Chapter One: The Meek Shall Never

EVEN THOUGH HER HEART fluttered like butterfly wings at the sheer sight of him, she knew with a miserable revelation that she would never be able to express the depth of her feelings for him.

So she stayed here, several yards away from him, sitting beside her best friend, where she giggled, though her heart shattered into pieces when she saw him.

A muted blush concealing the paleness of her cheeks colored her spectral skin with a shade of the first color of the rainbow.

Her best friend egged her on, jabbing the silver-blue cell phone into Asahara's ribcage. "Come on, Asahara!" she goaded with passionate excitement. "I dare you to take a picture of him on your cell phone!"

Asahara tried to shrug the whole situation off, laughing gently to keep the "dare" as lighthearted as possible. "No, that's okay," she replied meekly. "I'd rather look at him in person than stare at an electronic screen."

Azami could only scoff at her naïve best friend. "But that's all you've ever done, Asahara."

It was true. Asahara had no more than admired him from afar, with wishful sidelong glances, only a subdued desire lodged in the space of her beating heart. In the last year that she had adored him, she had exchanged maybe three or four clumsy sentences with him—none of which she would like to remember if she had the choice.

"Well, I happen to like routines," Asahara fended, knowing that her argument was ineffably weak.

Azami jeered her childhood best friend of eleven years. "Change is good, you know," she insisted effortlessly.

It never came as a surprise that Azami made such convincing contentions. She was an Iemochi and in Tokyo, Iemochis were highly-regarded for their fervent oration skills; they were Tokyo's notorious lawyers, the Iemochi Law Association Firm (or ILAF, which was exactly what they did whenever they won a case; laugh and drink.) ILAF'S slogan was: "You sue, you lose. Don't mess with the best."

Azami always carried an air that whispered similarly, "Don't argue with me; you know I'm right." It sounded precisely like what she was doing to Asahara—again, she remembered with a note of irritation and a subtle hint of anger.

But Asahara had not the will to counter-argue her best friend; not very well at least. Instead, she opted for the safest way out of the sizzling grill. "Maybe some other time," she said simply, vaguely.

Azami shook her head with long, heavy strides. She clucked her tongue and released an exasperated sigh, knowing that her childhood best friend was utterly hopeless.

"When are you ever going to grow a backbone, Asahara?" she questioned her with all the sobriety she could muster in spite of her frustrations.

Good question, Asahara mused, concealing the sting of Azami's question. "Oh . . . well . . ." she stalled for some more thinking time. "I'm sure someday I will." She wasn't so certain of that; frankly, she had never thought she truly needed one. The world may have been built by warriors, but it was founded by visionaries. It was a quote of intellectual standings, but she hadn't the nerve to voice it.

Only at that moment did Asahara realize Azami was right: she needed a backbone. She could hardly even protest her friend's comments.

"Sure . . ." Azami returned with skepticism lining her fleshy pink lips. "You know, if you don't ever talk to him, he'll never know you're alive. He'll just keep hanging out with those ditzy girls."

Asahara sighed. The conversation was demanding too much of her energy. There was no doubt in the universe that Azami was right about that last part.

He was the image of perfection in her eyes, but she had learned in a year that he was truly a masterpiece painting that never gazed upon his admirer.

"One of these days," Azami continued, "you have to stop daydreaming about him and actually turn your fantasies into reality. And if that day ever comes, boy will I be proud of you!"

I'd be proud too, Asahara noted.

Azami caught the dull spark of sadness in the obsidian onyx eyes that most people mistook for dark brown. She softened her tone and in consolation, said to her heartbroken best friend, "It's okay. I'm sure that if you ever really talked to him, he'd realized how wonderful of a person you are and he'd want to date you in a heartbeat."

Asahara smiled weakly, knowing Azami was only trying to make her feel better, but her pride—the little bit she had of it anyway—had already been damaged by Azami's verbal blows earlier.

"Thanks," she replied.

"—But, honestly, he'll never notice you if you don't make the first move," Azami spoke, her engine revving up once more. "Being meek never did anyone any good, Asahara. It's like what Mr. Yamamoto's always saying: the meek shall never inherit the earth."

Asahara nodded her head, remembering the numerous lectures that always involved the "meek shall never inherit the earth" phrase in her literature class. Mr. Yamamoto, a middle-aged, tall teacher with short, choppy brown hair and a wife and two kids, seemed to have an obsession with the phrase. It was understandable though, since he claimed on the very first day of school with a deadpan face that he was related by blood to Fujiwara Michinaga, who seized power at the zenith of the Fujiwara dominion during the early Heian period.

"It's just a phrase," Asahara dismissed, though she understood the weight of the infamous quote. "It's not like it's set in stone."

But Asahara's mind reeled over the possibility that it was.