to 'floppy-eared partners,' I'd make the same mistake if I were you. Anyone would have, I think."

"…I'm so sorry…" Takato sighs.

"Please, Takato, stop apologizing," I say for probably the millionth time since I've met hm. "You have nothing to apologize for! Ever! We don't blame you. If anyone did…One, I wouldn't have brought bao zi. Two, Lianjie'd be here beating the crap out of you, he never forgives people who upset his siblings…So the fact he's not mad at you is proof: You're not at fault. He's even, um…I should warn you: He is going to joke about about, um…Us, let's say." I should warn Takato about that in advance. "But that's normal…He's not mad, you don't have to go into hiding." It's rare but Lianjie has gotten violent with people who upset us…

…But I don't think he'd ever hurt Takato, even if did do this on purpose. It's mostly happened to guys who dump Jialing or, in one case, cheated on her. When Lianjie heard about that incident…

…Let's just say: Her ex didn't see it coming. And Jialing told him she wished he could have somehow gotten it on video. He just said, "You would'a loved it, sis! I know I did!"

Takato swallows, nodding. "Ye-Yeah, I-I was…afraid of what might happen if he answered the phone…" Takato knows the tree story. And the time Lianjie chased after a boy who was pulling of Jialing's hair in primary school. The boy ended up crashing into a wall and breaking his nose while trying to escape, Lianjie couldn't stop in time and crashed into him, too…Both of them wound up in the nurse's office. Lianjie's, um, "nobly accident-prone," let's say. He tends to hurt himself as bad or worse than who he's defending us from. We appreciate it, though, and always get him some 'thank you for maiming yourself while defending our honor' gifts while he recovers. Usually we pool our money together for a new video game we know he wants…

…He may drive me insane but I love my big brother. I just like to admit to it about as much as Jialing does most of the time. Though, once he really hurt himself (well, more the other guy really hurt him—No, that's not fair to Lianjie, they both beat the living hell out of each other, Lianjie just got hurt a little more than the other guy, but at least Lianjie kept all of his teeth) and…Let's just say it was a "touching family moment" in the school nurse's office. Words were said, tears were shed and…We realized how important we were to each other that day. Li siblings have a weird way of showing-slash-admitting to affection towards one another. That's the best way to describe us. And, like Takato and I joke, we're one big happy family.

…I should clue Xiaochun into that joke later, that might help her understand Takato's "conclusion" a little more.

"So, what happened after that?" I ask.

"I-I did whatever I could to apologize and, um, not say who I thought her letter was from but…She guessed once she brought up Lopmon. Sh-She, um, re-realized I was thinking 'Terriermon' and, said 'You thought it was from Jenrya?' She looked…really upset and…I-I kept denying it but…She called me an idiot and ran away, crying…She's right, though, I am an idiot."

"Don't call yourself that, Takato, please." I sigh. "When she got home…I-I'll make sure everyone knows not to mention this to anyone else, especially your family but…She came up to me and, in front of everyone, screamed that she hated me for 'stealing her boyfriend.'"

"…Gods…" Takato whispers. I knew he'd hate hearing that. He already looks like he's going to cry again.

"Don't worry, no-one's…No-one's upset about that either. We didn't really know who she was talking about until a little before you called. Jialing was, um, really surprised. And Xiaochun apologized for saying she hated me. She didn't mean it, I knew it when she said it. Hell, she didn't have to apologize, even."

"…That's good, at least, I-I didn't want her to…"

"She was just angry," I say. "Happens all the time in the Li household." We're either the closest family on Earth or we're about ready to kill each other. That's what happens when you have two parents, four siblings and one medium-sized apartment with one bathroom.

"Is there…anything I can do to make this up to her?" Takato asks. "Please, Jen, I'll do anything!"

I shrug. "We'll…think of something. Just don't beat yourself up, okay? My family forgives you, this is…Xiaochun's a kid, she just…Got her hopes up, I mean…I'm sure all of us had an older crush at some point like that, right?"

Takato just nods. "Ye-Yeah…I guess…"

I remember Jialing had a huge crush on one of her teachers, complete with the delusion that they could "live happily ever after" without an arrest warrant being filed for one half of said relationship. She never wrote any love letters or anything like that, though, she just obsessed over him at home. She talked about how much she liked him and how they'd "get married" all the time! Lianjie still teases her about "Heisuke-sensei" to this day.

Jialing, of course, has a comeback to Lianjie's teasing that's…Even funnier, actually: Lianjie, when he was ten, was obsessed with Ai Higashizawa, an idol singer (who was more popular with girls than boys, when it came to her songs at least. Looks? …Yeah, guys hated her music but loved her, um, 'less-than-formal' attire, let's say). He was "madly in love" to the point where he wrote over a dozen love letters to her (and included a picture of himself with all of them, it was his school picture) and actually asked our parents to mail them to her…

…And, after letter number fifteen or so, he got a reply! "I love you, too, Lianjie Li, but my schedule is way too busy to pursue a relationship right now. You're really cute, though, maybe when you're older we can be together. Until then, I'm happy to hear from one of my biggest and cutest fans. Thank you for the letters, Lianjie-chan! Love, Higashizawa Ai" It even had a red lipstick kiss next to her signature. Lianjie was really happy—No, beyond happy! He was convinced she was really in love with him! He had her letter framed and everything in his room, he told all of his friends about it and, well, I'd catch him reading it to himself now and then with a huge smile on his face. He was really happy to know an actual idol singer thought he was cute and loved him…

…Until he was thirteen and found out: Mom and Dad never mailed any of his love letters to Ai Higashizawa. That "loving reply" was written by our MOTHER to make him happy…

…Lianjie kinda broke after he found that out. Jialing and I, um, we "broke" in the sense we hurt ourselves laughing so hard, especially at the look on his face. It was…something we will forever wish we had a camera for. The "Lianjie's brain has shattered into a billion irreparable pieces" look.

As for me…Thank the Gods I'm not the "romantic type," at least in the sense I don't obsess over anyone to where I'll write a love letter. I never really think about that kind of thing, to be honest. Probably because I've seen, um, what my siblings go through with this sort of thing. I just never thought I'd see it happen to Xiaochun or Takato

…Sorry, Xiaomei. And you, too, Takato-kun…

Takato and I go back to eating, quietly. Takato looks a little better and I think the bao zi cheered him up a little, it's definite proof that we're not mad at him, after all. And he knows I'll never hate him for being gay or how he feels about me. I could never hate you, Takato, I don't think I could ever find a friend that could come close to you…

…Still…

"…I'm sorry, Takato-kun," I say after a few minutes.

"Wh-What?"

I shrug. "I-I just…I feel bad that you got your hopes up, too, and that…I can't like you back," I sigh. "I'm really sorry, especially since…You didn't want me to know, right? Especially finding out like this…"

Takato nods. "Ye-Yeah…I-I…It's okay, Jen-kun, I…I always knew it…It'd never happen. When I got that letter, I-I…I should have known it was from Shiuchon, not you, but…"

"I understand, trust me," I say. "We're still friends, though. I-I'm not grossed out or anything, okay? If…If you want, I'll…I'll even try to help you find someone."

"Yo-You would?" Takato gives me a shocked expression. I'm a little surprised I said that, too.

"Yeah, I mean, I don't like seeing my best friend so upset," I say. "You might have to wait, I think I need to help Xiaochun on that front, first."

Takato nods. "Ye-Yeah…Please let her know, I didn't mean to do this to her at all. I-I mean…"

"Going by the letter, she got the idea you liked her from, well, all the free bread and things," I say. Xiaochun, Takato does that for everyone, especially us since…Well, he's my best friend and he likes me, apparently, and you're my little sister. Takato's just incredibly nice—No, Takato's…Takato! Nice doesn't even begin to describe him at times.

Why else would I want to swear an oath with you, Takato-kun? …You're just that one-of-a-kind and special.

"…I owe you guys a lot of free bread after this," Takato sighs. "Think she'll accept some choco-pan or…is it too soon?"

"Trust me, no Li would ever turn down free Matsuda bread," I say. "Did anyone else know you were going to 'meet' someone tonight?"

Takato's eyes go wide. "Oh crap…"

"What?"

"M-My parents…They both know I was…" Takato groans. "I-I need to figure out what to say, I mean…"

"…What would you have told them if it was me?"

"…I-I actually…never thought that far ahead," Takato puts his palm to his forehead. "I'm…so stupid!"

"Try claiming it was a prank," I suggest. "Hirokazu came out of nowhere and shouted 'GOTCHA!'" …Why is that so easy to see him doing? Actually, that would make it believable, Hirokazu is that much of an ass at times. Really, if he and Lianjie were the same age: Gods help the poor teacher's soul they'd ever share a class with. Or were both friends with!

"No, they'd…Gods, my Dad found the letter, actually," Takato says. "And if it was in this morning's bread…He or My Mom would have noticed it last night when we put the old, unsellable bread away, that was 'still fresh' bread this morning…It could sell for another few days."

"Just…tell the truth, then. You found out it was Xiaochun and you turned her down," I say. "Just leave out the part about, um, thinking it was me and…what else happened."

Takato nods. "I-I hope that works…I mean, looking back…"

"…Yeah, it might be obvious it was from 'one of us,' if your Dad realizes he would have noticed that letter," I say. Crap…I need to double check with Dad about Xiaochun's name. Are you sure it means 'little spring' and not 'bringer of chaos?' "Just relax, Takato, if they see you upset…They'll know something's up. If you're calm, they'll know you just didn't think it could have been Xiaochun and drop it. I'm sure." Sorta.

Gods, Takato, if they find out…If they take it bad, we have room. It'll just be two parents, four siblings and one STILL VERY LOVED AND APPRECIATEDfriend sharing a medium-sized apartment…With one bathroom.

"…I hope so," Takato nods. "Thanks for not being mad about any of this, Jen. I-I'm really lucky to have you as a friend. You're the greatest."

"I'm lucky you're my friend, Takato," I say and I do what I know he needs right now...It takes him by complete surprise but…

"Je-Jen-kun?" …I give him that hug.

"And…I promise, I'll do what it takes to help you and Xiaochun feel better, okay?" I finish, Takato cautiously wraps his arms around me. "Takato-kun, relax. I…I'm not upset about that, you can hug me any time you want to." Especially now.

"Thank you, Jen-kun," Takato's voice cracks a little. "Tha-That…That means so much coming from you. I'm sorry if it's…awkward now—"

"It's not," I say, even hug him a little tighter to ehmphasiz that, saying, "Takato, I'm…I'm honored, okay?"

"Ho-Honored?" Takato sounds…confused, to say the least. Yeah, I-I know that…sounded a little weird but…

…It's true.

"…You're the best friend I've ever had or ever will have. If I didn't have you…I know I wouldn't be close to as happy as I've been since we met. Please, Takato, don't think anything is different between us now…I really, really don't want you to feel weird or anything because of this. I don't, you shouldn't, either. Okay?" I still have my arms around him and…I'm not ending this hug until I know that he knows I'm serious!

"…You…re-really…mean that?" Takato whispers with a faint sob.

"Completely. I'd never lie to you, Takato-kun, you know that," I reply. "Promise, you won't feel like things are awkward now, okay? …And I mean it when I say you can hug me any time." I…actually want to encourage him to take advantage of that. I know it'll make him feel better and…

…I don't mind the occasional hug, Takato. I really don't. I sort of enjoy them. Especially from someone I really care about. I 'hug' you in that tree you like, right? I mean, there's only one branch that can really support us, i sort of haveto, y'know?

...Huh, now that I think about it...

...Later.

"I promise…And thank you, Jen, so much…I-I needed this, kinda," Takato laughs a little. I laugh, too. Thank the Gods, he's finally calmed down.

"Takato, the only thing about you I'd ever hate is seeing you like this again…Don't do it."

"I-I won't, Jen, I promise. I won't," Takato laughs even harder. I finally end the hug, he's smiling again. I feel so much better right now.

"Any time you need a hug, Takato…Don't even bother asking," I smile. "Just…walk up to me, throw your arms open and smile, okay?"

Takato wipes his eyes. "You're…You're really the best, Jen-kun."

"Thanks," I laugh a little. "Like the bao zi?"

Takato nods. "Ye-Yeah, some of your Mom's best! Thank her for me, too…And everyone else for…"

"Trust me, you're still welcome at our place. If anyone was mad, give them three days for the Matsuda choco-pan withdrawals to set in…Then you'll be forgiven." I joke.

Takato laughs, much to my relief.

Please, be happy again, Takato-kun…I promise, I'll help you find someone, too. I really meant that.


When I get back to the apartment, Xiaochun's in the living room with Lianjie. They're playing a video game together—Wait…

...Kame-Chan's Playhouse? It's one of Xiaochun's favorites from when she was younger, it's a girls' party game about a bunch of these pink, purple and baby blue shelled turtles that live in a magical forest with pixies, elves and singing lizards…

…Takato, do you think Lianjie's cute by any chance? The fact he's willingly playing Kame-chan's Playhouse has me wondering…

"…Seriously, Lianjie?" I ask, Lianjie's playing as 'Hana-chan,' a turtle with a bright pink shell covered in flowers, he and Xiaochun are trying to pick as many strawberries as possible to help another turtle bake a pie. Xiaochun is 'Midogame-chan,' a spring green turtle with little sky-blue squiggles all over his shell.

…Seriously, this is the last game I'd ever expect to see Lianjie in the same room as the CD in, let alone playing.

"If anyone asks, Jialing's the one playing this," Lianjie says. "I thought it'd cheer up Xiaochun…And, um, some of these mini-games ain't so bad…Just…" Emasculating to the point of near castration, Lianjiiege?

I laugh, "I-I know, I know…" I sit next to Xiaochun. She still looks a little upset but not as bad as before. Not nearly…Thank the Gods. I think she just needed some time to, well, 'let it out' by crying and to get over the fact that, well, Takato…Xiaochun, even if he was straight, I don't think he'd feel that same. You're a little young for him, after all. "…Takato's really sorry, Xiaochun. He swears, he didn't mean to upset you."

"…Is he happy with you?" Xiaochun whispers. Wh-What?

I hear Lianjie stifle a laugh, I ignore it.

"Xi-Xiaochun, I'm not gay…I-I can't like him back," I say.

Xiaochun pauses the game suddenly, Lianjie shouts. "He-Hey! I was just about to get the last Love-Strawberry for Sparkle-chan's Turtleberry Pie—" He goes silent, staring at the screen with this…blank expression. He finally says, "O-Okay, wait, ta-take…Take your time…I gotta go do something…important." Lianjie gets up. "DAD! Do we have any whiskey?" He walks off behind us.

"Yes, why?" I hear Dad call from his office.

"Can we have a father-son shot contest? I just spent two hours playing Kame-chan's Playhouse and need to do something manly…!" Lianjie whines.

"…Lianjie, we're not going to—Wait, did you say Kame-chan's Playhouse? …We have some good sake, hold on."

"…Thank you…"

I roll my eyes. "Why do you think I'd be with Takato now?" I ask, looking to Xiaochun.

"Because he loves you," Xiaochun says. "He should be happy…H-He really…really wanted it to be you…"

"Did he say that?"

Xiaochun shakes her head. "N-No, but…It was obvious after I figured it out. H-He was smiling so much when I saw him, too…He really, really likes you, Jianliang, I-I want him to be…really happy." Xiaochun, this isn'ta manga, just because Takato likes me doesn't mean you can just 'let me have him' instead…I-I admit, I feel bad enough to where I almost wish that was possible but…I'm not gay. Xiaochun wipes her eyes, sighing, "I'm sorry again for what I said, I-I just…I really liked him."

"It's okay," I say. "Look, Takato…Takato is really upset over what happened. He didn't mean to hurt you like that. He's—"

I hear the sound of Lianjie choking in the kitchen, shouting, "GODS! Dad, what the hell kinda sake is this? It freakin' burns! COLD!" …Dad, you're really going along with that?

"My private reserve."

"…Good stuff!"

I groan, wishing I could partake in some sake right now. "Takato's really sorry, okay? He promises, he'll do anything to make this up to you. So, um, if you need someone to do your chores for free…" I trail off, sort of jokingly…And, knowing Takato, if Xiaochun actually went through with that suggestion, he'd more or less turn into our personal maid for a month to apologize…

…Why is so easy to see Takato actually going as far as being 'in uniform' for that? Ugh, I blame this stupid game! Seriously, the pause screen is a bunch of ballet dancing turtles with elves and lizards playing instruments…

…Hope Lianjie saves me a shot or two of that sake.

Xiaochun forces out a laugh, "I-It's…It's okay. But, um, I-I…I didn't think he was…Y'know, a cut sleeve or anything…"

I nod. "Yeah, that was…a little surprising." Granted, um, Takato…Given how he and Juri haven't gone out after so many years, despite what we all thought was a mutual crush between the two, this shouldn't have been that big of a surprise. Especially given, um, Takato…"Being Takato," let's say. That whole "thing" with Juri really threw us all off, I guess.

"Are you sure you don't like him? …H-He was…crying when I ran away, I-I thought it was…because I wasn't you…" Xiaochun sighs. "He really likes you, doesn't he?"

I nod. "He was crying because he upset you so much, though. Not because he was hoping the letter was from me. He may not feel the same, Xiaochun, but he does care about all of his friends. That includes you. And…I'm not gay, Xiaochun. I can't feel the same." I admit, saying that does make me feel bad. I mean, given how upset Takato was and how I'm sure he had his hopes up as high as Xiaochun's were, possibly more

…I'm sorry, Takato-kun. I promise, I will help you find someone. I mean…There's gotta be someone who likes you that much, you're…YOU! I-I admit, if I was gay…Takato and I would probably be together after this. I'm amazed at how easy it to think that, too, since…

…This topic is…so awkward right now. Mostly because I'm discussing it with my entire family! Gods, I can only imagine how embarrassed Takato is realizing the fact he's been outted to the entire Li family because of this. If it were just Xiaochun and I, I know he'd feel a lot better about what happened. I'm guessing that was also why he was so emotional, too. I know Takato: This is the last thing he wants so many people to know. I pray to the Gods his family doesn't somehow find out…That would destroy him, especially if they don't approve.

…If that does happen, Takato, you're welcome to stay here until they cool off. You don't even have to ask. I-I should have offered that, actually, but…I doubt he'd accept it, given the circumstances. No matter how serious I was, Takato…I'm worried he's still going be afraid to come over for a while. I think I might have to get Lianjie to drag-slash-carry him over or something…

…Again, why is it so easy to picture Lianjie carrying a protesting Takato under his arm, saying, "C'mon, you're goin' to our place whether you wanna or not!" Probably because I know my brother would actually do something like that.

…This night has made me realize one absolute truth about The Universe:

My family and friends are weird!

"Re-Really?"

I nod. "Really, Takato's really sorry, too. Promise not to be mad at him?"

"Promise," Xiaochun nods. "I-I just…I thought, when I saw him waiting, I thought…" She trails off, sighing. "I thought he liked me, too. Just…from that smile, you know? He was so excited, he was re-reading my letter and everything with this…huge smile. I was…really happy when I saw that. I waited until he put it away to…show up, even. He read it…like, five times, over and over. His smile was getting bigger and bigger, too." …Wow…This makes me feel even worse for both of them.

"Maybe if he was straight…" I trail off. Sorry, Takato, but I've got to do anything to make her feel better.

Xiaochun nods. "…Maybe."

I look to the paused game screen. "Since Lianjie's…trying to reaffirm his manliness, want me to take over for him?" I reach for Lianjie's controller.

"Sure!" Xiaochun smiles with a nod. She unpauses the game, I get the 'love strawberry' Lianjie was about to collect.

And now we start the "Turtle Berry Pie" mixing mini-game…

…And it's cutesy enough to where I feel like Takato might still end up with me somehow…GODS, how could Lianjie stand two hoursof this game?


Xiaochun's asleep right now, she stayed up late playing Kame-chan's Playhouse with me. I see why Lianjie had to do "something manly" after that, though. Gods, I-I…I think if I played Barbie's Fashion Fiesta, I'd feel more masculine right now.

But I have to admit: Those were the most huggable turtles I've ever seen! Now I know why Xiaochun got each and every plush they ever made for that game!

Now that Xiaochun's asleep, though, I feel like I can address the "issue" of the night with my family…

…The sober ones, at least. Dad's not exactly sober but not all that drunk…

…Lianjie, though?

He went a little crazy with the sake. He's sobering up with a Ramune JOLT in the dining room while Mom and Dad are having some leftover bao zi with Jialing.

I sit down at the table. "Um, just…Just so we're all clear, last time I'm asking: No-one's mad at Takato, right?"

"No-one," Dad says. "Especially, um, given who he thought it was from…" He trails off, awkwardly. Ye-Yeah, this…This isn't something I really want to talk to my parents about: The fact my best friend is gay and has a crush on me. "I think now might be a good time to discuss how your meeting went, Jianliang. He really does feel 'that way' about you?"

"Promise no-one will mention that part to anyone? Especially his family?" I ask. "Takato's…He really didn't want to admit to that part of it, even though he had to." I still feel a little bad having to be the first one to use the "g-word," I'm sure it was the last thing Takato wanted to hear from me at the time…

…But, at least, I know he feels better, now. And, hopefully, his parents are still in the dark over who he hoped that letter was from.

"Not a problem, Jianliang," Jialing says. "I mean, um, I know how stressful that whole thing can be. It's also why I'm not mad at him: If he thought it was from you, well, I can imagine how bad he feels from that alone, without having upset Xiaochun so much."

Mom nods. "Even if he didn't feel that way about Jianliang, I know he wouldn't have upset her on purpose."

"He really had no idea it was from her," I say. "I saw the letter, she never used her name and the only 'hint' at who wrote it…Well, she referenced her 'floppy-eared partner,' which…Well, Takato thought 'Terriermon,' not 'Lopmon.' She, um, joked about, if they got together, if Guilmon would fall in love with Lopmon, too." ...And given that Lopmon and Guilmon are both male…Well, Terriermon, too, but that might've also added to Takato's "confusion" on that front. I wouldn't think someone with a male partner would pair their partner up with another male partner unless they were really open to that idea…

…Which, if it were me (since I'd be gay, too, in that scenario), would be the case. Not that I would judge Terriermon if he came up to me one day and said, "Jen, I'm madly in love with Guilmon. Do you mind?"

Well, I wouldn't judge him beyond saying, "No, just as long as this isn't some ploy to get all the Matsuda bread you can eat." …I wouldn't put that past Terriermon.

Lianjie laughs, "Geez…Dinosaur and…Brown-rabbit-dog-bunny-digi-thing…!" He drinks down some of his ramune. "That'd…be weird…!"

I nod. "Yeah, um..."

"How did it go when you saw him?" Mom asks.

"He was crying—"

"DUH!" Lianjie shouts.

"—A lot," I groan. Lianjie's drunkenness is not going to be helpful here. "He explained what happened and apologized non-stop. He says he'll do anything to make this up to her."

"And, when the topic of his, ah, feelings for you came up…?" My Dad asks, a little awkwardly. Why is it I feel as nervous as I think I would if I were actually coming out? I-I guess…I'm nervous for Takato.

"…I, um, might have promised I'd help him find someone to make up for the fact I can't feel the same," I say. "Ta-Takato being gay or, um, liking me doesn't bother me. At all." I say.

"Glasses!" Lianjie shouts.

"What?" I look to Lianjie.

"Glasses," Lianjie repeats. "I bet ya he'd like Takato!"

"…Glasses—Wait, you…You mean…Kenta?" Kenta's…gay?

Actually, I just remembered: Lianjie mentioned something about him earlier…I wonder how he got that idea. Though, knowing Lianjie—Wait… He even said…

…'Lensed love,'Lianjie used those words—Right, now I remember: Kenta and Takato went To The Blue Shell and Lianjie thought Kenta dropped a 'love letter' of some kind…

Takato didn't mention it but…Is it possible Kenta at least knows about the letter…? I-I'll have to figure out a way to approach this, especially if Lianjie manages some convincing evidence that he's gay…

…Which is putting entirely too much faith into my brother's gaydar but after tonight, I'll try anything! Even dating gay dating tips from a drunk off his ass Lianjie Li, of all people!

"Ye-Yeah, that guy!" Lianjie nods. "He's always at The Blue Shell and, um…Dude, I think he's got a thing for me." What?

"…Kenta…has a thing…for you?" Jialing asks. "How do you know?" Better question Jialing: Why do all of my gay friends apparently have a thing for someone in my family—Wait…

… I forgot about Hirokazu and Jialing.

Better better question: WHY US? Why are Lis so...LOVEABLE? Gods! First Hirokazu and Jialiang, then Takato and I and now...Kenta and Lianjie? LIANJIE?

...Kenta has weird taste...

"He's always at The Blue Shell and, um, if I'm not the only one at the snack stand, he always waits 'til I can make his food n' stuff. O-Oh, and…A couple of the other guys told me they caught him checking me out. Like, um, when my back is turned, especially. Glad to know I got a nice ass!" Lianjie toasts his Ramune JOLT. "To my nice ass!"

"…No-one toast to that," Jialing says, shuddering. "If this is true, though…"

"About my ass?" Lianjie asks, grinning.

"About Kenta being gay, you idiot!" Jialing groans.

"…I'll…approach the subject with Kenta tomorrow," I say. Kenta being gay, actually, that would be less of a surprise than Takato being gay. There's just, um, something about Kenta. "But, um, just…Let's keep all of this with Takato a secret for now, okay?"

Mom nods. "Though, um, Jianliang? While you were gone…" She holds back a chuckle.

"What is it?" I ask. …This won't be good.

"…Xiaochun, while she was playing with Lianjie and started feeling better, she asked him where you went," Mom begins, looking to Lianjie with annoyed frown.

"Hey, my defense, no-one told me," Lianjie says. …Wha? "I only told her Jianliang went to see Takato because, well, that's what he was doin'! I didn't know it was supposed to be a secret!"

"I take it we had a second breakdown while I was gone?" I ask, flatly. The laughter from the rest of my family tells me otherwise. And that I'm going to be very annoyed very quickly.

"We were worried that would happen but…Ha ha ha…" Mom, please don't laugh like that…

"Instead, um, she went on a…sorta rant about you," Jialing begins. …Annoyance Level: 3.

"What 'sorta' rant?" I ask.

"Um, 'bout…you bein' you, a great brother who wanted to cheer her up and how…" Lianjie tries to hide a sudden drunken giggle by drinking his soda, some sprays out of his mouth.

Annoyance level: 5. "…And how what?" I ask, looking to my Dad.

"…'Happy' you were going to be when you got back," Dad says. The way he said happy just now gives me an idea of where this would be going…

…Because I know of a certain three letter synonym for HAPPY!

"HOW 'happy' would I be?" I mutter. Annoyance level: 7.

"Um, enough to where she started on a very long rant that was VERY fitting for the, ah, Kame-Chan's Playhouse mini-game of 'Hide and Seek in Heartlove Meadow,' as a bunch of really fruity looking, pastel-shelled turtles hide in Wuvyberry Bushes, Kissysmooch Flower patches and Kyudeepai Fruit Trees!" Lianjie says with a smirk…Lianjie, did you really just say all that?

"…Before we go on, I just want to know: Did Lianjie make up the words 'Wuvyberry,' 'Kissysmooch' and "Kyudeepai' or were those really from the game and he actually remembers them?" I ask. Annoyance Level: 3. Sorry, Lianjie, but…I want some of this directed at someone else right now, too!

"...No, they're really from the game," Lianjie mutters, everyone's eyes him. "He-Hey! I only know 'em 'cause Xiao n' me played in Heartlove Meadow for HALF AN HOUR tryin' to beat that game! Anyone here wanna how damned hard Sparkle-chan is to find? I'll take you on RIGHT NOW!" …To my absolute shock, Lianjie's expression and the fact he's pointing to a paused copy of Kame-Chan's playhouse tells me: My brother is COMPLETELY SERIOUS and may have ingested more sake than I realize he did.

"So, I take it Xiaochun refused to quit until you found Sparkle-chan?" I ask.

"No, I refused to quit 'til I found that Royal Purple-shelled bitch! Xiao wanted to make Turtleberry Pie!" Lianjie shouts, crossing his arms with a growl. "Cheating, royal purple shelled, stuck up bitch with an ugly pink hat…" He grumbles.

The room fills with a dead silence for almost two full minutes as my parents, Jialing and I exchange various looks ranging from 'Is Lianjie joking?' To 'Is this proof Lianjie is completely insane?' to 'Think Takato would settle for Lianjie instead of Jianliang?'

…Jialing is the one to finally break the silence, "…And…Where exactly…was…Sparkle-chan hiding…?"

"…She was hiding in the little cave behind Sweetiyumyum Falls," Lianjie mutters. "Which was against the rules by the way! No leaving Heartlove Meadow! The Sweetiyumyum River might run through the meadow, BUT THE WATER FALL IS OUT OF BOUNDS!" He takes a long swig of his Ramune JOLT. "…BITCH!"

"…I'm sorry Sparkle-chan doesn't know how to play fair," Jialing says. "That's very rude of her."

"Damned straight it is!" …Interesting…choice of words, Lianjie…

…It's times like this I remember exactly how seriously Lianjie takes video games…

Again, every non-Lianjie family member present exchanges a series of expressions, this time for less than a minute before Lianjie says. "Anyway, after we FINALLY found Sparkle-chan, Xiao looked to me n' said, 'I bet Jianliang's gonna be really happy when he gets back!'" …Annoyance level: 2. It reset due to interference from Lianjie's rant about Sparkle-chan's loose definition of hide and seek boundaries. Thank you, Sparkle-chan!

"Why?" I ask, I know where this is going, I just want to believe otherwise.

"I asked that very question," Mom says. "She, um…Went…ha ha ha…" Again, please, Mom, please don't laugh like that. "She went on a long rant about how much she thinks you love Takato! From how you always smile when you see him, to how happy you sound when you two speak on the phone, the way you sometimes say his name, the way you sometimes run to the front door when he shows up," Annoyance level: 9. "All the times she sees you two sitting in that tree at the park…" Mom adds, looking to me with a raised eyebrow. I get a similar look from everyone present.

XIAOCHUN SAW THAT?

SHIT!

I stammer as my entire family, in complete silence, simply looks at me for an explanation as to why Xiaochun has apparently seen Takao and I in a tree together. "TA-TAKATO JUST REALLY LIKES THAT TREE!"

…What? HE DOES! What? Are you saying we can't climb a tree without being a couple—Okay, MAYBE tonight explains why Takato likes that tree so much…

"She just went on and on an on! To the point where, um," Jialing looks to Dad.

"She was hoping you'd come back, announcing that you and Takato found, and I am using her exact words: 'True love.'" Dad finishes. I groan. "She was, um, upset about the idea but she seemed convinced, after she heard you went to see him, that you would come back telling us how your confession went."

I groan, leaning forward on the table. "I didn't confess!"

Annoyance level: 12! CONGRATULATIONS, XIAOCHUN! You've met your daily quota! I was a little worried you wouldn't annoy or embarrass the hell out of me today but, no, you've managed to make ME out-gay Lianjie ranting about SPARKLE-CHAN'S supposed cheating in HIDE AND SEEK in KAME-CHAN'S PLAYHOUSE! AAAUUUGH!

…I gotta admit though, that has to take some level of skill. I've seen how cutesy that hide and seek level is…

…Just SEEN, though!

"We know, Jianliang, we know, but…" Mom laughs harder than before, saying, "Xiaochun might not believe you until Takato does see someone else, though. She was, um, really hoping you two would end up together…So Takato would be happy. You, too, but…She wanted Takato to 'have that big happy smile again. All the time!'" …Why, Xiaochun? Why? What did I ever do to you…?

…And if you say 'steal my boyfriend'…!

"She loves Takato that much, it seems," Dad says, smiling. "Enough to where she wants him happy with who he really loves…" He trails off.

…Something tells me this is going to be my Hesiuke-sensei\Ai Higashizawa, now. Thanks, Xiaochun, thanks! I get an "embarrassing love" story, now, and I didn't even do anything!

"…I have a feeling…" I sigh, then I look to my Dad. "Can I ask you a question about her name, by the way…?"

…'Xiaochun' has to also mean 'Bringer of Chaos,' because if not…!


Takato Matsuda: Home Late


I finally get back to the bakery after I calmed down. It's a little late, I stopped an outdoor café for a drink and to spend some time trying to prepare to face my parents…

I doubt they'll read too far into this. If they ask, "Why didn't you realize it was Shiuchon?" I'll just say, "I just wasn't thinking." I don't have to say "I was hoping the letter was from Jen."

...I can't believe Jen knows now…I-I wanted to keep this a secret from him forever, that letter was the only reason I would ever tell him. And that's because I thought he was telling me first. It's one thing Kenta knows, now, we're both "the same," but…Jen isn't. I-I should have known better, I really should have but…

…I love you, Jen. I would have done anything not to be gay, but…I'd have done anything and more for you to feel the same. It…hurts, a little, to think that, well, you said you'd always be my friend because…You'll always be my friend. Not…more than that. Bu-but that's…That's okay, I-I accepted that before. I just have…confirmation, now. There's no chance that we'll ever be more than that. I can accept that, though, since…you accept me. That's better than I thought it would be if you ever did find out and couldn't feel the same. I was always afraid it would end so much worse than it did. I never approached "the subject" with Jen, so I never knew how he felt about it…I was afraid that, if I did, he might suspect me. And if he suspected me and didn't approve…

…I didnt't want to lose his friendship. I-I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I knew something I never wanted or couldn't change cost me Jen. I was so sure tonight would cost me Jen, even if he didn't find out…The fact I made his little sister cry like that, I didn't think he'd ever forgive me for it. I'm so glad his family understands what happened, that I'd never do something like that on purpose. I felt bad enough having to turn her down just from…How happy she was that I was there, if I had any idea it was from her…I would've called Jen and asked his advice or something, I wouldn't have just shown up at the park grinning like an idiot.

I'm glad he's okay with it, at least, he even apologized for not being able to feel the same. I-I never thought anyone would do that in that sort of, um, situation…The-Then again, that's…what I did for Shiuchon, sort of. Even if I was straight, um, she's…She's a little young for me. I-I wouldn't have felt the same, either way…But, if I was straight, I'd have also…

…Actually…

…I wonder if I still would have thought the letter was from Jen? Probably not, my hopes wouldn't have gotten up and I'd have put two and two together, I think. If I did, though? …I would've called Jen and talked to him before 'that meeting' to apologize and…Things would have been awkward for all of us but…

…At least Shiuchon wouldn't have cried so much. I-I still hate myself for doing that, even if Jen said his family understood…

…And his family…Knows about me…

…I-I'm not sure if I can…really face them right now because of that…I-I really don't…It's just really embarrassing, even though I know Jaarin likes shounen-ai and Jen would keep Rinchei's jokes in check. His parents? …That's…I-I sort of want to know more about how they took the news, maybe their reaction would prepare me for the day my parents, somehow, find out.

I near the bakery…To my surprise, the lights in front are still on. It should have been closed more than an hour ago. In fact, the closed sign is up.

Were my parents waiting for me? Great…Probably because they're expecting me to come in and say "I'm with Juri, now!" Or something…Maybe even show up with "her!" Gods, no! I-I hope they aren't expecting that, please don't let them be waiting to meet my…

…Never-to-exist girlfriend…

…Okay, just…Just calm down, Takato. Act casual. You found out it was Shiuchon, you turned her down, you didn't hope it was really from Jen. You're straight as an arrow. You've been able to fake heterosexuality this long, what's one more night? …And the night after that…

…And the one after that…

…And repeat every night for the rest of your miserable life… I-I…I'm getting tired of this but…

It's better than the alternative. I never approached "this subject" with them for the same reason as Jen…Especially since I don't live with Jen, if they didn't approve…Gods, their reaction could be so much worse. I-I don't know what I'd do if I had to stay with someone else…Who could I even think to ask?

…Well, Kenta, now. I-I know Kenta would take me in, as long as his family only found out about me and not him—No, I couldn't stay with Kenta in case his parents found out about him, too, if they had the same reaction to both of us? ….I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I ruined two lives with this!

…Now I really wish that letter was from Jen… I-I know I told Kenta today but…Oh, Gods, telling Kenta what happened, too, he's…He's expecting me to say "I'm with Jen, now!" …I-I don't want to relive tonight by telling him what happened...

…Is there a hole somewhere I can crawl into and die? Please, someone point me in the direction of that hole. I'll be very grateful!

I take a deep breath and open the front door, the bell over the door rings. As I get across the front, my parents both step into the room from the hallway. "Takato, wait," my Dad says. He goes past me. "We were waiting for you," he says as he locks the front door. "We, um, wanted to talk to you about that letter."

"You…did?" I ask. …Crap…

"Yes, just come into the dining room," Mom says. "We're just a little curious about how things went, that's all."

I nod, doing my best to keep my cool.

I follow after my Dad to the dining room. Mom brings in a fresh pot of tea and some rice snacks. She pours tea for us, I sit across from both of them. "So, how'd it go?" Dad asks.

"Er…The meeting, you mean?" I-I really wish I didn't tell them what was happening. They sounded so excited when I told them about the meeting before I left…

"Where are you going, Takato?"

"O-Oh, um, I'm meeting the person who wrote that letter. They're waiting for me at the park tonight."

"Really? Good luck, son!"

My Dad…sounded so proud. His son was going to start dating…'a girl.' "Tell us how it goes!"

"I-I will! I don't want to make them wait!"

…And twenty minutes after that began the worst night of my life.

"Yeah, after you left, your Mother asked more about that letter," Dad begins. …She did? I-I didn't really tell her more than 'someone left me a love letter' when she asked what I was reading after I got back from hanging out with Kenta an dropped off her books. "I told her where I found it and she raised an interesting point…"

"I put away the Terriermon bread last night, the bags that were too old to sell the next day," Mom says. Gods, no! "And I didn't see that letter, your Dad says it showed up this morning after Jenrya and Shiuchon were here."

I nod. "Ye-Yeah…Um…I-It turns out the letter was from…Shiuchon. I-I had no idea and, um, I turned her down…nicely." …As nicely as I could… "That's what happened."

"I-I see," Dad nods. "Why were you gone so long then and…Takato, you look, um, well, like a bit of a wreck. Did anything happen?"

I shake my head. "N-No, nothing happened. I-I just felt bad, she got her hopes up that I liked her and all. I-I spent some time at a cafe and got dinner after that to…To take my mind off things!"

Dad nods. "I see, since…Well, looking back, it was sort of obvious it was her," he says. He laughs, adding, "U-Unless it was Jenrya of course." Note to Heart: Stop having a massive attack now! "But…"

I laugh, "I-I didn't think it was…from Jen," I shake my head, laughing a little harder…

…But my parents don't.

Mom, Dad, why aren't you laughing? Thi-This is funny! Ha ha ha! Takato's not gay, but he was put in a really awkward situation that only implied it! Ha ha ha! Ha…ha…ha…!

…Gods, kill me, now…

"Well, that's…the thing," Mom begins. "When you left, I noticed something about, um, what you said when you went to meet whoever wrote you that letter." I don't like that phrasing. It's the kind of phrasing that takes years off my lifespan when it comes from my own Mother. Taking years off my life is bad for my health, Mom, please stop doing it. Please? Pretty please? With sugar? And a lot of room for deniability?

"Yeah, um, when your Mother mentioned it…I thought it was a little unusual," Dad says. "We wanted to ask you about that."

"Huh?" I give my Mom a confused look, then my Dad. I-I know this is going somewhere bad but I have no idea what either of them are talking about.

"It's okay, Takato, just…relax," My Dad says. "Like I said, I didn't notice it until your Mother pointed it out but…"

"When you left, you said 'the person' who wrote you that letter. Not 'the girl,'" Mom says. Shit! I-I did…I did do that…! "You also said 'them,' instead of 'her.'"

Gods, why did I do that? I-I'm such an idiot!

I do my best to keep my expression in check. "We-Well…Ye-Yeah, I mean, I didn't know who wrote it…I-I mean…It was from a secretadmirer!"

"But, Takato, wouldn't you assume it was from a girl…?" Dad trails off. "Your Mother pointed it out after we realized that the letter had to have been dropped off this morning. And, well, that meant it was either Shiuchon or…Jenrya."

"I-I just…I wasn't thinking, and…I-I didn't know it came from this morning! Yo-You didn't think so either at first!" I shout, standing up. Damn it, I-I'm panicking! That's…That's not good! That's just going to make them more suspicious!

"Takato, calm do—Wait…" Dad leans forward, looking at me. Right into my eyes…I-I actually lean back, intimidated! His expression is just…worrying me!

Wh-What are you looking at me like that for, Dad? Wha-What did I do? It's like he's trying to figure something out. Or figure me out.

Gods, please, stop this! Look away! Look away! LOOK AWAY!

"Takehiro?" Mom asks.

Dad finally speaks, "Takato, your…Your eyes are bright red. Have…Have you been crying?" …Cr-Crying?

…No…

Please, no!

"N-No, of course not!" I shake my head. "I-It's…Allergies or something!" I…I have to be allergic to somethingout there!

"Takato," Mom leans forward, taking my hand. "Calm down. It's okay. Just sit down…Take a moment to breathe, all right? Tell us what happened. We won't be mad."

"Yo-You…You really…You think I'm…? H-How could you…I-I mean…I'm not!" I stammer, I feel my chest and throat tightening and my voice is cracking…Damn it, please, not now…Don't do this. Gods, I haven't cried like this in years, why am I making up for lost time now?

"…Please, son, just calm down and tell us what happened," Dad says. "You were gone too long to just turn down Shiuchon and…Given what you said as you left as well as, um, the only possible 'sources' of that letter—"

"Ho-How do you know they didn't drop it off for someone else?" I say. Damn it, why didn't I think of that earlier? I-I could have just made up a girl! Jen dropped it off for a friend of his! Some girl we both knew in class! Some random made up girl I just didn't like! Not his little sister, not him, just someone I MADE UP!

I'm so stupid! Why did I become so stupid in the past twenty-four hours?

Did I hit my head?

Did we get some ergot tainted rye flour or something?

Did I anger the Gods?

All of the above?

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?

…Please, someone, anyone…make this all stop…Please, somehow, make it stop…

"…Son, you…Just told us it was Shiuchon," Dad says. Damn it… "They obviously didn't do that."

"Takato, tell us the truth: Was it really from Shiuchon or…were you hoping it was from Jenrya?" Mom asks. "We won't be mad, I promise."

"If that is the case, Takato, we're not upset," Dad adds. "Please, just tell us."

"…It was from Shiuchon but…" I sigh. I-I can't…deny it any more. Please don't be mad, please…I-I…Damn it, this really is the worst night of my life! Where's the damned hole? I'll dig one myself if I have to! Someone just point me in the direction of a shovel!

…Then again, I've…already done a good enough job digging my own grave here

"Takato…Please, just relax. It's okay," Mom says, giving me a smile. She lets go of my hand, saying, "Just sit down and relax...Tell us what happened. Nothing's…Nothing's going to change." …I still want that shovel, though. For when this is over, at least. I want that shovel and someone to throw the dirt on me after I lie down in my hole…

"I was…hoping it was from Jen." Damn it…This is my punishment for hurting Shiuchon like that, it has to be…

Dad nods. "I see…And what happened after you found out it was from Shiuchon?" I-I'm amazed by how calm he sounds. I-I thought, at the very least, I'd hear him groan or mutter something like 'This can't be happening' or 'I screwed up raising him' or something like that! At least, an eye roll and a 'great, my only son is gay' sigh.

"…She thought I felt the same and was…really happy until she realized I thought it was from someone else. Sh-She, eventually, guessed that I meant…Jen…" I sink in my chair, looking away from my parents. "She cried and ran away, I-I knew Jen's family would be upset at me for upsetting her like that, so I called Jen to apologize. He came to the park to tell me no-one blamed me and…"

"…Does he know how you feel about him?" Mom asks, amazingly casually. She sounds upset but not about my secret.

"H-He does now. It doesn't bother him, he told me that Shiuchon would…feel better and that he was sorry I got my hopes up like I did…" I lean forward, burying my head in my arms. "I'm sorry."

"Takato, don't," Dad says. "Please, don't apologize. To…To be honest…"

"…We've suspected this possibility for a while," Mom says. What?

I look up. "You…have?"

"You spend so much time with Jenrya," Mom begins, "we know how close you two are and…Well, we know you don't feel the same way Juri felt about you. Girls and dating just…never really comes up with you, even if someone else brings it up. You just…change the subject. This letter was…the most you've ever said on the subject. And, well, given how excited you were..."

"We thought it was possible," Dad says. "We didn't want to confront you about it but…You were gone so long, we…We were hoping that, well, things went well with Jenrya." They…were hoping I was with Jen? "I'm sorry it went that way, Takato. I really am…I'm sure you had your hopes up, since…I-I saw how much you smiled when you read that letter the first time and…Every time since! Gods, I-I mean…You read it so much today, it was like you were on top of the world." …I felt like I was…My dream had come true, Jen felt the same way and…I-I'd have who I've wanted for so long. Ever since…Gods, I-I think I liked him since we met! There was just something about Jen I liked, something I admired.

I finally put two and two together a couple years ago, when I realized I felt more for Jen than I did for Juri or any other girl: I was gay. And scared out of my mind but…I knew I couldn't change, I knew that much about being gay: It's not a choice. It's not something I can change, as much as I wanted to. I did, for a while, tell myself I was bi but…

…Even when I first started doing that, in the back of my head, I knew I was lying to myself. I'd even tell myself, "I'm bi…I like girls, too. …Just not nearly as much as boys. Especially Jenrya Li." …My subconscious handled this better than I ever did, let's just say that. It'd try to reason with my conscious mind but…

…That part of my brain just puts its fingers in its ears singing, "LA LA LA! I'M NOT LISTENING! I LIKE GIRLS, TOO! LA LA LA!" …Because I'm an idiot that way.

Gods, why did I say 'that person' instead of 'that girl?' Wh-What the hell possessed me to do that? My subconscious finally got through to me or something? Why today of all days?

At least I don't want that shovel…

…As much as before.

"We were hoping you would come back and, well, we'd hear you were with Jenrya. Or, at least, that things 'went well' with 'that girl' and we'd know it was Jenrya." Mom says. "We…didn't think Shiuchon…"

"…No-one did," I say. "Jen didn't suspect it, either. …This is…really okay with you? I-I always thought…"

"Just be happy, Takato, that's all we ask. Don't hide, just be yourself." Dad says, smiling. "It's really okay."

I wipe my eyes, sniffing. "Thank you." I-I can't believe this…A-At least one good thing came out of this…Thank the Gods. "Thank you so much…I-I…I was so scared that…"

"We'd never be mad at you over this, Takato," Mom says. "We're your parents, we love you and…We know it's nothing you chose. It…really scared you at first, didn't it?"

I just nod, sighing. …It scared me more than anything ever did. Especially wondering how everyone I cared about would react. Jen, my family, especially. Or if anyone found out and didn't approve to the point of telling everyone

…I know Shiuchon didn't 'out me' because she didn't approve, she was just mad at Jen for 'stealing me' from her. I-I don't blame her for that, I really hurt her tonight.

"Don't be afraid any more, okay?" Dad says. "And if any of your friends don't approve…Tell us, we'll…We'll do what we can to change their minds. Or at least…cheer your up, okay? Do you think any of them would…?"

"…I don't know," I shake my head. "Hirokazu, maybe. Ruki…I'm pretty sure she suspects. Juri, too, probably since…" …Juri really wanted us to go out but I told her I thought we were 'better as friends,' she…She, um, when I said that gave me a weird sort of look and nodded. She wasn't too upset but…

…I think she suspects something, she just never voiced it. I'm glad for that at least, I know Juri wouldn't out me if she did suspect it. She's too nice and…I'm guessing she wouldn't disapprove too much if I did tell her, she took my rejection really well. And I know how much she liked me, everyone kind of did…It's both why no-one suspected me, at least, when they thought I might feel the same. Now?

…I think it might be, at least, a theory with some of the others. Ruki, especially, even though Jen seemed really surprised when he found out. Kenta, too, kind of…I never suspected Kenta, really, especially since he was Hirokazu's best friend. Hirokazu, I can't see him being thrilled about this topic.

If my family supports me, I-I almost…I almost feel like I can tell the others. I mean, my biggest fear besides losing Jen was losing my parents and…They guessed! I guess I'm…less subtle than I thought I was. Or, at least, wasn't subtle at all tonight…

Okay, I don't need that hole or that shovel any more.

But, Jen? I hope you were serious about those hugs because…

...I need another one of those, at least. I-I still can't believe he said that…I was so happy, but I was afraid he was just humoring me or something to make me feel better. But, I know Jen: He's always sincere when he says things like that. Always.

Thank you, Jen-kun. I-I think…I'll be okay, now.


Li Jianliang: Out With It!


Even though I'm pretty sure Lianjie's just…being Lianjie as usual with his wild assumptions (I swear, he's like a stupid version of Ruki when it comes to his "everyone I know is secretly gay" theories), but…

…I've been thinking about, well, Kenta in "that regard" and…If he is gay, well, I know there's a chance Takato can be happy with someone, at least. I just hope Ruki isn't right about Hirokazu, too, which would only mean she's right about Hirokazu and Kenta being a secret couple.

Sorry, Kenta, but…I need Takato to be happy right now. Especially since, if he's with you, Xiaochun will stop trying to pair me up with Takato!

Breakfast…was awkward thanks to her. Mom made her favorite bao zi again to try to cheer her up. She was doing a lot better than last night, I think…It was more of a case of "extreme puppy love" than "cupid's arrow" when it came to her crush on Takato. Unfortunately, for Takato, it was "cupid's arrow" in regards to me…

…Is it normal to feel so guilty over this? I-I swear, I almost went to bed wishing I was gay because, well…

…Like with Xiaochun, I've never seen Takato so…Sad. And I actually found out a…somewhat shocking revelation about myself, at least:

I feel just as bad seeing Takato sad as I do seeing my little sister sad…Not that I see Takato as a sister or anything but…I guess it's a sign of how close I am to him. I hate to see him cry or get his hopes up as much (or, in his case, possibly more) than Xiaochun did!

"C'mon, Jianliang..Try it!"

"T-Tr-TRY IT? Xi-Xiaochun…! I-I…You don't just TRYto be gay and…! It doesn't work that way!"

"Please? For Takato-kun? …He was…so sad last night…"

No question there...

…And, of course…

"Well, Jianliang, maybe you're secretly bi and don't know it…That, um, 'tree' revelation last night was a bit, well, confusing…I-I mean, um…You two really have…a tree?" …Three guesses who said that and I'll give you three hints!

1. Not Jialing!

2. Not Lianjie!

3. NOT MY MOTHER!

Answer: MY OWN FATHER!

"Da-Dad! Th-That tree…It's just…Ta-Takato likes the tree! We sit in the tree! We just talk! We hang out in it! NOTHI—"

"Hang out or make o—"

"STAY OUT OF THIS, LIANJIE!"

Ugh…! I-I…I need to find a deep hole to crawl into and meditate, away from my siblings…

…Or hide behind Sweetiyumyum Falls, where I can meditate and I know Lianjie will never find me!

It's mid-morning, I just barely survived breakfast and now I need to survive this phone call…

If Kenta knows about the letter, he'll know about "Takato and I," if Kenta knows about "Takato and I," I can tell him what really happened and ask him if there's the slightest chance he's gay and might like Takato…

…After how I saw Takato last night, I'm willing to beg him!

I take a deep breath, sitting at my computer and hitting "talk" on my cell phone. Here goes nothing…Just act casual…

"…Jen? Hey! What's up?" Kenta sounds…unusually cheery. Good sign?

"He-Hey, Kenta-kun! I…I, um, wanted to talk to you about, um, something…Really important." This is it.

"Oh, really…?" …Kenta…? That tone he just used, um, sounded 'festive.' I'm serious, I-I've never heard that tone from Kenta.

"Ye-Yeah, um," Gods, I'm nervous like I am coming out! Actually, that might work to my favor, Kenta might think I'm calling as part of a planned 'announcement' between Takato and I. "Kenta, can you, um, keep a secret?"

"Definitely," He sounds really playful…This…Is a side of Kenta I've never seen before. Not complaining, though! "Why? Do you have a…secret, Jen-kun…?"

"…Do the words 'Lensed Love' mean…anything to you?" I finally ask, cringing. Please, please let this go well…

Kenta's silent for a moment, then says, "Do you mean glasses lenses or goggle lenses, Jen?" …Thank the Gods…

"So, you do know about that, um, letter?" I ask.

"I do, and…Jen, you can tell me. It's okay, trust me! IT'S. O-KA-Y." …Translation; 'I'm gay, too, Jen.'

"…I'm not gay, Kenta, that letter was from Shiuchon," I say.

This time the silence is a lot longer. "…Oh…Shit…Uh…GOOD! 'Cause that's…DISGUSTING! Re-Really! Two men? GROSS! Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew! Eeewww…!" …Kenta, those are the gayest 'ews' I've ever heard. ESPECIALLY from you!

"I'm not homophobic either," I roll my eyes.

"…Jen, can you just cut to the chase, then? I'm confused as all hell right now…Am I out or in, just tell me that? SHOULD I BE GAY OR STRAIGHT AROUND YOU? Or bi? Would it be easier on you if I pretended to be bi? Let's aaallllll be biii, shall we?" Kenta lets out an exasperated sigh, I try not to laugh.

"…Just one question, and promise to be honest, okay?"

"What is it?"

"…My brother? Really?"

"…Did Takato tell you that?" Kenta sounds annoyed.

"No, Lianjie did."

"SHIT! He knows?"

"He's actually very flattered and proud of the quality of the aesthetic features of his ass," I say. Lianjie's exact words from the breakfast table. "But, wait, you know about Takato? You definitely—"

"Jen, stop, stop, stop! First, tell me this: What the hell did you mean when you said your sister wrote that letter? I-I mean…" Kenta sighs. "Gods, please, don't tell me Takato waited at the park only to…" He trails off.

"…All HELL broke loose last night," I sigh. "Xiaochun came home crying and—"

"OH GODS!" Kenta screams. "What hospital is Takato in? How badly did Rinchei hurt him, Jen? Do-Don't sugarcoat it, just…Is he in a coma…?" …I'd think he was joking but, um, Kenta does know my brother. And I once gave him and Hirokazu a 'nature walk' through Shinjuku: All the trees Lianjie has punched or otherwise damaged\hurt himself with (Hirokazu wanted to see them, Kenta tagged a long) that still had permanent marks on them.

"No-one is mad at Takato, we all know this was a misunderstanding and even Xiaochun…Kenta, are you gay? Please, honestly tell me. I need you to be gay…" I sigh.

"…Why do you need me to be gay? Jen, you…You actually sound really stressed. A-And, well, you're making less sense than Hirokazu! Tha-That…That has me more worried than the prospect of Takato in a coma did, somehow. Seriously, what's going on?"

"Because Takato needs someone and I need Takato to see someone. Xiaochun and my family are not going to stop trying to pair us up until he's seeing someone," I sigh. "I-I spent a long time with Takato while my family handled Xiaochun. He…I know how he feels about me, that's never going to be a problem for me but, Kenta? He was a wreck last night and I'd have done anything for him to feel better. I-I found out Lianjie gave you the letter thinking it was for you and, well, he mentioned that he and his co-workers, um…" I trail off.

"…His co-workers, too?" Kenta lets out a timid 'oh shit' squeak. There's the Kenta I know!

"Yeah, um, sorry but…If it counts, Lianjie really is flattered, he's not going to complain, trust me!" After that Kame-Chan's Playhouse rant last night, he has no right to complain… "Look, I-I really…Really want Takato to be happy. I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not but is there any chance you like him, Kenta? Please?"

"…I'm just going to say this once, Jen. ONCE," Kenta sounds…Serious. I-I'm worried I offended him. I mean, I am just going on the assumption that just because he's gay, too, means he'll go after anyone! So-Sorry, Kenta-kun, but…You are one of Takato's oldest friends and…!

Shit, I'm…batting a thousand with my gay friends, aren't I?

"Ke-Kenta, I-I…I swear, I mean no offense with this…I-I just really want—"

"Takato is SO ADORABLE sometimes, I-I just HAVE to hug him…" …And suddenly, the Kenta I never met before this conversation rears his head…

…Kenta, do you just…have a REALLY GAY twin or something? I-I…I mean…

I finally laugh, just as Kenta starts to as well. "O-Okay, I-I…I take it you…You like being 'out' all of a sudden, right?"

"As soon as I saw your name on my cell display…I-I guess I was hoping you'd gay it up a little, too, Takato and I did at first when we talked about the letter yesterday," Kenta explains. "I-I can't believe that happened, is Shiuchon okay?"

"She's convinced that when I went to cheer up Takato, I was going to confess to him. She thinks it's like manga or something: Takato loves me so she's letting him 'have' me…But…I'm sorry, Kenta, I'm straight. I just promised Takato I'd try to find him someone."

"Yo-You did? Jen, seriously, you really are Takato's best friend!"

"Thanks. Lianjie mentioned that you knew about the letter and that he suspected you. Sorry for the awkward start but…I didn't want to out Takato in case Lianjie was, as usual, wrong." I owe Lianjie lunch, now, his gaydar has proven effective for the first time…EVER! For Lianjie, that's an accomplishment.

"I understand," Kenta says. "I was going to see him in a little bit to ask how it went…Thank the Gods you called first, I mean, I had a ton of, um, stuff to celebrate with, y'know? I-I just know that'd…"

"Yeah, he…He might be a wreck," I say. "Please see him and…First thing you do, alone, since his parents can't know…" I trail off.

"Yeah?"

"…Give him a hug and, um, if you're…If you're okay with this, um…A kiss on the cheek and say, 'It's from Jen,' okay?" I blush, the kiss was sort of a last minute (or second) thing but…I'm hoping it might work as incentive for both of them.

"…Jen…Tha-That's…"

"…I really want him to be happy, Kenta, and...Please, try for me. I know I can't but…" I sigh, wiping my eyes, my voice cracks. "Takato's my…My best friend, I hated seeing him like that last night…" Gods, I'm…I'm starting to cry. "…He'd been in tears and he…I know he was convinced that everyone in my family probably never wanted to see him again, e-especially me" I sniff. "It's…It was the opposite, Kenta-kun, I-I wanted…I wanted him to be happy again, to let him know that all of us knew it was an accident. That he'd never hurt Xiaochun, that…That…I don't care if he loves me as more than a friend! If…If anything I…I was…"

"…Jen?"

"…I told him I was…honored…for that…" I whisper, wiping my eyes. "I-I'm sorry, Kenta, I-I don't…I don't know what's come over me, I just…I…"

"I'll give him that hug and kiss for you, don't worry," Kenta says, I hear him sniffing and his voice cracks slightly. "Jen, even if you don't feel the same right now…Takato is so damned lucky you're his best friend. Thanks for the heads up on what happened and, Gods, I'm so sorry about all the chaos…"

"Don't be," I say. "Thank you, Kenta. I'm sorry to put all this on you but, like I said, I'll do anything for Takato to be happy right now. Please, tell me how it goes, okay?"

"I will. And…Hey, I don't mind the idea of having a cute boyfriend," Kenta says with a chuckle.

"I thought Takato was adorable," I say with a laugh.

"He's BOTH! He's…Takadorable!"

We both start laughing. "Tha-Thank you, Kenta…" I say, smiling and wiping my eyes. "I-I'm really glad to hear Takato might, well…"

"I'll…approach it carefully, I mean, he's probably gonna be kinda out of it from last night, right?" Kenta asks.

"De-Definitely, he's afraid of his parents asking about what happened but…We agreed: Just tell them it was Xiaochun and he didn't realize it until she showed up." I explain. "Hopefully, they'll…buy that." I-I really hope they do. I couldn't live with myself if Takato's life completely fell apart last night…The park was bad enough, the bakery? Gods, I wished I asked Takato to call me or something or…Damn it, I-I should have told him to come over if things went badly, eve if he wouldn't have accepted the offer, he should have at least known he had that option!

But…The fact he didn't call or anything, I-I think if things did go bad…He'd have turned to me or, if he went to see someone else (like Kenta, I-I mean, if he knew Kenta was gay, too, he could've stayed with him!), I'd have heard…So, so far, so good. No news is good news and all that.

"I hope so…Gods, Jen, Takato was…I-I don't wanna make you feel bad but on top of the world when he showed me that letter. I-I mean…"

"I know…"

"Okay, before I go see him, just tell me everything that happened. From the beginning to now, please? I want to be prepared in case Takato…would rather not talk about it, you know? I mean, I just know he's going to expect me to ask for aaallllll the romantic details when he sees me, you know?"

"Good thinking…I guess it's best to start from, um, that morning at the bakery…" I begin.

This is going to take a while but…

…I really hope this works out. Takato-kun, you deserve to be happy and…If I can't be that person, well, if I were gay and you couldn't feel the same? I-I…I'll admit this:

Kenta would make an amazing boyfriend. Espcially, um, given how much he, apparently, admires LIANJIE!

…Seriously, why do so many of my friends have a thing for my siblings and I? What the hell ever happened to Ryou "I'm-too-sexy-for-reality" Akiyama? As Ruki describes him, at least…

...What? Even I'll admit: He's hot!


Matsuda Takato: Acceptance


I…I can't believe how last night and this morning went.

When my parents confronted me about the letter, I was so sure my life was over. I really was ready to dig that hole and bury myself, to do anything to escape that nightmare.

Instead?

We…We were up until almost midnight, talking. About…Me. And Jen.

And just…Everything that led up to…Last night…

My parents suspected it. They hoped the letter was from Jen, too, because of how happy I was. None of us, at all, thought Shiuchon would, um, be the one who wrote it. I even let them see the letter and explained the parts that made me suspect it was Jen, not her. They agreed, especially the 'floppy-eared partner' and, after I explained 'the joke,' the words 'big happy family.' I told them, though, with their support, I was…more than happy being their only son, knowing they supported me so much. And that they were disappointed that the letter wasn't from Jen, either.

My Dad even joked, "What if it turned out to be from his brother?"

I-I was…stunned…But said, "The-Then I'd know this was all a dream! Ha ha ha!" …And I'd have given Rinchei Kenta's number. Immediately.

And, the next morning? I woke up a little late but my parents were already baking. They even kept the bakery closed for a little while longer "for some reason."

My Dad greeted me downstairs after I changed. "Takato! Glad you're finally up! We just pulled breakfast out of the oven!"

"Bre-Breakfast? But…Shouldn't we be…?"

"It's okay, son, we can stay closed a little late today. We have a surprise…"

…A huge batch of Guilmon bread. Different from what we sell, with an extra crispy crust and much softer inside. It didn't do as well on the menu, "Version 2" we called it. It was taken off after a few months but because I said I liked it more than the regular, my parents make it for me around my birthday and special occasions. Or when they know I need some cheering up…

…And we ate Guilmon bread for breakfast. Everything was…NORMAL! I wasn't looked at differently, I wasn't a disappointment I was just Takato….And I had a bad night before, so my parents wanted to cheer me up. I couldn't believe any of it!

After breakfast, I went back to my room. My Dad told me to take the day off, again, and just cheer up. I was still…a little upset about the night before but…

…Jen accepts me, he was still going to be my best friend, He hugged me to prove he wasn't suddenly disgusted by me. I-I even had manju with him, from his Mom! To prove his family really wasn't mad at me over what happened.

And then my parents…I went from terrified to…

…Nothing's different. I was so sure things would be so radically different after they found out. Instead? They just want me to be happy again, like before.

I think that will be easy. Very easy.

I hear my Mom call from downstairs. "TAKATO! You have a guest! Kenta!" O-Oh…Kenta…

"Gre-Great! Um, se-send him up, thanks!" I call from my door, closing it and going to sit at the desk by my bed.

I forgot about Kenta…He's probably going to want to know how everything went last night. And, um, while I'm feeling a lot better over what happened? I-I don't…really want to relive most of it. And I just know I'm going to look like an idiot for not realizing the possibility of Jen's sister leaving that letter…I mean, looking back on how excited she was that morning? Ye-Yeah, there was…something going on…

…Sorry, Kenta-kun, but…Please, if…If I say "I don't want to talk about it," please believe me!

I hear footsteps coming down the hallway to my room. Kenta knocks on my door. "Takato?"

"He-Hey, come on in!" I say, clearing my throat. I don't want to look too upset over where I know this is going to go. I don't want to be rude to a friend, especially Kenta. He's the first person I ever told, even if it was because he, um, got ahold of my letter without me knowing.

Kenta opens the door, stepping inside with…Huh, I-I was expecting him to smilea little more. He closes the door behind him, clearing his throat. "So, um, how you feeling today?" What?

I shrug. "Um…Fi-Fine."

"You're, um, in a good mood, I take it?" Kenta glances away, clearing his throat. "I mean, um, give all that's been…going on…"

I nod, slowly. I motion for him to have a seat on my bed, I can't help but give him a weird look as he awkwardly walks across the room and sits. "Is…something wrong?"

"Is something…wrong?" Kenta repeats, looking to me. "With you, I mean…"

What is…? Wa-Wait…

"Did…Did you talk to, um, Jen by any chance?" I ask, quietly. Jen? …You told Kenta? Wa-Wat, did you know about…?

…Then again, Kenta does, um, ogle Rinchei a lot...

Kenta lets out a sigh, nodding. "Yeah, um, sorry, Takato-kun. H-He didn't tell me to out you or anything! A-Actually, um, he found out through Rinchei I knew about the letter, so…" He clears his throat again, glancing away and scratching the back of his had. "Ye-Yeah, um, apparently Rinchei…"

"H-He knows?" I ask.

"According to Jen, he takes my obsession with the aesthetics of his ass as a compliment," Kenta says with a laugh, I laugh, too. "H-He made sure I knew about you before he said anything about last night, though! Trust me, Jen was…WEIRD for, like, the first five minutes we spoke." Thank you, Jen, I knew you wouldn't out me.

"Re-Really? How weird?"

"I think he was waiting for me to either congratulate him or pretend to come out on his own or something!" Kenta laughs again. "When he mentioned 'lensed loves,' I knew I could tell him I was 'the same' as him, then he said it was Shiuchon, so I had to tell him how gross that was and…I'm just going to pretend to be bi whenever I'm around anyone named Li from now on, all right?" Kenta jokes, we both laugh. "But I won't hit on Jaarin, I'm not suicidal!"

"Is all…really forgiven?" I ask. "I-I'm…stll worried about, well…"

"Shiuchon's convinced that Jen's gonna confess to you, soon, and he says Rinchei and Jaarin are all for it," Kenta rolls his eyes. "Se-Seriously, Jen doesn't think anyone's gonna believe he's straight 'til his wedding day! And five thousand yen says, Rinchei's wedding toast will include the words, 'To my brother's beautiful bride…Who looks one HELLUVA lot like a girlier version of Takato!'"

Both of us double over. I-I can see Rinchei doing that!

Once we calm down, though, Kenta asks, "But…Takato, are you okay after…last night? Jen told me about the park."

I nod. "Things got so much better after that," I say. "Why?"

"Um…Could…Could you stand up, then? I-I…" Kenta clears his throat again. Is he…blushing?

I stand, shrugging once. "O-Okay?"

Kenta stands up, he walks over to me and stands less then a foot in front of me almost, um, staring me down.

There's a long silence.

"…Kenta—" Suddenly, Kenta wraps his arms around me. "Wh-What are—" …And he kisses me on the cheek, it only lasts…Gods, barely a second but, um, I blush an I know he's blushing, too.

We stay in this position for…I don't know how long before Kenta whispers, "That was from Jen."

"Fro-From…Jen…?"


?: Bringer of Chaos


Finally! They opened!

Ai-chan knew I was gonna be in the area today and begged me to get her some of that Guilmon bread! I was here a couple hours ago but they were still closed! It was two hours past the sign, too!

I wish Xiao-chan was here, I saw her on her way to the park last night, actually. Um, she was dressed really pretty! Like, um, she even had this silk flower in her hair and a thin chain necklace (I think it might've been real!). We didn't talk long, but we talked! She asked how she looked and…

…I sounded like a moron as usual.

"Ge-Great! Really pretty like…A…A…Flower! Or a rose or something!"

"Mako, a rose is a flower…"

"O-Oh…I knew that…"

I asked her why she wanted to look so nice, she said, "For someone amazing!" I knew that wasn't me, I think she might've been meeting some boy. I left her alone after that and went home.

Ai saw I was a little depressed, she and Goro (our dog) tried to cheer me up. In fact, part of why I'm here is because she, Goro and me split the last of the Guilmon bread in the backyard. Goro really likes Guilmon bread, too! Takato-san saw us splitting it with him once, he said he was reminded of his Grandpa in Okinawa: He thought Guilmon was some weird kind of DOG!

Takato-san has a weird family, sorta…Actually, a lot of the Tamers do. But I like that! I wish I was part of one of their weird families like, um, Xiao-chan's! The Li family's so cool! I hear a lot of stories about her older brothers and sisters. I, um, sometimes confuse them but…I know one is obsessed with games and works at an arcade. The other, um, when I mentioned Ai liked some manga she wouldn't let me look at (and I really want to! She reads it so much it's GOTTA be good!), Xiao-chan laughed really loud. When I asked what was so funny, she said, "You'll see when she finally lets you read it…"

Speaking of Ai, I really hope she and Goro don't mind the long wait. I sent her a text message that they were closed, she wrote back: Better not be spending my share of the bread money on manga, Mako!

I wasn't…!

…Anymore…

…I bet Xiao-chan would have gotten me inside the bakery! Especially with how she and her brother can go in there before they open if they knock hard enough! I was tempted to, but…They don't know us very well at all. We're just "the two kids who kinda Tamed Impmon," after all. We're still not sure which one of us, um, was supposed to be his Tamer, actually.

Ai n' Me fought over it a lot, but more as "Impmon's MY pet." We didn't even know what a Digimon was! We didn't watch the show 'til after he went back to that other dimension place and the other "Tamers" told us what a Digimon was…

…This orange haired girl was, um, really annoyed about us asking about Digimon, too, saying, "You've GOT to be," um, 'really-bad-word'-ing "kidding me." She had this blue and white shirt with a heart on it, I think her name was…Yuki or something…I don't know.

I only know Xiao-chan and it's because we share the same class. And I kinda know her brother since I see them together a lot, but I haven't really talked to him. Oh, yeah, and we know the Matsudas…But only 'cause we buy their Digimon bread. I never really spoke to Takato-san. He was the nicest about the whole "what's Digimon?" Thing. He let us borrow his Digimon Adventure DVD sets! We made sure we took good care of them and returned them quickly!

…Ai really likes this thing called "Taito," but she won't tell me what it is…And freaked out when I asked what it was in front of our parents a few times…Whatever! My sister's weird!

Anyway, I ran back to the bakery after I saw Takato-san walking down the street, I took that as a sign they finally opened! He was with the, um, other 'Tamer,' with the glasses. I forgot his name but they were talking, I think somethin' 'bout a dare.

"…Je-Jen reallyasked you to do that?"

"I'm serious…Thanks for, um, not getting upset. I-I know it was…"

"Tr-Trust me, after last night, I needed that! Ha ha ha, thanks!"

"A-Anytime…So, um, think Rinchei's on shift…?"

"I'm…afraid of both options."

"I'll call Jen if anything starts…A-And you don't mind me…?"

"He was really afraid of that happening and, um, I think he'd rather hear it from you than me."

"He's gonna be shocked but…Thank the Gods, Takato-kun. As usual, you're the luckiest guy I know…"

Jenrya must've given them a weird dare or something, I only heard about that much. They're goin' to that arcade again.

I walk up to the door, opening it. YES! They're open! And it's almost noon, I'm starving!

"Hey, Ma...sato, right?" Mr. Matsuda greets with a smile behind the register.

"Makoto, Matsuda-san," I say. "Can I have some Guilmon bread and…" I see the strawberry milk drinks by the counter in the refrigerator. "One of the strawberry milk drinks, please!" Just like Xiao-chan!

"For here or to go?"

"For here, I'm going to buy some for my sister before I leave, though," I add, so I won't forget.

"Great, we'll let you know when the batch in the oven comes out. Extra good warm, right?" Mr. Mastuda asks.

"Thanks!" I smile. He's right, and it's rare that another bakery even offers that! I remember Dad stopped goin' to one place because they'd just put out fresh bread but still gave him a huge batch of the cold stuff. It was before we were told about this place and they always let you know if they've got something in the oven!

Mr. Matsuda gets me my Guilmon bread and drink, I sit at the table and eat. There's a little television in the corner of the room, playing…Ugh…The news…

The door opens just as I finish the first 'ear' of my Guilmon bread. Three others walk inside, um, Yuki, the guy with the visor and…That other girl, she has reddish hair? I think she likes Takato-san.

"Hey, you guys just missed Takato," Mr. Matsuda says, waving. Mrs. Matsuda comes out of the back with fresh Renamon bread.

"Too bad, we heard from a witness at the arcade yesterday he's been in…an unusually good mood," Yuki says, crossing her arms. She looks to the other girl. "It wasn't you?"

"When Takato said he thought we were better as friends…I didn't push him," the other girl says, shrugging. "Hirokazu, are you sure about what you saw?"

"Dude, he and Kenta were all over that thing. I ain't ever seen Kenta grin like that either!" The boy with the visor, um, Hirokazu? He crosses his arms, too, adding, "Too bad, I wanted to know what the big deal was."

Mr. and Mrs. Matsuda exchange a look, then smile to each other, "Oh, um, just wait until he come back to ask..." Mrs. Matsuda says.

Yuki smirks. "I know that kinda smile…C'mon, we know."

"Sorry, that's all up to Takato," Mr. Matsuda says. "All I can say!"

"Uh-huh," Yuki's…smirk changes to something, um, 'suspicious.' Kinda reminds me of Ai and Taito. "If it wasn't Juri and sure as all HELL wasn't me…" She turns to the others, the Matsudas give each other a quick glance and then shake their heads to each other before turning back. The others didn't see it…

…This place is weirder than usual…

"Betcha it was Ryou," Hirokazu smirks, he gets a playful smack from the other girl. "He-Hey!"

"You know Ruki's always just joking about that," RUKI? O-Oh, I thought it…

"Juri, you obviously need to look up the definition of joke," Ruki says. "Akiyama ain't foolin' no-one."

"Ruki, I've seen him date," Juri says. "And if you're gonna claim that was his cousin or sister or something…"

"I never said he wasn't a pervert, either." …Ruki's mean…

"Okay, and now we're goin' somewhere that creeps me out," Hirokazu shudders. "Seriously, Ruki, stick to the gay jokes."

"Fine, fine," Ruki laughs. She turns to the Matsudas, saying. "Couple Renamon bread and a mocha-milk."

"The same," Juri says.

"TONS of those Red Bean rolls," Hirokazu says, throwing his arms wide. "Where'd Takato run off to, anyway?"

"Arcade with a friend," Mr. Matsuda says, sort of cautiously.

"Blue Shell?" Juri asks.

"I…don't know," Mr. Matsuda shrugs.

"Depends on which friend," Ruki says. "If it's Jen, he'd rather be anywhere else. If it's Kenta, he'd refuse to go anywhere else. Both for the same reason…" Huh? She's got that look, too. Juri and Hirokazu just laugh.

"It…wasn't either," Mr. Matsuda says. "Fr-Friend, I mean!"

"…Oh?" Ruki looks really surprised. "You're joking, right? It wasn't Jen, at least…?"

"No, Takato made a new friend and they're meeting at an arcade," Mrs. Matsuda says. "Haven't met his friend yet, to be honest, he just ran out this morning." What? But…I saw…

Takato-san and, um, that wasn't Jenrya so…Either Ryou or Kenta. But, um, wait…

…Are they…saying..?

"…I see," Ruki doesn't really look like she believes them. They all pay for their orders and sit and the table in front of mine. Mrs. Matsuda takes over the cash register while Mr. Matsuda gos in back.

"I'm gonna call him after we eat," Hirokazu says. "If it wasn't Jen, then…"He trails off.

"Some girl from school, maybe?" Juri asks.

"Off by one word, Katou."

"Ruki…Be nice to Takato, he got a love letter!" Juri says.

"Could've been Kenta's," Ruki points out. "Right, Shiota? You saw both of them hovering over it. Hell, could've been from one to the other or somethin' for all we know!" Wha…?

"Well, I just saw Kenta walk outta the snack bar, Rinchei followed him with the thing and…Kenta had this huge grin for, like, the first half, then Takato tried to talk to him but…Couldn't hear a damned thing! If I didn't have to meet Ryou for a nausea-thon on that roller coaster sim—"

"Wait, wait, gotta know, gotta know," Ruki interrupts. "Who won?"

"Moi," Hirokazu smirks. "Longest, most intense track and Ryou only survived five trips before…Ah, non-lunch-friendly details occurred." He takes a bite of his bread with a grin. "Anyway, I saw 'em from the doors: Takato looked nervous as hell, then Kenta said something 'bout his glasses, I dunno, it looked like that—"

"Glasses?" Ruki asks, giving Hirokazu a weird look.

"Yeah, I know, but…They were both super-happy after that and lookin' over the letter again and again! I tried to tell Ryou but he'd been in line so long and…Not like we could understand each other anyhow!" Hirokazu shrugs.

"What if it was from Kenta...?" Ruki trails off.

"Again, Ruki, the only way your gaydar's ever gonna be right is if you keep on accusing everyone of this," Hirokazu rolls his eyes.

"Just sayin' it's kinda weird that Kenta's glasses would suddenly cheer up Takato."

"Yeah, that was—"

The bell over the door suddenly chimes really fast and loud, the front door flies open with a gust of air. The others and I are startled, Mr. Matsuda runs back up front…

…Xiao-chan?

Shiuchon is standing in the door frame, she looks really upset, staring down at the floor. Wh-What's wrong? "…I'm sorry…" She whispers. So-Sorry? For what?

"Sh-Shiuchon, what…are you…?" Mrs. Matsuda begins, giving Mr. Matsuda a worried look.

Suddenly, she charges forward through the bakery, screaming, "IT'S MY FAULT! PLEASE DON'T HATE TAKATO-KUN!" She runs to Mr. and Mrs. Matsuda, hugging them and crying. "IT'S MY FAULT! I'M SORRY! PLEASE DON'T HATE TAKATO OR JIANLIANG!" Wh-What?

"Sh-Shiuchon—Wa-Wait! No! We don't—"

"PLEASE! DON'T HATE THEM!"

I look over to the other "Tamers." Juri is watching with this shocked look on her face, while Hirokazu is dialing on his cell phone and, um…Ruki…?

She looks like she's recording this with her cell phone, whispering the words, "This. Is. Beauitiful."

…What's…going on…?


Li Xiaochun: Cheer Up


Aftr breakfast, while Jianliang made an 'important phone call,' I was playing a Hide and Seek rematch with Lianjie in Kame-Chan's Playhouse. He said it would "make me feel better" but…

"HA! FIRST ONE I FOUND! C'MERE YOU PURPLE SHELLED LITTLE…!" …I think he just wanted 'revenge.' "YEAH! You WAIT THERE with the OTHER TURTLES and you just SUFFER! SUFFER LIKE YOU DESERVE!" Um…

"Lianjie, the 'Found Spot' is a tea party…" It is, the turtles (after you find them) drink tea, crumpets and Turtleberry Pie on these pink and orange mushroom tables and chairs!

"I poisoned the tea" ...I'm a little worried about my brother right now. "And the crumpets…And I DEFILED the Turtleberry Pie!"

…Jaarin unplugged the playstation a little after that, saying, "Lianjie, I think you might need a break from this game. Forever."

"…Xiao, can I borrow your Sparkle-chan plushie and stick some pins in it for a little while, at least?"

"…Let him have that much, Xiaochun, just as long as he promises to keep the maniacal giggling confined to his room." I got the plush, but made him promise not to rip her up! "You can only put pins in her, don't rip her head off—"

"A swift death is TOO GOOD for her!" …I'm kinda worried about my brother right now.

But I'm mostly worried for Jianliang, though. I-I should've known better last night. I thought about it all as I ran home, trying to cry as little as I could after I found out Takato…

…He was in love with Jianliang! I-I should have seen it! They both act the same way around each other, smiling a ton and all that, and…I thought, though, it was just Jianliang! Takato liked Juri but, after Jianliang said he turned her down a while ago…I thought it meant he liked someone else! Maybe me…He's always doing nice things for me…

…But also Jianliang. I-I'm the little sister he wishes he had! I-I guess that's…not too bad.

But, the way he's denying it so much! I'm sorry I told our parents, I forgot that's…REALLY scary for someone like Takato but they didn't care! The-They all laughed and talked abut how happy you two were gonna be! EVEN LIANJIE!

I think he just doesn't want to admit to it for my sake…That's why no-one told me he was going to see Takato after he checked on me…

…Jianliang, you love Takato! You both want to have a big happy family someday!

…He told me about that. That was one of the things that made Takato think Jianliang wrote the letter.

"This is…definitely one of the things that, um, confused him. Takato and I always joked about wanting a big happy family. Since, um, Takato's an only child and I have you guys, so—"

"So you'd adopt a toooooon of kids?"

"…Xiao…chun…! N-No! As in…Takato wishes he had a big happy family like US!"

"Oh, I think I get it, now…"

"…That depends, Takato wants a big happy family by having a bunch of brothers and sisters or he wants a big happy family by marrying into such a family?" My smile and laugh told him, he wasn't fooling me. "…And just like Takato, suddenly I wish I had a big HAPPY family!" He had that 'annoyed' tone but I know he doesn't mean it.

I gave him a hug, saying,"You mean you don't like us?"

"…Depends, what day of the week is it?"

Ha ha ha!

"Tuesday!"

"I'm scheduled to hate Lianjie in an hour until five, but I can easily squeeze you into my schedule," Jianliang said that but he was giving me a hug, too. "Feeling better?"

"More when Takato does…"

"Oh, I had…a talk with someone who can help with that," I really liked the way Jianliang was smiling when he said that. He asked him out! I knew it! That had to the the important phone call! I even heard Jianliang say 'lensed love' at some point! Maybe he and Takato are gonna tell their friends!

And, speaking of friends…

Jianliang, you never had any friends like Takato before. Or the others but especially Takato! Your last 'best friend' was…I-I don't even remember meeting him! You only saw him at school, an even then it was just "once in a while!" Lianjie at least had the "I'm the only person in school who can play Zelda for seventy-two-straight hours" excuse..

…Dad wasn't sure if Lianjie should'a been grounded or sent to Nintendo for "lab testing," after that one.

Takato, if I can't have you I at least wanna be part of how you and Jianliang got together…That'd make Jianliang really happy, and he's always trying to make me happy so I should try to make Jianliang happy. That's…That's how it should be! Right?

…I still feel bad about it all. Especially since Takato cried a lot…Jianliang says he doesn't cry much these days or "anything like last night." …I'm sorry, Takato-kun, I-I should've known better!

Jianliang spent a lot of time making me feel better this morning, though. He just took a quick break because his cell phone rang. I'm glad it did, too, I wanted to grab something out of my room. Jianliang's door is open a crack as I pass by…

"Great, Kenta-kun…Great, thank you. So, he's really happy? …Thank the Gods, I-I swear, last night I...Yeah, I-I hugged him…Five minutes sounds about right, give or take," Jianliang laughs. I knew it! He's with Takato! "Did he appreciate, the um…Kiss?" Jianliang asks, nervously. Then laughs. "I-I had a feeling…Thanks. Um…How did last night go after the park?"

I keep close to the door but to my best to hide and keep a eye on things. I'm sorta worried about that, Jianliang told me how badly Takato wanted this to be a secret—

"THE-THEY WHAT?" Ji-Jianliang? He stands straight up, hitting his palm on the desk. "Gods, please! Tell me you're joking! PLEASE! Is he okay? How did his parents react? Is he still at home or did…Did…" Ji-Jianliang looks like he's about to cry…

…Takato's parents found out? Tha-That means…I-I know this story, it's in almost all of Jialing's manga…The-They won't let Takato see Jianliang or something like that, the-they'll hate them because they're in love, just…Just going by how upset Jianliang is…

I-I'm…I'm so sorry, Takato-kun…I'm so sorry

I wipe my eyes and run to the door.

Don't cry, Jianliang! I won't let anythinghappen to you and Takato! I WON'T!


Li Jianliang: Phone Calls


Thank the Gods Kenta called a few minutes ago, I needed a break from Xiaochun and her…DELUSIONS! I am NOT IN LOVE WITH TAKATO, XIAOCHUN!

This is going to be a really long day…I actually asked anyone in my family who was planning to leave the house to carry around some sort of good luck charm for Takato and Kenta. It's time to see if they had any effect. Only Xiaochun and I are home alone right now, and I kept my lucky Terriermon and Guilmon pins…Xiaochun, of course, noticed I was wearing them and saw it as 'evidence.' AUGH! It's a good luck charm!

…If it wasn't for the fact I didn't want to out Kenta: I'd have told her about my phone call this morning!

Still, when it came to Kenta's call: It started out okay…

"Kenta-kun?"

"On a date with my lensed love, Jen-kun! He's so cute… We're at The Blue Shell."

Great, Kenta-kun…Great, thank you. So, he's really happy?" I made a personal note to call Lianjie and tell him to treat them to a huge feast on me! He left for work a little after his, um, 'voodoo' escapade with Sparkle-Chan…

…I'm going with my 'ignore it and hope it does't escalate beyond anyone's control' approach for this.

"We both are…Takato-kun's feeling so much better after, well…Jen, I-I had no idea you'd do so much for a friend like this. I-I'm amazed! I wish I came to you for more problems now!" Come as often as you need, I owe you, Kenta-kun.

"Thank the Gods, I-I swear, last night I..." I had no idea what to say other than 'was afraid my best friend wouldn't speak to me again.'

"…Spent a good five minutes hugging our lensed love?" Kenta likes calling Takato that, which I think Takato also appreciates.

Five minutes sounds about right, give or take," I couldn't help but laugh a little. I knew how badly Takato wanted that hug and appreciated it. Though, I-I was afraid of what Kenta might say to my next question… "Did he appreciate, the um…Kiss?"

"Jen-kun, can I borrow a few more trasferrable kisses from you? Takato-chan's been begging for them all morning! But he is very good at returning the favor." And that was when I knew: Everything for Takato was going to work out! Thank. The. Gods.

"I-I had a feeling…Thanks. Um…How did last night go after the park?" Obviously good! I mean…Takato' got Kenta, Takato's kissing Kenta, I heard Takato laughing in the background a few times…Takato's happy again! And that—

"Oh, um, his parents know. About, um, everything, actually—" –WAS GONNA GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK!

I bolted out of my chair, shouting, "THE-THEY WHAT? Gods, please! Tell me you're joking! PLEASE! Is he okay? How did his parents react? Is he still at home or did…Did…" I was…about to cry. I-I saw how scared Takato was at the idea of them finding out…

What the hell kind of friend doesn't a least OFFER his apartment?

"Je-Jen? Jen-kun! Re-Relax! It's me!" I-I felt better, hearing Takato's voice. I also heard a dor slam, but ignored it. "The-They knew, Jen…They knew and it never bothered them! No-Nothing happened, just…confirmation. They, um, were actually sorta sad I didn't end up with you but also felt bad for Shiuchon." …Did I really hear all that right?

"Re-Really?" I whisper. "Your family…?"

"After Kenta's confession…I brought him downstairs, my Mom asked why I looked so happy and…I gave Kenta a hug, saying, 'Jen played matchmaker!' A-And I...kissed him on the cheek. Everyone was…happy, Jen—Oh, Wait…" There was some muffled talking. "Except Kenta, sorry. Um, he says that I managed to take three times as many years off his life with that one kiss than everything Hirokazu and Ruki have ever done to him combined!" More muffled talking. "…And that apparently makes me 'one hell off a kisser!'"

I almost dropped my phone from laughing. "Tha-That's great, Takato-kun…S-So everything…Nothing's wrong?"

"Nothing and thanks for sendng Kenta to cheer me up, Jen-kun," Takato said. "You're really the best person…Ever! Kenta agrees."

"Just be happy, okay?" I said. "I take it you're both on your first date…"

"Yep, Rinchei got here just as we did and…Can I ask a question?"

"Sure."

"Um, Rinchei says you asked him and the others to carry some good luck charms for us? Really?" Takato asks.

"I-I though it'd be, well, a little nice," I say. "You don't mind do you?"

"N-Not at all! I appreciate the support, we both really do but…Um…About his choice…"

"What do you mean?"

'…Why is Rinchei-san's 'good luck Takato and Kenta' charm a purple stuffed turtle with dozens of huge pins going through it? He says its name is 'Sparkle-chan' and she's his 'Good luck Takato and Kenta charm.'" LIANJIE! …I heard muffled talking from Kenta. "…Kenta thinks it's a supportive statement on the yin and yang of masculine and effeminate stereotypes regarding homosexual relationships and how, in the end, such an image comes from the person, not their orientation." …For real? You two are giving Lianjie waaay too much credit on both his artistic side and ability for 'deep thinking.'

"...Tell Kenta it's just proof you shouldn't cheat at hide and seek while playing against Lianjie."

Muffled talking. "…That was Kenta's second guess. Kame-chan's Playhouse, right?" You're kidding me, right, Takato?

"Kenta's played that?"

Kenta picked up. "You ask if I've ever played Kame-chan's Playhhouse, Jen?"

"…Yes."

"I'll say this once: Rumors of my heterosexuality have been GREATLY exaggerated. I played Kame-chan's playhouse as a kid, my Grandmother got it for me not knowing anything about video games so she didn't eve know it was a girl's game. She just saw the '5+' rating and figured my parents wouldn't object to it." If they knew anything about Kame-chan's Playhouse, they would've. "I recognized Sparkle-chan immediately. Ha ha ha! Rinchei told us how much he hates that hide and seek mini-game, now, and how he thought playing it would make Shiuchon feel better last night. I told him how much of a cheater Sparkle-chan is in all of the mini-games."

"Did you…give my brother tips on beating Kame-chan's Playhouse?"

"Sorta."

"Kenta, no offense but…" I trailed off.

"…That explains a lot, doesn't it?"

We both laughed.

"I'm really glad things are working for you two, thanks for giving Takato that hug and kiss for me, Kenta."

"Thank you for telling me you wanted to cheer him up…Takato's definitely happier than he's been in years, Jen-kun! Me, too…Thanks for the help and support. Especially the support, Takato told me just…how scared he was when he called you."

"Tell Takato he's my best friend, that'll never change. And I hope you both found 'the one.'"

"I'm pretty sure one of us did…" Kenta trailed off, I could sense how happy he was. That made me even happier.

"I'll let you two have fun on your date, tell Lianjie I said 'hi' and to stop trying to voodoo Sparkle-chan."

"I don't think either of us can talk him out of that one, Jen-kun, but I'll try."

"I know, it's hopeless but…Worth a try. Congratulations, especially for Takato's parents accepting him like that. I-I was scared to death, Kenta-kun. I don't know what I'd do if…"

"Je-Jen, don't cry again or anything, just trust us when we say 'I love you' to each other and that…Takato's got an awesome family!"

"Thanks, Kenta. Good luck," I said, smiling. I-I'm really happy for my friends. Especially Takato but…

…From the sound of things: Kenta was a little lonely, too. I'm glad he's happy, too, then.

I hang up a little after wishing Takato good luck and my congratulations once more. He thanked me again for sending Kenta to see him and for Lianjie's…"supportive good luck charm." I'm actually reminded that I do have a big happy family because of that. I don't quite know why…

…Of course, speaking of said "big happy family," Xiaochun's…vanished! I searched the entire apartment but she's gone!

What the hell, Xiaomei? I-I thought we were having a talk—Oh, GODS! Don't tell me she wants to spy on Takato and Kenta's date or something…Make sure her "boyfriend" is happy with who he "really loves" and if there's the slightest hint otherwise…

…Xiaocupid to the rescue with her "in denial" brother. Gods, help me!

My phone suddenly goes off as I go back to my room. I'm willing to be a million Yen it's Kenta or Takato telling me to do something about my sister…

…Or…Not…

Hirokazu? Why's he calling me?

"Hirokazu-kun?"

"Uh…Jen, you might wanna run down to the bakery right now." I hear…screaming in the background. What the hell?

"What? Why?"

"Just…Listen…" Hirokazu holds his phone away from his ear, the screaming is suddenly much clearer and much more recognizable.

"DON'T HATE TAKATO! PLEASE! I'M SORRY! I'M SO SORRY! PLEASE LET HIM LOVE JIANLIANG! PLEASE!"

"Shi-Shiuchon…We…We don't hate Taka—"

"I'M SO SORRY!"

…Gods, kill one of us. I don't care which one at this point. Just. Do. It. PLEASE!

Hirokazu puts the phone back to his ear. "So, uh, yeah…Um…Your sister's kinda freakin' out and Takato's parents are, um, tryin' their best to calm her down but…Shit!" Wonderful choice of words, Hirokazu. Very fitting. My thoughts exactly: SHIT!

"Hirokazu, just…Just so I can mentally prepare myself: How many people mutually known to myself and Takato are present at the bakery right now? Please, be completely honest. I need to know."

"Dude, the only reason I'm the one callin' ya is 'cause Ruki's too busy recording this with her cell phone!" Of course she is. Of course Ruki Makino is there. The Gods would never forgive themselves if Ruki Makino was not present for my sister outting Takato and me, despite being straight, to all of our friends. "Juri's here, too and…Uh…Jen, when you come by to pick up Shiuchon, um, could you lend me about ten thousand Yen?"

I'm afraid to ask, but I do, "Why do you need ten thousand yen?"

"'Cause Juri n' me've had a bet goin' about you guys for months!" …I didn't hear that right.

"You mean you and Ruki have had a bet going for months, right?"

"Nah, Juri, Ruki opted outta this one."

"May I ask why Juri Katou actually took part in such a bet?"Sh-She wanted to go out with Takato! Are you telling me she suspected him as gay? A-And that we were together? N-No, this can't be what it sounds like! It has to be a gay vs straight bet and...Wait, that would mean she bet on...? ...I-I can't be hearing any of this right!

"She and I've been betting if you two were an item ever since we saw you two in your tree the first time! Juri thinks you're an item, I didn't. Should'a known better..." Hirokazu bet straight? For rea—Wait Ever since…?

They saw us...in…our…tree? Hirokazu and Juri even referred to it as our tree…

OUR TREE—Wait…

…He also said the first time…

…That…tree…

…Before the day is out, I shall return to that tree. I shall admire its beauty, I will fondly remember the day Takato suggested we hang out in its branches, all the fun times we've shared playing DS games against each other in said tree, just laughing, having fun as friends should, not knowing my friends and family were all watching this entire time and assuming it meant we were a couple.

Yes, I will admire that tree…Then I will spread as much gasoline as I can afford on it, light a match with glee and watch AS IT BURNS TO THE GROUND AS I DANCE AROUND IT WITH JOY LAUGHING LIKE THE DIGIMON KAISER!

…Okay, maybe I won't do that. It's probably illegal, anyway. Arson an all.

But it is really tempting.

"…Takato and I aren't a couple, Hirokazu, Xiaochun just thinks we are. He's with…Um…Oh, you all know, anyway, so SCREW IT! He's with KENTA! NOT ME!" Sorry, guys, but I'm so damned tired of this! First my family, then Takato's NOW OUR FRIENDS? AND JURI? JURI KATOU? THE GIRL WE ALL EXPECTED TAKATO TO END UP WITH? THE BIGGEST REASON NONE OF US—OR AT LEAST I—DIDN'T SUSPECT TAKATO AS GAY? HER, TOO? ARE YOU SERIOUS? ARE YOU FREAKING SERIOUS?

XIIIAAAOOOCHUUUN…!

"Wa-Wait! Se-Seriously? He's with Kenta? Yo-You sure? …Kenta? I-I mean…KENTA?" Crap, given Hirokazu's sudden change in tone, I'm worried I did a really bad thing just now…Sorry, Kenta…I-I shouldn't have done that…

I sigh, feeling a wave of guilt over actually outting two my of my best friends. I-I just…I lost it, I'm sorry. "Yes. Sorry, Hirokazu, I hope you have no problem with Ken—"

Hirokazu's voice goes slightly faint as he screams, "HE'S WITH KENTA! PAY UP, JURI! HA! …Wait…I'll ask…" Hirokazu puts the phone back to his ear. "Juri only has to pay half if you two broke up…Did you? Sorry if it's a sore spot, dude, but…Well, I gotta—" GODS! ARE YOU SERIOUS, HIROKAZU?

"We were never together," I say, trying to keep as calm as humanly possible. Which is taking more willpower than I ever knew I had. More than I ever knew existed in the cosmos. "I'm straight, Takato and Kenta are on a date at The Blue Shell right now—Don't disturb them!" I add that last part quickly, realizing the others might just march down there for 'proof.' I'd rather Takato and Kenta's first official date wasn't as awkward as this conversation…

…But something tells me I'm going to have to make another phone call after this one. Xiaochun, why do you do things like this? Why? Do you hate me that much? Can't you pick Lianjie as your favorite 'gay brother?' Please? Pretty please? I'll play Kame-Chan's Playhouse with you as much as you want if you will just believe I'm straight—Wait, I just realized how contradictory that offer was…

…Seriously, that game is beyond cutesy.

"I won't, this is too good to miss," Hirokazu chuckles. "Tell 'em we're all glad for 'em, though! And Ruki, too, she's lovin' this!" …I'm sure she is. I'm sure Ruki is as close to Heaven without actually dying as a human can possibly be right now.

Ruki isn't going to let any of us live this down, I just know it. Decades down the road (or next week with the way Xiaochun is driving me out of my mind), she will begin my eulogy with 'Takato and Jenrya sitting in tree…'

"I'll tell them and I'll be there soon, just…try to calm her down until I get there," I sigh, hanging up. I immediately dial Takato's cell. Sorry to interrupt your first date with Kenta, Takato, but this should be addressed. Also, you have a birthday coming up, right? If you still want that little sister, offer's still open! Or, at least, a little Xiaochun plushie you can stick pins in! I'm sure Lianjie has plenty of pins to spare if you ask nicely!

"Jen?" Takato answers.

"…Takato-kun, we have a situation at the bakery. I apologize in advance and if you want to murder Xiaochun for this I won't blame you at all."

"…Jen…?"


Matsuda Takato: School


It's the end of break, first day of school. Kenta and I are still together and very happy. Especially when we found out our friends all support us and, um, a few even suspected us. I-I apologized to Jen for the tree, a lot. I didn't expect anyone would ever see us. Or immediately jump to that conclusion. I feel really bad for how much of an awkward position I put him in, between the tree and Shiuchon's letter. I'm sort of amazed he didn't snap and chop down that tree…

…But I did notice a large dent in it and a bandage on Jen's hand a few days after the, um, "bakery incident." He said he "broke a board wrong" with Chou-sensei.

Hirokazu made him feel a little better about the tree, at least. He said, "Jen-kun, calm down! It's just a tree! Kenta n' me have one, too!" Then he didn't help. "We just, ah, didn't share the same branch like you n' Takato did." …Yeah…Um…I-I…I kinda picked that tree 'for a reason,' let's say. "Juri thought you both looked really cute, holding Takato in your arms like that!" Actually, now that I think about it: That was the day before I noticed the huge dent in the trunk of the tree…

…Sorry, Jen-kun…

I found out, um, even my parents saw us in that tree a few times.

"It's…part of why we were so shocked that Jen didn't feel the same, you two were in that tree so much! I-I'd see you two in it on my way to the supplier now and then. It's…how we sort of came to suspect things," my Dad told me this. "I mean, especially the way Jenrya was holding onto you in that branch and smiling and things like that." Even with my Dad's full support: Hearing him say something like that was really embarrassing. It did help me understand how embarrassed Jen was…But only a little.

Jen forgives me, though, he says, "I don't mind, you just…wanted an excuse to be close, right?"

"Ye-Yeah…But…"

"Takato, trust me, I'm okay with it. Everything's been cleared up, even with…You-know-who…" Shiuchon…

…She was really afraid my parents hated me for being in love with Jen, when she heard Jen get worried about them finding out. I told Jen not to be mad at her, she did it out of, um, "misguided concern." When Jen told us what was happening, Kenta and I ran back to the bakery and I did my best to calm her down. I even ignored the others that were there, I got her a few bags of custard pan and explained everything…And, um, the others…sort of got the full story because of that…

…I can't believe Hirokazu had a bet with JURI over who I was with! The-They both already said they knew I was gay but didn't know who I was with other than "the obvious choice" (Jen) because of, um, that tree I liked. Everyone's okay with us, no-one objected which was a huge relief. Hirokazu even told Kenta he'd known "for a looooong time." Kenta asked how long and…

…Let's just say Rinchei's Sparkle-chan good luck charm got a few extra pins in it. Hirokazu's exact words were, "'Cause I'll never forget how much you played Kame-Chan's Playhouse after your Grandma gave it to you that year! Dude, that's…No offense but…"

Ruki finished for him: "Gay incarnate! Boys who like girls don't play Kame-chan's Playhouse, Kenta." …Rinchei begs to differ on that.

Shiuchon felt better, everyone felt bad about the "love letter" fiasco. Jen and I had to explain that since, well…

…I know Jen supports Kenta and I and has no problem with his gay friends but, um, I think he was starting to get annoyed by the fact his entire family, my family and all of our friends were convinced we're an item. Jen forgives me for it, though, and said it shouldn't bother him that much. And he felt better when even Ruki admitted, he's not an easy target for gay jokes for her, even with everything that's happened, she only has one or two "good" "Jen the closet case" jokes that she promised she'd "wait a few weeks" on using…Jen thanked her.

My parents were relieved by everyone's support and weren't mad at Shiuchon for, um, outting Kenta and I to our friends. Like I said, she did it with my best interests in mind. And they were, um, sort of "moved" by how concerned she was for me, they said she calmed down a lot before Kenta and I got there and, um, what I saw was not calm! I sort of appreciated it and apologized again for the "love letter" fiasco…

…She gave me a hug and said she wasn't mad and was glad I was happy with Jen. Kenta corrected her on that part, he proved it with a kiss on the cheek. And nearly jumped out of his skin when Hirokazu cheered, "GO KENTA!" He was not expecting such enthusiasm from Hirokazu. None of us were!

Jen came to the bakery and helped sort everything out with everyone. I think even Ruki felt a little bad for Shiuchon, actually, when we explained the "love letter" story. I also saw Makoto there but unlike everyone else he just kept to himself and poked at his bread. I think he was trying to figure out a polite way to leave or something, he looked really awkward. I thought it was, um, the "subject matter" but…

…When he did leave with a huge batch of fresh Guilmon bread, he bowed to Kenta and I and sad he was happy for us. So I don't think it was that.

It's lunch now, I met Jen and Kenta at the school track bleachers. Jen brought extra manju for Kenta and I, a gift from his Mom to celebrate us being together…

…Well, actually, that was the manju she gave us a few weeks ago. This batch is Jen's request: To celebrate the fact Shiuchon finally believes that he's not madly in love with me. Ha ha ha, I-I do my best not to laugh at stuff like that in front of Jen. He, um, doesn't know this but…The others (even Kenta) still call him "Takato's other boyfriend." Sorry, Jen, but…I promise, I won't invite you into any more trees.

Kenta picks apart his manju saying, "So, how's everything at home? Rinchei finally forgive Sparkle-chan?"

"…He printed up guides. He's not quitting until he gets 'Triple Hearts' on every level," Jen rolls his eyes.

"Triple hearts?" I ask.

"It's the ranking system," Kenta explains. "Triple Hearts is the best ranking for each level. And Sparkle-chan makes it really hard to obtain because she cheats so much."

"I've never heard him scream at a video game so much in my entire life," Jen says.

"Yeah, um, despite being, y'know, a game for a little girl: Kame-chan's Playhouse can get pretty hard at times," Kenta says. "How is he so far?"

"All but three levels…We're all getting a little worried, actually."

"Is Shiuchon okay?" I ask. "I mean…She's over the whole thing, right?"

"Yeah, it was just, y'know, 'puppy love,' she had a huge crush on you it…It was just that," Jen explains. "She's over it, as long as you're happy. She thought it'd play out like one of Jialing's manga, I guess: You like me, therefore she gives you up for me."

"Thanks for sending Kenta over with the hug and kiss, Jen-kun," I smile. Even after all that, Jen is still our biggest supporter. He even treated the three of us to a movie a few days after his hand felt better…

…Jen, be honest: You punched the tree, didn't you?

"Anything for my best friend, Takato-kun," Jen smiles. "Everything working out?"

"Great, Jen-kun," Kenta says. "And thank your Mom for the manju, it's great!"

"I asked her to make it extra special," Jen smiles. "I'm glad everything's finally worked out…"

I nod. "Yeah, but…I hope Shiuchon's next crush works out better. I-I still feel bad for how much she cried."

"She's really over it," Jen says. "In fact, I almost forgot…" Jen reaches into his vest pocket. "Do NOT tell Lianjie about one of these…" He pulls out…

…HA HA HA!

Jen holds up two mini-plush turtles on a chain: I don't know the other, but one of them is Sparkle-chan. "She wanted you two to have these for 'good luck and good love.'"

"I'll…take Sparkle-chan," I say. "'Cause if Rinchei caught Kenta with it…"

"…I'd be covered in pins," Kenta finishes with a laugh, taking the other plush turtle, a blue shelled turtle. "Thank her for us, Jen-kun. We'll keep them for good luck and good love."

"She'll be very happy to hear that,"Jen smiles.

"You've forgiven her for everything, right?" Kenta asks. "You were…really stressed out for a week."

Jen laughs, shaking his head, "She's my little sister…I have to! And it was all to try to make me happy, so…Yeah, she's forgiven for everything."

I smile, "Great! One big happy family, right?"

"We're Lis, Takato, that's not possible."

We all laugh.


Li Xiaochun: Dui Mian De Nan Hai Kan Guo Lai…


It's the first day of school since break.

I'm so glad Takato's parents weren't mad at him…Or me, I-I…I was just really afraid he was gonna be kicked out or something like in Jialing's manga. They told me, a lot, that they were happy if Takato's happy…Just like me, I guess.

I really wish things went different but, in the end, Takato was really happy with Kenta-kun. Jianliang even treated them to a movie. And how happy all their friends were for them, especially Hirokazu-kun! He was glad Kenta-kun had someone, he was worried he'd only have "Lianjie to admire."

…Kenta-kun, I'd have helped you if I knew! You like games, right? Lianjie loves games, you two could go to the arcade on dates! Or just play games at home, I think Lianjie'd like that, too, someone to play with during a Final Fantasy Series Run or a "Suikothon!" Jianliang got him into Digimon World, too, he's been playing the second one—Well, he was until, um, he got obsessed with Kame-chan's Playhouse…

…Um, he really hates Sparkle-chan. She cost him the third heart on the Turtleberry Pie game, too. Even if it was just pins, I don't think my Sparkle-chan plush is ever gonna be the same. Actually, it's still full of pins, he keeps it next to him while he plays for "good luck."

…And then adds a pin every time she costs him the best level rank…He even bought some after we ran out at home! "Goin' to the craft store! Buyin' pins for Sparkle-chan~!"

Um, I think Lianjie might've gone insane over break, actually. I think Kenta's happier and MUCH better off with Takato, anyway.

Class is about to start after lunch, I'm getting my assignment from my locker at the back of the classroom—What the…?

There's a piece of paper with a bright pink heart on it with my name in purple.

I unfold it. It's…written in really bad Chinese but…Um…I can read it. It's really short, whoever wrote it is…just starting to learn, I think.

Xiao-Ai

Wo ai ni. Ni shi dai mei!

Dui mian de Xiaochun kan guo lai!

Kan guo lai!

Kan guo lai!

Ai ni,

-Ni De Mixinyiren

…From my, um, secret admirer…? And, um, "Xiaochun from across, look my way?"

Wait, across…? Like who sits next to me? That's…

I look over to my seat…

…Makoto-kun waves to me, "Ni…Ni hao…" He whispers, smiling a little.

Ma-Makoto-kun…?

~Owari~


Ori's Notes:

*Collapses*

I…I…I DID IT! It...took months but...!

I-I DID IT…! IT IS…COMPLETE…! I-I can finally rest…in peace...! Goodbye, every...one...! Takato, my tortoise, you may have my video game collection...Taiki, you may have my unfinished fics to do with as you desire...

Now, with my last breaths…I…leave these notes…Written in my own blood, sweat and tears…My last words…For this Earth…!

Dear Kohaku-Koneko

Sorry this request-fic took so long.

Ori

PS: Taiki Matsuki's gay. You know it in your heart to be true, Twerp-chan! ACCEPT IT!

*Dies*

I decided to start Turtle Week with this fic, since it was a request-fic and I took forever to write it. For those wondering what "Turtle Week" is: Turtle Week is the celebration of the one year anniversary of the adoption of Takato, my Co-Writing Tortoise. Takato has been with me since Mirai No Kodomo Take Two and he's continued to help me with my writing, both fan fiction and original works, to this day. Thank you, Takato, this week is to celebrate you and turtles everywhere! GO TURTLES! TURTLES ROCK!

Everyone, adopt a turtle: They will fill your lives with shelled joy! Turtle!

Seriously, though, sorry this fic took so long. I had a few ideas on how it should play out but I kept getting stuck between each POV, especially after Xiaochun shows up and tells Jen she hates him. Part of the request involved Kenta having a thing for Lianjie, too, which was fun to play with (Actually, I noticed I've been joking about that a lot in recent fics. And, like I've said many times before: Even if it's not a slash fic, even if it's a simple comedy or an epic drama like My Brother, Kenta Kitagawa shall forever be gay. Not bi, GAY! Because there is absolutely NOTHING straight about that Tamer!). And, of course, the main focus had to be "Xiaochun has a thing for Takato." I had too much fun with stressing Jen out in this one, by the way. And tormenting Lianjie with a video game of all things…That more or less wrote itself after Jen came back from the park: I couldn't resist the idea of Lianjie being such a hardcore gamer that he'd be pissed at a cheating character in a game, even if it was the Shelled Reptilian Equivalent to Barbie's Fashion Funhouse. Though, sorry if you also wanted Ruki to have a thing for Jialing in here, too, but I couldn't figure out an easy way to fit her into the plot, too, so I had to give the "Jialing's rack" comment to Hirokazu Shiota, our favorite pervert of ambiguous sexual orientation.

About Kame-chan's Playhouse: Yes, that's the same cutesy turtle game Lianjie programs for in Mirai No Kodomo. I decided to reveal exactly what kind of game it is. And, yes, as I typed the part about the Sparkle-chan Voodoo Doll, my Co-Writing Tortoise gave me the most horrified look possible. Sorry, Takato, but…I can't control Lianjie's actions in these fics, even if means turning a stuffed turtle into a pincushion over cheating in hide and seek. Would some extra apple juice soaked tofu make you feel better? Kame-kame?

TURTLE WEEK DISCLAIMER: No turtles were harmed in the making of this fic. Real or stuffed.

Seriously, Lianjie writes himself half the time. I don't know why or how, he just does! I want to state on record: I am not in control of Li Lianjie at all! Lianjie just shows up on his own half the time and tells me what to write while stealing beer from my fridge! Bugs the hell out of Takato, too, when he shows up since he usually eats his apples, too.

…Put down the phone to the asylum, Twerp-chan: I'm joking about that last part! Lianjie and Takato get along very well!

As for everyone's acceptance for Takato and Kenta: This is a comedy fic, after all. There's some drama (park scene, Takato and his parents) but…If I had anyone freak out, that'd just suck for Takato and Kenta. So we get one of those super-rare "The Matsudas Accept Takato's Orientation And Want Him To Be With Another Male So He's Happy" fics…

…But I still got to torture him anyway! MWA HA HA HA!

Finally, Chinese-To-English Translation: Dui Mian De [Nan\]Nue Hai Kan Guo Lai. This means, roughly, "[Boy\]Girl From Across [The Way], Look At Me" it's the title of a Richie Ren\Ren Xian Qi song. Actually, a lot of singers have done this song (Ah Niu, Yuki Hsu = Who did the "Dui Mian De Nan Hai\Boy from across…" version, etc.) but I think Ren Xian Qi's is the best known version. Look it up, there's a really weird Three Kingdoms-themed music video to it (from ShowGood, an RotTK web cartoon called "Da Hua San Guo!") on Youtube.

Oh, and I won't lie: In light if Meimei, I was really tempted to have the ending in Makoto's POV, have Xiaochun read Makoto's letter, walk past him and hug Ai, saying, "I knew you felt the same!" But that's just mean, now, isn't it?

…Then why the hell didn't I do it? Crap, am I growing a heart again?

Damn it!

TAIKI! GET THE SCALPEL!

Happy Turtle Week, everyone!


Taiki's Notes:

So that's what "Turtle Week" is, you're celebrating the day you proved to us all you lost your mind and adopted a turtle that gives you plot advice! I knew it! More proof I edit the stories of a madman! God, help me! He's insane! Absolutely insane! As if we needed any further proof!

Ori, allow me to just cover all of my bases with this message:

1. Get help!
2. Lower the dose!
3. You're INSANE!
4. God help us all if your insanity is contagious!
5. TURTLES DON'T TALK OR GIVE PLOT ADVICE! And I won't believe the words "sign language" for a minute!
6. HAPPY TURTLE WEEK, EVERYONE!

What? I can't complain too much as it is giving me a literal ton of fics to upload! That's always something I like doing! Tell Takato I'm glad he's been adopted to the world's most dedicated (or insane, most likely INSANE) turtle fanatic. May your Co-Writer continue to help you write for years to come! Actually, on that note: Ori told me Takato (the tortoise) is supposed to live to be fifty!

And, of course, Ori's "dying words" would be a gay joke about me! I've come to expect nothing less, though. I beg for enough Jenkato as it is, or any sort of pairing at this point. Kenta\Takato has grown on me as well, Ori, I certainly liked seeing it in this fic!

Actually, I have to confess: I think you tortured Jen more than you did Takato this time around! Especially near the end! I hope he didn't break a finger punching that tree. At least we know Jen really does have a "big happy family" despite what he may claim or outward appearances sometimes show.

We hope you enjoyed this fic and please have a happy Turtle Week, everyone! And, should you play Kame-Chan's Playhouse, tell Sparkle-chan to stop cheating!

-Taiki Matsuki

PS: Happy Birthday, Kohaku-Koneko!