This is my first attempt at a Sekirei fiction. Have to note that I am only really writing this because someone suggested I read "In Flight". If you are a fan of the series you need to read this story. In any case I wanted to write my own twist on the series and this is the start of that.
Let me know what you think if you like. I look forward to any criticism although please understand that this is not cannon and I will be changing a few things.
Cold as Ice
It was so hot behind the mask of his Kendo helmet, Minato could feel sweat rolling down from his forehead to pool somewhere around his chin. After class three times a week he came to the Universities Kendo club for practice matches. They had been trying to get him to join the official team since he was admitted to the school last year, but frankly Minato was just not as interested in tournaments anymore. Growing up he had entered plenty through middle and high school winning the national tournament that older students could enter handedly twice. Across from him his opponent stood with shinai raised and Minato was reminded why again he stopped taking part.
Like Minato he was breathing hard from the sets they had already been through, though it was already Minato's third match to his sparring partners first his breath was level and easily controlled. Every time he faced someone he was faster, every time he took someone on in a match he could read them far too easily and he had the agility to counter with a calm focus each time. Frankly they were just too slow. Silently Minato circled with his partner each waiting for the other to make the first move. His partner was skilled if measured against the other students. They had never really had the chance to get to know one another, his name was Mikogami and he was a bit of an ass.
Quickly the younger man darted out at Minato, the slight tilt of the students shoulder gave the elder more skilled swordsmen all the information he needed to simply side step the attack to the right and once again put up his guard. Mikogami was actually the whole reason Minato had gotten into the prestigious Tokyo University at all. Like many students he took the entrance exams when the time came and unlike many of his fellow students he passed. Well that might be a nice way of putting it; he skated by very close to failing actually. The problem about getting in had not been his studies, they were reasonable, but it was an economical issue. Raised by a single mother with a struggling family business didn't exactly make it easy to pay the high price of tuition to go to school here. Still, there had been an answer presented to him.
Again Mikogami telegraphed his strike, but this time Minato counted at caught him on the backside of his left kote sidestepping the original attack easily. The Mikogami family was well off enough for everyone in the club to know just how important they were and even if they didn't the younger sparring partner liked to loudly talk about how they were at times. Just before Minato was going to consider another school the head of the family sent him a letter detailing an offer, an offer to go to school at Tokyo University on a full scholarship if only he would join the kendo club and tutor the youngest son. At the time he had hesitated, his mother ended that with a quick smack to the back of his head, and he accepted the offer to instruct.
"Ah! Asama-sama couldn't you go easy on me at least once?" Mikogami complained loud enough for the whole room in attendance to hear while removing his helmet so he could let his long brown hair air out, "How am I supposed to learn if you are just beating up on me all the time?"
Inwardly Minato cursed, the guy always told him off when he tried to verbally correct his stance or swing so he could only spar with him and he was not about to 'take it easy' on him," That is the way I learned to use a sword. You want to get good right?" He said waiting to make sure he had at least the student's attention, "Then I cannot go easy on you."
Fuming Mikogami stuffed his helmet under his arm and headed for the changing room much to Minato's pleasure. With a lengthy release of breath he allowed himself a final break and removed his helmet as well to be tucked down under his arm and out of place. A few of the younger students friends tried to stand and talk to him while he was making his way out of the room, but the stubborn guy just pushed right through them. It was a Friday, sparing day in the club so the place was actually pretty full. The club was lucky enough to have three sparring mats with the room for them so there was always at least one match going on during Friday afternoon just after classes came to a close. It was one of the two days a week Minato came to spar with Mikogami per his scholarship requirement.
"Good work today Minato-sama," a male voice said just as a towel floated into his view for him to catch with thanks.
Grinning Minato turned to his left already using the towel to soak up some of the sweat that had collected in his shaggy black hair, "Thank you Hideo-kun, is everyone else about finished?"
There were instructors that handled most days at the club, but on sparring days Minato was in charge so it was his responsibility to see that everything was going smoothly. For the most part the students could take care of their own sparing in most cases. The only thing he was ever needed for was if they wanted him to stand in and score a match other than his sparing with Mikogami of course. Hideo was a friend Minato made just after being admitted to the university, he was a good enough guy he guessed, and at least they had gotten along well enough during club activities.
"There is a final match finishing up on the far end, but everyone is starting to pack up for the day," Hideo offered helpfully already himself changed out of his kendo equipment, "Got anything planned for the weekend MInato-sama?"
Minato grinned and tucked the towel in behind his neck so that it could hang there, "There is an economics test on Monday, if I fail something in that class again my mother is going to kill me. So its…study study study for me."
Hideo groaned visibly upset about the fact that he couldn't ask his friend to hang out Minato guessed, "Maybe I will stop by the inn and hang out for a bit then, cool?"
With a small nod Minato agreed, "Yeah I don't think that would be a problem. Let's get the rest of the equipment put up so we can get out of here, I need a shower."
His friend just waved him off answering in the affirmative then went to find some lower level students to help with the cleanup that were already out of their gear. Looking around Minato noted that there were at least twenty people there, watching or taking part in the sparing, which was up five from the previous week. Also there were a group of people sitting watching near the entrance to the dojo that looked like friends of the club members come to watch the events. It was not uncommon to see people gather to watch, it was encouraging actually since that's how they got more members. Minato only let his eyes linger over the crowd momentarily hesitating on a small group amongst them.
Two of the three were well dressed friends of Mikogami, Minato had seen them come before. They were no doubt waiting patiently for their 'friend' to finish up his Friday sparring so they could hit the town as Mikogami always called it. The third on the other hand was someone he had not seen around. She unlike the other two that were standing sat kneeling on the hardwood that covered that section of the room in a pleated black skirt and a button down that looked too large to be her own, Mikogami's perhaps. He had a similar build that would fit the thing. The woman wore it untucked because of the length and buttoned up leaving only two undone to show the top swell of her breast. All that aside it was not the reason his eyes lingered on her, Mikogami brought plenty of women with him from time to time to the club, but this women was strange. Upon her forehead above lidded grey blue hues was a strange mark, looked like a ying yang with wings situated around it in a way. It was not until those distant hues lifted just enough to meet his gaze that Minato realized he had been staring and darted his attention away back towards some younger members struggling with one of the mats. His cheeks flushed high up near his eyes just slightly and he headed off towards them shouting about the proper way to handle the mat to get his mind off of the look he had just been given, a mix of uncaring detachment.
For the fourth time the practice program on his laptop let him know he failed the practice quiz again causing Minato to grumble and reach for his tea. On the way home after club activities he had stopped in at a small corner café that University students frequented often. It had a type of tea that Minato enjoyed, and they had free wireless internet that he could use to try and study a bit. Like most afternoons the place was busy, people all around at the tables and booths talking about their week as well as just what exciting things they were going to be doing over the weekends with their friends across from them. Usually he invited Hideo to come with him, but today he really did just want to relax after practice, enjoy some tea, and hopefully not smash his laptop in half frustrated trying to pass a practice quiz.
From over the brim of his paper cup provided by the café Minato saw her again. Up near the entrance the strange girl with the mark on her forehead appeared through the door and made her way to order something. Minato almost spilled his tea all over himself and swore loud enough for nearby tables to turn and look at him while he patted what little bit did get on his dark shaded hoodie. Ok, just ignore the strange cosplaying girl Minato, he said to himself setting his cup all the way down again so he could turn back to yet another practice exam.
About halfway through the quiz the sound of a chair being pulled out drew his attention away from the illuminated screen.
"Ah," the strange girl started, looking across the small two person table at him from the previously unused spot on the other side, "Is this place taken?"
Inwardly Minato tried his best not to jump at the sudden appearance. Quickly he darted his eyes around the café, it was really busy, and there were not any open tables available. Surely she had come with Mikogami or one of his friends though right?
"Uh…No that's fine," he tried not really sure what to say, "I thought you were with Mikogami or one of his friends? Where are they?"
The woman lifted the strawberry smoothie she had gotten from the counter and quietly placed the straw between delicate lips so that she could enjoy the treat with a soft sound. Only then did she return her eyes to Minato and answer his question in an unhurried manor that he was starting to guess was her way.
"Mikogami-sama…," she said softly setting the smoothie back down onto the table top where she could lift it again when she wanted more, "Wanted me to wait here until he returns. So I am waiting."
What was that about? So far the moment he had seen this woman all he had thought about her were questions. Now that she was opening her mouth to actually speak to him, a feat he was still trying to understand the circumstances of, he had even more question. She was TOLD to wait her? That was some relationship Mikogami was running with her. Still, it was none of his business.
"Right well," he said motioning to the seat she had taken up across from him, "you are more than welcome to join me until you have to leave, I am just trying to get some studying done."
Minato offered the woman an explanation at least for why he lowered his eyes back down to his computer to study and put her out of mind. Of course he only got about three questions into his next practice quiz when his attention was stolen away again. That smoothie lifted from the table and a lengthy moment later the strange woman gave a small pleasured sound again. It was decidedly sultrier sounding then one should be enjoying a strawberry smoothie. Just that sound had him shifting in his seat a bit though he kept his eyes down.
"What is your name if you do not mind me asking?" Minato caved having to know more. There were just too many questions.
The girl faintly blushed, something he couldn't see looking down as he was and answered dutifully, "I am called Akitsu."
The brow above Minato's left eye twitched slightly at how she worded that, she is called Akitsu? Why did she say it like that? Maybe it was some sort of act for the cosplay she was in? Could be a reasonable answer, back when he was in high school he knew the cosplay club to take these sorts of things very seriously, not that he ever took part of course, never, not once.
"Well my name is Minato, Minato Asama pleased to meet you, Please take care of me," that was his mother's polite nature coming out she had beat into him over the years.
That cup rose up from the table once more and this time Minato did look, she pressed the straw once again between her lips and enjoyed the sweet taste with a similar reaction as before that had him noticing heat in his cheeks.
"Please…take care…of me as well," she responded returning the formal introduction he had used while enjoying another lengthy draw of her smoothie. If he had not seen the neutral expression on her face he would have thought that she might have been poking fun at how he had introduced himself, instead she seemed to be taking him deathly serious. It was a look that had Minato experiencing a shiver down his back.
They sat in silence after that, Minato typing away at the laptop and Akitsu somewhat quietly enjoying the rest of her drink. Unlike before just after she sat down he no longer felt compelled like he was to speak to her, it was odd though, and he felt like he HAD to know her name at least. Without interruption he made it through two more practice tests passing one of them even. It took about another forty-five minutes, the girl across from him was so quiet during that time that he glanced up a time or two expecting her to no longer be there. Not only was she, but she was watching him with a look of mild interest the entire time he worked.
Another fifteen and it was time for the two of them to part. The door to the café opened and Mikogami stepped inside. Without a word from him Akitsu got up from her chair and glided across the room to stand beside him. Only thing was Minato was fairly certain she could not have seen the door with her back to the entrance where she was sitting. Interested Minato followed the woman when she got up with his eyes and headed over to his younger student. Mikogami said something to her that he couldn't hear and the woman seemed to deflate slightly, her shoulders hanging lower and eyes falling to the floor. Whatever he had said to Akitsu it had not done anything to improve her mood. Knowing the rich kid it could have been any variety of things though.
Mikogami must have felt eyes on him because he turned and looked out into the café searching for who it was looking at him. When he spotted Minato he gave a small grin, Minato knew that spoiled kid look, and gave a wave to where he was sitting in the pack of the café. He didn't come over of course, no, there was no way he was going to be seen spending time outside of the dojo with someone low class as Minato. While no one in the club could come close to him in a match Mikogami knew how the Asama family struggled to stay afloat. It was a favorite topic to bring up casually of his from time to time. So no he would not be joining Minato at his table.
Instead they turned and headed back out into the street leaving Minato to his thoughts, the laptop quiz, and a half-finished strawberry smoothie set on the table across from him. Idly he let his eyes pause on it then he glanced out of the corner of his eye to the glass wall of the café to his left where he could see the small group gathered around Mikogami start to get into an expensive looking limousine. Minato had never been in one of those, but if he had to act like that to afford one he was fairly certain he could pass on the experience.
Two weeks later he saw the strange women again. It was raining and he was standing on a street corner with umbrella in hand and his equipment bag from practice slung over one shoulder. Lucky enough he had followed his mother's advice and remembered to bring the umbrella that morning because it was coming down in buckets now. Minato got to the corner and jammed his thumb into the button that would let him cross without getting run over by a speeding motorist then just waited his free hand resting in the pocket of his jeans.
"Long time since it came down like this," he said to himself while watching the rain.
Minato turned to his left, not the way he was going, but he had heard someone shouting. Across the street he noticed Mikogami and one of his friends standing under an umbrella in the rain just like he was. There was not a reason for him to raise his voice and make himself known to the two so he just watched waiting for his light to change. That was when he noticed the third person though, tucked into herself staring at the pavement while they yelled at her moving their arms about to further show their frustration. With the mix of distance and rain coming down Minato didn't have a chance of knowing what it was they were yelling at her about, but he didn't like the sight in the least.
They must have had enough of yelling at the woman because Mikogami just started off in the opposite direction down the street leaving one of his friends scrambling to keep up with an umbrella above the both of them. This left the woman alone an unobstructed to Minato's view for the first time. It was Akitsu, he recognized her instantly because of her identical clothes and the strange mark she still wore on her forehead. It was two weeks since he had last seen her, but she was still wearing that? Just what was going on?
Quickly he glanced up an noticed that his light had gone green meaning the path across to Akitsu was no longer open, "Damnit…," he cursed and stepped off the curb in that direction anyway. A driver instantly lay on his horn out of anger and shouted at him to get out of the way. Minato hurriedly made his way across the street offering a small nod of apology for having to cross without permission.
"Akitsu right?" Minato asked when he got to her covering the both of them with his umbrella.
If she heard him she didn't move, she had slid down the wall she was leaning against to sit down on the pavement with her knees tucked up and her arms wrapped around them. Even though he had hurried right over with the way the rain was coming down she was already drenched because of the downpour. Everywhere her clothes stuck to her in places that drew Minato's eyes, with some effort he drug his gaze away and tried again.
"Pretty sure I wouldn't forget that face Akitsu," especially with that mark she was still wearing, "Are you ok?"
Just when he thought that she was going to continue to ignore him she responded in a whispered broken tone, "Please…do not mind me…leave me be." When she spoke she trembled just enough for Minato to notice and grimace, "Broken…"
Broken? Broken what? Heart? Yeah that was probably a good guess he remembered how she had gone to Mikogami's side back in the café a few weeks ago, no doubt they had been together. With the display his younger had put on just a minute ago it looked like that was over now though. Minato crouched down having to tilt the umbrella he was holding so that he could do it and placed a hand atop her head his fingers only slightly teasing her light brown locks that fell down to near her shoulders in a wet mess.
"Afraid I can't do that Akitsu," he said forcing his smile into his tone to try and convey some warmth, she needed it. "Why don't you let me buy you one of those smoothies you seemed to like? Or something hot maybe?" he said looking down in the direction of where the café was two blocks away then back down to her curled up form, she still had yet to look at him, "The café is just down the street, what do you say?"
Under his fingers he felt her shift a bit perhaps uncomfortably with the way he just reached out and touched her without permission. Frowning somewhat at his mistake he pulled his hand back quickly and let it drop down to his side shaking his head in the process.
"Sorry about that…," Minato said softly while turning in the direction of the café down the street scolding himself for doing something so stupid. The last thing a women in her position needed was someone overstepping their bounds.
Maybe he really should just leave her be? That was the thought that crossed his mind right as he felt something tug at the sleeve of his sweater that he had on. Looking back down at her she had not moved, not really, only lifting her right hand up so that she could clasp the cuff of his sweater with her index finger and thumb. Still she kept her face buried against her knees and continued to tremble slightly be it from the cold or something else.
"W….," She started then fizzled out quickly or maybe she was just so quiet he couldn't make her out clearly.
"What?" Minato asked starting to crouch down a bit so that he was closer to her level, that he could clearly hear her if she was going to speak that softly.
Akitsu finally looked at him, from behind those messy light locks that stuck to her face in a way that seemed to frame her reddened eyes made that way from the tears sure to be mixed in with the water that dampened her features. Beautiful that was the only word for it. Sure she was drenched from the rain, had been crying, and her hair as well as her clothes were a total mess, but he still saw it. Akitsu was simply beautiful in a way that none of that really mattered. So much so that in order to keep her from seeing the sudden rush of heat to his cheeks he actually reached a hand up to scratch at his eye and turned his head away from her.
"Why are you…" she spoke with a tremble in her voice that was undeniable when it came to the pain behind her words, "Why are you doing this?"
Uncomfortably Minato reached up and scratched the back of his neck, a tick of his when he got nervous, "My father always said that you don't have to have a reason to help people. So I guess that's all Akitsu. Will you join me for that smoothie after all?"
The silence along with the sound of the rain hung between the two of them for a lengthy time. Minato was concerned that she did not believe that he simply wanted to help her and that she might think he was trying to take advantage of her in some way. Sadly there was nothing he could really do to convince her that was not fact. All he could really do it hope that she agreed to his kindness and they could work forward from there. Thankfully he got his answer.
The light haired woman nodded just slightly, so slight that had he not been paying close attention to her he was sure that he would have missed it. Then she clutched tighter onto the cloth of his sweater and fought to get to her feet. Akitsu stumbled when she had her feet back under her though falling in against him having to use her free hand to dig into the fabric that covered his chest and bundle it between her pale figures. Minato just placed a hand on her shoulder and tried to steady the girl, careful to keep his hands in safe locations as to not cause a misunderstanding.
"Easy there," he said with a small smile on his lips that he noticed the cold beauty averted her eyes from quickly, "Going to make it?"
Embarrassed her pale cheeks flushed slightly and she pulled away, but not terribly far from him Minato noticed. All the while her hand at the cuff of his sweater never let go. The hand that had been clutching the front of his sweater shifted down his arm where he was holding the umbrella and tugged on the metal of it with some need. Confused Minato slowly released hold on the handle, uncurling his fingers with hesitation wondering what she was doing and Akitsu took the implement from him. For some reason that seemed to knock the edge off the solemn expression he had seen her wearing since he first came across the street. If she wanted to carry the thing for both of them and it pleased her to do so that much he was more than happy to let her.
"Shall we?" he asked setting his now free hand on the equipment bag that carried all his stuff from practice.
Beside him she stood with a ridged posture that would have taken years of practice to master to such a perfect degree. Sadly her tender looking lips did not part to voice her answer and she instead just nodded in the same slight manor she had a moment ago.
There were not many people out in this downpour; still it was a college campus area so there were still a few stragglers moving about the sidewalks. When one or two of the students passed by them while they made their way down to the café Minato couldn't help, but notice how the woman beside him edged in closer perhaps think one of them might snatch her up stealing her from Minato. There was something he wanted to say, something to calm her mood, Minato couldn't find the correct words so he just kept his mouth shut rather than make a foolish attempt at trying to cheer her up.
They walked in silence the whole way, Minato not knowing what to say, and the cold woman beside him evidently with nothing to add which didn't surprise him considering the mood he had found her in. When he opened the door for them she calmly closed the umbrella and held it at her side out of the way not moving to give it back to him just yet. This again confused him, but he just followed her inside. The café was much warmer than being out in the rain and it looked like they were not the only ones with this idea because the place was littered with people in various stages of being caught out in the rain minutes ago.
"What can I get for you two?" the attendant asked them when it was their turn.
Minato always got the same thing when he came here so he turned to motion for Akitsu to go first since he didn't know the name of what the strawberry drink was that she got, but she just stared blank back at him with those partly lidded blue eyes. She wanted him to go first?
Turning back around Minato dug for his wallet and answered the attendant, "Give me an orange tea with a bit of honey in it please."
The woman in the café uniform flashed him a warm smile and tapped the screen to take down his order then turned to look at the woman that had come in with him. The attendant seemed to notice the state of the girl and shot the guy a questioning expression, but settled back to wait for the order.
Akitsu never took her eyes off of Minato, never once seeming to notice the attendant until she parted her lips and shifted her eyes to give her order, "Ah," she hesitated returning to the drawn out way of talking that he had become accustom to since he last met her, "Orange tea with a bit of honey please."
Her order was spoken in such a deadpan voice even Minato could tell that it was not a joke. Why did she just order the exact same thing that he always got here? Didn't she usually get that strawberry drink that he saw her with the last time he was here? Minato was certain that she enjoyed it…the reaction she made when she took a sip from it still haunted his mind.
Unlike Minato the attendant happily took down the order then accepted the money he managed to fumble out of his wallet to pay for the drinks. When he glanced back at Akitsu after paying she just had gone back to watching him with that tired looking expression. Strange girl. They waited for their drinks then found a two person table that they could sit at, Akitsu held out his chair for him, an act that made Minato decidedly uncomfortable. Instead of taking it when offered he dropped his equipment bag there near the table and undid the zipper down the front of his sweater. Since they had come inside he had been meaning to give it to her. The plain white button down she wore was showing off far too much of the black bra she was wearing under the soaked cloth.
After he drug it off and she realized that he was trying to set it around her shoulders that look of bland disinterest fired up with worry and confusion. Quickly she parted her lips like she wanted to say something, to tell him that it was not necessary perhaps, but Minato never gave her the chance and just tucked it down in around the front of her.
"You need it a lot more than I, though I am sure most of the guys in the room were enjoying the sight I don't want you to catch a cold," Minato said pulling back from her so that he could take the chair that she had offered to him.
If she was embarrassed by the idea of those in the room eyeing her body she didn't seem to show it, not even the faintest hint of red marred her cheeks when he was able to see her come around to take her own seat across from him. Wrapped up in the big sweater he was wearing she looked small, Akitsu didn't bother to use the sleeves for her own arms and instead just clutched both sides of the garment and held it closed over herself. If Minato didn't know any better he could have sworn he saw her snuggle in against the collar of it and take in his scent. Still all of her movements were so small and exact that he couldn't be sure. Instead he just raised his own drink up and enjoyed it starting a conversation that he needed to have with her.
"So…Do you live around here?" he hoped that after they were done here he could at least walk her home, maybe check up on her another day down the line? No…that was to forward, at least for him.
Akitsu shook her head in a short turn and answered quietly over her own cup of tea held up in the both of her hands like it was some sort of grand gift, "I do not have a place to go. Up until today I was staying at Mikogami-sama's residence."
That made some sense, the only times he had seen the girl she had been at the heel of the rich brat each time. With the way she had been acting even around him he had an easy follow up question.
"If you do not mind me asking were you some sort of maid at his residence?" Minato said blowing off a bit of the excess heat from the top of the tea just as he drank from his mug.
The cold expressional woman across from him lowered her eyes and watched the action then mimicked it with her own mug of tea; the act was not lost on Minato. Her eyes turned away from his attentive gaze and locked with the mug of tea he had gotten her, he wondered just what she was battling with because it was obvious even having just met her that there was more going on behind those blue eyes then she let on.
"Ah…"Akitsu said shifting her eyes back to answer him, "Of a sort…but not anymore…it is impossible for me to be of any use."
Impossible? What the hell? Minato narrowed his eyes and made a mental note to beat the shit out of the younger student in their next sparring match on Tuesday coming up the following week. Just what had he said to this woman that would have her feel that she was useless?
"I am sure that is not true Akitsu," Minato offered though he was not sure exactly what to say just yet.
"Broken…useless…lost…" Akitsu stated like the three words were ones that had been spoken to her and not something she was coming up with on the spot.
Minato grit his teeth and downed a bit more of the tea then he meant to, scalding the back of his tongue in the process, but with how angry he was he hardly noticed. This was unacceptable. He had half a mind to go over to the assholes place and give him a fucking talking to. And by talk of course he meant beating him to a bloody pulp.
If not for the soft feeling of Akitsu's hand covering his own on the table Minato probably would have gone on thinking up ways of just how he could punish the idiot for his transgressions. Instead he was brought back to the present and his eyes shot to the bare hand that covered his own. Cold, her skin was so cold to the touch, but that made sense with how she got caught out in the rain like that. Almost on queue with him thinking it over he felt a flush in her skin that warmed her hand considerably. If it was something odd she didn't let on any hints, instead Minato was left to raise his attention back up to the woman across to him. The tea sat quietly on the table where she had left it, only two times had she enjoyed it so far, and not like she had with the smoothie he would have noticed that, but still she seemed much better than when he approached her.
"You are not useless Akitsu," he stated evenly trying to keep the anger out of his voice when he said it over how she had been treated, "Since you do not have a place to stay for the night and if you like why don't you come back with me? My family runs a small boarding house and right now we are without a few tenants so we have plenty of extra space. Staying the night shouldn't be a problem with my family and tomorrow you can think about what it is you want to do going forward?"
Those distant eyes widened considerably at this offer, she had not been expecting it, hell he had not been expecting to offer it. Akitsu turned her attention down to the mug of her tea and teased the rim of it with her fingers while she seemed to be thinking it over.
"Do….does Minata-sama live at the boarding house as well?" she asked unable to meet his eyes.
Suddenly he was very worried that she was going to turn down his offer," I do, along with my mother, my father passed away just before I was born. We have a couple other tenants and the place is a bit run down, but its home."
Still she didn't lift her eyes away from the tea that she was suddenly so intent on, but she did answer his offer, "Akitsu will come home with Minata-sama if it is truly alright…" something in her voice let on how tentative she was about accepting this offer, like he might snatch it out from under her if she was not careful.
She would? Minato couldn't help his smile from breaking through, this was not how he saw this situation working out, but he couldn't help widening his lips in a grin. One that when Akitsu saw it out of the corner of her eye she couldn't help herself and curled her own in the faintest of ways sure that he had missed it.
They finished up their tea without much conversation, mostly because Minato could only think of one thing.
Oh God what was his mother going to say.
The boarding house had only been in the family since his mother and father settled down wanting to run something like it after getting married. They had wanted to take the time to build it back up from the squalor it had originally been in when they first bought the place, but not long after their marriage and when his mother was just barely with child his father died of an unexpected illness. From what Minato understood his mother did what she could to fix the place up on her own after he was born, but most of the place still needed several repairs to get up to the state they dreamed it could be one day when they moved in. Over the years Minato himself had a hand in repairing just about everything the house had to offer. From the kitchen, to the roof, to the wall that ran around the edge of the property at one point he had shored it all up.
The house itself was a traditional Japanese two story with a large living room that they used for meals that the house provided to residents paying rent at no extra charge. Four rooms downstairs and four upstairs plus an extra bedroom they didn't really talk about with visitors. His mother tended to pass most of the day in the large kitchen preparing the meals for the house or out in the yard, beside a sizable bathhouse that was separate from the main house training her form with her sword. Oh yeah, sword, she had been the one to teach him from the moment he could carry one. Minato might be able to easily best any opponent he had come across growing up, but he had never beaten his mother in a serious match. A fact she always held over his head.
"I am back!" Minato called out after opening the front door and heading into the small mud room where he could kick off his sneakers and set down his bag. It was tradition to announce when one of them got back to the house, all in all even though the residents were not a real family it had adapted to be that way just the same.
Behind him Akitsu lingered near the door and looked like she might not think that it was ok for her to just step inside. Minato turned and sat down on the raised wooden floor that covered the whole of the house except for the stone that lined the kitchen floor to get his house shoes on and looked back at the hesitant girl.
"It's alright you can come on in Akitsu."
From behind him a voice raised in answer filled with light hearted flair, "Can she now Minato-kun?"
Akitsu didn't move an inch instead she looked shocked, shocked? Her expression couldn't be confused for anything else. Eyes widened, face slightly slacked, and her lips parted just so.
Behind him his mother had come out of the kitchen when he called and headed towards them down the main hall to greet them there at the entrance beside where the stairs lead up to the second level. Miya, his mother, had an apron on that was dirty in a few places with flour where she had been busy making the dinner that filled the whole of the house with a pleasant smell along with a traditional looking miko of white and purple. Whenever someone met her and found out that Minato was her son they were always surprised, she had him when she was very young was all. At least young for these days.
"This is Akitsu, she needed a place to stay for the night and I was hoping that she might be able to use one of the free rooms," Minato supplied slipping on his house shoes then standing back up between the two women. His mother had her oddly colored purple hair drawn up in a ponytail, something she did when she was working in the house her eyes never turned away from the new woman Minato had brought home. "Akitsu, this is my mother Miya Asama."
Neither one of them moved, Akitsu looked afraid to flinch if he had to put a name to her expression and his mother seemed to be judging Akitsu with sharp eyes. Minato was not sure if they were going to get along after this, or if he was going for some reason be pulling them apart in a second when they started to lash out at one another.
His mother slapped the ladle in her hand against her free palm and rounded on him with an accusing look, "Have you kissed this woman Minato!?"
What? All of the color drained out of his face from the shock of the quick question. Upon realizing the connotation of the question Minato's face turned a one eighty and flushed as hard as possible. If he could he probably would have self-combusted right then and there and brought the house down with him in a hellfire.
"Mother!" he shouted turning to look between the both of them quickly settling back on his family, "That is hardly a reasonable question for an introduction…" he said lowly under his breath only to be met with a quick snap of her hand and the ladle she was holding being brought down atop of his head.
"Akitsu has done no such thing with your son Asama-sama…"Akitsu said with the most confidence he had heard in her voice yet. Behind her she had her arms clasp neatly allowing her to stand that much straighter. Had Minato not been under threat of being hit again he might have enjoyed the sight of what it did to the rest of her form.
"I see…" his mother stated evenly after retracting the metal implement from her sons head. Her questioning eyes noted that the woman was holding the umbrella her son had set out with that morning as well as the mark on the girl's forehead, but she said nothing on the two facts.
Those grey ice blues searched over Minato once, Akitsu still standing just outside the house not having come a step closer and she looked to him at least like she desperately wanted to still accept his offer for a place to stay.
Instead she gave a deep bow keeping her eyes to the ground near her feet her light brown locks freshly dry from the rain hiding her face in a shadow, "Forgive my intrusion, I will be on my way," her voice was cold and without a hint of emotion to give away how she truly felt at the prospect.
Minato wanted to say something, something to fix the situation; luckily he didn't have to do so.
"I hardly think that will be required Akitsu," Miya said having stepped forward down into the mud room so that she could reach out and set a hand on the back of the young woman's head that was bowed trying to show her respect. Instantly Minato was reminded of how he had done a similar thing earlier when he approached the distraught girl. "This would not be the Asama household if we sent you away in your time of need. You may stay the night here if you need to. Minato can drag one of the spare futons into the extra room beside my own here downstairs for you to sleep on."
The placement was not lost on Minato, there were three open bedrooms upstairs, his own on the far end of the house, and his mother had just placed Akitsu in the room closest to the front door. If she wanted to sneak out of the assigned room for any reason Miya would hear the movement.
"You…are certain?" Akitsu whispered just above what was needed for the other two to hear. What was going on between the two of them? The girl he had pulled in off the street was trembling again, for what reason he couldn't guess.
Miya looked back over her shoulder at Minato, "Fetch one of the spare futons and see about cleaning that room up a bit will you Minato. Akitsu can help me set out everything for dinner."
Light hair flashed just after his mother spoke and Akitsu straightened up looking troubled by what she had heard, "Please…I will clean the room…"
His mother was having none of that though and wrapped an arm around her shoulders so that she might be able to draw the younger woman inside, "Not to worry Akitsu, you and I need to have a conversation."
From his point of view it looked like everything was going to work out, just how that had happened Minato had no idea. All he did know was that he had missed something and it was big. Whatever it was he was not going to be brought into the loop right now and he did want to make sure everything was settled for their guest tonight.
"It's alright Akitsu, let me take care of it," Minato said speaking warmly trying to reassure the girl as well as himself of that fact, "She does not bite, just watch out for that ladle."
It was a joke of course, but his mother did not see it that way throwing him a withering gaze while she started to lead a reluctant Akitsu down towards the living room. Akitsu kept her eyes on Minato until she could no longer look over her shoulder and see him. Instead she had to content herself by tugging the sweater she still wore of his tighter in around herself like it was some sort of shield against danger.
Until they disappeared behind the paper divider closed behind them after heading into the living room Minato watched in turn. There was something about the girl he couldn't put his finger on. Sure she was odd, that was easy to discern for anyone. So that was not it, Minato remembered how her hand felt back at the café, how it warmed after touching him he was pretty sure a hand heating that quickly was not normal. All questions and no answers, it could wait though he had work to do. Instead of voicing his concerns he turned and headed off to get the chore done before dinner was finished.
The hour was very late and she shouldn't be up, but she finally heard it, the distinct squeak of the boards in the hallway bending under foot by someone out of their room. Miya pushed herself up out of her own bed, the room around her silent and gathered her robe so that she could give chase.
Upstairs she followed their newest resident padding down the hallway silently until she made it to the door that lead to her son's room. The door was left slightly ajar so that only a sliver of light from the hallway brought upon by the moonlight that filtered in through the large hallway windows shown inside. Thanks to the light she could look within Minato's room without having to touch the door itself giving herself away to the two people within. One was fast asleep framed by the light coming through the door while the other stood over him in silence. Akitsu was dressed in a large shirt that Minato had given her, with the name of his university across the breast of it, upon instruction from Miya herself standing there just watching her son sleep like some sort of sentinel charged to the task.
Miya was about to reach for the door to call her out of the room when Akitsu made her move. The young girl knelt down then stretched herself out beside Minato on the futon just large enough for the both of their forms, but she made no move to wake him. If anything the cold woman took great pains in making sure she did not touch him. Even out in the hallway Miya could hear what the girl was whispering against her son's ear with tears gracing her cheeks.
"Why can't I be your Sekirei…, you are so kind," Akitsu said quietly since the last thing she seemed to want to do was wake him, "I would do my best…you would not discard me like Mikogami ... I am sure of it."
This was a heavily intimate moment Miya had stumbled upon in the night, but it was not one she did not expect. Since the second she laid eyes on the Sekirei Akitsu she had worried that their family would finally be pulled back into that whirlwind. The two other residents while Sekirei themselves had sworn oaths to the death that they would never involve her son in their affairs. This snow woman was a wild card, one that she tried to put the fear of god into while Minato was setting up the girl's room for the night. Thinking back Miya remembered her husband and how intense the draw had been, she found she couldn't fault the girl for still going behind her back. At least it seemed she took the warning to heart since she was not waking him.
Even if Minato did know about Sekirei, even if he did agree to be her Ashikabi there was a singular issue and the two women here for this scene both knew it. Akitsu couldn't bond with and human; she was a scrapped number, tested on so that all that came after her could safely bond with humans. If she tried to bond with Miya's son simply nothing would happen, unlike the rest of her kind no human had the ability strong enough to draw out Akitsu's wings because of the experiments. Zero Seven, this girl's designation was simply alone without hope, all of this true, but Miya was still concerned.
Between the girls tears she made out only a few more words then Akitsu cried herself to sleep. Ashikabi, anything, and please, those were her words and Miya found herself unable to go drag the girl out of the room after that. Akitsu could have this night, whatever tomorrow brought and what direction she decided to go with her future could be built off this experience.
Miya slid the door the rest of the way closed sighing softly when she was certain they were not going to wake within and padded back down the hall, away from the fated pair.