Ori's Note: HAPPY TURTLE WEEK, EVERYONE!


Itoko

Dad's out right now, emergency supply run…Gods, he's not in a good mood. Figures, of all the days I pick to try to do this (again), I pick the one that's managed to put my Dad in the worst mood of his life.

Not that I blame him, he's always been proud of how clean we keep the bakery but…Well…

…I told him, since they fell out after he opened the bag: Those meal worms came with the flour, not from our bakery. Two other bags from the same supplier were "contaminated," which, thankfully, convinced my Dad of my theory…The Matsuda Bakery is not infested with meal worms!

Dad's still pissed, though, he's taking the "evidence" to the supplier we bought said flour from in the back of the car right now and…

…You could feel how pissed off he was from what the car sounded like as he drove off. I-I was…really scared, actually. I just grabbed the (ugh) meal worm-ridden flour bags and helped him put them in the car in silence. One almost fell over, thank the Gods I caught it! I didn't want to add to any of this, even if he did line the back with a bunch of trash bags.

Mom's not nearly as on edge about this as Dad is, she's just washing the dishes from breakfast. The bakery is closed for the day because of the "flour problem," thank the Gods the health inspector showed up last month, before these bags got here (another part of my "it's the supplier" theory, which I voiced only hoping it would help calm my Dad down…He was as scared we were infested with mealworms as he was angry at the supplier over this – Possibly more…). She and Dad are extra relieved about that…Mealworms in the flour? All hell would have broken loose...

I don't think we're gonna buy flour from these guys ever again.

I watch from the doorframe as Mom washes dishes, I volunteered at first but she said she needed "the distraction" after Dad left…

…Should I still do this? I-I've been wanting to for a long time and, well, ever since last week when Jen told me that he told someone else…I-I couldn't believe who or why!

"…Takato-chan, um, I-I hope you're not mad about this but…I-I came out to someone…A-And she knows about us."

"She? …Jaarin, right?"

I-I had a feeling it was her, I mean, Jen always told me she would probably be the most supportive of his siblings.

"N-No…Xiaochun."

"Sh-Shiu…SHIUCHON? A-Are you…Are you sure…?" I apologized for being so scared but, well, Jen-chan and I both know how much trouble she has with secrets and this…This was one we don't want her letting slip.

"I…I am now…She came to me for, um…Dating advice. A-And not because she suspected anything! She, um, didn't want to talk to Lianjie or Jialing about it. Lianjie because, well, he's Lianjie, you know what I've told you about his, um, many, many 'one date wonders.'" Ye-Yeah, Rinchei-san is…Not very good at keeping girlfriends very long.

"A-And…Jaarin…wasn't her first choice…?"

"Xiaochun said she, um, wouldn't 'understand.' And I found out my siblings think I have a secret girlfriend, apparently, you're just a 'cover' for seeing her."

"I want to know everything about this secret girlfriend of yours, Jen-chan…Is she cute, at least?" I…I sort of had to joke a little, I was so scared. I didn't want Jen-chan to know, though.

"Ha ha ha! Very, Takato-chan, and she says she wants to meet my secret boyfriend as soon as possible." I'm so glad he joked back. I think he picked up on how nervous I was through it. "I-I told her because…Takato, she swore before The Gods to keep this a secret. I-I'm not joking, even though I sort of was when I told her to. You know that shrine in our living room?"

"Ye-Yeah, to Kuan-sama?" Um…He's in Three Kingdoms, I know that much. Jen's family has a shrine to him and one or two others in their family room (Chou-Un and…This doctor from Three Kingdoms, they added him a year ago after Jialing decided to take med school classes, the one who treated Kuan-sama's arm). Kuan-sama's the one with the long, silky beard and HUGE spear weapon (Jen told me the weapon is even named after him these days).

"Exactly, she swore to him that she'd keep this a secret…And, um, I told her. Sh-She was…Well, I-I know why now but…Takato-chan, I never expected so much support from anyone. I-I'm…sort of glad I told her, especially since…Well, she wanted to confess to someone."

"…She did? Who?"

"She told me…Makoto, Impmon's Tamer, but…"

"…But?"

"…I overheard her on the phone. She asked Makoto is she could talk to Ai. A-And she met her at the park…"

"…Ai…?"

"…She, um, still hasn't told me and doesn't know I know but…She came back from the park smiling, I-I think it went well."

"Your…little sister? Re-Really? I-I'm sorry, Jen-chan, I'm just…shocked!" I-I really was! Shiuchon has, um, what does Jen-chan call it…? The…love of the torn shirt—No, passion of the cut sleeve! That's it! He taught me that term in Chinese, too, but I keep forgetting it. I told him I wanted to learn Chinese for him, too, since he uses it with his family. I only know a little but he says I'm 'really good' at saying Wo Ai Ni, which is 'the most important.' It means "I love you," of course.

"How do you think I feel, Takato-chan? But, um, I-I'm really happy for her. She's been happier than ever…I'm reminded of, um, well, how we acted. I-I should have suspected something just by how she reacted but…I-I guess, well…The same reason I didn't suspect you or Kenta…"

"Ye-Yeah…It's 'just us,' right?"

I laughed a little. We…We knew "gay" existed but, well, it didn't exist for anyone we knew.

…I was scared to death the day I told Jen-chan I was gay. Especially since I knew I wasn't being subtle when I was "studying" his reaction to that famous "Taito scene." I don't know why but…I guess, if I saw him roll his eyes or cringe or something, I'd know for sure: Never. Tell. Anyone. Especially…Jen.

But, um, he noticed and wanted to know what was wrong. I-I told him I was, um, "studying his reaction," thinking of how stupid that sounded the whole time but, well, the fact he didn't find it too weird…

…I guess…It was time to take that risk. The one I've had nightmares about taking, the one that every voice in my head was telling me was too big of a risk, one that would never work out in my favor in a million years. I'm glad my subconscious can be so wrong sometimes.

Given how shocked he was, though…Jen-chan was, well, obviously not mad but I was afraid he was hiding that fact at first. That being around me was suddenly gross, that was just…some pervert to him, now. Someone who wasn't normal, broken…Or he'd just roll his eyes, say, "I knew it, it was so obvious" and leave…

...At least, until he said he never suspected me. I-I was relieved by that, I've always been worried about being obvious. I, um, noticed I have some "hand gestures" now and then or…Stereotypical things I'd do. It was subtle. With Jen-chan, I had to point it out to him before he nodded and said, "Oh…Yeah…That…I-I can't believe I didn't, um, really notice. Ta-Takato-chan, don't worry, though, you're not obvious." Kenta confirmed this, too, he was afraid he was even more "obvious," actually. He asks us a lot if we ever suspected him, even a little…Like, almost every time we're alone together. Or if the others suspect him or dropped any hints that they do. Or how we think they might react. A lot of it is the same thing over and over but we understand: We asked ourselves the same questions over and over and OVER again. At least, with Kenta, he has more than just his thoughts, he has us. We…just had ourselves.

…Kenta's… …He took things worse than we did, he was really scared. And still is. We're doing our best to help him. We even told him about Shiuchon the other day, he was really happy for Jen's sister, if she came back smiling like she did. Jen even said he asked how "Makoto's" doing…

…He liked how much she smiled when she said, "We're SUPER in love!" Ha ha ha! He said he'll wait until she's ready to tell him, he doesn't want to force her "out," he knows none of us would like it if it happened to us…Even if Shiuchon "sort of" forced Jen out, he understood. She was really expecting girl advice she could apply to "Makoto," he thinks. Apparently, my boyfriend is the best "with the ladies" among the Li family…

…Though in reality, it's Shiuchon.We…joke a little in private, only because we're really happy for her. She got the support she wanted without realizing it, Jen told me: "She, um…Kenta-kun, don't take this the wrong way but…Looking back, when I told her I was with Takato-chan, she had the same look you had on your face when you walked in on us"

Kenta took it in good humor. "Just for that, the day we get Terriermon back, I'M dressing him up prettier than MarineAngemon!" Ha ha ha!

I look back to my mother, her back is turned at the sink. I'm still standing in the doorframe into the dining room…

…Today's not a good day. I-I know I use "that excuse" a lot when I chicken out of this but…

This time it's not a good day.

"…What is it?" Mom finally says.

"Wh-What?"

"You've been standing there for almost ten minutes," Mom says with a quiet chuckle. "What's wrong? It's not the flour is it?" …Crap…Sh-She knew I was here? I thought I was quieter…

"O-Oh…No-Nothing…Just…um…"

"Hold on, I'm almost done, just wait in the dining room, okay?" Mom turns to me, smiling a little. That makes me feel better, she's not as tense as Dad is right now. If Dad were home, this would be the last thing on my mind. I'd be in my room, wondering if he'd calm down by next week…Or next month. No, next year. Next year is a good time to tell him. I'll go with next year…

…Or never. Never works, too. Never works for me. I think it'd work well for all of us.

Too bad "never" just means "never tell them," not "we can hide forever." They'll either find out somehow or figure it out themselves. Or just…constantly wonder why their son doesn't date or talk about girls. And, probably, come to the "obvious reason" on their own from that. Jen's family already suspects he has a secret girlfriend…

…I wonder if my parents might have a similar theory. As long as it's a secret girlfriend. Jen's my "cover." I don't know if they really pay that much attention to this sort of thing but, well, I am in high school and…I know Hirokazu never shuts up about girls in his class, Jen and I "play along" sometimes but it gets really old really fast.

I think Mom and I could both sort of use a distraction from Dad right now, though, he's…sort of taking the flour thing out on everyone right now. Not that we blame him, but…

…I just don't think this is a "good distraction," especially for me

"O-Okay…" I nod…

…I-I'll try to think of something else…Um…Problems at school? Fight with a friend? Asking Juri out? …No, not that last one, I-I swore to myself: When I realized I was gay, I would never "use" Juri like that…I realized I might have been just because of, um, well…How much of a "crush" I had on her in primary school. I realized, later on, I had a crush on Jen back then, too…That…That realization…I-I didn't handle well. I was in bed at the time, um, "thinking" about how school went that day, Jen and I had some classes together. It was the day we got our new schedules and, um, we shared more than half of our classes, we were both really excited about it, too. It hit me then, I realized, I shared more classes with Jen than any other friend, even Juri…And I was hoping I'd share a lot of classes with that "cute girl I liked," but…

…I realized how excited I was that I ended up sharing more classes with Jen and that we sat next to each other in a few of them. I realized I, um, stared at him a lot in the class where he sat in front of me, too. Juri sat next to me in that class and, um, the big realization that I liked Jen more then Juri hit me when I realized: I arrived late for that class and took my seat without even noticing her…I-I mean, I saw "empty seat behind Jen" not "empty seat behind Jen and next to JURI KATOU!" Juri, um, even said…

"Didn't want to make a scene?"

"Hu-Huh?"

I-I…I was shocked to see Juri…

"You didn't say 'hi!' Ha ha ha, sorry you were late, I waved to you but you didn't seem to notice…" …I was too busy staring at Jen…

…I realized I liked Jen more than Juri…And, well…

…What else did I do?

I cried.

I was scared. I-I was afraid I was gay. I knew what "gay" was since, um, about first grade. Mom and Dad were watching a drama in the living room and one of the characters made a scene about being gay…

"…Gay?"

"Huh?"

"What does…that mean?"

"You…don't know what gay means, Takato?"

Mom was…a little surprised. She thought I knew about her cousin, Itsuki.

I just shook my head. "No…What is it?"

"It means he…um…He likes other boys, not girls."

I remember how weird I thought that was! I never heard of anything like it! Guys…could love guys? That was my reaction, I'd always been told 'when a Mommy and a Daddy love each other very much,' no-one ever said anything about two men! "My cousin, um, Itsuki is gay, Takato. It's not a bad thing...Some think it is."

"O-Oh."

I just…gave the TV a weird look and shrugged it off. Since then, I knew "boys can like boys," I…Actually forgot the term was "gay" at point and had to be reminded about a year later (some kid at school 'reminded me' by calling me 'gay,' he was apparently psychic or had VERY advanced gaydar for a fourth grader). It wasn't something I thought about a lot until the seventh grade. Even when Mom's cousin came over, I didn't really "remember" until…

…That night…

I cried a lot. Of course I did, what the hell wouldn't I do? Gods, I-I spent that whole night doing a "gay inventory" of my life! Just…Every minor thing I ever did that was gay from as early as I could remember!

Every. Single. Thing.

And with every memory, I tried to come up with a "straight explanation."

Every. Single. Time.

…But as I got closer and closer, from the past when I was a little kid, to the present when I started middle school the "gay inventory" started pointing the more and more obvious conclusion. The conclusion that was getting more and more clear by the minute, as much as it scared me to come to it…

…I was gay.

I couldn't stop dwelling on it, Jen even noticed I became "distant," so did the others but…Especially Jen. And that worried me, I was afraid he was going to suspect something. It was a year before I finally told him, but…I just didn't want to acknowledge it. I wanted to somehow forget it, even just for a day.

When I finally "got over" Juri…In the sense I didn't "like her" the way I thought I did, the way I was "supposed to," I stopped acting like, um, as Ruki called me, "A lovestruck moron" when I was around her. I didn't want her to think I was leading her on or, worse, using her to throw "the gay scent" off me. I-I would never do that to Juri! She's my friend, I don't use my friends like that. I couldn't live with myself.

She did, um, comment on the fact I was "less" into her than before, though. She was worried I was mad. I told her there wasn't anything wrong but, um, she looked…

I felt really bad after that conversation, she looked rejected. I think she realized I wasn't "into her" anymore or something. That there was "someone else." And there was. Just…

…The last person either of us expected. The last one any of us expected.

Especially me. And, even now, it's just Jen, Kenta and I who know about any of this…Well, now Shiuchon, too, I guess.

…Actually, um, that's not true. I still haven't told Jen, but because she asked me not to: Ruki knows. Ruki figured it out a few months ago. It was after Kenta found out about Jen and I. She, um, "tested us," actually. She noticed that, when she made a gay joke about Kenta, Jen and I would sometimes try to distract her with…

…Us. Kenta's really insecure about his orientation, worse than Jen and I ever were. He knows his family won't take it well when they find out, he's told us some of the things he's overheard his Dad say. His Mother, he thinks might be "more open" to it but "not much," he says. So, Kenta…He doesn't need Ruki's jokes about him and Hirokazu or that "Digital World Kiss" they shared thanks to her. We both agreed: It's okay if it's to defend Kenta.

One day, at the park, it was just Kenta, Ruki and I…Ruki started one of her usual "Kenta just loves his Hiro-chan" jokes and…

"Ru-Ruki…"

"Kitagawa and Shiota sitting in a tree—"

"Next to Ta-Ka-To and Ryou!" I…I couldn't believe I said that but…Kenta's expression told me: It was not a good day for this. Jen and I use "Ryou" as the "person we secretly like," since…It's too dangerous to say the other's name, we think. And, well…

…Ryou's cute. VERY CUTE! Jen and I both agree on this front. Kenta, too.

Ruki just laughed and said, "Riiight…" Her tone told me she thought I was joking, too. Even with the…"extra bold" joke, but…I-I couldn't think of anything else. I guess…I brought it on myself, I "came out" to Ruki. Even Kenta was shocked by it but, well, given how she just jokes that Jen's "sooo not gay" in response to jokes about him (Me? Um…I'm me, so…I get less of a "straight pass" when it comes to those jokes, but I didn't really think Ruki believed them until then…), I thought it was safe.

After Kenta left for home, though…

"…How long?"

"Huh?"

"You and Jen, how long?"

"Wh-What? Ruki! I was joking! And I said RYOU! Not…Jen's NOTgay—"

"Matsuda…One, you're you. Two, every single time I make a joke about Kitagawa one of you makes a joke about yourselves or the other! And…I admit, it takes balls to joke about cheating on your boyfriend in front of himbut…I take it you want Kenta to have some space, right?"

"Spa-Space? Er… Wha-Wha…What do…I-I…Jen…Ryou…"

…I was not at my most "coherent," which Ruki found more hysterical by the second. And my "gay grave" was getting deeper and deeper.

"I get it, Kitagawa's freakin' out so you shut me up by making me joke about you two…"

"…How…did you…?"

"Because it was

just you, Takato, I'd know you were single. But, Jen? JEN? FREAKIN' JENRYA LI? No, he'd have to have that slit wrist thing, too, if he's getting in on the gay jokes, too…Congratulations, though."

"…Thank you…"

I was quiet as ever and barely spoke above a whisper, I couldn't raise my voice any higher. If Ruki figured it out from our jokes, what about Hirokazu, Juri and Ryou? And…Gods, I was even more afraid for Kenta, actually, he doesn't want anyone to know! I-I don't think he really wanted us to know at first, the look on his face when he said "I'm not alone," that day…

…He looked like he made the biggest mistake of his life by saying that. And he walked in on us! Kenta…I feel so bad for how he's taking his orientation. I really, really do…I at least know my mother has a gay cousin and, with Jen, he has an idea of how some members of his family might support him (though, Shiuchon was…not something we saw coming!). All Kenta knows: "My Dad…He once saw a news report on gay rights…All I heard was 'who gives a shit about them?' and…Things like that. I-I…I don't know what would happen if he ever…figured…it out…" …Kenta…

…He cried when he told us this. We…We hugged him and did our best to calm him down but, well, that day when we talked it was like…Everything was being let out at once for him.

Ruki, thankfully, was…Actually, I'm amazed by how she took the "confirmation!" There was an awkward silence where, well, I just know my face was bright red and Ruki was waiting for me to say anything else…But I had no idea what else to say. Ruki finally broke the silence.

"Oh, knock it off…I only upped the Kitagawa jokes to test you two. I'll leave him alone, give Shiota some shit later on. Hell, if you want, I'll even make it about how he'll never find a girl or a guy!"

"This…doesn't bother you?"

"Why the hell should it?"

"I…I don't know, it's just…"

"You can't be this closeted and have a boyfriend, Takato. You can't—Wait, I forgot who I was talking to for a minute…" I admit, I laughed at that. "Seriously, just relax…You're my friend. I'd sooner smack you for telling someone I said thatthan for being gay."

"I-I won't tell a soul…And I don't think anyone'd believe me if I did."

"Damn right they'd better not."

"…Does anyone else…?"

"Nah. Shiota's clueless, Akiyama thinks EVERY man is gay for him anyway and...Okay, Juri…" Ruki's change in tone and the way she looked off to the side told me I wasn't going to like hearing this.

"…She suspects?" Given how Juri'd been acting lately, I was afraid of that. I really thought she suspected me as gay, at least, from how I turned her down in the end. I know she, um, sort of…

…Juri really wanted to go out, I think.

"That you're straight as an arrow, there's just 'another girl,' I ain't gonna lie, Matsuda, she loved you." …And I was, unfortunately, very right.

"…I know, I-I'm so sorry but—"

"What the hell are you sorry for? Don't, not unless tomorrow's headline says 'Geneticists Confirm: Homosexuality IS A Choice,' you don't have shit to apologize for. Hell, even if it did say that, you're not obligated to like anyone. And Juri's not that upset but…Well, let's just say I had one of my few 'shoulder' moments a while back. Last summer."

"Last…Summer?"

"That's when it was 'official,' wasn't it?"

"Ye-Yeah…Um…Sh-She knew…?"

"She noticed you were a hell of a lot happier than usual and, well, Shiota opened up his big mouth and said: 'Takato looks like he's in love or somethin'! Juri, you confess?' …Did. Not. End. Well." …I can imagine. And Hirokazu'd been telling me to 'go for it' for YEARS! That was part of my 'gay inventory,' actually, my 'straight excuse' was 'I'm too shy.' "Shiota's still sorry as hell for it, though, he really thought you and her were going out in secret at first."

"…Is she okay with…?"

"She thought it was me at first, but I told her I was straight. She thinks it's either Alice or some girl at school she doesn't know…"

"…Should I…tell her the truth?"

"…Damned if I know," Ruki, for the first time ever, looked unsure, like she didn't have the 'right answer' behind her razor sharp tongue. "I mean, if it was another girl, she'd have some hope but…Jen?"

"…Yeah…"

I always suspected that, if Juri objected to my orientation at all, it would be less homophobia more 'I thought you liked me all these years.' I just hope she doesn't think I was leading her on or ever used her to 'look straight.' I swear, Juri, I'd never do that to you.

"…Don't beat yourself up, she's doing better. Really."

"Promise?"

"I don't make this shit up, Takato. I'm only telling you this as…a you-know-what. Starts with an F."

…I had a little fun with my response, "Fag hag?" For my health, I toned down how funny I thought the look on her face was.

"…I swear, if that wasn't the ballsiest thing I've ever heard you say, I'd knock your teeth out!" Ruki actually laughed at that joke. I didn't know I had it in me, like a lot of what I'd said that day.

Actually, um, Ruki might have that "unofficial position" right now. I-I've been meaning to tell Jen she knows but, um, she's a little embarrassed by how "close" she is to her "gay friends" (or any friends) right now. It's more for her sake than me being afraid he'll be mad. Ruki doesn't like to admit she likes any of us. She might tell Kenta she knows but that we don't know she knows, to "help out." I warned her: Kenta gets really emotional on this subject…

…She rolled her eyes and said, "I'll wear an extra absorbent shirt, then. Gods, when the hell did everyone turn into you?"

But, well, with Ruki knowing, it's…a little easier. I mean, she made so many gay jokes, we were worried it was a bad sign but, well, Ruki puts everyone down, so she'll use whatever ammo she has available. And she's never said "fag" or "homo," she says, "A man and a woman, two men, two women, love is love: All a load of freakin' bullshit!" Ha ha ha!

Ruki plans to gauge Hirokazu and Ryou for us, too, to see if we have anything to worry about. I told her how much I appreciated it, she said, "Just be happy as Jen's boy toy. That's all I ask." I admit, I think she smiled a little when she said that. Love is all freakin' 'bullshit,' is it, Ruki…?

...Still, when it comes to people knowing…

Friends are one thing. Family is another. Ruki's not my sister. Jen's sister, obviously, is…the exception, but…

…Flesh and blood is different from someone you know. Telling them, letting them know you're "different," that "that part" of you might somehow have "come from" them (as Kenta put it, he says, "I can hear my parents arguing over 'which side' I 'got this' from…I can just hear it!"), or in the case of siblings: Might also be part of them…I mean, um, like with Shiuchon. If it is genetic, then…Well, Jen brought it up:

"I can just see Lianjie freaking out over the 'Li gay gene' if he knew about both of us! Re-Really, I could see him staring at Jialing and then saying, 'Okay, you next: Anything I should know about? Something I need a beer and a night of self-examination for?'" We both laughed so hard, it's easy to hear that from Rinchei, Jen knows his older brother very well…

…But…

…In my case, my family at least has someone with 'that part,' and my Dad…He's never been weird around Itsuki-san. They're friends, but…The subject never really comes up when he visits, I just don't think my Dad likes talking about it and Itsuki respects that or something.

My Mom? …I hear her ask how he's doing with who he's seeing. He's not married but she hopes he'll find someone soon. She's close to him, she cares about him and…

…That gives me a lot of hope. I-I don't know why I'm afraid to tell her so much but…Cousin…Son…Two different things.

Itsuki-san's come to visit a few times since my, um "realization" and, actually, I've seen him a lot since Jen and I got together. I've never, um, brought up the topic or anything, though, I-I'm afraid to. Even if he's the "best source" for this sort of thing. I actually came close to asking him one time, not too long ago, but…

"Um…Itsuki-san…A-About, um…You and…"

"Takato? Ha ha ha, you look nervous…Something up?"

"N-Not really, just, um…You and…my Mom and all…Um…With the fact…you're…"

"…Huh?"

He was…a little surprised, I think, I've never brought up his orientation before then. Or even said anything when the topic came up! Even before my 'gay inventory night.'

"I-I was just wondering how you… Um…Ne-Never mind…So-Sorry, I-I shouldn't bother you with…something like this…"

"Takato, um, it's okay…If you want to talk about that. Really, I don't mind…You can ask anything you want. It's okay." He wanted to make that really clear, I was afraid I offended him even more.

"I-I know but…It's…too personal. I'm sorry, Itsuki-san."

"Don't be. No apologies needed."

…I was afraid I offended him but…

…I wanted to know how he told my mother he was gay. I-I never heard that story, just that she knows and he doesn't hide it from anyone in our family. I wish I could be like that…That I wasn't so scared.

Mom finally comes out of the kitchen, she has a pot of tea and two cups. She pours them and sets one in front of me. "What's going on, Takato?" She's smiling a little.

"It's…just…the whole…flour thing, I-I'm really sorry it happened—"

"Takato, don't…For one, you had nothing to do with it, why should you be sorry? And, two…Takato, it's obvious there's been something on your mind for a long time. What is it? You can tell me." …This isn't the first time I've tried to tell her about Jen and I but…

…This is the 'furthest' it's ever gotten between us. I usually just change the subject or find an excuse to leave. This…We've never sat down or anything. And before, she usually let the topic go, even if it was obvious I was nervous and trying to hide my face because it was bright red just thinking about uttering the words 'I'm gay' to anyone, let alone my own mother!

But, lately, if I bring it up…She'll sometimes ask me 'what's wrong' after I start to leave or, even, call for me to come back and I'll…just make up some stupid excuse like 'homework' or something like that.

This will…probably end like all the other failed attempts.

"N-Nothing—"

"Takato, please," Mom says. "You've…been different lately. Sort of." What? This is…a first. She usually just keeps asking 'what's wrong' or why I'm so nervous.

"Di-Different?" I ask. Trying to come out is…making me different?

"Nothing serious but, um, does it have anything to do with Juri?" She asks, a little cautiously. Ju-Juri?

"Wh-Why do you ask about Juri?"

"Your father noticed how she stopped coming by the bakery as often as she used to. Before, well, ever since the fifth grade, she'd come here asking where you were and, well, since last year she really hasn't shown up except to buy bread and doesn't really ask about you. Did something happen?" …I started seeing Jen and Juri thinks I'm seeing another girl.

I start to shake, staring down at my tea cup. "We-Well, um, sh-she, um…She liked—Er…Th-That is, she used to…really like me a-and…"

"Takato, we know that part," Mom smiles. "It's been obvious for a long time, if it wasn't for the fact she stopped showing up, um, well, your father wanted to have a talk with you about how obvious it was she seemed to like you." H-He did? Gods, I-I couldn't even begin to think of how awkward that would have been!

"O-Oh, we-well, um, she…She knows I, um, don't really feel the…same way." I whisper those last two words. "Sh-She didn't confess or anything, just…figured it out, sort of."

"Too bad, she really seemed to like you a lot, Takato," Mom says. "Is she still your friend?"

I nod. "Ye-Yeah, she's always with us and the others. And at school!" I say. I just haven't really been alone with her since, well, she started becoming distant. I'm really worried about that, actually.

…I really…think I should ask Jen if I can tell her. It might, um…

Actually, I don't know if it would make her feel better or worse. I-I might have to get Jen's opinion on that, too.

"I see," Mom nods. "Then, what is it? Like I said, you've been…a little different."

I swallow. "I-It's nothing, re-really!" I stand. "So-Sorry to bother you with—"

"Sit," Mom points down, but with a smile. And like a dog, I obey. Why do Mothers have that power? "Takato, tell me. Okay?" I-I can't! I know you have a gay cousin but…I'm your son! Not your cousin!

Cousin…Gods, this makes me wonder, too, about how Kai would react if he knew. I-I don't think it would be too bad, he knows Itsuki-san but…Well, he talks about girls almost as much as Hirokazu. And I say almost because, well, unlike Hirokazu: Kai's dating. Minami, the girl we met that Summer, she moved close to his family's shrine and…It's been going "well" he said…

…At first. A while ago it was upgraded to "super-duper-mega-ultra-BEYOND-AMAZING!" Kai's…obviously in love. I-I'm happy for him, I just wish he wouldn't sometimes ask, "So, when're you gonna find that special someone, Takato-kun…? For you, it's gotta be easy!" I-I had no idea I'm apparently, um, 'good with the ladies,' according to Kai. Or at least, he says he's going by what Minami's said about me.

I'm glad he's dating now, at least. Kai doesn't talk about all the hot girls he sees "all over BEAUTIFUL Okinawa" anymore. Just one now: Minami-chan.

"…I-I think she might think I might like…someone else…" I swallow. Please don't ask who, please don't ask who, please don't ask who…

"Who?" …Shit. "I mean, if you do like someone else, that is…"

"…N-No-one…" I trail off, glancing away but…Da-Damn it… "I-I don't…I don't like anyone else! Re-Really!"

…I know she sees how bright red my face is…

"Is it Ruki?" Mom asks, with a jokingly flat tone.

"Mom, you know Ruki," that I have no trouble saying. And it helps the blush fade away faster.

"Takato, be honest, are you seeing anyone?" Mom gives me a stern expression. "If you are, I think your parents have a right to know." Go-Gods, no! Not this question, she'll know if I'm lying!

Crap…I-I have to come clean on this much at least. Just, let her stay a secret. Please. I know, there's no chance of that but…I can hope.

"…I-I am," I whisper. "So-Sorry."

"Who is it? I-I can't think of any girls you know besides Ruki and Juri, to be honest. Is it someone you just met at school?" She asks.

"N-No," I shake my head. "It's someone I've known for a while. A-A long time." …This is it. Gods, if you have any mercy: Strike me with lightning, please!

"Who is it, then?"

"…It's someone…I-I've wanted to…tell you about for a long time, but…" I go silent. "…Please don't make me do this," I sigh, hanging my head. Like that isn't confirmation…

My Mom just gives me a nod, sipping her tea. "Takato, if I told you…Well, you've noticed that Itsuki's been visiting a little more often lately, right?" A little…He comes to visit every few months, now. Usually stays for about a week, he sometimes brings Kai over, too. I just nod. "…If I told you there was…a reason for that, would you feel more…comfortable talking to me about this?" …A-A reason? Wh-What kind of reason?

I do my best to keep my expression in check but…I can tell by the look on her face, she saw how worried I got just now. "…A reason?" I whisper. My Mom just nods. "Wha-What kind…of reason?"

"Takato…Please? Yo-You should be able to at least guess." Mom says with a quiet laugh. "I-It's okay. Just relax." …Relax…Mom, there are some things you know I can't do, especially at times like this! "Please?" She says again after a few moments, smiling. "You don't have to hide anything."

"Wha-What…makes you think…?" …That's the closest I can say to 'what tipped you off?' I-I mean, why else would her gay cousin visit more often?

"…You just…don't want to say it, right?" Mom asks, sighing with another laugh. "I-It's okay, Itsuki was…the same way, at first." …Gods…Sh-She really…? "It was…a lot of little things at first. Itsuki then mentioned that you once started to ask him about, well, his preference. He was worried you might have been going through 'something similar,' let's say." I…I knew asking that question was a bad idea…

…Maybe.

I stammer, I know my face is bright red, it's more or less confirmed at this point, why can't I just say it? Damn it, I-I have…more issues than I realized. Ruki was right, how can I have a boyfriend and be this closeted? This was…a million times easier with Jen! And I had no idea how Jen would take it! "…How long ago…did he…tell you about that?" I ask, my voice trembling.

"A little after I told him Juri stopped coming over," Mom replies. What?

"He knew about Juri?" Then again, I know how much Mothers—No, parents in general. Parents love to talk about their kids…Jen's overheard his Father talk about him and his siblings for hours with his relatives in China. Especially his Grandfather, who's really proud of his 'city-saving grandson.'

"I told him about her a few times and how much we thought she liked you, after she stopped asking about you like she used to and started to come by less and less, I mentioned it to Itsuki and he told me about your question. How nervous you were when you asked him and how you, well, suddenly dropped it. He told me he thought it might have been what was happening. And…It makes sense," she says, sipping her tea. It makes sense? A-Am I…obvious? Or should I expect the words 'I'm gay' to be followed up with 'I know' when it comes to anyone else I tell? "Does Juri…know?"

I shake my head. "…Sh-She thinks it's…just 'another girl.'" I whisper. I-I think it's…official, she knows. She knew.

"And…it's not, I take it?" …Mom…Please, yo-you obviously know…

I give the best answer I can: I shake my head, looking down at my cup.

"Who is it? I promise, Takato, no-one will be upset about this…"

"…Even…?" …Dad?

I look up to her from my tea cup for a moment or two, she knows who I'm talking about. She just nods…

…That nod is actually a huge relief. I go back to my tea cup after another second or two, trying my best to keep breathing normally, but at all works, too.

"He doesn't know Itsuki's theory but…I've brought up the subject a few times. He was a little shocked at the idea I suspected such a thing but, after a while, he said it wouldn't bother him at all if it were true." ...Thank the Gods. "Can I have that name, Takato? Or do you want me to try to guess?"

I stammer again, holding my tea cup with both hands and…shaking. I can't stop. A little bit of tea splashes on my hands. "How did…you find out about Itsuki? Did he tell you?"

Mom shakes her head, sighing, "No, my brother, Kai's father, found out about him first and…didn't handle it very well. Itsuki was seeing his girlfriend's brother at the time, it was a secret but…They walked in on the two of them after a date. Itsuki's boyfriend broke up with him after being found out by his sister, because his entire family found out shortly after. He blamed Itsuki. And my brother, well, didn't keep quiet about it either, I finally heard about it a few days after they found them. I-I called him that night to talk to him about it, to let him know I supported him, even if my brother didn't." …Uncle Shigeru… …We don't talk about him much ever since…

…It's not a pleasant story. Especially for Kai-kun. "What happened?"

"Itsuki had a hard time 'confirming it,' like you. I had to more or less force it out of him," Mom says, confirming once and for all: She knows. I-I'm no longer a secret. "But, well, we talked on the phone for a long time…Shigeru even walked in on the conversation, I had to kick him out of my room because he started ranting about 'that pervert.'" She sighs. "Itsuki told me how hard it was to realize and how, when he did, he…Well, both of us did the same thing he did at first," she says, I sip my tea. "He called it a 'gay inventory' of his life—"

I almost choke on my tea. "A-A…what?" Di-Did she…really just say that?

"A 'gay inventory,'" Mom laughs a little. "Wh-What was…that about?"

"No-Nothing…I-I just…"

"…Did the same thing?" Mom please don't smile or laugh like that.

I just nod. "Sa-Same…term…and everything," I whisper. …And even more confirmation. Just without the words "I'm" and "gay." …Why can't I say those words? I'm sorry, I don't know why I can't just say it!

Mom, I-I'm…

…I'm…

…I'm pathetic.

"You must've heard it from him," she says. "Or…Ha ha ha, it's an 'Urazoe-Matsuda-thing.' But, well, we just talked about how he came to that conclusion, how he 'denied it' for so long and how he finally had the courage to tell his friend, who happened to be…Well, he was bi but Itsuki still thinks he was lying about that to this day!" She laughs again, I-I can't believe I'm talking about my Mother's cousin's love life…Even if it does make me feel better. "But…Well, a few days later, he thanked me for calling him. He…was going to…" She sighs. "Itsuki…told me he had some, um, pills in his hands when the phone rang. He almost didn't answer it but…He says…I changed his mind." Mom… I-I'm sorry…

"So-Sorry…I-I had no idea…"

"It was a lot scarier back then, Takato, it wasn't as 'understood' as it is now," Mom says. "Don't apologize, you didn't know."

After hearing that…I have to say this.

I have to.

"…Jen." I whisper.

"What?"

"I-I'm…with Jen." I say, I feel my eyes sting slightly. "Since, um, that trip you and Dad took that Summer. For your anniversary." …I sort of want to change the subject, she…She looks really upset talking about…

…I'm sorry, Itsuki-san…

"I see," Mom smiles. "I had a feeling it was Jenrya. You two…If it wasn't him, it'd be Hirokazu." …Hirokazu?

"Hirokazu?" I ask in my normal tone of voice. I-I was not expecting that name to pop up at all in this conversation, not unless the words 'might be homophobic' came after it!

"He is one of your oldest friends and…Well…We've wondered about him and Kenta for a while since, ah…" Kenta, I know why she might suspect him. But, Hirokazu?

I only know one source of 'information' that could lead to any suspicion that Hirokazu might be gay.

"…Ruki, right?" I can't help but laugh a little. I won't tell Mom about Kenta but…I might tell Ruki my Mother suspects Hirokazu! Ha ha ha! I-I can't believe it!

Mom nods. "Does she make the same jokes about you and Jenrya…?" She sounds a little worried about that. Relax, Mom, Ruki's…Ruki's far from homophobic, she just goes for the ammo that's easiest to reach, let's say.

"Not really," I shake my head. "She, um, knows about Jen and I but…Jen doesn't know that yet. Her jokes for me are the, um, 'man up' kind."

"Man up?"

"Like, um, 'grow a pair,' and things like that…" I can't believe I just said 'grow a pair' in front of my Mother. At least it's nowhere near as embarrassing as the time she wanted to know what MILF meant after seeing a movie with my Dad…

…Last acronym you EVER want to explain to your own Mother.

I continue, quickly, "I-I'm just not the, um, 'tough one' in the group. At all, so…I-I know she's only joking, though." I say, quickly. I don't want my Mom to get upset with Ruki, she's actually really helpful when it comes to this topic.

"You don't have to 'man up,' Takato, trust me. Ever since that D-Reaper chaos…" Mom trails off with a smile. "I swear, your Father still talks about that like it just happened. He'd never been more proud. Granted, um, not too many Fathers experience their son, um, saving a city."

"He…still talks about that?" I thought, well, after our partners returned it was 'history.' And…We didn't do that much against D-Reaper. It was more 'Wild Ones.' I told my parents about that after D-Reaper, my 'Taming Days' before The Digital World. My Dad was…Ye-yeah, he was really proud hearing all of that. Especially when I told him everything that happened in The Digital World…

…I left out Megidramon, though. Not even Yamaki-san knows about that, even when he asked about some 'abnormal readings,' we told him it was from our fight with Zhuqiaomon. Megidramon is not something I'm proud of. Jen really helped when it came to getting over that incident, though, he said he wished he could have done more and was just as angry…

…I know you weren't Jen. No-one was…Not even Juri…

"All the time," Mom says. "He'll always be proud of you."

"Thank you," I wipe my eyes with my sleeve. "So-Sorry for…hiding this so long but…"

"Trust me, I understand. Don't apologize, Takato. Ever. And I'm glad you found someone…How did it go?"

"Te-Telling Jen? Um…We-Well, we…We were watching a Digimon marathon for fun and…"

…I-I can't believe I'm finally telling her all this but, at the same time…

…It feels good to finally talk about it with her. Just one less person I have to hide from, now. One at a time but…Each time: It feels so good to stop lying and hiding. I can "be me" again.


It's been hours since my talk with my Mother. She told me she'd tell Dad for me when he was in a better mood. I know he won't object but, well, even without the flour incident going on, it's still sort of a bombshell.

I also told Jen after I talked to her. He was so glad I had my parents' support and my Mom promised not to mention anything to his family yet. I didn't tell her about Shiuchon, either, I told him. He said he wouldn't mind if I did, but…Shiuchon still hasn't told anyone her secret officially, it's just between Jen, Kenta and I for now.

He did find it hysterical when I told him she thought I might have been with Hirokazu instead, though.

"Se-Seriously? Hi-Hirokazu?"

"Ye-Yeah, ever since she and Dad heard some of Ruki's jokes…"

"Oh, GODS! Wh-When we finally tell the others, Takato-kun…You have to tell Hirokazu that part! Ke-Kenta, too, next time we see him! He'll love it!"

I laughed, "I'm worried it might get his hopes up."

"No, that would be if your Mom said 'Ryou Akiyama.'"

We laughed so hard. I-I feel…I feel so much better now. I'm not nervous or scared anymore. Especially after my talk with Jen, we had…a lot of fun joking around about things. He's glad we can "be a couple" at the bakery soon. I told him about the flour incident and my Dad not knowing yet, he'll still 'play friends' if he stops by before my Dad finds out. But I think that will just be a few days at most, when he came back home he was in a much better mood. The supplier gave him twice as much flour as he took back: All meal worm free…

…He's still looking for a new supplier, though. My Dad isn't swayed that easily, "I'll put up with them until we find someone new. That's it." He said. But at least we don't have to worry about running out of flour in the next couple months. He even celebrated with an extra big batch of Guilmon Bread to 'make sure' everything was meal worm free. They don't know how it happened but they were really apologetic and upset, he said. The bags he brought back were even opened to prove there weren't any 'surprises' in them.

Thank the Gods he's in a better mood…Mom said, after dinner, she might tell him tonight if it keeps up.

She did call Itsuki-san while I talked to Jen. She told me Itsuki-san was glad I handled things so well and was seeing someone, especially if it was Jen. I-I won't tell Jen this but he "had a hunch" about him…

And Hirokazu. Gods, I-I take this as a good sign for how Hirokazu might react to us, he's "ambiguously gay enough' to draw suspicion from someone who met him twice! At best! Ha ha ha!

…I also called one other person, I guess after talking to my Mom and Jen I was feeling "extra confident."

"…Kai-kun?"

"Hey, cousin! What's up?"

"I, um, wanted to tell you something…Do you have a few minutes?"

"Sure. What's up? You sound kinda, I dunno, happy today!"

I…actually was, I didn't expect things to go so well. Even with how scary it was at first. I guess, um, I 'manned up' and 'grew a pair,' finally, like Ruki's been telling me to.

Of course, she'll still tell me to do it. I won't mind, she's Ruki.

"I'm gay." …Like I said: Extra confident! And…I felt like, after hearing my Mom's story about Itsuki-san, I shouldn't act like I did before. My heart still pounded like it did earlier and I was still barely above 'whisper' when I said it but…

…I still said it.

"…Huh?"

"I-I'm gay."

I admit, I wasn't really expecting Kai's reaction,"Oh, so it was Aunt Mie Itsuki-san was talking to…"

"Huh?"

"He was over here when his cell phone went off, he took it in the other room…Told her, too, huh? He came outta the room smiling and only told us 'a friend can sleep easy tonight' and that it was really good news for that person." …He's right, I can sleep easy tonight. Ha ha ha!

"Ye-Yeah, I…I guess it's my coming out party," Kai…was unfazed! I had to ask why. "You're...not all that surprised."

"Eh, I…sorta had a feeling about you. No offense, cousin, just…You get this way around girls and, ah, I've seen how you look at a couple of my guy friends. Taisuke's cute, isn't he? Heh heh heh!"

"Ka-Kai-kun?"

I didn't expect him to say that!

"Eh…Let's just say this ain't a topic I'm unfamiliar with."

"…In…what way?" …Kai's…dating Minami…! The-There's no way! Unless…

…Kai is the kind of person who might not be satisfied with just one gender…Actually, this might also explain Hirokazu, too.

"Lemme put it this way: You have no idea how much fun it is to check out girls with your girlfriend, Takato-kun. No. Idea." Oh, Jen and I might have an idea…Just replace 'girls' with 'Ryou Akiyama.'

But, suddenly, the world made sense again. I-I just can't picture Kai being into guys. It's…It's like Ruki willingly and happily going out dress shopping with her Mother or Juri: Some things are just impossible!

And we've all heard how much she hates going shopping for clothes with both of them! Juri and her Mom get along very well when it comes to fashion, Ruki likes Juri as a "fashion distraction."

"Mi-Minami-chan? Re-Really?" This…was news to me.

"Yeah, she told me a while ago…Hell, best day of my love life!"

…That's my cousin… "But her heart is mine, we just like to ogle girls at the beach sometimes. Guys, too, with her but…Can't complain, you know? If I can tell her how cute a girl is, she can do the same for guys. Fair trade, the way I see it! Hehehe!"

I laughed, "I'm glad it's…not an issue for you. Feel free to tell Grandpa Wataru."

"Knowin' Gramps, he'll roll his eyes and say 'duh!' But that's just Gramps." …Why do I get the feeling Grandpa Wataru and Ruki would get along very well?

Kai and I talked a while longer, I told him I was with Jen and he told me I was very lucky for that since, according to Minami, Jen's really hot. I do not disagree in the slightest! Kai had no idea Jen was gay, but…Well, Jen's "a surprise" when it comes to that sort of thing. No-one suspects Jen, it took Jen "covering" for Kenta for Ruki to even suspect him, after all.

Things are going to be fine, I think. One step at a time. I'm out to (most) of my family and I know the rest will probably accept it. Jen told me he might do the same soon. I asked him, "Wa-Wait, Jen…It's not because I…?" …Came out to my parents. Je-Jen, you don't have to do that because I did, too!

But, no, he had a different reason. One that…made me proud he's the one I'm with, actually. It's something I love about Jen-chan.

"No, it's for Xiaochun. If she's with Ai, then…If my family does freak out, I'd rather it be directed at me than her, you know? So, um, if things…go bad?"

"We have room, trust me, but…Your parents aren't like that, Jen-chan."

"I know, but…Just to be safe. I want Xiaochun to know how 'safe' it is the day she finally decides to do the same…Of course, knowing her, I'll come out and no matter how things go, it'll end with 'I'm with Ai-chan!' I don't know why but…I see her doing that."

"Me, too, either to support you or defend you…She's a great little sister, Jen, I'm really happy for her."

"…Me, too."

…We'll tell our friends soon. Or, at least, I'll tell Jen that Ruki knows. I know he won't be upset, maybe a little embarrassed since she managed to figure it out but, well, we both knew the risk when we started our 'shield Kenta' thing.

…Kenta…

…If Jen and I come out first, it'll probably be, at least in part, for him. I'm worried about how scared he gets when we talk about our orientation but he's gotten better. He's gotten less and less afraid as things went on. And with Ruki's support and, maybe, my family's and Shiuchon's support, too, he'll be okay. And if his family…reacts how he expects them to, I promise, he has somewhere to go…

…And if it's not The Matsuda Bakery, I have a feeling, no matter what, it'll be The Shiota apartment. I can't see Hirokazu abandoning Kenta over this, we've all told him that. And, well, with recent "revelations" about my "alternate boyfriend…"

I hope Kenta has less to worry about than he thinks he does. Just remember, Kenta-kun: You're not alone.

There's a knock at my door, I look up from my desk. I've been lost in thought since after dinner. "Come in." I say, turning to the door in my chair.

My Dad opens the door, slowly. "Hey, Takato, um, your Mother and I just, ah, had a talk..."

I think I know where this is going. But I'm not scared since…

…Dad's smiling a little.

~Owari~


Ori's Notes:

Again, another fic I wasn't sure how to end…Well, aside from one thing: I wanted Takato to come out to Kai in this for some reason. I dunno why, I just did. And I'll admit: Originally the story was going to contain the words "I'm bi, cousin!" but…Eh, I felt that was spreading the Urazoe-Matsuda Gay Gene a little too thin, so I decided to give Kai something even better: A bi girlfriend. I'm sure Kai is in hormonal heaven over that little "plot twist." Who thought it would still go with "Kai's bi," though? Be honest!

With Itsuki and suicide…Yeah, that was planned the whole time. I know, I'm evil, you can say it! I've come to accept the fact I'm a vile monster. I'm actually kinda proud of it! And, yes, I'm sure Taiki will invoke "Shelldwin's Law" before the end of Turtle Week! I'm kinda poking the bear to make him do it, actually, hehehe! Got my Taiki pokin' cane and everything!

The idea behind this came out of Ian R. Moros' review for Meimei, by the way. Check out Ian's fics (Taiki's Favorite Authors\in The Jenkato Archives) and leave him some reviews! Seriously, thanks for the ideas, Ian! You rock!

Anyway, I might continue this a little further with Kenta since he's only talked about. Or maybe cover Jen taking the "coming out bullet" for Xiaochun. Either way, I wanted to have a little more fun with the Meimei continuity.

Actually, on that note: Taiki and I have been wondering, is anyone interested in expanding on any other fic continuities I've got going? I mean anything from, ah, Akogare to They Called Upon A Midnight Buzzed. I mean, we've got the following "Tie Togethers" and "Series" thanks to my insomnia bouts\that one Christmas fic that always seems to work its way into my brain as a multi-fic series. See everything related to Christmas Dinner and Issho Ni\Eien Ni for reference to that.

So, yeah, anyone interested in another fic getting expanded upon? No promises but…I'm tempted to give things a shot, especially with how huge some of these (coughmirainokodomocough) have gotten.

Also, for those wondering: "Itoko" means "Cousin" in Japanese.

Also, regarding the shrine in Jen's living room that's mentioned: Takato uses the Japanese pronunciation for the deities in said shrine. In Chinese they are:

-Kuan-sama: Guan Gong (AKA Guan Yu, Lord Guan, Guan Di, Heavenly Emperor Guan and "that guy with the long silky beard and giant spear-sword-thingy in Dynasty Warriors."). One of China's most revered deities, a VERY prominent figure in the Three Kigndoms era of China (and, thus, Romance of the Three Kingdoms), one of China's most powerful warriors\generals (the weapon he wields, the "Guan Dao," meaning "Guan's Sword," is named after him and, supposedly, his original Guan Dao weighed over one hundred pounds) and, if centuries of Chinese folk tales about his heroics (in life and death) are any indication, history's first true example of "Chuck Norris Facts."

-Chou-Un: Zhao Yun (AKA Zhao Zilong or "The bishounen with a spear on a lot of Dynasty Warriors cover art"). One of Liu Xuande's best generals, supposedly never once wounded in battle despite living into his 70s, once fought off Cao Cao's army alone and with a baby under his armor (Liu Xuande's son, Liu Shan, he went behind enemy lines to rescue him after an attack from Cao Cao at Chang Ban Po. Both survived unscathed) and, again going by centuries of Chinese folk tales, history's second true example of "Chuck Norris Facts."

-"That doctor guy from Three Kingdoms:" Hua Tuo, I have no idea how his name is pronounced in Japanese so Takato only describes him. Fun fact: There's a Chinese liqueur called "Hua Tuo" that's supposedly his recipe and was once an attempt at an immortality potion. It's really sweet and, despite a relatively low alcohol content, goes straight to your head. It may not make you immortal but you will FEEL immortal. Also, look up the arm surgery he performed on Guan Gong that Takato mentions at some point: It's one of Guan Gong's most badass moments in Three Kingdoms (WARNING: Not for the medically squeamish, if My Brother, chapter III's description of Osamu's accident freaked you, this definitely will!).

There's your history lesson for the day! Because history is important!

And once more: HAPPY TURTLE WEEK, EVERYONE!


Taiki's Notes:

YES! THE MEIMEI SEQUEL! I was worried I wouldn't see this!

And, yes, Ori, it is quite cruel what you did to Itsuki. And I won't lie: When Takato called Kai I was expecting Kai to tell Takato he was bi or something like that. Not his girlfriend, though.

Thank you for your Turtle Week fics, Ori! I can't wait to see what else you have in store for us! And give Takato some apples for me, I'm sure he deserves some kind of reward for this fic!

Happy Turtle Week, everyone!

-Taiki Matsuki