First Love and the Promise of the Future Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Our Future Full of Hope


Kirie could hardly move from the dark orb’s impact and was now laying on her side as tears formed and flowed down from her eyes. “…Please save me… Mirai… I don’t want everything to end like this…” As she cried for the college student to come to her rescue, she felt her body’s weight becoming heavier from the huge amount of pain that was enforced on her body.

Kirie’s father, Tomio Kuroki, could only belittle his daughter as he saw the position she was in. “Well, well, well. What do we have here? It looks like you can’t even lift yourself up, my dear daughter. And here I was truly hoping for you to fight back against my strict demeanor towards you. But alas, it seems that I must rid this world of your existence.” His expression represented a kind of sadness from having to view the dark magenta-haired girl’s suffering state as he let out a half sigh. “It pains me so to see you experience such injury, my wonderful and lovely Kirie. You have always held a special place in my heart. After all, you are my one and only child, as well as the little girl your mother gave birth to with all her strength. Unfortunately, I must purge your very being so that we can be a family once again.” His took out a long sword from within the left side of his coat jacket, which had given him the appearance of a rich man and/or butler. “With this sword, I shall take away your misery. You will not have to suffer anymore once it goes through your heart, my pride and joy. Do not fear your caring father’s actions, and embrace them, for you will be able to reunite with your late mother, who died of illness when you were ten years of age. Think nothing but the happy times we shared together with her before her death. Daddy will make things all better.” He stepped closer, wielding the sword in his right hand with a calm expression. “Now, take heed, and let me congratulate your final moments, Kirie.”

“I don’t think so!” A familiar voice shouted through the room. “Keep your filthy hands away from Kirie right this instant, you monster!”

Tomio looked around but saw no one in the room with him and Kirie. “Who’s there? Show yourself or I will hunt you down before I kill my daughter.”

At that moment, Mirai appeared after jumping from a high place inside the warehouse. He landed in front of Kirie’s body with a tall stance, showing his protectiveness over his girlfriend. He stared at Tomio with an inner wrath that appeared within his eyes. “I won’t allow you to put your hands on Kirie, so I’ll be your opponent instead, Mr. Tomio Kuroki.”

Kirie’s eyes widened when she saw the college student, who wear currently wearing casual clothing. “Mirai! What are you doing here?”

“What else do I need to say?” Mirai looked back with a positive smile. “I’m here to save you, of course.” Then, he turned his attention back towards Tomio. “I’m very disappointed with you, Mr. Kuroki. To think you would use such uncouth methods to put your own daughter’s life in danger. I’m ashamed to think we might be related someday, but the fact that you’re Kirie’s father won’t change. However, I will take you down myself and put you behind bars once this is all over.”

Tomio’s eyes narrowed. “What?” He immediately found himself in a dire situation. He had not anticipated the possibility of being challenged by someone who knew about him outside of his underworld status. “What are you talking about, young man? I do not even understand what you mean with those outlandish words of yours.”

Mirai closed his eyes and opened them with a look of anger, power, and determination. “Let me start over with an introduction. I am Mirai Kageyama, a second-year student currently attending Rentomi College. I am also the same person you met yesterday night at the restaurant and I am nineteen years old. Furthermore, I am in love with your daughter and I am in a relationship with her right now. Kirie is the most important person to me, so I will protect her at all costs. If it means that I will have to save her from your clutches, then I will do everything I can in order to defeat you once and for all.”

“What? You are Mirai Kageyama? The same young man who I meet before?” Tomio questioned. “I cannot believe such a thing. Surely, Kageyama-kun and you are not the same person. Plus, my daughter would never date someone younger than her. You are lying, that, I am certain of it.”

Mirai frowned. “I would never lie about my love for Kirie. At any rate, I will win against you, and take Kirie away from here. As long as my feelings for her stay the same, you will definitely lose.”

“Heh,” Tomio scoffed at the idea of having a college student overcome his power. “If you truly insist on beating me, I have no choice but to accept your courageous proposal.” He held his sword up and pointed it at Mirai shortly after. “Why don’t you use this as your weapon? It will be quite a treat to see if you can turn the tables against me with my own sword. Let’s observe what you can do with your abilities, Mirai Kageyama-kun.” He tossed the sword in Mirai’s direction, to which the youth easily caught it in one hand. “If you win, I will surrender and spare Kirie’s life. However, if I win, I will kill her right in front of you for your eyes to witness. The shocked expression that results in my daughter’s death will be a pleasurable sight to see indeed.” He breathed in deeply and exhaled with a content smile with his eyes closed. “Oh, how sweet it will be to observe your horrified appearance and the tears that come with it.” He opened his eyes. “What do you think, my future son-in-law? Doesn’t it excite you?”

Mirai’s eyebrows furrowed with silent fury. “I don’t like the fact that you would try to harm Kirie. But. I’ll be sure to win this match and put you to justice, Mr. Kuroki. Anyway, let’s get started.” He held the sword with both his hands and readied a fighting position with a stern expression. “It’s you or me, not Kirie. I’ll protect her through this battle.”

Tomio smirked. “As you wish, Son.” He took out another long sword and their fight began. While he was overpowering Mirai, a grin spread onto his face like butter or jam on a slice of toast. “It seems you aren’t half-bad at this, little boy. On the contrary, you’ll need much more than that if you want to beat me at my own game.” He pulled back and gave a full swing, cutting the sword Mirai was holding; the top came off and about seventy percent of it still remained. This made Mirai more alert, but before he could do anything to combat the older man’s next attack, Tomio swung by turning counterclockwise, severing another sixty percent off with sheer strength.

Mirai’s eyes widened in shock as he stared at what became of his weapon. “No way…”

His eyes lowered while he looked at Kirie’s father, trying to keep his composure.

This can’t be… he thought. If he takes another swing, I’ll be done for! I won’t be able to save Kirie’s life if this goes on…

He bit his lip in frustration, and his grip on his broken sword’s handle became stronger.

“Mirai!” Kirie shouted as she got up from her spot.

Her eyes widened when she saw Tomio’s next attack coming towards the college student. Just as she began to reach for her scythe with her right hand, her father pulled his hand back and a manifestation of dusky, shadowy power began to form from his right palm. It wasn’t a sphere this time, but a beam aimed at Mirai. The youth saw it nearly finished developing and held onto his sword with unwavering feelings, fronting his adversary head on.

“It was fun while it lasted, but it looks like you’re history, Mirai Kageyama!” Tomio shouted with maniacal hilarity.

As he fired the ray of darkness, something happened right before it hit Mirai. The nineteen-year-old’s eyes widened as he heard something come from the sword.

“…!”

Let me lend you my power, the voice said.

All of a sudden, the broken edge of the sword began to glow and a pink light and mist formed around it. Finally, a light blue one ran up from the center of the sword, and completed the weapon’s transformation. Mirai’s previously broken sword had reformed itself on time to protect its utilizer. Standing before Kirie, the college student and his blade were prepared for action.

“Wh-What’s that?” Tomio asked, stunned from seeing the sword he had broken renew itself. “How did the sword I broke reform?! Don’t tell me that it’s fully accepted Mirai Kageyama as its new master?!” He held his sword out to defend himself as he grinded his teeth. “It can’t be…! There’s no way he could have tamed it!”

Mirai smirked. “But it is. And now, I’ll show you its true power.”

The pink and blue sword created another mist around itself; this time, it was a pure white fog-like one. Without any hesitation, Mirai jolted towards Tomio and took a swing with both hands on the hilt and shattered the blade from the mastermind’s grasp. Tomio’s eyes widened; he dropped the sword’s remains on to the floor and stood frozen in place. Then, he fell down onto his knees and put his hands on the surface of the warehouse’s base.

“I… lost…?” he inquired. He felt the taste of defeat running throughout his entire body as he stared at the ground. “No…!” His hands tightened into to fists that faced sideways. “I can’t believe it…! I lost… against a nineteen year old boy…? How…? Why…?”

Mirai looked at the collapse king of the underworld. “It’s because you had someone who felt so strongly for your daughter that you were faced against me and lost the final battle. And this time, I was able to free Kirie from the chains of torture from your hands. That should be more than enough to explain why you ended up sinking to the depths of hell, father-in-law.” He took out a set of handcuffs from his right pants pocket and secured them around Tomio’s hands. “Now, you’re going to have to stay here for a while. I’m going to call the police, so they can take you in.”

Within fifteen minutes, the authorities arrived at the warehouse and quickly arrested Tomio Kuroki. Takuji and Asuka came to check up on Mirai and Kirie, healing the dark magenta-haired girl’s wounds. Kirie was able to walk around and move her arms and legs with too much trouble. Mirai, on the other hand, gained all of Tomio’s assets and financial belongings. He gave most of it to Satsuki and donated the remainder to the Sea Breeze Garden foster home, which were accepted gratefully. Reporters and journalists came afterward and the incident that night became big news everyone in Tokyo. Weeks later, things died down and everything returned to normal.

Ayame and Atsushi had a discussion with Yuzuki’s agency about the magazine Ayame had finished. The CEO and manager nodded and gave their approval, and Cinderella’s magazine became a top hit. Many female and some male fans of Yuzuki’s bought the cover story, and it immediately sold out in stores everywhere. This humongous number of sales added to Roppongi’s wealth and fortune, especially for the two companies who contributed to the magazine. It even received foreign translations and imports to countries outside Japan.

After it was released to the public, Ayame quitted her job, and she and Yuzuki moved in together. News of their engagement and marriage sent a wave of supporting screams from the actor’s diehard fans. Another few months passed by after that, and it was currently nearing the end of the first week of October 2007. At that time, Takuji and Asuka were packing up the rest of their possessions inside their apartment, and finished within a few minutes.

Takuji sighed as he took a look around. “Guess we’ll have to say goodbye real soon, huh? It’s been a good three years and seven months since we first came to live here.”

Asuka nodded as she stood next to Takuji. “Sou da ne. We had a lot of fun times with Kirie-chan. I’ll miss the memories we made together with her in this city. We even got married a few months ago at Satsuki-san’s casino.”

“Yeah,” the husband of the marriage breathed. Then, he glanced at Asuka with a smile. “Let’s go and say our last farewell to him. I’m sure he’ll at least want to see us off before we leave Roppongi.”

Asuka nodded, and Takuji took her left hand in his right. After that, they made their way to the Urban Casino and Resort Roppongi.


~


Inside the hotel, they were greeted by the owner himself.

“Takuji, Asuka, welcome,” Satsuki smiled pleasantly. He was glad to see them for the last time that year. “How have you two been?”

With his right hand, Takuji gave the new king of the business world a thumbs-up and winked with his right eye. “Everything’s going swell for me and Asuka. How about you, old friend?”

Satsuki laughed. “Hahaha. I’ve been doing fine myself.” His eyes lowered and he gazed fondly at the two magicians standing in front of him. “But… I can hardly believe this will be your last day in Roppongi. There’s still so much I wanted to talk to you with, and spend some more time hanging out.” Tears formed in his eyes and began to flow down his cheeks. “I’m sad that I won’t be able to see you again for some time. You were truly a great friend to me, Takuji. I’ll never forget you and Asuka for the rest of my life.”

Takuji’s eyes narrowed. “Huh? It’s not like we’re leaving the country, Satsuki. We’re just moving to a different city. And anyway. You were saying those words like we’d never get to see each other again. It felt as though your heart killed me, along with my marvelous wife over here. What exactly were you trying to imply? That we would stop being friends just because Asuka and I are leaving Roppongi tonight? Geez, what a nice friend you are.” He folded his arms, closed his eyes, and swiftly turned his head to his right. “Hmph.”

“Ahaha,” Satsuki laughed once more. His tears disappeared as he stared at his young friend. “That’s not what I was trying to do at all. I was only telling you how much I was going to miss you two in my own way. You know that, don’t you?”

The mint-haired young man shifted his position and looked at the financial monarch. “Of course I do, you big goofball. If I didn’t, I would act like this. You’re the best friend I ever had, and you’ll always be. That’s why, I’m not going to say farewell to you.”

Satsuki’s expression was perplexed. “But I thought you were going to today. I even came prepared to hear you say goodbye to me.”

Takuji frowned. “Yeah, well, I lied. And you want to know why? Because of this.” He went over to the elder man and wrapped his arms around him in a hug.

Satsuki’s eyes widened and his tears came out again as he put his arms around his the male magician, closing his eyes. Asuka watched the two men and smiled softly. Several moments passed by before they let go of one another and it was a touching and beautiful sight to behold.


~


As they strolled through the city together, Mirai and Kirie were standing side by side. They conversed with each other as they passed by the autumn trees which were filled with many maple leaves.

“Sorry to drag you into this,” the college student apologized with his usual smile. “It came up while I was on my way back from class.”

Kirie smiled back. “It’s fine. I like being with you, even if it’s to solve a crime, Mirai. It makes me happy that you would bring me along, despite the fact that I’m not much of an assistant to you for these trivial requests.”

Mirai frowned with his arms behind his head. “But having you with me gives me more confidence in getting the job done, Kirie.” His expression suddenly perked up. “Hey, I know. Why don’t we get married once I graduate from college? What do you think?”

“Sorry, but I can’t accept your proposal just yet, Mirai,” Kirie rejected as she glanced at her boyfriend. “I’d rather see you become more of an adult before I can.”

Mirai’s expression was a mixture of astonishment and confusion. “Huh? You mean I need to have a more mature attitude? But that’ll take forever!”

Seeing the look on Mirai’s face, Kirie couldn’t help but laugh. “Ahaha! You’re such a strange kid, Mirai. But I really like that about you. Just wait a few days after you turn twenty, okay? I’ll agree to marry you after you become the legal age.” She took hold of the youth’s right hand with her left and together, they walked through the busy streets of Roppongi.

Mirai smiled once more as they made their way towards their next destination. “Mm, okay. I’ll wait a bit and ask you again during the first week of April.”

It was a long ride for us, he thought. But in the end, it was worth risking my life to fight against Kirie’s dad. Even so, there were so many emotions and hardships we had to go through before and after that happened. Many tears were shed, and there were those that represented sadness, along with the ones that displayed happiness. What matters now is not the past, but the present and future. The promise we made three years has not left my mind, or Kirie’s. With the passage of time, the two of us are still carrying it to the fullest with our love for each other. The fateful day that brought us together has strengthened our bond as we continue to face forward.

First Love and the Promise of the Future Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Infiltration at the Warehouse; When Love Comes to the Rescue


It was one o’clock in the afternoon that day after Mirai had taken Kirie home early in the morning. He was in disguise with a black wig, glasses, and a blue business suit and had the appearance of a young entrepreneur who was earnest and sincere, unlike his usual self. His smile was quite splendid and fit perfectly with his cover. It would be a rare occurrence if someone who didn’t know of the plan Takuji had conjured up hours ago suddenly figured out who he was.

He sighed as he stood outside in the streets of Roppongi with a worried expression. “Is this really going to work?” He was barely even confident of what he was going to do, but he needed to believe in Takuji’s words. That was when he thought back to his conversation with the CEO of Rapunzel which took place before three a.m.


“Takuji… Are you sure the plan is going to actually work out the way you said it would?” Mirai asked in an uncertain tone of voice. He even had a matching frown to go with his self-doubting expression. “I mean, I know things mainly go the way you say they would, but this is a little ridiculous, don’t you think? To suddenly go out with everything according to this strategy… Doesn’t it seem like something will backfire on us?”

Takuji waved his right hand back and forth in an upward/downward motion as if he was trying to put out a small fire. “Don’t worry, Mira. Everything will be fine. And even if something does go an unintended way for us, we’ll get to you and Kirie somehow.”

“Wait…” Mirai trailed off with a disapproving frown. “Is Kirie actually going to play a part in this, as well? If so, I don’t think she should—“

Takuji kept smiling at the college student. “If you think she should just stay away from this, then you’re just being naïve on your part, Mira. I know you care a lot about Kirie, but it’s her choice if she wants to participate in our plan to defeat Tomio Kuroki. You also know deep in your heart that she truly wishes to end things with her father. However, keeping her away from doing that will only result in a bad ending for everyone.” He posture relaxed a bit as he gazed into the tan eyes Mirai had. “You understand what Kirie desires, yet you’re trying to stop her from accomplishing the only thing that can free her from her father’s grasps? Mirai, if you truly love someone, you must think about the feelings of the person most important to you. That’s what love is.”

“But…” Mirai hesitated with a conflicted look on his face, looking down at the grass the two of them were standing on. “What if I let her go to see her father, and it becomes the worse-case scenario? If that happens, I don’t know if I could live on after that. Even if I manage to defeat him, can I really forgive myself and be the same person that I am now?”

Takuji sighed with narrowed eyes and his mouth formed a thin line. “Look, Mira. Don’t go thinking that it won’t work out; keep your cool together for this, and believe that it will bring a better future for you and Kirie. Isn’t that the true meaning of your name? Mirai Kageyama. Aren’t you a person who can bring a brighter future for those around you? Can you not seize the future you want with your hands?”

Mirai’s eyes widened and he looked up at the mint-haired magician. “Takuji…”

A reassuring smile appeared on Takuji’s face as he stared back at the youth. “Trust yourself, Mira. And also believe in Kirie’s feelings for you. That is the only way to take control of the future you will for. Love will prevail no matter how much it gets beaten down. Fight for your love, and put an end to it all.”

Mirai nodded and smiled back. “Yeah. Thanks, Takuji.”


In the present, Mirai shook his head and scolded himself. “No. I can’t think that way if I want to save Kirie. I’ve got to find out more about her father and get him to fall for the trap.” He walked forward, facing everything with determination.


~


Meanwhile, Takuji and Kirie were doing their jobs as usual, with the mint-haired young man finishing up several loads of paper at his desk with a pen in his right hand. Kirie sorted out some files and types away at her computer, dealing with articles that needed to be published. The other employees were carrying on with office calls and newspapers, prints, etc. as the day went on without any trouble. Asuka, on the other hand, was teaching at a daycare, moving to the local elementary school and even helping out other teachers along the way. Although the three of them were busy, they were enjoying the work they did.


~


At Cinderella, Ayame was wrapping up the magazine she was working on. Finally, she would be able to finish the last pages and edit them. A smile appeared on her face as she kept at it with her rapid typing.

“It’s almost done,” she said to herself as a blush formed on her cheeks. “I hope Yuzuki will be happy with this.” Her expression softened as she put the last few touches on it. “Yatta!” She closed her eyes happily before opening them.

Then, she saved her work, and checked over the entire a hundred thirty-six pages, revising any mistakes and errors, before doing another save. It took over five hours, reaching six-thirty that evening. Ayame hadn’t taken any breaks since that morning when she started working on it. Soon, editor-in-chief walked into the office.

“Irodori?” he said with his eyes widened at seeing the twenty-four-year-old young woman still working at that time. He held a latte in his right hand at the same time. “What are you doing here? I thought you were going to go home half an hour ago, but you’re still on the Yuzuki Kitaoji magazine project? Aren’t you tired right now?”

Ayame turned around in her chair and narrowed her eyes at Atsushi. “I just finished it, you know. “I’ll be eating in here in just a minute or two. There’s no need to be that worried about me, Jinnai-san. You’ll make your hair age faster if you keep checking up on your employees.”

Atsushi frowned at hearing Ayame’s rude comment. “Keep that up, and you’ll really pass out sooner or later. Anyway, forget eating in here. Contact Mr. Kitaoji right this instant to arrange dinner plans with him. I’ll handle everything else for you. Did you send the file to his agency yet? Hurry up and get going, even if you haven’t. You need to take a few hours off before your body gets fatigued.”

As he walked towards Ayame, the brunette screamed.

“Ahh! The boss is trying to assault me!!” she shouted loud enough for everyone else in the room to hear, having closed her eyes quickly. “Someone get him away from me!”

Within a second after hearing Ayame’s cry for help, the other workers turned in Atsushi’s direction and sent glares at him. Feeling the pressure he was receiving from them, he gulped nervously.

He held up his hands. “Wait, everyone! This is all just an act! I was only trying to prevent Irodori from overworking herself, that’s all! Please believe me!” He started to back away as the co-workers made their way towards him.

One of the male employees looked at Ayame. “Now’s your chance to make a run for it, Irodori-san!”

Ayame nodded and took her flash drive out from her computer. “Right! Thanks for everything you’ve done for me tonight! I’ll be back later.” She then made a mad dash towards the door.

Atsushi glanced back and yelled at Ayame in a fury. “Irodori! Did you plan this from the start?!”

“Who knows?!” Ayame grinned without looking back as she escaped outside. She ran to the restaurant she and Yuzuki were supposed to meet and saw him standing there in front of the door. Her expression shifted delightedly as she waved to the actor. “Yuzuki!” As Yuzuki turned his head towards Ayame, he was suddenly embraced by the editor from Cinderella.

“Whoa!” Yuzuki exclaimed as he caught Ayame, who was still in his arms. He frowned as he accepted her embrace. “That scared me, you know! I thought you were going to pummel me onto the carpet, Ayame.”

Ayame kept smiling jubilantly with closed eyes. “Sorry, Yuzuki. I was really happy to see you, so I couldn’t help myself from hugging you.”

“Yeah, I could tell,” Yuzuki muttered. “Think you can let go for a while? I’m hungry and this isn’t exactly helping.”

The two of them pulled apart and Ayame pouted.

“Uu…” She looked into Yuzuki’s eyes helplessly. “I really wanted to stay there a bit longer. Food isn’t everything in the world.”

Yuzuki sighed and frowned once more. “But I bet you haven’t eaten yet, either. You were working all day, weren’t you?”

“Sou dakedo,” Ayame replied. “I really wanted to finish the magazine no matter what.” She looked down with a sad expression. “Was that… something I shouldn’t have done, Yuzuki?”

“It’s not that,” the celebrity denied with another sigh. “It just concerns me that you would work so hard for something without even thinking about yourself for once. But…” He placed a hand on the dark brunette’s head. “That’s what I really like about you.”

Ayame’s eyes widened and she knew Yuzuki was smiling, so she looked up.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “For making you worry. I’ll try to take better care of my health after tonight.”

Yuzuki nodded. “Let’s get going, shall we?”

He held out his right hand and Ayame smiled back, taking hold of it with her left. And together, they walked inside the restaurant, still holding hands with one another.

Meanwhile, Mirai was still dressed in his disguise and was chatting at a table with a man who had long black hair that reached his neck. He had the appearance of a refined and handsome man who seemed as if he was in his thirties—particularly, thirty-two years of age to be more precise. They spoke with each other without any difficulties, continuing without a care in the world.

“So as I was telling you earlier, Mr. Kuroki,” Mirai reminded the older man, “if you were to kindly distribute a portion of your assets to my company and hotel, I would gladly turn them into a prosperous paradise where you could build more wealth with every day, effectively giving you 1.5 billion yen every month on the hotel, making that 18 billion yen for you annually. Although it might not be as great as the amount of money you have right now, it’s a start for someone as young as myself. I am still a beginner, despite having a year’s worth of experience in the business I run.”

The man—Tomio Kuroki—nodded acknowledging the situation he had been told of earlier. “I understand completely. At your age, I was also struggling to create a successful corporation. I was not yet married until I was twenty-two years old, which would probably take about three or four years before you reach the same age as I was back then. It must be harder for you since you’re still trying to make a fortune for yourself, Kageyama-kun. I’ll tell you what: I can give your over three-fourths of my money and you could start anew from there. What do you think?”

Mirai’s eyes widened in genuine surprise. “You’re willing to give me that much, Mr. Kuroki? But… I couldn’t. That’s more seventy-five percent of what you have to offer…!”

Another nod from the advocator. “Indeed. I realize that it may be more than what a young man such as yourself can handle, but I am honestly trusting most of my resources to you. It is yours to use however you would like. You see, an old man such as I, has no need for that much currency. I would like you to accept it as a token of my compassion for you, Kageyama-kun.”

“If you wish it, then I will gratefully receive your wealth,” Mirai responded, having a comprehensive expression on his face. “Thank you very much, Mr. Kuroki. I won’t let your hopes down.”

Tomio Kuroki let out a chuckle with closed eyes. “You need not to apologize to this elderly businessman. I am thankful to be able to do something for a youth of your capabilities, so please think nothing of it. Then,” he said, taking a contract out. He signed it at the bottom and handed it over to Mirai; after that, he stood up from his seat and bowed, “I shall take my leave here. It was truly pleasant to meet you tonight for dinner, Kageyama-kun. I do hope we will meet again soon.”

“Yes,” Mirai agreed, “I am looking forward to seeing you once more, Mr. Kuroki. Have a wonderful evening.”

The older man gave a slight nod and parted ways with the college student. It was only after he was completely out of sight that Mirai carefully gripped the contract Kirie’s father had left behind in his fingers. He examined it with caution and was not surprised at what he saw.

“He’s not kidding,” Mirai noted with a serious expression as he distanced the sheet of paper away from himself. “He’s actually turning over his possessions to me. Why?”

He has to have something planned, he thought. But what exactly is he trying to do?

Then, a notion came to mind.

Could he be trying to get hold of Kirie after giving away most of his fame and fortune? If so, I must stop him before that happens. I’m sure of it now; rather than using his money for himself, he’s going to set a trap for Kirie to confront him and kill her. After he achieves his goal, he’ll have his men cover up his crime and pay them in tremendous amounts of cash for obeying his orders. Then, he’ll escape and leave Roppongi for good. I can’t let him do as he pleases; I have to get to him before Kirie does and defeat him once and for all.

Without another thought, Mirai stood up and placed the contract inside his suit jacket, making his way to the door. Right then and there, he walked past Yuzuki and Ayame who were arriving and strolling towards the table Yuzuki had reserved for the two of them.

Yuzuki stopped and looked back. “?”

Ayame blinked a couple times while looking up at her boyfriend. “What’s wrong?”

“Ah, it’s nothing…” the actor trailed off. He was still staring in the direction the college student went. “It’s just… I thought I saw Mirai, but I guess it was only a guy who looked like him.”

“Huh…” Ayame’s shoulders slumped as she tilted her head to the left, following Yuzuki’s gaze. “Maybe it was just your imagination, Yuzuki. Mirai wouldn’t be here, would he?”

Yuzuki frowned. “Yeah. Maybe. But I can’t help but think that he passed us. I’ll have to see after this if it really was him.”


~


The next day, things seemed different from before as Kirie looked up at the sky. She felt as though something was missing; then, she looked forward and walked into Rapunzel through the entrance. When she entered the editorial department, there was no sign of Takuji inside the office. Neither was Asuka, but the white-haired young woman would sometimes be there, so it wasn’t every day that Kirie saw her at work with her husband.

After blinking a few times, Kirie asked, “Hey, where’s Takuji? I don’t see him around. Is he at another business meeting today?”

A female co-worker noticed the dark magenta-haired girl’s expression. “Takuji? I have seen him this morning. Perhaps you should contact him later, but now’s not a good time for that.”

Kirie frowned. “What do you mean? Is Takuji in trouble or anything?”

The co-worker shook her head. “No. It’s just… He hasn’t said anything, except that he won’t be back for quite some time. Asuka’s also with him, so I believe they left for an important meeting with someone. Have they not told you their whereabouts or what they’re doing, Kirie?”

“No,” Kirie replied. “I didn’t see them this morning, so I was sure they were already at work. They didn’t even leave a note for me to read. Still, it’s unusual for them to not tell me if they’ve gone somewhere.”

The co-worker smiled. “Well, I’m sure they’ll be fine. Let’s get to work, okay?”

Kirie nodded. “Alright.”

She stared at Takuji’s desk, which was visible from afar as a look of unease was manifested on her face.

Takuji, Asuka, wherever you two are right now, I hope you’re okay, Kirie thought, taking a look at the ceiling where the sky was seen through the glass windows. Please… Be safe. I don’t want anything to happen to you guys, so come back to everyone.

With a vast plead, she could only wish for the married couple’s well-being. She didn’t know how long they would be away, but she comprehended the fact that it would be a while before they came back. As she focused on her job as an editor and journalist, she couldn’t help but feel lonely without the pair of magicians who she had only known for the past three years of her life. She let out a sigh and the weight of slow time she was at Rapunzel became a heavy push on the top of her back near her shoulders.

Hours later around the time Takuji told Mirai to carry out the plan, the college student was already inside the warehouse Tomio Kuroki and his henchmen would be at to meet Kirie. He quickly caught the attention of the men in black suits, though.

“Hey!” one of the men shouted, looking at the nineteen-year-old boy who was not wearing his disguise anymore. “Who are you?!”

Another one narrowed his eyes, those of which were mainly shielded with a pair of dark tinted shades. “Do you have any business with Tomio-sama? If not, then turn back now before we dispose of you!”

Mirai smirked slyly at the two men standing before him. “Sorry, but I can’t let you do that.”

“What?” the first man’s eyes widened.

However, Mirai ignored his comment with his daredevil grin. “I have a mission to finish right now, and you’re in the way, so I’ll have to get to your boss before you can catch me.”

“Get him!”

Several men wearing similar outfits began to run towards Mirai. The youth’s expression didn’t change and he held up his right index finger, swaying it back and forth.

“Tsk, tsk.” Without moving from his spot, Mirai berated the numerous workers who were heading his way. “Didn’t I tell you? I’m not going to allow any of you to put your hands on me. So… I’ll just parts ways with you with this.” He jumped into the air and as he came down, he swiftly went in different directions, kicking and punching each and every one of the men employed under Kirie’s father, knocking them out within a few minutes. He seemed to enjoy himself as he took out them suited men without too much effort. A feeling of ecstasy budded inside his chest and he experienced a frenzy of excitement as he fought the henchmen preparing to attack him. “Ahaha! You’re too slow for me. Are you really working under the man called Tomio Kuroki?”

A surge of frustration clouded them few remainder of the employees as the stared at Mirai.

“Argh!” A worker gritted his teeth as he stood in place. “Someone get him before he makes his way to Tomio-sama!”

The others nodded. “Yes, sir!”

As the rushed into the battlefield, something else as taking place deep within the building. On the other side of the warehouse, Kirie was face-to-face with her father. She wielded a scythe and her hair had grown longer, so much that it reached past her waist and stopped at her upper thighs, near the middle of them. She also wore the black, white, and red battle outfit she had during her days at Souseizouma Academy.

Tomio grinned at the sight of the dark magenta-haired girl. “Kirie. How nice of you to pay me a visit. It has been a long time since I got to see my lovely daughter. Have you been faring well while we were apart from one another?” He let out a malicious chuckle. “I would assume that you were since you came all the way here on your own to see me. I feel like a young man again, and not to mention how happy I was the day you were born, as well. It makes me think of myself as your wonderful and caring father once more.”

“My father?” Kirie questioned with a dissatisfied frown. “You have never once been a father to me, and you never will. You don’t even understand my feelings at all, and yet you dare to call yourself my father? How absurd. You have never treated me the way a father should, so why are you addressing yourself as one? The sole reason I have come here after finding out your location is to defeat you by myself once and for all. I am here to sever my ties with you, Father. I will not permit you to torment me any longer. As a person—“ Kirie shook her head. “—no, as a living being of this world, I will take you down and bury your sins in the depths of the netherworld and erase your existence for the sake of humankind.”

Tomio Kuroki let out a hysterical laugh. “Hah! You—my very flesh and blood that I created through reproduction—are going to attempt to triumph over me? Now that is something I find truly amusing, my dear offspring. You have never even tried to fight back before whenever you were in the torture chamber, but this time, you are willing to risk your life just to defeat me?” He sighed, shaking his head in disappointment; after that, frowned with a look of distaste. “What an obnoxious daughter I have. Your way of thinking really makes me wonder why I kept you alive all these years, Kirie. Do you really believe you can harm me? Well, then.” He smirked, baring his teeth at his daughter. “See if you can continue to stand up after this.”

He clenched his hand, forming a fist with it. Immediately afterwards, a black and purple sphere that had gray sparks around it manifested at his will. He glanced at it and kept grinning. Then, he pulled his right arm back and launched the small circular orb of darkness at the dark magenta-haired girl.

Right before it hit her, Kirie’s eyes widened in astonishment. “…!” In an instant, it knocked her down, inflicting pain all around her body. She could barely manage to lift a muscle due to its massive impact on her. She steadily opened her eyes. “Ugh… What… was that…?” As she laid on her side, she felt a bruised sort of pain preventing her from moving when she tried to move herself up, which forced her to close her eyes. “Ack…! Uh…” She fell back down and tears formed in her eyes. “…Please save me… Mirai.” Her tears flowed down as she stayed on the floor feebly. “…I don’t want things to end this way…”

“My, what a pathetic sight to see,” Kirie’s father remarked as he watched his daughter’s heart-wrenching state. “It appears that you can’t even move without having to endure the great amount of agony I’ve caused you, my beautiful daughter. It looks like I’ll have to get rid of you.” He sighed in resignation with a sorrowful expression on his face as he placed his right hand on his left breast. “As much as it hurts me to do so, I must do whatever it takes to make you to understand that none of this would have occurred if you had not tried to oppose me in the first place. But do not fear, dear daughter. It’ll all be over soon. You won’t have to cry in misery anymore. I shall end it all for you, so just listen to Daddy this time and be a good girl, alright?”

He inched closer, but then, a voice called out.

“I won’t let you touch Kirie with your tainted hands!” Mirai suddenly arrived at the scene. He stood in front of Kirie’s battered body. The look on his face indicated his protectiveness towards Kirie as he stared at the underworld’s ruler. “Don’t even think about coming closer to her. I’ll be your opponent, Mr. Tomio Kuroki.”

Kirie’s eyes widened as she saw her lover in front of her. “Mirai!”

“What?” Tomio asked, confused at the situation he was faced with. He was not sure how Mirai found out where he was, or even the youth’s identity, as he was brusquely challenged by the young man standing before him.

First Love and the Promise of the Future Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Private Matters to Attend to


“You don’t even know a thing about me, Kirie!” Mirai shouted after he stood up from his seat. His eyes lowered, and he was still upset about Kirie’s opposition to let him meet her father. “Don’t you think you should at least try to understand my side for once?!” His tone of voice calmed down right after that and tears formed in his eyes. “Just because you don’t want me to meet your father, doesn’t mean that you should run away from the problems you have with him, Kirie. I know I wouldn’t. I mean, yeah, I don’t get to see my dad very often, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t at least try to get in contact with him or sort out my own feelings with him. He’s my only family, after all.” He blinked twice, and his tears began to flow down his face. “You may think that I’m just a little kid who can’t protect himself from others around him, but that’s not actually it. Kirie, right now, you’re not even letting me help you.” His gaze shifted towards the floor as he continued. “Maybe it’s because you don’t believe that I can defend myself and those important to me from harm’s way. However.” He looked up and focused his gaze directly at the girl in front of him. “I can tell you that you’re wrong because… deep within your heart, you’re doubting who I really am, along with my abilities to carry out and keep my promise to you. If you don’t trust my words, then it’s fine. I can prove to you how much I really mean what I said to you.”

Just before Mirai was about to move away from his seat, Kirie grabbed hold of his right arm with her [right] hand, having an apologetic and regretful expression on her face, showing how sad she felt about their argument.

“Wait, Mirai,” the dark magenta-haired girl pleaded. “I—“

Mirai looked at Kirie one more time before saying his parting words as he gently reached for the hand that was on his arm with his left. “You don’t have to worry about me anymore, Kirie. I can take care of myself. So, just… think about yourself, and don’t go after me.” He slowly pulled his right arm away from Kirie’s grasp and turned away from her as he made his way towards the front door.

After he left and was no longer in her sight, Kirie stared at the door for a few seconds. Then, tears quickly formed from her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. She shifted to face the surface of the counter in the bar and placed her right hand over her mouth to drown out the sobs that expressed the pain and sorrow she felt from the dispute she had started with Mirai.

Several moments passed before she stopped articulating her cries. There were still tears in her eyes as she continued to look down. Just as she blinked away the remaining drops of tears in them, the door to the VIP room opened, and a familiar voice was heard.

“Oh? Who do we have here? A damsel in distress?” Ryoichi Hirose smiled as he typically did and walked up to Kirie.

Noel was also with him but did not say a thing. “…”

When she heard Ryoichi’s voice, Kirie lifted her head and turned towards her left.

“Ryoichi?” she said. “What are you doing here with Noel?”

With folded arms, the writer answered. “I was working on my next novel while I was relaxing with our wonderful F1 racer until now. I just finished my rough draft of it, though. Might I ask, what brings your lovely presence to a place like this, Kirie Kuroki-san? It’s unusual to see you here, rather than when you’re working as an editor for your young CEO over at Rapunzel. What was his name again?” A smirked ran across his face in an instant. “Oh, yes. It was Takuji Uramoto, was it not? A very interesting magician with a young wife of the same age as him, isn’t he? He sure knows how to entertain the people around him without a moment’s notice, just like he did before the wedding weeks before. He’s the type of person who can lift up one’s spirit in no time, so I was thinking about meeting him later to see what his thoughts are if I were to write a book about him. In a way, he perks my curiosity.”

Kirie frowned. “That sounds as though you’re trying to harass him, instead of actually planning on negotiating with him fairly.”

Her eyes narrowed at the sadistic proposal.

And indirectly, too, she thought. I wonder if I should really let him go for actually doing that with the way he speaks. He’s such a player on the outside, but he doesn’t show his inner emotions get the better of him at a time like this.

She stopped her inklings for a second before continuing with fully opened eyes.

It’s not such a bad thing when I think about it, but…

She frowned with a look of worry showing on her face.

Maybe it’d be better if he wasn’t like that, she finished.

There was that inquisitive smile on Ryoichi’s face once more as he studied Kirie’s expressions and emotions.

“It seems that you’re worried and vexed about something,” he noted. “But you also looked depressed earlier when Noel and I came out. Did something happen while we weren’t here to see you?”

After seeing Ryocihi’s face for a moment, Kirie’s eyes lowered simultaneously with her shoulders slumping motion. On the contrary, Noel had been staring at Kirie for a while. His eyes widened with realization shortly afterward. Other than that, he had an indifferent look on his face as he stood in place.

“You…” he trailed off as he continued to look at Kirie.

Kirie blinked and glanced at the half-Japanese man standing a few feet away from Ryoichi.

“Huh?” she uttered. “Did you say something just now?”

A thin line took over the place of Noel’s mouth as he gazed at the dark magenta-haired girl. “You fought with Mirai, didn’t you?” he asked nonchalantly. “That’s why your face was drained from crying so much. The whole area was soundproofed, so we couldn’t have heard what was going out in here since we were separated by the VIP room and bar. Mirai brought you here and left some time after that.”

Kirie nodded as she stared at the floor. “Yeah. He asked if he could meet my father, but I didn’t let him. Truthfully, I was afraid something was going to happen to him if that were to happen. I wanted to protect him from ever encountering my father, but then…”

“Mirai took it the wrong way and started to argue with you,” Noel finished the sentence for Kirie. This earned a nod from her as the F1 racer understood the rest of the story. “It’s not your fault. Mirai didn’t know your true feelings about it. That’s why he stormed out on you and left you here alone.”

Kirie shook her head. “No, I’m equally at fault here. If I hadn’t shouted at Mirai, none of this would have happened in the first place. In fact, I was the one who started it, not Mirai.”

Noel frowned. “No, that’s not it. Mirai was being immature on his part because he was taking things too fast in your relationship. It was only a few weeks since you two dated, but he’s rushing things farther than most people would.”

“Now that I think about it,” Kirie mentioned, “Mirai’s the one who takes the initiative in our when we’re together. But…” Kirie’s eyes lowered as she thought back to the fateful day she met the college student. “I was the one who asked to make a promise with him so that we could meet again if we ended up crossing paths a second time. I’m certain Mirai took it to heart and longed for the day when we would. Everything started due to my actions, so the person who needs to be blamed the most for stringing him along is me. I don’t even deserve to be with Mirai, but…”

Ryoichi smirked, but it was a bit more lenient this time. “But you love him with all your heart, right? Mirai holds you dear to him more than anyone in the world we live in, so you shouldn’t think that you’re the one who’s been deceiving him all this time. Yes, Mirai has his own flaws, those of which he should be reflecting on afterwards, but that’s just how he is. You know that, don’t you?” Without waiting for an answer, the novelist continued his rant. “However, there is one thing that makes him the adolescent young boy he is, and that’s the desire to protect the woman he loves. You know that more than anything, I presume. After all, you’re the type of girlfriend who might actually do more of the pampering when it comes down to it.” Ryoichi laughed at the suggestion. “Perhaps it’s not bad if Mirai was the one being taken care of, instead of the other way around.”

Kirie sighed and smiled. “You’re such a jokester, aren’t you, Ryoichi? I don’t particularly like to pamper anyone, though.”

“But Mirai might be an exception, right?” Ryoichi asked rhetorically. “He’s the type of guy who captivates a lady’s heart easily because of his looks. He’s also young externally, but old internally. What’s more is that he doesn’t want to let go of the things and people he cherishes. Although it may seem cheesy, it’s how he truly feels. Don’t you think so, Kirie?”

Kirie stared at the author with an acknowledging expression. Then, she nodded. “Un. That’s matches him perfectly. It comes to a person’s mind in an instant, doesn’t it…?”

“Of course it does,” Ryoichi answered. “That’s the kind of image he gives off wherever he goes. It’s Mirai we’re talking about. I bet if you were to say that to him, he would become flustered enough to look like a drunk young adult, or perhaps even a tomato. At any rate,” he added, “It might be best if you were to visit him at this time.”

Kirie tilted her head to her right. “Right now? Isn’t it getting kind of late, though?”

“Well…” Ryoichi contemplated. He put his right index finger near the tip of his chin. “There might be just one place he would probably be, despite how late it’s gotten. We might as well tell you since the three of us are gathered here.” She turned his head to his right side. “Isn’t that correct, Noel?”

The bright blond nodded. “I’ll write down the address.” He took out a piece of paper from his left pocket located on his pants, along with a pen from his right one. Then, he walked over towards a brown leather armchair and sat down on it, placing the piece of paper on the glass table as he wrote down the primary building Mirai could have been at that very moment. Shortly afterwards, he stood up from his seat and put away the pen. Next, he walked over to Kirie and held out the white sheet. “Here. You should be able to find him at this location. But, you need to wait a bit. I’ll make sure he’s there and if he is, I’ll speak with him.”

Kirie’s eyes widened as she looked at Noel’s face. “You mean… You’re going to find Mirai right now?! But… Are you really sure about this? What if he doesn’t turn out where you said he would be? It’d be a waste of your efforts if he isn’t there.”

A smile manifested on Noel’s face as he reassured the dark magenta-haired girl. “Don’t worry. Mirai will be there. I’m positive of it. If everyone else but Mirai was here, they would more than likely tell you the same thing.”

“You can at least count on that, can’t you?” Ryoichi inquired. “We’ve all known Mirai for quite a long time now, so there’s no way Noel and I would ever lie about this. If one of us says he’ll be at a certain place, then it’s ninety-nine point nine percent true. And if it isn’t, we can think of another place he’d be.” His expression softened as he continued to converse with Kirie. “Mirai’s still young, and the fact that he’s still growing can be a little problematic for others since he acts like the kid he is. Having someone talk to him about his rights and wrongs might help him become more mature, even if it’s only a tiny amount. Just wait and see for yourself; once Noel finds him, he’ll call and I will inform you about it. Then, I’ll escort you there. If Mirai were to know that you would walk there by yourself at night, he would throw another fuss about it. I’d truly savior the expression he’ll create if he found out, but it won’t hurt much to take you to him safely after hearing from Noel. How about it? Would you like to prevent Mirai from worrying about you, Kirie Kuroki-san?”

Another sigh escaped Kirie’s mouth as she stared at Ryoichi in an irritated manner. “Again with the –san, huh? You even called me by my name without any formalities earlier, didn’t you? Hearing from you kind of makes me tired, Hirose-sensei. It turns the blood and arteries within my left wrist inside out, along with my muscles there. Wouldn’t you think so?”

“A bit of a disturbing way to put it,” Ryoichi smirked. “Why don’t I hire you as my editor from now on? You might love the fame and fortune I have with my novels, Kuroki-san. I could also—“

The writer was immediately cut off with a raised hand from Kirie.

“No thanks,” she replied. “I’d rather look for Mirai, but I’ll leave things to you two for that part.” She glanced at Noel and smiled faintly, taking the piece of paper from him. “When you find Mirai, can you stay with him until Ryoichi and I get there? I… want to be able to face him without any mixed feelings this time.” She looked down a bit with quarter-closed eyes. “I know that I haven’t been able to give him an actual answer to his feelings yet, and I’ve caused you all some trouble since the night of the wedding. But this time, I really want to let him know that I’m not going to run away anymore.” She looked up and her expression didn’t budge, indicating her new resolve for the future between her and Mirai.

As he saw Kirie’s determination, Noel smiled back. “You can leave things to us.” He placed his left hand on Kirie’s right shoulder before walking out.

Kirie turned her head towards the direction the bright blond left and gave a slight nod. “Un. It’ll be okay. Once we meet each other, I’ll make sure to mend our relationship with Mirai. It wouldn’t work with only one of us, after all.”

“Hmm~,” the author mused as he gazed at Kirie’s light expression with folded arms. Then, he looked at his right side. “Perhaps it will turn out to be so. Once the skies clear up from all of this, we might not have to worry about anything and continue with our lives as they are.”

As they waited, Noel was making his way towards the place Mirai was currently staying. It was a matter of time before they would meet.


~


Meanwhile, the college student was crouching outside a building named Sea Breeze Garden. It was a foster home he had always gone to when he was younger. Back then, he was alone until a few kids around the same age brought him there to play when his father was busy with work. Even after studying abroad in Switzerland, he would come to visit often, as it filled his entire being with a sense of nostalgia. He was very fond of it since it was also like a second home to him, rather than the house he lived in with his parents years ago.

He donned a sad expression on his face as he stared at the ground. As he thought back to the argument he had with Kirie a while ago, he let out a sigh. “Maybe I said too much,” he said to no one in particular. “Kirie… I wonder if she’s been suffering all this time. If so, then it’s all my fault for saying such horrible things to her.”

Within seconds, tears began to form in his eyes. Right after that, they dripped down and Mirai lowered his head in guilt. He held his knees close to his body as he wiped away his tears with the back of his right hand.

“I’m sorry…” He apologized. “I’m really sorry…”

A voice rang out as footsteps walked up behind him.

“Mirai?” the voice asked. “What’s wrong?”

Mirai looked up and turned around. “Director…”

The director’s eyes widened, and a concerned expression took over his previous one. “Were you thinking about something? Your face is full of tears. Did something happen between you and your girlfriend?”

Mirai nodded and looked down. “Yeah. I got myself into a fight with her and left her alone while we were on a date. I said some really harsh things to her and it hurts my heart to think that she might still be there crying by herself. I don’t even know if I can even face her.”

The director’s expression softened and a smile replaced the worried look on his face as he placed his left hand on his hip. “Then, wouldn’t it better if you apologized to her in person? I know you’re not the type of person to intentionally inflict pain on those you care about, Mirai. I’ve always known you as a sweet young boy who would never hesitate to help those in trouble. You’re much more kindhearted than some of the people in the city, and it shows all around you, especially on your face. You’re like a living radiator because of your bright personality, which warms up the hearts of those within your presence. If you truly love your girlfriend, Mirai, I’m sure you’ll come to see her before it’s too late to make up with her. Isn’t that how all relationships work out in the end?” His eyes lowered as he gazed into Mirai’s eyes, which made the college student realize what he meant. “Answer me, Mirai; do you truly love her, or not? What happens from now on depends on your emotions and the actions you take with them. Those two combined will determine the ending you’ll have with your lover. Love works with more than one person, so it is also up to her to decide what to do. Whatever takes place in the near yet far future you have with her is something I cannot do for you. It’s a choice that foreshadows the events afterward.”

“Director…” Mirai stared into the kind eyes that guided him. “I…”

“Mirai.”

A voice had called the youth’s name and Mirai turned to see who it was.

His eyes widened once more at the sight of one of his friends. “Noel?!” he shouted in shock. “What are you doing here?!”

“To talk to you, of course,” the F1 racer responded with his usual nonchalant tone of voice. “It’s important for you to hear me out right now.”

Mirai tilted his head to the side. “Huh? What do you mean by that?”

“You’ll have to find out,” Noel replied. His eyes lowered in what seemed like disappointment. “Mirai, you…”

The director smiled. “Well, I better check up on the children. I’ll take to you after this, Mirai.” As he began to walk away, Mirai turned his head around.

“Wait!” he exclaimed. “Director!”

The director had already stepped into the orphanage and Mirai sighed, facing Noel again.
He frowned and looked up. “What is it?”

“You fought with Kirie Kuroki, didn’t you?” Noel questioned. “That’s why you’re here.”

Mirai suddenly had a surprised look on his face, and he stood up from his bending position. “How do you…?”

“I happened to see her after walking out of the bar’s VIP room with Ryoichi,” the blunt man told his younger friend as he sighed. “She was already finished with crying by the time we spoke with her. But she seemed to be in a better mood than before,” he smiled. “She wants to talk with you, too.”

“Kirie’s okay…?” Mirai trailed off. A troubled look quickly replaced the expression he had before. He looked down after that. “But… I… I took it out on her, yet she’s willing to forgive me? Is that really all there is to it?”

A solemn frown formed on Noel’s face. “Mirai. Isn’t it obvious that she wants to make up with you, despite what happened beforehand? Don’t you trust your girlfriend’s feelings at all?”

Mirai looked up. “Trust… Kirie’s feelings…?”

Noel nodded. “In order to compromise and admit your mistakes, you must also trust the person you love. Is that not what being in a relationship is about?” He took out his cell phone and pressed a button on the top side of it, and a red light began to flash on and off. “You know, don’t you? She isn’t someone who would hold a grudge against you, because she loves you.” Another smile appeared on his face.

Seeing Noel’s smile, Mirai understood the blond’s words, nodding to himself. Before he could say anything to express his gratitude, rapid footsteps rushed to the entrance of the foster home, and soon came to a stop. In front of them were Kirie and Ryoichi. Kirie was panting heavily and looked at Mirai, having regained her breathing as she stood up straight along with the renowned writer, who was folding his arms across his chest after helping the dark magenta-haired girl up.

Kirie stepped forward and placed her right hand over her heart. “Mirai…” She smiled at the sight of her boyfriend and her expression softened as she looked at him.

“Well,” Ryoichi breathed, “it’s about time we take our leave. Right, Noel?”

Noel nodded and walked over to Ryoichi. Then, the two of them took left the couple alone as they made their way back to their homes. Now a few feet apart from each other, Kirie and Mirai stared into their designated partner’s eyes.

“Kirie, I—“ Mirai began, but was soon cut off with a shake from Kirie’s head.

The editor from Rapunzel kept smiling and walked up to Mirai with both her hands by her sides. “Mirai, I was wrong to have refused to let you meet my father. I was actually scared of the outcome if you were to encounter him, so I tried to stop you from doing anything.” She frowned and apologized for her behavior. “I’m sorry for everything I did to hurt your feelings. If I hadn’t tried to prevent you from meeting him, none of this would have happened.”

With a similar expression etched onto his face, Mirai embraced Kirie with a tender movement of his arms. “No, it was because I was too selfish to even consider your feelings. I just wanted to get his approval for our relationship, so you wouldn’t have to worry about being with me, Kirie. I’m sorry for getting so worked up and pushing my feelings on to you.” He slowly pulled apart from his lover. “Will you… forgive me?”

Kirie nodded and closed her eyes, which conveyed the answer to Mirai’s question. While they weren’t completely separated from one another, the college student knew what his girlfriend meant. He leaned downward and soon, his lips rested on the dark magenta-haired girl’s. The moon glowed brightly above them as they were locked in a long and loving kiss that lasted for hours before they pulled apart from each other.


~


It was two-thirty in the morning when Mirai and Kirie reached the apartment the editor was staying at after they had made up at the foster home. Kirie was sound asleep on Mirai’s back, and the youth pressed the doorbell, which rang shortly afterward. The door opened immediately, revealing a smiling Takuji and Asuka.

“Looks like you finally made it here,” the mint-haired young man greeted the college student. “Come on in. I’m sure you’re tired from walking home with my daughter on your back, Mira. You can drop her off upstairs on her bedroom before you leave.”

Mirai looked up at Takuji and saw the married man’s sincerity, but then, he glanced down at the ground in front of them. “Um… Well…”

“Do you want us to take Kirie-chan off your hands, Mirai-kun?” Asuka asked. “I can do that and carry her to her bed, if you wish.”

Mirai nodded. “Yeah, sorry for bringing her home this late and early in the morning, too. I’m sure I’ve caused you two to stay up because I didn’t take Kirie home before midnight.”

He turned around and Asuka gently grabbed hold of Kirie’s body, carrying her as if she were a bride. The white-haired magician walked up the stairs and laid the dark magenta-haired girl down on the bed near the window. She stayed with Kirie while Takuji and Mirai were downstairs. As Mirai turned around to face Takuji, the CEO of Rapunzel smiled in a welcoming and friendly manner.

“Hey, Mirai,” Takuji called the nineteen-year-old’s name, “why don’t we step outside for a bit? There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

Mirai tilted his head to his right. “?”

He didn’t know what it was about, but he could feel that it was something regarding Kirie and nodded as Takuji walked out the door and closed it behind them.


~


“It’s a good thing you came,” Takuji brought up as he and Mirai walked to the nearby park together. “I’ve been meaning to say this to you for a while now.”

Mirai followed behind the mint-haired magician and kept a distance from him. “Um… What was it that you wanted to tell me…? If it’s about Kirie and I dating—“

Takuji shook his head. “No. That’s not it.” His voice sounded much more serious when he spoke those words. Although Mirai could not see Takuji’s expression, there was a grave look on the young man’s face. Takuji stopped in his tracks and waited for a couple seconds before he turned around. The bright light from the moon was shining on his entire body, giving his physical appearance a much more beautiful look than the sun did. Mirai’s eyes widened once he saw the look on Takuji’s face. “What I’m about to tell you is something that you and Kirie need to prepare for.”

“Huh…?” Mirai blurted out gradually. “What… Kirie and I need to prepare for…?”

“Correct,” the magician confirmed. “You of all people have to take precaution on this matter. This is about Kirie’s father, Mirai.”

A stunned expression appeared on Mirai’s face as he heard the last few words that came out of Takuji’s mouth. “Kirie’s… father?” he inquired like before. “But what exactly do you mean by taking precaution…? Is Kirie’s father far more dangerous than anyone from the underworld, Takuji?”

Takuji nodded. “Yeah. In fact, he’s the king of the underworld that you’re part of, Mirai.”

“The king?” Mirai questioned. He placed his right hand [which was closed] in front of his lips as he contemplated about the fact. “But then that means that he overpowers everyone else working there. Since he’s also been there for several years, there’s no chance of actually defeating him. But wait.” He looked up and gazed into Takuji’s eyes. “Takuji. Could he have built of his status in the underworld in order to get hold of Kirie all this time? If that’s true, then he’s still searching for her right now, and when he finally finds her, he’ll…”

“Take her away and keep her locked up in an eternal hell,” Takuji answered. “He has been planning to take her away since she was fifteen, right before she enrolled in Zouma Academy, which has now been combined with Sousei Academy to form Souseizouma Academy. There were several times when he’s found her and tortured her in a chamber for disobeying his orders and running away from home. And Kirie used to have scars that ran over the upper part of her body that ranged from small to long ones. There were also some on the side of her legs. Kirie’s father has even used knives and leather belts to beat and cut her after she graduated from high school as the punishment he believed she deserved for her rebellious personality. When Asuka and I met her, her scars and wounds instantly recovered and were no longer visible. Rather than letting her live all alone, we took her in our care and moved to where we are today.”

Suddenly, Mirai heard something which he was certain was a voice from the past.

“Help me…” the voice cried. Mirai could see an image of Kirie holding her knees close to her chest. Her hair was shorter just like when they first met each other, which meant that it was somewhere after she had moved in with the couple. “Help me… Mirai…” Tears from Kirie’s eyes fell down as she started to break down from the pain she had endured not too long ago. And she started to weep as she sat on the wooden floor across from her bed. “I want to see you again, Mirai… Please, don’t leave me alone… I’m scared… I don’t want to go back… So please… Hurry up and find me…”

Kirie’s past voice and image disappeared from Mirai’s mind as he stared in place.

“Kirie…” he trailed off with a sad expression on his face. His eyes lowered as he looked down a bit. “I’m sorry…”

Takuji took note of Mirai’s expression and asked, “Did you see it?”

Mirai nodded and kept facing the direction of the ground. “Yeah… Kirie was crying by herself and the sight of her in pain started to hit my heart when she called for help. But… What should I even do to save her, Takuji? I don’t even know how to help her, or what I can do to defeat her father.”

“Well,” Takuji sighed. His expression remained unchanged as he continued his side of the conversation. He glanced up from his right and stared at the night sky filled with stars. “What I can really say at this moment is that you might want to go undercover and find out more information on her father. He looked back at Mirai with an unwavering gaze. “His name… is Tomio Kuroki. He is also a well-known business man whose wealth exceeds that of Satsuki’s in the financial world, which makes him the king in both business and the underworld. Due to his immense fame and fortune, he has enough power to push those behind him farther away so they can’t reach the amount of money he holds. However, if you were to stop him and overturn his status in the underworld, you would be able to steal his assets away and free Kirie from this mess he has created for the people of Roppongi. Right now, my powers, along with Asuka’s have been repressed because of the law the world we came from has placed on us. We will have to go back and ask for permission to use our full powers against Kirie’s father, but it may take several hours before we can aid you and Kirie in this battle. Though it may be difficult without our help, we need you to make a deal with him.”

Mirai looked up with a serious expression. “I understand. But first, I’ll have to gather some materials. Do you think you can help me with gathering them, Takuji?”

At that second, a smirked spread across Takuji’s face. “Mira, who do you think I am?” He placed his right hand on his hip and took out a sack with a rope around it out of nowhere using his left hand. Then, he tossed it in Mirai’s direction; the latter caught it with both his arms extended and looked at the bag. “I’ve already got that part covered, so you don’t need to worry about the items you need. There’s even an outfit and wig included, which I had to buy over here, but the rest are from my world. See for yourself what’s inside of it and make sure to use them wisely.”

As instructed, Mirai loosened the rope and opened the sack he was holding. He pulled something out and was amazed by the item in his right hand.

“Wha—“ His mouth dropped and his eyes widened at the sight of what he was holding. “Is this a whip?!” The whip he held had a shining cyan and turquoise color to it; the handle, on the other hand, was golden and magnificent to behold. “It’s so beautiful, Takuji! How’d you get this?”

Takuji grinned. “I requested it to be custom made. There’s a blacksmith in the city Asuka and I live in. Her work is topnotch in the magician world and she’s a married beauty everyone knows. She also has a daughter who runs a shrine there, but don’t mind that right now. We have a mission to carry out and we’ll need to finish it by tomorrow night.”

“But why tomorrow night?” Mirai asked curiously. “Can’t we finish it within a few days or something?”

“First thing’s first: We need to get you and Kirie well rested so you can fight her father and defeat him quickly,” Takuji explained, brushing off Mirai’s enquiry. “This will take a while, so perhaps by noon, you’ll both be fully recharged. In addition, you’re going to be asking around for Tomio and when his henchmen agree to let you meet him, you’ll have to negotiate with him to lure him into a trap to make a transaction for whatever you want. For example, the Sea Breeze Garden. I heard from Satsuki that you’ve made large donations there, so you can find a way to do that and fetch the money right after he decides to establish a contract with you tonight. Then tomorrow night around seven, you’ll knock out his men and get closer to him after you’re done with the disguise; Asuka and I will be back in our world for a while, but I’m sure you’ll be able to handle most of it without us. After that’s been settled, you’ll fight him face-to-face and beat the hell out of him. Got it?”

Mirai nodded in an insecure manner after sighing. He had no idea if Takuji’s plan was going to work or not, but it couldn’t work to try, right?

I guess it might be a success if I can pull this off without any problem, he thought. But Takuji seems to believe that there’s a chance this will work, so I’ll just put my faith in him and see how it goes.

In an upbeat fashion, Takuji made a motion to his left, lifted his right arm up, threw it in a way that made it seem like he was pointing a gun, and winked with his right eye at Mirai. “Saa! Go and get ‘em, Mira!”

Mirai sweat-dropped at seeing Takuji’s eccentric personality play out, but it was normal—at least, that was what he knew for a few years or so. He couldn’t exactly complain about it, but the mint-haired magician’s actions were truly… unexpected. Nonetheless, he could only hope that Takuji’s plan would be able to bring victory to their side. Indeed. Hope was something that they would need to ensure Tomio Kuroki’s defeat, but they need more than that. What they really needed was the power to fuel the task at hand in order to help create a better world for the human population.

First Love and the Promise of the Future Chapter 5

Chapter 5

When Drama Ensues, Tears Begin to Fall


The Point of View of Kirie Kuroki

Two weeks have passed since Mirai and I started going out. It’s been relaxing around him and I’ve been thinking about him more often. I would never have imagined that we would actually start a romance together until now. After we parted ways three years ago, I would think about him from time to time, but not as much as I am today. I wonder if anyone else felt the same way I did after meeting their significant other. However, I’m glad that Mirai chose me as his girlfriend. If he hadn’t thought about me all this time, we probably wouldn’t have gone out at all. Our love for each other would have died out like a flame that gets blown away by the wind at night. I’m very grateful to him for loving me all these years, but at the same time, I’m worried about the two of us. What will become of the future we hold? Will it stay like this with happy memories? Or, will it start to get worse over time? I just can’t help but become anxious for the both of us. If things stay this way, what will happen to the life we have together?

While I’m currently inside Rapunzel’s main office sorting out files, I looked up at the ceiling with many restless feelings forming in my mind. I could see a clear view of the sky filled with pure, white clouds that extending throughout the entire scene. The glass windows made it seem too beautiful for anyone to reach. My eyes lowered as I let out a very brief breath.

“It may seem near from here, but it’s farther away from our grasps.”

I stared at it for a while as my shoulders slumped a little. The sight I saw was indeed too magnificent to touch with their hands, much less feel around them. It was an endless horizon someone like myself could never be able to experience without the help of someone else.

Takuji might have sawn my expression when he walked up to me.

“Looks like you’re at it again,” he pointed out. He placed his right hand on his hip while his left one was near his side. “You always wore a worried and sad expression when you were thinking about something. Guess it must’ve been about Mira again. You’ve been like that since you two started dating. What’s up?”

I turned towards Takuji’s direction, facing him before lowering my head a bit. “It’s just…” My eyes lowered as I expressed how I felt about the situation I was in. “I’m concerned about what’s going to happen now that Mirai and I are in a relationship together. I just can’t stop thinking that something’s going to happen to split us apart, and that’s what scares me the most. What do you think I should do, Takuji?”

As I stared at the floor, I could hear a sigh escape Takuji’s lips.

With lowered eyes, he said, “Well, I don’t know if you’ll really end up breaking things off with him, but there’s something I can at least say about this. Whether or not something will tear you two apart depends on the actions you and Mira take to get to that point. Once something happens, there’s no turning back. You can only keep going forward until you reach your goal. Let me ask you this, Kirie: What do you think will be your largest obstacle in your relationship with him?”

When I saw his solemn expression, I could help but look into Takuji’s eyes. I felt his stare piercing right into my soul and I knew he genuinely cared for my well-being, as well as Mirai’s. Then, I answered him.

“My father.” Before I knew it, my mouth became a thin line and I had a grim expression on my face as I gazed back into those periwinkle eyes that belonged to my friend and boss.

Takuji nodded. “That’s right. He’s one of the strictest men in the world, and his tone is harsher than anyone else’s in the world. If he finds out about your whereabouts, he’ll not only come to get you; he’ll take you away from Mira at all costs. That’s why, you must not let him get to you. If you do, it’ll become much more difficult for Asuka and I to do anything about him. This world limits a magician’s power, so we can’t do anything that can counter your father’s at the moment. Facing him would take more effort, but don’t do anything reckless while we’re not around to protect you. Understood?”

Kirie nodded back. “I understand. I won’t try to do something useless unless I’m under any drastic circumstances.”

“Good.” Takuji stared deeply at me as he continued what he had to say. “If he gets to you before we can find your location, wait for us. We’ll be on our way. You can trust Asuka and I on that.”

The air around us felt so grave that I was also beginning to worry about how Takuji and Asuka would react if something were to happen to me before he could save me from the clenches of my father. I did not know what was going to happen later on, but a foreboding feeling was stirring in my entire body for hours.

End of Kirie’s Point of View


Inside Cinderella’s editorial department, Ayame was sitting in front of her computer, typing away just like she’d been doing for the past few weeks. There was still another page being added to Yuzuki’s cover magazine, and each one was detailed with his personal life and work. It seemed as if it was going to be finished soon with a release date coming its way, but there were still some things that were missing from it.

Ayame frowned and was holding a mechanical pencil as she thought about what to put next on it. “Hmm. There’s still a lot I need to write about Yuzuki, but what else is there to do?”

As she said this to herself, her friend Fuko, who was working at another part of the building, came up to her.

“Ayame?” she asked. “How are you doing on the Yuzuki Kitaoji biography?”

Ayame looked up after turning to face the bright orange-haired girl. “Oh, Fuko. Umm… I’m almost done with it, but there’s still some stuff I need to add to it. What do you think I should add?”

Fuko smiled at the troubled look on Ayame’s face. “Well, why don’t you go over what you have, and see for yourself? Maybe an idea will come to mind and you’ll be able to finish it in no time?” She gave an eye smile and tilted her head to her left. “Still, it’s great that you were able to get such an incredible offer from THE Yuzuki Kitaoji himself. I’m sooooo jealous! Who knew you would score a cutie like him and end up becoming his editor? You’ve finally struck a gold mine, Ayame!”

“Ahaha…” Ayame laughed at Fuko’s cheerfulness. “Thanks, but… I still have a long way to go before I can actually do anything that awesome. Besides, this is the first time I’ve ever written about a celebrity. I don’t know how it’ll go with my level of experience in our field.”

Fuko frowned. “Come on, Ayame! That’s not how an editor should be. You gotta be more positive about this and believe in yourself more. Otherwise, how are you going to convince Yuzuki’s manager that you can pull this off?” Then, she returned to having a smile etched onto her face. “You’re my best friend. It shouldn’t matter what you do with this story. If you decide to do something, I know you’ll get to the finish line by the end of the month. You’re also in a relationship with Yuzuki, right? Go and take his hand, and run with him to stardom, girl. I’ve got your back even if someone throws a boo or two at you. Don’t let anyone else get in the way of your love life and just take off like a rocket!” A laugh came out of her mouth as she closed her eyes once more. “Ahahahahaha! Am I an amazing friend, or what?”

Ayame laughed at the sight of her upbeat roommate and companion. “Ahahaha! That, you are, Fuko.” She grabbed her stomach, which was starting to hurt from the burst of laugher that filled the room. “Ah! You’re the best person to come to for this kind of thing.” She opened her eyes and smile back at Fuko. “Thanks for everything, Fuko. I could never get up if it weren’t for you.”

With her right hand, Fuko curled her fingers into a thumbs-up sign and grinned. “Hey, there’s no one who can put that smile on your face like I can. Yuzuki might be able to top me, but he’s more than a friend to you. He’s your hubby, after all!”

The enthusiasm that spread throughout the entire office also brought several smiles from the other employees around the two of them, impacting the atmosphere at Cinderella. Everyone, including Atsushi, were having a pleasant time as they kept working on the articles that packed their schedules, making it a more productive day for the company. A meeting soon began and the workers brought up the topics for their magazines.

“Right now,” Ayame announced, “I am working on a project for Yuzuki Kitaoji on his daily life, which includes what he does during his free time and how he carries out his job. A bit of his background and birth has been added on the first few pages, and a list of his close friends and acquaintances are also in it. The purpose of this magazine is to help promote his agency, as well as Mr. Kitaoji himself into gathering more people to have an interest in him and who he is, not just the image he puts forth whenever he’s surrounded by the media and paparazzi. Rather than being known for your outer appearance, I think it would be better to allow others to get to know you for your true self. That is why, I have decided to capture the person Yuzuki Kitaoji is on the inside, instead of the outside.” A loving smile appeared on Ayame’s face as she concluded her pronouncement. “Yuzuki is more than what the public thinks of him. He is an outstanding young man who is worth more than what has been taken granted of him. I will continue to support him during this entire time, and after I am finished with this magazine. If anyone else were to spend more time with him, they would discover Yuzuki’s best qualities and understand what makes him Yuzuki Kitaoji.” She bowed and smiled amiably at the co-workers who were gathered around the large table.

A round of applause filled the room; Atsushi saw the dedication within Ayame’s brown eyes and smiled at his employee. Fuko smiled as well, and saw her best friend in a new light that shined down. Tears formed in her eyes as she and everyone else in the meeting room clapped approvingly for the brunette. Ayame’s speech had not only filled their hearts with respect; it had also given each and every one of them the inspiration to keep doing their jobs with efficiency.

It was seven o’clock that evening and many reported surrounded Yuzuki as he was standing in front of his agency. Ayame was on the side, taking pictures of him for the Cinderella edition of his coverage. There were also questions that were spoken aloud as the commotion spread around the famous actor. An interview took place at that time.

“Mr. Kitaoji,” a male reporter began, “if I may ask, you are one of the main characters of the new drama airing on Thursday nights at nine, correct?”

Yuzuki smiled affably and gave a reply to the reporter’s enquiry. “Yes. I will be portraying the lead with a co-worker of mine. It will spur the hearts of our viewers, or so the director has said. At the very least, I am hoping to do an excellent job on my part.”

“The person you’re starring with is Yurika Nakasono, who is playing as your romantic interest in the series, right?” another reporter asked. “What is your relationship with her?”

A third reporter nodded. “Are you dating her? There have also been reports of you being involved with that editor from Cinderella standing in the crowd over there. Who is to say that you aren’t actually cheating on Ms. Nakasono while you are with the other beauty?”

Yuzuki let out a chuckle at the accusations. “Ahaha. I think you have mistaken Ms. Nakasono and I to be a couple of sorts. To answer your questions, no. I am not dating Yurika Nakasono at all. We have never been more than close friends in the entertainment industry, and will remain as such for the rest of our careers decreed us to. I am actually in love with someone else, and I hold that person to be the most important woman in my life. She has a much more special place in my heart than my mother, but that doesn’t mean that I have come to hate my mom. I love both of them dearly, but for the first time in my life, this young lady has made my heart skip a beat every time I’m around her. Within a short amount of time, I have fallen for her. She is always in my thoughts, even when I am working, and I am currently seeing her at this very moment.”

“Mr Kitaoji,” the first reporter pressed on, “who is this woman that fills your entire being? Please answer this. We must know who you are in love with before we can say anything else. Could she be another celebrity like yourself, or is she an ordinary woman? We are all dying to know who it is.”

Before Yuzuki could respond to the reporter’s question, a young woman around his age walked towards him and faced the reporters and journalists. She had the appearance of a haughty actress and resembled a fox.

“That would be me,” she said. “Yuzuki is actually in love with me, but he denies it whenever my name is mentioned.”

The paparazzi gave rapid glances and mutters as they looked at the person standing next to Yuzuki. Then, one of them looked up and confronted the young woman.

“Ms. Nakasono,” he called out. “Are you and Mr. Kitaoji officially going out with each other?”

Without a change in her expression, Yurika looked at the reporter. “That’s right. Yuzuki and I are seeing each other. We fell in love after working together in a few dramas after our debuts. Our agency has permitted us to date and if our love for each other continues, we will get married after a year or so.”

Yuzuki furrowed his eyebrows as he glanced at the actress. Instead of making a retort, and turned towards where Ayame was and walked up to her. With his left hand, he quickly pulled her out from the crowd and the two made their way far from everyone who were surrounding them.

“…!” Yurika’s eyes widened when she saw them leave. “Yuzuki! Where are you going?!”

Yuzuki did not look back, but Ayame did.

“Yuzuki,” she frowned. “Is it really okay to just leave with me? Everyone’s looking at us.”

Suddenly, a grin appeared on the actor’s face as he ran away with the editor. “Why are you talking about? Of course it is! I’m having the time of my life right now. Don’t you feel the excitement in the air?”

“Well, yeah, but…” Ayame trailed off. She was still a bit anxious about escaping with Yuzuki. “I’m not sure if we should be doing this. It’ll attract too much attention from the journalists and reporters back there.”

Yuzuki frowned as they kept going. “To be honest with you, I couldn’t take Yurika’s attitude back there. She’s someone who twists another person’s words to make them seem as though it’s the truth when there’re just lies.”

“Yuzuki…” Ayame caught a glimpse of the celebrity’s expression and gazed at his face as they kept running for what seemed like a very brief time, which it was.

Soon, they came to a stopping point and Yuzuki turned around, looking into Ayame’s eyes with a serious expression.

“I love you, Ayame,” he professed his love. “I could never love anyone else but you. No one—not even Yurika could ever replace you in my heart.” He placed his right hand on the side of Ayame’s face and held up as though it was the most fragile thing in the world. Then, he embraced her. “It can’t be anyone else but you. You’re all I ever think about whenever I’m not with you. Please… Don’t think about someone other than me. I said it before, but you’re the most important person to me. You’re the only one who’s been making my heart pound faster than I would have thought it would, so stay by my side. I need you.”

While she was in Yuzuki’s arms, Ayame’s eyes widened. “Yuzuki, I… I love you, too.” Tears formed in her eyes and flowed down her cheeks. “I don’t ever want to be apart from you…! You’re the only person I have left besides Fuko, and I don’t want to be alone. I want to be with you forever… That’s all I really want. There’s nothing else I really need, but to be by your side.”

They both pulled away from each other for a few seconds before leaning in for a kiss that enveloped their whole bodies. With each time their lips met, their feelings for each other became even more passionate than they would have predicted in all their lives. Yet, they could not find themselves pulling apart anytime soon. So, the two of them stayed almost glued together in long make out session.


~


An hour after Yuzuki and Ayame retreated from the lot of paparazzi, Mirai and Kirie were inside a bar that was owned by Satsuki. They were both talking to each other and were sitting near the counter.

“It’s been a while since I was last here with everyone,” Mirai smiled. “We all came here together, and Yuzu would end up getting drunk most of the time. It was really fun to see. Sometimes we would have to watch over him while he slept on the couch in the VIP room here.”

An inquisitive expression spread onto Kirie’s face as she looked at Mirai. “Really? I never would have thought that Yuzuki would sleep like a rock after drinking. He gives off the impression of someone who tends to hop from place to place in little to no time at all since he’s always working on his acting career.”

“Well, when you’re in the entertainment industry, you have to stick to your schedule all the time,” Mirai explained. “It gets tiring every day since you have to stay in shape and move around more often. Idols also have it tough since they have to memorize the choreography for each dance when they perform on stage and sing. They can also pursue Yuzu’s forte if they want to, but then, they would have to go through all the acting lessons like he’s already taken before appearing in a drama or movie. It’s a really interesting but time–consuming occupation at times. You’ll get more experience as time goes by if you work real hard to get to the top, but every career is like that in some way.”

Kirie swiftly found herself smiling at the college student and placed her left hand on the side of her face. “Hnn… You make a good point, Mirai. But. You really are a good kid, you know?” She closed her eyes and kept smiling. “I just can’t help but like that about you.”

Mirai’s eyes widened as a blush came to his face. “Wh—“ Then, he frowned embarrassingly, which proved Kirie’s comment about him being a child. “Uun… I’m not a little kid; I’m nineteen for crying out loud! Quit treating me like one, Kirie. I’m almost an adult.”

Kirie let out a laugh. “Ahaha!” She pointed at Mirai with her right index finger. “See? You really are one, Mirai! It’s no wonder people tease you about it all the time! I bet Yuzuki and Ryoichi tell you that, too!”

Shortly afterward, Mirai fell silent and stared at Kirie’s joyful expression with admiration. Up until that moment, he had noticed something that he didn’t realize beforehand.

This is the first time that I’ve ever seen Kirie laugh so wholeheartedly, he thought. She looks so happy that I just want to see her smile like that no matter what. Seeing her expression really brightens up me day.

He smiled gentle at the sight of the dark magenta-haired girl. Then, he had the urge to ask her something.

“Hey, Kirie,” he brought up. “There’s something I want to ask you. It’s a really important matter for me.”

As Kirie kept smiling at Mirai, she tilted her head to her right. “Hm? What is it?”

Mirai gazed deeply into Kirie’s eyes and said, “I want to meet your parents. Do you think it would be okay for me to?”

Hearing those words come out of her boyfriend’s mouth, Kirie’s eyes widened with a surprise. “You want to meet… my parents?”

Mirai nodded. “Yeah. If it’s possible, I’d like to introduce myself to them. We’re dating, so—“

“No! You can’t,” Kirie objected fiercely. All of a sudden, she had an angry look on her face, which backed up her statement. “I can’t let you meet my father no matter what, Mirai, so a no is a no.”

Mirai was confused and shocked by the editor’s change of heart. “Huh? Why not?”

“It’s for your own sake,” Kirie quickly replied. “You wouldn’t understand the situation I’m in, Mirai. Right now, I’m trying to prevent you from ever seeing him because it’d be better if you didn’t. I have an obligation to protect you from involving yourself in this. After all, you’re still someone who—“

Mirai frowned with a similar expression. “Wait a minute. I think you’re the one who doesn’t understand, Kirie! You don’t know anything about me, so don’t think you can just keep me out of your life just because you don’t want me to meet your father!” He stood up and continued to argue with Kirie. “I may be an underaged little brat who can’t seem to have to have the capabilities to defend myself in your eyes, but that isn’t true at all. But if you want to tell me that I don’t stand a chance against anyone, then you’re wrong. I can protect myself without any trouble, but you’re doubting who I really am on the inside. If you don’t believe me, fine. I can handle everything without you worrying about me.” Mirai turned away and walked out the door, leaving Kirie by herself to look after him.

Once he was out of her sight, she shifted towards the direction of the counter and looked at its surface. Then, she started to cry, covering her mouth with her right hand. All of her painful feelings poured out and she sat there with her an aching heart as she continued to feel hurt from the dispute she had with Mirai seconds ago.

First Love and the Promise of the Future Chapter 4

Chapter 4

The Unstoppable Feelings that Bring Our Hearts Closer to Each Other


Mirai stared fixedly into Kirie’s eyes as his chest overflowed with many emotions. His heart was beating faster and he looked into the blue eyes that reflected a gemstone’s light. “Kirie,” he said, beginning his sentence, “I love you. I always have, and I still love you, even today. My feelings for you have never died out since the day we met, and they never will. S, please…” His feelings grew stronger and his eyes lower slightly to convey what he had to say next. “…Please go out with me, Kirie!” He looked down with a sad expression on his face. “I know you might not think of me as more than the boy you met three years ago, but…” He looked up and gazed into Kirie’s eyes again. “I want you to at least give me a chance to prove my worth to you. Let’s start a relationship together.”

Kirie’s eyes widened at the sudden confession. Deep into the depths of her mind, she could tell that what he had told her were his true feelings. She knew that Mirai was still in love with her and she also felt the same way, but…

“I can’t,” she looked down with mixed emotions reflecting in her eyes. She shook her head without facing Mirai. “I just can’t go out with you, Mirai. It would only cause the both of us pain. If we’re with each other, it would become too unbearable for us to even be happy. Don’t you think so?”

Mirai quickly realized Kirie’s sorrow and frowned. “I would never want to hurt you, Kirie. I’ll protect you with everything I have, so don’t think about feeling any pain from being together with me. I’ll always be there to shield you from anyone who tries to harm you.” Seeing Kirie turn her head to her left without responding, Mirai stood there for a few seconds before stepping forward and embracing the girl he loved. “Please, trust me, Kirie. I promise I’ll protect you no matter what. You won’t have to think about anything else if you’re with me. You’re the only one I love.”

Although Kirie did not say anything, she stayed in the heartbreaking enfold, and nodded. Mirai’s body heat conducted right through hers and it was a warm sensation that made her happy but also concerned for the former. Mirai couldn’t see it, but there was a tender smile that showed on Kiries face as she hugged him back.

They didn’t let go of the other for a while, which made it seem like time had stopped in place. Somewhere in Kirie’s heart, she felt a twinge of guilt and pain that resonated inside her chest. She had a presentiment and was still worried about what was going to happen to her, or even worse, Mirai. A look of doubt spread onto her face as she held the youth in her arms, wrapping them around his back. Mirai sense Kirie’s anxiety and closed his eyes. As the night went by, it was a going to be a long time before they let go of their beloved.


~


The following day


Out in the city of Roppongi, Mirai and Kirie were holding hands in public. Kirie frowned and turned towards her right, avoiding any eye contact with the college student.

“Hey, Mirai,” she began. “Are you really sure we should be doing this? We’re not in a private area or any place with fewer people, so it’s a little embarrassing to hold hands while we’re here. Everyone’s watching, you know!”

However, Mirai only smiled without a care in the world. “Haha! Kirie, you’re too tense about this. We’re dating, so it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Try to be yourself while we’re out. It wouldn’t hurt to let everyone else know that we’re a couple.”

“Yeah, but…” Kirie trailed off hesitantly. She was not confident about the idea of becoming lover the next day, despite the fact that she reluctantly agreed to be in a relationship with Mirai. “What if someone finds out about this? For example, your parents… What if they don’t want us to be together?” She glanced at Mirai with a worried expression on her face. “If they discover our relationship, they might force you to leave me and study abroad so that we won’t see each other again.”

When Mirai saw his girlfriend’s expression, his eyes widened. “Kirie…” It was only a short matter of time before he started to laugh a little. “Ahahaha. Don’t worry about a thing. Didn’t I tell you that yesterday? I never knew you were such a worrywart before now, but I’m glad you’ve been thinking about me.” His smile became softer as he looked at Kirie. “It’s going to be all right, Kirie. I’m here with you, remember? Anyway, my dad wouldn’t break us up. He’d understand that you’re older than me, and I’m sure he’d love to meet you one day.”

Kirie sighed. “Is that how it is? I think your family’s more laid back than I would have guessed. But is it really okay for us to be together? Aren’t there girls who like you?”

“What, are you jealous already?” Mirai asked innocently. “I don’t have an interest in anyone else but you, Kirie. Anyway, to answer your question, there have been girls who have liked me, but I never paid any attention to them. Besides, I’ve even turned them down whenever they asked me out. Things should be fine now.” He closed his eyes and tilted his head to his left with the smile he had on his face. “My side’s A-OK. How about yours?”

Kirie frowned once more. “…That’s not what I meant. I feel like someone else would be more suited for you, Mirai. Wouldn’t you think so if you were in my place?”

“Aw, come on, Kirie!” Mirai blurted out. “I wouldn’t think twice about going out with you!” Then, he pouted. “I really mean it when I say that I want to be with you, but you have negative views on how things will work out.” His usual expression appeared on his face as he continued. “Look, Kirie. It’s not about how we look to others, but rather how we show our love for each other. What matters in a relationship between two people is how you feel about your partner. That’s what love is. Trust me; I would never want to leave you, even for a second. If our love ended right here, I’d regret separating from you. You’re my one true love, Kirie.”

As she gazed into Mirai’s eyes, Kirie’s eyes widened. Her uncertain emotions were soon filled with hope as she smiled at him. “Mirai…” She nodded at the younger boy. “Un. Thank you.”

Mirai smiled back and closed his eyes. “You’re welcome. I want to see you smile forever, okay?”

Kirie nodded again, and the two of them made their way towards an ice cream shop for their date.


~


On the other hand, Yuzuki and Ayame were at a flower field to finish the job Ayame had been assigned to do. She had been taking pictures of the wavy-haired celebrity since the day before, and was currently resuming from where she had left off.

“About a few more shots before we wrap things up for the day,” the brunette declared. She smiled and said, “Well, not really. We still have tonight for work, right?”

Yuzuki frowned. “Yeah. It’s gonna be a real pain in the neck to get interviewed, especially at night. Those who are in the entertainment industry have to put on fake smiles and do what their agencies tell them to.” A smile appeared on his face. “But hey, that’s what we do, and it’s not that hard to pull something like this off in front of everyone. I have a reputation to keep up for several years to come by, so I’ll still be well-known in Tokyo before I hit my forties. Maybe I’ll still be in showbiz by the time I’m eighty. Who knows? You might become famous at that age, too.”

Ayame let out a laugh as she answered the twenty-four-year-old male. “Aha. I’d rather not be. This is just a job I want to do, that’s all. There’s not much for someone outside your field to accomplish before they die, but sometimes it’s actually worth trying. Living a civilian life isn’t too difficult for someone like me, and it’s fun every now and then to do something you haven’t done before.”

Yuzuki tilted his head to his left with a perplexed expression. “? You’ve never done something like write some coverage about someone before?”

Ayame shook her head. “I have, but it’s more like I haven’t been put in charge of someone outside my league until now. It’s really amazing to even receive an opportunity like this. It just brightens up my day knowing that I’ll at least get somewhere with this career. I haven’t been able to do anything this important at my previous company.” She looked down, thinking back to her memories. “Back then, I was hospitalized for a year and three months. It seemed as if I would never be able to reach outside no matter how long I waited to get discharged from there. I would always look out the window in my room.” With a sad smile, she added, “It was so lonely that I wished someone would save me from being trapped in there. Of course, my friend and roommate, Fuko would always come and visit me. But… because she couldn’t stay the whole time, I felt like breaking down every second without her.”

Tears formed in Ayame’s eyes and fell down her cheeks. She brought the back of hand up to her face and wiped the tears coming down the right side of her face and did the same with her other hand. Yuzuki’s eyes widened a bit at the sight of Ayame crying several feet in front of him, and he walked over to her, bending down on the young woman’s left. He turned his head towards her and sighed. Then, he faced forward.

“Well,” he breathed, “there’s not much I could have really done to free you from there when you were hospitalized for what seemed like an eternal hell.” His shoulder slumped as he stared at the sky. “There is one thing I can tell you, though. If I had met you back before you were sent to that empty room, I would have definitely taken you out without a second thought.”
He turned his head to his right and Ayame looked up, gazing into his eyes with surprise as she took her hands away from her face.

“Really?” she asked as the rest of her tears slide down her visage. “You would have done that for me, Yuzuki?”

Another frown formed on the actor’s face. “Isn’t it obvious? Of course I would. You’re…” He caught himself before saying anything else. Then, a couple tints of pink appeared on his cheeks as he got a close look of the hazel eyes staring back at his own eyes. He quickly averted his gaze before retorting in a flustered manner. “I-It’s something anyone would have done if their feelings for you were strong enough. I’m sure your friend felt sorry for not being able to do anything for you, but I would have gotten you out no matter what. You can trust my words on that.”

Ayame soon realized something as she stared at Yuzuki’s posture. He was now sitting on the ground, holding his knees, and would not look at her and hid his expression away from her sight. She knew that there was only one reason for him to behave like that and she had to say it for him to hear.

“Yuzuki, do you… Do you like me?” she asked cautiously as a blush formed on her face.

Yuzuki’s eyes widened once more as he looked at the editor next to him. Then, he stared into Ayame’s eyes, while his were chockfull of emotions for her. He confirmed the inquiry after nodding.

“Yeah,” he said, having a red blush on his face this time. “I like you, Ayame. Ever since the night of the party, I’ve started to develop feelings for you. The moment I saw your sleeping face when we were alone together in the hotel room, I couldn’t help but think about you.”

He gazed into Ayame’s eyes for a few more seconds before closing his own. He was slowly leaning forward and Ayame closed her eyes, moving towards Yuzuki. Their lips found one another’s and touched, their hearts melting with a soft and warm sensation with each lock their mouths made. Never before had their chests overflowed with love and affection for anyone else until that very moment. Their hands were touching and they were at the beautiful scene for hours before finishing up with their passionate kisses.


~


Later that night, Ayame was sitting in front of her desk in a daze. She placed her fingers up to her lips, still mesmerized from the feeling of Yuzuki’s lips.

Just then, a voice called out to her and she knew who it was.

“Working late again, Irodori?” Atsushi asked as he entered the room. “You know, it’s going to put you back in your bed if you don’t stop to take a break from work soon. You’ll end up running a high fever before you know it.”

Ayame shook her head without looking back to face her boss. “No, that’s not it. It’s just…”

“What? Are you thinking about Yuzuki Kitaoji right now?” the man pressed further.

Ayame looked down at her keyboard. “I guess you can say that. I can’t stop thinking about him no matter how much time passes by.”

Atsushi blinked. “Don’t tell me you’ve fallen for him. He’s a celebrity, and reporters tend to follow his kind everywhere whenever he takes a step in their presence. You can’t delay things just because of that, Irodori. You’re a member of Cinderella; you have a duty to fulfill as an editor here, and we need you!”

Ayame turned around and frowned. “I know. I’m not even letting this affect my job, Jinnai-san. I’m still focused, but Yuzuki’s all that comes to mind lately. Whether or not I’m working on this magazine right now also relates to him in every way possible. Is that not what an editor’s job is supposed to be? Are we not allowed to think about our clients when we’re at work?”

Atsushi gulped at the serious situation he put himself in. “Er… I know that you like him and all, but don’t let it get to you, okay? This is just a step toward our goal to keep our company going, and to beat Takuji’s team.” He nodded firmly. “Yeah, that’s it. We’re in for the win. Our competition is still taking place in these harsh times, so we need to build up a leading foundation for ourselves.”

“You mean, for your reassurance.” Ayame’s eyes narrowed in an unpleasant way with her mouth becoming a thin line. “Can’t you just let it go? We all know that with Takuji in business, there’s no way you could ever win against him. He’s a magician, after all.”

There was yet another heart-wounding effect on the editor-in-chief. “Ugh…!” He reached out with his right hand towards Ayame, relentlessly getting pounded with the beauty’s words. “Irodori, you… You are a cold woman, aren’t you…?” He felt back, landing on the tile floor with a soft thud.

“As cold as a woman can be,” Ayame frowned, staring at the man whom she called her boss. “Unlike you, Jinnai-san, I’ve still got my work cut out for me. I am a young employee here, so I’m always going to be your junior for as long as I’m working at Cinderella.”

Rivers of tears flowed down the (almost) middle-aged man’s eyes as he laid where he was while he made a crying sound. “You’re so mean! I’m not that old, you know! Uu… Why does it always have to be me…?”

Ayame sighed, shaking her head with closed eyes. “Get a grip, will you? You’re so pathetic for the CEO of this editorial department. It really makes me wonder if you really are in charge of everything here.”

It was going to be another long night before work ended, which would be in a short amount of time for the employees at Cinderella.


~


Asuka smiled at Kirie inside the apartment. “You look nice today. Are you going out with Mirai-kun, Kirie-chan?”

Kirie nodded. “Yeah. He said he’d take me to dinner since we’re officially dating now.” She looked at her reflection in the mirror and smiled. “It’ll be our second date as a couple.” She closed her eyes with a cheerful expression on her face.

“Sou ka,” the white-haired young woman glanced contently at the dark magenta-haired girl. “You should enjoy the time you have together. It sounds fun. Perhaps Takuji and I should go on a date, as well. We could even try to join in with you two later on for dinner.”

Kirie frowned. “Unfortunately, I’d rather not have Takuji say anything to humiliate us at the table, so that’s a no. It’d be too weird having him around, so maybe you should find another restaurant to eat at if you feel like going out tonight, Asuka.”

“But Takuji’s a lovable person to be with,” Asuka replied. “He’s like the bright sun that pulls everyone to him.”

Kirie sighed. “That’s the problem. Takuji attracts too much attention. Don’t you remember what happened yesterday in the office? He practically made everyone else fawn over him just by acting in front of us. His tears weren’t even real.”

“I’ll have you know, my tears are one hundred percent genuine,” the mint-haired magician told the younger woman in the house. He walked down the stairs and looked at Kirie. “Don’t think that what I do in front of other people is completely fake. I’m Takuji Uramoto, after all. As your father, I’m obliged to make you have a good time, so you’ll smile more often. That’s my role while I’m still taking care of you, Kirie.” He folded his arms together and nodded. “Un. That’s what fathers are for.”

Kirie narrowed her eyes. “Takuji, you aren’t my father. We’re a year apart, so you’re just a friend I’ve known since I was eighteen. Besides, you don’t even act like a dad.”

Takuji smirked with his eyes closed. “But I’m better than your father, right? He doesn’t even compare to me and my good looks.”

“Uh, yeah,” Kirie responded with her left hand on the back of head. “You’re swell.”

At that moment, the doorbell rang and Kirie rushed towards the door. She placed her hand on the doorknob and opened the door, revealing Mirai’s smiling figure in front of her.

Her eyes widened as she looked at him. “Mirai… Um…”

“Hey,” Mirai greeted. “I came to get you. Are you ready, Kirie?”

Kirie nodded happily. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

“Have fun!” Asuka waved at the handsome college who showed up at the doorway.

Takuji grinned with opened eyes. “Make sure to bring her home before ten, Mirai. You have a curfew, too, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Mirai affirmed. “You can count on me to walk Kirie home safely. It’s dangerous for a girl to be out by herself, so I’ll make sure no one lays a hand on her.”

Takuji gave the youth a thumbs-up, then he waved. “Yeah! That’s my boy!”

Mirai smiled jubilantly before taking Kirie’s hand and walking out the door with her. Soon enough, they made their way to the restaurant that he reserved for the two of them and had a lovely dinner together.

“Thanks for agreeing to go out on a date here with me,” Mirai smiled lightly at Kirie, who was sitting across from him. “I really wanted to go everywhere with you today, so I hope it’s not too much trouble for you.”

Kirie smiled back. “It wasn’t any trouble at all. I’ve always wanted to go somewhere with you. When I think about it now, I’m glad I got to be with you, Mirai. I feel like I could go anywhere with you when we’re together.”

“Kirie…” Mirai felt a blush appearing on his face as his eyes had a softer look to them. “From now on, you can rely on me. I’ll always be there to protect you no matter what.”

Kirie found herself blushing and nodded. “Un. Thanks, Mirai.”

As they chatted, the two of them felt closer than they were three years ago when they first met. It was a warm sensation that brought their feelings together and filled their hearts with the love they had for each other. As long as they had one another, they didn’t have to worry about anything. With the night sky lit up with beautiful lights from every building in Roppongi, it only enhanced their feelings as they held hands and looked out the window together.

First Love and the Promise of the Future Chaper 3

Chapter 3

Starting Over… with a Confession?!


Once she walked into Rapunzel, Kirie greeted the other employees inside the editing office.

“Good morning, everyone,” she said with an eye smile. As usual, she wore her glasses, which made her look very beautiful for someone who didn’t wear any before going to college and graduating. She tilted her head to her right and blinked. “? Is Takuji not here today?”

One of the female co-workers bowed upon seeing Kirie enter the building. “Good morning, Kirie.” She glanced around and smiled when she turned her attention back towards the dark magenta-haired young lady. “To answer your question, he’s out right now. He has a meeting with Kunihiko Aikawa in Azabu today. They’re going to discuss some ways to improve some of the places there. They seem to get along well when it comes to business negotiations.”

“I see,” Kirie noted thoughtfully. “And I was just hoping that he’d be here when I came in. I was going to ask him something, but I guess I’ll have to wait since he keeps his cell phone turned off during these meetings.” She took out her cell phone and checked the time after flipping it open. It read: 10:03 a.m. Then, she closed it and placed it back into her right pocket located on her skirt. “Asuka’s also teaching the preschool and elementary kids today, so she won’t be here until noon. Takuji’s probably going to be back around that time, so I guess they can have lunch together if I’m busy. By the way, did anything good happen to you today? You seem to be in a good mood.”

The co-worker smiled and nodded. “Un. But it’s not about me, though. Someone came by this morning after Takuji-sama left and left a message for you.”

“A message?” Kirie asked. “Who was it from?”

She lowered her eyes, a bit annoyed from the last sentence.

Takuji-sama? She thought. Well, I guess it’s only natural for her to call him that since she’s been in love with him since he started working here. Still, she’s never addressed him with –sama before until now. Maybe she’s too embarrassed to call him that whenever he’s around. She also seems to be jealous of Asuka since he’s never look at anyone but her. Plus, they just got married yesterday. I kind of feel bad for her, but what can you really do about a magician’s love life if it’s not something that actually involves you? Those two have been joined at the hip since before they met me. Besides, wouldn’t it be a good thing to see the person you love happy, even if they don’t love you back?

She sighed, her eyelids fully opened.

Maybe I don’t really understand it because I’m not in love with a magician. Is there something that differs from like a non-immortal being and liking someone who is immortal? I don’t really understand it, but there must be something that’s different. Humans are more complicated than I thought when it comes to living in the same place as a magician. Still, I wonder if you would only love a magician for eternity if you fell in love with them? Would you be doomed to never fall for anyone else? If so, I don’t think I’d ever want to be in the same situation as her.

The co-worker closed her eyes with benevolence. “It was a college student who was wearing a black and white blazer.” She opened her eyes and continued. “He wanted to meet you for a bit at Rentomi College today if you could make it. Ah.” She remembered something and was generous enough to relay the rest. “There was also another person with him. I believe it was Ryoichi Hirose, the renowned novelist in the city. He said he would like you to meet the little guy by 10:30, but is that even possible? We have a lot of work to finish today without Takuji-sama.”

Again with the Takuji-sama! Kirie shouted in her mind. She was already getting annoyed with how the employee was addressing the mint-haired magician and was not pleased with it. Is she going to call him that every time he’s not here? I don’t want to be in the same office with her right now, but I’m going to have to bear it if I want to hear everything.

She smiled politely as always, hiding what her inner thoughts had to say. “Aha… Well, I guess work will have to come first. There’re piles of papers to fill out and get done by the end of the day, so we shouldn’t think about doing anything but our job, right?”

The co-worker placed her left hand on the side of her face and tilted her head to the side with a frown. “But… Won’t you b keeping him waiting for a long time if you don’t get going now? Everyone else and I can take care of the files while you’re away.”

“No, I can—“ Kirie was soon cut off when the woman had come up behind her and started pushing her back.

The co-worker smiled and was still pushing Kirie towards the front doors. “Come on. You can count on us. Go and meet that cutie, okay?” Without any time to respond, Kirie was already outside and the female employee had turned her back to work on the stacks of papers in the office.

Kirie sighed. “I guess I have no choice. I’ll have to get there soon, but that means I’ll see Mirai again.” She started trudging and began making her way towards the famous college.

Over half an hour later, she was finally there. She stopped and stared at her surroundings. Then, she caught a glimpse of a familiar figure. It was Mirai, and he saw the dark magenta-haired girl. He walked up to her and stopped in his tracks. They were a few feet away from each other and the two of them were gazing into the other’s eyes. It seemed like a long time had passed by before the silence between them broke.

“Kirie…” Mirai trailed off. He continued to stare into the beautiful blue eyes that belonged to his first love, but couldn’t say anything else. He was entranced by the unchanging appearance Kirie had since they first met. It was as if Kirie would never age on the outside, but he knew in his heart that they were both human and had a short lifespan compared to an immortal being.

Kirie’s eyes widened a bit as she gazed right back into Mirai’s eyes. “Mirai…” She then realized that she still loved him, but could not bear to admit it if he were to ask her if she was still in love with him. Her lips formed a smile as she began to blush at the younger man. “I have something to say; will you hear me out?”

Mirai nodded. “Yeah. What is it?”

“I wanted to apologize for what happened yesterday,” Kirie answered. “You see, a lot has happened since we last saw each other and I’m not exactly the same as I was then. I’m sure you already know this, but I’ve changed in the past three years. Everyone has, including you, Mirai. Anyway, I’m really sorry for everything.” She gave a bow and looked at the college student. “I hope we can get along from now on as friends, instead of lovers. That’s all I wanted to say.”

Mirai’s eyes widened but he immediately understood. He gave a sad nod and said, “Yeah. Let’s do that. But…” He looked up and stared into Kirie’s eyes once more. “Can we talk inside? There’s still a lot that I have to say and I want you to hear me out on this.”

Kirie blinked. “?” She wasn’t sure what was going on, but after that, they ended up in the cafeteria, along with some other students as time passed by.


~


“Now that I think about it,” Mirai mentioned, “it’s been a while since we got to talk like this, hasn’t it?” He was smiling like his did around everyone else around him and was back to his usual self. “So, how have you been since then?”

Kirie smiled back. “I’ve had my fair share of fun and games before graduating from Souseizouma. It was nice and all, but I quickly moved on from everything I experienced there. I met Takuji and Asuka after that and they asked me if I wanted to join the Rapunzel editing team, so I agreed and went to college to learn more about journalizing. It was really great; I’d never thought it would be fun to take classes there. I graduated this spring, and I’m sure you can guess how old I am right now.”

“You’re twenty, right?” the college student asked. “That’s amazing. I’m going to graduate from here at the same age next spring on my birthday, but I guess you’ll already by twenty-one by the time I leave Rentomi. You’re a year older than me, so I wouldn’t expect you to alter time and stay the same age until then. It would destroy the balance of the world, after all.”

Kirie laughed. “Aha! It’s not like I could ever do that, though. I’d probably have to be on Takuji and Asuka’s level, but changing time would be even worse than just not doing anything at all. Besides, the two of us are only human, so we could never do something like that. Still, I’m glad you’re speaking on logical terms, Mirai. It makes me happy to at least have a normal conversation with someone who isn’t like the people at Rapunzel. They tend to be weirder than you’d think they’d be.”

“Is that so?” Mirai smiled lightly when he heard those words. “Then, it was worth asking to talk with you for a bit, Kirie. It’s been on my mind for a while, but I still need to say this before the day’s over.” He looked into Kirie’s eyes and kept smiling. “I’m sorry for what happened, too. It was my fault that you ran off like that, and I don’t know if you can ever forgive me for that, but I really am sorry. I wanted to let you know today when I went with Ryo to your department.”

Kirie shook her head slightly. “It’s okay. I was just shocked that you would still remember everything, so it was also my fault for going home like that. Thank you, though. It was really nice seeing you again after all these years, so it was a good thing you brought it up in the VIP room. I know I’ve caused you and the others some trouble, so I’ll give my condolences to you. I even made those two run after me.”

Mirai closed his eyes. “Hopefully we won’t have another incident like that one anytime soon. It wasn’t too serious in the end, but who knows? One of these days it’ll probably happen again to someone like Yuzu. Definitely not Noel since he’s always so bland around everyone.”

“Haha,” Kirie giggled. “Hopefully not. It’d be even worse if everyone got involved in another one.”

As they continued their chat, a few students came over to their table.

“Oh? Mirai, you’re already here? It’s not even time for lunch,” a male who was around Takuji and Asuka’s age blinked when he arrived at the table.

Mirai acted as carefree as his looks would deem him. “Yeah, I had some more free time than I thought I would. But it’s almost time for it, right? You guys came a little early today.”

“We wanted to sit with you like we always did,” a female student answered. She closed her eyes and kept smiling at the nineteen-year-old boy. She took a set and sat across from Mirai; the two guys with her sat down as well. “So, who’s the girl next to you? Your babysitter or something?” She observed and glanced at Kirie and Mirai back and forth before her eyes landed on the college student across from her. “Or maybe she’s your older sister? Well, she could be both, so it wouldn’t matter, either way.”

Mirai waved his right hand as if to deny it, which he did. “No, no. You’ve got it all wrong.” He glanced at Kirie and introduced her to his friends. “This is Kirie Kuroki, a friend of mine. She’s also one of the editors at Rapunzel. You know, the most successful editorial department in all of Roppongi.”

The girl’s eyes widened in surprise. “Eh?! And how do you know her?! You’ve never told us anything like this before.”

“Aha… It’s kind of a long story.” Mirai sweat-dropped nervously. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you about it.”

“So, is she your girlfriend?” the other male student asked curiously. “She’s really pretty, so it could be that you’re actually dating her instead. You don’t seem to have one, but… it could be possible.”

Mirai blushed and his mouth dropped in an exasperated manner. “What?!”

The previous guy laughed. “You know he’s just kidding, Mirai. Don’t let it catch you off-guard. He’s always got that little-to-interested face around everyone, so he’s more of a straightforward type of guy.”

Kirie smiled. “Well, I’m not Mirai’s girlfriend. Anyway, I’ll take my leave here. I have to get back to work soon.” She stood up and got up from her seat. Then, she bowed. “It was nice meeting you all. Have a good day!” She pushed in her chair and strolled out the cafeteria.

The students turned around and looked in the direction Kirie had walked out before turning back towards Mirai.

“Well, that was nice,” the first guy stated delightedly. He clasped his hands together and was very supportive of Mirai’s so-called “friendship” with Kirie. “If you two were actually going out, I might have at least given you some tips, l’il bro.”

Mirai sweat-dropped once more. “But we’re not even going out. We’ve known each other for a few years, that’s all.”

Liar! He scolded himself angrily in his mind. He knew that wasn’t how he truly felt, but had denied it for Kirie’s sake. He frowned, another blush coming onto his cheeks. That’s not how I really feel, but I have to hold back on everything since that’s what Kirie wants. If it weren’t for this, I’d be able to say it properly.

The female student gave a relieved smile, closed her eyes for a second, and opened them again. “Well, I’m glad you’re not dating anything, Mirai. I don’t know what I would do if you were taken.”

Mirai frowned awkwardly. His blush had already faded by the time he saw the girl’s smile. “Um… Thanks. But I don’t even want to date you. I can’t think of you as more than a friend no matter how hard I could try to. In fact, I actually have someone else in mind, just not you. I’m sorry.”

“Wow, Mirai.” The female student who was around Kirie’s age lowered her eyes in discontent. “I never thought you’d shoot anyone down that easily. And here I thought I might have had a chance with you.” She sighed. “I guess my luck’s run out when I think about it. It’d be a bit of a crime if I were to take you for granted. I really need to consider the possibility of dating a younger guy before trying to make a move next time.”

Mirai couldn’t help but feel bad for the girl in front of him. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to reject you that way. I was just—“

The girl held out her hand, which resembled a stop sign due to the fact that it was facing Mirai. “Look. There’s no need to apologize.” She smiled, knowing that she could never stand a chance against Kirie. “I’ve known that you’ve had your eyes on a certain someone for a long time just by looking at you. You’ve always had a distant expression when you stare off to the sky, or anywhere else. We can all tell whenever we see you, so you should at least go for it and confess your love for the reporter—I mean, editor. She has the appearance of someone you’d only get to meet once in a lifetime.”

The upfront student nodded. “It’s better than not conveying your feelings at all. Go for it, Mirai.”

Seeing the encouraging characteristics the three sitting near him were giving off, Mirai’s eyes widen before a happy smile appeared on his face. “Thanks, guys. I’ll tell Kirie how I really feel about her. You can count on it.”

As he felt inspired to profess his love later on, Mirai enjoyed every second he spent with the older college students around his table. They had looked out for him since his second semester during his first year at Rentomi College, and would continue to be there for him until he graduated from campus.


~


It took several minutes before Kirie finally came back to Rapunzel. When she entered the doors, Takuji was already back with Asuka at his left side. The two of them greeted the dark magenta-haired girl when she arrived.

“Kirie!” Takuji smiled elatedly. “You’re back! Took you long enough. We had lunch together without you. Bet you took some pretty slow steps from where you were, huh?” He nodded with his eyes closed, still smiling. “Un, un. I get it. You were exhausted, but you wanted to come back to me and Asuka at all costs, so you dragged your aching feet all the way here.” He whole body shook like a rocking water bottle before rivers of tears ran down his eyes like an anime character’s. He opened them and looked at Kirie with ‘water’ flowing down them. “My little girl wanted to come back home safety to her father’s side no matter what…!” He started bawling, holding the sides of his face with the palms of his hands. “Oh, Kirie…! I’m so sorry! It was my fault you had to do this in the first place! I don’t think I can ever beg for your forgiveness, Kirie…” He sobbed, holding a handkerchief up to the bottom of his left eyelid, which was closed. It was a very dramatic sight to see, but it was something that occurred randomly most of the time. “Uuu… I’m the worst dad in the world, aren’t I…?”

While Asuka smiled and tried to comfort her husband, Kirie sweat-dropped with narrowed eyes.

“Uh, you know,” she started to respond, “I’m not actually holding anything against you, Takuji. But there is one thing I’m curious about. When exactly did you become my father?” She frowned, tilting her head to her right. “I know we’re roommates and all, but aren’t you a year older than me? I mean, I’m really grateful that you’ve looked after me for quite some time now, but…” She glanced in the direction where the crying scene took place without moving her head and felt a bit nervous at seeing her boss look like a little puppy in front of everyone. “You don’t have to go through all that trouble just because I came back a little later than usual. We’re friends, so… It would really make me happy if you stopped crying for a while and go back to your normal self, okay?” She quickly went on to the next sentence. “Ah. But that doesn’t mean that I’m trying to hurt your feelings or anything. I’m just saying that you’ll ruin your good looks if you keep at it. Anyway, I really like you the way you are—yeah, that’s it!”

The mint-haired CEO looked up with tears still in his eyes, which was very adorable in a way that pulled the female employees’ (and perhaps even a majority of the males’) hearts towards him. Kirie could sense the heat rising up in the air as everyone else stared at the newlywed.

“Really…?” Takuji asked. His expression was so cute that many palpations were spreading through the inside of the office.

Everyone except for Takuji himself, Asuka, and Kirie were unaffected by the male magician’s pretty face. It was a sensation that made their hearts beat faster and the blushes on their face wouldn’t go away as they keep looking at him.

Kirie nodded nonchalantly. “Un. Everyone… Er…” She was mortified in an irritated way at the sight of having to see her co-workers secretly (or not) fawn over their boss”…Likes you, I guess. It might be kind of hard to tell most of the time, but they really… respect you, Takuji.”

A second later, Takuji’s tears disappeared and he smiled. His expression had come back to its fullest and Kirie knew that it was the one he usually had.

“Yeah,” Takuji responded. “I know.”

Kirie’s eyes widened a bit when she realized what was going on. “Takuji…”

He was putting on a show for everyone, she thought. Then, a smile appeared on her face and her expression softened. So that’s what it was. He was only trying to put me in a good mood. Ahaha… That rascal. He really is a good CEO, after all. Taking care of his employee like that. But that’s what everyone at Rapunzel likes about him. He’s good at pulling off a stunt like that, but in the end, it works out just fine.

“By the way,” Takuji reminded, “did you go see Mira and make up with him? You weren’t here by the time we came back, so I figured you might have actually gone to see him.”

That woman didn’t even tell him, did she? Kirie’s eyes narrowed as a crosshurt manifested on the side of her forehead. Why that little…!

Kirie nodded with a normal expression. “Yeah. I went to his college this morning while you were at a business meeting. We agreed to be friends, rather than lovers this time.”

“I assume things went well for you two,” Takuji proclaimed. “You don’t seem to be bothered by anything this time, so I’m hoping that you’ll keep on smiling while you’re here.”

Asuka had a thin line where her mouth was. “Hmm… I don’t think it might solve any problems you’ll have later on, though. Are you really sure everything will be fine for the both of you, Kirie-chan?”

A female co-worker nodded with closed eyes and folded arms. “Sou, sou.” She opened her eyes and smile at Kirie as she glanced in the dark magenta-haired girl’s direction. “Mirai’s actually a well-known underground dog, you know.”

Kirie blinked. “What do you mean? I’ve never heard about any of that before.”

Suddenly, the co-worker’s lips curled up into a cat smile as if she was trying to lure Kirie in. “Oh~? Don’t you know about your ‘friend’, Kirie? He’s actually a conman, or so I’ve heard. Some of our employees over here have actually seen Mirai Kageyama do some things to trick others into getting what he wants. I’ve also seen him a few times while I was doing some undercover work for our company. He’s much more clever than he looks.”

Asuka frowned. “That’s not what I meant when I asked Kirie-chan about it. I actually support the two of them. Mirai-kun’s also a friend of ours, so it shouldn’t matter whether or not he’s doing something like that. He’s a really good kid at heart.”

“Oh ho~,” the co-worker glanced at Asuka and smirked. “So, what you’re saying is that he’s free to do whatever he wants, even if he were to go as far as to rob us of our wealth?” She had a stern expression shortly afterward. “I don’t think so. That little boy might be someone you and the boss know on a personal basis, but he has got to be stopped. What if he decides to bankrupt us? What are we going to do then?—Let him continue to run wild like a safari beast? Then, what do we do about our jobs? We can’t just switch over to Cinderella! As young as their editorial department is, I don’t want to lose to anyone from there. It would hurt my pride more than anything if we were to suddenly be under their chief’s employment. We’re the eldest of all the tabloid offices here in Roppongi. We shouldn’t have to bend to their mercy, Asuka-san. We’re the ones who have reached beyond the top of the others, so it’s up to us to keep ourselves from falling down to the bottom of the pit.”

“I know,” the white-haired young woman understood the co-worker’s feelings, “but Mirai-kun’s not like that. He hasn’t even done something to harm others that way.”

Takuji smiled brightly before saying anything for a couple seconds. “Still, he would make a great maou (魔王; dark lord/king), wouldn’t he? Mira’s like a resistance fighter. In fact, he could be the ultimate one this world has to offer! Better than that guy whose father wanted him to be one at Souseizouma, huh, Kirie?” He tilted his head to the right in a swift motion as he displayed an eye smile towards Kirie.

Kirie caught sight of Takuji’s smile a little before she nodded. “Yeah. Something like that.” Then, she smiled back acknowledging the mint-haired magician’s words. “You have a creative way of putting things, Takuji. It’s like you’re a positive thinker every second of the day.”

Takuji grinned and held out a thumbs-up with his right hand. “That’s because I am one. You know what they say: Geniuses are the rarest ones to come by out of all the people in the universe, and I’m one of them.” He then made a gesture and had his eyes closed again. It seemed like he was side fanning the air back and forth with just his right hand. “Go on. You can bask in my awesomeness all you want. I won’t mind.”

Kirie and the female co-worker looked away with awkward smiles on their faces. While Kirie was turned around to her left, the co-worker was facing their right.

“No thanks,” the both rejected simultaneously. It was funny enough that their employer was having fun over at the top of the stairway with his wife by his side, but it was even more interesting that he received a dejected answer from two of his own workers.

Soon enough, Takuji’s shock showed on his face as though a bolt of thunder had struck him right then and there. “…!”

Things continued like they typically did, and the others employees felt sorry for their boss. They knew Takuji as a good person at heart, despite all the dramatic things he did in the building, and they even loved him for doing what he did. It was painful seeing him have an oversensitive reaction to anything, but they saw it coming more or less.

Meanwhile, at Cinderella, Ayame was finishing the article she had been offered to write and publish. She kept typing at her computer and was nearly done with everything for the first part. However, there was something on her mind that she could not get out of her head. It was Yuzuki Kitaoji, one of the most famous celebrities in the city. She remembered the events from that very morning and was still working away rapidly while somewhat lose in thought. Her eyes narrowed as she kept at it.

It really wasn’t a dream, was it? She asked deep within her mind. Yuzuki had given me the opportunity to interview him, and so I did. But… His smile was so kind when he told me about it. I felt as though I could trust him wholeheartedly, and I knew for sure that he wasn’t lying. Furthermore, I’m sure of it. Of every guy I’ve ever met, Yuzuki is the only one who was able to make my heart flutter. Not once before I awoke to find him in the same room with me that I had ever felt that way before. And I’m only on the first sixteen pages of the magazine. I don’t want to take this for granted, but I’m sure his fans would be more likely to pick the copies up after it’s all finished.

She nodded to herself and did as much as she could before she heard a voice snap her out of her concentration.

“I see that you’re working hard on the project for Yuzuki Kitaoji, but try to take a break every now and then, will you?” It was her boss, Atsushi Jinnai who had hired her the day before. He had a grin on his face as he stood behind the brunette. “You the new employee here, so you should take it easy. Besides, you just recovered from your fever this morning, so you can get off anytime soon. I’ll even give you my permission for it.”

Ayame frowned. “Thanks, but I’d rather work on this. Yuzuki’s already said I could, so it should be fine, right?” She turned around and continued to type at her usual pace, which was faster than any of the other workers’ at Cinderella. “Why don’t you take the rest of the night off, Jinnai-san? I can finish what I’m doing in another hour, so you can go ahead and leave.”

Atsushi rubbed the back of his head with his left hand and sighed. “You really are a hard worker, aren’t you, Irodori? It’s no wonder you’re cut out for this job. But you know, you’re a beauty not a lot of girls can compare to. I also know your backstory at least, so please think about yourself more. Anyway, you’ll let your good looks go to waste before you leave this world if you keep this up. You have such nice, long hair, but it doesn’t compare to Asuka’s since it’s still above waist length.” He let out another sigh and continued. “I’m pretty sure you’ve really attracted Yuzuki Kitaoji just by being within his line of sight yesterday night. Tsk, tsk. I feel bad for him if he actually has any feelings for you. You’re basically a pair of star-crossed strangers who met at the party, and that’s led to this.”

Without looking back, Ayame said, “You’re quite a perverted old man, aren’t you, Jinnai-san? I’m sure this is why you don’t have a girlfriend at your age. That must explain why you’re still single, too.”

“Ggh…!” The thirty-three-year-old was appalled by the young woman’s insults and felt as if he had been struck by an arrow through his heart when he heard those words. He reached towards his heart with his right hand in a shaking manner. “Irodori… You… really are a cruel woman, aren’t you…?”

Ayame didn’t look away from her PC and finished the rest as fast as she could. “Only because I know how to play it straight.” She was too absorbed into her career at the moment to put any shape into her expression. “I’m striving for the best I can do with my own abilities, so you should be more of an employer. That’s all. If you don’t have anything else to say, go home.”

The rest of the night played out perfectly for those who were continuously working at Cinderella, and it remained that way. Thus, it became a success for them, along with those from Rapunzel. A few hours later, the workers from both soon closed up, with Cinderella shutting out its company lights before Rapunzel did. It gave many of the employees a sense of accomplishment since they did their jobs all the way throughout the night, putting hundreds of smiles on their faces as they made their ways back to their houses.


~


Later that night, Mirai was waiting outside under the full moon. He stared at it, taking in the sight of the bright light that emitted from it. A few minutes later, he heard footsteps on the grass and turned in the direction of them. Standing in front of his eyes was Kirie, who he had called out a bit earlier after she left the building she worked at. She wore casual clothing and didn’t have her glasses on this time.

“Kirie…” His eyes widened before becoming a serious expression. “There’s something I need to tell you. I really want you to listen to what I have to say, so please stay where you are and don’t run away like last time.”

Kirie nodded. “What is it?” She was curious to find out what Mirai had to say to her and stayed in place.

Mirai gazed into Kirie’s eyes as several emotions danced around within his chest. It took nearly a sixth of a minute before he said anything. “I’ve decided that I don’t want us to remain as friends forever. That’s why, I’ll say this to you. I’ve always loved you Kirie, and I still do. So, please go out with me.”

“Huh?” Kirie’s eyes widened when she heard Mirai’s confession. She didn’t think that he would actually profess his love to her, but she realized that his words were indeed real as she stared back into his eyes.

My Not-so-Forged Wedding Episode 5

What’s Led Us to Where We Are Today


“Yamato,” Mashiro said with a stern expression, “I want to know… about your family.” As she look at Yamato, Mashiro had an intense stare, which soon transformed itself into yet another sad expression from the fawn-haired girl. Her eyes lowered and she looked down. “There’s just so much I don’t know about you, and it’s been bothering me this whole time we’ve been married. I was wondering whether or not I was really suited to be your wife since we haven’t talked to each other about our families very much. That’s why…I want to get to know you better, for both our sakes.”

Yamato’s eyes widened when he finally understood the situation. His expression relaxed and his arms came down to his sides. “Mashiro…” He looked down with his own sorrowful expression dawning his face. “I never knew… that you felt that way. I’m sorry for not noticing sooner. Please forgive me.”

I didn’t see any signed of concern for me, not even once, he thought. Perhaps it was because I never check on her this whole time, or even turned around in the mornings when I left for work. I always saw a smile on her face as she waved at me. Damn it all… It was all my fault for not being a good husband to her even though I promised on the day of our wedding.

He sighed, continuing his thoughts.

Man… I still don’t know why I even said those words, but I knew I was pretty happy to at least say something like that for someone else’s sake, and it turned out to be for Mashiro. But should I have told everyone that day that I would be giving her a false sense of joy? And what did Kuni meant by wanting to give me true happiness, anyway? I still don’t get it. Is there a purpose for this, or what? What is it that he’s trying so hard to do for me? Well, not that he’s actually trying that much since he’s a lazy bum, but still. He could have to me more about his intentions. If he had done that, I wouldn’t have been dragged into this mess in the first place. I do have to admit that it was mainly because of me that he pitched in, though.

Another sigh.

I guess it’s up to me now to get myself, along with Mashiro, out of this fake marriage. But before I can do that, I have to be honest with her.

After finishing his inner point of view, Yamato glanced up and stared strongly into Mashiro’s eyes. “Alright,” he said, “I’ll tell you. About my family. You see, I was raised by my mother for most of my life. But when I was eighteen, she passed away. That was about five years ago. At that point, I had already graduated from high school with Yuta. You and the girls were probably about to start your last year of high school by then. At any rate, I was preparing to go to college within a few months, but… It was during the summer three days before my birthday.”


July 17, 1999


An eighteen-year-old Yamato Kougami was on his way towards the college he was going to go to during the fall semester of that year. He had always dreamt of becoming a physics teacher for quite some time now, and he was proud of the occupation he had chosen before his graduation with his friend, Yuta.

Within a few minutes, he stopped and gazed at the large building that was several meters away from where he was standing. His mouth opened and his eyes widened in astounding awe and amazement at the sight. He could not wait until he could finally take his designated classes there in a few months.

“Man,” Yamato breathed, “I can’t believe I’m almost in college… It’ll be a long ride, but I’ll be able to work my way towards being a physics teacher in just five years. I bet Mom will be happy when she hears this. I better go tell her about it today.”

He walked forward, crossing the street once the light turned green, and went around the corner. As he made his way towards the hospital his mother was staying in, he felt as if someone had blessed him with the chance he had. It seemed too good to be true since he had been living a great life; he even went to school with his friends and was into baseball while also focusing on his studies every year. He and his friends had also met a rare member in their group, and their new companion was a girl who was on her way with Ren to their third and last year of high school. However, she had transferred after the past school year had ended.

Too bad Airi won’t be able to keep Ren any company this year, Yamato thought. He doesn’t have many friends outside our group, and neither does Airi, but the get along pretty well. It’s kind of refreshing to see them understand each other, actually. I hope she’s having fun at her new school after the next trimester starts. She might make a new friend or rival there, but I’ll have to ask her about it later on. Plus, it’s for Saeki’s sake since he’s been working late at night on his scripts. It’s a bit of a pain to keep checking up on him, but he’s also hopeless when it comes to love. If he keeps thinking about her all the time, he won’t be able to get out of his depression. Honestly, that guy… He’s too lovestruck to think about himself nowadays.

Then, Yamato smirked to himself.

Ah, well. It kind of helps get me going since he gives me a job to clean up his place. It’s not s bad when I think about it. I hate to admit it, but I feel bad for him. If anyone could get him back outside for any pastime activities, it’d be Kuni, Takao, and Airi. Maybe Yuta, too. I just don’t get how he finds Yuta’s jokes funny. He rids them of any sense of humor, so it’s like having Ren’s deadpan expression all over the place.

He looked directly in front of him and walk almost at the entrance of the hospital. Then, a smile crept onto his face. “Well, looks like I’ll at least be able to say hi to Mom before she has to have the nurses take care of her.”

Soon, he was inside the building. He walked to his mother’s hospital room, knock and opened the door.

“Excuse me for the intrusion,” he pardoned himself as he walked in and closed the door.

A woman who was looking out the window turned towards the auburn-haired high school graduate’s direction and smiled at him.

“Ah, Yamato,” she kept smiling as she greeted her son. “I’m glad you’re here. Why don’t you have a seat next to me? We can talk as much as you want until it’s time for you to go.” She had weary eyes and a tired expression spread across her face. Her breathing seemed slower than usual and she closed her eyes for a bit.

Yamato’s eyes widened and he quickly ran towards his mother’s side. He had a firm grip on the bouquet of roses in his right hand.

“Mom!” he shouted. Within a few seconds, he was already by the woman’s side. He placed his hands on her shoulders. “Are you okay? Does it hurt anywhere?”

Yamato mother shook her head with the same smile she had not too long ago. She smiled right away as she lifted her head gradually to look at Yamato’s face. “No. I’m just a little exhausted, that’s all. You don’t have to worry about me, Yamato. I’ll be okay.”

“But…” Yamato hesitated with a worried look on his face.

His mother kept smiling as she gazed at the auburn-haired young adult in front of her. “I’ll be fine.” She put her hands on Yamato’s and gently took hold of them, bringing them away from her shoulders. “You should think more about yourself, my dear son. Just look at you. Your face is so full of panic that I’m not sure I’ll be able to rest properly and recover in time to see you go off to college. Where’s the happy grin you always showed me? I’d rather see that than having you get so concerned about my sake.” She let go of Yamato’s hands and rested her head on the pillow on the bed. “You’re my son, remember? You’re stronger than you think you are, so I always want to see you smiling. I don’t want to be sad, Yamato. I only want you to be happy. That’s my wish.”

“Mom…” Yamato understood his mother’s feelings. He had always known that she didn’t want to trouble him, but it only made him care about her even more. After all, they were family. She was all he had left in the world they lived in, and other than that, only his friends were his remaining support to keep him living. He nodded sadly and sat down in the chair next to the hospital bed. “I know.” He brought himself to smile and held out the bouquet. “I got these for you. They’re your favorite, so I wanted to give them to you before going home today.”

Yamato’s mother smiled once more as she looked at the bunch of roses. “My, they’re very lovely, Yamato. If only I could hold them… My arms and legs have been getting weaker lately, so I don’t think I have enough strength to take them from you. It’s almost time for me to rest, anyway. I’m sorry.”

This time, Yamato shook his head. “No, you don’t have to apologize for anything, Mom. I just wanted to give you something since I won’t have much time to visit you after I go off to college. Oh, yeah,” he added as he smiled warmheartedly at his mother. “I saw it on my way here. You know, the college I picked for my first choice. I can’t wait to get in. I’ll study a lot and become a great teacher in the future. You can count on that.”

“So, my little boy has finally grown up and decided to go off to college,” his mother responded in a relaxed tone of voice. She closed her eyes, revealing an eye smile. “I’m glad. You’ve been wanting to apply to Jouin College (定因大学 Jouin Daigaku) for a while now. It’s a good thing you were accepted short afterwards. I’m proud to see you head towards your dream, and I hope I won’t ever forget this happiness for the remainder of my life. I love you, Yamato.”

Yamato could sense a foreboding feeling welling within him. It was as if something was going to happen right before his eyes, and he did not like what he had felt. He blinked, retreating into his thoughts.

What is this? Even though Mom’s congratulating me, I don’t even feel as happy as I should be. What in the world is going on? Don’t tell me that she’s going to…

Yamato’s mother saw the troubled expression on her son’s face and said, “Yamato? What’s wrong? You don’t look well. Is something the matter?”

“Mom,” Yamato called out to his mother while looking down. “Are you… going to…” He trailed off, knowing what was going to happen.

So, this is it, huh? He thought. It’s about time to say goodbye and soon… I won’t be able to see her again.

Yamato’s mother smiled tenderly at him. “I’m sorry, Yamato. It looks like I couldn’t hide it from you, after all.” Her breathing slowed a bit more as she closed her eyes. Then, she opened them and looked at Yamato once more before saying farewell to him. “But… If there was anything I could have done to prevent your sorrow, there is one thing I must say before I go to the netherworld. I should have told you about your father a long time ago. It was because of me that you didn’t get to grow up with him by your side. However…” Her eyes lowered as she thought back to the memories she had with Yamato’s father and smiled at the remembrance. “He was a good man I didn’t think I would fall in love with. I don’t regret meeting him because… If he hadn’t been a part of my life, I would have never had you. You were the gift he gave me before I… Well.” She sighed, staring at the ceiling. “That’s all I can really say about him. Please try to understand. I was the one at fault back then, not your father. He really was a good man to this day, and I’ll never think badly of him.” She glanced at Yamato and continued. “Thank you… for being born my son, Yamato. I’ll always love you from the bottom of my heart, and I hope that you will find that special someone one day to share your happiness, sorrow, and emotions with. I’d like you to get married and have children one day so that you can forget about me and live out your life without regrets. Can you promise me that you’ll find your own happiness…?”

Tears formed in Yamato eyes and he nodded, closing his them. “Yeah…! I promise! I’ll always love you, too, Mom… So…” He opened his eyes and faced his mother with a smile forming on his face. “I’ll keep smiling and be happy, for your sake.” His voice was breaking, but he still tried his best to put on a happy face as tears kept rolling down his cheeks. “Thank you… for everything you’ve done for me up until now… Thank you… Mom…” After that, he couldn’t help but burst into tears, crying in front of his mother.

She smiled back and tears also formed in her eyes, dripping down her face like a waterfall. Shortly afterwards, she closed her eyes, and the heart rate monitor on the other side of the hospital bed stopped. Yamato’s eyes widened before he broke into more tears. Within a few seconds, he had called for help from the nurses and told them of his mother’s passing.


Back to the present, Yamato finished the rest of his family background.

“I never knew who my father was,” he continued. “My mother always told me that he was a good person and that he had died when I was a kid. However, I soon found out on the day of her funeral that it wasn’t true. The morning after she died, my grandmother told me that my father wasn’t dead, and that he was still alive. She had visited him from time to time, along with my grandfather to check on him. Whenever he asked them to let him see my mother, they would refuse and tell him to give up on her. They stopped going after she died, and I would come see them from time to time. To be more precise, he was the reason why I decided to apply for a job at the school I currently work at. He still is, though, of course, and I’m positive that he’s forgotten about my mom.”

Mashiro frowned. “But… Are you sure of that? Maybe he hasn’t actually forgotten about your mother as you suspect. It’s too early to assume something like that without knowing what he’s buried down in his heart.”

Yamato shook his head. “No, I have a strong feeling that he probably didn’t care about my mom, and that he tossed her away when she was pregnant with me. I’ve tried many times to get closer to him, but it seems like he’s put up an overfriendly and caring image. He’s the principal of my school, Mashiro.”

“Eh?” Mashiro blinked. “Your father’s the principal of the school you work at? But I…”

“Anyway, what about you?” Yamato asked, turning away from the matter. “What’s your family like?”

Mashiro looked down like before, but decided to reveal her familial background to her husband as she had wished to get to know one another better.

“What I’m about to tell you is something that’s similar to yours,” she began. “To be honest with you, Yamato…” She looked up and gazed into the auburn-haired man’s eyes. “I don’t have any parents.”

Yamato’s eyes widened when he heard that. “What?” He certainly did not expect to find out about Mashiro that way, but he knew it was true.

However, Mashiro only nodded firmly, matching her expression. “My parents died when I was thirteen in a car accident, so it’s been over ten years since they passed away. I was also left to fend for myself and take care of my younger sister back then. She was only eight, and we were orphans. But… One day, Kun Kun walked up to us and took my sister and I in his care. He took us to his home in Shinjuku and provided a home, along with daily meals, for us. At first, I didn’t trust him when he tried to be nice at his house. But soon, I quickly accepted his kindness and opened up to him the day he crossed our paths.” She smiled fondly, thinking back to that time. “It was a winter day, but when he told us it would be okay, it felt as though all the ice had melted, and it became warmer.” She looked up and kept smiling, but it was more casual this time. “I ended up getting scholarships, and eventually enrolled in Seishin Academy. If it wasn’t for Kun Kun, I wouldn’t have made it to where I was. There’s just one thing that I keep thinking about, though.”

“What is it?” Yamato inquired attentively. He felt a sense of nostalgia within him when Mashiro had mentioned his baseball coach and was able to relate to Mashiro somehow.

Mashiro frowned once more, having a distant expression. “I can’t remember anything about my parents or sister besides that incident. My parents’ face and names don’t even appear to me whenever I try to remember them. And my sister… I can only remember the day we met Kun Kun. After that, however, I can’t even remember anything else about her. I was diagnosed with amnesia before the end of my third year at Seishin Academy. I know something happened to cause it but I don’t remember the event. Sophie, Airi, and Lia probably remember what happened, but I didn’t ask them about it because I wanted to move on from that time. Kun Kun also knows, but…”

“He’s probably keeping it from you for your sake,” Yamato figured. He was still as grim as ever. “And I’m sure the others are doing the same thing because they care about you, Mashiro. You trust them, right? I’m sure they mean a lot to you, too, so you’re both helping each other one way or another. Your bonds are stronger than a person who doesn’t know that would understand. Everything’ll be okay as long as you have each other. The same goes for me and the guys. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to move on from my mom’s death.” He grinned and added the rest. “They’ve always been there for me, so don’t worry about it and keep smiling. I like you the way you are, and I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t. You’re my wife, you know? I promised to support you, and vice versa. So, I’m here for you. We’re family, after all. That’s what marriage is about, right? Supporting your family.”

Mashiro nodded and smiled softly. “Arigato, Yamato. I’ll continue to support you, as well. I’m your wife, so I’ll help anyway I can.”

“Yeah,” Yamato answered. He felt better after talking with Mashiro and a warm yet clear sensation filled his heart as he saw his wife’s smile.

I wonder if this is what caring for your spouse feels like, he thought. Whenever I see Mashiro, I become happier knowing that she’s here with me. But. Could it be more than just caring about your one and only family that makes me so… loving? I’ve never felt this around anyone before, so what exactly is it? I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s like a waltz that never ends, or a seasonal change of some sort. Either, it’s like a rechargeable battery that doesn’t die out for some reason.


~


Inside the bathroom, Yamato sat inside the bathtub, which was filled with warm water that wasn’t too hot. He thought to himself as he soaked in the water.

Mashiro’s parents are deceased and her sister’s nowhere to be found. At least, that’s what she can remember, anyway. She doesn’t even know if she’s still alive, and it’s like the only person who knows is Kuni. Sophie and Airi might also know where she is, but I’m not sure if they can provide enough information to get them to reunite with each other. So, I guess the only choice I really have is to ask Kuni. I’ll do that tomorrow morning before noon. For now, all I can really do is find out more about Mashiro’s past before she suspects anything.

While Yamato was still thinking to himself, Mashiro was laying on the bed on her right side. She stared off into space before closing her eyes and falling asleep shortly after.


—The following day—


Yamato opened the door on the right entrance of Long Island and stepped inside.

“Kuni?” he called out. “You here?” He scanned around the area, searching for the bar owner.

As anticipated, Kunihiko came out from the kitchen with his usual expression. “Yamato, what can I help you with today? You’re pretty early, and I mean earlier from last time when you came to check on Saeki.”

“There’s something I need to ask,” the auburn-haired man told the IT company CEO. “It’s about Mashiro.”

Kunihiko tilted his head to the side. “About Mashiro? Why don’t you ask her yourself? She is your wife, isn’t she? There’s really no need to come to me about her, you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” Yamato replied. “There’s just something that been bothering me since yesterday. We talked about each other’s family, and I told her about my mother and my father. I heard her side, as well, and I thought about what she’s had for a while now.”

“What Mashiro’s had for a while?” Kunihiko asked. “Care to elaborate on it while we’re here? I can’t help you if I don’t know what you really want, Yamato.”

A staid expression crossed Yamato’s face as he stared at Kunihiko. “I want to know… about Mashiro’s amnesia. She said that she was diagnosed with it years ago around her senior year at Seishin Academy, but she doesn’t remember what caused her to lose her memories. She doesn’t remember much about her family, either, so I thought you might be able to explain more about it since you and the girls know something about it.”

Kunihiko sighed and frowned. “So she’s told you about her family, huh?” A conflicted expression replaced the perplexed one he had a few seconds before. “Well… I’m sure she’s already mentioned about the time she met me, but anyway.” He started explaining about the next matter. “When Mashiro and the girls were at Seishin, there was a large battle in which all of the third-years had to protect the school from a criminal organization that was planning to attack a factory in the area. All of them had a special weapon or more to go along with their abilities and since Seishin was a school that was built for the sake of helping others around Japan, this came in handy against any adversaries that threatened society. The seniors immediately tracked down the factory and went there to disable the detonators that were implanted all inside the building.”


Four years ago, on the night of March 1, 2000


Airi nodded, a stern expression on her face. “Shiro, we’ll go and take out the ones we find first. You and Sophie go ahead and take out the rest.”

“Right,” Mashiro nodded back. She had a red uniform on with a blazer over a white, long sleeve button-down shirt and a red flared skirt that was about the length of a miniskirt/school uniform one. She also wore white thigh-high stockings and brown knee-high lace-up boots and carried two thin long swords, one in each of her hands. “Let’s hurry. We don’t have much time left to disable and destroy them.”

Another girl nodded, on with short green hair and brown eyes, carrying a large tambourine that didn’t have a drumhead in her left hand. Her right hand was empty, and she smirked. “Don’t you worry, Mashiro. We’re the most powerful students in our school and we have a duty to protect the world from danger. It’ll be a giant piece of cake.”

Mashiro frowned. “Yes. But don’t forget that this is the last mission we’ll have before graduation, which is in less than two more weeks from now. Our school may be one that finishes the school year a bit earlier than other schools, but we still have to go through with this and protect the other students and citizens in Japan who aren’t involved with Rose Blade.”

She ran ahead at a rapid speed, and the other two follow after her to back her up.

Airi sighed. “Well, that’s basically how it is. We are an elite combat school, after all. Immense training to become the strongest fighters against evil. It may sound cliché, but we really are doing what the slogan says.”

The green-haired girl narrowed her eyes in irritation. “Get to work, Airi. We’ve got to hurry on this. Who knows what’ll happen if we don’t do our job properly.”

“It’s not like I’m trying to stall for time, Lia,” the light purple-haired girl argued. “Anyway, you know it’s the truth. Plus, we’re already running towards the factory at this moment! Aren’t we carrying out our mission already?!”

A cruciform appeared on Lia’s forehead, and she shouted, “We’re only going there on foot right now! We haven’t come across the path of a detonator yet, you idiot! Someone needs to knock some sense into your head every once in a while, so just focus on finding them and deactivating as much as you can.” Her composure returned to normal and she added, “Besides, this might be the last thing we ever try to do if they blow up by the time we get there.”

Airi sighed. “I know. It’s not like I’m happy about it, either. This could be the end for us and all of Shinjuku if we can follow the principal’s orders.”

They hurried and within less than a minute, they were already at the entrance of the building. Lia and Airi glanced at each other quickly and nodded before heading inside. They soon found detonators all around themselves, and prepared their weapons, splitting up to different parts of the factory; Airi pulled out a long silver pole that extended itself from both ends, hitting the detonators on her side, while Lia beat her tambourine in the air, creating a musical flow that swiftly malfunctioned the ones in the entire area. It soon spread over to where Airi was, and disabled the rest. Shortly afterward, Sophie came in with a large hammer, running past them to where Mashiro was. The light purple and green-haired girls’ eyes widened and they understood what it meant.

Shiro! Airi thought.

Mashiro! Lia’s shouted inside her mind at the same time.

After realizing that Mashiro was in danger, Lia used her tambourine and began ringing it several times as she and Airi ran to find Sophie and Mashiro. The light purple-haired girl’s pole extended left and right, breaking the detonators it smashed as they continued to make their way through.

At that time, Mashiro and Sophie were in the last room all the way to the end of the building. There was only one detonator left to inactivate. As Mashiro took a few steps ahead, Sophie stopped.

“Wait, Mashiro,” the turquoise-haired girl said. “It could be a trap. This one might have more than enough power to create an enormous explosion here than the others. Who knows what will happen if we decide to deactivate it now.”

Mashiro frowned, and a very severe expression was on her face. “But if we don’t do anything, we will endanger the lives of everyone else in the city. We can’t just let Rose Blade have their way with the people here, Sophie.”

“I know,” Sophie sighed, “but we can’t be reckless about it. Usually, the last part of every mission we’ve had was to check to see if something was wrong with the way it was set up. We aren’t really doing that right now.”

Mashiro glanced at her best friend before smiling to reassure her. “Don’t worry. Things will all be fine once we’re done here.”

Sophie stared at the fawn-haired girl for a moment, and knew there was nothing she could do to stop her best friend from completing the mission they were assigned. “Mashiro…” She glanced at the floor and nodded with a trusting smile when she looked back at Mashiro. “Un. I know you’ll be okay, so I’ll leave it to you.”

Mashiro closed her eyes and smiled back. “Thanks, Sophie. It’ll be over soon, so we can have fun afterwards. I promise.”

She turned her attention at the detonator and took a step forward. Then, she held both of her swords out, and crossed them together, piercing the machine. It let out a small spark of static, seemingly having been disabled. Mashiro pulled out her swords and turned around. Just as she and Sophie were about to leave the room, something they did not expect to happen shocked the both of them. They quickly turned towards the direction of the detonator. What they saw in front of them was static it was shaking and smoke came out from it. It rocked back and forth rigorously; the girls’ eyes widened. Sophie had a horrifying premonition from it and rapidly glanced in Mashiro’s direction.

“Mashiro!” she shouted.

Right after she called out the fawn-haired girl’s name, the detonator exploded, blowing away the objects in the room, burning them without any warning. After it ended, there were bits and pieces of machinery, boxes, and some other things that were sprawled out on the floor.

Sophie was coughing, covering her mouth her right hand for a couple moments. She opened her eyes and continued to cough a little more as she scanned the area around her. Within a few seconds, she saw Mashiro’s unconscious form laying on the floor where she (Mashiro) had been standing not too long ago. Sophie’s eyes widened and she rushed over to her best’s friend’s side.

“Mashiro!” Sophie was frantically checking the fawn-haired girl’s tattered body as she held Mashiro’s body close to her. She soon calmed down, checking the side of Mashiro’s neck with her index and middle fingers. Then, she felt a pulse and sighed, relieved that Mashiro was still alive. Although there was dust and tiny, broken grains of gravel on the fawn-haired girl’s uniform, hair, and whatnot, all that mattered was that Mashiro was safe and sound.

Soon enough, Airi and Lia came in and found the two who had gone ahead of them. They could hardly believe what they saw. Airi’s body dropped down and she was on her knees. Lia understood what had happened from the sight and her shoulders slumped. Everything that happened that night was reported to the Shinjuku police and staff of Seishin Academy within a phone call from Lia’s cell phone. The event was explained to the authorities, and the third-year students were thanked and apologized to for their hard work. It soon became known as the Abandoned Factory Incident, and journalists and news reporters had gotten hold of what had happened. Although not fatally injured, a few of the students who were recovering in the nearby hospital had external wounds or memory problems. They were still fine, however, due to Seishin Academy’s illustrious feat of training the students enrolled there to withstand such casualties. Without the bravery of the students who travels all the way to the factory and risked their lives to immobilize the detonators that were inside, Shinjuku would not have had a single survivor. It was thanks to those who participated in doing something for the sake of others that Shinjuku, and its people, still exist today.


“Along with some other students who were involved in disabling the detonators,” Kunihiko continued, “Mashiro was one of the victims to have had any signs of memory loss. There were also others who had some wounds and injuries, but no one was killed thanks to them. It’s an incredible story that made Seishin Academy even more famous than it was many years ago when it was first built. If Mashiro hadn’t been the one to draw her swords, the timer would have went off and blew all of Shinjuku away. Sophie and the girls still regret not having been able to protect her from getting hit by it sooner. It took less than a second to explode right in front of them and hit Mashiro. As for her memories and family, she hasn’t been able to remember anything besides the day I encountered her and her younger sister.”

Yamato listened on for any more details. “So, what happened to Mashiro’s sister? There has to be something that she must want to tell Mashiro. I’m sure she would want to see her again, too. The two of them are family, after all.”

“You’re right,” Kunihiko answered. He smiled moderately as ever before and explained further. “But she can’t for Mashiro’s sake.”

The auburn-haired man blinked. “Huh? Why is that?”

Kunihiko let out a sad sigh and looked down. “Even if they were to meet face-to-face, Mashiro wouldn’t be able to remember her. I’m sure by now that her memory of that day has faded away completely. Ever since that incident, Mashiro’s forgotten about those who were related to her, and the doctor who were in charge of the injured students said that those with memory problems would eventually forget everything about what their own family members looks like, and even their personalities. There has been nothing we could do to prevent that, but Mashiro knows that something is missing from deep within her mind. She wants to remember, but she can’t even though she’s tried to.”

“You mean…” Yamato trailed off, having another bad feeling about what he was told. “…Mashiro might never be able to remember who her sister and parents are…? Not even once…?”

Kunihiko nodded gravely. The answer was just as clear as the strong look in his eyes when he gazed at Yamato’s stunned state. “Unfortunately, yes.” He then smiled, as if to say that it was alright. “However, I can tell you this: Mashiro’s sister is safe and living well at the Kanzaki residence which is located in a hidden village not known to many outside the countryside. I can tell you the address, but maybe it would be better if you and Ren looked more into Sophie’s family. But even so, it would be tougher to gain access to their home. Sophie’s grandmother rules over the village and is a very notorious figure. How about you wait for a little while before you decide to head off to where her family lives? And when you do, make sure to get Ren to come along with you. He’s her fiancé, and they might not let you into their household without someone who has a connection to her.”

Yamato nodded and had a solemn expression on his face as he understood the meaning of the CEO’s words. “Alright. Don’t worry about it. I won’t be hasty and go there right away. Besides,” he added, “it isn’t time for something like that yet, so I’ll just head home after getting some stuff from the supermarket. Thanks, anyway, Kuni. I’ll see you later.”

“Have a good trip back home, Yamato,” Kunihiko replied. He gave a small wave with his left hand and bid the younger man a few more parting words. “Don’t forget to check up on Mashiro. Also, you might want to stop by Saeki’s to get him some stuff. Airi’s helping him out with his next script, and they’ve been working on it together after breakfast. Just bring them some groceries so they won’t forget about having lunch later on.”

“Got it,” Yamato grinned.

After that, he turned around, headed out, and walked to the supermarket for the things he needed to purchase, and started his grocery spree. He was going to have a great time there since it was like a haven for him and he could not help but keep his smile on his face when he arrived in front of the store.


~


Inside Takamasa and Airi’s apartment, the lovebirds were sitting at a table near the living room furniture, and were happily enjoying planning out the current script for Takamasa’s current work. With the scriptwriter’s laptop in front of them, the continued to add to the numerous amount of pages.

“Ah, it’s almost finished!” Airi exclaimed with a bright smile. She was wearing glasses as she commented on the next lot of pages. “This goes by faster when we’re both working together, doesn’t it?”

Takamasa nodded with fulfillment at the nearly finished script. Then, he turned to his right and looked at Airi with a gratified smile. “It’s all thanks to you, my dear. If you hadn’t asked to help me with it, none of this could have been done so early. And we’re just in time for…” He leaned in closer for a kiss, closing his eyes as his lips were about to reach Airi’s.

The light purple-haired girl did the same and slowly leaned forward with her eyes closed. Just as their lips were about to touch one another’s, the doorbell rang. The both opened their eyes instantaneously at the same time and quickly pulled back. Takamasa grimaced with irritation, while Airi averted her gaze towards her right, flustered by what had just happened.

Takamasa sighed and got up from his seat. “I’ll get it.” He walked to the door and opened it. The next thing he knew, Yamato was right in front of him with filled grocery bags in both or his hands. “Yamato? What are you doing here?” he asked, puzzled by the appearance of the married man.

“I came here to give you guys some stuff,” the auburn-haired man replied. “Kuni told me you and Airi were working on your next script for the current drama that’s been airing for two weeks now. Since the series is nearing its third week, I bought some stuff for you guys in case you forget to eat lunch together later on. You’re almost done, right? Go ahead and take these.” He held out two of the bags in his right hand, which were soon in front of the scriptwriter’s face.

Takamasa frowned with narrowed eyes, but took the plastic bags, anyway. “Thanks for the concern, but you were interrupting something important here. By the way,” he considered, “how did you know we were almost done with it? Every room here is soundproofed, so there’s no way you could have heard anything outside the walls.”

“What?” Yamato asked with baffled eyes. “I just had a feeling you’d be finished with it soon. Two heads are better than one, you know.”

Takamasa smirked. “As expected of a high school teacher. You haven’t changed one bit since you went to college, but that’s one of the great things about you.”

“What can I say?” Yamato shrugged with his usual, broad grin.. “I like that about myself, too, so I appreciate the sentiment you’re giving me.”

Takamasa laughed. “Ahaha. Don’t get too full of yourself there, bub. You’ve still got a long way to go before you can catch up to your elders.”

“And since when did you care about your age?” Yamato asked a bit angrily. His tone was milder than it was before Mashiro and Sophie’s arrival. “You’ve never said anything like that until now.”

Takamasa grinned. “Guess it’s just me. You’ll understand someday, young man.”

“Now, you’re starting to sound like Sophie,” Yamato narrowed his eyes; they felt sore from seeing the sight in front of him. “Friends are nice and all, but sometimes, it’s a little disturbing to see what rubs off onto the other.”

Takamasa frowned in disappointment. “You just don’t understand the kind of friendship writers and authors have with one another, Yamato. That’s why you think it’s a turn off.”

“I don’t even want to understand the point of your friendships with other writers,” Yamato retorted. His eyebrows furrows and he sure wasn’t going to listen any further before leaving.

Around the same time, Mashiro had gone outside the apartment she and Yamato were living in, and was wandering around, glancing from side to side as she walked further ahead. She searched around for a few more seconds before ending up in front of a large building. The entranceway was that of a school’s and she stepped forward through it, staring at the academy while blinking at the sight of the large structure it had.

Two chapters in a day! It’s been a while since I posted that much in a day—this time, they were longer chapters!

First Love and the Promise of the Future Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Offer and Encounter


Mirai stood where he was and stared at Kirie in a trance. “…”

Satsuki glanced at Mirai and frowned. “Mirai, go on and say hello to her. If you stand there all night and don’t greet any of our guests, it’s considered bad behavior on your part. You should at least give a word or two to her before doing whatever you please.”

“It’s fine, Satsuki,” Kirie assured the casino owner with a smile. “I don’t really mind it at all, so you don’t have to go through all the trouble of having anyone introduce themselves to me.”

There was that same frown on Satsuki’s face, which had slightly budged. “But…”

“You don’t have to do that for my sake,” Kirie replied. “The thought is more than enough to make anyone happy.” Then, she focused her gaze on Mirai. “So we meet again. I didn’t expect to see you here, but it looks like it’s a pretty small world, after all. Anyway, my name is Kirie Kuroki. Might I ask for yours? You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but I thought it’d be nice to at least let you know my name.”

Hearing those words come out of Kirie’s mouth, Mirai’s eyes widened at the sudden realization of seeing his first love right in front of him. “…!” He stared at the dark magenta-haired young woman with disbelief in his eyes. “Kirie…? Is it really… you…?”

“Huh?” Kirie was slightly confused, unsure of what the college student meant. “Um… Can you repeat what you said? I don’t really…”

Suddenly, Mirai’s expression shifted to a stern look on his face. He placed his right hand over his chest with an intense gaze in his eyes, taking a step forward. “Do you… really not remember me at all?”

Kirie frowned. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand why you’re asking me that. I’m really sorry.”

“My name is Mirai Kageyama,” the college student introduced himself. “Three years ago, we met after you fell on top of me. You introduced yourself and helped me up. After that, you asked me if I wanted to make a promise with you.”

Kirie’s eyes lowered as she thought about what Mirai told her. “A promise?” It seemed as though she was trying deeply to remember something.

Mirai nodded. “That’s right. We made a promise. It was a promise to see each other again and become lovers if we did meet in the future. Back then, we went to different schools, so that was the only time I ever saw you until today. I’ve always wanted to see you after that, Kirie. I even waited for the day we would cross each other’s paths since that day while remembering the promise me made together.”

Within an instant, Kirie’s memories came back from the time she had met Mirai. She had a surprised look on her face as she gazed straight at him. Shortly afterwards, she bowed, placing her hands on her lower thighs as she closed her eyes.

“I… I’m sorry!” she apologized. “She leaned back up with a panicked expression. “I, uh… I… Please forgive me, but I…” She swiftly turned around and ran out the door in a hurry.

“Kirie-chan!” Asuka shouted. She ran after Kirie, quickly turning back to face Satsuki and the others. “I’ll go after her. It was nice talking with you again, Satsuki-san, Chihaya-san, everyone. Thank you for all you’ve done tonight and please have a good night.” She bowed and left through the door to the VIP room.

Takuji looked at Satsuki and apologized. “Sorry, Satsuki. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m going to check on the girls.”

Satsuki shook his head and smiled at the mint-haired young man. “No, don’t worry about it. I would have liked to talk a bit more with you, Takuji, but it couldn’t be helped this time. Have a safe trip back home. I’m looking forward to seeing you and Asuka again, along with everyone else from Rapunzel.”

“Thanks, Satsuki!” Without another word, Takuji ran ahead and disappeared in an instant.

Chihaya’s eyes widened a bit after witnessing the sight. “Well, I’ll be. Teleportation, huh? That was a pretty smart move right there.”

“What can you say?” Ryoichi said calmly. “He is a magician, after all. It’s no surprise to see something like that every once in a while. Besides, we haven’t seen something like that in quite a while now.”

Noel frowned nonchalantly. “It was a bit painful to see them go, though.”

Satsuki nodded. There was a sad expression on his face as he stared in the direction Takuji, Asuka and Kirie had gone. “Yeah,” he agreed. He felt lonelier than he had ever been in all his life. “It’s just not the same without them.”

Mirai looked down with the same expression. He felt a twinge of pain and sorrow in his heart as he stared at the floor. “Kirie…”

Ryoichi glanced at Mirai’s slumped position and smiled, adding some advice for the youngest one in their circle of friends. “Make sure to apologize to her the next time you see her, Mirai. She’s someone you don’t want to lose. If you want, Satsuki can help you with finding where she works, so you can have someone relay a message to her later.”

Mirai nodded without turning his head. “Yeah. Thanks, Ryo.” The gaze in his eyes remained unchanged.

Nonetheless, it would be a long night for everyone, and they all knew that.

Meanwhile, Yuzuki was taking care of Ayame, who was fast asleep on the hotel bed with a towel on her forehead. She had a painful look rooted onto her face. Sweat was pouring down bit by bit and it seemed as if her fever wouldn’t stop. However, it wasn’t very life-threatening as it appeared.

Yuzuki placed his right hand over the towel with narrowed eyes. “She’s still burning up, but not as much as before. Guess the alcohol really did some inflicting on her. At any rate, I’ll have to change the towel about every fifteen minutes to half an hour to cool her head down. It must be painful just to go through a high fever at a time like this, especially since she was here for work.” He shifted his position on the carpet floor and took out another towel from a cooler next to him, and soaked into in water, wringing it out before folding it and placing it on Ayame’s head. He wasn’t angry, but it was as if he was trying to say something nice, despite the bored and worried look on his face. “You better get well soon, you hear me?” he said in a moderate tone. He glanced at the night sky showing from the glass window on the wall. “You’re missing out on something amazing, you know. So, hurry up and recover so that you can see this tomorrow.”


~


Inside Takuji, Asuka, and Kirie’s apartment, Kirie was sitting down with her back against the wall to the kitchen counter. She was also hugging her knees close to her chest, staring down deep in thought. This time, she had her glasses off.

Asuka walked towards her and crouched down next her. “Kirie-chan… It’s going to be okay, isn’t it? Between you and Mirai-kun… I’m sure you must have felt as though you did something horrible to him, but I don’t think that Mirai-kun thinks of it that way. Without a doubt, I know he’ll forgive you. In fact, I don’t think he would ever hold a grudge against you for something trivial like this. So, don’t be too hard on yourself. Think it over and have a talk with him later on, okay?”

Kirie nodded without taking a glance at the white-haired young woman next to her. “But… something that happened over three years ago… It really took my breath away for a moment. I even started to remember the time I made that promise with him.” For a few seconds, a nostalgic smile formed on Kirie’s face, which was something that she had rarely shown to others when she spoke about something from the past. “So many emotions ran through my mind like the speed of light. Truthfully, I was very happy to know that I wasn’t the only one between us to think about it, but… A lot of things happened on the way, and you two know about it.” She gripped the side around the middle of her upper arms with a strong urge to vent her frustration on something. “The thought of suddenly becoming lovers after so long just doesn’t seem to be something as pure as it was back then. I have to set things straight with Mirai this time.”

“Then, why don’t you start off with telling us about the promise?” Asuka suggested encouragingly. “It might help you take your mind of things and start anew.”

This time, she glanced to the side and nodded faintly. “Okay. I’ll tell you. It all started back three years ago after I first met Mirai…”

After the two of them pulled apart from their kiss, Kirie smiled somewhat teasingly at Mirai.

“You’re interesting,” a seventeen-year-old Kirie giggled. “Really. I didn’t expect you to actually blush like that, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.”

Mirai stuttered embarrassingly. “I-I couldn’t help it, okay?!” He pouted, making him resemble a puppy. “But then… Why did you ask to make a promise with me, Kirie?Aren’t there any other guys you’d rather make that type of promise with?”

“I thought it’d be kind of obvious to you, Mirai,” Kirie said, narrowing her eyes to show a bit of her annoyance. “To experience a genuine love with a girl you’ve just met. Isn’t that something any guy would want? But then, you seemed to be different.” Kirie smiled. It made Mirai’s heart flutter as if there was a set of butterfly wings on the back of his heart when he saw Kirie’s expression. “I don’t know if I can explain this clearly, but it felt as though you weren’t like other guys. You can also say that I might have fallen for you on the spot.” She closed her eyes, her smile becoming brighter than before. “Something like that. It might not be much, but that’s how I felt when I saw you up close. I guess this must mean that love at first sight does exist, after all.”

Mirai blushed and looked away. “Love at first sight, huh…?”

So it’s mutual for us, he thought. When I saw her eyes, I really felt like my heart had stopped in place. Was that the same for Kirie?

“I can’t wait to see you again, though,” Kirie smiled eagerly. “Souseizouma’s going through a lot of change lately, so there’s been a lot of disputes between the two principals of the schools.”

Mirai tilted his head to his left. “It’s the academy where Justy Nasty is held, right?”

Kirie nodded. “That’s right. Heroes versus demons. I initially joined Zouma Academy because I thought it was fun being evil, though. Even with the schools now combined, there’s still a lot of tension between students from both sides of the school. Anyway, about our promise. Let’s meet up sometime in the future. You know, after we both graduate high school. Then, we can become lovers without anyone pestering us.”

Mirai looked at the ground sadly. “Can’t we… become lovers already? Wouldn’t that have been easier than making the promise?”

Kirie shook her head, having a similar expression on her face. “Sorry, Mirai. I can’t. Right now, I still have things to settle with stuff from school. Besides,” she looked at the setting sun in front of them, still frowning. “We use weapons at Souseizouma Academy. I’m practically fighting with a scythe every day over there, so I’m also training as a black knight. Things won’t settle down for a while, so it’ll most likely take a few years, or even decades, before they die down. So, wait for me, Mirai. When the day comes when we can finally be together without problems, let’s become lovers.”

Mirai nodded happily. “Yeah. I’ll never think about anyone else but you, Kirie.”

Kirie smirked. “Oh? Was there someone other than me that you like, Mirai? If so, just say it. We can see whether or not to stay with each other after I hear your answer.”

Mirai shook his head rapidly. “No! That’s not what I meant at all! I’ve never liked anyone until I met you, Kirie.”

“Hmm… Is that so?” Kirie mused with narrowed eyes. “Well, see you around, Mirai It’s about time for me to head back to school, anyway.”

Without another word, Kirie left, leaving a depressed Mirai to look after her departing figure. He felt as though it was the last time he would see Kirie.

It’s as if she’s leaving to fight a legendary battle, Mirai thought. Even though I can still see her, it’s like she’s going farther away, so much so, that I can never reach her. Maybe it’s best to wait until we can see each other again. A determined expression spread onto his face. When that time comes, I’ll definitely be by her side for as long as I can.

Back in the present, Kirie let out a small sigh. “Mirai’s probably still thinking back to the time we made that promise to be together. I don’t even know what I should say to him the next time I see him. There’s so many things I haven’t told him about. Remembering the day we met over three years ago is actually inflicting some damage to my heart. More than anything else, thinking about Mirai, or even seeing his image in my head, is really painful for me. I’ve always thought about him, but at the same time, I wanted to forget about him because it would hurt whenever I tried to think back to when I first saw him.

Asuka frowned. “You can’t always close your heart towards him, Kirie-chan. It’s even more excruciating to do so.”

Shortly afterwards, Takuji walked over to the two of them, and held out a mug of hot milk to Kirie.

“Here,” he said with a composed smile. “If you’re feeling restless about it, you should at least drink something to calm yourself down and sort your thoughts. I can’t really do much at the moment, but I can take care of those in need.”

Kirie looked up and saw Takuji’s kind gesture. “Takuji…” She held both of her hands out and slowly grasped the light green mug. Then, she smiled gently. Although she was still thinking about the situation she was in, she felt grateful and more relaxed than before. “Thank you.” She placed the mug up to her lips and took a sip. “As usual, it’s really delicious. Did you mix in some butter milk with it or something?”

“Well, I put in a bit, but not a lot,” the mint-haired young man replied. He had another mug of hot milk, which was light blue, in his right hand and gave it to Asuka.

The white-haired magician took it with a gleeful smile. “Thank you, Takuji.”

Takuji closed his eyes and smiled right back. “Anything for my lovely wife.”

“Again with the lovey-dovey act,” Kirie openly stated, narrowing her eyes with a cat smile on her face. “You two never miss a chance to show how much you love each other, do you?”

Takuji stood triumphantly with his hands on his hips. “Hehe! What can I say?” He had a content expression, having closed his eyes at that moment. “Love makes a magician stronger. There’s nothing like a magician in love, my dear dark knight.”

Kirie frowned in annoyance. “That’s not what I wanted to hear. Aren’t there any magicians with both human and magician parents? Your kind doesn’t count them as hybrids, so they’re still full magicians, right?”

“Of course!” Takuji exclaimed in English. He reverted back to speaking Japanese a second later. “Ah. But I don’t mean that we have any magicians of that sort yet. We might someday, but we don’t have at the moment. I just answered your second question first, though. It’s only natural that they would be counted as full magicians since magicians are the first race to have been around. We might be from another world, but we’re considered to be the first humans in the universe. You can also say that we’re beings who come from Paradise.”

Kirie tilted her head to her right. “Paradise? Well, you do earn a ton of money without doing anything, that’s for sure. And, you would more than likely top the looks department on Earth. I’d have to give you credit for a lot of things there, Takuji.”

“Hahaha!” the mint-haired magician laughed. “Don’t forget that we’re here to help those in this world. Asuka and I will be living here for a long time, but we’ll make some trips home every now and then.”

Asuka smiled at the mug in her hands as she took a few drinks from it. Then, she turned towards Takuji and gave it to him. “Here you go.”

Takuji took the mug and kept smiling, bringing the mug up to his lips and drinking from it. He had a satisfied expression as he pulled the mug away. “That really hits the spot. Nothing beats a warm drink you prepare yourself.”

“Yeah,” Kirie said in an irritated manner. “I bet receiving an indirect kiss from your spouse, who you just married a few hours ago, is the best for a magician.”

Takuji smiled happily with his eyes closed. “It’s like a reward since I’m the man in our marriage.” He opened his eyes and glanced at Asuka. “Isn’t that right, Asuka?”

“As long as it makes you happy, I wouldn’t mind giving you another one,” Asuka giggled. “Heehee!”

Seeing her two friends’ newlywed banter, Kirie felt sick on the inside as she stared at them.

“…”

I have to make sure I’m not in the same room with Asuka and Takuji next time, she thought.


~


The next day in the hotel room Yuzuki had been looking after Ayame, said brunette steadily woke up in bed. She sat up and the towel on her forehead fell down. She caught it in her right hand. Then, she took a look around.

Ayame blinked at the sight of the room. “…”

Where am I…? she thought. I remember passing out in front of everyone yesterday, but… I don’t even know how I got here.

Then, Ayame heard a familiar voice.

“Yo.” It was Yuzuki’s. He had a smile on his face as he walked into the room. “Looks like you’ve made a full recovery.”

Ayame glanced at Yuzuki with a bit of surprise. “Did you… take care of me last night?”

“Yeah,” the actor confirmed. He had a serious expression etched onto his face within a split second after that. “Anyway, I have something to tell you.”

Ayame tilted her head to her right. “? What is it?”

A wide grin spread across Yuzuki’s face. “I’ve got a proposition for you.”

“Huh?” Ayame blinked a few times. “What… kind of proposition?”

“I’ll let you interview me,” Yuzuki declared. “You were here for work yesterday, but you didn’t get much of a chance to do anything since you passed out so suddenly. A friend of mine had everyone get you a room, so you ended up here. Your fever was pretty high, so it was scorching the towels I changed way more than a stove.”

Ayame look down at the chilling box where cold towels from the previous night laid. She could tell that they had all been used. Within a few seconds, a small smile manifested itself onto her face.

“Thank you,” she said gratefully. “I feel better now because of your time and efforts, Yuzuki-san.”

“No need to add the –san part,” Yuzuki dismissed. “I did what I could, so you don’t have to think much about it. “Now that I think about it, I don’t know your entire name, just your first name. What is it?”

Ayame glanced at Yuzuki and answered. “Ayame Irodori. I’m also the same age as you, Yuzuki.”

“Then, you really didn’t need to call my name with an honorific, but I guess you were just being polite,” Yuzuki responded calmly. “I’ll call you by your name from now on, so that’s as much as I can do when I’m with you. I already called room service, so breakfast should be here soon.”

Seeing how much Yuzuki did for her, Ayame couldn’t help but smile and close her eyes. “Un. Thanks, Yuzuki.”

Yuzuki saw the young woman’s expression and smiled back casually. “Now, that’s more like it.”


~


At ten in the morning that day, Kirie entered the Rapunzel editing department and greeted everyone inside.

“Good morning!” she bowed and smiled chirpily.

The female employee who had cheered her on yesterday at the pool table glanced in her direction. “Oh, Kirie! Someone came by looking for you earlier.”

Kirie tilted her head to the side. “Who was it?”

“A college student wearing a black and white blazer,” the co-worker replied. “He said he wanted to speak with you and that he’d meet you at Rentomi College. You have to be there by 10:30, or so Ryoichi Hirose said. Do you know him or something?”

“Oh, um,” Kirie began to answer before giving a nod. “Yeah. He’s an acquaintance of mine. Takuji and Asuka also know him.”

The co-worker smiled. “Oh, I see. Well, have a safe trip. If anything happens, you can call the office or the boss. Asuka’s teaching today, so she can’t answer her cell phone until noon.”

“Thanks. I’ll be on my way now.” Kirie smiled back at the employee and turned around to leave the building.

Twenty minutes later, Kirie arrived at Mirai’s college. She took a look around, searching for Mirai until she saw a familiar figure walking up to her. Kirie’s eyes widened as she stared at Mirai, who was right in her line of vision.

“Mirai…” She gazed into the latter’s eyes.

Mirai gazed right back. “Kirie…”

The two of them had a moment together as they looked at each other with the same expression. It seemed like forever before one of them broke the silence.

First Love and the Promise of the Future Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Meeting You Again


The Point of View and Reminisce of Mirai Kageyama

It was a hot nearly midsummer day in May when I first met her. My first and only love whom I have never forgotten since the day we met. Even now, I still think back to that day.

She was a beauty that crossed right into my path on day. I had been lying down on the grass, and I was looking up at the sky. Back then, I was bored out of my mind like some teenage kid who had nothing else to do than stare at something in front of him. In fact, I was in my teens during that time, and I was 16 years old, in my second year of high school.

I sighed. “What am I even doing? All I do during my free time is lie down on the grass and look at the sky all day at the same place.”

There was no one around as I said these words aloud. At least, that was what I thought until I heard something near me.

“Stupid Mana… She’s always telling me that she’s better than I am.” It was a girl’s voice. “Just because she’s the strongest hero at school, doesn’t mean that she should try to prove her strength against me when I’m around her. Geez.”

It sounded as though the girl was venting her anger out on someone.

Is she talking about her rival or something? I thought.

I wasn’t really interested or anything. I wasn’t even looking at my surroundings, either, so I didn’t even know what she looked like, or what she was doing. That was, until…

“Ahh!”

I heard a scream when something had hit my legs in front. There was some pain around my ankles, but it wasn’t as upsetting as the discomfort around my upper thighs. That was when I looked up and saw a girl with shoulder length hair that was a very dark shade of pink, like a dark cerise color, or a dark magenta color. Perhaps it was more like a darker shade of Mexican pink. Whatever the shade was, it was definitely very—and I mean very—dark for a pink color. She also had sapphire blue eyes and she wore a school uniform on like me, but was from a different school. There was also a white ribbon tied around the left side of her hair and had a surprised (or should I say a more intrigued expression) on her face as she stared at me. I stared right back with a similar look of my own.

“…” She kept staring into my eyes with that same expression on her face before asking a question from me. “Why are you laying down like that?”

I looked right back at her, stilled speechless from the fact that she fell right on top of me. “…”

Then, she smiled. “Never mind that. Anyway, I’m Kirie Kuroki. I’m a second-year student at Souseizouma Academy. What’s your name?”

“My name is Mirai Kageyama,” I answered. “I’m a first-year student at Kazenori Academy (風典学園 Kazenori Gakuen).”

“By the way,” she added, “you can call me Kirie. There’s no need for any formalities, so you don’t have to say my name with an honorific attached to it.” She backed away and stood up confidently, and held out her right hand. “Here. Let me help you up.”

I took her hand and she pulled me up without and problem. “That’s a pretty strong grip you go there, Kirie,” I said, moving my fingers back and forth as I looked at my hand. I was amazed by how she easily got me onto my feet in an instant. It was almost as if our roles as a guy and girl were reversed because of her masculinity. But, I had to say, she was really pretty. She had the figure of a normal girl. Although, she seemed more tomboyish in my eyes.

There again was another smile from her. “Thanks, Mirai.” Within a split second, she blinked as though an idea suddenly came to mind. “I know! Why don’t we make a promise?”

“A promise?” I tilted my head to the side, slightly puzzled by her notion.

She nodded with her eyes closed and opened them shortly afterward to look at me. “Yeah. A promise to meet again and become lovers.”

“Huh?!” My eyes widened, and I was taken aback by those words.

“You don’t want to?” she asked.

I soon found myself blushing as I stared into her blue eyes. The moment I first saw her when she was on top of me, I had fallen in love with her. I just didn’t realize what my speechlessness was until now.

I shook my head rapidly. “No. It’s not that I don’t want to. I mean, I really do want to see you again, Kirie. So…”

Kirie smiled softly at me. “Then… Let’s make a promise. If by any chance that we do see each other again, Mirai, we’ll officially become lovers.”

I nodded nervously. “Yeah.”

“Then, get ready for this.”

I had no time to reply when all of a sudden, Kirie swiftly came forward and kissed me on the lips. I couldn’t believe what had just happened, but then, I quickly accepted it and returned her kiss, sealing our promise in hopes of meeting her again one day.

Three years have passed since then. I’m now an undergraduate at Rentomi College (練福大学 Rentomi Daigaku). Since I’m in my second year here, I’ll be able to graduate by next spring when I turn 20. It’s mainly due to the fact that I’ve been putting in more time and effort in taking several classes. However, I still can’t believe that I’ll graduate on my own birthday. It just never really striked me as a very logical thing to do as a young adult.

I gave a sigh and glanced at the sky, moving my head slightly. “I wonder how Kirie’s been keeping up this whole time. I really want to see her again.”

End of Mirai’s Point of View


At the same time in an editorial office


A young woman with dark magenta hair pinned up behind her head was handing in a large stack of papers to someone; she had blue eyes and wore a pair of rounded glasses that had silver frames.

“Here you go, Takuji,” she said with a refreshing smile. “You can get this all done before lunch, right?”

A young man with mint-colored hair and periwinkle eyes grinned eagerly. “You can count on me, Kirie. I’m your boss, after all. I can handle any amount of work someone gives me.”

“As expected of the magician in our company,” Kirie praised. The look on her face was more of a teasing one, though, despite her compliment. “Unlike you, I’m human, but I have some powers of my own.”

Takuji closed his eyes and smiled, letting out a child-like laugh. “Ehe. Well, you did go to Souseizouma, after all. But that school was basically a co-built place between the magicians and demons in order make things peaceful again, joining both Sousei Academy and Zouma Academy into one. But, I guess it didn’t really work out since your principals didn’t even like each other very much. Plus, it’s been sixty-three years since the grand opening. Anyway,” he looked at the stack of papers on his desk and started writing on each and every one of them with a black ink pen at a very quick pace. “We’ll be going to work at the casino tonight in order to interview the greatest celebrities ever. I guarantee that it’ll be great for our company. Asuka will love it, too.”

“Hai, hai,” Kirie abided. She knew her boss’s mind and personality like any other friend or employee at Rapunzel, a sister branch of Cinderella’s in Roppongi. It was only a matter of time before he would finish, which was a good thing for everyone since they trusted him and had a deep respect for the colorful magician.


~


Later that day, around 3:30 p.m., Mirai and Noel were walking towards the hotel they usually hung out at with some of their other friends. They were about to cross the street up ahead. Soon, the light turned green and they made their way through. Once they were in the middle of the street, someone bumped into them. Or rather, someone bumped into Mirai.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” the young woman who had made her way into the college student’s path apologized. It was Kirie. She bowed politely with her eyes closed before opening them again to look at the two in front of her. “I didn’t see you there earlier. I hope you didn’t get hurt. If so, then I apologize again for any injuries that I may have caused to you.”

Mirai shook his head with a light smile of his own. “No, it’s fine. You didn’t hurt me or anything, so there’s no need for you to apologize for anything. But thank you for your courtesy.”

“Is that so?” Kirie smiled. “I’m glad to hear that. Anyway, I’ll be going this way. I have a meeting right now, so… Anyway, it was nice to meet you.” She smiled cheerfully and strolled back to Rapunzel.

Mirai kept smiling. As he started walking again, a lightning bolt came across his mind as if he realized something. He looked back in a somewhat shocked and stunned state. Noel looked back.

“What’s wrong, Mirai?” the tall blond asked. He felt a bit of concern for the younger male.

Mirai kept looking in the direction Kirie had sauntered. “It’s just… I felt like I met her before somewhere a moment ago, but I don’t know when and where I did. It feels too familiar like a strange sense of nostalgia that leaves a tingling feeling in the one’s entire mind and body.” That was exactly how the college student felt when he stared in the same direction.

Noel put his hand around Mirai’s arm. “Come on. We’re in the way of a car, Mirai.”

Mirai nodded and walked with Noel to the location they were headed before. “Yeah.”


~


Around seven o’clock that night, many of the employees from Rapunzel and Cinderella were all gathered inside the hotel run by Satsuki Kitaoji. There were also journalists and editors from other departments as well, who were all wearing business casual clothing to formal clothing. They had all been invited by the owner himself, and were making their way in to the building.

Takuji and Kirie were also a couple of the guests there. There was another young woman with them with long white hair and blue eyes that seemed to have a shine to them. She was around Takuji’s age, being a few months younger than him, and was a year older than Kirie.

“I can feel it!” Takuji exclaimed. He wasn’t loud enough to catch the other guests’ attention, though, and had a pretty tolerant sense of “excitement” for the situation. “There’s definitely a large scale of us getting more than half the scoops here.” He went on, bragging about Rapunzel in a calm tone of voice. “Our company’s had the most success and profit in all of Roppongi. In addition to that, we’re also the oldest editorial department to have been built over a hundred sixty years ago, so it doesn’t matter that the others outside our company are here; we’ll be making the most of this night at all costs.”

Then, a voice was heard behind the mint-haired young man.

“Oh? I don’t think so.” It was the chief editor of Cinderella making his way with one of his employees to the scene. Next to him was a young woman who was in her early twenties, but a few years older than Takuji, Asuka, and Kirie. The chief editor glanced at his the woman and introduced her to the small group of three. “Anyway, this is my new employee. She joined this morning at Cinderella and her first assignment will be to interview one of the many celebrities in the casino. Still, I see you haven’t changed since you started working at Rapunzel, Tamoto.”

Takuji bursted into a fit. “Don’t mess with me! My team and I will pummel you out of business! Also, I told you not to call me that, Jinnai!” His expression was comical enough that anyone who saw the mint-haired young man would more than likely compare him to a growling bear.

And that someone did.

Oh! the young woman standing next to the chief editor from Cinderella thought. That’s cute. He looks like an angry bear from the woods.

She was blushing at the sight of Rapunzel’s current CEO while the other two women were looking at the mint-haired young man. The white-haired one smiled at the sight of the two men; Kirie, on the other hand, narrowed her eyes in slight irritation. It seemed Takuji’s venting state was more of an eyesore for her to see than for the other guests who were watching.

“I’m sorry for the trouble my boss has caused for yours,” the woman working for Cinderella apologized. She bowed, showing her condolences towards the matter.

“You don’t have to apologize,” Kirie responded casually. She threw her right arm out and frowned to display her disdain. “Takuji’s always like that. He and Atsushi over there are basically the comic relief for this party. It kind of takes me back to when I was in high school and college, though. In fact, I was a lot like Takuji a few years ago.”

The woman’s eyes widened. “Really? If I may ask, how old are you?”

“I’m twenty years old,” Kirie replied with a strained smiled. “I graduated college early to get a job at Rapunzel after I met Takuji and Asuka since they basically recruited me. Anyway, I’m Kirie Kuroki. What’s your name?”

The woman smiled back. “I’m Ayame Irodori. I’m twenty-four years old. You’re really young to have graduated college at that age, Kirie. I’m very amazed by your accomplishment. You must have been top of your class, too.”

“Not really,” Kirie dismissed. “I just kept working towards a high grade for the career. That’s about all I really did.”

“Either way, that’s still something others would be proud of,” Ayame praised. “I was a scholarship student during both my high school and college days, but I graduated a few weeks before my last year of college ended. It was tough every now and then, but I’m glad I made it through.”

“I think that’s more of an achievement than what I’ve done,” Kirie stated. “You’ve gone through more than I have and you’ve managed to pull through all of it.”

Asuka, the white-haired young woman, smiled pleasantly. “Maybe this is actually a way of hard work paying off since you’ve gotten a wonderful career such as this, Ayame-san. It’s a perfect opportunity to start off an interview with one of the main celebrities gathered here tonight. Do your best!”

Ayame nodded. “Thank you, um…”

“By the way, this is Asuka,” Kirie introduced. “She’s Takuji’s fiancée/bride. The party’s actually the wedding celebration for them. Everyone who’s been invited received a single company wedding invitation.”

Ayame’s eyes widened at the sudden news. “Really?! I didn’t expect this to be a party for a wedding ceremony.”

Kirie nodded. “Yeah. Guess Atsushi—that idiot with the small shaven goatee—didn’t tell you anything but to come here in a fancy dress and a pair of shoes, huh? He always does that to new employees.”

“Maa, maa, Kirie-chan,” Asuka smiled once more. “It’s not nice to say that about others, even if they have facial hair.”

Kirie’s eyes lowered themselves. “But you just said a rude thing yourself, Asuka.”

“That shouldn’t matter right now,” Asuka said with a disapproving frown. She turned towards Ayame and introduced herself. “Good evening. My name is Asuka Suzushiro, and my soon-to-be husband, Takuji Uramoto.” Not only had she introduced herself; she had introduced Takuji. “Takuji’s going to be interviewing the owner of the casino later on after we get married.”

Kirie smiled slyly. “And Asuka’s going to be interviewing Chihaya.”

“Chihaya?” Ayame tilted her head to her left. “You mean, Chihaya Koda?”

Kirie nodded again. “That’s right. You know, since his skills have benefited those in need, Asuka feels a strong connection to what he does. She’s also teacher and kids like her for genuinely wanting to help them whenever they’re stuck on a problem. She and Takuji both work, so it keeps their lives busy most of the time. This is one of the few times they get to spend time together, even though it’s mainly for work. It’s kind of tiring sometimes having to see Asuka double as both a teacher and a journalist/interviewer, really. I have to be on the lookout for her, especially if she overworks herself and collapses from fatigue and exhaustion.”

“Wow,” Ayame breathed. She placed her closed hand near the side of her chin in thought. “That must be hard, having two jobs and trying to manage your work and love life at the same time. The most horrifying thing I think that could happen while doing that is ending up in a hospital, and trying to recover from everything. I don’t know if I could ever try working two jobs, though. If I were in a relationship, I think it might affect it to the point where it’ll sever completely, and I might never be able to see the guy I’m dating again.”

Kirie smiled. “At least you’re not an idiot like Asuka is. She’s too much of a hard worker to think about her body’s limits.”

“Kirie-chan!” Asuka angrily scolded. “I can take care of myself without getting sick. If I did collapse, it would cause trouble for Takuji. I don’t want to worry him and make him miss work just to take care of me.”

Kirie shook her head in dissatisfaction and looked at Ayame. “See? That’s even more selfish of you to say so.”

Takuji turned around and agreed, taking hold of both of Asuka’s hands with his own. “That’s right, Asuka! I don’t want you to cut me out of your life like that!” He gazed into his soon-to-be wife’s eyes with a staid and passionate expression. “We’re going to be married tonight, so we have to find time for each other no matter what. Isn’t that what being in a relationship is about? Supporting and taking care of the person you love is important when you’re together with them, isn’t it? Love is not one-sided if you have someone that you’re with, so you can’t let go of the person you love.”

Asuka’s eyes widened as she gazed right back into Takuji’s periwinkle eyes. “Takuji…” Then, she smiled softly and nodded. “Of course. I want to be with you forever, too. Thank you…”

Seeing the two of them stare at each other for what felt like centuries, Kirie sighed while shaking her head once more. “What a stupid couple…”


~


Several minutes later, Kirie, Takuji, Asuka, Ayame, and Atsushi were in the casino. Many of the guests were already set on gambling, while others walked around every now and them to try everything they could find. It was an incredible sight to behold, and it was nice.

Takuji, however, sighed in exasperation. “Is this really where our wedding will be? I thought everyone would celebrate out on the top of the roof or something. There’s a pool up there, so why not just go to the highest place here?”

Asuka smiled at the mint-haired young man. “It can’t be helped right now. We’ll just have to be patient until Satsuki-san tells us. He told us there was something important he wanted to say beforehand, remember?”

“I know,” Takuji answered. His irritation soon showed on his face. “But if he dares to make a fool out of this, I’ll have him know his place in this world.”

Ayame looked at the couple and frowned. “I feel bad for Takuji. He must have really wanted to have a grander celebration than this.”

“Yes, but this is just the beginning,” Atsushi noted. He couldn’t help but keep his broad grin on his face as he continued. “He’s usually like that when he doesn’t get his way at big parties like this one. He’s known for being a guy who likes to party. Asuka and Kirie have attended occasions with him, along with the other workers from Rapunzel whenever they were invited to one. Takuji’s always been the one to treat everyone, though. Oh, and let me just tell you this. You’ll need to know it if you ever meet anyone else like him and Asuka.” He looked at the brunette with a serious expression and said, “Take heed of the wealth they have. Magicians are the wealthiest beings to have ever lived in this universe, and are practically paid every day in their world. Unlike the economies of some countries here on Earth, their economy is much more successful. In fact, it flourishes without having any reason. It’s also like getting paid without having to work but they actually have people who work because—“

“—that’s the way the world runs?” Ayame finished. “I’ve heard many people say things that end with those words before you hired me, Boss. It just keeps getting older and older every time I hear someone say that the world runs that way.”

The editor-in-chief was a little taken aback. “Err… I guess you already knew about this stuff, huh, Irodori?”

“Doesn’t everyone know about magicians by now?” the brunette lowered her eyes, somewhat irritated by the well-known facts. She knew by the fact that magicians like Takuji and Asuka rarely had natural physical features and all of their kind had pale white skin that was beautiful on the outside. “We’re in the twenty-first century, Jinnai-san. The least you can do is try to keep up with your employees. I’m not as old as you, and I’m not someone who looks that way, either. So, in all pretenses, I don’t want to be on the same level as you.”

Atsushi’s mouth dropped when he realized the truth. Indeed, he was nearing the age of what the youngsters called an “old man” since he was nearing his mid-twenties. But hearing something like that was the most critical hit he had ever taken in his life. It was as if an arrow had struck right through his heart, piercing it in the center.

“…!” He had a pained look on his face as he stared at the floor. “You got me there, in my most important organ… Irodori.”

Ayame sighed at the pathetic sight of her current employer. “Geez… Get a grip, will you?”

Meanwhile, Kirie was playing pool with a few of her co-workers from Rapunzel. Everyone who was playing and/or observing the match were enjoying themselves, throwing in laughs and a round of applause every now and then.

“Go for it, Kirie!” one of the onlookers shouted encouragingly. It was a woman who had been employed around the same time Takuji had started working at Rapunzel.

Kirie made a shot and the ball she hit with the cue ball went into one of the holes. As the game kept going, there were more cheers than anywhere else in the room. This, of course, attracted the attention of a familiar college student. He turned his gaze towards the Rapunzel employees who were playing and watching the players make their moves. Needless to say, the first person to catch his eye was Kirie herself. He couldn’t take his eyes off her and kept staring at the dark magenta-haired girl as lingering feelings floated all around him.

Shortly afterwards, Satsuki Kitaoji began his speech.

“Attention, everyone,” he said. All eyes were now on the casino owner and each and every person excluding Satsuki himself was listening. “As you all may know, today is a very special day, which is why I have opened the Urban Casino and Resort Roppongi today for those who wish to enter and enjoy themselves here. Tonight, in particular, marks a very special night for my friend, Takuji Uramoto, and his bride, Asuka Suzushiro. In order to celebrate their wedding, I have arranged for it to be held on the rooftop of the hotel and casino. Everyone is invited to come as you are all guests here. I apologize for not making this announcement sooner, but we will now be moving to the roof for the wedding ceremony.”

Takuji’s sour expression brightened and he was back to his jubilant old self in no time. He started jumping, which sounded as if he was making bouncing effects, going “boing” everywhere with his arms held high for everyone to see. Satsuki, in particular, glanced to the right corner of his vision, and smiled amusingly. He was content to see the young CEO of Rapunzel back in high spirits, letting out a lighthearted chuckle. On the inside, he felt as though he was going to burst into a fit of laugher at any moment. Asuka, on the other hand, smiled happily at the sight of her fiancé/groom. It was very uplifting to all of the guests gathered in the casino; Takuji of all people could not contain his happiness and kept jumping for a while before he stopped. Most of the guests had let out a laugh or two at the scene and were enjoying themselves not nearly as much as the mint-haired magician.

After that, they all made their way up to the roof, which had a large pool, and the wedding began. Takuji and Asuka exchanged rings and a few words right before putting their partner’s designated wedding ring on each other’s left ring fingers. Everyone smiled and clapped once Takuji’s ring was on his, and they all partied for a while before almost all of the interviewers, journalists, and reporters were gone, leaving Kirie, Takuji, Asuka, and Ayame to go to the VIP room, stay in the hotel, or go home.

“Thanks, Satsuki,” Takuji smiled at older man. He was still bubbling with bliss on the inside as he and Asuka walked together with Satsuki. “Nothing could make a man happier than to finally marry the love of his life. And it’s all thanks to you, my friend.”

Asuka smiled along with them. “Indeed. It was really fun to have everyone with us. Thank you, Satsuki-san.”

“It was my pleasure to hold the ceremony here as part of the grand opening,” Satsuki responded courtly. He was glad to see the two of them have a good time. “You two have helped me throughout many difficult situations, so it was the least I could do. Why don’t you come with me to the VIP room? I also invited Kirie earlier and she said she’ll stop by later. Yuzuki and the others will also be there, so we can all hang out leisurely.”

“That’s a great idea,” Takuji grinned excitedly. “We can’t just let the fun go by. The night’s still here, so we have to enjoy ourselves while we still can!”

Asuka nodded. “It’ll also be a good time for our interviews, so we’ll have plenty of it left afterwards.”

“Alright!” Takuji held out both his arms in front of him with closed hands. “We’ll get everything done and have lots of fun talking with each other. It’ll be the best thing we’ll do in Roppongi!”

Satsuki smiled agreeably. “Of course. I’m looking forward to answering your questions and spending time with you, Takuji. It’s been some time since we last had a chat together with everyone else, so I’m also looking forward to it.”

Soon, the three of them made their way to the VIP room Satsuki had mentioned not too long ago and kept conversing with one another along the way, enjoying the time they had together.


~


Kirie slowly opened the door to the VIP room and stepped inside, closing the door behind her.

“Excuse me,” she said. She took a look around and saw a group of four other men with Satsuki, Takuji, and Asuka, in the room. She glanced up at Satsuki and asked, “Um… Yuzuki’s going to stay with her for a while, so I thought I should let you know since you’re his older brother.”

Satsuki saw the look on Kirie’s face and smiled. “Thank you. I’m sure that Miss Ayame would at least like to know that he’s been looking after her when she wakes up.”

“You’ve been a big help yourself,” Chihaya proclaimed, acknowledging Kirie’s assistance. “When she passed out like that, you were the one who told the other guests to prepare a room for her, and let her rest. We don’t normally see someone like you, but I guess extraordinary human women actually exist in this world.”

“Now, aren’t you a rude one,” Ryoichi Hirose, the famous author, smirked. “True, she’s a rarity amongst almost all of the women in the world, but she’s at least got the guts to help someone out. That’s something that should be commended by others such as yourself, Chihaya. Even I have to give her some credit for it.”

Noel nodded while still having his nonchalant expression on his face. “Women can be strong to a large extent, but it mostly depends on them. Not many are like her.”

“I know what you all mean,” Chihaya added, “but you don’t really have to explain any further than what’s already been said. Remember, I was only stating my side of it. It’s not like I really wanted to downgrade her or anything. I was just complimenting her in my own way.”

Satsuki frowned. “Still, that was very impolite of you to say, Chihaya. She’s a guest here, and being rude to a guest is not something that I approve of.”

Chihaya let out a small chuckle. “I know. You’re always like this, Satsuki. But that’s one of the good things about you.”

As the rest of the group continued to engage in a conversation of their own, Mirai could not help but stare at Kirie’s face. He knew he had seen her before, and it put him in a daze. Kirie herself soon noticed the gaze she was receiving from him and glanced at the college student. Then, she smiled in a faint but relaxed way at him.

Satsuki caught on shortly after and frowned. “Mirai, go on and greet her. It’s not tactful if you just keep looking at one of our guests for the rest of the night without saying anything.”

“…” Although he heard the financial prince’s words, he could not react to them the way he usually did. In fact, he was still looking at Kirie with longing eyes.

Satsuki glanced at Mirai once more. Then he turned his head towards Kirie with an apologetic expression. “Please forgive him, Kirie. He’s not usually like this. He’s really a good kid at heart, but…”

Kirie shook her head. “No, it’s fine. I don’t mind at all, Satsuki.” Then, she glanced at Mirai, still smiling at the younger man. “It’s nice to see you again. My name is Kirie Kuroki. I’m also an editor at Rapunzel, so I also work with Takuji and Asuka over there.”

At that moment, Mirai’s eyes widened in shock and disbelief. The name he had just heard triggered his first memory with the dark magenta-haired young woman.

“…!”

Kirie? The same Kirie I met three years ago? Is it really true? Am I really seeing her again? Those thoughts swirled around in his head as stared at Kirie in realization and remembrance of his first love standing right in front of him.

Well, that’s the start of  bumpy road for those two. Let’s see how the MC handles this. Anyway, thanks guys! That’s all for now.

—SuzunoKoi

My Not-so-Forged Wedding Episode 3

Yamato and Mashiro’s Wedding; The Next Heroine: Airi Hirabayashi


It was the day of Yamato and Mashiro’s wedding and everyone was gathered outside in the middle of Yamato and Mashiro’s apartment complex and Long Island for the event. Kunihiko served as the minister of the wedding, while the others (excluding Yamato and Mashiro) were watching as the main couple of the day were standing next to each other.

“Here I present to you lady and gentlemen, the casual wedding ceremony of Yamato Kougami and Mashiro Tsuneha,” Kunihiko began. “Please note that this only going take about less than half an hour, or perhaps less than an hour of your time.” He glanced at Yamato, then at Mashiro. “Now, it’s about time to exchange the rings. We won’t really need the vows before the wedding rings, so I’ll just have you two say them as you make a promise on them since this is a short wedding, anyway. However, I will address you both by your names for this part. First is Yamato Kougami. I need you to repeat after me; hold the wedding ring up a bit, then say: ‘With this ring, I promise to be with you for the rest as I shall live, in sickness and in health. And I will…”

“…always love you,” Yamato finished triumphantly. He glanced at Kunihiko. “Isn’t that what you were about to say just now, Kuni?”

Kunihiko placed his right hand on the back of his head. “Er… Well, yeah, Yamato. I wanted you to say those words, but you didn’t let me finish. So…” He looked at Yamato quizzically with his typical modest smile. “I’ll let you finish them for me. But. You have to say them confidently and marvelously before I can let you marry Mashiro. This is your wedding, after all.”

“Yeah, yeah,” the man of the day said, brushing off the former’s warning. “I know what to do, so just leave it to me.” All of a sudden, Yamato gazed at Mashiro. There was a serious look in his eyes as he stared directly at her. Then, he recited the very same words Kunihiko had spoken before while holding up the ring that was meant for his bride. “With this ring, I promise to be with you for the rest as I shall live, in sickness and in health. And I will always love you.” He took a step towards Mashiro, placed his left hand around hers, and smiled tenderly as he looked at her left ring finger. “I give you… my eternal love.” He steadily slipped the wedding ring onto her finger, finishing his part of the ceremony before stepping back to let Mashiro do hers.

Mashiro looked up at Yamato and smiled gently as she held up the wedding ring inbetween her right thumb and index finger. “With this ring… I promise to be with you for the rest of my life, in sickness and in health. From this day forth, I will always hold an eternal love for you, even after I die. I will carry it with me to the next world and beyond to ensure that I will forever be yours, and yours only, after I reincarnate.” She looked at Yamato’s left ring finger and came close, gently placing her hand around it. “So I give you the love embedded in this ring in order to mark our promise with one another.” She put the ring onto Yamato’s finger and completed the wedding procedures.

Now, the two of them were officially man and wife, earning an applause from Kunihiko, Sophie, Ren, and the other three guys who witnessed the whole event.

“Congratulations, Yamato, Mashiro,” the purple-haired CEO congratulated the newlyweds. “You’re going to be together for a long time now, so you also need to help each other as time goes on.”

Sophie glanced at Mashiro and smiled at her best friend. “Congratulations, Mashiro.” Suddenly, she ran up to the fawn-haired girl and hugged her as though it would be the last time she ever got to see Mashiro. Tears formed from her eyes as stayed in the same position. “From now on, you’re not going to be Mashiro Tsuneha, but Mashiro Kougami. That’s why… I’ll say goodbye to the old you, and welcome the person you’ve become today.” She pulled back and kept smiling, taking out something from her messenger bag. She held it out to Mashiro with her left hand. “You said you were looking forward to reading it a few weeks ago when I told you I’d be working on a new series. Since then, I’ve been traveling as much as I could to find a perfect background for the scenes and settings, so that I could draw them. In addition, when you told me you were going to get married, I was really surprised. I wanted to give this to you as a present no matter what because I didn’t want to miss the chance of doing so on your wedding day. You’ve always been an important person to me, Mashiro.”

Mashiro’s eyes widened. “Sophie…” She smiled softly at the turquoise-haired girl. “Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. You’ve always been important to me, as well.” She took the first volume of Sophie’s latest manga series with gratitude, and held it to her chest. “I’ll treasure this for a long time.”

Takamasa glanced at Yamato and Mashiro. “Congrats, you two. I was really worried about dear ol’ Yamato hear, but it looked like he did a good job with the wedding ring.”

“…Congrats,” Ren said, smiling at the married couple.

Takao closed his eyes approvingly. “Take care of Mashiro, okay, Yamato? She’s someone you can’t find anywhere else in this city, so be good to her, alright?”

“Don’t worry about it, Takao,” Yamato reassured the kinder man. “I won’t hurt her feelings or chase her out of the house. Try worrying about yourself for once, you silly goose. You’ll need someone to take care of you so you won’t get sick. You are a lawyer, after all.”

Takao smiled warmly. “You don’t have to worry about me so much, Yamato. I can take care of myself even when I’m working. You should enjoy your time together with Mashiro, rather than thinking about me.”

“Looks like we have a bigger man here,” Takamasa noted. “You know how Takao is, Yamato. He’s going to beat you to it if you don’t do what he says, so you’d better be prepared to take the longer road.”

“Then, I guess I can’t do much about it,” Yamato acknowledged. “I’ll just have to walk farther ahead this time. But I’ll keep surpassing you, Takao. I won’t let you take things over in my place no matter what, you hear me?”

Takao couldn’t help but accept the way things were between him and Yamato. “I’m looking forward to it. I actually want to see you become a great man and husband while you continue to go towards the path in front of you, Yamato. As long as you never lose sight of the things around you, I’m sure you’ll be able to live a happier life.”

“Don’t lose your way, Yamato!” Yuta cheered. “Things are just getting started for you and Mashiro, so keep at it!”

Yamato smirked. “You bet I will! I won’t stop for the rest of my life and I’ll be taking Mashiro with me along the way.”

Mashiro smiled positively. “Arigato, Yuta! I’ll stay with Yamato for a long time, and I’ll make sure to take care of him. You don’t have to worry about a thing as long as I’m around, and Yamato doesn’t, either.”

“Woo!” Yuta instantly raised his fist up at the sky. “Well said, Mashiro! Now I know Yamato will be in good hands. We should celebrate this occasion back at Long Island. It’s still morning, so we still have time to hang out for a while.”

“Great idea, Yuta,” Takao agreed. “I think we’ll all need something to freshen up after this. It’ll only be for a bit, so I have plenty of time to spare before going to work today.”

“Just don’t drink too much, okay?” Kunihiko beamed. “I can give you a few drinks, but you’re still a lawyer, Takao. If you start to get drunk, you won’t be able to make it for the rest of the day.”

Takao laughed lightly. “I know. I won’t drink today since I’m still a working man.”

“Hey!” Takamasa exclaimed. “I work as well, you know! You should give me some credit here while we’re at it.”

Ren stared at Takamasa intensely. “Then, you should put more work into your career. You don’t really do much during the day, Saeki…”

“Now that’s not a very nice thing to say, Ren!” the writer commented. “I’ll have you know, I can go to work anytime. I just choose not to go to these meetings since they’re very stressful at times.”

Ren didn’t react to Takamasa’s words. “…Why don’t you right now? It’ll save you colleagues some more time if you started working more.”

“I agree,” Takao nodded. “Working at night isn’t always the best method to execute when you’re a writer. It’s like pulling an all-nighter; you don’t get much sleep until you’re finished with everything you need to do.”

Takamasa’s mouth dropped at that very moment. “…” He was quite speechless for a few seconds before returning to reality. “So what you’re saying is that you’d rather see me working than spending time with you guys? Is that what this is about?”

“Pretty much,” Yuta confirmed. “If you want to be worth more than all that meets the eye, you’re going to have to do something great, Saeki. Greater than everything you’ve done until now, that is.”

Takamasa looked down, having a conflicted expression on his face. “I see. So that’s it.” A grin formed on his face shortly after. “That’s what I need to do!”

“Uh, Saeki?” Yamato asked. He did not understand his friend’s novel behavior. “Care to explain what’s going on?”

Takamasa shook his head. “Sorry, but why don’t you go on without me today? Something just came up.”

“Huh?” Yamato was now confused. “But you—“

“Just go and celebrate with everyone else,” the writer urged. “I really have to do this right now, so don’t think too much about it, and just get going already. Time’s not on your side, you know.”

“…” Yamato wasn’t sure what had happened, but he had a strange feeling about Takamasa’s sudden change in plans. “Alright,” he said, complying to Takamasa’s forcefulness. “Just… don’t do anything stupid, okay?”

Takamasa smiled. It was a tender one, which Yamato hadn’t seen in a while. “I won’t. Anyway, I’ll take my leave here.” He turned around and walked in the direction of his apartment, leaving a dumbfounded group of men staring after him.

“What just happened…?” Yuta asked. Like Takao and Yamato, he seemed fazed by the occurrence.

Takao’s mouth was opened. “…I’m not sure myself. But… I know something must have rewired Saeki’s mindset.”

“It has to do with work, then,” Ren murmured. Only the girls and Kunihiko could heard him, though.

Takao titled his head to his left. “What was that, Ren?”

“Nothing…” the blond looked down, trying to avoid answering the inquiry. Then, he looked back up. “Anyway, let’s go. I’m hungry.”

“Then, I’ll prepare something for you when we get there,” Sophie decided. “I’m sure everyone’s already starving by now, so I’ll give Mashiro and Kunihiko-sama a hand in the kitchen.”

Mashiro nodded. “Let’s prepare a lot of food today. We can also save some for Takamasa-san afterwards. It’ll also be a good experience since we’ll be dining together.”

“There’s also more than a table’s worth of us,” Kunihiko added. “Now that we have Mashiro and Sophie with us, it’s become even livelier than before.”

“I’ll say,” Yuta agreed. “It used to be just us guys. But now we have two girls with us. Things are sure changing fast, aren’t they?”

Takao smiled. “It’s as though our group’s expanded.”

“Now that I think about it,” Yamato brought up, “it feels different than before. It’s like a mix of anger, frustration, and exhaustion, but also with a bit of happiness.”

Mashiro and the others looked at Yamato in a peculiar manner. But soon, the fawn-haired girl smiled, understanding the meaning of those words.

“Sou ne,” she said. “But it feels like there’s more to it than just that. Most of us might not notice it, but there’s definitely something else besides those feelings you mentioned, Yamato.”

Sophie nodded. “That’s right. There’s something more that we’ve all felt in the past few days or so. Don’t you think so, young man?”

Yamato’s eyes widened, prompting him back into his thoughts.

Mashiro and Sophie are right. It’s not just the feelings that I’ve experienced with everyone that have changed, but something else. There’s another emotion—other emotions—besides those that are lingering around. What could they be? There has to be some more that I’ve yet to discover from this, but what? I have to find out, or else my curiosity will get the better of me.


~


A few days later, Yamato was in his classroom. Among his students, there was a commotion as he wrote down some notes on the chalkboard.

“Hey, do you think we should ask him?” one of the females asked inquisitively. Like the rest of them, she was interested to find out something from Yamato.

“If we don’t, we’ll die!” another answered.

A third one nodded. “Yeah! Now’s our chance before we have to go over the stuff for today’s lesson. Let’s just ask him about her!”

Yamato turned around, hearing giggles and whispers from his students. He was still holding his notebook in his left hand and a long piece of chalk in the other. “What’s wrong, girls? Do you have something to say?” As usual, his expression was that of a serious instructor.

One of the girls raised her hand. “Um, Mr. Kougami? We’ve been talking about this for a while, but…”

“But what?” Yamato inquired, his appearance unaltered.

“Well…” The girl exchanged glances with the others, then looked back at Yamato. “We all wanted to ask… about your wife. What’s she like?”

Yamato’s eyes widened in surprise. “You all want to know about my wife? What came up so abruptly that you all wanted to ask about her, anyway?”

Another girl spoke up. “You’ve been our teacher for two and a half weeks now, but you’ve never said anything about your wife, Mr. Kougami. Plus, you’ve had a happier look on your face than when you started out, so we thought you might have been smiling because of her. Can you tell us about her?”

About Mashiro, huh… Yamato thought. I didn’t think they’d actually want to know about her, but…

“Alright,” Yamato smiled assertively. “I’ll tell you about her.”

The whole classroom was more than happy to hear their teacher’s response and were all excited. The girls were brooming with excitement all over and could not contain their ecstasy.

“Really?!” one of the girls exclaimed.

Yamato nodded. “Yeah. What do you all want to know about her?”

“What’s her name?”

And so, the questions began.

“Mashiro,” the teacher replied.

“Is she cute?”

Another nod from Yamato. “Of course she is. Her cuteness even lights up the entire room. In fact,” he added, “she’s a bundle of happiness and cuteness. She becomes happy in an instant, so her cuteness begins to radiate off her like a bunch of shooting stars.”

“Really?! Can you bring her here sometime, Mr. Kougami?”

Yamato kept smiling. “Nope. No can do, kiddos.”

“What?! Why not?!”

“I can’t just bring Mashiro to school,” Yamato told his students. “If I took her here without permission, it would disrupt the class and disturb the other students and teachers in the building. The staff wouldn’t be pleased to have all you girls making a fuss about my wife anyway. Although, it looks like you already made one today.”

One of the students pouted. “Aww!”

A second later, another of the students had an idea pop into her head, but it was still in the form of a question. “Then, is she pregnant with your child right now, Mr. Kougami?”

“What?” That certainly stunned Yamato.

“Oh! That’s a good question,” another of the students noted. “I was wondering if you were going to be a father soon myself, Mr. Kougami.”

One of the students stared at Yamato’s expression and had her hand on the side of her face. “Hmm… Was that too early for you, Mr. Kougami? You look like this is new to you.”

“Well, yeah,” Yamato said, still shocked by the previous enquiry. “I haven’t even thought about having kids with Mashiro yet. What made you think of that, anyway?”

The student who had asked that question looked surprised herself. She glanced at Yamato before averting her gaze while blushing. “Ahaha… I just thought that you might have wanted to become a father, Mr. Kougami…” She looked at the surface of her desk, fumbling with her fingers a bit. She smiled shyly as she did so while still blushing a little. “You kind of remind me of my own father sometimes, Mr. Kougami. You also take care of us and praise us with as much support as you can. It actually makes me happy to have you as my teacher when I think about it. Not many teachers outside this school are like that, but you’re… a special teacher to us all in one way or another. That’s why… I want to support you and your wife no matter what since… I want you to be happy.”

The student who had asked if it was too early for Yamato to answer lowered her eyes. “Mr. Kougami, don’t tell me you didn’t know about how we wanted to support you and your love life? We were all discussing this matter about your wife because we wanted to cheer you two on.”

“…I didn’t know you all felt that way until now.” Yamato stayed frozen in place as if he was a statue. “In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever heard about this from anyone.”

The student sighed. “…Come on, Mr. Kougami. Try to catch up on us. We’re always ready to help you out for your sake. You are our teacher, after all.”

Yamato looked at the student and smiled in defeat. “Hai, hai. We’ll talk about this later, alright? We’ve already wasted enough time. Now, get out your textbooks and turn to page thirty-one.”

“Hai~!” Yamato’s students obeyed, taking out their textbooks from their desks as the got ready to learn the day’s physics lesson.


~


It was late at night in Ren and Sophie’s apartment. Sophie was currently working on the third volume of her new series, and was writing and drawing at a rapid pace. She was too focused to concentrate on anything else as though her life depended on the completion of the manga. In fact, it was much more than motivation that kept her going, but at the same time, it was something that was most likely to keep her focused on her job. The look on her face was slightly twisted up with some kind of anger as she kept working.

“…” She was about to finished when Ren stepped into the room.

He looked at her busy figure and said, “Working again?”

Although it was short, Sophie gave a quick nod. “Yeah. If I don’t keep working on my manga, I’ll lose my concentration. If I don’t keep at it, I’ll eventually stop working on anything at all.” She hurriedly drew the last few pages, staring deeply at her pages while keeping up her part of the conversation. “But at least I’m almost finished, so I can prepare something for you before you head off to work. I am your fiancée, after all.”

“Don’t push yourself too much,” Ren reminded the turquoise-haired girl. “You’ll get sick if you work all the time without taking any breaks.”

Sophie turned to look at Ren and smiled. “I know. I’ll keep my health in check after this, so don’t worry.” She glanced back at her desk and kept working until she came to a stop. “Finished.” She organized the abundant number of pages she had drawn and wrote, and put them in a envelope, sealing it securely before getting up from her seat. She took a look at Ren with the same smile she had on her face. “I’ll get ready and start making your food for tonight. What do you want to eat, Ren?”

Ren stared back at Sophie with a nonchalant expression. “Tamagoyaki and kaarage.”

Sophie frowned. “It’s all fried dishes. Don’t forget your vegetables. You have to watch out for those kinds of foods every now and then, or else you won’t be able to balance your meals. I’ll add some spinach and octopus wieners along with them, so make sure you eat everything if you can, Ren. You should also try some sandwiches and a small portion of rice. Maybe eel would be good along with some tonkatsu…”


~

Several minutes had passed by and it was dark inside the apartment. Sophie was sleeping soundly at the desk she used to work on her books and manga, and Sophie soon awakened. She opened her eyes slowly, still laying her head and arms on her desk.

“…” She stared in the direction she could see and soon noticed the living room and kitchen’s lights were turned off. “Ren…?” She lifted her head up and saw a blanket around her body. She stared at it intently and knew that Ren had placed it around her after she fell asleep. Then, she took a look around her surroundings. “He’s not here. I guess he must’ve gone off to work, then.” She glanced at the clock and saw that it was 2:17 a.m. After that, she stood up and walked to the glass table near the couch. That was when she saw a note addressed to her and picked it up.

The letter read…

Sophie. Thanks for the bento you made tonight. I made sure to take it with me before I leave. Also, I may or may not be back before five a.m., so don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I promise. I’ll make sure to come home as soon as I can, so we can eat breakfast together in the morning. If you happen to wake up before I come home, go to bed and sleep for a few hours. You’ve been sleeping past midnight for some time now. It’s lonely when we’re not sleeping together.


—Ren

Sophie gazed at the last few sentences. Her shoulders dropped as she kept looking at it.
“Ren…”


She glanced toward the door before shifting her gaze back to the note. Then, she smiled sadly. “I understand. I’ll go to sleep right away.”


~


The next day, Takamasa was in his apartment that morning in his study, typing on his laptop. Shortly afterward, he paused and came to a stop.

“Ah!” he exclaimed as an idea suddenly came to his mind. “It’s almost time for me to eat breakfast.”

He checked his watch and it was already nine in the morning. Then, he stood up, pushed in his chair, opened the door, and walked out. Within less than a minute, he was in the kitchen. He poured a cup of black coffee for himself and lifted the cup up to his lips, taking a drink from it.

He pulled the cup away and thought about something. “Hmm… I better start a clean-up check today.”

Although his apartment had been tidied up the same night of Mashiro and Yamato’s wedding, he felt as if there was something else that needed to be cleaned up in the living room. Ever since that day, things had been different from how they were before.

And it was not until a few days afterward that Yamato visited Long Island.

Yamato walked around and greeted the bar owner. “Hey, Kuni! How’s it going?”

Kunihiko smiled at the sight of the newlywed from before. “Morning, Yamato. I was just about to open the bar. Did you need something?”

“Nn…” Yamato looked around the interior of Long Island, looking for something. Or rather, someone in particular. “Actually, I’m looking for Saeki. Have you seen him lately?”

Kunihiko had a surprised look on his face. “Saeki? He hasn’t been here in a while.” Then, he smiled calmly. “I’m sure he’s fine, though, Yamato. He’s probably working at home or at an interview. Why don’t you give him a call and ask him yourself if you’re that worried about him?”

“What?” Yamato asked. “He hasn’t been here? How long has he been busy, anyway?”

Kunihiko kept smiling. “The last time he was here was the day before the wedding. It was just the guys, remember? The girls were out together that day. But I haven’t seen him since then, that’s for certain.”

“Hmm…” Yamato contemplated. Then, he looked at Kunihiko and said, “Sorry, Kuni. I’m going to check up on him.”

The purple-haired man let out a huff. “When you get there, don’t pry too much,” he advised.

Yamato nodded. “Got it.”

Soon, he arrived in front of Takamasa’s apartment and rang the doorbell. A few seconds later, the door opened, revealing the healthy form of the famous writer.

“Yamato,” Takamasa breathed. “What brings you here today?”

Yamato had a serious look on his face. “What’s going on, Saeki?” He had his arms folded against his chest as he stared at his friend. “You haven’t been at Long Island at all and you’ve been working without even paying a visit. Why is that?”

“?” Takamasa blinked. Then, he realized what the young man in front of him meant. “Oh. That.” He smiled lightly at Yamato and answered him. “I decided to change how I did things and started working more. I also went out for meetings and interviews about the TV shows I was currently working on.” He added, “I even cleaned up my place after the wedding.”

“You did what?!” Yamato shouted, flabbergasted by what he had just heard. “Saeki… Why are you doing this all of sudden? I mean, you haven’t cleaned up since you graduated from high school. What’s with the quick change?”

Takamasa’s eyes widened as he saw the concern on Yamato face. “Ah, that was six years ago, wasn’t it? Anyway, why don’t you come in? I’ll explain about why I’m doing all this.”


~


“I see…” Yamato trailed off as he sat on the couch next to Takamasa. “So it’s because you felt like you needed to change yourself after we said all those things to you. Sorry about that. It’s not like we would do that to deliberately hurt your feelings or anything.”

Takamasa let out a moderate laugh. “Ahaha.” He looked down, still smiling. “It’s not like you said anything until after I decided to go home for the day, Yamato. Besides, it’s not like my feelings were hurt at all, except by what Ren said a little. You know how he is, always blunt with other people.” He looked directly at the auburn-haired man. “But I’m not that affected by anything the others guys said that day. In fact, there’s another reason why I’ve been doing this for a while now.”

“Another… reason…?” Yamato asked, a bit perplexed by those words.

The writer nodded. “That’s right. There’s another reason why I’m doing. The day you and Mashiro got married, I immediately started to clean up my entire apartment after I went home. A thought instantly crossed my mind, and I suddenly remembered something.”

“What did you remember?” Yamato inquired curiously. He wanted to know what his friend had been thinking about this whole time. “Was it something… important?”

Another nod from Takamasa. “Yeah. I haven’t told anyone about this yet, but… There’s someone who’s going to move in with me soon and I actually wanted to make sure everything was cleaned up before she came here. She’ll be living with me at the end of the month, so I’m preparing ahead of time.”

“Someone’s going to live with you?!” Yamato blurted out. “And your roommate’s a girl?! Why didn’t you say so sooner? The guys and I could have helped you earlier if we had known about this.”

There was a long silence between the two. That was, until Takamasa spoke up again.

“Actually,” he said, “I had mixed feelings about it three months back when I first heard from her parents.” A troubled expression formed on the writer’s face as he continued. “Remember Airi?”

Yamato spoke steadily as he thought about the name. “Airi…” His eyes widened when he remembered that name. “Airi Hirabayashi?! Your high school girlfriend Airi?! The one who’s…”

Takamasa nodded, confirming Yamato’s question. “Yeah… She’s going to be here in a few weeks, but…”

“It’s been over two years since you last saw each other. Right?” Yamato mentioned. “Things fell out of place after you found out that she was going to be busier because of her occupation. You even went into a deep depression for a while, too.”

“Yeah, but…” Takamasa stared at the wall in front of him and Yamato. “I haven’t forgotten about her, not even once. That’s why…” A faint smile crept onto his face as he proclaimed his new resolve. “…I’m going to start over and continue from where we left off years ago when she comes here. I’ve decided that I’m not going to run away from this anymore than I’ve already done.”

Yamato looked at Saeki, understanding the writer’s resolution. “Saeki…”

And so, the end of April was finally here. It was the day Takamasa’s high school girlfriend would come to move in with him. His entire apartment was fully cleaned and Takamasa was one hundred percent ready for Airi’s arrival. Ten minutes had passed and the doorbell rang.

Takamasa walked toward the front door and opened it. He was instantaneously greeted by the girl standing in front of him. She had light purple waist-length hair and bright green eyes. Without another moment to waste, she bowed politely.

“Hajimemashite,” she smiled with her eyes closed, tilting her head to the side. “My name is Airi Hirabayashi, and I’ve come here to live with you starting today, Takamasa Saeki-san.”

I think that’s pretty early for you to say that, Yamato. You and the MC aren’t at any point in the story yet.

So Yamato IS worried about the MC, after all!