All the Code Breakers agreed, at one point or another, that Sakurakouji Sakura was a remarkable individual with boundless energy and unpredictable courses of action. She was kind and strong, in body as well as in spirit. She was also apparently equipped with the necessary skills to break into quintuple-locked doors.
They were supposed to be Toki-proof too.
Rui carefully watched Sakurakouji, who was sitting beside the futon seiza-style and staring back with wide, determined eyes, and tried not to make any sudden movements.
Uh oh. The younger girl's eyes were sparkling.
"How do I seduce a man?"
Rui blinked and looked at the clock. "It's not even four yet."
Sakurakouji blinked back. "Then when is the best time to seduce a male?"
"No, um, I meant…" She sighed, and took time rubbing her eyes, "Is this a rhetorical question? Please, tell me you're asking me about a hypothetical scenario for a class paper on health sciences so I can pass this off as a sudden case of hypoglycemia."
That she secretly wished for the cure to be booze went unsaid.
Sakurakouji shook her head. "This is not a mock interview! I wish to learn the secrets to subduing and seducing a male!"
Shoot. She knew she should've pretended to be comatose. She could already feel the blood starting to pool up in her face. "Sakurakouji, this, why would I—are you even allowed to be moving around this early in the morning?"
"President-dono gave permission!"
Of course he did, that cowardly scoundrel. Rui decided to retry her previous attempt of feigning cerebral shutdown.
There was a short pause, during which the shadow-wielder swore she heard someone singing the Super Sentai theme song, then—
"I like hugging Rei."
"You have my morbidly sober attention."
Sakurakouji looked down at her hands, concentrated. "Hugging Rei is nice. I wish to do so again and again. To hold his hand. To familiarize with his scent of wet-cedar and molten autumn foliage. To feel the bloom of his warmth and the rhythm of his heart. I want to stand by him. I want to be close. Nay. I want… to be closer than close."
"Wow. That was … …poetic."
Rui rubbed her temple, noticing the slight heat in her cheeks as she repeated the rather blunt admittance of affection in her mind. Still, she supposed the occasion warranted celebration. If only she could reach her stash of Awamori undetected…
"So, Prince-dono, please teach me the secret arts of male seduction! I promise to be a diligent student, not unlike Fujika Moujimaru as he ascended the peaks of Fuji-san to achieve the orichalcum from the stars!"
This required an eloquent response. "Derp?"
With an elated grin, Sakurakouji quickly pulled something out from behind her back, holding it before her like an award-worthy alien ant farm. "In my ventures, I have collected many resourceful research materials! I believe they present possible solutions to my goal!"
"Sakurakouji, that—that's a manga."
The girl smiled like she was a kindergartener who was just awarded a gold star for learning how to tie her shoelaces.
"No, that wasn't a compliment—hey, are you listening! Stop reading!"
Sakurakouji wiped a tear from her eye. "Truly, an epic tale of camaraderie and samurai spirit no less inspiring than the sheer passionate works the likes of Hajime no Ippo."
Well, at least it wasn't a shoujo manga.
She groaned. "I…I don't think that sort of thing will be helpful. M-maybe you should try reading a, ugh, g-girly magazine?"
The girl nodded. "Toki-kun gave the same advice, which I've already followed."
"Their cosmetics articles were confusing, and the lingerie sections Toki-kun insisted upon were not only beyond a high-school student's allowance, they appeared to offer very little environmental protection."
Rui gave silent thanks to the wine gods for small favors.
"But then by chance I stumbled upon the 'Goddesses of the Otaku', the Morning Musume!"
Pumping a fist, the girl huffed nasally, oddly enthusiastic. "And since Ogami is very much of the otaku, I thought perhaps emulating their performances would aid me in his timely seduction!"
Maybe the younger girl ate something she shouldn't have. Or more likely, this was probably all Heike's fault. Yeah. Shunting all the blame on that pervert made sense. Blaming Heike was like an axion of the world of mental stability.
She sighed. She must be getting old—thought erased. "Sakurakouji, what makes you think I know anything about s-se—that?"
The girl blinked. "Heike-sempai said Prince-dono is well versed in the entertainment of other people's happiness, and would undoubtedly know the path to, um," she paused, apparently thinking of the words, "carnal passion."
Sakurakouji then smiled, in that special way. The way that meant she was, simply put, entirely sincere. "Also because Prince-dono is well suited for skirts and talented and so very pretty."
Rui gave serious considerations after tending to the wounds on both their foreheads and patching up the dents in the walls. Just thinking about this whole scenario tickled the urge to smash things through cranial means. The sun was about to come up soon, and she needed to get a start on preparing breakfast soon—
"Wait, you called him Rei," Rui blurted.
Sakurakouji seemed to have found great interest in the damaged wall.
"You called him Rei," she repeated, "when you talked about hugging."
Under the scrutiny of Rui's gaze, the younger girl's face flushed. "N-no, I don't think so. Um, you must have misheard," she insisted.
Really, her face looked like that of a Lego. What was even the point?
Huh. Well, that was so…cute!
When did this all happen? Well, that changed things a bit. It wouldn't do to allow the young maiden's interests to be ignored by that obtuse twat. Thinking about it some more, she was sure her promise to the deceased Seeker on protecting Rei somehow also involved facilitating embarrassing adolescent encounters. And on the same path of thinking, she remembered a certain never-worn outfit that Shibuya brought in hopes of increasing ticket sales stashed away in the attic.
There was pretty much no turning back. There was some planning to be done.
Still, the sanctity of her Shinuya Mansion took priority, so Rui tried to set some ground rules in case the younger girl wasn't as innocent as she once thought.
Sakurakouji just smiled. "There is no need for concern, Prince-dono. There is already an established safety word!"
Rui stared. "Goddammit Heiki."
"C'mon, share the wealth," Fujiwara whined, nudging him with his pinkie, both arms still encased in casts.
Ogami momentarily stopped patching the floorboards (were those termites?) and glared at the blonde moron, if only because the grin on Fujiwara's face was disturbingly gross. "What?"
"Duuude, don't play dumb. You're far too unqualified for such a subtle act."
It was clearly ethically wrong, he decided, the way Fujiwara was wagging his eyebrows.
"Stop that," he demanded, and shifted his posture so that he was shielding Yuuki from the unholy sight of creepiness. "And did you just call me dude?"
"Oh, right," Fujiwara snorted like the pompous dunderhead he was. "I forgot that you're just an uninitiated Japanese dork."
He called the idiot an unwashed dingus with posterior inflammation from beyond the lower sewer gates of Kuwait. In Arabic.
The fool was justifiably subdued, but rallied on through sheer pervert willpower. "You. Sakura-chan. Boobies. Groped. Feedback."
Wow. Just wow. He didn't think it was possible to want to kill someone this badly. There was irony in there somewhere.
"Groped," Yuuki chimed in, nodding in apparent approval.
Ogami deigned to stare at Fujiwara as the utter scum he was.
"What? C'mon," Fujiwara grinned, hands suspiciously capable of making obscene gestures. "You fondled Sakura-chan. That's like, worth two hundred terabytes of porn."
Ogami cursed when the hammer blow to the head missed.
"The Sixth was most impressive," Yuuki declared clapping, oddly excited. "The adventurous tales of Erogami were most inspiring."
He didn't know how yet, but he was going to make Fujiwara die by Code: End and then laugh.
"Look," Fujiwara began, sniffling, "at night Yuuki tries to lull me to sleep with that auditory sodomy he calls a lullaby and I'm probably going to be crippled for life. The least you can do is to fulfill my dying wish," he sobbed in a way that made Korean soap operas look like Oscar-nominees, "and let me experience Sakura-chan's awesome boobs vicariously through you."
It was heavily unsightly, the way Fujiwara's legs weren't also in casts. Or entirely amputated. Ogami resolved to remedy this obvious discrepancy.
As he was reaching for the rustiest screw driver he could find, the teen felt a rush of heat twitch through his left arm, and suddenly there was a floating blue fireball in his peripheral.
"Wow," the sentient ball of flames gushed, voice obviously parodying a certain someone. "Girls are a lot softer than I imagined. Her breasts feel different than when she does her hug attacks."
Ogami supposed it was rather idiotic to try and kill a fireball with a flat-blade screwdriver, and started the process of gnawing his left arm off.
"So, Ogami-kun has now met Mii-tan and Hii-tan as well," Nenene announced, suddenly on the scene in a flourish.
Ogami decided he suffered less stress when he was actually physically on the verge of respiratory arrest.
Fujiwara seemed to be having nasal leakage from picturing Nenene and Sakura in very inappropriate scenarios. Setting him on fire was completely justified.
"But!" the ex-Code: Breaker declared dramatically, posing and pointing in apparent challenge, and ignoring Fujiwara's pathetic attempts to douse his head in a bucket of dirty water. "Nenene will not submit so easily! The true battle for Sakura-chan's boobs has only just begun!"
Seriously, he should file a lawsuit for all the sexual harassments he was subjected to.
That was when Sakura bounced out of her room in a polyester strapless one-piece that barely reached past her hips. The thing was silver and shiny, and glittery and tight, and—
Really. What the fu—
"Prepare yourself, Ogami!" she roared, microphone in gracefully gloved hands—and suddenly the entire mansion trembled and was filled with J-pop—"For Love Machine!"
Then she started singing.
And dancing. Of the variety in which he hoped to be interpretative because he just couldn't stop staring and why was Rui on guitar that hag must've had a part in this and why was she posing like that and Yuuki was a surprisingly effective impromptu backup-dancer and did she just wink at him and was that Puppy on the drums and who the hell taught her to do that with her hips.
Beside him, the blue fireball was cheering and leaking tears like a manic fan-girl.
Fujiwara, now eyebrow-less, was desperately trying to work his camcorder with his feet.
It had been a while since his arm twitched violently enough to smack himself in the face.
Suddenly there was a hole in the ceiling, right above the jubilant performance.
What? Why was Heike popping out of the ceiling like a sinister gopher? Why was he shirtless? What the—Oh, dear Bodhisattva.
A tug on Ogami's arm thankfully allowed him to tear his stupefied stare away, if only briefly, and looked behind him.
Nenene looked crestfallen. "Nenene admits defeat."
Sakura smiled and waved to the hobo across the park, earning a nod and a scruffy smile in return, as she patiently waited for Rei to recover from what looked like overwhelmed awe.
Indeed, it was very impressive, the way Heike-sempai managed to emulate a disco ball.
Rei was muttering 'I can't unsee it' repeatedly, no doubt very much impressed by the performance and brilliant light show.
A chilly wind passed, and she tugged Rei's jacket to her more snugly, nearly burying her nose into the fabric. Somehow, her heart seemed to beat a little faster.
Before she knew it, Rei was beside to her left on the park bench. He sighed and seemed to be lost in thought for a few moments. "Sakura…san. What was…um…?"
He seemed to be pensive, but that was always more or less of a guess. His expression just…never changed much.
She pouted at that thought, her brows knitting together.
He blinked. "Is something the matter, Sakura-san? Are you cold?"
She stared, at his lips, because he was leaning in a little close and she focused too randomly.
She could feel it: her blood-pressure. It crawled along her cheeks alongside the telltale signs of her heart rhythm.
But Rei. His face was still blank. Maybe a little more curious, maybe a little more alert, but always sturdy in that constancy she always noticed. He didn't use the 'smile of lies' on her anymore, reserving it only for people he apparently disliked. And yet, somehow that made him harder to read.
She thought of that night then, when she embarrassingly revealed her fear of fireworks, when she saw him smile. It didn't matter that it was sort of at her expense, it was a special smile. It was lopsided and short-lived, but she saw it. She was the only one who did. And in that sense, she felt that it was meant only for her. Special.
She wanted to see it again. And again. All the time.
She liked watching him. She liked hugging him even more. Despite his insistence otherwise, he was warm, in a way similar yet different to everyone else. And in turn, he made her warm. But he, on the other hand…
"It-it's n-not fair."
"M-my blood-pressure," she said, looking as if she wanted to flee or fight. "It always gets high around you. But it's not the same for you. You don't share that weakness, and I just wanted to…"
To what, she didn't quite remember. Only of being close and wanting him to feel the same.
He watched her, unblinkingly, for a long moment. Then…
He grabbed her hand, fingers entwining with hers.
There was a sense of just…heat. In her hand and in her face. "R-R-Rei…?"
He wasn't facing her, but somehow, she could feel his eyes on her. "This ten-finger-lock that you like so much. Do you feel it?"
She did. Gradually, through the sound of her own thundering heartbeat, she heard his.
"This is all you."
She looked at him again, watching his face carefully. His expression still didn't change much, but the tempo that tickled her palm was solid.
Face ever so red, she smiled.
He looked at her, from the corner of his eyes, and made a smirk, lopsided and out of sight.
"And trust me," he said, "there were…things, that drastically raised my blood-pressure."
She couldn't help but smile. "Oh? I knew Rei would like Morning Musume. Was it our performance of their song? Prince-dono worked very diligently to train me."
He muttered something under his breath. "Yes, in a way, but mostly because—"
His eyes drifted downward below her face for the briefest of moments, before he snapped his head upwards so hard she swore she heard a crack.
"I MEAN, YES. THAT'S IT. THE SONG AND YOU DANCING AND HEIKE BEING CREEPY AND NOTHING ELSE."
She blinked. She frowned a little and leaned over to him to peer at him.
He leaned slightly away, a nervous tick in his jaw that she didn't miss.
He looked back at her then, and studied her smile for a moment.
"Hm? What is it, Rei?"
"I won your breasts from Nenene-sempai."
Someone squawked. It was very high-pitched and undignified, whoever it was.
It was lopsided and rough and entirely at her expense. But it was unreserved, sincere, and just for her.
Through the heat in her cheeks and in both their hands, she decided she liked it.
Rui looked at her clock, sighed, and faced forward.
With Puppy in her arms, Sakurakouji's eyes sparkled. "I wish to (beep) Ogami."
AN: Chapter 180 made me giddy. It was the kick I needed to finish this. Believe it or not, this thing was forgotten amidst the perpetual list of unfinished ideas. It's a sort-of-AU-sequel, if it's not obvious from the title, taking place around the initial introduction of Code: Emperor. And yeah, there's a third and last part to this shindig.
The Code: Breaker section is so lifeless now. It's kind of sad. Yeah, the manga is getting kind of ridiculous in some parts, but I thought people still enjoyed it. I mean, it's not cancelled yet. Well, maybe it's just the fanon that's unpopular. Hopefully the anime can fix that. Review or PM me if you want to see certain things realized in the third part. Or heck, help me come up with a snazzy, clever title.