The Heroes of Sakakino

Chapter 3 Making Friends

School the next day played through in a calm lull of hordes of Sakakino uniforms filling the halls after every first bell and then retreating into classrooms after every second. Lunch time came around before Eiichi realized it. He was up and out of his seat and ready for his afternoon routine: meet with the ebony haired, lovely vixen that had stolen his heart, one Katsura Kotonoha, accompany her to the famous and infamous roof of the school, enjoy a well-made lunch, which he no longer felt the need to keep emergency services on speed dial for, and then join aforementioned vixen for a beautiful walk home, and likely a little playtime before 'the cat' got home from work. It was a sunny Saturday-half-day, the weather was just starting to warm up, and everything was right with the world.

He did not have to walk far through the mess of black on white Sakakino uniforms and kaleidoscope of emotions before she met him in the hall.

"Roof?" she asked as he approached, feeling much the same way.

"Funny, I was thinking the same thing."

Meet with ebony haired vixen, check.

"Oh, I just remembered I need to do something before I forget."

The plan's a failure! Reroute coordinates! Dive! Dive! Dive!

"And I have to meet with the student council to go over a few things."

"Swell…" he muttered out the corner of his mouth. Could he get a single smooth day? With an exasperated sigh, "So what's the first thing you need to do?"

"I have some books that I need to drop off at the library before they're overdue, if I forget today, I might end up paying a fee, so we should do that before eating. Student Council won't be for another half hour."

Oh good! They'd have to rush through lunch as well. He had wishful thoughts that this was some kind of cruel joke she was playing, but her hand gently tugging on his sleeve, with a smile that could melt ice cream, was a sign that he was in for the long haul.

It was thanks to Kotonoha and several study sessions with her, that Eiichi was no longer a stranger to the school library. Though being a lover of books, mainly the classics, he usually bought his titles online, used, or occasionally rented from one of the local, non-school centered libraries.

Upon making it to their first destination, the library greeted them in its oak wood fashion of sophistication. Kotonoha began rummaging in her bag and produced a few hardbound titles. The library, as always, was pretty much empty, say for a few seniors at tables, prepping for exams. Eiichi couldn't help smiling because things were looking good for him in that department.

They approached the front desk, but there was no one present.

"Hmm, Ashikaga-kun must be busy…" Kotonoha peered around the rows of shelving.

Then a short, somewhat skinny male student, in a pair of large, rounded glasses, appeared heading toward the desk, his arms straining with a tall stack of large text books. As he approached the desk, his eyes set on Kotonoha, and Eiichi noticed his cheeks turn a tinge of pink before retracting back to their pastel shade like a fighting fish.

"Hello Ashikaga-kun," Kotonoha smiled.

"Katsura-san, more returns?" the boyish looking student clamored behind the desk and heaved the books down in an empty space.

At the moment, his output was mainly focused on Kotonoha. Eiichi knew Ashikaga had noticed him, but he seemed to be pretending like he wasn't even there. Fond attraction for her was the first thing Eiichi had picked up, and this wasn't anything new. It may have bothered Eiichi a few times before when he caught a guy eyeballing Kotonoha when she wasn't looking, with emotions pointing at every erotic imagining probable, but he learned to curb his overprotective nature for the sake of her peace of mind and their reputation. It wasn't easy having to know just what people wanted at all times. However, Ashikaga's output hovered in the safe, comfortable regions of exceeding respect, admiration and passion, only momentarily touching the edges of sensuality before retracting fearfully back.

"I'm sorry for the wait, we're pretty busy today," Ashikaga neatly arranged a few items on the desk.

"Yeah, you got a real blow out sale here," Eiichi said, taking another look around.

Eiichi felt a flush of distain, and he thought he saw Ashikaga's eyebrows furrow a little at his only minimally sarcastic comment, still without looking at him.

Kotonoha continued unwarily, "I thought I might have to renew. There's been a few things going on, and I was afraid I would forget, but I managed to find time to finish them."

"Well we're coming to the end of the school year, even non graduating students can find themselves with their hands full," Ashikaga said as Kotonoha handed him the books and he proceeded to check them, taking his time, thumbing through the pages to check for anything left inside, though this was something he could have done later.

Eiichi could understand the tense attraction for Kotonoha, she was after all, a very beautiful girl that stood out even without intending to, and her strengthened character had served to only make her more alluring to others, though Eiichi picked up that this well hidden attraction had been going on a lot longer. What was so puzzling was this severe distain directed at him. Sure there was jealousy, there was always jealousy, but it had always been shallow. This one however, burned with a deep dislike for him. Maybe it had been Kotonoha's influence on Eiichi, but he thought he'd try to lighten the mood. He normally wouldn't bother, because people could be so set in their beliefs.

"So, a job in the library," he fumbled. "Sounds pretty even keel, quiet, a little moving around, pretty laid back huh?"

"Actually it can be pretty demanding," Ashikaga sent him a blank glance, curtly swiping a book across a barcode scanner, the machine making a brief clank. "What you see in here is not what it seems. We have to keep records, files in order, make sure the shelves are arranged correctly, and the spaces clean."

'Jeez, sorry for asking.'

"Well still, you enjoy it, right?"

"I supposed I do," not looking at Eiichi again.

Kotonoha, just starting to feel a change in the air, made a polite insertion, "Ashikaga-kun has been working here ever since he started at Sakakino. Because I visit here so much, I saw him practically every day and we became good acquaintances."

Yep, that would be it. Eiichi was, yet again, intruding on another acquaintance of hers.

"Oh, forgive me! Eiichi, this is Ashikaga Yuuki. Ashikaga-kun, this is my boyfriend, Kuzoka Eiichi."

Eiichi bowed to Yuuki, feeling odd that he was the first to do so, being the oldest between the two of them.

"Yes I've heard," Yuuki bowed formally, but only out of politeness.

Too much like a broken lava lamp that only knew two hues, Eiichi observed, somewhat humored, as Yuuki's output changed back and forth from dreamy blues whenever Kotonoha spoke, to boiling reds at the mere mention of him or the sound of his voice. Yuuki was quite annoyed with him, to say the least. He decided to keep his mouth shut before he started getting dizzy.

"Alright, that's everything Katsura-san, are you going to rent anything today?"

"No thank you, I have a Council meeting to be at, but we might come by some other time."

"Well I look forward to seeing you then," 'you' as in her, without the tagalong.

"Have a nice day," Kotonoha bowed and started out.

"See ya," Eiichi raised one hand casually.

Eiichi could swear when Kotonoha had her back turned, Yuuki had been glaring at him.

Lunch before Kotonoha's meeting was the one time Eiichi felt he had a minute to breathe, finally on the roof.

"No, no way…" Kotonoha shook her head, a piece of salmon clutched between the hashi in her hands.

"I'm not kidding," Eiichi assured.

"Use it in a sentence then."

"'Gee, it has been getting quite darkle lately.'"

"That doesn't even sound right, like you're quoting something from a story book."

"It's a word, I'm not making this up."

"Okay, what's another?"


"What could that possibly mean?"

"'My good sir, your wife seems to have a quite rotund natiform.'"

"So uh, body?"

"Actually no, that's not right," correcting himself. "Um, it's supposed to resemble what you think it means."

"So something that resembles a body…"

"Nope, a part of the body," he smiled. "I said rotund."

She looked at him, perplexed.

"I could see that you have a pretty nice natiform if I lifted up the back of your skirt."

Her eyes got wide, "You…jerk."

She swatted him on the arm while he laughed.

"It figures you'd make a joke like that…" shaking her head again, trying to hold back a smile. And then she thought of something, "Hey, we should go on a trip sometime this summer," looking up from her bento.


"Yeah, to celebrate your graduation. You've been studying an awful lot."

"Well, where did you have in mind?"

"Take a guess…"

"Onna Beach…" he remembered.

Her gratification was a single look with her mystifying eyes.

"We could visit my parents!" he exclaimed.

"Okay, now I don't know if I wanna' go…" she took a frantic bite of rice.

"Okay, okay, I know that was a cruel joke I played on you about my mom."

"That's okay, you can go without me," she said nervously. "You can tell them it was my idea, I'll just stay here, where it's safe."

"I promise, they'll be elated to see you, they practically know enough about you already."

"You've been talking with your dad?"

"He calls once in a while. Come on, I had to do it, so do you. Except we'll be on vacation, so it'll be fun."

His encouragement worked, she smiled, "Okay."

A somewhat warming breeze crossed over the roof, Eiichi had already finished his lunch and watched intently as she was finishing up the last few bites of hers. Something had been on his mind as of late, something that only he could have concern for.

"Um…is there anything that sort of…bothers you about me?"

He was surprised that it had taken him this long to notice while they had been together all this time.

Kotonoha looked up from her bento at him, confused, "No, I thought you might know if there was. Have I been doing that?"

"Well that's just it, I know all the time."

He felt her curiosity patting at him, trying to figure out just what he was getting at, "You're acting pretty self-conscious for someone who claims to not care about what others think."

"I care about what you think. I mean, I can tell what you're feeling at all times. Most people would feel pretty invaded by that."

She had finished her bento and set it down, "I still don't see what the problem is. If I had thought this was an issue, we would've had this discussion some time ago."

"I'm just asking if it bothers you."

She turned his way, her knee touching his, "If I were a person who practiced dishonesty, then I suppose it would bother me. Do you understand now what you're telling me by asking this question?"

Head down, he insecurely smoothed his hand over his knuckles.

"You have a gift Eiichi, you may not see it that way, but I do. It may not be the reason I'm with you, but it's got something to do with why we're together. If you can tell what people are feeling, that does sound pretty one sided. I'm imagine that get's very lonely as well, but that's only more a reason for you to talk things out. You coaxed me into doing it once…" She placed a hand on his arm, causing him to look deeply back into those mystifying eyes, "On the other side of things, I am not worried about your honesty. I know I may have placed my trust in people that didn't deserve it before, but now having someone I really can trust has taught me better."

She leaned forward and kissed him on the corner of his mouth, a signal for him to meet her the rest of the way, their lips intertwining. He placed a hand on the back of her neck, her hand rested on his thy and gave it a squeeze. They parted gently and looked at each other, their faces close.

She picked up the bentos and her bag, and stood, "And now I have to go or I'm going to be late. You think you can hang on without me for an hour?"

"'B-But senpai, I thought we were inseparable. What ever will I do without your kind presence to comfort me?'" he kidded.

She smiled at this, "You don't have to wait for me if you want to head home," and bent down to give him another peck before walking towards the door.

On her way, she stopped and turned, "Were you just looking at my natiform?"

"I may've been," he said coolly.

With another smile, she turned, creating just the right amount of flourish in her skirt to give him a peak. Ruby lace, must've been new.

There was one other thing concerning him, what was he going to do for a whole hour? With so much time and no idea how to use it, he stood and headed to the door.

Eiichi wandered the very vacant halls of the school, not really headed in any particular direction. He came by three guys in a little group outside a club room, talking amongst themselves.

One called out to him and he stepped over.

It was the usual, 'Hey, how's it goin',' 'What it is?' and such.

Later, he approached a three way section of the hall, where he stopped and actually considered which direction he wanted to go in.

Outside, he passed through a courtyard with a few students seated beneath sakura trees, buds just beginning to form on their dark branches. A few minutes later, he was standing in front of the school gym.

"I don't think I've ever gone in this building…"

He pushed the heavy tin door open to step in to an empty basketball court, the stale smells of sweat, rubber and bleach greeted his nose.

If no one was in, they probably wouldn't mind him looking around, not like he had anything else to do.

He had walked out to the center of the court when he saw a rather short girl step out from another set of doors with a large box in her arms. Her purple hair was tied down in two long tails, the hems on the gym shorts of her 'Sakakino Academy Basketball Team' jersey fluttered about a pair of bike shorts that clung tight to her thighs, when she stopped. She didn't say anything immediately and just stared at the guy standing in the middle of the court, hands in his pockets.

"Practice won't be for another hour…" her voice formal.

"Makes sense, don't want people showing up for their other clubs all sweaty."

"But we don't really let outsiders watch. Are you waiting for someone?"

"Yes, I am, but she's not here."

"Well that would make sense if you're waiting for her."

That one was good and he couldn't help smiling, "No, no," waving a frivolous hand, "she's in a different club."

"Is she on the basketball team?"

"Not to my knowledge," though she might look good in the jersey.

The girl continued on her way to a side of the court, "Well, if she's not on the team, then why are you here?"

"No real reason, just looking around."

"You must have a lot of time to kill," she set the box down by a sideline.

"Yeah, it would seem that way."

The girl stood and looked toward the set of doors she just exited from, concerned about something, and back at him, "Well while you're busy killing that time, you wanna' help me?"

"I don't see why not."

"Come on," she started back to the doors and Eiichi followed.

Upon getting closer to her, Eiichi did not really pickup anything interesting from her output, she was pretty focused on what she was doing, though a little curious about him.

They stepped into a storage room that had been filled with sports paraphernalia. Foam kendo mat squares were stacked against the walls, volleyballs, baseball mits and bats, were all cluttered along the walls and in the center. Eiichi nearly tripped over a rolled up volleyball net near the door as the girl, now with a more brisk step in her walk, made her way over to a rack of basketballs.

"Could you get that box of towels over there?" she pointed.

There wasn't much talk between the two of them as they made repeated transitions from the closet to the court. Before, she seemed more simple about what she was doing, but as soon as she had invited Eiichi to assist, she picked up her pace considerably.

"You're surprisingly handy, you're not even breaking a sweat! Do you play any sports?" she said as they reentered the gym with boxes in hand.

Not really sure how to take the 'surprisingly' part, "I don't think 'play' is the word I would use, but in a manner of speaking. So is that everything?"

"I think that's it," swatting dust off her jersey.

Before he could take his leave, a much taller, sturdy looking girl stepped through the set of doors. Her head of brown, full bodied hair would have hung down to her shoulders, had it not been done up in a ponytail. She filled out the Sakakino jersey with a stronger, somewhat masculine quality than the other girl.

"Roka, did you finish getting everything moved?" her voice with a touch of sternness.

The girl, apparently Roka, suffered a wave of nervousness. She probably shouldn't have asked him to help her out.

"Yes senpai, all done!" likely hoping the other had not noticed.

As the larger girl approached, Eiichi figured it wasn't that she was so much taller as Roka was shorter, she met him at about the same height.

"You know you shouldn't be asking for help from people not on the team, it makes us look bad," oddly lax about this, and not really seeming to care that Eiichi heard.

"Um, I…" Roka stuttered.

Roka's senpai took one look at Eiichi and pointed apathetically, "Oh hey, you're that guy."

Eiichi nodded, admitting to himself he was beginning to enjoy this, "Yeah, I'm kinda' that guy."

"So what brings you over to our side of the school?"

"Just wandering, I'm waiting for someone to get out of a meeting."

"Oh," she sang, "would this certain someone be 'her'?"

Eiichi chuckled, "You're pretty quick on the uptake."

"Nah, it was a lucky guess."

"Who? Who is he?" Roka asked.

"Only the 'knight in shining armor' himself, Kuzoka Eiichi, the one who rescued that girl from falling to her death some months back, just to wind up with that same girl saving his butt from getting killed. It was all over the school news, I think there was even a section about it in the city issue as well. Though I never took you for mister tall, dark and handsome," she flirted.

"That was you!?" Roka turned.

"Ah, please, don't give me anymore of that or I'll start getting used to it."

Eiichi could sense that the taller girl was leaving some details out for his sake, so as not to bring the mood down. For as playful as she was, she was surprisingly considerate.

"Don't be so modest, you're a third year, right? After graduation, our titles will only follow us so far."

"You have a point there."

The two seniors stood neck and neck, tossing idle topics back and forth.

"My name is Ashikaga Chie. I'm captain of the third year basketball team, and this is my kouhai, Kitsuregawa Roka," they bowed.

Eiichi returned in kind, "It's a pleasure to meet you. Ashikaga, would you be in any way related to Ashikaga Yuuki?"

Suddenly Roka's output plummeted into embarrassed and irritated affections at the mention of the name.

"Yeah! You've met my little brother?"

"Ugh, that girly creep…" Roka blurted, without intending to.

Chie and Eiichi both looked at her and her face grew beet red.

"You'll have to forgive this one," Chie jabbed a thumb at her. "She and my brother had a bit of a run in recently. They're both pretty careless, so it figures they'd end up clashing together sooner or later."

"Yeah, your brother is um…pretty dedicated."

"Yeah, so is Roka here, and I can only wonder why neither of them have acted on my instruction yet," giving Roka a side glance.

"No way!" Roka blurted again, her fists balled up. "No way am I going out with that pervert!"

"Well, time will tell," Chie smiled.

Eiichi tried to imagine that gangly, serious character with the specs from earlier with this spunky, petit sports girl in front of him, and surprising enough, it didn't seem like such a bad match.

He eyed Roka, deciding to have some fun, "Yeah, I could see it."

"Ew! Why is this happening to meee!?" Roka buried her face in her hands.

"I like this guy!" Chie burst out. "We should work together. Roka and Yuuki wouldn't stand a chance," again, talking as if the subject of the matter wasn't present.

"Good idea."

Chie padded the pockets of her gym shorts, likely looking for her cellphone, "I'll give you my number, shoot me a text and we can talk more."

Eiichi only had a few numbers in the contacts on his cell phone, and of them, the only two he contacted the most were Kotonoha and Torio. It would be a nice change to have some new ones.

While Chie was sounding out digits, Roka stood by, flustered, overpowered, and embarrassed to a high degree. She stiffened up and stormed away, "I'm gonna' see if anyone else is showing up for practice…"

"Okay, you do that~" Chie hollered whimsically. Turning back to Eiichi, "Yeah, practice will be starting soon and you've gotta' meet up with your sweetheart."

"Oh it is that time," looking at his phone after clicking save.

"Better go before she pummels you, if she is that type."

"A little."

Chie began trotting away, "See ya around, hero!"

Eiichi rounded the corner just as students were stepping out of the council meeting room. He made his way up to the doorway. Just then, as he was approaching, he received a return text from Chie. She must have snuck off to get her phone during practice.

'Here's Roka and Yuuki's numbers,' with a winking smiley. 'When she finds out I sent you her number, she'll flip! XD If we keep this up, things might start getting somewhere =3, so stay in touch, alright?'

Making a mental note of this, he put his phone away. When he approached, he saw Kotonoha stepping out with Otome following behind her. Kotonoha turned to face her, just as Eiichi made it to them.

"We need to see about getting that taken care of, okay?"

"I cannot guarantee that we'll have it done in such a short amount of time," Otome was frazzled.

"It's plenty of time, and we have more than enough people available. I don't know why this is an issue, if you distribute the work evenly, you'll see results faster, how many times do I have to say it?"

Something must've happened in there where Otome got her ass handed to her.

She saw Eiichi and her eyes blinked, looking about timidly, her emotions of desire taking over. Though she was excited at the sudden sight of him, she'd rather he not see her, especially with her caution toward Kotonoha.

"Um…hello Kuzoka…" keeping with his last name.

"Otome," he nodded.

Kotonoha looked between the two of them, "O-kay, so you got that right?"

"I got it, okay!" turning on Kotonoha.

"Good," Kotonoha looked at Eiichi. "So, decided to stick around?"

"Yup, come on, let's go. We still got some daylight left," he took her hand and tugged lightly on it.

Kotonoha snickered, "Okay, jeez, down boy."

They both walked off, but they didn't see the fuming Otome, fists clenching at her sides.

The television in Torio and Eiichi's living room hummed with the voices and scenery of an evening show featuring a group of witty diagnosticians. Eiichi was stretched out on the couch, one arm raised and rested on the armrest behind his head, legs crossed and extended, eyes fixated on the blue lit screen, taking the occasional long drag from his vape pen and exhaling a white plume of cinnamon and cream scented exhaust.

In the view from the kitchen, Kotonoha labored about in a calm lull, preparing a meal for three, as it was Torio would be arriving home from work within the hour. She occasionally gazed over at the screen to take in what was occurring. Many who knew of Kotonoha's cooking abilities would find this scene rather disturbing, though Torio, Eiichi's personal master chef, had effectively taken her under his wing as his student in culinary works. That Eiichi was not sweating bullets at this very moment was a sign of her vast improvement.

On the television, it was apparent that a detrimental discovery had taken place because there were coughing and spitting noises followed by eerie, synthetic music, and then commercials.

"I never understand exactly what they're talking about," Kotonoha voiced to Eiichi, "only that when they begin using those long, polysyllable medical terms, it usually means something bad."

"Same here, but they're always explaining it to the patient, so we get to hear what it really means," Eiichi said, not removing his eyes from the screen.

After an elongated five minutes of nearly endless ads, either about one cleaning solution or another, and the sale of the latest model of a sleek sports car going on at your nearest auto dealer, the show was back on.

"It's akinetopsia…" a gravelly voice sounded from the screen.

"See, like that one," Kotonoha raised her spatula a moment.

Eiichi laughed, "Yeah, I think their writers must be actual diagnosticians, or they have a group of them they consult to come up with these wacky dispositions and ways to nearly kill the patient two or three times before they get anywhere. Smells good by the way."

"Thanks, this is something new I thought I'd try."

Eiichi had offered to help her a few times in the past, but she had always insisted on being left to her devises, so he didn't bother anymore. Yet, whenever Torio taught her, he felt like the odd man out, with nothing to do.

"Oh, we're in for a surprise tonight then. You're moving on your own now."

"Yeah, Torio said it would be a good idea now for me to pick something and try it."

Twenty minutes later, the show ended and Eiichi changed the channel to a special on lunar phases. Kotonoha was no longer at the stove and had a cutting board laid out, mincing herbs.

"So what was with that whole situation between you and Otome earlier today?"

"Ah, I have no idea…"

"Come on Eiichi, I know you can tell, so spill it," a playful note of interrogation in her voice.

"Ah…" Eiichi droned, considering a way of putting things so to not set Kotonoha off. They had typically been honest with each other on matters like this, so he decided to be up front. "I'm pretty sure she has a thing for me…"

"Really? How long has this been going on?" a gentle note of concern in her voice.

"Well at least since the festival. I wish you could've seen how I handled the situation with the 'rest area', I mopped the floor with 'em, but I guess it made an impression on her," though Eiichi would never have been as flirty with Kotonoha around. Technically she had seen, part of it at least, but they were both dealing with their own problems at the time.

"Well that's good to hear it went so well. I didn't really like what they were doing either. I never imagined that Otome could be capable of something like that."

"All kinds of people, Koto. They're hard to spot."

Kotonoha looked up from the shredded leaves on the cutting board and peered at the boy laying on the couch, a boy she could remember, when they first met, guiding to an infirmary bed as a similar place of rest, "Eiichi, you've been acting strange today…"

"Ha! I'm the embodiment of strange, what are you talking about?"

"Stranger than usual. Has anything been bothering you?" Much like Torio, she had been developing a knack for reading her rambunctious counterpart.

"You mean aside from what we talked about?"

"Kind of, actually it's more to do with everything. The last two days you've seemed, I don't know, off. Have you been ill?"

"I haven't noticed anything, maybe it's all in your head. Maybe it's a turnaround and it's your thinking there was something wrong that caused me to think you had a problem," he prodded jokingly. "Maybe you have the problem and you're projecting it on to me, hmm?"

Ignoring his mind games, "Hmm, well there's a full moon out tonight. I thought I heard something once about the effects of a full moon on people. That when it's out, the traffic accident reports go up, animals behave strangely, and people even become more aggressive."

"And you're bringing this up because…"

"Well, it may be that it has an effect on your abilities. Have things seemed different at all lately for you?"

The events of the day had been a nice step out of his normal routine, maybe her advice to him was beginning to shine and she simply didn't recognize it. Or maybe it was all the up and down from that day that had him a little worn out, like he had become too used to his routine. He appreciated her concern greatly, but was still lost as to what she meant by his acting strange, being that it was simply true that he was a particularly strange guy. Maybe they'd reached some new ground in their relationship, one of those things that changes and you don't realize until you notice it.

And then he got an idea. "Yes, as a matter of fact, they have…" he got up from the couch and lifted his hands slightly, swiveling his head from one to the other, wide eyed, making like he was analyzing his fingers with deep contemplation, "I've had these sensations coursing through my body all day. My thoughts have been so compulsive, it feels…it feels as if they're not my own…" he made his voice as airy as possible, with inflections of incomprehensible fear. Each step he took toward the busy Kotonoha became more like a tiny lunge, leaning forward as dramatically as possible.

She looked up a moment from her work to eye her bizarre lover with a gentle smile, then continuing as if nothing was taking place.

"Just the thought of your touch sends chills down my spine. The caress of your warm skin would send me into fits of ravening physical impulse that I could not be held accountable for," his voice sounding more malevolent with every breath, staring at her hungrily, he glided around the kitchen counter, his hands down now, limp as hanging leaves. He approached behind her, placing one hand on her abdomen, and the other on one busy shoulder, curving his fingers to make them seem as bony as possible. "I cannot hold it in anymore! You may have to relinquish yourself to me on this night my dear, your mind and your body, mwa-ha-ha-ha!"

Kotonoha smiled with prolific amusement, and then craned her head up toward the ceiling, mimicking her best Victorian voice, recapping knowledge from hundreds of romance novels, "Oh no! Could it be that my lord has gone mad? He is not himself on this ghastly night of nights."

"But yes, it is true. For the moon is full tonight, and the earth speaks to me in its dulcet tones, that my mind may be consumed by enrapturing thoughts of corporeal pleasure, and nothing more! Please, lock me away, before you become consumed as well!"

The sound of a set of car keys landing on a table in the living room brought the tacky scene to an abrupt, clattering end, "A-m I interrupting something?"

Torio stood before them on the other side of the kitchen overlook, a blankly curious gaze, his coat draped over his back with one hand, the other hovering over the dispensed car keys.

"Oh!" Kotonoha startled, but remained with her hands on the knife and cutting board.

Eiichi's hands hung to his sides, limp again, but missing their mysterious leafiness, "Hey Torio…"

"Well, I'm glad I got here just in time. Any later, and it would've been 'awkward'," his voice bubbly, a broad, toothy smile on his face.

"Yes, thank you captain buzzkill…" Eiichi grabbed a beer from the fridge and weaved his path back into the living room to continue watching television.

"Hello Torio," Kotonoha beamed from the kitchen.

"Hello Fair Lady Kotonoha of The House of Katsura," this made her blush.

Torio turned to the now lackadaisical Eiichi, "So I'm just curious, should I be off to the side somewhere playing an organ?"

"You'd have to send a query to Bram Stoker first. Let me know when you hear back from him," Eiichi stared at the screen from the couch.

"You're right, I know you two would settle for 'Gettin' Jiggy with It'," this one actually did make Eiichi laugh, but he hid it from Torio as best he could, turning his head toward the backrest. "Now Eiichi, you know better than to seduce my student while she's hard at work. Where's your sense of duty?" Torio sent a volley of tsks Eiichi's way.

"Torio, how was work?" Kotonoha asked from the kitchen.

"The same old, but the boss is reaming me out about some reports that haven't been filed for over a week now…"

While Kotonoha was distracting him, Eiichi's phone began buzzing. He grabbed it from the coffee table, he'd received another text from Chie. 'I talked with Yuuki about you a little, and well…he doesn't really seem to like you, which of course is reason for me to only like you more, but what do you suppose that's all about?'

Eiichi could either be honest about the situation, tell her that Yuuki likes Kotonoha and look like an upright jackass for 'assuming' such a thing, or feign being oblivious and work on pushing her towards the idea over time. He didn't want to, and it was situations like this that made him avoid friendships in the past. If he told her Yuuki liked 'someone', she would put that together too quickly as well. He took a drag off his vaporizer, thinking.

"Did you brown the meat?" Torio's voice sounded from the kitchen.

"I thought you gave me this to do on my own?"

"I know, I'm just checking…"

Eiichi tapped on the keypad, 'Yeah, I kinda' noticed when we met. He was pretty cold towards me,' though Yuuki had been burning hot with discontent. 'He and Kotonoha, my girlfriend, have been acquaintances for a long time and he was more interested in helping her than having anything to say to me. I was a little concerned about helping you out for this reason, since Yuuki and I don't seem to get along. To tell you the truth, I think he's a good kid from what I've seen so far, but I have no idea what his attitude toward me is all about. Since he's your brother, how about you work with him and let me talk with Roka?' He pondered his response a moment, hoping it would be good enough. This is also why Eiichi didn't text much, it was easier to work through a conversation face to face where he could read the other party, and texting just took all that away.

'lol! Boy you're lengthy. I think I know what's going on,' with another winky face. 'This could still work. I'm only speculating here, but Yuuki seems to have eyes for your girl, so I'll do what I can on that side of things. You work on Roka, see if you can get her to drop some of that spite she has toward Yuuki so she can see the possibilities. Hopefully Yuuki will get to know you better, but that's for another day.'

Wow, that didn't take long. Chie was a pretty optimistic gal. Eiichi gave himself a figurative pat on the back for his social skills not failing him in the binary system. Still, how was he supposed to get a feisty spirit like Roka to drop her negative views for someone he only knew so much about?

He tapped about on the keypad, 'I'll do what I can.'

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