『秋の日に』

第二章:長閑な夕暮れ

Tranquil Dusks

They were at their favorite hang-out spot - the gentle stretch of grass slope along the river banks. The Inuzuka boy was lying down, hands crossed behind his head, one knee propped up against the other. The Mitarashi girl was seated with her arms hugging her bent legs, chin resting on her knees, staring into the crimson horizon of the evening sky. She was in her normal attire, no longer dressed up in her yukata but beauty still seemed to radiate off her skin, or perhaps that was just the soft sunlight. She seemed bothered, Kiba noted as he observed his companion chew on her bottom lip. She would tell him what was on her mind, though. She always eventually do.

"Anosaa...," Akira began hesitantly, breaking the silence that had settled over them, proving Kiba right. He waited patiently for the next part to come.

"Do you know how it feels like...falling in love?"

Kiba was taken aback by the question. Was she serious about this, or was it just one of the random questions that occasionally popped up in her head out of the blue? But no, it couldn't have been just a random question - her scent was tinted with apprehension, something Kiba rarely smelt on his female companion. Does that mean she's -

"Hello? Earth to Kiba!" The said boy blinked clear his thoughts to see a leather-gloved hand waving in front of him. "Jeez, you really need to stop this zoning-out habit of yours."

He barked a laugh, though it came out a little bit more nervously than he would have liked, and asked, "Nande? Did Akira-chan actually fall in love?" He kept his tone carefully light and casual, though his question was a serious one.

Akira shot a side-glare to her best friend at the teasing. For a moment, Kiba thought she was going to scold him for asking such a stupid question. But the jaded eyes then averted their gaze and resumed staring into the far distance.

"Maybe," Akira replied simply, and Kiba felt his stomach lurch unpleasantly for some unknown reason. A pause, and then "Answer my question, mutt head."

"Eh—" The Inuzuka exclaimed as he sat up to examine the girl more closely - her autumn hair, which had now reached to just past her shoulders, her slender limbs, her petite yet well-built frame. His gaze fell on her lips -those full lips that were set in a slight frown but still looked so...kissable. At that thought, Kiba's heart beat quickened as he licked his own lips nervously. "What?" Akira's emerald orbs narrowed as she turned to meet the stare of her friend, giving Kiba a full view of her attractive face, the strawberry sunburn on her nose as distinct as ever in the setting sunlight.

"I-I might know," Kiba admitted. "Not that I've ever felt it before, of course." He quickly lied, and Akira's eyebrow raised by a tiny inch. "Hinata's in my team, and, you know how she's like with Naruto. She practically breaks down in front of that idiot and melt at his every smile. When you're in love, you blush a lot, and your eyes will shift their gaze constantly, looking anywhere but at the other's face, particularly the eyes. Your heartbeat elevates, the blood in your ears pumps faster, your hands start to feel sweaty. Time slows and your senses seem to sharpen, you become dreadfully aware of what you look like, what you're doing and - what?"

For Akira had stopped to stare at the Inuzuka boy, mouth slightly agape. Too late, Kiba realized that he had said too much, practically spewed out an entire confession. He resisted the urge to slap himself.

"Hi-Hinata told me all these," he attempted to cover it up with a flustered wave of his hand, his smile almost painful. If Akira suspected anything, she didn't point it out.

"Sou ka," she said at last, sighing as she laid down on her back and propped one knee up on the other, in a position similar to what Kiba had been in just moments ago. "Kiba, you haven't been in love before?" Her bright eyes peered at him with curiosity.

Heart thumped faster as his mouth formed out the word "Nope." Damn, those eyes were beautiful.

"Not even Hinata-chan?"

Kiba snorted at that suggestion. It was true that his teammate was very attractive, both physically and personality-wise. But really, Kiba had viewed her more as a sister than anything. Besides, she was head over heels in love with that blonde idiot.

He eyed the girl beside him again, the girl that he did have feelings for. "Darega?"

"What?"

"Who, who are you in love with?"

The emerald eyes narrowed and brows creased into a frown. "I never said I was in love with anyone."

Kiba rolled his wolf-like eyes. "Please, as if I can believe that, you practically stink of lovesi- Hey! Can you sit properly?" The boy suddenly noticed the position the girl was in.

"You were sitting like this just now!" Akira cried out indignantly.

"You're a girl!" Kiba retorted, equally defensive.

"I'm wearing shorts, you pervert."

"It's not becoming of a lady," Kiba shot back.

"Oh, really? And how would you know what's becoming of a lady?" Akira mocked.

Kiba looked away and grumbled something that sounded like "I have a sister."

"Whatever," the girl said, and by the ruffling sounds of fabric, Kiba could tell that she had settled into a less revealing position.

He shot a glance at the girl stretched out beside him. Her head rested comfortably in her hands as she closed her eyes, a relaxed smile gracing her elegant features. Akamaru had laid his head on her stomach, equally contented. Kiba caught the sweet scent of maple, along with a tiny tinge of mint, that he's gotten accustomed to smelling whenever she's around.

He had admitted to her, one day when they were twelve, still students, that everyone carried a unique scent about him or her, and he would always identify it with something common, a food, or a plant of sorts.

"Hontouni? Really?" Akira had been delighted to hear that, and her eyes shone with excitement. "Ja, what do I smell like?"

Kiba pushed her nose close to her face to sniff, though the first part wasn't exactly necessary by now. "Maple," he answered after thinking for a while.

"Maple?" Akira's was perpetually confused. "Like maple syrup?"

"Maple leaves," Kiba corrected her. "And a bit of mint." It was a fragrant combination, he noticed.

"And here I thought I would reek of red bean with the amount of dangos nee-chan eats in the house," Akira said with a slight laugh. [AN: Yep, if you haven't realised by now, her sister is no other than Mitarashi Anko.]

"Each person is born with his or her scent. It is innate, just like how our personalities are."

"That's really cool," Akira sighed. "Say, how does Shikamaru smell like?"

And they had spent the rest of the day with Akira naming someone and Kiba telling her how they smelt to him. Some he could immediately identify, some he had to personally go up to smell. The activity was abruptly terminated when Akimi had asked about Ebisu-sensei and Kiba had crept up to the said man from behind and had the adult fart into his face. Kiba had received a scolding then for creeping up on people but Ebisu-sensei, after mistaking the tears in the boys eyes which had formed when his nose received the full brunt of the stench as guilt, had let him off easily. Kiba stubbornly refused to abide to Akira's requests afterwards. In the days that followed, he had taken heed to steer clear of the man that he had associated with the smell of release every time he caught sight of the sunglasses and black bandanna.

A gentle breeze blew past, bringing Kiba back to his senses. Stray strands of auburn hair danced freely, almost forming a halo around Akira's head. The scent of maples overwhelmed him, made him slightly giddy.

"I love you," he blurted out, before his mind registered what he was doing.

Without missing a beat, Akira replied, "I love you, too."

Stunned, the Inuzuka could only stutter out, "You...you do?"

"Of course," the red-haired girl opened one eye to fix the boy gaping down at her with a queer stare. "You're my best friend."

Kiba almost yelled out in frustration "I didn't mean it in that sense!" but this time he managed to stop himself. Meanwhile, Akira had removed one hand from beneath her hand and proceeded to scratch Akamaru behind the ear. The dog purred with pleasure.

"I knew I was irresistible," Kiba finally said, which earned him a punch on the arm from his friend.

"Watch your ego, mutt head," she teased. Kiba smiled, albeit a bit sadly.

One day, he swore. One day he would confess.


I started this story by writing this chapter first, can you believe it. It's a short chapter, but a chapter, nonetheless. (Just btw, I first mistook Ebisu as Ibiki o.o) The next one is almost complete, save a few parts, will hopefully upload it by today.

Feedback and reviews are greatly appreciated!