Chapter 5: Reunions
Disclaimer: I do not own Sekirei, or any characters, major concepts, or logos associated with the series. This fan story is made for fun, not profit.
Minato walked the streets with Tsukiumi by his side, trying to look as casual as possible despite the attention his companion was receiving from bystanders. Although his flock of Sekirei tended to attract a lot of notice due to their stunning beauty and amazing proportions, he hadn't quite gotten used to the stares from other men. At times like this it made him feel inadequate standing alongside such beautiful women when he had no particularly special qualities himself. Strange as it sounded, Minato couldn't help but assume that most people were thinking this whenever they saw him in public.
It would have been an understatement to say he was nervous, although it had more to do with his sister than anything else. Yukari had never met any of his Sekirei except for Musubi, but the idea of explaining what happened to her along with the water woman's tendency to introduce herself as his wife, made him dread the encounter. He had tried talking Tsukiumi into staying at Maison Izumo this morning, but her ensuing protests quickly silenced his feeble resistance, and in the end he felt there was no choice but to let her have her way.
She noticed his look of discomfort, her connection allowing her to sense his feelings. "Dost thou find my presence cumbersome, Minato?"
He smiled and shook his head. "No, I'm just a little nervous about you meeting my sister. You have a tendency to be kinda intimidating, and Yukari has a bad habit of saying some things that can hit a little close to home."
"Naturally I hope to make a good impression, so thou needst not be concerned with that." She folded her arms, her thorny expression growing. "Even if thou refuses to call me wife in front of thy sister, you will still acknowledge me as lover. Dost thou understand my meaning?"
Minato sighed exasperatedly before nodding in reluctant acceptance. "We'll stick with girlfriend for the time being. The last thing I want to do is get her asking questions that might lead the conversation towards stuff about the Sekirei Plan. It's supposed to be a secret, after all?"
"The last thing I would want to do is put thee in danger. Very well… The question I venture to ask is why wouldst thou be so afraid of telling thy sister about our relationship?" She replied, barely hiding a spark of irritation behind her gaze. "Sure thou art not ashamed of thy wives, least of all thy real wife."
"It's not that at all." He replied with an apologetic look. "It's not normal for a guy to have five beautiful girls living with him at the same time. I'm even more scared imagining what she would say if she found out about Kuu."
"This time I shall hold my tongue, but know that thy sister will have to learn the truth eventually. If not, the consequences will be all the more dire, this I can personally testify."
Minato smiled with a look of relief, her reassurance calming his nerves. "Thanks Tsukiumi, I really appreciate what you're willing to go through for me."
She dismissed the notion with a snobbish gesture. "I would put my life on the line for thee. This is nothing." The blonde sighed before running a hand down her clothing. "Still, I do not know why thou seemed so adamant towards me wearing these. My dress would have sufficed for an outing such as this, would it not?"
The water-user pondering the black tank top and tight fitting white pants she had been given for the outing. Although she had worn him down during their brief talk about coming on this little excursion, he had insisted she wear something a little less revealing for the encounter in an attempt to appear more like an ordinary person. Sekirei were known for wearing an interesting assortment of clothes and outfits, so he had lent her some of the clothes that had originally been purchased for Musubi.
"I figured a more casual look would make things a little less awkward for a date." He stated with a hauntingly innocent blush.
Tsukiumi felt heat rising into her cheeks, but quickly hid it behind her ever-present scowl. "These rags make me feel like some kind of servant girl, and I do not relish the lack of sleeves or simple design." She turned around, her long pigtails swaying in the breeze. "Still, I suppose the coloring could be worse. After all, it matches that of my dress, and is certainly less undignifying than that maid outfit Uzume talked me into wearing."
Minato felt his eyes settling on the blonde, noticing again just how cute she was. Even while dressed in ordinary clothing with her hair tied, he couldn't help but see her radiant beauty shine through. The calm expression on her normally tense face was endearing, and the more casual choice of garb somehow made her seem less intimidating than usual. Tsukiumi eyed her clothing for a few more seconds before letting out a sigh, her pronounced scowl causing several ogling men to divert their eyes and scamper away.
She watched the passersby leave with a disgusted look before turning back around, only to see that her proclaimed husband was staring at her in a similar yet much less disturbing manner. "What art thou staring at?" she burst out, causing him to jump a little.
"Nothing!" he replied with a nervous twitch, subconscious taking a step back from her. "I just couldn't help but notice how nice you look today."
Tsukiumi turned her head to hide her smile as if afraid to display weakness in is presence. "Thou needst not be so hesitant about complimenting thy wife. I thank thee nonetheless, but perhaps later would be a better time. I believe we have an appointment to keep."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." He agreed with an awkward smile, turning his head embarrassedly before resuming the lead.
The two walked together for several minutes in silence, both with their own share of thoughts on what had just happened. Tsukiumi cursed herself for displaying such soft-headedness in front of her husband, while Minato was still dwelling on his own feelings. Even when enduring her temper tantrums, she made him feel like safe and warm on the inside, like she would shield him from the evils of the world with her own embrace. He received the same feelings from Musubi, although her feelings were usually imparted in a much more open manner while for Tsukiumi it was the occasional smile and act of kindness peeking out from her rough exterior that gave off the impression of her love. While they were all very different, all five were his Sekirei, after all.
As they neared the destination, Minato caught sight of his sister standing on the corner with someone he did not recognize. He was unable to tell whether her companion was a boy or girl, but the lack of curves and short hair seemed to indicate the former. Despite possessing a slim figure, the boy's facial features were soft and delicate like those of a girl. The pale skin, light hair, and bright blue eyes stood out in a crowd, making him difficult to miss.
Yukari waved as she noticed her brother approaching, her face alive with a pleasant smile. "Hey big bro, glad to see you made it this time!"
"I know what you mean. It's actually been a while since the two of us just hung out." He closed his eyes and rubbed the back of his head, giving his sister a nervous smile. "Just so you know, I wasn't trying to avoid you. A ton of stuff came up, and I've been going through a lot lately."
"Trust me, you have no idea." She replied with an exaggerated sigh, her smile returning moments later. She reached over her shoulder and seemed to scoop the boy from earlier out of thin air. "Anyway, I'm glad you managed to come. There's somebody important I've been meaning to introduce you too."
He welcomingly extended a hand, the pretty boy hesitantly accepting his shake. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Minato Sahashi, Yukari's older brother."
"I'm her friend, Shiina." He replied sheepishly, his gaze turned towards the ground. Truthfully the young Sekirei had no experience dealing with family situations, and it was making him feel oddly self-conscious.
Tsukiumi stepped forward assertively, her action surprising the others. "While we are on the matter of greetings, perhaps you would care to introduce me to thy sister?"
Minato swallowed his nerves and quickly worked to regain his composure. "Oh yeah, this is my sister, Yukari and her friend Shiina." He gestured towards them quickly before switching his attention back to the blonde Sekirei. "This is my friend, Tsukiumi."
"Lover would be a more appropriate term." She added quickly, a shy blush filling her cheeks.
The black-haired teen waved his hands frantically. "We haven't actually done it yet!" He blurted out with a note of panic, his own face turning an even deeper red before he tried to rationalize things again. "She's my new girlfriend!"
She eyed the new woman pensively before raising her eyebrow. "I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that things didn't work out between you and Musubi?" The younger Sahashi slid around the blonde woman's back and cupped her chest from behind, the sudden action shocking her so much that she couldn't respond. Yukari squeezed twice before winking at her sibling. "Hmmm… Not quite as nice as your last girlfriend, but I definitely approve!"
"Remove thy hands from my bosom posthaste!" Tsukiumi shoved her away, looking conflicted by her desire to leave a good first impression, and her instinct to hit her with a water blast.
"Apparently she's a little uptight, too." Yukari casually rested her hands on her hips, not even sparing a glance at the seething Sekirei. She pulled her brother into a playful headlock while rustling his hair. "So, care to explain how you ended up with grouchy Goldilocks, or do I have to force the truth out of you?"
Minato stood back up, taking a moment to crack his neck back into place while trying his best to come up with a reasonable explanation. He was never a very good liar, so at times like this he preferred blending the truth in to make things easier. "A while ago I had some dreams about meeting a beautiful girl somewhere in the city. I couldn't stop thinking about her, and the next day we met in the streets."
His sister shrugged off the idea as they walked down the sidewalk. "When you put it that way, it sounds like some kind of mega sappy love story."
Tsukiumi followed alongside the siblings with Shiina in tow, both Sekirei too busy watching the interaction to properly notice each other. "I would highly appreciate it if thou would not speak of our love like that."
"It's nothing against you." She responded absent-mindedly. "The truth is, I was just wondering what happened to my brother's previous girlfriend."
The water Sekirei exhaled slowly, looking slightly insecure at the thought. "Art thou trying to imply that Musubi was better than me?"
Her Ashikabi turned around, wrapping a hand around her shoulder. "Neither of us said anything like that. You're all just as special to me."
"What do you mean by you all!? Do you have a harem waiting for you back home, or have you just gone through that many relationships since my last visit?"
"Neither of those things!" Minato replied with a spasm-like jump, beads of sweat dripping rapidly down his face. He quickly tried to remedy the situation, but at this point his mind was screaming for a way out. "You might say that Tsukiumi and Musubi were friends around the time we all met."
Yukari placed a finger to her lower lip as she tried to sort out the details. "So basically you dumped Musubi for blondie, and that's why you guys aren't together anymore?"
"Please don't make this any more complicated than it already is!" he pleaded, now driven halfway between depression and exasperation. "Things didn't work out because Musubi had to go away. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?"
"Still, it's pretty gutsy of you to date your girlfriend's friend shortly after she breaks it off with you. I had no idea my big brother was such a perverted player!"
"I am not a pervert… Or a player!" Minato shouted defensively, the display causing several people walking by to stare for a moment. The conversation had slowly worn away at his mental stamina, and he was beginning to feel depressed.
Yukari noticed her brother's look of anguish and felt suddenly guilty for pushing the envelope this far. She stared off into the sky for a moment or two, silently watching a pair of birds fly close to each other before moving in opposite directions. She glanced back over at her older siblings, whose expression gave off the impression that he had just been slapped in the face several times with a frying pan. It was now clear to her that the greeting they shared moments ago was only Minato trying to put on a strong front.
"Look, I'm really sorry about that stuff I said before." She placed a hand on his shoulder, stopping him mid-step. She straightened up, trying to look as casual as possible despite the encroaching heat in her cheeks. "I don't know everything that happened between you and Musubi, but I'm here if you want to talk about it."
"Thanks Yukari…" he looked up at her with a forced half-smile, his sister's gesture bringing him some much-needed comfort. Due to her obnoxious and often aggressive nature, he often found her difficult to deal with, but in moments like this he could tell she was really trying.
Yukari couldn't help but grin sheepishly, satisfied with the results of her gesture. "Well, now that we've got that taken care of, maybe we should pick up something to eat!" she turned back at their two companions. "What do you guys say?"
"That sounds really nice." Shiina added with a casual nod.
Tsukiumi took a few steps forward before wrapping around her Ashikabi's arm. "I believe we have far more important things to worry about, if thou dost understand my meaning?" she gave his limb a gentle tug, earning a quick but stern nod from her self-proclaimed husband.
"I hate to pry into your business again, but what the Hell is she talking about?" she grabbed the front of his shirt and shook him eagerly. "You wouldn't be trying to hide some secret love affair from your sister, would you?"
"No, of course not!" he answered frantically, taking a break to flatten the wrinkles in his collar.
Minato felt his mind racing for a moment in an attempt to come up with a viable answer that wouldn't violate his contract with MBI. At the very least he was grateful that Tsukiumi wasn't answering either, which gave him a second longer to toss something together. Considering their recent dealings with Minaka, he decided that bending the truth while leaving out certain details would be easy, so long as he didn't bait his sister with any juicy information. If he gave her too much, she wouldn't leave him alone until he spilled his guts.
"Earth to Minato! Anybody home?" she called out, gently waving her hand in front of his face.
"Oh yeah, sorry for spacing out like that." He replied a little too quickly, prompting her to raise an eyebrow. The dark-haired ronin swallowed the lump that had begun to form in his throat before regaining his previous composure. "I know we were originally supposed to hang out today, but there's some errands I needed to run today that I forgot about until just now."
"That's a likely story." She rolled her eyes with an angry pout suddenly leaning forward so that she was right in his face. "If you think you're gonna ditch me today, I'll take out your spine, turn it into a pretzel, and make you swallow it!"
Shiina tugged at the male Ashikabi's sleeve, causing him to look back at the younger boy. "I was just wondering… Has Yukari always been like this?"
"Since we were kids…" Minato replied nervously, a bead of sweat appearing on his temple.
Tsukiumi stepped in front of them, her serious demeanor melted away to reveal a large vein throbbing. "You'll have to go through me first if you wish to do harm to my husband!" she blurted out, only realizing her mistake moments later.
"Did she say husband!?" Yukari shook her head with a confused expression, the sudden shock jarring her out of her previously aggressive state.
The water Sekirei fought back to the urge to confirm something that was fact in her eyes. "Tis something I hope that hast slipped out. It is only natural that any person enters into a romantic relationship in order to find one's life mate. Would you not agree?" she replied in a matter-of-fact kind of way.
Her Ashikabi held his breath, but Yukari merely sighed in acceptance. "Yeah, I guess that makes sense." She grabbed her own Sekirei and kissed his forehead like a small child, immediately catching her brother's attention. "Isn't that right, Shiina."
"I guess so…" He looked away bashfully, having not expected her to display her affection in the open. Despite this, he did not push her away or ask her to stop the embrace.
Minato's eyes began sliding back and forth anxiously as he heard people talking about them. He was well aware of his sister's love of younger attractive boys, but it had also been a source of discomfort for him when they were still living at home together for several reasons. A woman like Tsukiumi attracted enough attention on her own, but his sister's public displays of affection weren't exactly helping them blend in with the crowd either.
"Um, maybe we should keep moving." He suggested eagerly, snapping them out of the trance.
Yukari glanced at her watch and nodded. "I guess you're right." She replied with a puzzled expression. As the group continued their leisurely walk through town, she released Shiina's hand and hung back to walk beside her brother. "So Minato, you were talking about running some errands earlier, right? Anything specific you have in mind?"
"Oh, right." The ronin gave his forehead a light tap as if berating himself. "I was applying for a job today and was planning on buying something nice to wear for the occasion. You see, the suit I wore for High School graduation doesn't fit anymore."
She poked him in the stomach, causing him to recoil slightly. "That's what you get for living off of fast food and convenience store bentos. I swear, you're gonna ruin your health eating that crap all the time. That's what you get for not being able to cook."
"The last time I checked, you weren't exactly a master chef." He retaliated playfully.
"That's beside the point!" she quipped, gently massaging the back of her right shoulder. "All I'm saying is just because you suck at cooking, doesn't mean you have an excuse for killing yourself with junk food."
"I've actually lost a little bit of weight over the last few months due to this hectic lifestyle. Don't get me wrong… The landlady's an excellent cook, but she sometimes confiscates my meals whenever the other tenants misbehave or something goes wrong around the house. It's really not fair, since I don't usually do anything wrong."
"What!? You just bring me to this lady and I'll straighten her out for ya!"
Minato shivered slightly at the thought of Miya's demonic visage looming over them, a nervous laugh escaping his lips moments later. "Thanks for the offer, but I'd much rather you didn't."
"If you say so." His younger sister rested her hands on the back of her head, leaning back slightly as they walked along. "So, what exactly are you looking to buy this time around? I think you'd look really good in a tux or something fancy like that!"
He paled at the thought of wearing something so over-the-top and blatantly old-fashioned. "I'm not going to a school dance."
"It really depends on your price range. There are some nice shops around here for professionally made clothing, but a lot of it's pretty expensive. Mom will go ballistic if she finds out you maxed out her credit cards again."
The older sibling reached into his pocket, pulling out a small stack of yen. "This is pretty much all I've got until this job starts paying. I don't think it'll be enough, unless I'm buying used clothes for a monkey." He added gloomily.
"Cheer up. I'm willing to spot you some bills if you can't pay. Of course, you'll still have to pay me back at a 50% interest rate." She replied, looking slightly guilty when he started to moan. "Chill out, I was kidding about that last part."
Tsukiumi quickened her pace again to catch up to the others, her sudden intrusion diverting their attention. "Why not just use the card that your employers provided for living expenses? That should more than suffice if you cannot pay yourself."
"Maybe, but I don't think they would approve of me using it before working my first day."
"Nonsense! If nice clothing is a requirement for the job, then it will not be beyond the limitations of your agreement if the company pays for them!"
Yukari placed her hands behind her back and relaxed her shoulders before turning to face her brother. "I thought you said you were just applying for the job? Why would they reimburse you with a credit card before you even started?"
"You might say I'm already a shoe-in for this position." he added in, quickly covering the small inconsistency in his story.
His sister looked stupefied and suspicious at the same time. "Wait a minute… You're saying a high school graduate with no job who isn't even attending college yet is automatically qualified for a job with a corporation rich enough to issue a company credit card." Her gaze suddenly intensified. "No offense big bro, but that makes about as much sense as a snowy day in Hell! I mean: You failed the university entrance exam twice for God's sake!"
Minato almost landed on his face a she said this last part. Normally he would be bothered that she mentioned this blunder, but trying to concoct another cover story was more important at the moment. "Well… I… You see… … I…" he stumbled over his words. "You might say I just happened to meet someone who had some friends in high places, and I…"
"Sounds like you saved the life of a wealthy mob-man and got a job working for the Yakuza." She stated bluntly, her words eliciting an awkward look from her brother.
Her brother tensed up as he imagined the scenario for himself, although he was horrified to admit that the situation he had found himself in recently was probably even worse. His new employer was probably more dangerous than an army of gangsters, and about ten times a smart. Although his sister's guess had been way off, the danger level was still very much the same.
Yukari eyed him like a hawk inspecting its prey, but seeing her brother's pleading eyes made her stop. "I'll go ahead and buy your story this time, although you're gonna have to come clean sooner or later." she shrugged with acceptance. "Either way, you better tell mom if something bad's going on. If you hide anything from her and she finds out, it'll be ten times worse."
"I'll have to keep that in mind." He answered with a frown, having already endured their mother's verbal abuse once in response to the current situation.
"So, what exactly did your new bosses give you to spend? We should probably check the limit"
Minato reached into his wallet, pulling out the credit card that the MBI staff had given to him the previous day. "Truthfully things have been so hectic the last few days that I haven't really looked into it yet. What do you make of it?"
In no time at all Yukari snatched it from of his hands, her eyes practically turning into gold coins on the spot. "Is this a platinum credit card!?"
"What difference would the color make?" Tsukiumi interjected with indifference.
"Sheesh, and I thought blonde stereotypes were just a bunch of crap." she handed it back to her brother with a slightly jealous expression.
The liquid elemental sneered with a note of irritation. "Art thou trying to insult me, sister?"
Yukari folded her arms with a look of amusement. "C'mon blondie, even you can't be that ignorant. Do you have any idea what kind of things you can buy with a piece of plastic like this!?" she turned to her sibling. "Whoever it is you're working for must be freaking loaded."
"That's probably an understatement." He replied, looking surprisingly unfazed by the new development. Minato had never been a big spender when it came time to buying clothes, and even less when it came time to frivolities and luxuries.
The teenage girl quickly grabbed her brother by the wrist before steering him in the opposite direction. "So, where are we going?" he asked suddenly.
She winked at him. "There's a store downtown I've always wanted to go into, and you're my ticket inside!"
Minato sweat dropped again as he tried to guess what she was up to. "Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" he muttered, knowing that arguing was pointless right now.
After a few more minutes of forced marching, Yukari lead the others into a posh clothing store known for serving only the finest clientele. Minato wasn't surprised that his sister had thought of coming into a place like this, especially since half of the price tags in the window included enough digits to be a zip code without even counting the decimals. The group's rather ordinary appearance seemed to stick out among the store's regular customers.
As they took a few more steps into the store, a young woman wearing an expensive-looking top, designer label hat, lizard-skin pants, and onyx boots approached the group. She was roughly Tsukiumi's height with shoulder-length light brown hair and a slightly tan complexion. A pair of golden bracelets around her left wrist completed her look, the simple name tag around her neck signifying that despite her appearance, she was also a store employee. She walked with a certain swag in her step, placing one hand on her hip as she stopped in front of the group.
The manager wore a disappointed expression half hidden behind a fake smile. She doubted that they could even afford anything in the store, let alone buy anything, which did nothing for the business. "Excuse me, but may I help you kids with something?"
Tsukiumi stepped up the woman with an equally distasteful look. "Minato is looking to purchase some fine clothing for his new job. Would care to accommodate us now, or should we look for somebody else in the vicinity?"
"That really depends on how much you are willing to spend. If you give me an estimated price range, I can properly advise you."
Minato reached into his pocket, pulling out his cash. "I'm a little short on cash right now, so maybe we should start with something on the lower end."
The saleswoman's expression dropped ever so slightly, but she remained courteous nonetheless. "I'm sorry we can't be of assistance at those prices. We don't carry any clothing within your price range. However, there is a lovely department store down the street owned by the same company as our boutique. I'm sure they will be happy to…"
"Treat us like dirty peasants, will you!?" Tsukiumi snapped irritably, causing her Ashikabi to panic a little on the inside.
Before she could do anything else, Yukari took control of the situation. "If I didn't know any better, I would say you're trying to kick us out!" She snatched her brother's new credit card out of his pocket, before dangling it directly in the manager's face. "As you can see, price is no object for a man like my big bro."
Although their host was taken aback by her rude gesture, she quickly bowed her head to Minato respectfully. "I'm incredibly sorry for what I said earlier. If you'll come with me, I'll see if we can find something acceptable."
"Thank you very much." He returned the bow, waiting a moment before following the woman. Yukari flashed him a satisfied smirk, but her brother merely shook his head. "You know I was trying to avoid using the credit card, right?"
"Screw that! They gave it to you for a reason." She leaned closer to him, placing a hand in front of her mouth. "Besides, I had to shut her up somehow. That lady was trying to throw us out, and I really can't stand people like that!"
"No husband of mine will be spoken down to by anyone, least of all some common shop clerk wearing reptile skin." The water Sekirei added with a stiff nod.
Minato sighed as they stepped into another part of the store; silently glad that Yukari's new friend wasn't as loud or assertive as the girls. Overall the kid seemed to be rather shy and reserved, yet also kind and agreeable. In a way the young ronin was reminded of himself, although Shiina was undoubtedly cuter and more endearing. The boy also had a feminine grace that made Minato think of Kagari back at Maison Izumo, but he just assumed it was a strange coincidence. As he stepped into the open, they entered an area where a number of expensive suits on display on the surrounding mannequins.
"Please feel free to take your time and choose whatever you like." The saleswoman bowed again before gesturing to her right. "The changing rooms are right over there if you would like to use them, and if you need any more assistance, please feel free to ask someone on the staff."
Minato returned her gesture in kind. "Thanks again, ma'am."
"Don't call us, we'll call you." Yukari replied dismissively, shooing the woman away without even sparing a glance in her direction. "Let's get started, shall we?" She straightened up cheerfully before plunging into a nearby rack.
"If you insist." He began looking through a small selection of suits, the tags on some of them bearing the names of big name designers. Although the prices were unlisted, he knew that they were bound to be enormous. "Hey, I think I found something…"
"You never had an eye for clothing, big bro. Just leave this to your dear sweet sister." Yukari said before seemingly materializing beside him with a stack of things she had pulled out already.
She began roughly piling several articles of clothing into her brother's arms, causing him to wobble around dangerously. "Are you sure this is a good idea." He stumbled once before regaining his footing, no longer able to see above the stack. "I mean, won't the manager be mad that you're making such a mess?"
"We're the customers, so who cares?" she replied thoughtlessly before cracking another smile.
Shiina watched his Ashikabi's brother with a look of pity before taking half of the stack from him. "Let me help you with that."
"Oh, thanks a bunch!" Minato replied, earning a pleasant smile from the younger boy.
"Do not forget me as well!" Tsukiumi stepped out from behind another rack, carrying with her some of her own selections. "These should suit thee nicely at any rate."
Yukari tapped her foot on the floor, bringing the gathering under he control. "All right guys… Now comes the fun part where my big brother has to try on everything and show us how handsome he looks!"
He took one look at the stack and groaned quietly, trying to remain as cheerful as possible. "Looks like this could take a little longer than I was hoping…"
Minato simply did as he was told and went into the dressing room, emerging countless times wearing several different suits that the girls had picked out for him. He was never a big fan of shopping for clothes and usually preferred casual wear to anything fancy, but the circumstances along with his sister had forced him to deal with it today. So far is she had turned down every outfit she had picked thus far, making him wonder if she had some kind of sick obsession with dressing him up like a plaything. The thought made him cringe, but he decided to ignore it.
Minato's face paled as he reached for the next outfit, vaguely recognizing it as the one that Tsukiumi had brought to him earlier. It was rather strange that the store even carried something like this, but he guessed it was more for ceremonial purposes than practical use. Despite his reservations Knowing what would happen if he refused to even try it out, he slipped the material over his shoulders and stepped into the open, his cheeks quickly turning red with embarrassment.
The water Sekirei stood up with a rare smile, her hands resting proudly against her flawlessly shapely hips. "There now, isn't that an excellent look for you, Minato?"
"I guess you could say that… Although, it is a little bit old-fashioned, don't you think?"
Yukari let out a stifled laugh before letting the rest go. "Tell me about it." She made a mocking gesture. "Well that's not what I was expecting, but maybe you could've pulled that look off about five centuries ago."
"I think he looks more handsome than ever." Tsukiumi spoke, folding her arms adamantly.
The dark-haired man was standing in a fancy kimono, a gold ornament in his hair and a sword sheath strapped to the sash. They came here looking for business suits for his new job, but instead he was standing in front of them looking like an extra from an old samurai movie. The clothes were made out of fine materials, but at the moment he was dressed more like a feudal lord from the history books than a businessman.
"Guess I should have expected this." He moaned with a shred of humor. The blonde Sekirei was known for using archaisms in her pattern of speech. It made sense, but he still hadn't guessed that her taste in men's clothes would also be on the older side.
She noticed his expression and stopped smiling. "Is there something wrong, Minato?"
"Nothing really, I was just hoping for something more modern to wear. This type of kimono is more like something you'd wear to a festival or a historical reenactment."
"Oh, well that is quite all right." Tsukiumi acknowledged her mistake, before leaning in so that they were literally standing eye-to-eye. "You do like it, am I right?"
The young Ashikabi smiled at her, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Of course I do." He began awkwardly. "I would like anything that you girls would get for me. So long as you had me in mind, it's the special thought that counts."
"Minato…" she whispered, their faces slowly moving closer together.
His sister waved her hand between them, shaking her head in disgust. "Ugh, barf! No offense, but I would really appreciate it if you guys waited until you were alone before doing that!"
"Well, I… I wasn't going to…" he stammered, his eyes begging the blonde Sekirei for help.
"Pardon me!" Tsukiumi scooted backwards while biting her lower lip. She cursed herself for showing such soft emotions where everyone could see, her ironclad pride severely damaged by the tender moment. Their eyes met again, but they were quickly interrupted once more.
"Enough lovey dovey stuff for now… This is seriously beginning to bug me." Yukari stated bluntly before shoving another outfit into her brother's hands, using both of hers to shove him back into the dressing room.
"Okay!" he blurted out, only to be silenced by the sound of the door slamming in his face.
When her brother was out of sight she exhaled deeply, casually running a hand through her hair. She glanced back at Shiina who had remained relatively quiet before diverting her attention to the blonde. "So your name was Tsukiumi, right?"
"Indeed…" She replied impassively before looking over at her future sister-in-law. After waiting a moment, the ensuing silence resulting in aggressive scowl. "I know that thou intends to speak to me more. Answer now or remain silent, I care not which you choose."
"Just chill out. There's no need to be so uptight all the time." Yukari glanced down at her own feet before returning the blonde woman's gaze. "So Tsukiumi, Minato said you and Musubi were friends earlier. Is it really true?"
"There are some things that he would rather not speak of, but he spoke the truth to you regarding my relationship with Musubi. Indeed, she was a very dear friend to me."
Despite her usual bluntness, the dark-haired girl was far from stupid. She knew from the note of tenderness in Tsukiumi's voice that they must have been close. The way they had spoken about Musubi during this encounter was strange, almost like the girl was dead, but she Yukari was not heartless enough to force to issue of the girl's possible death, but at the same time, she couldn't help but ask the question that had been burning inside her for the last hour.
"If you two were friends, then why would you date my brother as soon as Musubi left?"
Tsukiumi's expression softened somewhat. "You might say she and I were competing for Minato's heart long before she disappeared. Indeed, she was both my greatest rival and most valued friend."
The female Ashikabi looked up at her. "Sounds like everyone's taking it rough. Is she really? You know… Dead?"
Before either of them could resume the uncomfortable subject, the sound of the dressing room door caught the girls' attention. Both were rendered speechless as Minato greeted them, now dressed in clothes that both complimented and enhanced his handsome features. He wore a dark blue suit, matching pants, and a cream white undershirt visible in the upper opening of the jacket. His outfit also had black leather shoes and elegant cufflinks, further accentuating his gentlemanly quality, and a red tie around his neck competed the outfit.
Minato scratched his head with a bashful expression before asking. "So how do I look?"
"If I didn't know any better, I'd guess you were a wealthy millionaire walking the streets in that getup. Stick with that look today and you'll be able to get any job. That is so long as you don't open your mouth." His sister joked, earning a light-hearted chortle from her Sekirei.
"I much preferred my own selection, but this will suffice for now." Tsukiumi tilted her head with an angry expression, her gesture at odds with the redness in her cheeks.
Yukari began prodding her in the side with a teasing smile. "C'mon Miss Knockers, you know I picked out a better outfit. Just make it easy on yourself and admit it!"
The water Sekirei kept her mouth closed in a tight line as the other girl kept nudging her, a large vein throbbing on her forehead. Biting back her irritation, she took a step forward to avoid the continued poking. "Thy sister has chosen well, Minato. Thou dost appear very noble and handsome as ever… I wholeheartedly approve." She acknowledged with a stiff nod.
"Glad to hear it." Minato exhaled wearily, glad to be finished for the moment.
He went back into the dressing room and changed back into his normal clothes, the suit draped around his right arm. By the time he returned to the others they were busy handing over the remaining clothes to store employees while exchanging pleasantries. Watching Tsukiumi dressed in casual clothing and acting so normal brought about that familiar warm sensation in the young Ashikabi's chest. At times like this she seemed so charming and approachable, reminding him exactly why she had become such an important person in his life.
The water Sekirei sudden stepped in front of him with an angry pout. "Dost thou seek to mock me by ogling with such a weak expression?" she quipped, instantly snapping him out of his daze.
"Not at all!" he spoke quickly, raising his hands on instinct. "I was just happy at how great today's been going!"
"Tis true, thy sister and her friend have been pleasant as well." She agreed, looking away with a slightly apologetic expression.
"You're not so bad yourself, blondie." Yukari interjected, her sudden appearance surprising them both. She spun around on her heel with a cheerful expression before walking on the opposite direction. "Anyway, I'm gonna wait outside with Shiina while you pay for that outfit."
"Sure, I'll catch up with you guys in a minute." He watched the others leave before turning to Tsukiumi. "You can with them if you want. I'll only be a minute."
"It is a wife's duty to stay by her husband's side, is it not? And besides, I would feel safer if at least one of us was with you at all times in case of an unexpected encounter. Considering the nature of this game, a potential enemy could be waiting in plain sight."
"I get it, but I'd prefer if you didn't talk about this in public." He whispered back before carrying his purchase to the front counter. He rang the bell, quickly catching the attention of the cashier. "Excuse me, I would like to pay for these items."
The woman turned around, revealing the face of the manager from earlier. "Of course, sir." She replied courteously before typing some numbers into the keypad. She looked highly amused by his purchase, recognizing the expensive purchase as one of their finest items. "You have quite an exquisite taste for such a young man."
"I appreciate the compliment, although it was my sister and friends who picked out this one."
Minato felt his heart skip a beat when he saw the total, his eyes widening slightly as she punched in the rest of the items. His total bill increased exponentially with each keystroke, revealing a higher total than he had ever spent in one location in his entire life. The saleswoman seemed unaware of his shock as she neatly folded the articles of clothing, gently tucking each finely made garment into a bag bearing the store's designer logo. Once everything was in place, she tapped the screen and smiled back at him.
"How will you be paying." She asked out of formality, knowing full well the answer.
The dark-haired ronin suddenly felt a pang of regret for letting his sister talk him into shopping at this store, his hand quaking slightly as he withdrew the company credit card from his pocket. He extended his arm slowly as he wondered what his mother would have to say about this, a small tug of war taking place as the manager attempted to pry the card from his frozen fingers. After completing the purchase, she returned it along with a receipt, which he nervously signed in a shaky penmanship.
"Thank you very much for your purchase. Please come again soon, Mr. Sahashi."
"I'll keep that in mind." Minato scratched his cheek with an awkward smile, knowing full well that he probably wouldn't be making a return trip. He had no interest in trying on large amounts of clothing again so soon. As the pair exited the store, he could saw his sister whispering excitedly to her friend. "So guys, you ready to pick up something to eat, now?"
Yukari glanced at her cellphone. "It's a little late now for breakfast, but why not? I haven't eaten anything all morning. What about you, Shiina?"
"It sounds like a good idea. Is there anything the rest of you would like specifically?"
"I don't know… What about you, big bro?" she turned to him with a shrug.
In that moment Tsukiumi realized just how long they had spent inside the store, causing her to instinctively look up at the large clock face on Teito Tower. Before her Ashikabi could say anything else, she cupped a hand over his mouth, ignoring his mumbles. "I am afraid we must decline this invitation."
Minato struggled for a moment before finding his voice. "Wait!? What was that, now?"
She pulled him closer causing him to blush again, but she did her best to ignore this. "We have an appointment, or have your forgotten? I feel it wise that we return to Maison Izumo soon."
Her words had a profound effect on the young Ashikabi, who sputtered as he saw the numbers on his watch. Minato shook his head to clear it before nodding his agreement. "I'm sorry to have to run off like this, but I need to meet with some people from work pretty soon."
"Whatever… I guess we took longer here than I thought." she answered with disappointment lacing her tone. Reaching over, she took Shiina by the arm and led him away, sparing a tiny wave as they departed the scene. "I guess we'll have to do lunch another time. See ya!"
"It was very nice meeting you both." The male Sekirei called back, quickening his pace to avoid being dragged away by his partner.
"So long." He waved to the duo, watching quietly until they had passed out of sight.
Tsukiumi exhaled as if releasing a large amount of pent-up stress, although her opinion was mixed at worst. "I suppose they were pleasant enough, though the small boy was rather quiet. Even so, I admit his company was preferred to the antics of thy younger sister."
"She can be a little extreme sometimes, but I don't fault her for it. Having met my mom, you already know what the women in my family can be like."
"Do not take this for an insult, but I never would have guessed that such ill traits would persist within the females of thy family." She grimaced as if something had left a bad taste in her mouth. "Of course I could have done without that woman placing her hands upon my bosom. Had it been anyone else, I might not have responded with such civility."
"Believe it or not, Yukari did that same thing to Musubi when they first met. I care a lot for my sister, but there are times when I really don't understand what she's thinking."
The water wielder folded her arms. "Tis simple enough to understand, my husband." She considered the notion for a second before coming to an interesting realization. "Although I remember Musubi once grabbed hold of my breasts under the claim that someone had done the same to her in the past. Now I know the truth."
"It's about time we get back home and see how the others are doing." Minato held out an arm to her. "You ready to go?"
"Of course." she hesitated for a moment before wrapping her hand around his arm, trying hard to maintain her cold mask of indifference as they proceeded towards the train station.
Later at Izumo Inn…
Matsu lugged a large bag out of her room, heaving it over her shoulders with some difficulty. Since MBI had so much advanced technology at its disposal she had opted not to take all of her equipment along, but her load was still considerably large. She had taken a number of electronic devices along with some of her own inventions, the gadgets cushioned by the few outfits she had packed in the luggage. She had very few outfits for such an attractive girl, but she rarely had need of such things and it wasn't so easy to leave the house when a bounty was on her head.
She continued struggling for another minute before reaching the stairs. Her intelligence was a very important and irreplaceable tool, but there were rare moments when Matsu wished she had been born with the immense physical strength gifted to many of her brethren. She lost her footing for a moment upon reaching the stairs, barely stopping her laundry from littering the ground as the suitcase snapped open.
A piece of clothing bearing the Sekirei symbol was hanging out of the side prompting her to stuff it back in. It had been years since she wore her old Discipline Squad uniform, but the red-haired genius had kept it hidden in the back of her closet for over decade now. The garment reminded her of simpler days before the S-Plan was changed from a harmless research program into a cruel tournament, a fact that still didn't sit well the members of the First Generation.
Lost in her thoughts of the past, she jumped when a hand settled on her left shoulder. "Yikes!"
"I'm so sorry for startling you just now." Musubi's voice rang out from behind her.
"Oh Yume, it's just you." Matsu smiled awkwardly while wiping the sweat from her forehead.
"I saw you struggling with that package and was going to ask if you needed any help."
The redhead returned her sincerity. "I'm doing all right. Even we brain-type Sekirei need a chance to exercise our bodies rather than just our minds! Besides, you're already carrying that giant sack of stuff from Minato's room."
Yume swept her words aside. "Nonsense, let me help you with those!" Without even asking for permission, she took the bags from Matsu, moving the larger sack from her right shoulder to the left as she grasped both the smaller cases with one hand.
Matsu found the display slightly amusing. "Sheesh… Sometimes I forget how much power you combat-type Sekirei have. I'm betting you could press a mountain if you really wanted."
"Maybe a house, but not a mountain." The other woman replied half-joking, giving the bags a gentle toss and catching them as if they were packed with feathers. She started down the stairs, turning her head slightly to glimpse the other woman. "So, are you done packing your stuff yet?"
"More or less… I don't own much aside from my equipment, nor do I plan on taking everything with me. That would just be nuts!"
Yume's expression suddenly became more serious, the thoughtfulness looking out of place on Musubi's innocent face. "You plan on keeping everything here as a precautionary measure, in case something troublesome happens during our stay at Teito Tower. Am I right?"
Matsu blinked once before straightening her glasses, causing the light to shine off of the lenses in a menacing fashion. "At times like this it becomes painstakingly obvious that you and Musubi are very different people." She surmised with a clever smirk. "Nothing gets past your eyes, does it, Number 08?"
"You might say I've always had a knack for figuring things out. Can't be head of the Discipline Squad without having some deductive skills, can you?"
"I suppose not." The redhead agreed as they proceeded into the downstairs hall.
Miya was casually sweeping off the stairs while Kuu was stuffing her toys into a small bag that they had provided her with earlier. Aside from a few identical white dresses, the youngest Sekirei had only a limited number of possessions. Minato had used his limited income to buy two stuffed animals, some crayons, coloring books, a set of pajamas, and a few pots for growing plants. The selection was limited, but she deeply treasured everything that he gave to her.
Kazehana remained seated at the table, a bottle of premium sake held loosely in her hands. She took a long swig from the container and exhaled with a satisfied sound, her breath laced heavily with the scent of alcohol.
Matsu sniffed the air before wafting away the scent of booze. "How many times have I told you, you're gonna ruin your health drinking like a fish."
"My, aren't we being a hypocrite today. I recall last night you joined me for a few drinks."
"And I'm still regretting it…" The genius rubbed her head softly, earning a small laugh from the other Sekirei. She could only sigh in response, but seeing the wind Sekirei relaxing at a time like this was enough to grab her focus. "Wait!? Are you intending on staying here, or do you just have nothing to pack?"
"Well I tried to nab some extra bottles from the kitchen earlier, but Miya caught me."
The landlady let out a giggle. "You mustn't take what doesn't belong to you, Kazehana. That is one of the cardinal rules here at Maison Izumo, especially when you try to steal my good sake without asking. You're lucky I was feeling generous to let you have the one in your hand."
Kazehana shook her bottle with a laid back smile. "I'm sure we would've paid you back eventually. I know the poor guy's still behind on the rent, but we should be able to reimburse you with how much the new job pays."
"Don't sound so happy." Matsu replied with an unusually serious look. "You know what it's like being under Minaka's foot all the time, and despite this generous offer, I doubt he's forgiven us for abandoning MBI years ago. This job is bound to be Hell, and he'll probably go out of the way to make it that way for us."
"Speak for yourself, Miss Hentai-glasses… Thoughts of my old love be forever happy." She added dreamily.
"Saying something like that while stuck in our position… You've really been hitting the sauce!" Number 02 had always held contempt for the other woman's drinking problem, although the tension was making the feelings worse than usual.
The wind Sekirei stood up, her grace undeterred by the influence. "Speaking of packing, you'll never guess how many outfits I received from Uzume this morning!"
Yume smiled with a cheerful expression. "Really, that's a bit of a surprise. I saw her heading off by herself earlier today."
Matsu stroked her chin thoughtfully. "She had a ton of costumes in her closet, and she made them for someone else. Why would she suddenly give them all to you?"
"She said she was going to be absent for a while and didn't have any use of the clothes anymore. Strange, but at least she left behind an entire wardrobe for me. Saves a lot of time and money, if you know what I mean."
"Are you planning on taking all of it with you?" Number 08 questioned innocently.
Kazehana dismissed the worry with a wave her hand. "Don't worry about that! While you were out on errands this morning the guys from MBI showed up with a truck in case we had anything big to move. I had them box and transport all of Uzume's clothes to Teito Tower so we wouldn't have to worry about it."
"Glad to hear everything went well." A familiar voice replied. The door slid open, revealing Minato and Tsukiumi. "So, is everybody ready for this?"
Yume walked up to him, quietly resisting the urge to embrace her new Ashikabi. "Hey Minato, I'm glad to see you made it in time. The limousine should be here in less than an hour, and the rest of us are all packed."
"I already collected my possessions before this morning. I should go upstairs and retrieve them." The water Sekirei stepped past the others, her serious tone doing little to conceal the spring in her step. She seemed to be in a surprisingly good mood, and the effect was not lost on the others.
Matsu waited until she was out of earshot. "I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess you guys had a good time on your date."
"Well she was looking forward to meeting my sister, Yukari." The first part of the meeting played itself in his mind, causing him to blush. "Although I'm not sure she was entirely happy with the way things went at first."
"I heard you talking on the phone yesterday. Your sister sounds like a real hard-ass."
"So now that Miss Panty-flash had her turn, do I get you next?" Kazehana wrapped an arm around her Ashikabi's shoulder with a seductive smile, causing him to quiver slightly. "I promise I'll be gentle with you the first time… If you know what I mean?"
Minato swallowed nervously, stepping sideways to add some distance between them. "Maybe we should wait a little longer for that!"
She began slowly inching back towards him. "Why wait? It's not like MBI has any rules against deepening the bonds between Sekirei and Ashikabi."
Miya brought a hand down between them in a quick chopping motion, the force of the wind from her movement pushing them apart. "I understand you guys are ready to move, but please be patient. I may not be able to exert any control over your actions while not under this roof, but please refrain from illicit sexual activity until then."
"Yeah, sure thing Miya!" Kazehana sunk backwards as a familiar demonic visage materialized above their heads, the others quickly copying her gesture.
An awkward silence permeated the room, but the youngest of their group recovered first. "How come I don't get a date with big brother." Kusano pouted with an adorable expression, gently tugging the older girl's outfit.
Miya bent over with a motherly expression while wagging her finger. "You're still a little young for something like that, Kuu. Do your best to enjoy your childhood while it lasts."
The sound of footsteps filled their ears as Tsukiumi returned, carrying her own luggage in her left hand. "Thou art only a child, Kusano! Surely my husband would not be so lowly, foul, and overtly despicable as to touch thee in such a manner!"
"Can you guys please stop that? You're making me sound like some kind of pervert!" he begged.
The youngest Sekirei balled her tiny fists. "No fair hogging him all the time, mean lady!"
"What!? Having common sense and faith in thy husband does not make a person mean!"
Yume raised her hands an in attempt toe calm the others. "C'mon guys, there's no need to get angry at each other. Let's just agree to disagree."
"So we are lectured by the intruder in our lives!" Tsukiumi barked without thinking.
The other woman opened her mouth to say something, but found herself unable to properly answer. She clutched her heart for a moment before turning her gaze towards the ground, doing her best to remain silent as she slumped from the room. The other watched her with looks of pity, but their Ashikabi stepped in front of her, holding out his arms. Unable to think of anything else to do, he took a step forward and embraced her on instinct, the woman melting in his arms.
"Minato… Why!?" she spoke, her heart skipping a beat.
He backed away with a confused expression, looking almost ashamed of himself. "Well, I… I don't really know?" he hesitated for a moment before turning to the rather surprised crowd of girls. "Look, I don't want any of you to speak to Yume like that again! She saved Musubi's life, and as far as I'm concerned, she's just as much my Sekirei as anyone else!"
The water Sekirei closed her eyes solemnly for a moment before slowly facing Number 08. "I apologize to you for allowing something so careless to slip out." She turned to her Ashikabi, "And to you as well, Minato."
Miya watched them like a mother would their own children. She placed a hand to her cheek and couldn't help smile. "You know, I'm going to miss having you guys around here." She relaxed her shoulders. "I truly mean that."
The young ronin smiled. "Thanks Miya! We'll never forget all you've done for us."
"Tell me about it." Matsu added, knowing full well that she wouldn't have survived MBI's hunt without help from the landlady.
Kazehana set down an empty bottle, her seductive demeanor evaporating in favor of a more diplomatic tone. "Well now that everything's been cleared up, we should probably get going." She jabbed a thumb over her shoulder at the black limo pulled up the street, a loud echoing from it seconds later. "Something tells me they don't want to wait."
Tsukiumi grabbed her bag and followed the wind-user to the door. "I thank thee for all of the training you provided Musubi and myself." She bowed to the landlady one last time. "Were she here with us now, I am certain Number 88 would say the same."
"Bye bye, Miya!" Kusano waved happily before following the water Sekirei.
Matsu followed suit. "We'll keep in touch." She lowered her voice significantly. "Just make sure to keep all of my equipment in working condition while we're gone."
"It was very nice meeting you. Thanks for taking such good care of everyone." Yume heaved the remaining bags over her shoulders and went after the others.
Minato was the last person to leave, but as he stood on the threshold, he found it hard to step back through the door. "I can't thank you enough for giving us a place to live when we needed it. Musubi and I probably would've ended up living on the streets if we hadn't crash-landed here that night."
"You are quite welcome." Miya stepped past him, gently seizing the boy's wrist from behind without turning to face him. "I don't know what kind of game Minaka is playing… Just be careful from this point on."
She released her grip, allowing him to step through. "Of course…" he agreed.
Once they were outside, the crew piled into the limousine with Yume loading what remained of their luggage into the rather spacious trunk. Miya waved casually from the door of Maison Izumo, her other hand resting on the handle of her broomstick. As the car pulled away from her property, the inn's most elusive resident couldn't help but watch them depart from his place on the building's roof.
Garbed in his Sekirei clothing, Sekirei 06 tugged the side of his facemask and closed his eyes, allowing the gentle breeze to caress his androgynous features. Homura felt a burning sensation course through his body as the car took off down the road, his hands instinctively grasping at his chest. He did his best to ignore the agony, refusing to give in to the sensation or longing that had been a constant for several weeks.
"Maybe now, this pain will finally stop." He muttered to himself before forcing one of Matsu's extra strength painkillers into his mouth.
He cringed slightly before jumping to another rooftop to begin the daily rounds. The redheaded genius had mixed several batches of medicine to alleviate the horrible sensation, but as time wore on the effects were lasting for short periods of time. He scowled remembering Matsu's advice the previous week about finding an Ashikabi. The idea of giving himself to anybody disgusted him, especially when that person was another man.
Back in the limousine, Matsu waited until the others were engaged in conversation before gently nudging her Ashikabi. "Hey Minato…"
"Yeah, what is it?" he asked somewhat nervously, half expecting her to spring something kinky or perverted on him at any moment.
The brain-type Sekirei reached into her pocket, pulling out a metal box. She cracked the side open so that only he could see, causing her Ashikabi's eyes to widen in understanding. Before he could say anything else, she slipped the package into his pocket. "Protect it with your life." She muttered with a deathly serious expression, earning the tiniest of nods from him.
Note to Readers: This took a while to write, but someone reminded dropped a reminder to me that got me thinking about this story again. Thanks to whoever that was (although I would have appreciated it much more if he/she hadn't posted it as review to another one of my stories). Hope you guys liked this chapter. As usual, I'm sorry for any typos or spelling or grammar errors, but I still write the story late at night when I'm tired and more likely to miss stuff.
As for the events this chapter… I'm not a fan of Minato's sister, but she is going to play a role in this story later on, more so than she did in the actual story. I was thinking of writing her to show more of her negative qualities, but admittedly she does act relatively nice around her brother. I also took note of someone who told me a while back that Tsukiumi should act a little more tame, and this time she spent alone with Minato seemed like the perfect opportunity to show her more reserved side.
I'm still welcoming any contributions, criticisms, comments, or ideas that you guys want to give, just no flames please. If you liked some aspect of the story please feel free to tell me so I know where I'm doing well! Also, ideas were still welcome because my story idea is still only a skeleton, so-to-speak, at this point in development. If you would like to see something happen, I'll be happy to take it into consideration.
Until next time, thanks for reading! Don't forget to keep reviewing; the motivation helps me want to get you material faster. Hopefully I'll be able to get you the next chapter more quickly.