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 There's an Ace up my Sleeve

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:39 pm

"I was just thinking, Hisako's not really the type to start crying is she?" Megumi looked over at Shin curiously. "At least, I don't remember ever seeing her cry, but for some reason...I feel like she had?"

"You must have been half-way out of consciousness if you remember that." Toma said hesitantly, rubbing the back of his neck.

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:53 pm

"No, she doesn't cry much, you're right. Mostly has to do with me, since I get uncomfortable. Yet when /that/ incident happened I told her she could cry as much as she wanted to, and just held her." Shin looked straight ahead, mouth in a thin line. "I think we were all on the verge of it, anyway."
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:11 pm

"You too?" Megumi stared at Shin. She rarely ever saw him cry. Like ever. He was probably just as rare as Hisako. To hear that he was also right there about to cry too when whatever happened to her occurred, and it was a little warming...and terrifying. Something awful must have happened to her. But she didn't have any scars. Clearly she was walking alright.

"It was a lethal combination." Kent continued. "We all were a little frightened. Ikki was the most scared. He nearly wore a hole in the hallway. Toma was the one that was mother henning all of us with drinks and food even when we weren't hungry."

"-Add to the fact that she drank so much caffeine in a short period of time and no sleep for three days from what I gathered from her testimony there's no surprise-" Megumi rubbed her forehead a bit. So she drank something. Something with a bunch of caffeine in it, along with lack of sleep...

It didn't take a genius.

She had either had a heart attack or she passed out from dehydration and judging from how everyone had been on the verge of crying, it was a heart attack. A lethal one.

"Like I was going to let you guys pass out too." Toma stared at Kent with mock horror. "Though you and Ikki talking nonstop about math was a little comforting, I'll admit that."

"I don't believe I ever made up so many math problems in my life on spur of moment." He agreed, pushing his glasses up. "Nor in a manner where we weren't actually fighting."

"No wonder..." Megumi sighed softly.
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:18 pm

"The classmate that gave you the Suicide drink didn't know you had a fast heartbeat to begin with. He was mortified and kept dropping by. I swear he brought so many flowers over those couple days and I don't believe they were all from other classmates." Shin snorted.
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:27 pm

"Oh him." Megumi snapped her fingers. "I won 2,000 yen from him."

"From drinking something that gave you a heart attack?!" Ikki spun around and stared at her for a moment before shaking his head. "Thank kami you started to really take notice on what kind of dares you were getting your self into."

"I didn't know it was a suicide. He just said, I'll give you 2,000 yen if you can finish this off and all I knew was that it was coffee that may or may not have something really horrible in it so I drank it." Megumi defended. "It wasn't the smartest idea literally, but I got through my finals all right."

"Which is a horrifying miracle in itself." Toma scoffed, but sighed. "Then you decide after you were "feeling better" to run off to Kobe."

"I still maintain that was probably the best idea she ever had." Ikki interjected.

"You thought her boyfriend was fake, don't lie." Toma gave Ikki a look.

"We all thought her boyfriend was fake. You thought she was delusional as hell. You even challenged Hisako on her tarot cards when she told you that Meg wasn't lying." Ikki pointed out.

"What are you two going on about?" Megumi stared at them. "I didn't have a boyfriend."

"Not the time, but you were smitten enough." Ikki explained, "You went from doing things really dangerously to doing things somewhat dangerously with a little more thought. You also fell back on your old track habits and started working out with Sawa and Kazuko, Hisako's friend."

"We thought that it was either demon possession or you got laid the night before you came back." Toma added.

"Oh my god!" Megumi's cheeks flared. "What is wrong with you people?"
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:26 pm

"You're friends with us, you don't get to ask that question." Shin stated matter-of-factly.
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:44 pm

Megumi opened her mouth to protest, but she closed her mouth promptly as Shin raised his eyebrow, clearly daring her to come up with a good comeback. She tried again, but his eyebrow went higher, so she closed her mouth again. She glared as he gave a smug look. She huffed out a laugh. "Oh my god, it makes me wonder what's wrong with me."

"You became friends with me and you walked in on me." Ikki answered. "Then you stole Kent's paper and edited it like he was offending you with too much technicalities. The rest was just a gradual thing."

"Wait, wait, wait." Toma held his hand up. "She walked /in/ on you?"

"Fun fact, I told Meg a long time ago that my apartment was her home and if she ever treated herself as a guest I'd make her life hell. Cue a few weeks later, Meg walked into my home without ringing the door bell, I was trying to seduce a lovely lady and-"

"Oh! Hey! We're here! I'm going to run ahead and get us a table before /someone/ decides to tell us all the nitty details I never wanted to see nor hear in my life ever again! Kent come with me so they don't think I'm going to die any time soon!" Megumi said, her voice raising in a panic as she grabbed Kent's arm and dragged him over towards the ramen place.

"I love the fact that she gets flustered about this, but when she's in the mood she can be ten times as bad as you." Toma said after a moment as he watched the two of them head in to the shop.

"It's hysterical that she acts like a blushing virgin and yet she really isn't." Ikki agreed.
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:40 am

It was a rather nice fast food place Ukyo and Hisako had popped into after ring shopping all morning. Since she didn't work, and Megumi was being taken care of by the boys, Ukyo had enjoyed more pizza that morning instead of going to the cafe. The break in routine was odd, but it felt good. They had ordered their food already and were sitting in a booth with their number sitting on the edge so they could be found. "I didn't think we'd be able to find one. I know you saw I was near tears by the end there." He commented casually, fingering the ring in his breast-pocket of his jacket. He always wore this jacket, so if the right moment struck him he would have it with him at all times.

Hisako beamed, "It's symbolic in every way I could think of. I mean, really. I was kind of surprised that there were rings that were made that way, but hell. If that doesn't symbolize you and Meg I wouldn't know what would. I might have to consult my cards and actually get a challenge out of it. Which would put me to shame. Shin would just laugh at me. I swear that kid." She huffed playfully. "I wasn't too shocked about the tears."

"I'm a bit too emotional aren't I? At least I was pretty determined for a while, but the anxiety got to me." Ukyo nodded with a shy smile, "I don't think I'll need a reading from you, Hisako. I bit of good luck, maybe, so I don't fall on my face or something embarrassing, but I'll find the time to propose, I promise."

Hisako blinked and then she laughed, covering her mouth. "I know better." She assured, putting her hand down with a bright smile. "But overly emotional?" She thought about it for a moment and she smiled softly. "You know, if you asked me that when I first met you, I would've said hell yes and you would've been upset. But now that I know you for as long as I do and I seen you with Meg I can say this: Yes you are emotional, but that's why Meg loves you so much."

Ukyo felt his cheeks warm just a bit, but his smile grew brighter and wider, "Arigato, Hisako." He wished she had been there all those other times now. How could the universe decide, of all people to replace, it had to be Hisako? It didn't make sense to him. Yet he could see why she was the deciding factor. "Do you think sometimes your tarot and divinations would be the cause of effect for other lifetimes at all? If you've lived before or you're powerful enough to change things?"

Hisako leaned back and she tapped her finger in the crease of her elbow as she thought about what he was asking her. "When I read for the future, I'm asking a lot." She said after a moment. "My mentor would tell me that every future teller risks their life to tell a fortune, because they put their own fate on the line. That's why we're forbidden to tell our own futures. We're already asking too much of the universe as is." She tapped her finger in her elbow. "But am I powerful enough to change someone's fate? No. But am I powerful enough to read someone else's lifetime? It's more possible. The best example I can come up with was that I did a reading for Meg once long before we met you. Her fate was to die on top of the stairs at college from a sudden fire. That never happened."

"But...something else did?" Ukyo pressed, "You mentioned something last night during the party." That made him wonder. Was the fire just Megumi's fate? Or since she avoided that, would the fire happen to any of the other girls?

Hisako bit the corner of her lip as she thought about it before straightening her posture. "You're going to be absolutely furious with us for this." She said after a moment. "But yeah. Something way different happened, but no less terrifying. She had a heart attack, just a week before she met you in Kobe."

Ukyo fought the urge to be terrified. Megumi was fine now. Nothing would happen to her. He stayed calm and watched as Hisako looked more surprised by that then anything. "How did she have a heart attack so young?" he furrowed his brows in confusion.

"Well...." Hisako scratched her cheek. "I'm going to be super honest with you. I'm surprised she /didn't/ have a heart attack sooner. Meg was...a crazy person. When I say crazy I mean it with all my love." She said looking at Ukyo. "She liked challenges, but she was the type that was a little too reckless and a little too oblivious." She ran her teeth down her lower lip and she shifted. "A class mate of hers gave her a drink that he made, and dared her to drink it. If she did, all of it, he'd give her some money. What they didn't know was that one, that drink was something called a Suicide, and two Meg has a fast heart beat. How much caffeine do you think is in a something called a Suicide?"

"Um..." Ukyo racked his brain for what it was. "Isn' brewed with Monster?" he asked uncertainly.

"Depending on the person making it, it's a coffee that's double brewed or even tripled brewed mixed with anyone's favorite energy drink. I heard of people putting in two energy drinks rather than the one." Hisako nodded with a bit of a smile before it disappeared. "Meg drank that while low on sleep. She hadn't slept in three days because she was studying for her exam. I know for a fact that had she been more awake, she would've at least /asked/ but..." She shrugged sadly. "She got through the exam....and then collapsed right on top of a flight of stairs. Ikki was her emergency contact so he got notified first, I was the last person to know because they all debated whether or not I should know...I was so scared."

"Hisako...." Their food came and the thank you was quick and dismissive. Ukyo got up and moved next to her, putting his arm over her shoulders. "I would say I would have words with them to make sure you're not left out, but I'm sure it's too late now and you already yelled at them."

Hisako leaned in with a smile on her face. "I didn't really yell at them I was too busy being worried." She admitted but she wrapped an arm around him as well. "What scared us the most was that she was completely insistent that she went on the trip to Kobe. I don't know why...something told her to go. We all fought with her, but...when you can out stubborn both me and Shin, you might as well do what you want." She smiled softly. "And when she came back, it was like I was looking at a whole new girl. Of course, you wouldn't know. You only met her that one time from what I understand, but...something about that one moment that she met you lit up this spark...and it sent her blazing. She came back home, glowing like she was in love or something like that, and when we asked her what happened, all she said was "I met someone really beautiful in Kobe. That's all." And that was it. After that, she went and did the testing to make sure that she didn't have damage to her heart. She started dressing a little more girly, learned how to do make up. Started watching her health. Started working out, started doing all these things and it...took us by surprise. It really threw us for a loop. Toma suggested demon possession while Ikki thought she got laid."

Ukyo rolled his eyes, "Of course Ikki would say that. I'd never do that to Megumi. We haven't even..." His face flushed, "At all. Heavy petting but I always run away, too scared. Waking up beside her still makes my heart race."
"I can't tell if this is you being romantic, or if it's because you're worried about what you'll do if your other half interferes." Hisako admitted.

"Both?" Ukyo winced. He really didn't have to worry about murder and death, considering that danger had passed, but he could end up being very rough with her and hurt her. He didn't want to do that, not until he knew her limits and what she liked as himself first. "Have you and Shin...?"
"We play rock paper scissors to determine whose top sometimes." Hisako grinned, enjoying the blush on Ukyo's cheeks.

"I always knew Shin was a passionate man." Ukyo mumbled. He was secretly glad Shin was not with Megumi in this one. Megumi, with no memories, seemed like she didn't mind very much but also didn't know how to feel about it, either. Shin wasn't a bad partner, not in the least, but he wasn't a romantic like himself or even Ikki. Megumi liked being wooed, he knew that much for certain. "I'm glad you two are together. Didn't he wait until his eighteenth birthday to ask you out, so there wouldn't be any bad assumptions?"

"Yes." Hisako rolled her eyes dramatically. "I kept telling him that the age didn't matter and that what mattered was that he loved me but he just kept giving me this look so I finally threw my hands up in the air. The moment he turned eighteen he cornered me and kissed me and said, "now we're dating" and I was like "Okay. Finally. But you could've been a little more romantic." He just found that funny." She gave Ukyo a kind look, "Though you know, you got me curious. Do you /want/ to go that far with Meg?"

Ukyo moved his food closer to him since he didn't want to get up again, "I do...I just...I guess I need it to feel right. Like the proposal. The right time. The right mood. I love her, I really, truly do. I don't want to put that kind of pressure on either of us. We don't /need/ it."
"She thinks the same way you do." Hisako said as she started working on her own food. "The pressure part I mean. She always followed your lead on everything, and she never dropped hints or tried to make you think a certain way. I asked her about that, it was kind of irritating to me because I'm the type of person that asks for what I want and same with Meg, that's why we get along. She told me that she wants what you're willing to give her. Sappy and romantic, kinda like you." She teased lightly.

"I'm glad we found each other, then." Ukyo nudged Hisako playfully, then after a while of eating, he spoke up again, "What could you tell me about how the other girls feel towards the guys they like? Such as...Tsume and Ikki? Maya and Toma?"

Hisako clicked her tongue as she took a bite of food and thought about it. "Ikki is a slut. We all know this, Meg has thousands if not hundreds of stories that she keeps for blackmail purposes. We know that it's because he has his eyes. Kent doesn't believe in that shit. I do. Shin only does because I'm stubborn and I believe in magic. Toma thinks I'm off my rocker. That being said. Tsume is a very sophisticated woman. I'm sure she's had sex before, but not to the extent Ikki has. I will say this they are not the couple you'd think would happen, but they make it work because they do have the same kind of mindset about business and about work ethics. Ikki's going to be working for a big accounting firm coming up. His grades in accounting are fantastic. There's a reason why he and Kent go at each other's throats. Tsume is more customer friendly. She's so good, she almost /knows/ what a guest needs before they even need it themselves. That's why she's one of the /top/ spa agents in the city."

"Maya and Toma are the tragic version of you and Meg. Maya is not really on Toma's radar. She's kind of there, but she's not making alarms go off. Toma on the other hand is super shy. I'm sure even if she was on his radar, he wouldn't really know what to do. He'd probably say something, it'll come out wrong, it'll be awful, Maya will never want to see him again and that's the end of that story. I'm kind of hoping for a better love story than that. I'm hoping that Toma at least gets her on his radar and say something to her about it. But knowing him, it's going to be me and Shin trying to play love gods again."

Ukyo was glad he'd brought the notebook with him and he fished it from a bigger pocket of his jacket as well as a pen, jotting down notes to give to Megumi. He didn't feel like if Hisako asked, he would have to hide from her. Tsume sounded fascinating, and he found he wanted to know how she and Ikki worked with him being so presumptuous. Maya and Toma reminded him of when Megumi was being harassed and due to not having any memories, she let it slip and asked if they were together when he saved her. He tapped his pen to his chin, "Maybe she needs to be forward with Toma, then. Do you think Maya can do that?" "Hold on, are you going to be my partner in this?" Hisako looked excited.

"I would love to. Megumi is sure to agree, too. She is friends with all the guys, after all." Ukyo pointed out to her, "The girls are still new to me, as much as I enjoyed last night."

Hisako smiled warmly and she reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. "I'm telling Shin he's been replaced as a love god. I think he's going to be thrilled. He hated this when I dragged him around. And sent. I wonder if he's still with Meg." She flipped it closed. "We invited you once over as a joke. Mostly to see your reaction, but also because like you said before, you're overly emotional, you kinda act like a girl, but we really had a bunch of fun with you after the initial discomfort disappeared. I tend not to invite that many girls over all at once. But when you told me you had a nightmare and you didn't change personas you were worrisome. So I thought more eyes the better. Even though we all know that if you changed personas and you needed a bit of a wake up call, we just ask one of the boys to drag Meg over to my place and she could settle you down with whatever magic she does."

"Why is Meg your go-to? Usually I don't want her near me when I switch." Ukyo furrowed his brows. "What's the status of Kazumi, by the way? She likes Kent, then?"

Hisako blinked slowly as she looked at Ukyo. "It's not like your other half will throw off her into oncoming traffic or something like that. She told me herself. Your other half helps you survive. I guess you don't have a will? Or you have a will but it was slowly being destroyed by constant abuse? Whatever it was, it managed to split you. So one half of you is very proactive in keeping you alive. If your other half even senses you need to go on a grocery run, or that you're not taking care of yourself in some way, you switch." She tapped her finger to her chin. "I don't know. I think she likes Kent. And I know that Kent's been hanging around her a little bit more, but I don't know if they're going out or not. Hold on." She took out her phone again. /Changed my mind, use your detectives skills that I admire so much and tell me if Kazumi and Kent are a thing. Ukyo and I have no fucking clue./

/I knew it was a lie./ Was Shin's immediate text back.

Ukyo was close enough that he had to stifle a laugh when he read it, "You shouldn't have spoken so soon. He got suspicious of you."

"He's always suspicious of me. Though now he's probably going to wonder what kind of hell I'm about to drag him down into. At least I didn't pit him against Ikki or Toma. That would be a disaster." Hisako concluded.

/I asked if he'd e doing any study groups since school's back in session and he said no, but he did say he's looking forward to the walks to school in the morning./ Shin responded after a moment.

"Ugh. Kent. You make my heart hurt." Hisako pursed her lips together. "Do we go for it? Or do we just go nah Kent has this. I kind of want to say Kent got this. Ikki might need some help but nothing major. Toma should be our huge concern."

"Kent isn't the type to be afraid to ask for advice, so I think he's got it." Ukyo nodded, "Anything else, do you think? Or should we just leave it at that?"

"Let's leave it for now." Hisako said as she texted Shin back. /Thank you, I owe you./ "Once we figure out where everyone is at, we got this. I think we might have to leave the rest up to Meg. She knows Kent and Ikki super well. We can handle the girls. We got this. With you being adorable and me asking the right questions, they'll be easy to figure out."
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:38 am

"Well, I gathered quite a bit of information." Ukyo told Megumi as they settled at the dinner table, the notebook she'd loaned him set between them, "Hisako was more than happy to tell me what I needed to know. Took it easily as wanting to play cupid."
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:57 pm

"Well that's kind of what we're doing right?" Megumi asked as she took the notebook and turned it a little more her way. Her hair was tied up since she had just finished cooking and had set it on the table. She still wore the apron, mostly because she forgot to take it off. She looked thoughtfully at the notes that Ukyo made, smiling at the small self-notes that he made about his thoughts on each girl. "I remember that Hisako wanted to do a dating service once, but Shin talked her out of it. I think he wasn't looking forward to his "investigation skills" being put to that kind of use. At least we have more to go on than we did..." She rubbed her lips. "I didn't find out much of the girls from the guys unfortunately. Just that Toma knows Maya and she's kind of on his radar. But I did find out a terrifying fact about myself...apparently in this world I had a heart attack of some type. I guess that explains a bit as to why I don't go to girl's nights. They watched horror movies right? I guess that's bad for the heart or something..." She sighed, as she took a bite of some rice. "Who needs our help the most is the question...and how do we help."
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:43 pm

"Hisako thinks Toma and Maya are the ones that need the most help." Ukyo responded between bites, savoring the taste. "Have you ever cooked for me?" He asked randomly, staring at his plate in curiosity.

Megumi blinked at the random question, a bite of food just barely reaching her lips as he asked. She took her bite and thought about it. It was a good question. "You this world? Other worlds?"

"At all. I don't think you ever have." Ukyo shook his head, "We always went to the cafe. If you made me something it was usually the Maid Parfait. I don't believe you ever cooked me anything homemade."

Megumi's cheeks reddened. He was most likely right. In all the other worlds she had worked in the maid cafe. In this world, she was practically a different person. "Did I do alright?"

"It's wonderful, I like it. Just don't let me get too used to this." He winked at her playfully before he went back to eating, "What Think of the notes?"

Megumi had wondered about that herself. She glanced over where Regulus was just watching them with an amused expression on his face. When he heard his name he floated over and read the notes. "It sounds about accurate. Toma would be the hard one to crack. You know what he's like underneath that tough guy exterior. Too squishy."

"He says what you observed is probably right and that you're probably right about worrying about Toma and Maya. He thinks Toma's the problem and not really Maya." Megumi translated. She thought about what he had said earlier. About her making the meal for the first time. "You know, the night before last was actually the first real night we ever spent together too. Go deeper this is our first place together and it's a /home/ and not an apartment. We went through a lot of firsts without even knowing it."

"Makes me sad, but hopefully this is the last time we have to do this, and we can live it out to the fullest. Look back and laugh in the future." Ukyo hummed and nodded, "We went through too much, and we'll have to live through some of it again but through someone else. I'm sure we'll be able to help them. Like I knew the M.O. of all the deaths, we know how these routes are supposed to play."

"He's quite the optimist." Regulus whistled.

Megumi smiled warmly, "Even if it isn't. I'm glad that we're actually together instead of finding our way back. Since Toma is the one we're worried about, how should we approach the situation? The harassment hasn't happened...and I know that it does when Ikki starts giving love advice. I'm not...a hundred percent sure how to cut it off it before it starts."

"We should give advice to one or both of them instead so Ikki doesn't have to. Hisako could, as well. Maya does ask for her when Toma isn't there." Ukyo pointed out, "Honestly, if the harassment is turned from Maya it might go to Tsume, but Ikki is more than capable and Tsume is good about taking care of herself. She's not so innocent, not like Maya who'd be severely hurt emotionally, if not physically, by it."

"She's the one you said kind of dresses like a spy right?" Megumi looked back over the notes in thought. "I think you're right. If I tried giving advice, do you think the fate would come true faster? Should I let you handle all of it?"

"I think you could handle Toma. You have a way with the guys after all, and you discovered he /has/ noticed her when the girls think he's just been oblivious. Maybe you could let him know it's discouraging if you don't do anything. Even harmless little flirting and compliments to make her feel good could give her hope. She looked pretty sad when they talked about him. She might give up soon if there's no progress." Ukyo pointed out, "I could tell Hisako to boost her up a bit. I don't think I'd be able to really help either of them. Ikki, maybe, Kent if he comes to me, but Hisako is my only source of contact. She really is the deciding factor here."

"What did you think about her?" Megumi couldn't help to question.

"I felt an immediate connection to her." Ukyo was about to reach for his right pec when he realized he was wearing his pajamas and no longer his jacket. He had so quickly started to fiddle with the ring as a sort of worry stone or something to play with when he thought. That surprised him. He shrugged and smiled, "She helped me with something important after the sleepover was disbanded and we ate lunch after that. She does divination."

"Humans usually do something like that and like to pretend that the future they read is the future that they get. But something tells me that's not what he's saying." Regulus frowned. "Predicting the future is supposed to be impossible for humans. You might stumble on someone who gets a moment or two right here and there. Uuggggh. We should've gone!"

"Regulus' is going nuts about the divination comment. Did she say much about it?" Megumi furrowed her eyebrows as she took a bite.

"She did a reading for you. You were supposed to die in the fire in this world, too, but you had the heart attack instead. She doesn't do readings for herself, she knows it's bad luck because she already asks the Heavens and Universe for a lot when reading others. Honestly surprised no one mentioned it or asked to have one at the sleepover. Maybe they already know doing so much is draining?" The last bit was more of a musing to himself, tapping his chin.

“Do you have any classes nearby the Chemistry rooms?” Hisako had asked her a long time ago. Her eyes were shining with worry, but her expression was cool.

“Not that I know of…why?”

“Just…just be careful when you’re at school tomorrow. Don’t go anywhere near the science labs. And don’t get stuck on a stairway.”

"I didn't ask for a reading." Megumi said after a moment as that memory faded. "She did one...probably because she was curious about something. She told me to stay away from the Chemistry labs and away from getting stuck on the stairs."

Regulus was frowning. "But how? How could she read that kind of fate from /cards/? Was that really scary good luck?"

"Maybe we could ask her sometime. You don't have to panic and know everything now." Ukyo told her gently, though he sounded like he was talking to Regulas as well, "One thing at a time, hmm? There's school tomorrow for you and I need to go around taking pictures."

"AH! That's right! But you're not in school with any of the girls." Regulus complained. "But he's right it's no use worrying about something like that. We can always test her readings with another one with you."

"I think Reg's thinking that he should've bonded with you instead." Megumi teased.

"/Are/ you able to bond with someone else or are you stuck with Meg-chan?" Ukyo tilted his head curiously.

"I bonded with her first because she's used to spirits hanging around, but let me see if I can't switch. Hold on." Regulus cut off the shared senses.

Within a few moments, Regulus waved a hand in front of Ukyo's face. "Can you see me now?"

Ukyo jerked and his eyes widened, "That was fast! You didn't have any trouble then?"

"You two are really strongly bonded, so I used her energy that's bound to you and here I am." Regulus explained. "Oh I should probably explain. Orion probably called you the "love of her life". Us spirits aren't exactly the type that'll say things for fun. If he said that, he /really/ meant you are her life source. That's why your wish was so strong. You would tear yourself apart, as the bond was already doing, in order to bring her back. If you had just let it, you would've died to be with her a long time kind of already did that. Numerous times."

"It's so weird knowing that he's talking to you and I can't hear or see it." Megumi said with a bit of a smile. "Though now I know why people always looked at me funny. I really /must/ look like I'm spaced out."

"I already tend to look spaced out." Ukyo gave her a wry smile before returning his attention to Regulus, "Bonded is a term your kind use, then? A lot of people would be shocked by how strongly we fell for each other and it's only been three months, this is the start of the fourth."

"Love at first sight does exist as well as lust at first sight." Regulus explained. "I heard of humans getting married within four months of meeting each other. Sometimes that's bad, but sometimes that's good. Especially if they're destined. You're moving at the right pace for yourselves. But considering how often you two have died and lived for one another, I'm not sure those three months are an accurate count. Who knows how long you've actually began and ended this cycle."
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:44 pm

"Are there any other specifics you could tell us about Bonds? Are there different types, conditions? You said I was already ripping myself apart before I made the wish and if I'd /let/ myself I would've died with her. That sounds a lot more ominous than just a broken heart." Ukyo asked carefully. "As promiscuous as Ikki is I have a funny feeling he and Tsume haven't done anything yet either." He added mostly to himself, thinking about the 'lust at first sight' comment.

Regulus shook his head from side to side. "If you had let yourself die, you would've found her in another world. You wouldn't have to jump. But you made a wish and even though she was already bonded to you, you forced another type of bond. Kind of like how the sun always chases the moon. There's a lot of different kind of bonds and conditions. I'll do my best to give you the run down. Let's start with you and Meg since you're here and all. You and Meg are what I'd call a mix of Soul bond and Life bond. Considering how many times you and her have "died" and have "reborn" your bond works like a lifebond, but you two are freshly made souls, never having /met/ this world before. So technically you'd be a soul bond."

"What's...the difference? I'll just take a wild guess and say Soul Bonds are more intense, because of how we felt when we saw each other the /first/ time, but for Life Bond...when she saw me again any other time it was a lot more subdued." Ukyo rambled a bit, trying to make a reasoning before Regulas had even fully explained it.

"Maybe you know a lot more than you thought." Regulus grinned. "You're correct."

Ukyo took the notebook and made a fresh page, making a header for Life Bond and Soul Bond at the top and then writing notes between the two, "I feel like I'm doing your job, Meg-chan." He laughed a bit, "Reg-kun tell me more."

"A soul bond is traditionally known as soulmates. Depending on the culture of where you go, different people have an idea of what a soul mate is." Regulus explained. "People make mistakes however about what a soul mate /is/ so I'll go ahead and describe that first. A soul mate is someone who is apart of you. Soul-mates aren't just lovers. They're best friends. They're the people that understand /you/ more so than they understand themselves. If you look yourself in a mirror, you see your reflection. Your soul mate is literally your reflection. When you're in intense pain, they feel it. When you're happy. When your sad. When your soul is in the most /pain/ it could feel...they feel it."

"A soul bond is a soul-mate only with much more." Regulus continued. "They're not just your reflection. They're a piece of you. They're your light. Your shining star. Your wishing well. Whatever romantic commentary you think fits. They're the ones that keep you from shattering when the world crumbles. They're a support beam. So when your heart breaks, they heal it. When you're in pain, they literally take /half/ of that burden."

Ukyo finished writing his notes and he hummed as he looked at them, feeling his heart hurt just at the mere thought of what happened. "Not everyone knows at first sight, though. Are there other ways you can tell?"

"Conversation is one which is rare. Touch is the most common. You just...feel this spark and boom." Regulus grinned. "Some people can see that spark. Some people can hear it."

Ukyo looked up at him, "Kent and Kazuko haven't touched, he wears gloves, and he sure doesn't believe in Ikki's eyes. He doesn't really look someone directly, either, he's too busy thinking. Maybe he and Kazuki are one of the rare ones with conversation?" He felt way too giddy for just before bed, but after the hype of all this he was sure he was going to crash. "I think learning about all this is going to help a /lot/, because they all got their own ticks and ways to get close. It's about finding the right combination, really."

"Well you also forced Megumi to bond with all four of them so you're kind of cheating too." Regulus said happily. "So you'll know how to get them to bond, the problem is letting it happen naturally. You can't just go up to Kent and tell him to have a meaningful conversation. He doesn't even know what the word "meaningful" means yet."

Ukyo stifled a chuckle and shook his head, "Right, I know that. Honestly, for them, is just making sure they /keep/ talking and not just passing by. Kent was the one to ask /Megumi/ out, though, because he thought he wasn't going to see her again after her dog died and he made her upset. Kazu-kun didn't mention her dog at all, and even looked sad when she walked in, so maybe that already happened, but Kent wasn't there. So they won't have that controversy...but that might be in their favor, the arguing was pretty bad from what I understand."

"Well. Megumi was always stubborn." Regulus nodded a few times. "But since you were wondering about the different bonds, I'll give you an example about a Lifebond. In fact, I daresay that the only couple /here/ that is lifebonded is Shin and Hisako. If she as powerful of a fortune teller you think she is."

"He's so comfortable with her, and so passionate, as well." Ukyo nibbled on his pen, "It's not /just/ because they were childhood friends, either. There's an ease with which they work, a familiarity and they almost read each other's minds. I remember that from This World Ukyo. They just fit so well it's a bit unnerving to a lot of the others."

"Well, that's probably because they've been reincarnated a lot. After a soul-bond, usually that bond doesn't die when you and your loved one dies and should you chose to reincarnate, you have to go and find your other half again. That's kind of the fun part of life. The search. Your culture believes in the red string of fate tying each other. If a soul bond is just the beginning of that string being made, then this is where you see the results." Regulus explained.

Ukyo just continued to not as he kept writing, "I really like their results." He mused a bit, "It's a beautiful thing. I hope we can get the rest that way. I'm sure it'll take time, but we also gotta worry about the imminent danger. Shinano hasn't been a trip here yet, I know that. It's a deathtrap for anybody."

"I think out of everyone, I'm worried about the person falling off a cliff." Regulus agreed. "Drowning's not so bad. At least you're under water."

Ukyo could just stare at Regulas. "I'd rather fall off a cliff than drown again." He deadpanned.

"So weird." Regulus stared at him.

"How did you two go from bonding to deaths?" Megumi stared at the conversation that was only one sided.

"Regulas mentioned who he was more worried about, the person who's going to fall from the cliff or drown. I could only think of the well." Ukyo shook his head vigorously, "I think we're done with this for now. If anything else comes up about lifebonds and soulbonds let me know, I'll keep the notebook close."

"It's like we're trying to take a class for playing cupid." Megumi shook her head. "And Regulus is our mouthy sensei."

"I prefer the term sarcastic, but that works too." Regulus rolled his eyes.

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:29 pm

Yet another Monday. Week two without her dog and it still felt so empty. She still woke up only to go back to sleep when she realized she didn't have to get up to walk her dog or there wasn't any frantic licking to her face or scratching at the door. Kazuko wanted get another one, but they were expensive and her summer job was over. Not to mention it was way too soon. Maybe a /year/ from now, but certainly not right away. It hurt. It was so lonely and the sleepover had only been a reprieve. Thankfully no one had asked. Yet now she was home alone again and she couldn't even sleep well remembering the incident and then having to take a shower just to to...shit, /was/ she crying? Great. Vigorously, she wiped her eyes and sniffed, focusing on the road ahead of her. Last thing she wanted was to end /up/ like her dog.

"Kazuko?" Kent had been walking down the same road that she was heading down on. Her journey to her school took her in the opposite direction, but he still tried to walk with her at least half way before he had to turn and go another direction. He hadn't been surprised to see her without her dog, the knowledge of it had spread through the group like wildfire. He didn't understand the continuous mourning, as it's been two weeks, but he wasn't about to tell her what to do with her life.

Kazu jumped and put her hand over her chest for a second, letting out a sight of relief. Then she swallowed thickly and cleared her throat, "Morning, Kent." She said simply, not sure if he'd totally just saw her silently sobbing or not. Surely he saw her red face, but she really didn't want him to see her crying.

"Morning." Kent greeted a little late. He decided that it was probably best not to comment on her tear streaked face, but he let his concern show anyway. "Do you not have a handkerchief with you?"

"Not a handkerchief, but I do have tissues." She shrugged, "I don't feel like digging them out of my pocket. My sweatshirt works fine. I'd just loose a handkerchief, anyway, or forget about it."

"Probably. The fabric on a sweatshirt is rough however, you'll tear skin." Kent pointed out. "Where are your tissues? In your bag? Give it here."

"So demanding. I can get it m-hey! Kent!" Kazuko was taken aback when he easily plucked her backpack off of her thanks to his height. Her face felt hot but rather than fight a battle there was no way she'd win, she stopped walking and huffed, "Front-most pocket for easy access."

Kent dug through and grabbed the tissues before handing her the bag and pressing the tissues towards her. "There." He said with a bit of a nod like he was satisfied with the outcome.

"That totally wasn't necessary, but thank you anyway." Kazu could /not/ roll her eyes any harder, but she took the tissue packet with a bemused smile anyway, shouldering her pack again and after pulling a tissue out and blowing her nose, she stuck it in the air to be playfully snooty, "You happy now?"

"Ecstatic. You've been hanging around Hisako too much for your own good." Kent answered with a deadpanned expression.

"You don't hang with her enough. I swear, you're like a Spock." Kazuko mumbled, "Why so suddenly concerned for my well-being?"

"I thought I was demonstrating good will. You've been like this for two weeks. It's unsettling." Kent explained. "Also, why wouldn't I be worried about you?"

"That's why I'm /asking/ you. I don't know why, Kent. You've only ever walked the same path as me and we've exchanged some conversation about exams, and there was that horrible excuse for a study group Mine set up. Besides that, you haven't exactly associated with me much." Kazuko pointed out slowly, eyeing him with uncertainty.

"You can't say it was too horrible considering you were apart of it." Kent explained. "I know she was after Ikki, but Ikki knew better than to get in the middle of that. Megumi was more helpless in math than Mine and Sawa are. I've seen their grades." He pushed his glasses up. "So I'll be blunt. I like you. I'm aware that we don't have time to interact with each other as much as we have. School is also a conflict in schedule too since we go to separate universities. I also am aware that the reason why I'm asking you is because of a chemical imbalance in the brain. I understand that this imbalance can be temporary or permanent and it depends on how far we take the relationship. Regardless, I would like us to try."

Kazuko followed along fine until the 'I like you' part, to which her brain short-circuited and she only caught bits and pieces afterwards. She was aware she probably looked like a fish, her mouth gaping open in shock, but she honestly never thought she would hear him say anything of the sort. "What?" she asked rather dumbly, her eyes huge and the surprise was quickly fading, causing her whole neck and face and even her ears to heat up. "Chemical"

"Sorry I thought my explanation was clear. Perhaps it was too much information at once. I'll be shorter this time. I like you and would like to try to date you regardless of how permanent or temporary this is."

His straightforwardness was endearing, but Kazuko couldn't articulate a mouthy reply right now. So all she managed to squeak was a "Sure. Okay. Let's date."

"Good. I should head to my school since we're at the half-way point." Kent answered. "I'll see you soon." And walked off.

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Fri Apr 21, 2017 12:25 am

"I'm home!" Hisako said as she opened the door to Ukyo's and Megumi's house and she took off her shoes at the entrance way. "You would not guess what just happened at school today. It's so hysterical, I nearly died laughing a few times just on my way here." She walked over towards the living room and blinked when she noticed that Megumi wasn't too surprised that she was here, but Ukyo looked like he was caught doing something indecent. "Oh?" Her smile turned sly. "Did I interrupt something?"

"What are you doing here so suddenly?!" Ukyo waved his hands, "No you didn't! We were just talking about what happened at Megumi's school today! You must've heard it from Kazuko? Why did you just /walk in/ like you owned the place, though?!"

"Darn it. I was hoping to be the one to break the news." Hisako snapped her fingers as she walked over and sat down on the other side of Ukyo. "You guys seriously should've talked about the rules of the household already. Otherwise I wouldn't have just barged in here! When Meg was living alone she told me and the guys that her house was ours and she didn't mind if we treated it as such. Toma and Kent refused to do that though so I'm sure you'd never see them barge in her. Ikki's a little more considerate but he'll pop in from time to time. Shin and I have no restraint."

"I think...she forgot to tell me since she's used to it?" Ukyo shook his head, "It doesn't matter, you're here now. I was just taken by surprise."

"It was hysterical." Hisako assured. "You're not used to having guests are you?"

That was a good question. Megumi knew that he was lonely. A life filled with a dreadful cycle didn't leave much room for friends or family. She wondered though if that was a good idea, to give Hisako that kind of information.

Ukyo sighed and shook his head, ""No. I'm sure you heard, but when it's warm enough outside I sleep outdoors to be around people if anything goes wrong. I rarely went to my own apartment, and even then I tried to keep it minimal."

"You know that's why cell phones were invented and you don't have to do that now." Hisako said poking Ukyo's cheek. "Besides if something /did/ go wrong, you have a bunch of people who just walk through the front door. So chances you doing something completely suicidal is like none."

"That's good to know." Ukyo didn't mention how awkward it was going to bed with Megumi last night, either. It really was going to take some getting used to. "So, you two want to share your opposing stories?" he offered, trying to get the focus off himself.

Hisako had a feeling that Ukyo was feeling shy with so much attention and gladly took the stage. "So I'm heading to school and I see Kazuko looking like a red hot tomato. Usually when that kind of look happens it's cuz she's sunburnt to hell. Sunscreen only does so much you know? So I asked her about it and she turned redder and told me that Kent basically asked her out on a date. She agreed, but at that point in time, she was basically thinking to herself, why the fuck did I do this to myself, where's the nearest bridge. Poor kid I guess had to ask Kent twice on what he meant. Too technical the first time. Too blunt the second."

"Kent told me the same thing." Megumi nodded, "He was positively pleased with himself, but he was quite worried about it. Ikki gave him some ideas about texting her often and what he could do for a first date, know Kent. His texts are so short and to the point. I'm a little worried on what his "often" is compared to Kazuko's." She knew too well how this was going to go down.

"Ikki giving love advice? Never thought I hear the day that happens.'s Kent." Hisako frowned. "I guess when it comes to it, best friends for life. Bromance. That kind of thing."

"What does that make me?" Megumi asked dryly.

"You're the little sister type." Hisako answered. "So naturally you're part of the bromance too. Only with less romance and more..."she's a girl but she's not a woman" type of speeches."

"It's not my fault they're freakishly tall people." Megumi rubbed her forehead.

"And you're with a slut and with someone whose a math nut. We all know that you're just a lovely type of crazy." Hisako assured.

"Coming from you that reassuring." Megumi said dryly.

Ukyou chuckled and smiled softly, "I was hoping Kent would ask her out. At least she doesn't seem intimidated or put off by him being so technical. I'm confident they'll work out fine. It'll be amusing watching Kent stumble around, but he's quick. He'll learn as Kazu-kun points things out to him."

"Oh speaking of confidence, I came here to give you something Ukyo." Hisako said as she dug into her pocket. She pulled out a tied satin pouch. "You told me you wanted a bit of luck for the thing. So. I made you a good luck charm."

Megumi raised her eyebrow up. What thing would Ukyo need good luck for? Maybe it was for something about his other personality? Or maybe it was something that had to do with the world switching. Whatever it was, it was touching to her that Hisako listened and gave Ukyo something that he said he wanted.

Ukyo blushed a bit and he took it, "Arigato, I appreciate it. Is it the pouch or what's inside it?" he felt silly for asking.

"Both. I know that you're know..." Hisako did a gesture. "But I know that I made it small enough so that you can hook it in a place on you that's not too obvious. It took me a bit to find the right combination of things since I didn't know /exactly/ what you need luck on, I took a wild guess." She knew /exactly/ what he needed luck on, but she wasn't about to tell Megumi that. She was sitting right there for fuck's sake.

Ukyo nodded and he reached over to hug her, putting the object in the pocket of his pajama pants, "I wasn't expecting it so soon, but thank you again."

"Is anyone going to ask her about Toma and Maya? Anyone? Or-" Regulus broke himself off the moment Hisako turned curious since she had looked over Ukyo's shoulder and saw a notebook.

"Oh? What's this?" Hisako asked as she used the hug to her advantage and leaned over to grab the notebook. "Aw. You took /notes/ on us. Are you thinking about switching your career?"

"Oh no! This could be such a code red. She's going to see the bonds and she's going to think we're nuts!" Regulus stared. "We can't afford to lose our best ally!"

/Regulus find your chill./ Megumi let out a long, deep sigh.

"Ah! It's nothing! I was just-" He winced when he wasn't able to grab the book before she flipped pages. "That's not..." he didn't have an excuse or reasoning.

Hisako's smile faded a bit as she read some of the bondings. She raised an eyebrow a few times, but she made a soft hum. Megumi was starting to worry a bit. Maybe Regulus' freakout was something to worry about.

"I don't know where you got the information for this. But this is a little more detailed than I ever thought I'd see." Hisako said as she handed Ukyo back the notebook. "I knew that you were into being my assistant, but I wasn't expecting that type of leap."


Megumi picked up a couch pillow and forgetting that Hisako was there, tossed it in the direction Regulus was in.

"Well, I guess now's a good time to ask you if you can feel a spirit in the house, Hisa-chan." Ukyo rubbed his hands over his face.

Hisako frowned, "Unfortunately, I'm not a medium." She shifted. "But I'm going to take a wild guess and say that the spirit your talking about isn't a dead one. A dead one wouldn't be talking about life bonds and soul bonds. I doubt they'd even know what they were called."

Megumi sighed and stood up. She went over to her school bag and took out her own notebook and pencil, with Regulus watching her cautiously. She set it down, flipped a page, clicked her pencil and said lightly, "Want to try to communicate?"

Hisako's eyes widened, then narrowed. "So that's why your card changed. Both of yours. You got involved with something really fucking wacky didn't you? I have a feeling it's a long story, and probably not one I should know about. I'm aware that there's things that are better left to ignorance." She took a breath and let it out slowly. "Normally I'd laugh and say this is a trick of some sort, but you're both waaay to honest for your own damn good. So. I guess I don't have a choice but to believe you. Ikki has eyes that can make people fall for him and Tsume has the ability to feel what others are feeling so...this can't be the whackiest thing ever done."

"You're not wrong. On any account." Ukyo shook his head, "This is why my questions might've sounded odd to you. I lost her, Hisa-chan. Before. Another life. We both paid a price for me making a wish. My darker side...stemmed from that. I didn't have it originally. Many deaths in sequence and /remembering them/ without the gradual progression of natural lives..."

"So that's why you have the Judgement card. You made a wish that kept events occurring." Hisako rubbed her nose. "And that means that Megumi was the Death card. It usually doesn't always mean a literal death, but it means an absolute end and beginning. She was the start and the ending of every event wasn't she? Literally. And you know what's weird about all of this? I remember telling you that there's a reason why I'm careful with my spells. Wishes are spells in the same way prayers are spells. Believe in it enough, and someone's bound to listen and do exactly as you ask."

"That's not wrong." Regulus said softly. "A shooting star could be /just/ a star or a god traveling through. Humans make wishes in hopes it's one or the other. There's people who throw coins into water, hoping that the glint catches our attention. Prayers are the usually the best way for us to listen to, if sincere enough. If desperate enough."

"I hadn't been with her very long..." Ukyo motioned to the notebook, "It makes sense now, though. I was connected, bound, and didn't know it. I felt the loss to my core. I made a deal and here we are. You...seemed to be the guiding key, however. You weren't in any of the other worlds. This is the first time I met you, Kazuko, Tsume, and Maya."

"That explains why you were a little stiff at the party. You didn't understand a lot of what was going on. You poor sweet summer child, I just thought that nightmare blew you off center." Hisako nodded her head for a moment. "Which is why Megumi can suddenly be a medium...and why you're suddenly not comfortable with your other personality."

"You are all so comforting about it, I didn't want to put anyone down. I had a feeling, after our talk yesterday, you'd be the one to talk to about this. I didn't want to shove it all on you at once, however. Gomen." Ukyo frowned deeply.

Hisako laughed a little, scratching her cheek. "You never were the type that held things from me. Everyone else discovered you had a split personality. I was the only one, sides Megumi, you told. You were terrified. You really thought I was going to abandon you when I was the one that basically shoved you at Megumi when you couldn't find her."

Regulus was just frowning, "She's a super old soul. It makes me wonder about Shin. But that aside, if I was really super naive I'd say she's like a descendant from a god or something. I wouldn't doubt she was an old priestess of one or a few back in the long day."
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Sat Apr 22, 2017 12:23 am

"How do /you/ know about Bonds? It's not something you'd find on the internet?" Ukyo furrowed his brows at Hisako, "Do you know anything that's not on this list?"

"I might." Hisako said as she frowned looking at the notebook again. She pursed her lips. "As for the bonds, no you won't find it on the internet or any book really. I just...I have this...this is going to sound absolutely crazy. What you said was just as crazy so maybe this won't sound as bad.'s like..." She did a gesture and looked away. "Hold on, words don't want to work right now." She paused, thinking about it before she nodded her head. "Okay it's like this. I trust my gut. I'm one of the most instinctual people you will ever know in your life. I have a wicked good sense of character. Because of that I tend to keep a very, very open mind. Which is critical in the practice that I'm in. So there will be times where I could be thinking about something or I'm just taking a walk down the park or something and then this thought will come to me. Kinda like listening to a voice. I start questioning it, start observing, and then it's like I figure out the puzzle. As for the knowledge of the bonds, I was half-way in love with Shin and I started questioning myself on whether it was true love or soul mates and as I was questioning myself, I started observing people and I noticed there were two types. There were these people who were fucking embarrassing to be around, they were dripping in sap you almost had to run and hide sometimes -you're different, you're adorable- but they were annoying. Then there were these couple who were extremely confident. Sappy yes, but it was more of a...confirmation. Like "yes I found you! Let's go grab a bite to eat I'm starving" kind of thing."

She scratched her cheek. "And I remember....kind of like a memory...being told that those are the kinds of bonds there are with soulmates and it was like something clicked and I was like "Oh. So that's why" and I never thought about it again. I was able to categorize who I was to Shin and it didn't surprise me when he asked me out. It was like I knew he was it, and it was just a matter of time. We were lifebonded. Basically after that, I just knew. I knew everything about the bonds. Maybe it was like unlocking a distant memory. I don't know. It' mind is weird. But I think that's why I'm sometimes so eager to get people together. I want to see it work for someone that isn't me. You should've seen my shock when Meg told us about you. I /knew/ you were soul-bonded. I just knew. No one believed me, they had their own crazy theories. I should've made a bet."

Regulus stared at that for a long moment before letting out a low whistle.

"Regulus is the spirit that's with us. He can switch between Megumi and I because of the Bond. He came to her and made us World Jump because, since I made that wish, in other Worlds the Bonding system was warped." Ukyo explained, "Megumi was...with...everyone. At some point somehow."

Hisako thought about it and then asked, "What exactly was your wish? Letting her live was one thing. But, did you make a bargain. Like let her live and I'll do blank?"

"I remember him telling me that he wouldn't ask for anything else. I could forget him. He just wanted me to open my eyes one more time." Megumi said, "And then I remember...him saying that he didn't care if the person he was making a deal with was the devil or something, they could have his soul, just let me live." She looked at Ukyo confused. "Am I remembering that right?"

"Yes, that's about right." Ukyo nodded, "Why?"

Hisako nodded her head, "I'll try to simplify this. Basically you were so adamant that she forget you and that she lived that when you jumped worlds, not only did you take her soul with stuck her in a living body. Yes it was Meg. She wasn't me. But the me that was in that world, whatever world it is, could not exist. Because if she figured out that she was bonded to you chances were extreme that she could die. So, if she made a mistake in any world that she was in where she was "bonded" with someone else...and trusted you somehow someway. It was a threat to your life. I'm not surprised if that's how you got split personalities."

"Contrary fates." Megumi pursed her lips together.

"But that also explains why you're probably both bonds too if that's what you are. You act like it." Hisako explained. "So the spirit's name is Regulus? What's a spirit doing hanging around you guys for?"

Regulus nodded, "Might as well tell her. Meg do you still have a pencil ready? I'll try to be brief." He looked at Hisako, knowing too well that she couldn't see him. "The God of this universe figured that the other parallel universes were at an imbalance, so basically they're trying to make things right by making sure that the guys Megumi was with, wind up with their intended. Also to protect you guys from any horrible fates that the universe throws at you. I suppose you could call it a punishment, but I don't really think it is something like that. Bonds are supposed to be deep. Apparently in this world, they're already deep in a bond when at the moment, let's be honest here, they /just/ started living together. Ukyo can unlock memories of the one that lived here before. But Megumi has to have something /very strong/ associated with her. Like a heart attack that we discovered. That was a shock. I told them that no harm would come to them. They already went through enough of that."

Megumi passed Hisako the notebook and Hisako frowned as she read it. "Oh boy." She said after a moment. "I guess I'll keep an eye out on my cards. Though I can't read mine. So whatever fate happens, just...don't worry about it too much. I'm sure I'll be alright. Unless I get murdered. Then I'm not fine at all."

" you wouldn't be. So, now you know why I was so eager to accept the role as your extra matchmaker. I feel horrible that the others were left alone in the other worlds. The least I can do is help." Ukyo nodded.

Hisako watched as Megumi nodded as well and she smiled. "You two." She stood up and stretched. "You know. For that wish and all of the problems that came with it, I'm glad that you guys are still the same people. Maybe things are different. Sanity checks aside, I'm feeling better about this. If it's you two watching over us, I think we'll be okay. After all, both of you have bleeding hearts. Just make sure to leave some blood for the other. I should get going. Shin's probably wondering where I am right now. Though he probably already took a wild guess anyway." She headed over to the door, paused and turned around. "Don't rush on that thing, Ukyo. I know you promised soon, but...I think you two out of all of us deserves a little more time. I'll see you around."

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Sat Apr 22, 2017 2:43 am

"If you keep your face in the same position too long, it'll freeze that way." Shin quipped smartly as he peeked into Hisako's little reading forest she made with all the plans she either hung from the ceiling or had in pots on the floor or on colorful tables. "You've been like this since you came back from Ukyo's and Megumi's."

Hisako blinked and looked over at Shin who was staring at her. "Can you fit in here?"

"Mm..." Shin eyeballed it for a moment before he disappeared and went around to a different spot, moving and rearranging things but making sure nothing fell or was disturbed too much. Hisako coul dbe quite particular about her setup of things and he didn't question it much. Finally, he managed to make enough room where he could slide in but he had to put her head in his lap. He had a table between him and the wall so he leaned against it once he got settled. It would hurt after a while, but whatever.

Hisako closed her eyes as she placed her head into his stomach. His scent was always so relaxing. Coffee, something sweet, and his own natural scent. She opened her eyes after a moment said softly, "If something bad happened to me, what would you do?"

"Keep going." Shin answered simply. "People would wonder if I'm heartless or if I loved you, but you'd hate it if I moped around. So I'd move on with with my life."

Hisako nodded, reaching up and cupping his cheek with her hand. She ran her thumb against the socket of his eye and paused. "Will you blame yourself? Will you blame others?"

"That's situational." Shin huffed, "If it was a sickness that took you, there's nothing either of us can do about it. Why be upset about something like that? If you got hit by a car, or someone murdered you, yeah I'd be pissed and blame them for it. If you died but there was /something/ I could've done then maybe."

"I'm pretty certain I'm not going to die from being sick." Hisako scoffed, putting her hand down and shaking her head. "My immune system's too good. I rarely get sick when /you/ get sick. And when I am I guess it's pretty bad." She let out a breath. "If there was something you could've done and something bad happened to me anyway, I want you to know it was /never/ your fault."

"Oh really? You say that so confidently. You don't know what your own future holds. It very well could be." Shin pressed his lips into a thin line. "I'll cross that bridge when I get there. So let me turn the question on you. What would /you/ do? What would you think?"

"If something bad happened to you?" Hisako asked and she hummed softly. "You hate me crying, so I won't do that. I mean, I won't do it at your funeral, but I will hold no restraint when I'm by myself. After that, I'll keep myself busy. Throw myself into work, hang with Ukyo and Megumi, pray that your next life is peaceful, and lovely." She felt her heart clench. "But if something bad happened to you and I could've stopped it, I can only pray I reach you in time and if I don't...well...I think that depends. If it was an accident, I'll know you won't bear a grudge against me. But if you needed something from me, like a transplant or something and I just wasn't a match, or it just...failed. Yeah. Yeah I'll blame myself. But if it's sickness? If you just...couldn't get well. I'll cherish every moment I got left. I'd probably go as far as to marry you before you went. Though maybe I've been hanging around the romantics too much."

"At least we have that cleared up." Shin shook his head and his fingers wove through her hair, soothing her as he saw the signs of stress and high emotion. "Did you do a reading and get a set of cards that made you think? What brought this on, Hisako?"

Hisako sighed softly, "No. No reading. I just." She closed her eyes and enjoyed the touches for a few moments before she said softly, "I know you're it for me. It's only a matter of time, and one of us will ask. Sometimes I feel like I should ask, but I know you want to be the one asking, so I hold off. I know that a lot of people think us weird. That we're too much alike and too different. That somehow, someway this isn't going to work. But, I was talking to Meg and Ukyo...and...what they told me terrified me a little. The lengths that they'd go through if they lost the other. It made me wonder, I know you're the one I'm going to marry one day. I know that I love you without question. Without doubt. But I never asked, I never bothered to know, would you be alright if I'm dead too soon? Would you be okay? There's always things out of our control. I know that better than anyone. But I just wondered. Would loving me ever become a burden to you? Would you regret it?"

"Never." Shin's voice was firm, but he leaned over her enough to look at her, his expression surprisingly soft for the fierceness in his eyes, "I'll fight to keep you as long as I can. I won't lose you just like that. You've never been or will be a burden. That's a dumb notion."

Hisako nodded and she pulled herself up enough so that she could kiss him, wrapping her hand around his neck to help her and she felt his hands hold her back. They pulled away and she grinned a little. "I think of dumb things sometimes." She said, her voice a little light with teasing. "I can be a pretty dramatic person, it's a good thing you're a down-to-earth kind of guy. I'd just lose my head."

"Which is why we work." Shin agreed, moving them around so he had her pinned under him, "You should relax. I could help you with that."

"And what do you have in mind?" Hisako asked, her eyes lidded a little at the position. It said something that she could feel a fire go down her body just from him on top of her. He never could hide his emotions from his eyes and she could tell that she lit a fire somehow. She liked that she could do it too. "Something that has to do with this?" She ran her finger down his chest, letting the fabric catch and pull as she traced her way down towards the belt.

"Something along those lines." Shin agreed, his mouth already teasing across the skin of her cheek and down to her ear, "I think you need a bit of a reminder how much I care. I'm not letting you go if I can help it. Your pots might not be safe, though."

"I don't want to move." Hisako groaned, gripping his shoulders and running her hands down his chest and back up again. "And they've been knocked over before. But if you're /really/ that concerned, I know you could pull me out of the nook and pin me to the floor in an open space."

"Asking me to manhandle you a bit?" Shin smirked at her, sliding down her body slowly, kissing as he went over her clothes, but kept eye contact, his hands cradling her hips as he nosed her shirt up enough to tickle her belly with a light brush of his lips.

Hisako hummed with a sigh as he moved down slowly. Just watching him tease her without doing much made her stomach clench and let out a soft moan. This man. This man was going to be the literal death of her, she swore. "Yeah. Just a bit." She agreed. "You know you like me a little vulnerable and a little bruised."

"I can do that." Shin's eyes glinted and he suddenly grabbed her ankles and dragged her out of the nook through the main 'entrance' out into the rest of the room.

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Sat Apr 22, 2017 9:42 pm

Between school and shifting her work schedule so it didn't interfere, Maya was so glad to walk through the doors of the Maid Cafe and she was ready to relax and enjoy watching Toma work when she was greeted instead by Hisako, looking chipper as usual, but extra so which meant she had some fun time with Shin. Disappointment flooded her and her features before she could stop it, " is it?" she asked, a bit embarrassed.

"Wednesday." Hisako answered as she handed Maya a menu. "Toma's not here, he'll be working tomorrow I think." She frowned and shrugged. "So, you're still stalking him huh? Have you thought of doing something other than that?"

"I lost track of the days." Maya admitted, letting Hisako take her to her normal table. She sighed deeply and tucked her hair behind her ear only for the strands to fall forward again, "I don't stalk him...that would be creepy. I just see him here. I don't have pictures scattered in my room." She rolled her eyes, "Are you suggesting something?"

"That maybe you should try going the next level." Hisako answered as she placed one of her hands on her hips. "Besides seeing him and be starry eyed in the cafe. At least he's working, and he's not like...sitting across from you trying to get papers done and all you can think about is, "crap how do I do words". But still. Starry-eyed. You need to start doing more."

Maya looked exasperated and placed the menu down, frowning, "Just how do I do that? I'm not the kind of girl to shout my love on a rooftop." She rubbed her eyes. It was still morning and all her excitement and good mood had flown out the window.

"I'm not saying make a big huge love declaration." Hisako looked shocked. "I mean, Shin and I didn't do that. He just told me to date him that's all. No. You need to talk to people who've been in this before. Megumi's fantastic with her advice. She's practically a mother sometimes. Though I think that's kind of why Ukyo likes her. And as much as I love Ikki, I...would take his advice with caution. He's good if you want the male perspective, but...Shin's better. He's more honest and he knows Toma. He keeps secrets pretty well too. What else could you could invite him to coffee, or tea or something and talk to him like a normal person."

"I get tongue-tied when I try to talk to him I'm surprised I'm able to even tell him my order. I already feel like I'm acting like an Ikki fangirl towards him. I mean, it might be endearing if he didn't have to deal with it every day second hand." Maya mumbled and picked at the corner of the menu.

Hisako nodded her head, "That's why I'm telling you that you have people you can go to for advice. I'd give you mine, but...." She shrugged. "I'm with a guy whose so blunt, sometimes he makes my head spin, so I'm used to the straightforward, cut through bullshit type of romance. But what I can tell you is that Toma's a shy guy. I mean, I know he's at least a /little/ interested in you, but..." She shrugged helplessly.

Maya stared at Hisako with huge eyes, "You know? Where did you hear that?" She had visibly perked but now she was blushing and looking shy, "Don't answer that. It's fine. I should order so you can go back to work." She was fumbling but she managed to find something that sounded good and told it to Hisako.

"Thank you mad'am." Hisako beamed and she was about to turn away before she paused and turned back. "By the way, Ukyo told me Megumi found out." She winked and walked off, humming happily to herself.

The rest of Maya's time was fairly calm but her head was reeling. How was she supposed to ask Toma out to coffee somewhere else without tripping over herself? They could all give her advice until they were blue in their faces but it all came down to her and she knew that. Just /how/ was she supposed to strike a normal conversation in general? If she was going to go on a date in the future, she had to get comfortable with small talk here like she did with Hisako and the others. Never-mind the fact she went to school with Hisako first and Hisako was the one to suggest the Cafe...

Ugh. Maya put her head on the table and groaned. Just what was she supposed to do? Grumbling, she pulled her phone from her pocket and was going to go text Megumi when she discovered she still had her old phone number,. Why hadn't she gotten the new one after she broke it? That was like, a month ago. Go her. Rolling her eyes at herself, Maya paid and stood up, only to hear screaming and winced. Ikki must have a later shift today. Oh, hey, Ikki would have Megumi's number. Smiling, she waved to him and as the fangirls were all seated by Sawa and Mine, she managed to get in his path, "Ikki-san! Have a second?" she asked hopefully.

"For you? Always." Ikki answered with a casual charm. "Come with me real quickly while Mine and Sawa have the girl's distracted." He gestured for to follow him into the break room, knowing too well that he might get yelled at by the manager for it. However, he knew that this might be important. "Sorry for the cloak and dagger. I don't think my fan club would do anything rash, but they do get jealous if I'm talking to a new face. It's a bit disheartening at times. Anyway, you needed me?"

"Not that I'm all that new, I'm friends with Rika-san, but I don't talk to you often." Maya shrugged at the technicality, dismissing it as soon as she said it, "I just needed Meg-chan's phone number. I didn't realize I still had her old one until just now. Hisako wants me to ask her for advice."

"Oh? Let me see your phone, I'll plug in her number for you." Ikki said as he was handed Maya's phone and he typed in the number. "I don't know what kind of advice you need, but if Hisa-chan's recommending Meg-chan, then I know you're probably in a tight spot." He handed her the phone back. "She won't lead you wrong."

"It''s just about Toma..." Maya felt hot again, "I don't know how to talk to him. I was gunna see if she had any suggestions."

"Toma huh?" Ikki smiled warmly. "He's going to be a tough one. She'll probably have plenty. I suppose you could say she's kind of like our Secret Keeper. She won't tell you secrets, but...she'll certainly be able to point you in a direction a lot of us can't." He winked at her. "I wish you and Toma the best of luck. But I should get changed for my shift. I'll see you around, Maya-chan."

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Sat Apr 22, 2017 11:55 pm

"A-Arigato for inviting me over, Meg-chan." Maya looked around, "I don't think I've been in here before. You should really hold a house party."

That would be interesting. "That's an idea." Megumi looked at the home with thought. It had a spacious living room that could fit a bunch of people comfortably and she knew she could cook for a large amount of masses. She had a feeling she done that /plenty/ in a life before. Probably this world. "I wonder if that's something that I could convince Ukyo to do. He likes the girls shouldn't be a problem to get the entire gang in here." She blinked out of her thoughts and turned back to Maya. "I'm sorry. I'm being a bad host. Do you want anything to drink? Tea? Coffee? Water?"

"Tea. I already had my coffee for the day. If you have anything berry that'd be nice." Maya nodded and went to sit on the couch while Megumi disappeared into the kitchen.

She placed on the kettle on the stove and she went into the pantry. Apparently she knew everyone's favorite teas, because she did find one with berries in it. Once the tea was fixed, she brought out two steaming mugs out into the living room and placed it in Maya's hand before taking a seat next to her. "When you told me that you wanted to talk to me, I was a little surprised. But it must be something important if it's not something you want to share with Rika."

"Rika-san I talk to about fashion and art." Maya let the cup warm her hands while it cooled down enough to drink. "Hisako suggested to talk to you about Toma, and said you told Ukyo that Toma was interested in me."

Megumi nodded slowly, blowing on the tea and watching it ripple. She placed it down without taking a drink, since she knew it'd still be too hot. She wondered if it had something to do with her jumping worlds. "I did say that." She agreed. "Shin made a smart comment about how it was surprising he knew your name. He was deathly quiet after that. Though, then again that's when we decided to talk about something a little more morbid. I sometimes think that we tend to do that to ourselves." It was quite surprising so far that Ukyo hadn't started talking about something scary. Megumi wondered if that was a sign that it was her turn to take a drastic turn. Again. "But what do you want to know?" She furrowed her eyebrows. "If you're asking if he has someone he's interested in, the only one I know of is you. He's single."

"T-That's good. If he wasn't I would drop it and not worry about it anymore." Maya shook her head, "I'm just...I know everyone wants to help, that I'm a bit pathetic and just as shy as he is. I can't just blurt out 'hey let's date'. I can't even talk to him. Not even small-talk at the Cafe. My stomach gets all fluttery and my throat feels tight. Hisako mentioned asking him to coffee somewhere else and I'm just sitting here wondering 'how?' and I'm just hopeless..."

"You sound like Ukyo." Megumi smiled warmly as she brought the mug back up to her lips and blew on the liquid again. "It took him forever to ask me out." She let her smile fade a little. "But you know...what got him talking to me for real was when he asked me what I was doing on my tablet. Do you have something that you like doing? I know you're a fashion designer, but do you draw a lot in public? Read?"

"I don't draw in public usually. I get lost in it and can sit there for hours and either people bother me or I feel self-conscious. I've never done it anywhere like the Cafe because I don't want to sit in someone's section and be annoying because I'm there for two hours." Maya sipped at her tea and found comfort in the warmth going down her throat.

"But if you invited Toma out to coffee and you just happened to be drawing because you were bored waiting for him, would that be a different story?" Megumi asked as she took a sip of her own tea.

"Well...if I did that...then it would be cut short, I could probably go back to a previous drawing instead of start a new one..." Maya shifted, "So you're saying be early on purpose to this magical date I somehow ask him out on and have him see me drawing so he asks what I'm doing?"

"if you want to do small talk it's a fast way." Megumi pointed out, taking a calm sip of tea. "I know a place that's pretty neutral. If you want me there, I'll sit somewhere pretty decently far. I'll be working on my own thing, but I'll have my phone with me so if the date goes south or you're feeling too nervous I can give you an out."

"You'd do that?" Maya blinked at her in surprise, " we got the small-talk starter for a date down, but waht about striking a conversation in the first place to even ask him out? Like I told Hisako, I'm shocked I'm even able to tell him my order every time."

"We can do this one of two ways. Either I take your phone and type out exactly what I'm thinking /or/ you let me trick Toma into meeting you." Megumi offered.

"The first option sounds scary and the second sounds rude. This is a 'what's the lesser of two evils' question." Maya bit her lip, but she hesitantly reached for her phone, sipping her tea once she set the device on the table.

"Don't worry. It won't be bad." Megumi said as she went through Maya's contacts. "Oh? You have his number?" She couldn't help but to tease. She clicked on Toma's contact and quickly started up a message. "Can you meet me for coffee sometime? I know a place where we can go. Does that sound close enough like you?"

"Ikki! He knew!" Maya gaped like a fish and she went from zero to sixty in her blush in no time at all, "I just asked him for your number and he must've put in Toma's, too!" She set her cup down and covered her eyes, "That sounds good. I'm just so anxious, gomen. Don't mind me."

Megumi hit send and placed Maya's phone on the table. She pulled out hers and looked through her texts before finding Ikki's number and quickly typed out, /Have I told you lately that you're the best brother figure? Because you're amazing and I love you./ And she placed her phone back. "Toma should be out of school. But then again, he never answers his phone right away either. It might take a bit." She picked up her tea and blew on it casually before taking another sip.

"He probably is wondering who's number it is, too, unless Hisako or somebody gave it to him." Maya picked her tea back up, curling into a ball on the couch in the corner, "We go to the same Uni, but I never see Toma because his classes are completely different than mine. I didn't know if you knew that."

"He wants to be a lawyer, so yeah I could see why." Megumi nodded and then she winced. "Oh boy. This can get really interesting then. I forgot to say it was you. Though knowing Toma, he's probably searching your number so he doesn't have to ask that question."

"Yeah, like 'who the hell is asking me out for coffee? Did someone get a new number?' or something like that. He's a popular and outgoing guy for being shy, so he probably has basically everyone's number." Maya shook her head and jumped when Megumi's phone buzzed just then.

Megumi picked up her phone and she read aloud, "You're too adorable sometimes. I love you too, little sis, but you still owe me. Don't worry I'll make it as painless as I possibly can." She groaned, letting her phone drop her lap and she placed a hand over her eyes. ""

"I can't even imagine what he wants you to do." Maya giggled at her reaction. She was taking bigger drinks of her tea now, and she nearly choked and spilled it when her phone jingled. "Read it to me?" she asked meekly, wiping her mouth and setting the cup down before she really did spill it.

Megumi picked up Maya's phone and read it aloud, "I don't mind a coffee date. Just give me a when and where. Btw: did Ikki give you my number?" She whistled. "Well, it looks like Ikki's about to owe me."

"Oh my god, he said yes!" Maya moved out of her ball and grabbed a couch pillow to hug it, her legs kicking. She had no idea what to do with herself. She had been so tense and now she was just nervous and as she heard Megumi typing out a reply text she gaped, "What am I going to /wear/?" just out of the blue.

Megumi stared at her a little. "Is this what Ukyo did when he asked me out? Um as for wear....something cute, casual, but nothing too revealing and nothing that' know not you. Natural make up, not caked on make up. Hisako's the better person for that honestly. I used to just throw whatever I had in my closet on me without coordination. It somehow always worked for me."

"You look good in a lot of things. You could make Goth look good probably." Maya commented. "It's getting too cold for my normal dresses, but it's still too warm for full out winter gear. So I might just dig out one of my sweater dresses and wear some cute tights. I can do natural make-up, just balance it out with some nice shimmery gloss." She nodded to herself, "If you're going to be there, too, why don't we go in together and I'll just ask to be seated somewhere else?"

"Sounds like fun. Do you want to meet me here or do you want me to meet you at your apartment?" Megumi asked, tilting her head slightly.

"I can come here." Maya smiled, standing up, "It's fine. Thank you so much, Megumi. I hope this goes better than me just making a fool of myself."

Megumi stood up as well and walked Maya to the door. "Even if you do, I'll be right there to get you out of any tight spots." Orion had done the same thing for her. "Don't worry about it. I'll see you when you have your date."

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Sun Apr 23, 2017 4:26 am

"She was looking like a deer in the headlights until she started getting into her drawing." Ukyo hummed with a look of admiration as he sat across from Megumi at the coffee shop that sold a different variety of blends and mixtures than the Maid Cafe did. He hadn't ever come here, and kind of regretted getting a /cold/ drink, but it was very mint and chocolate and delicious that he just tugged his jacket further around his body instead and tried to ignore it.

Megumi nodded her head, biting her lip. She had her phone in the middle of the table so that she could grab it quickly if Maya needed her for whatever reason. She had a cinnamon latte with just a hint of french vanilla creamer that she added from the bowl. "I hope I'm not steering her wrong. Oh my god what if this turns out to be a bad idea?" She ran her fingers through her hair, tugging at the strands. "I'm so nervous and I'm not the one on the /date/."

"I was thinking of it as a date." Ukyo told her, tone innocent, but he had his finger on his lips as his chin rested in his hand, the barest smirk tugging at his mouth, "We're out together, that's a date, isn't it? Might as well be a double date, if Toma knew."

Megumi stared at him and then put her head down in her arms for a good moment. She picked her head back up, her cheeks blushing. "It's been a while since we've been out hasn't it? We've been kind of caught up in a mess, we haven't done this."

Ukyo's eyes were soft, "Yeah, that's right. We've been going to the cafe in the mornings, but I sure don't remember the last date we had. We need to catch up. Do some movies, go to an actual restaurant or diner. I still don't know half of what I should about this town, if there's any other fun places to go. I moved here, found you, and you've been my life."

Megumi scratched her arm a little before picking up her drink and taking a sip of it. "I didn't think I made that kind of impression you. I mean, I know you moved for work don't get me wrong." She said quickly. "I'm not saying you moved /for/ me, that's not possible since you didn't even know where I lived. But I mean..." She scratched her arm again and pursed her lips together, looking away. "I became your life. What was the moment?"

Ukyo reached across the table and stroked his fingers over her hand before he took it tightly in his, "Just like you fell in love with me the moment you saw me, crying and all, I fell in love with you when I saw you again at the bridge. I didn't know I'd keep seeing you, you know, but I had a feeling, if you lived here, that I'd have a chance."

Megumi smiled, her cheeks still flushed as she held his hand just as tightly. "We'll explore." She decided. "After we make sure Maya and Toma are alright and can handle themselves. We'll do some things, take ideas on what we should do for next time." Just as she said that, she heard the bell and she glanced over. "Oh hey speak of the devil and he arrives, blonde hair and all."

Toma had a feeling the moment he saw Ukyo and Megumi at a seat by themselves that he was being set up for something or another. He knew that Maya was way to shy, so of course someone had to have done those texts for her. Hisako didn't have anything on her phone history -he nearly got slapped for that-.  Instead of confronting, he decided to go along with it. Megumi rarely stuck her nose in someone's love life, unlike a certain little sister. He walked over towards the table where Maya was working on her sketchbook and he blinked as he sat down. She didn't notice him yet, and he hadn't spoken but... "You're a really good artist."

"Kami!" Maya squeaked and fumbled with her pencil, having nearly thrown it in the air when she jumped. Once she had it securely in her grasp again, she put her hand over her chest and breathed in a few deep breaths, "Aaaah....I knew that was going to happen!" She looked down at her sketchbook and chewed her lip, "I had debated between a personal sketch or a work sketch and went for work. I don't worry about anatomy as much with personal sketches." she sat up straighter suddenly, "I'm so sorry! I didn't say hello! Thank you for joining me here..." she ducked her head in embarrassment.

"She acts so much like you." Megumi said as she watched the commotion with surprise on her face. She had only seen Ukyo jump that high and he was /taller/ than Maya. "I'm almost wondering if you two are related in this world."

"No problem." Toma said with a smile, "I'm sorry that I was late. I must have made you wait for a while. Sorry. I'll buy the drinks in return. So what kind of work are you doing?" He asked, gesturing to her sketchbook. "They look pretty neat from what I can see, but I'm guessing that these are just concept designs and not the actual finished thing."

"I'm not related to anybody. Not sure if I should be happy about the comparison?" Ukyo arched a brow at Megumi.

"That's right. I have a lightbox I use to transfer things onto a clean sheet of paper where I can do color and fix mistakes." Maya nodded. She looked at it again and then chewed her lip before she set it on the table for him to look at, "I work at one of the fashion stores in the mall. I can't be a manager yet because I can't have open availability with school, but the owner liked my designs. He said he'll talk to me about helping me start my own line when I graduate. Rika-san would be a partner, too. She's got a lot of her own plans and ideas and she has me sketch them for her sometimes when she just can't get it the way she wants."

"Rika's fashion and your fashion are really...on other sides of the spectrum, but I can see her making a good partner. She has a head for business. She runs Ikki's fan club after all." Toma agreed and he nodded his head. "That'll be really cool. It's good that you got a network going. I was kind of worried."

"Worried?" Maya asked curiously, brows furrowed, "Why would you be worried?"

Megumi smiled around the rim of her mug. "It's just funny to see." She promised. "Though I got to ask /did/ you ever act like that when I showed up?"

"Because of how shy you are." Toma said instantly. "I know that you have a hard time talking to people, and therefore networking would be a bit of a hassle for you. I know that you're pretty ambitious. Rika doesn't just hang out with anyone. Even if Shin doesn't like her, you can't deny that she has her own agenda and priorities. For her to be friends with you? That means a lot. I suppose I should've relaxed a bit."

Ukyo gave her a sidelong glance, "I would hope you remember me rambling and freaking out when Nhil-sama rewound time in the World of Origin, so short answer - yes."

"Rika-san has a sort of confidence that I don't. I told her that. She also told me to let her handle everything and she would tell me what to do and how to do it if I needed to." Maya agreed with a nod.

Megumi let out a soft giggle and she placed her hand over her lips to stiffle the sound. She noticed that he was giving her a look and she managed to say something. "I remember yanking your chain a bit too." She admitted, placing her hand down. "Sorry. I'm not saying anything bad about it. It's just, funny to me to see someone else act like you. It's heartwarming."

"That would make sense too." Toma nodded solemnly. "At least she's reliable to her partners so you don't have to worry about her backstabbing you. Of course that can't be said for the same if you were going after Ikki. I know Rika has a ruthless side to her, but..." He shrugged. "What did you want to be before you found fashion? When you were younger I mean?"

"I was that child that wanted to be a princess when they ask you at five years old." Maya blushed lightly, "I found art before I discovered I was good with fashion. So when asked what I wanted to be I just said a 'librarian' just to get people off my back and secretly I just wanted to do art for a living. I was going to go to an art school, even. Then I got a new art teacher in high school and that's when my entire focus changed. I loved her fashion sense. My last art teacher wore clothes that were always paint splattered. This teacher wore clothes like a model. She actually told me that I drew clothes pretty well, and when we did sculpting the dress I carved really flowed and she adored it. A lot of people have problems with the folds in clothes, but I guess I just subconsciously kept mental notes on how clothes fit on someone's body depending on their body type."

Maya motioned to him, "Your clothes tend to have way more folds around your stomach and waist, for example. Your vest cinches your frame because you're probably pretty active and therefore toned. Your shirt right now pools the way it does for the same reason, never-mind the hoodie you wear around your waist."

"You...picked a very good topic for her. Having her bring her sketchbook and all. Now Toma probably won't be able to get her to talk about anything else." Ukyo stifled a laugh.

"You got to start somewhere. I haven't seen her drawings, but she certainly knows her things." Megumi said as she sipped her drink. "I want her to design my wedding dress."

Toma blinked, "So you took your inspiration from your teacher? That's pretty cool. I know that there's a lot of people who are influenced by their teachers and that's why they get into the jobs that they want or need. It's a good thing that your teacher saw your talent for what it is. I mostly wanted to be a lawyer because of Hisako and Shin. They're the outcasts and I know that they're the ones that'll get into the most trouble one day. They'll need someone on their side." He shrugged, "Do you do art for fun or do you only do it for clothes?"

Ukyo froze at what she said and since Megumi was focused on the other two, he fingered his pocket where the ring was, taking a sip of his drink. He really, really wanted to do this, and soon. Maybe sometime in October, when the leaves really start to change colors. just as good as spring sakura petals.

"I do art for fun!" Maya nodded, but before she could go on her waiter must've noticed the person she was waiting for had arrived, and came to take their orders. When he left to go get them made, she kept going, "I paint! Not so much watercolor since it's too pale, I can't get the vibrancy I want, but oils! Since I'm busy doing schoolwork or sketches /for/ work, I can let paintings I do when I have free time dry. I've sold a few, but nothing gallery-worthy. I also like to film myself painting them and then put them on youtube. I really should invest in a laptop, though, and do digital."

"I also want to adopt Maya." Megumi continued as she listened to the art rant.

"That's probably why Rika became friends with her." Ukyo agreed, laughing softly.

Toma whistled, "That would be really fun. If you do digital art, you could spread it around easily on the internet. You could get a lot of exposure than just the oils, but that takes a lot of time and a /lot/ of work. How much time do you spend on that?"

"She's easy to get a protection squad." Megumi agreed, biting her lip. "It's no wonder that Hisako's pretty much your protection squad. I wonder who else in the girl's section protects you. I'm not counting myself, that's cheating."

"You'd have to ask Hisako that. Pretty sure Rika likes me." Ukyo shook his head, "When Sawa went speechless over Nhil's human form she got asked if she had a crush on me, but I also know Ikki's eyes worked on her once, so she might be."

"Well, Wednesday after the Cafe I spent five hours on a single painting, taking breaks here and there while some layers dried." Maya explained, "I can only do things like that when I don't have school /or/ work, which is difficult. Usually I can only spend about three hours, so I make sure to do projects that are easy to start and stop. Do sections of it that don't touch and then make it come together in the end. I got a lot of paintings done over the summer, and have them ready to advertise for Christmas, but it can take me a month just to do one."

"Digital art would be more convenient. You could spend as much time as you like and not have to worry about the colors drying. That is something to probably invest in when you can." Toma nodded. "I'm surprised you have that kind of focus for the oil artwork. That's impressive."

"Wait what?" Megumi stared at him.

"What?" Ukyo blinked.

"You saw Nhil?" Megumi had to clench her fists into her jeans so she wouldn't start clapping excitedly. "That means Orion must be somewhere, too. Sawa might be his destined do you think? That'll be so cool! Oh but, wouldn't that be a forbidden romance of sorts? Kind of like ours? What if we just jinxed that and Sawa gets put in our position? Well no that can't happen cuz Nhil lost his god powers...he used them all up trying to save us. But still, Sawa and a /god/ can you /believe/ that?"

Ukyo's smile was filled with adoration, "I was thinking that as well. I thought I mentioned it. It was one of the highlights of the sleepover and that was only at the start. Nhil delivered pizza to Hisako's house."

"No! Oh man I should've skimmed through those journals." Megumi sighed dramatically. "Oh but I wonder what Orion is in this world. His son? Brother? Please let it be brother." She rubbed her hand over her face and laughed a little. "But she had a crush on you huh? I see you have a type." She couldn't help but to tease for that.

He rolled his eyes playfully, "My only type is you."

"What type am I?" Megumi asked, taking another drink of her latte. It was almost gone and she glanced over at the duo who were still talking animatedly about art. Who knew Toma had endless questions about it? She shrugged and let it go. She had her phone. Maya had the code word. It should be fine.

"Photogenic." Ukyo told her sweetly, reaching over and brushing her hair from her eyes, "I could take pictures of you all day as if you were my model and be happy with it. You're a natural. You pose so pretty for me without meaning to." He stroked her cheek, "I love it when you're focused, how serious you get. You're motherly and protective and helpful. We're here for Maya's support because of you, even. You helped me in a new place when I didn't know anything or anybody. I don't want to see you with anybody else but me again. It crushed me, you know that? I was happy you were happy, but I wanted it to be me, every time."

Megumi's eyes softened as she listened to him. She reached over and grabbed his hand, his left hand, and squeezed. "I love you." She said sincerely, "It'll be you every time this time." She promised. "Even if I lose my memory, I'm not going to forget I belong to you. Not ever. I'm sorry I did that to you. I know I had no memory to go on, and I know that it wasn't my fault. But still, I know that you were in pain every time you looked for me. I saw it clearly. I just never understood until we went back." She squeezed his hand again. "You're the only one for me. I'd dare say you're the only one that can take a photo of me as well. You do tend to get a good side of me." She couldn't help but to be a little lighthearted, otherwise she feared they both might start crying and Toma and Maya would just wonder.

"I want to kiss you..." Ukyo whispered, "We're here for Maya and Toma, though. We should focus." He still didn't tear his eyes off of her, however.

"Speaking of art and fashion, do you like shopping at all, Toma?" Maya asked once their drinks arrived, "I know a lot of guys don't, but Tsume's told me she and Ikki have had shopping dates so I was curious. I do like your outfit."

"A little. I'm not really a fashionista or whatever the word is. But I do try to take some care into my appearance. I don't really have a particular sense of style, I kind of make it as I go." Toma explained. "Ikki is always out on a prowl for something or another. He dresses like he's constantly on a date, but that's Ikki. Tsume's pretty flashy herself. Have you ever designed something for them?"

Megumi thought about it, she really, really thought about it. He was staring at her and she felt her breath just...catch. Just for a moment, once again she thought about how beautiful he was despite what he went through. Yes, they were here for Maya and Toma. But...surely it couldn't hurt. It couldn't hurt to let them have this one small moment. Even if it blew their cover...Meg was certain that she could come up with something. Hell Toma probably already knew anyway. She stood slightly and leaned over the table and kissed him.

"Tsume, yeah...not Ikki. Suits annoy me. They're too flat and too boring and plain. I mean, Ikki has to wear a striped shirt under his suit jacket to make it pop." Maya heard some coughing from other tables that sounded more like uncomfortable fake ones than anything and she just glanced around out of curiosity, only to go hot and sink into her chair, "Why..." she groaned, covering her eyes.

Toma looked over to see what was going on and he placed his hand on the back of his neck. He could tell that everyone else was a little uncomfortable, but hell. "At least Meg still has guts. I don't know if Ukyo's appreciating Meg's boldness though."

"Who knows..." Maya took her coffee and tried to hide behind the cup. Ukyo seemed to come to his senses and he stood up, placing money on the table and dragging Megumi out of the cafe once she grabbed her phone. "If they were Hisako and Shin I'd expect them to make use of their bed, but I think it's just going to be a heavy make-out session."

Toma blinked and looked at Maya in surprise. "You mean their still virgins?" He looked a little baffled. "I guess there's some guys out there still who are waiting for marriage or something like that. I never thought I'd take Ukyo as one. He's a romantic at heart, I would've thought he'd been kind of an expert by now."

"He's way too shy and nervous about doing inappropriate things." Maya furrowed her brows. Had Toma...? None of her business, really. Probably prom date or something like that. He was single now, it didn't matter. "Everyone always acts so surprised. There's none of that sexual tension you get from watching Hisako and Shin together."

"Hisako and Shin are a whole other league." Toma agreed, leaning back into his chair. Maya was right, there was never any sexual tension between the two of them. It made him wonder, but...he decided to let that go. "They both dealt with the same kind of tragedy. Go through that, of course you'll bond with the one person that understands. Who else could you turn to?"

"Yeah, sounds about right." Maya sipped her drink some more and sighed deeply, "You didn't seem surprised they were here." She pointed out.

Toma smiled a little. "Megumi's cunning. But she's in no way in Shin's or in my league when it comes down to deceiving people. I knew she took your phone and texted me. You wouldn't have done it, you were too shy to talk to me at the cafe. Why would you suddenly text me out of the blue? It didn't make sense. Of course, I didn't think it was Megumi at first. I thought of Hisako since that's something she'd do." He shrugged. "Of course after I confirmed that it wasn't Hisako, it made me curious as to why Megumi suddenly took an interest. She doesn't do that. At all. Her focus was all about her writing. She never asked us about our relationships. We bitched and moaned to her about them, but she never pressured for the knowledge. Before she met Ukyo, she was a wild child. She swore off marriage, never dated, and did things a little recklessly. Sometimes too recklessly. So for her to to take a sudden one eighty? Suspicious."

"I...didn't know it would raise red flags. Hisako told me to go to her." Maya fidgeted and played with a napkin, ripping at it, "Gomen'nasai, Toma. I didn't mean to deceive you or anything. I had even asked if there was a way /I/ could...start to...try and talk to you at the Cafe. This whole charade wasn't my original idea. I liked the idea of...coming here for coffee, but I didn't know how to go about it and Meg-chan said 'give me your phone or let me trick him somehow' and so I gave her my phone."

"What? No I'm not...I'm not angry." Toma laughed a little leaning forward a bit. "I know that I'm not the best at talking to you either. I understand Meg's motive. She's not the type that'll do harm. This isn't the first, nor last time she ever takes a fall too. No, I was just curious as to why she was suddenly interested, but if it's because of you coming to her door, well. It makes sense. Meg has a strong, strong protective streak of people like you."

Her eyes were prickling and she turned watery eyes up at him, her lip quivering a bit. She had quickly prepared for the worst and now hearing him be more understanding than upset was sending her through a loop. While her throat was tight, she tried to clear it and talk, "I feel awful about this anyway. No point in wishing to rewind time, but I really should've tried talking to you first myself. We're talking now, sure, but it's not...what I meant to happen." What point was there in a code word when the person who set it up was the reason she felt uncomfortable? She didn't have an out anymore and she didn't know how to fix this.

Toma smiled warmly, "You're thinking too much. It was a smart move to have her nearby. Yeah she knows me, but you don't and you were clearly comfortable with her. I like our conversation. I liked how passionate you got. Do I wish to rewind time? No. No not really. Megumi already knew that I knew. But when you asked me if I was surprised to see her, I decided to tell you the truth. To be honest, I thought about lying to you and saying that this was a place she frequented or something like that. You were honest with me back." He smiled softly. "Do you want to leave?"

'Leave with you or are you letting me run away?' Maya thought but didn't say. Instead she sniffed and nodded. She felt way too tense in this public place and if she were to try and start a new conversation it would be way too forced. Toma deserved better than her being a wreck. It really shouldn't make her so upset, she should be able to come back from this, but she had been nervous beforehand and now she felt like a scaredy-cat who got spooked too easily. It made her smile just a bit, though, that he told her he liked it when she talked about her art. "Now I have your phone number I can send you pictures I've taken of my art?" she offered weakly as she took one more swig of her tea and gathered her things.

"You should." Toma's eyes lit up. "And you should text me when you feel like we can try again. I would like get to know you more. Do you want me to walk you home?" He stood up and carefully pulled out his wallet to put some money down.

"You don' don't have to do that. I'll probably just call Rika-san." Maya looked down at her outfit, "I got all dressed up, might as well go do something." She slipped her flowery bag over her shoulders and tugged her hair forward so it wouldn't pull, petting at it for something to do as she stood there, "I really am sorry. I'll text you, I promise." It was the least she could do, really.

"Again you're over thinking this. I'm not angry or upset. Not at you or Meg. It was a good decision. I'll wait for that text." Toma said gently. "Come on, let's go outside and I'll leave you alone after you call Rika."

He was sweet. His calm demeanor to her mess was helping her relax, and they left the coffee shop. He did as he said, even staying by and his expression was so tender as she pulled out her phone. Here they were, their first attempt at a date a horrible disaster, and he still wanted to try again. Kami, she really needed to let her feelings out and she pressed send once she got Rika's number up. She answered promptly, like she usually did especially if it was her. "R-Rika-san?" she asked her voice cracking a bit as she felt closer to crying, but she could at least hold herself together a little longer. "Shopping trip and ice cream?"

"Yeah that sounds good. Are you still at the coffee place that you were telling me about last night?" Rika asked. "If your date hurt you by the way, I have no qualms in making him regret it."

"Maybe a certain someone who's got a boyfriend with green hair, but not the blond of the pack." Maya smiled just a bit, giving Toma a thumb's up so he could go off on his own, walking to the nearest bench herself, "Yes I am, by the way. I'll just wait outside for you."

Rika sighed loudly. "Meg. Of course. I'll lecture her later. I'll meet you soon. Ja."


Last edited by VampireCat92 on Sun Apr 23, 2017 10:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Sun Apr 23, 2017 5:25 am

Megumi sighed when she heard her phone ring for the millionth time. At least this time, someone had the indecency to wait till about midnight to call. She opened her eyes and quickly picked up her phone, trying her hardest not to jostle Ukyo too much. It was still surprising to her how hard this man could sleep and not be woken up by the slightest of sounds. Like a buzzing phone that won’t shut up. She answered and whispered, “Really? Now?”

“Yes now.” Hisako said angrily. “What the hell was that? Rika told me that you just left Maya on her lonesome in the tea house. What the fuck is actually wrong with you?! I know that you really love Ukyo and things, but he’s not going to have sex with you!”

Megumi sighed, burying half of her face into the pillow. “We discussed it. It was a plan. And when the plan was working, we decided to leave. Of course Toma’s the one that decided that honesty was the best policy.”

“Toma can’t lie to save his life and that’s saying something. You on the other hand are supposed to be a natural liar. You’re a journalist for Goddess’ sake. You’re supposed to have this…this….this bloodhound thing about turning stories into scandals and making things look good when they’re actually really terrible.”

“You do realize you’re comparing a date to writing an article right?” Megumi started shifting out of Ukyo’s hold so that he didn’t have to wake up to this. She carefully pulled the covers over his shoulder and brushed his hair out of his face before she padded quietly out into the living room.

She didn’t dare turn on any lights as she made her wait to the kitchen. Tea would keep her awake, coffee not a good idea since the scent was so strong that could wake up Ukyo. She found a glass in the cupboard as she listened to Hisako rant. “-Are you even listening to me?”

“It’s midnight. I was asleep.” Megumi said as she poured herself some water. “If you were expecting me wide awake and apologetic, you should’ve called after Rika.”

“Oh I’m sure she had words for you.” Hisako huffed. “You’re a horrible match maker you know that?”

Megumi sighed as she took a drink of water and leaned against the counter. “Let me ask you something. What would’ve have done?”

“Kept in my pants.” Hisako shot back.

“What pants when you constantly take them off?” Megumi asked, making Hisako gasp theatrically and she ran a hand down her face. “Sorry that was mean.”

“I have no good comeback for that, but when I have one, I will call you-“

“Not in fuck o’clock in the morning. You do realize I live with my boyfriend right?” Megumi asked as she took another drink of water. “He sleeps /next/ to me. My phone can wake him up. Sorry if I think that his sleep is a little more important.”

“Grouchy.” Hisako tsk’ed. “But seriously. Why the hell did you decide to leave? Maya has anxiety. What you did was the ultimate betrayal for her. You know that right?”

Megumi placed her cup down and she sighed softly. “You think it wouldn’t have turned into a disaster if we were still there? You think Toma wouldn’t out me? You think that Maya, who was sitting there, would take one look at me and Ukyo and think that we were /both/ cruel?”

“….” Hisako sighed. “Ukyo’s too kind to be cruel.”

“Sometimes that’s a kind of cruelty.” Megumi answered back. “Sometimes that’s the worst kind of cruelty you can come across.”

“I suppose so.” Hiskao sounded dismayed. “So what are you going to do to fix this?”

“Nothing.” Megumi shrugged. “Toma already told me that he assured her time and time again that we weren’t at fault. He also told me that he’s going to ask her out on another date. I apologized to Maya and she hasn't responded which I'm certainly not surprised by. I made my moves. All I can do now, is do what I have been doing."

"Being a fucking disaster?" Hisako quipped.

"By reading the mood and thinking that Toma could at least keep himself from telling the truth about what was going on." Megumi answered, finishing off the water. "They had a conversation, chemsitry, clearly Toma thinks that she hung the moon and wants to ask her out for another date. I don't know why you're so worried."

“Because you left Maya alone with Toma and were trying to get Ukyo to have sex with you without it ever happening?” Hisako said dryly. “Because you know that he’s not going to.”

“If my love life just revolved around sex, I’d be Ikki.” Megumi rolled her eyes. “I don’t need him to force himself into that. What we do, what we have. It’s more than enough for me. If he wants to give me more, then he’ll give me more and I’ll take it. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. I wanted to be with him. He wanted to be with me. That's all there was to it. Don't blame me for something you would've done when it's you and Shin."

“If that’s your argument. I’m still saying you fucked up.” Hisako sounded bored.

“And I agree with you, but I’d chose it again. I need to go back to my boyfriend now and I know you need to be with Shin.” Megumi sighed softly. “Goodnight, Hisako.” She hung up.
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:01 am


Ikki scrolled through his texts on his phone, humming softly as he watched his friend’s conversation. He knew about the fall out, everyone was talking about it and were asking his opinion which he was careful enough not to give. Luckily, Meg didn’t ever bother texting him about the drama that was going on. Instead it was a random text that clearly was her trying to save a writing idea for later.

He found it amusing that sometimes he was used as a list. Then again, she couldn’t really rely on Ukyo to remember half of her ideas. He didn’t exactly carry his phone reliably with him and if he did, he was the type that would send a blank and/or alarming text. Accident prone to the core.
Ikki backtracked out of Megumi’s conversation and scrolled through. Hisako was always sending him random things. Apparently she found a new song and she sent him a link. He’ll listen to it when he was alone. God knew what she found was going to be dirty and hot and…Ikki shook his head. How on earth was he friends with her, he’d never understand.

Then again, they all made for a ragtag team of friends. Ikki hadn’t really…thought that he’d get that kind of thing. Meeting Megumi was the first time he had a female friend. Meeting Kent was the first time he had a male friend who kind of believed that he had powerful eyes that could turn people’s affections on to him. But that list grew, and he discovered that there were women that /weren’t/ into him even with his eyes.

He was used to having his phone blow up with girlfriend’s and fan members. He thought that was his entire life. It was a lonely, heart breaking type of life, but he made the wish. He made the wish and he had to live up to what he was given, but now it was blowing up with sex songs, drama, and random ideas.
He chuckled to himself as he put his phone away. As fun as it was to think about things like this, he didn’t want to think about the loneliness. He didn’t want to think about how awful it could have gotten if he hadn’t met Kent nor Megumi those days back then.

Speaking of Kent he still had that math puzzle to finish. Kent was probably about to declare victory and he couldn’t have that.

"You look a bit spaced out. Earth to Ikki." The walkway to Tsume's apartment building had an overpass and she was sitting on one of the ledges that usually had flowers in the bed of soil. She watched him curiously. He kept his expression rather schooled at all times but she could tell he had been lost in thought and the gears of his brain were turning. The lingering feeling of sadness and loneliness made her get up and walk over to him, reaching up and patting his cheek, "I was worried you were going to just keep walking by."

"Ah, sorry." Ikki laughed a little as she patted his cheek. He took her hand and gently pressed it against his cheek before kissing her wrist and letting her pull away. "I was just looking at my texts and got lost in thoughts. Here, let me have your bag. Shall we head out to eat first? Then perhaps a movie? Did you already decide on what you wanted to watch or shall we save that for another time?" He gently took her bag from her and held on to it and offered his arm.

The brush of his lips against her wrist made her heart flutter and she took his arm without hesitation, leaning against him. "Food, yes, and then would you be opposed to coming back here for a movie instead? After that sleepover I've been wanting to watch a bunch of mine. I also didn't want to rush dinner because we were crunching time to make it to a showing."

"True, I would like to spend time with you rather than rush." Ikki agreed, holding her close and pressing his shoulder against her. "It'll be fun to go to your home. Are we going to be watching horror? Should I be prepared?"

"No blood and guts, I save those for Hisako, but you won't be too freaked out by paranormal, would you? I do have some action. Marvel and DC and I also have Lord of the Rings but those are extended versions and definitely an 'all day when you're sick' type of movies." Tsume listed for him as they headed on their way.

"Paranormal sounds interesting. Action is good too. I think that the Lord of the Rings could wait till one of us is sick or in need of an all day off day." Ikki agreed, shaking his head. "Paranormal." He decided after a moment. "That sounds like a good idea."

"This is the start of our fourth month. I hope you're still not agreeing to things just because I want them." Tsume arched a brow at Ikki, he waved a taxi and told them the restaurant they were going to. Apparently it was too far to walk, which was fine. More private cuddle time.

Ikki shook his head. "No. I would say something otherwise. You'd make me sit through something a little more horrible undoubtedly if I was."

"No doubt." Tsume agreed, her head on his shoulder as she nuzzled close to him. A lot of the fangirls had been upset he kept going passed three months. Even Rika told her to be careful now, but Ikki had chosen her, not the other way around. "Just over three months...hard to believe, isn't it? Everyone's still so shocked."

"Depends on the everyone. The fan club most certainly. It had been my rule to date for three months since I knew the infatuation wouldn't last." Ikki said softly, "But of course I knew they'd exploit it the best that they could. It was just better at that time to turn a blind eye. As for my friends, well. Kent is pleased as peaches. Well, as pleased as Kent can get when it's not a math problem."

Tsume laughed softly, "To think Kent has his own girl now, too. You must be ecstatic. You texted me about it, and your text seemed like you were bouncing off the walls at least. Now Toma and Maya are trying to date. Ukyo's planning on proposing to Megumi. Sawa fell head over heels for a pizza delivery boy and she only saw him once. Mine and Waka are dancing around each I missing anyone?"

Ikki blinked and he turned to Tsume in surprise. "Ukyo's planing to propose and Sawa actually managed to get a crush on someone?"

"Oh! Haha, yeah that was one reason why Hisako held the slumber party. All of us girls are in on it and have our own plans. I'm sure you won't tell anybody besides Kent anyway." Tsume grinned at him, "Yes, Sawa actually crushed on somebody. The boy has silver hair similar to yours and looks around nineteen."

"Nhil?" Ikki blinked, "He's apart of the scholarship program in our school and he holds down I believe he's at three jobs right now? Two? I can't recall. I only spoke to him a handful of times. But that makes sense." He nodded and then smiled softly. "So Ukyo's actually going to take that leap himself this time. That's good. I was afraid for a moment that I was going to have to bully him like I did to get him to live with Meg-chan."

"Hisako helped him get the ring, so now all he has to do is pop the question. He had a lot of ideas of when and where." Tsume nodded and they reached their destination, getting out of the taxi, "I'm sure he'll want a spring wedding, if anything. He's a photographer at heart and cherry blossoms are popular for wedding photos." So Nhil went to the same school as herself and Ikki? That would make things highly interesting. She could keep a better eye out when she went in for classes tomorrow, perhaps. "I heard Sawa was getting gloomier by the day at work. That true?"

"She hasn't exactly been the same no." Ikki agreed as he slid out of the taxi after paying the driver and handed him money and received change. He once more hooked his arm onto Tsume's and walked her inside the restaurant. "She's been making more mistakes than usual. Waka's getting concerned and Hisako has theories."

"Hisako with theories, that can't be good." Tsume joked, but also felt concern. They got a table and she just ordered a water with lemon, "We'll see what happens. Now we pinpointed him, it should be easy to get him to pop into the Cafe. I'm sure she's been thinking she won't ever see him again."

"He might or he might not." Ikki said slowly, "He is working a bunch of hours and I know that he's struggling financially. I don't know what his family situation is, but a casual encounter might be better than forcing him at the cafe. Perhaps if we can get them to meet /outside/ the cafe, like outside the literal area, we might have more of a chance."

"Have her go to him instead? A bit harder for the delivery job, but she could probably go pop in if he works somewhere inside an actual building." Tsume nodded in agreement, "I know the study group with Kent didn't go well, but that could be an idea, too, do you think?"

"I don't know where Nhil's talents would lie." Ikki shook his head from side to side. "So maybe a study group is a bit too far off. Though," he placed a finger against his chin. "Megumi and Sawa still workout together sometimes, I know Kazuko joins in from time to time as well. If I can figure out where he works, they could swing by in that direction. A little less awkward if someone's there. I know the thing with Maya and Toma didn't go down so well, but..." He shrugged his shoulders. "Two people and one of them is /not/ a man whose intent and sole purpose is to make Megumi love him more, I think we'll be okay this time."

"That's true." Tsume grinned at him and pulled out her phone, pulling up Hisako's number, /I'm stealing your job. Nhil goes to the same school as Ikki and I. Ikki says he works at least two jobs, if not three, on top of school. So there's a chance to direct a running session to go into one of Nhil's jobs. Fast food is always the first go-to for someone desperate enough./

Hisako answered back, /You all are stealing my job. I knew. I /knew/ Ikki was going to do this. Hold on./

Ikki blinked in surprise when he felt his phone vibrate. "Ah sorry." He said as he flipped open his phone and blinked in surprise. "Why is Hisako all of the sudden upset that I can do her job better than she can?"

Tsume stuffed her hand over her mouth and laughed behind it, turning her phone around and holding it out to him, "I guess we're not the only ones playing cupid and Hisako's getting jealous."

"I knew my sister's a bad influence." Ikki said as he started typing back to Hisako. /Not my fault you don't go to our college. Btw: I'll ask Meg if she can't grab Sawa into a work out. I'll throw in Kazuko as a bonus./

/You drive a hard bargain./ Hisako answered. /Fine I accept your deal. You ask Meg her wisdom and tell her to invite Kazuko. Be thankful I'm letting you go that far./

/I'm so pleased./ Ikki knew that Hisako would read the dryness of the text easy enough and placed it away. "Sorry, I was telling Hisako our plan. She likes the idea that Kazuko's there."

Tsume giggled a bit more and put her phone back in her pocket. "I'm sorry, pulling my phone out on a date was rude, but that was funny. I'm sure we'll hear about it this weekend." Talking to Nhil was going to be fun, too. He seemed like a really sweet kid. "We still gotta find out /where else/ he works, though, before we tell them to detour."

"I run into him occasionally so I'm certain I'll figure it out. He's an open guy, I don't think he'll mind me asking him about that." Ikki said as the waiter came back with their drinks. They told the waiter that they still hadn't looked at the menu yet, so he left to give them more time. Ikki opened his and hummed. "I never thought I'd be conspiring with you to try to hook up people. This isn't the norm for me. It's quite exciting."

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:06 pm

It was one thing when people said their partner's happiness made them happy. Tsume, however, was /literally and physically/ happy feeling Ikki's emotions. She also opened her menu and skimmed over it. but she was mostly watching him. His eyes were soft, his posture relaxing the more their date went on. His glasses were still on, but it was kind of cute seeing them peek out over the rim while he read. "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself." She finally said after forever, turning her attention to the menu for real this time.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Ikki asked as he carefully closed his menu after choosing what he wanted. He set it aside and watched her for a moment. She looked like she was practically vibrating with a good mood, which in his silent opinion made her look attractive. Not that she wasn't before, but there was something about seeing her smile and seeing her shields down that really made her glow. It was like being rewarded with a nice drink after a hard day. Though maybe that's not the analogy he'd say aloud. "I'm with you, you make things fun than if I was by myself."

Tsume didn't blush very often, she'd kind of become immune to it after feeling things like other people's romance and sexual feelings. Then Ikki had to go and say something like that. Her cheeks were pink rather than red, it was just a dusting, but it was there. She'd relaxed a bit too much herself, but he was enjoying it, so she let it happen, "Everything's more fun when you have other people to enjoy it with. I'm glad you feel that way about me. I know I do with you. I just still get a little nervous sometimes that I might put you off by acting like one of them by accident." It was easier and more polite to refer to the fangirls as 'them'. At least he knew what she meant.

Ikki blinked in surprise. He never really had a problem with his fans. Loud as they were, they were relatively harmless. "You mean with the squealing or with the holding on to me?" He asked casually leaning in and resting his cheek in his hand. "Because I wouldn't mind if you held on to me a little more. The squealing....I could do without but if it's you I'm sure I'll have no problem. You don't usually let your emotions show. Though I guess I should call myself a hypocrite for that."

"Just a little bit." Tsume giggled, also setting her menu down, but didn't fold it up. She had two choices and was going to ask the waiter for their opinion. "So clinging's okay? Don't worry about screaming, unless I'm ridiculously excited about something. I squeal more often during romance scenes in movies and TV shows. I do like romance as much as I like horror, so I'm quite a sap when couples I root for get together. All the 'aws' and 'yes yes yes' sort of thing." She leaned in as well, "Do you do that on your own time? Excited shouting, I mean. You're way too controlled to do in in the company of others. Imagining it is pretty funny, though."

Ikki let out a startled laugh and shook his head from side to side, "Kent probably has a few times where he's seen me do something like that. Probably the first time I got one of his math puzzles right, I was really excited about it. Kent was highly amused by it. It was one of the first times I ever really let myself get that excited around someone who I didn't know all that well. It's different with family. My mother is the excited type. I think that's why Meg and I can handle excitable people honestly."

Tsume smiled tenderly at him. "Is she also the type wondering why she doesn't have gandbabies to coddle, too?" she teased. "I always did wonder, and I'm sure a lot of others do, too. Meg's also naturally a mother-hen. Whenever she and Ukyo have children she won't be phased by them screaming their lungs out. Ukyo as a dad will be quite a sight."

"Oh god." Ikki burst into laughter as he placed his hands on his face and shook his head before he pulled them away and leaned back a little. "My mother has high hopes for the both of us. When there's a family dinner mom asks us the same thousand questions and is disappointed each time. Though I think she's going to like the next gathering. We both have someone this time and Meg's not dying of a heart attack."

He smiled fondly. "Meg would have kids first though. I don't know how Ukyo would be as a parent. That would be interesting to see, but Meg's always throwing herself into the fire's not going to be anything new. It's just us going to be laughing at her when they start jumping off of bridges and going through the /same/ panic /we/ did when she decided that was /fun/."

"Payback's a bitch." Tsume agreed, feeling giddy the more they talked. The waiter came back, she asked her question, their order was placed and they walked off again. "Hisako and Shin would be the most chill parents, I think. Maya would be the hair-brained mom. Toma would be the type to threaten any boy that goes near his daughter. Shin wouldn't worry because Hisako would teach them her scary tricks. Kent and Kazu are too early to tell."

"Kent would be a good dad." Ikki said with a nod, "A little analytical, but he's actually pretty good with kids. He knows that they don't understand things, so he's a lot more understanding. As for Hisako and Shin....I don't know if I can see them with kids. Shin never struck me as the type that even /cares/ about that kind of thing."

"Hisako would fight you on that." Tsume grinned wide. "I don't think they'd have kids /right away/, no, considering Shin doesn't want to be associated with his own parents, especially his father. He's trying to be better, so he's too focused on other things. If they had a kid early it would be because they got too passionate and oopsed. Or a condom broke, but I'm certain Hisako takes pills anyway."

"I don't think they're going to get married right away either." Ikki shook his head, "Known each other for years and Shin still hasn't asked her to be his permanently. Though, then again, it's like you said. They're both trying to be better people from the foundation they were built on." He raised an eyebrow. "So what about you? Mother right away? Marriage right away? Or are you kind of like Hisako and Shin and just want to be?"

Tsume knew he was going to ask. That didn't make the blush that formed any lighter. It certainly was darker than before, too. "My parents have been pushing at me to get married at the very least, especially after my cousin did in the spring. I told you about that. They'd even told me I should transfer to a spa near them to find someone if I was so unlucky here. I honestly still haven't told them about you, but not because I don't want to. Their efforts would only double, even if they'd stop trying to convince me to move. As for children...both my parents are teachers. I've been around them at all ages. I think I'll be fine."

Ikki nodded, "I haven't been around kids. Not a lot. I've been around more girls than anything so...that's where my expertise lie. So, whether or not I'd make a good parent is a question best left to ask Meg-chan. As for meeting the parents, I'm fine with pushy. We'll have to introduce each other somehow someway. Though if you'd like, I could introduce you to mine first, so you're less nervous. I can always drag Meg down with us as well if you think that the situation calls for it. Of course, I'm willing to go with whichever."

"A family event might end up being best, because doesn't Kent still live with his parents? Toma can drag along his mother to meet Maya. We'd all be in the same boat somehow. Might be in trouble if both of ours meet at the same time. Our mothers would conspire against us." Tsume rolled her eyes.

"We'll keep Shin and Hisako out of it since I know they don't need to hear all of this." Ikki said softly. He knew that they didn't have parents really, and to invite them to something like a family event would just be rude. "Meg'll just introduce Ukyo to my mother since who knows about her own. I don't know if Ukyo /has/ family for her to be introduced to." He looked troubled at that. "Huh..."

"From what I know, Ukyo's parents travel way too much, as do Meg's." Tsume nodded, "Kazuko's parents live in a different part of Tokyo, closer to the coast I think, and they pay for her schooling and apartment. Maya's are also in a different part of the city, but close enough she can travel to them if she needs to. Downtown, maybe?"

"Might be an idea." Ikki said nodding his head as he listened to Tsume. "But before we get too ahead of ourselves, we still need Maya and Toma to /at least/ start going out."

"Maya was having issues with small-talk and Meg tossed her into the fire. They clicked fine over art, but they really need to start smaller." Tsume rubbed her forehead, "The poor girl. You know, she's also worried she is going to irritate Toma by acting like one of 'them' towards him. I heard what I'm telling you from Rika after their shopping trip."

Ikki sighed softly, "People really should stop comparing my situation to the reality at hand. I'm not exactly a....standard." He smiled a little wistfully. "I think no matter how small you went, there was bound to be a fallout. Maya panics too much, especially around someone that she likes. Toma's observant, but he's content to let life slip him by as well."

"Maya's an excitable person, is where Rika thinks the main concern is. She clings and squeals /normally/ and she has been watching 'them' too much, you're right. She got more self-conscious about how she acted when she started going to the cafe more. I think she just needs reassurance that it's okay, and he really doesn't mind. Like you did earlier, saying you don't mind me hanging off you." Tsume pointed out.

"Unfortunately that's Toma's responsibility. Even if I gave advice to her and told her that he doesn't mind it and that she's her own person, the chances of her listening to me are slim." Ikki hummed. "If she's going to be looking for someone with reassurance, well...Meg might've ruined it, Ukyo hasn't."

"Might be an idea to have her talk to Shin, too." Tsume tapped her chin, but then she tilted her head at Ikki, "Speaking of newbies at dating, have you told Kent anything particular about how he should date Kazuko? Kazu's still in disbelief over her morning and evening texts."

"The usual." Ikki answered easily taking a sip of his drink again and setting it down. "A stroll around the city. A nice quiet dinner date, something of the sort like that. Though knowing Kent, he's going to go the opposite of what I say." He looked a little pleased. "And instead of asking me to clarify, I picture he's going to show up at Meg's house. When he doesn't believe me, he goes to Meg. Probably because of her own skills in research and knowledge."

"Kent is adorable. I'm excited for when he finally figures out what he's doing. He's going to be quite the romantic, I'm sure. Though, explain to me what these 'stages' are? All I think about is what comes naturally. He's thinking of it as a process." Tsume squeezed out what was left of the lemon slice and then bit at it before taking a drink.

"According to Kent it goes from infatuation to sentimental love to physical love." Ikki explained. "Which isn't wrong, but he has a strict guide line I suppose about how it's supposed to work. If we go by the guidelines, then we can say that I'm seventy-five percent complete and Megumi is ninety seven. Then again that seventy five could be fifty five. I'm known to "skipping" steps."

Tsume was amused, "For as long as we've been dating I think we're probably at 'fifty-five' percent in Kent's standards, then. We haven't even kissed. So much for skipping steps, Ikki."

"Well it's you." Ikki gently gestured to her. "I don't want to skip any steps with you if I can help it. Though, I'm curious. Was that you asking me if I want to kiss you? Or was that you telling me that I should be?"

The shift in the atmosphere around them was obvious not just to Tsume and her powers. She could feel the spark, and her breath caught as he peeked at her over his glasses. He'd not once tried to use his gaze on her on purpose, but he didn't have to. The emotions behind his gaze was enough to catch her by surprise, the way they smoldered at her, unabashed. "Both?" she offered, bringing her hand up like she was thoughtful, but her finger was placed deliberately over her mouth and she gauged his reaction.

Ikki clicked his tongue. "So I'm making you doubt me and my intentions that's not good." He said lightheartedly. "To answer your question, I would very much like to kiss you. It's been four months, I suppose I'm not that good of a boyfriend that I think I am. Sorry. Should I kiss you now? Make a scene?"

"Maybe not. Our food will be here any minute. We're going back my place, anyway. It's not like you have to give me a short and sweet kiss at my doorstep." Tsume reminded.

Ikki smiled slowly, "So you would rather have a hot passionate one then."

Tsume bit her lip lightly, "Maybe." She said airily, and left it at that.

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:12 pm

"Ice cream or classical buttery popcorn for movie time?" Tsume asked as she put her keys back on her bag and hung it on the rack before she draped her coat over it next, taking off her shoes next, "Would it be too presumptuous of me to change into pjs?" she sighed in relief as she let her hair down from the half-bun she had put it in.

"No, I'd rather you be comfortable than not." Ikki answered as he took off his shoes and undid his tie. He wasn't looking for any action tonight, but even taking off something so restricting was nice and easy. "Hmmm let's do ice cream. It's easier after the dinner that we had."

Tsume took some time coming back, dressed in a comfy blue t-shirt that had 'chase your dreams' written on it, and a pair of blue striped cotton pants. Wasn't quite cold enough for fuzzy pants, but these would do. "I tend to get regular vanilla and then add my own toppings. I got caramel, chocolate, oreos and soft chocolate chip cookies. Also m&ms but I don't tend to use those in ice cream. You can if you want." She listed off absently as went into the kitchen, making noise as she got out bowls, utensils, and the ingredients she wanted to use.

"Chocolate sounds good." Ikki said, following her into the kitchen and marveling at her apartment. It was clean, and a bit girly. However it looked well-lived in and clearly well cared for. Even her kitchen was practically spotless. His mother would be so ecstatic he could almost /hear/ her. He huffed an amused laugh as he watched her walk around, grabbing things before a spontaneous thought came to him. Why not? He walked over towards her and placed his hands on her waist, just right at the hips but no lower and no further up. He didn't press himself too much against her, the last thing he wanted was for her to feel threatened by him. For a brief moment, he let the thought about how she might look if she came out of the shower. Hair dripping wet, padding around in the kitchen. "You smell good." He said softly.

She froze, hand poised to start scooping the ice cream when he did that. Breath catching, she felt the low burn but also the curiosity. He wasn't trying to seduce her, he was just being natural, and it was sexy all the same. Slowly she set the scoop down, moved things back, placed one hand over his and then took a deep breath. She hadn't done this in a while. Quickly, getting a noise of surprise out of him that was pretty adorable, she twisted and flipped them both.

Tsume ended up pressed way up close to him, chest to chest, his eyes huge and she was so glad he didn't have to wear his glasses. She pressed both his hands to the counter, pinning him in position and let the breath she had been holding out slowly. "Do you know the one thing I'm jealous about?"

That was hot and arousing and he was just asked a question so he should probably stop gawking at her like a fish out of water. "What?" He managed to say, still a bit shocked from the move. He forgot that she knew how to do Kendo. But he had to stop his thoughts there, otherwise things would get awkward very quickly.

His voice had dipped in tone and it set her senses on fire, but she tampered it and slowly moved her hands up his arms. He'd taken off his jacket, left in just his pants and striped shirt. Which meant he felt it a lot more acutely. "Out of everyone, even 'them', I'm jealous of Kent." His confusion and shock flared up again, "I understand Kent's pretty stubborn, and says it because it's proper, and you no doubt gave up on trying to get him to call you just Ikki like everybody else. It's obvious you don't like your name, Kent says it and you two go into battle mode. Still. He's the only one who gets to."

"That's it?" Ikki asked after a moment. Just his name? That was the one thing that she was jealous of? Kent using his name? "It's not..." He trailed off. He wasn't certain how to go about this. Even if he did give her permission to use it, it wouldn't be right. Kent was stubborn as fuck when it came to his name. At least Meg had been easy. She thought his name was Ikki and had been for the longest time confused when Kent called him Ikkyu and teased him for the "nickname". "I see." What else could he say to that?

"We're gunna play a little game, just you and me. We're going to see how long you can go." Tsume teased the skin that was peeking from his collar after he'd loosened his tie and popped a couple buttons so he could be comfortable, too. "I promise, when I'm allowed to say it, you'll like it. I don't want you to tell me to, though, until you're actually okay with it, and you /want/ me to. Until then..." she leaned up on her tip-toes to give a teasing kiss, testing the waters.

Ikki pushed back into the kiss, letting it linger and knowing that he was being teased. He never had a woman challenge him like she did. "You're on." He said against her lips, caressing her cheek.

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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:47 am

Nhil never felt as nervous as he did when he sat in front of Megumi and watched her edit his paper. It was like watching a professor tear apart a student for not understanding a concept in the class. Her red pen of doom was poised on the paper, ready to mark out, cross out, circle, whatever she was going to do. She also had a separate piece of paper on the side, notes and advice already filled up on side of it and had been flipped over.

He was kind of thankful that his professor had told him who to find to help with his paper. Like Kent with his math genius, Megumi was well known for her editing prowess and seeing her in action like this, it wasn't hard to understand how or why.

So when the girl that just walked up the stairs headed towards their direction, he immediately thought that she was also trying to get Megumi's help. It took him a bit, but then he recognized her from some of his classes. Tsume, he thinks was her name, but he didn't want to say it aloud in case he was wrong or she just looked like Tsume. She was walking over to them and he smiled a little shyly.

But apparently that wasn't exactly what she was here for.
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PostSubject: Re: There's an Ace up my Sleeve   Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:40 am

"Megumi! I see you've already become friends with the very person I was looking for." Tsume said in way of greeting, sitting down next to the ginger, "I'm Tsume, you must be Nhil? I remember you. You delivered pizza to my friend Hisako's house."

"Ah, I did yes." Nhil nodded as he looked at her curiously. Why would she be looking for him? "She's a regular sometimes. Sorry, you said that you were looking for me? What for?"

"Oh, I was just talking about you to my boyfriend, Ikki, yesterday. He told me you worked hard, had two-three jobs. I was just curious. Was kind of hoping to detour Megumi's next run with some other friends of ours, if you worked at a fast food place or something that wasn't too far off the beaten path. Get you some business, maybe?" Tsume smiled warmly.

Megumi had two thoughts that ran across her mind, and one of them was that if Tsume and Ikki were going to go ahead and /use/ her, then she damn well deserved some payback. The second one was how on earth Tsume thought she was being subtle.

Nhil just blinked, "I'm surprised that Ikki remembers that conversation. It was a quick one, so...I hadn't expected him to remember. I only work two now. The third was before I came to school. It's a smoothie, yogurt place. Down by fifth avenue."

"I never see you there." Megumi blinked in surprise, looking up at Nhil. "Are you a evening or a morning? Or are you weekend?"

"Weekends mostly, sometimes evenings if my other job doesn't need me." Nhil replied modestly.

"That explains a bit." Megumi nodded.

"The weekend is when they usually go on their runs. That sounds awesome. Yogurt is good for you, anyway, right? Not gunna ruin the whole reason why you guys go running, which is good." Tsume grinned at Megumi, "I think it'd be nice if we can get Nhil as part of our posse, don't you? Maybe one day if he magically has a day off he can come to the cafe, too, but that's wishful thinking. Two jobs and school...Maya can barely keep her head on straight with one and school."

"I'm a bit busy no matter what I do honestly," Nhil said gently. "I have a little brother to look after so even if I do have a weekend off, I'm busy with him. I don't think you'd like to hang out with someone much younger than you." He paused. "Though I know he'd tell me that I need more friends anyway."

"I know the pain." Megumi sighed, running her hand through her hair. "But you wouldn't mind us stopping by here and there to check up on you yeah?"

"No." Nhil shook his head from side to side. "Again, my brother would just tell me that I need the friends. Though why would you go all out all of the sudden?"

"That's for me to know and you to find out, isn't it?" Tsume responded airily, grinning at him, "I'm sure you'll want to say something to me later, Megumi, but I really should get back to my own classes. It was /real/ nice seeing you, Nhil. I hope to see you more, too. Don't be surprised if Ikki asks you similar questions later, he said he would but..." she winked, "He doesn't know I go to the same school as him. I'm kind of amused that he still doesn't, honestly. It's a private little waiting game to see how long it takes."

Nhil instantly knew that Tsume said the wrong thing the moment Megumi's eyes lit up. He seen that look on his /brother's/ face before he decided to do something that was crazy. He watched Tsume leave before turning to Megumi. "You're going to annoy Ikki with that aren't you?"

"Hell. Yes." Megumi said, her smile widening.

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