Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence. The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.

Side Story - Ten Fifty Three

"Exactly ten fifty-three."

"How are you feeling?"

"Excited!" Kazuya offered immediately then chuckled and shook his head. "A little apprehensive."

"About the course?"

"No. I am confident that I will do well. It's just knowing that this is my last exam and then voila, I'm done university. Just like that. It almost feels a little anti-climatic."

Konbayoshi Takahiro laughed lightly at that and Kazuya could just imagine the older man shaking his head on the other end of the line. "Should I throw you a party then?" Which, no doubt, earned a roll of eyes from Kazuya. "Focus. Don't think too much about it being your last exam."

"How did you feel when you finished your last exam?"

"Mmm. I don't think I felt anything." Konbayoshi leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling above. "Perhaps a little apprehensive because I knew I'd have to return to my uncle."

Kazuya paused for a brief second at the thought, recollecting what the owner had told him about his family. Over the years, Konbayoshi had painted an almost complete picture of his family for Kazuya. Of course, the younger had frequented the Konbayoshi family estate to give life to all that Konbayoshi had told him. He would never understand the entirety of what Konbayoshi had gone through, but each little detail made him feel closer to the older man.

"It's all in the past now."

"Tell me about it."

"Will they be able to come?" Kazuya's voice took on a cheerful new tone as he turned off the main road and took the short cut path through the forest.

"Of course." Konbayoshi's voice sounded smug. "They have to come."

"Oh yeah, 'cause they loved it there." Retorted with a roll of eyes.

They've slowly shed that coy front that both have donned at the beginning of their relationship. Then it was no longer about admiring the strengths of one another but finding out the little faults that were starting to crack. It was a period of adjustment and seeing who they really were in relation to each other. Now, there needn't to be pretence; for that would just be an insult to their efforts.

"At least it was better than Red Velvet."

Over the years, Kazuya had been informed of the other infamous host club somewhere in town. Apparently it had been burnt down, and after the fire, the owner and bartender decided to give it a rest and had been dormant ever since then. That was a long time ago, or so it had seemed like it.

"So who's been confirmed so far?"

"Bakusui and Takumi will come together."

"Tell me again how they managed to open a wine shop?"

"Unlike you, they actually retained the knowledge of their time as hosts." Konbayoshi teased with an amused chuckle. "And you know how long they've worked here, especially Bakusui. Recommending leisure drinks to the average people would not be any problem for them."

Five years after Chitose left, Bakusui and Takumi spent less and less time at Opiate, and finally they decided to split from the club and opened their own business. They became the number one supplier for Opiate's needs for wine and had been thriving ever since then.

"You think they'll bring something for the occasion?"

"If you ask nicely, maybe they'll consider."

"Mmm, I'll ask Takumi-san then!" Between the two older men, Takumi had always been the one with the kinder heart. Kazuya could not help but make a face upon remembering the former trainer, he had been tough. "Are they the only ones?"

"Ren will be there too."

"I really think he found the perfect job for him. All muscles, no brain."

"Wait 'till he hears that."

The number two host decided to pursue a career in modelling, thanks to Shuzo who opened the door for him. Kazuya figured that it was probably the best route for him, since he just had to stand there and show off his muscles and voila, done.

"What about Shuzo-sama and Gen-san?"

"If Shuzo's schedules finish in time, then they will be there as well."

Kazuya sometimes wondered whether Gen was fortunate or suffocated. Soon after the number two's debut, Shuzo had already booked an exclusive on him. Ever since then, there had been no changes. In fact, it was so exclusive that even some hosts have never seen this number two. However, the fact that Shuzo and Gen are usually overseas certainly contributed to that situation.

"Somehow, it's like a reunion." Kazuya paused and chuckled lightly. "Is that even the correct term? I mean, it's not like we've completely lost contact, right?"

"We'll have dinner afterwards."

Ah, dinner! Kazuya's stomach stirred ever so slightly but did not rouse. It better not! There was a three hours exam to sit through and besides he ate just an hour ago!

The talk of communication had his heart fluttering just a little. Even though this topic had been rather exhausted over the first years of their relationship, for Kazuya, perhaps it will always be the toughest wall to break.

"And… what about him? Will he come back too?"

A gust of wind rushed past him and he thought it covered up a sigh on the other end.

"His exclusive should end by then."

"You mean, you calculated it to the minute for him to be able to get back in time, right?"

"It's fate."

"Mmhm."

"Kazuya."

Said person sighed and he offered an apologetic look even though he knew Konbayoshi would not be able to see it. "Sorry. You know what I meant."

"I do." There was understanding. Again, it's been way too long for them to be having petty arguments over something stupid. "We'll see if he can make it back in time."

"I know, I know." Kazuya sighed and glanced away. "You know what, if he can, I'll go pick him up from the airport."

"How nice of you." That was paired with a string of chuckles that Kazuya suspected fell more on sarcasm than amusement.

To be fair, in the past ten years, Chitose had never been part of their relationship literally. However, the more he came to know about Konbayoshi –especially his past-, the more he realized that Chitose just could not be replaced. Right now, it was about symbiosis rather than survival of the fittest. Besides, it's been ten years and Kazuya was no longer twenty and naïve. If Konbyaoshi was happy and faithful, then there were things and people he was willing to learn to love and accept as well. If there had never been Konbayoshi between the two of them, he'd fantasized that he and Chitose would have become good friends. But alas, life was funny that way.

"Yes, yes, I am, aren't I? Alright, time for me to run. I'll see you at home tonight and then we can talk about it in more detail? We still have to figure out which restaurant we're going to afterwards."

"Fine with me. Good luck on your exam."

"Thank you."

Line cut and phone shut, connection terminated. Exactly ten minutes and fifty-three seconds, they've managed to fit a whole group of people's destiny in it. Two days later, Konbayoshi will sign the contract and Opiate will be shut down for good. It was strange to know that they will all be going their separate ways, but their foundation had been scandalous to begin with.

A life without Opiate, Kazuya mused; it just meant that they needed other vices to be addicted to, no?

Fin

Author's Notes:

The above was done upon request. I hope it was not too bad!