A BASEBALL KISS
MOMIJI ACADEMY - Library
Friday, 10:30 a.m.
One thing I hate about Japan is that even during summer, the rain just wouldn't take a break and go away and rain on some other unfortunate island nation. In short, since past midnight that Sunday, rainstorm just had to arrive. Gin-senpai, with egghead cousin Takara seconded, wanted to visit Little Stardust House around midnight because that is when the presence of spirits become stronger and a whole lot more distinctive to the naked eyes. We planned to sleep early right after our delicious okonomiyaki dinner then so we can wake up on midnight, but instead, the storm got to us first before we even exited the house.
Because of the almost week-long series of rainstorms, none of us even had a chance to visit the Little Stardust House. Even if that was the case, Great-Granduncle Kouta seemed to be having a ball living in the main Stardust House and hanging out with us. These past few days, I couldn't help but worry about Mirai. Sure, her boyfriend has been possessed by his own great-granduncle's spirit, but being stuck in Tai-nii's body for good if we don't get him out of this world by the 27th wasn't quite the reason, though I still worry. It was these past few days that I realized how much Mirai loves Tai-nii so much that she too was also beginning to fall in love deeply with Kouta-san. With the ghost inside Tai-nii, they became a whole lot more romantic, a lot sweeter, and somehow, truth to be told, I admit that I like this version of Tai-nii better. Not only that he treated me with kindness and respect, but he actually saw me as an admirable independent individual that whenever I trample clumsily in accident, he would simply just help me up and ask me if I was alright, unlike Tai-nii who would just berate me for not being careful. It really felt nice and comforting, but then, nice and gentle Tai-nii somewhat creeps me out.
Good things did occur though despite the long-running ugly rain. First up, the same contractors who were renovating and converting the basement in to a full-operational sound recording studio quickly and efficiently re-arranged and renovated my bedroom, Jun's bedroom, and Mirai's bedroom with our help, of course, since we had nothing much to do while being stuck in the house anyway. The Irie Twins, later on joined by Jun, Mirai, and me, had to sleep in the lounge room via futons until the rooms were complete. At this point though, and it was rather scary, Kouta insisted he would sleep with Mirai in the lounge room also, and since Yuki will be alone in their room, he decided to sleep with Jun in the lounge room also. And of course, because Kouta will be sleeping with Mirai in one futon in the lounge room, Dad instructed Gin-senpai to sleep in the lounge room as well. Ken-senpai slept in their room by himself since there was no more room for one more person in the lounge room.
All three rooms were finally completed yesterday afternoon, all squeaky clean and brand-new. I loved the new pastel-colored loft beds that Jun and I have. She had pastel yellow and I had pastel green. Although we're both girls and Jun is a lot more girly than I am, we both hate pink. The walls were painted pastel baby blue. Jun's room, on the other hand, became the official room of the Irie Twins. This would be quite interesting because Jun is now just across the street from her beloved Yuki, who is sharing the room with Tai-nii.
Wednesday late morning, another set of twins finally moved in. Of course, I was talking about the fraternal Clark Twins, Mallory and Malvyn Clark. The very pretty (though in a way ditzy?) Mallory insisted that we just call her Mal because she's not quite comfortable with her Japanese given name yet (Maruko), plus of course, Mallory is rather difficult to pronounce for an average Japanese person. "Ma-ro-rii"?. Right.
Malvyn, on the other hand, insisted we should call him V-Dawg, but Ken and Mal both insisted that Vyn sounded cooler than something ghetto like V-Dawg. There are no ghetto Gs in Stardust House. Sorry Vyn. As Mirai predicted last Sunday about Mal becoming popular with the boys, that already started in Stardust House when Himemiya, Shinoda, and even Hinata have been checking her out already. Even with those three adorably cute flirts hanging around her all the time, she actually had the power to ignore them as she spent most of her time on her Android cellphone. Her long-distance online boyfriend, Sora Kazamatsuri, despite still not being able to meet each other in real life, had always been active in contacting her through all means from text to IMs to Facebook and mixx and every social network ever known to man. But what makes their communications precious, according to her anyway, is that whenever there was something important, he would call her and they would talk back and forth non-stop for hours. Sometimes, I feel that Mal knows more about her phone even more than her new fellow tenants at the house she and her twin brother are now boarding.
Vyn, much to a surprise, found a new friend in Takara. White Chocolate meets "leet haxxorz" in disguise. They seem to have somewhat of the same personality, except Vyn sounded like an uneducated ghetto G while Takara sounded like an absent-minded egghead that all he could talk about was science, technology, paranormal activity stuff, and some crap about computers. After hanging around with these two as much, I did learn a lot about those two. Most importantly for Vyn, they had no language barrier. I learned from Hinata that because of the whole premature idol training they went through, the twins were home-schooled throughout their elementary years. Takara actually quit the idol training when he was 11-years-old, and while Hinata continued his homeschooling and his idol training, as a "punishment" of sorts from their mom, she coaxed Uncle Kenzo to agree with her to ship Takara off overseas at some boarding school in America. In particular, in a Japanese international school in Atlanta. Apparently, he didn't learn English from that school. He learned English from his classmates when they're not on campus. They weren't allowed to speak English in that school, which made no sense to me since they are in a predominantly English-speaking country and English even happens to be one of their core classes required, so they had to wait after school or until they head back home to their dorms for them to communicate in English. Takara also admitted that he felt envious of his classmates that even if they are native Japanese, their accent sounded like they were born and raised in America, so during his first few months there, he worked really hard to get rid of his obvious Japanese accent so he too would sound like he was an American-born Japanese kid. Takara attended that Japanese school in Atlanta for two years, so that should explain his English fluency and his "gelling" with a half-Japanese kid like Vyn. During his two-year stint in Atlanta, he discovered, or rather influenced, by his fellow Japanese homies everything American from R&B to Hip-Hop by attending concerts to increasing his fanaticism in baseball by going to Atlanta Braves baseball games. He said he would've tired out for the school baseball team should the school ever had one, but unfortunately, there are no middle school level baseball teams in America at all. He also joined the computer science club (which explains his unusual technological hacking and cracking habits) and had a chance to have a club field trip to California,where Apple, Google, YouTube, and all those notable high-tech companies. He also joined the school's choir and even enrolled in a local dance studio where he took a lot of hip-hop and B-Boying classes. He even had the aspiration of joining in a dance crew and then compete for that show "America's Best Dance Crew," but just before he auditioned to join a local crew, Uncle Kenzo gave him a ring telling him the bad news of his divorce with their mother (forgot her name, sorry).
Apparently, because of the divorce, Uncle Kenzo decided to take Takara back home when his second school year of middle school ended over there in March. He then enrolled him and Hinata to Momiji Academy Middle School to finish their third and final year there before they embark in high school. This school year was the first time that both the twins attend an actual Japanese school and first time that the twins are attending school together in their lives. Ever.
Takara is filled with a lot of suprises, that's for sure. He holds the record of the only the only Irie male who isn't a flirt and an idol-in-training, let alone an idol. Even if he quit at age eleven he still retained everything he learned from that premature idol training. He possessed superb singing and dancing skills and the vocal teachers discovered that Takara possessed a five-octave vocal range, meaning he can sing a really deep bass and he can sing a really high falsetto, just like the famous Keita Tachibana of that one of the coolest, longest-running boy bands in Japan, w-inds. Hinata admitted also that he was one of the worst singers during their intense training period at the StarPros Talent Institute at the time that he, Yuki, and Takara were enrolled. He stated that he only got better at singing prior to his preparation for his debut as an official StarPros idol because Takara had been training him at their school dorms back at their middle school, however he can never possess that awesome five-octave vocal range like his older non-idol twin.
In addition, among the three of them, it was only Takara who inherited the musical genes from Great-Grandpa Kenjiro, just like me. He can play the piano, play the guitar, and mixes his own techno music using a mixing software of some sort in his computer, and he even tried turntablism too from one of his buddies in his school. Although he can make awesome techno tracks, even if techno or dance music isn't actually my forte, he actually listens to more R&B and Hip-hop than anything else. He and Vyn can dance real well, hip-hop style, and crazy to say this, B-Boying, that is, mainly because of their common hobby of listening to R&B and Hip-hop, so much that whenever Yuki and Hinata had to do a dance routine for their workshop project, Takara had to be part of their routine in order to perfect it.
Vyn and Takara also had one thing in common. The only reason why they got very high grades in school was because they have this strange ability that they can remember everything just by reading the given text material or listening to the teacher's lectures or watching someone do their thing just once. In fact, these two rarely, if not never, study, which annoyed Mal big time. Mal admitted that she is a very diligent student and very hardworking with her studies and put so much hours in to her studying, but no matter how much she studied hard, Vyn was still able to beat her in almost every single exam given to them. As far as final exams go in the Irie Twins' middle school, the twins themselves pretty much own 9th Grade, with Takara being first-ranking and Hinata being second.
Today, Kaito, Yuki, Jun, and I did our shift working on our kissing booth for the Foundation Day Festival yesterday morning. Best part of our shift was that all of the hard parts were already completed and we only had to do the painting and the decorating of our booth. The dudes at the computer science club, along with Dori and class rep Hara, have been trying to figure out how they were going to install some camera system that would connect to a laptop where it would show footage of the raffle winner and the kisser actually kissing by the facilitator. It was a good thing Dad suggested we brought the two pairs of twins along to give a short tour of Momiji Academy, and of course, introduce them to some of the school's traditions, such as the Foundation Day Festival. Takara offered to help Dori and class rep Hara and the computer club dudes install that camera system so Dori, who will be the facilitator witness of the two lucky people kissing won't have to peep through the window and instead, just watch them through a laptop. Dad also warned us earlier that if possible, that we should keep Takara away from any computer, because this tempts him to get back to his addiction towards computers and then do something drastic again, like hacking more central systems of major businesses and organizations. It was bad enough that he already had a police record of hacking illegally just some five months ago.
Hinata admitted to us that ever since Takara quit the idol training, he had a hard time transitioning in to getting used to becoming an idol by himself instead of becoming a pair of idols with Takara. He was bullied by other boys, not because he was terrible at singing or anything, but because of the fact that he was an Irie, and that it was unfair competition that he would automatically become part of a StarPros idol anyway. Whenever they jumped him, he let himself get beat up rather than fighting back even though he can easily take them all by himself. He didn't want a bad rep throughout StarPros, especially with Uncle Keita, Yuki, and Tai-nii, for being a violent bad-ass and that he uses his fully-pledged Kyokushinkai Karate mastery to get back at his tormentors. He even had a few gravure idols in training stalking Hinata like those obsessed fangirls chasing out their favorite idols that one of them even tried to get him to sleep with her in a soapland or a love hotel or whatever they call that. Jeez, at age fourteen? Of course, Hinata felt really uncomfortable, but he didn't want to show his weak side to anyone. He remained silent about his problems from everyone, however Takara found him out and made him open up.
After Hinata finally opened up to Takara, he made a promise to him that he should continue on doing his best on training as always and that he will take care of those tormentors and pervert girls. He did the craziest thing any identical twin would ever do: disguise himself as Hinata when he traveled to the StarPros Talent Institution and gather some info from other idol trainees who may be close or even have crushes on Hinata. Of course, he had to wear contacts because of his bad eyesight, but on the other hand, it was a good thing that Hinata also had the same bad eyesight as he did, so those who knew Hinata well still wouldn't be able to tell between the two. He was quite shocked that all the idols actually mistook him for Hinata that they gave as much info as they can to him in hopes that he would finally give them attention or something stupid like that. Based on the info he gathered, he was able to do the impossible by hacking through the central computer system of the StarPros Talent Instution to gather unknown, private information. Then he hacked in to personal social networking accounts of those tormentors he gathered from hacking the institution's system to discover and find anything that may be a weakness to them. He stole photos and took screenshots of some posts they made at their blogs or walls or something. With that, he hacked through the StarPros Headquarters' central computer server system and even hacked Dad's, his Uncle Keita's, special database system. I got all confused with all of his technical know-how with the hacking, but he used the central mail server and sent all these embarrassing photos through all of the emails of the idols, idols-in-training, and anybody who has an official StarPros email account. He even hacked through the idols-only forum to post those photos and screenshots. Although he eventually got caught by the IT department that they even called the police on him, those tormentors themselves got in trouble for bullying Hinata and were suspended until they publicly apologize to Hinata for their treatment of him. As for Takara, even though the StarPros execs forgave him for the hacking and convinced the police that this is a family matter, he had just set the record for being the first and the youngest (so far) Irie boy to have a notorious police record.
Takara's reason for doing all the endless hacking at that period? He did it all for the safety and security of his brother being brewed and nurtured in to a full-pledged idol, and recently he also became a part-time activist against bullying and cyberbullying. Even back in school, other kids tried to bully him simply because of his resemblance to Hinata, the fact that he's an Irie, and they're jealous of his smarts, but they couldn't. Unlike Hinata, who refused to use his Kyokushin Karate self-defense skills, Takara did to defend himself from harm. Since then, no one even dared mess with him anymore, but still, their middle school has a peer support program and he became an active member. He himself quit the idol training program because he felt that there are a lot more important, more significant issues that needed to be dealt with other than just showing off and entertaining people with their looks and their artistic talent. He declared that other kids can try to bully him, but no one can touch or mess with Hinata. They had to go through him first before they can even get to his brother. What a tough kid inside a complete geek.
He even grew fond of the infamous Anonymous hacking group. They have been all around in the news since the beginning of the year, and there were rumors that the group is now global and that Japan already has a branch of Anonymous. Takara said that once he fine-tuned his hacking skills, he plans to join their political and social causes. Yuki and Hinata hoped that Takara was kidding about that part, with them being protective over the non-idol Irie boy. Well, with that kind of thinking, he really convinced me that he truly has a mind of his own.
At this point, we were finally finished with our booth. We even decided to help out other homeroom classes to complete the placements of their booths for tomorrow's Foundation Day Festival. Apparently, since Momiji Academy right now is open for anyone to just come in and visit, non-Momiji Academy fangirls even started to invade our school and right out at the stadium fields knowing some of Japan's hottest guys from showbiz idols from idols of all backgrounds attend this school and most likely will be present today due to the final day of the preparation. Luckily none of the booths were harmed, but those targeted, I have no comments with them.
For the safety of many idols present they also scrambled throughout the campus to hide away from the fangirls. What some of these idols know is that there was only one particular place where pretty much no one goes to: the basement floor of the library building. The basement floor is where the very restrictive archives department is located and was always monitored by library staff and some volunteers there. Whenever we wanted to access very old records and other material, we needed to go to the archives booth first for them to retrieve it. It wasn't that no one ever goes here, but because of its location, not every student even knows that our four-story library has a basement in the first place, so technically it's a five-story building. But for those who do know about it, they come here as their own peaceful sanctuary, whether they needed a quiet place to study or to go to sleep. This floor also has a computer lab, which is probably the most occupied area throughout the entire floor.
All of the Stardust House tenants, both the commoners and the idols, decided to chill out at the basement. Good thing it stopped raining last night and the sun out today had gotten really warm again. The air conditioning system down here truly helped us cool down from the sweltering heat. And while we are already here, this was a good chance to investigate further about Great-Granduncle Kenjiro's life after the murders and of course, find any evidence that may have some connections to the murders. Kouta was actually the one who suggested it. We all agreed to it.
Kaito and me decided to be the ones to talk to the library staff. Most of them were guys, a few were girls. Luckily one of the guys was helpful enough to take care of our request because the library girls were already gawking and swooning over Kaito without even realizing that he's visiting as a student, not as an idol.
The library boy who greeted us looked rather stoic and emotionless, but quite tall and lanky, almost the same height as Kaito. He was somewhat dark-skinned and ordinary-looking, but in some ways, because of his slight towering height, he can get intimidating to some shorties like myself.
"Do you happen to have any periodical microfiche available for the months of July to August 1929?" I asked.
The library boy handed me a form and a pen. "Just fill this out quickly, and make sure you indicate the specific publication names that you would like to look at."
"Well, just any publication, really," Kaito said in addition. "Well, publications about general journalism, that's all."
"Alright then, just indicate the date range so we can pull them out easily for you."
"Thanks for your help!"
"Take your time." With Kaito's help, I filled out all the necessary information required.
Once I jotted down the dates "July to August 1929," the library boy gasped and then snapped his fingers. "Ah! May I take a guess on the subject you may be trying to research?"
"Hm?" I winced. "Guess?"
"Were you searching for answers, or rather, find any news about the Irie Murders incident?"
"Wah?" I exclaimed in shock as Kaito hushed me. I then lowered my voice in to a whisper. "Y-you know about… that? I thought…"
"Well, I guessed because of your last name, and then I suddenly remembered the famous incident around that time period. It was all over the news and even in the archives vault here, there is a whole section of that entire incident."
"I think what she meant was," Kaito interrupted, "was that no one knew about the incident, that is, no one in the entire town."
The library boy cleared his throat. "I'm one of the enthusiasts of this incident myself in secret. Maybe for you and your family, Irie-san, you all thought that the entire town did not know about it because no one reported it to the authorities, but it was more of the other way around."
"What's that?" I asked.
"There were rumors that the authorities were being paid or blackmailed, or somehow made a deal with someone within the Irie Family to shut them up and never speak or investigate the entire incident. In fact, even the head librarians here even forbade us from speaking about it."
"Who cares about that?" I demanded. "I'm an Irie and we're investigating it ourselves." Before I continued, Tai-nii, or rather Kouta, also arrived at the booth, also looking desperate.
"Please, I beg of you," Kouta stammered with his fist on the surface of the counter. "This is… this is very important for my family as well. If your superiors forbid you from accessing to those archives dated July to August of 1929, then the Irie Family right now— my sister Kairi here and myself— are speaking for the entire Irie Family and give you permission. Just… please let us have access to those archives."
"Well, to prove that, will you write a note somewhere at the form to let the entire staff know that we have permission from the family then?" The boy asked, flipping the form I just filled and handed it to Kouta. Right then, using a pen, Kouta wrote the following note:
To whom it may concern,
Please spare these fine young members of the school library's archives department staff from accessing the restricted periodical archives dated July to August 1929. As a representative of the Irie Family of Hinasaki City, we grant them permission to give us access to these particular archives.
If you have any questions or any form of confirmation, you may contact the following: Kuze Irie or Keita Irie. The former is the grandfather of Taisuke, Kairi, and Yukinojou Irie, Keita Irie is the president and CEO of StarPros and is the father of Taisuke and Kairi Irie.
Thank you for your consideration.
Once he realized what he was about to write, he quickly scratched off the "kou" part and then rewrote the name: Irie Taisuke, 11th Grade (Homeroom 2-A).
The library boy read the note and then nodded. "Thank you so much, Irie-kun. This would be of great help." He then called one of his library peeps and instructed him to retrieve the required microfiche from the locked vaults.
Irie-kun? If library boy called Tai-nii "Irie-kun," then that only meant one thing. The library boy must be a senior. A 12th Grader. A high school student wrapping up his required three years of secondary education and will be graduating March of next year.
"If you do not mind me asking, pray tell, what is your name?"
"Oh, me?" The library boy gasped. "Ginta Asagiri. 12th Grade, Homeroom 3-A." I knew it. A senior! "This is the first time I've seen you and StarPros idols here in the basement. I thought no one among the student body knows about the basement."
"Well," Kaito cleared his throat, "we mostly came here to hide from the rabid fangirls invading our school outside." He then changed the subject. "Asagiri-senpai, the school library will still remain open throughout the summer?"
Asagiri-senpai nodded, then gave a humble smile. "Remember, there's still summer school session for those who are required to attend due to their poor results in the last final exam and it will start next week, right after the Foundation Day Festival. There's also the annual exam preparations class for any incoming potential high school students as well as orientation week for new students who will start attending our school in the fall."
Of course, I thought. The exam preparations classes are of course for the Irie Twins, while the orientation week would be for the Clark Twins.
"So, you guys have to work here throughout the entire summer because of all these summer classes?" I asked curiously.
"Oh, we go by shifts," Asagiri-senpai chuckled. "I'm off next week, going on a family vacation. I work only three days a week, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Plus, working here for the summer is also considered a summer job for many of us, so I'm getting paid the minimum wage. It'd be of great help for my college fund."
"So, you're a scholarship student then?" I continued prodding, even if it sounded kind of wrong, but it was one way to kill time until we receive the microfiche from the other library dude.
"Well, both a scholarship and an alumni student," Asagiri-senpai answered. "We're originally from Hokkaido in a small farming village. My father was a scholarship alumni here at Momiji Academy and he really enjoyed the school's unique science program here. He went on to an agricultural university back in Hokkaido to study agricultural science so he can continue on operating our family farm. I want to be a librarian and a historian, so I plan on taking Library and Information Sciences when I get to college."
"Very impressive, Asagiri-senpai," Kouta smiled. "Hardworking, independent thinkers such as yourself should always be commended more than the type of social background you were originated from."
What the heck is Kouta talking about? Social backgrounds?
"R-right… Irie-kun. Thank you for the compliment. I'll never forget it." Asagiri-senpai instead answered him with a humble grin.
At this point, his other library dude buddy exited the vaults behind the counter and only had one small black box that had the date taped "July to August, 1929." He handed the box to Asagiri-senpai and then examined the contents. He gave a baffled expression on his face right after he checked the box. Well, there's the microfiche there. I don't see anything wrong with it.
"There should be two more boxes of microfiche for July to August of 1929, Narusagawa-kun," Asagiri-senpai said. "Where are the other boxes?"
"There were pink marks on the spots, so that means someone already checked them out, Senpai."
"Are you serious?" The senior library boy then turned at us. "Hold on one sec, let me check something, alright? There should be two more boxes of microfiche along with that one." He turned to the counter computer to check the records. After a few seconds, he blinked in surprise.
"Well, this is interesting. It looks like Komori-sensei processed the checkout of two of the three microfiche boxes to a teacher."
What the… a teacher? There's a teacher who also has knowledge of our rather sad family history? Oh boy. This is a bit of a problem.
Kaito then answered Asagiri-senpai. "Senpai, may we know the name of the teacher who checked out those two boxes of microfiche?"
"I'm afraid I don't have permission to provide you that confidential information, Ichinose-kun," Asagari-senpai replied straight in the face. "I would if I were the head of this department but you will have to speak to Komori-sensei, our boss and the head of the archives department of the library, regarding the teacher's identity."
Once again, Kouta jumped in, looking more desperate than ever. "Please, we're begging again, Asagiri-senpai. It's very important we know the name of the teacher who checked out those two microfiche boxes. Like I said, this is very important for our family's sake. We're working very hard to restore the full integrity of the family for Hinasaki and all of Japan. Please…"
"Irie-kun, I know all of us will be in trouble for letting you guys have access to these microfiche in the first place, after all, this teacher has special authority from the princpal and from the Mayor of Hinasaki himself. She was assigned to collect information and to write a book about the case as part of Hinasaki's Historical Collection Project…"
Okay, so we have a clue there. The teacher is a she. We need to prod him for more info without getting obvious.
"Very well then," Kaito said. "Is this teacher on duty for this year's summer school or is she also on summer break?"
"The teacher rarely spends her time in this library. She just visits here, collects or returns the materials she needs and then takes off to who knows where. I'm afraid that's all we know—"
"Ryo Tachibana." Right then, we heard a younger boyish voice call out from the closest table to the counter. I already know just by the voice that it's one of the Irie Twins. Just gotta figure out which twin we're talking about here.
Right when I turned, I spotted Takara with his laptop open in front of him and then giving me a thumbs up. I then ran to him and whispered: "How on earth did you know that, Takara?"
"Hee!" Takara grinned with that sugary sweet smile of his and gave me a peace sign. Figures.
Some minutes later, we were at the very empty, very quiet microfiche room. All sixteen of us couldn't be in the room at the same time, so those who weren't that interested or just too tired to read decided to wait outside at the tables. The ones remaining in the the microfiche viewing room were the following: Tai-nii-slash-Kouta-san, Mirai, Kaito, Yuki, Takara, Ken, Gin, and myself.
Takara was in control of the microfiche viewing machine, flipping through each frame of the local newspaper, The Hinasaki Informer, until we found any news articles regarding the murders. Unfortunately, it wasn't until the newspaper dated August 1st that finally mentioned about the murders. We then fell silent and read the text on the screen.
"So…" Kouta murmured. "It was Kenjiro and Kana-chan who reported everything to the police, and eventually passed on to the media. But what happened? Why wasn't the Little Stardust House investigated after the two reported it?"
We continued reading through the article word for word. So far the reports confirmed what we discovered from last Sunday, but other than that, nothing much revealing information was mentioned aside from Great-Grandpa Kenjiro and Great-Grandma Kana being the ones who reported to the police.
"That was it?" Takara frowned, crossing his arms. "That's such a bogus report!"
"It was 1929, Takara," Yuki sighed. "Back then no one knew exactly what investigative reporting really was."
"Still! These article were repetitive!" Takara shook his head. "They all same the same thing over and over again like the previous reports." The boy genius sighed and lowered his head. "I guess no one really reported the incident in the entire detail. This is beyond shameful…"
"Why don't we look at the later issues of the newspaper to see if there were any other updates?" Ken suggested. We all nodded in agreement as Takara continued to search through more issues and articles to see if there were more any news and updates regarding the murders."
"Oh, what's this?" Takara became curious after reading the article title. "'Son of Local Doctor Among Candidates to Irie Marriage.'" We then fell silent again and read the article word for word right after Takara zoomed it in so we would be able to read the text.
"Son of Local Doctor…" Kaito sighed. "They were talking about my great-grandfather, Kidai Ichinose…"
Kouta sighed deeply. "I was serious when I mentioned this, Kaito-kun. I really wanted your great-grandfather to marry Kirie, but she was very indifferent to him. Well-raised, studious, hardworking and handsome lad like Kidai… he must have been heartbroken regarding Kirie's wrongful death."
"Well, I guess some things really just aren't meant to be," Kaito sighed.
"But some things are meant to be destined, Kaito," Mirai interrupted, giving in her two cents. "I mean, who would have thought that Kouta-san here had an affair with my Great-Grandmother Sazae before she got married to Great-Grandfather Genshiro? I mean, I wouldn't have thought of that. And then… there's Tai and me…"
Well yeah, there will be a Tai and Mirai for sure if Kouta would just leave Tai-nii's body, somehow. I bet Gin's grandfather had been tired visiting Stardust House everyday and try to exorcise Tai-nii but still continued to fail. Kouta understood the disadvantages of the situation and despite that he really wanted to stay alive so he can continue his romance through his long lost girlfriend's own descendant. Being the Great-Granduncle, Kouta would do anything to keep Tai-nii's spirit alive; wherever he may be.
We started to hear someone's cellphone ringing. The ringtone played a somewhat familiar oldies song that I couldn't name the song at the moment. Kaito then reached for his pocket and then answered. He placed his hand on the receiver.
"I'm gonna head out for a bit. It's my dad on the phone. I'll be back." He left his spot to have a talk with his father. Obviously it had to be something important.
Ken sighed as Takara exhausted himself from turning the knobs on the microfiche reader. "There's nothing much in these local newspapers. Sounds like the authorities never even bothered investigating the case and the media seemed to just lost interest in writing stories about the case."
"Yeah, if only we had the other two boxes of microfiche, but that teacher checked them out…" Takara said. I'm quite shocked that even a kid like Takara was able to hack through the school's system, just to grab the name of the teacher who checked the microfiche out? Crazy stuff.
"I have Tachibana-sensei's phone number," I said to them. "I'll head out so I don't disturb anyone here. I'll be back." Immediately, I excited the microfiche room, also said the same to the others waiting at the tables, and then made my way outside.
The patio tables near the library were completely empty. I wonder where Kaito went to have a chat with his father? I couldn't find him anywhere. Ah well, I thought, not gonna bother him. I took a seat at one of the empty benches near the entrance so that I don't get myself all lost and confused right after I get off the phone. Just as I was about to click on Tachibana-sensei's name on my contacts list, Mom's telepathic superpowers spoke in my mind again.
"I love being the bearer of good news, Kairi."
Oh, hey Mom. Where have you been all this time? We haven't been back at the Little Stardust House since that Sunday. Stupid rain storm had to invade and this is supposed to be summer vacation!
"Well, everyone knows that Japanese summer sucks, dear. But anyway, I have a piece of good news for you."
Okay then, Mom. For someone who's dead, you're in some ways useful in certain situations.
"In just a few moments, you will meet a new friend who will definitely help you with the Irie Murders case. Isn't that exciting?"
Really, Mom? Who is it?
"Well, I can't really tell you more of it because I don't actually know his name."
What, Mom? You tell me I'll be making a new friend and you don't even know his name? I suppose you don't know when and where I'm going to meet him either.
"The when, I don't know either. The where, I do— in school, of course!"
Oh great, Mom. Just great.
"Well, that's all. Better call your awesome teacher now before you forget!"
Thanks, Mom. Immediately, I clicked on Tachibana-sensei's phone number and then waited for the teacher to answer the phone. Somehow at this point, I felt so relaxed and calm just sitting at this very tranquil scene that it's tempting to just lie down on the bench and take a nap.
Sadly, all I got was a voice message after the long wait: "Hello, you have reached the phone number of Momiji Academy's high school English teacher, Ryo Tachibana. I'm probably busy right now or on vacation or simply in a bad mood to not talk to anyone right now, but for whatever reason that may be, I'm obviously not available. Please kindly leave your name, message, and your phone number and when I do get the chance, I will definitely call you back. Thank you for calling!" And then, the beep… beeped.
"Ah, Sensei! It's me, Kairi. Um, I can't really tell you all the details since I'm at a public place, but can you call me back? It's rather important. You know my number and all that stuff. Thanks Sensei!" Right then, I hung up and then rested myself against the bench.
Man, this feel so good, I thought. The sun may be hot but the breeze just makes the weather so beautiful after a rainy week. Somehow I feel lazy just going back in there and then get my eye strained by looking through all those microfiche frames when we pretty much got nothing. Just as I was going to close my eyes, I felt my heart leap in shock when I heard an elderly man's voice speak at my left ear.
"What a beautiful scene! There are still modern youth who keep constant touch with their homeroom teachers. How noble!"
Quickly I snapped at my left side to see an old man, not so tall, but wore a modest-looking white polo shirt and beige slacks and dark brown shoes. He had a rather tall walking cane rested on the bench next to him. He almost looked pale, but nevertheless healthy, and of course, gray and white hair with a few streaks of black, as well as a mustache also as gray and white as his hair. He gazed at me with just a humble smile on his face.
"I… I didn't see you there, Sir…" I blurted, feeling rather cold and nervous all of a sudden.
"Ah, my apologies, Young Miss," he grinned. "Not much of this school changed, but it has expanded, that's for sure. Ah, Momiji Academy truly progressed in to something very special and highly-regarded by the masses. How I miss this place. Wonderful memories!"
Just by the sounds of his words, he already gave me an obvious clue. He was once a student here in Momiji Academy, somewhere in the past, for sure. I wonder…
"Sir… you were a student here?" I asked curiously.
The old man chuckled and nodded. "You are indeed one smart young lady, Miss! Of course, where are my manners?" He cleared his throat, then bowed. "Jiro Tani, retired journalist, historian, and author. Class of 1934. One of the very few, the very proud, and even the few surviving alumni of the third graduating class in Momiji Academy's history."
I returned the bow and introduced myself. "Nice meeting you, Tani-san. I'm Kairi Irie. Um… Class of 2015."
"A first-time high school student, I see. Well then, good to meet you. Irie, huh? Well, that name is still quite famous around Hinasaki, isn't it?"
"You're not from here?"
"Oh, I was originally from here, but you know, after university, my wife and I settled in Kanagawa, raised our family, and you know, live a good run-of-the-mill life. Did you know that this year is the 80th anniversary of this school. I wanted to come and visit and have fun for tomorrow's Foundation Day Festival, so it is indeed very special. Would you believe this? It was eighty years ago that I graduated from this fine school. Really provided me the best education I ever had. My children were also enrolled here, but unfortunately after their graduation they all moved out of the area or out of the country so we don't have any of the young generation of our family, but it's a true delight that I'm able to meet a descendant of one of my very old friends in the same class! Well, I'm assuming…"
"Well, I do have a lot of relatives who did graduate from this school, Tani-san. My parents graduated from here. My grandpa also graduated from here too."
Tani-san gave a nod. "Well then, I'm happy to know that there are some youth today that do care about their family's history. No matter how small or how big, each family clan has a very important destiny of their own. As with the circle of life goes, if one isn't able to succeed to fulfill that destiny, another one of his or her own will. It's how it is with ancestors and descendants, ne?"
"You're right about that, Tani-san." I paused for awhile, still wondering where Kaito went off to. Then right then a realization came to my mind. "Wait, Tani-san. If… if you don't mind… may I ask you a few questions?"
"Now is the good time to break the ice, ne, Irie-san?" Tani-san simply grinned.
"You said you're Class of 1934 here at Momiji Academy, right? I… I was wondering… can you tell me a bit about Momiji Academy's history? I know it was explained back in my orientation months ago but I wasn't paying attention as much."
The old man simply chuckled. "Gladly, in a nutshell. Hinasaki needed a close-knit, wholesome, and well-rounded school for the town's youth of all backgrounds, so whether you were of the elite class, the middle class, or even the poorest of the poor, the town called for equal education for all children. The elite families funded to build such a school and eventually in 1926, the measure was approved by the town council. Construction began in 1927 and the entire campus was completed in 1929. In 1930, inspection process took place to make sure that the school is indeed safe from natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and all other important details. In that same year, the hiring process and the enrollment of their first set of students also began. There were no entrance exams at that period therefore anybody who simply wanted to attend the school were all admitted. It took a year for the entire inspection, which was why the school officially opened in 1931. In 1932, the school began admitting long-distance students for those who are originally Hinasaki residents but had to move out of town due to job transfers or for those with physical disabilities.
"It wasn't until 1935, right after my graduation, that the Japanese government elevated the school into its elite status due to its excellence in its innovative education system and the fact that it became one of the first few schools that offered long-distance education for those who aren't able to be present in the classrooms. Because of its new status, more funding came from those same sponsors and new donors also joined the program and donated more money to the school in order for the campus to expand, as well as launch new club activities for students. Those days were simply booming— until the war came. Well, I don't have to tell you what happened then, but the school itself was able to recover from its losses."
I nodded in agreement. "Every time we get in to studying about the war, the more disgusted I am with my own country. Luckily I didn't have to live during that time, but I feel for my older relatives for going through that horrible decade."
"Well, as the life cycle goes, there are peak times of happiness and there are times of sorrow and struggles, only to bounce back up again. That's just how it is."
"Now that reminded me…" Quickly I reached for my shoulder purse, took out a black box, and then opened it. I remembered bringing along old high school photos of Great-Grandpa Kenijro and Great-Grandma Kana but there were no mention of the school they attended. I found a couple photo of them sitting at the patio table somewhere having lunch, then showed it to Tani-san.
"Tani-san, I know this may be out of topic but I was wondering…" Just as I was about to continue, Tani-san just smiled and then nodded.
"Ah, well what do you know! I knew I had a feeling about you, Irie-san! By golly, why didn't I think of that before? You resemble so much of Kenji-Pon!"
I gasped in excitement. "Then you knew my great-grandfather, Kenjiro Irie?"
"Of course! Everybody knew him! He was the first kid I met when we both started as 10th Graders! His family was one of the great sponsors that made this school possible. Kenjiro Irie was the first young Irie to attend this school. Some years later, his sons and daughters began attending this school, and that's about the last time I've spoken to him."
"How close were you and Kenjiro-san back then?'
"We were all close, you know. We were a very small class of 60, so back then we only had one classroom. Not very many people know about his life back home, to be honest with you. I didn't blame him for being picky on who he wanted to share his personal life with. Luckily I was one of the few." He sighed and then lowered his head. "Gotta admire him for his free thinking and his independence though. He was raised by his grandmother, you know. Just before he graduated from high school his grandmother died, and it was very, very devastating for him. He was afraid that his family will not survive that long because all of the ones he loved passed away so early. But we all gave him as much moral support as we can and convinced him to stay strong. We all did. His sweet girlfriend, Kana-chan, was our leader of the Irie Encouragement Team, you know." He then broke in to laughter, but in a good way, of course. "Ah, we were young and independent-minded then. Wonderful memories we made together."
"Wow!" I exclaimed happily. "I bet you have plenty of stories about your time here and of course, about my great-grandfather."
"Plenty! I've written them all in my diaries, which is another reason why I'm here in Hinasaki. I came here to retrieve all my personal diaries I've kept at my old home. Lately my grandson decided to sell the house to some developer and so my family is currently moving things out. I want to look for and retrieve my diaries and… well… I want you to have them, Irie-san."
Eh? That quick? "Are you sure, Tani-san?"
"I feel that you are searching for something about your family's past. Let's just say, whatever I've written in my old diaries, you may find your answers there." He then cleared his throat. "I will assume that you live in the Irie Estate, am I correct?"
"Irie Estate?" I blinked curiously.
"What was the name— ah yes, Stardust House!" No way! He knew about Stardust House? Maybe I should accept his offer of handing out his old diaries to him.
"Yes… you're right."
"Then, I shall send those diaries directly to Stardust House then." He gave another grin, then he stood up from his seat and then bowed at me again. "Very well then. I must take my leave now. My grandson's probably getting worried about me back home, hehe."
"Wait, Tani-san!" I got up, looking rather desperate. "Will I… will I get to see you again?"
"I'll be at the Foundation Day Festival tomorrow, Irie-san."
"I'll be at the Kissing Booth, um, one of the workers there!"
"Good then. I shall see you there!" He gave me a nod, as I bowed to him in return, as he simply walked off.
Once he was no longer visible at the distance, I leapt in a startle when I heard Kaito's voice calling out my name. I snapped my head to the right to see him coming from that direction. "Oi, Kairi! What are you doing out here?"
I dashed to him and told him the entire story, about leaving a message to Tachibana-sensei's voice box and about Tani-san and the diaries that he was going to send to me via a package. I also told him that we will meet again at the Foundation Day Festival tomorrow.
"Wow, an old classmate of Kenjiro-san? What are the odds," Kaito chortled. "Well, speaking of Kenjiro-san, I've got plenty of news thanks to my dad. First up, my dad was able to find a good office complex to open his own office for his neurosurgery practice and will be living with my grandparents' aikido dojo estate again. This doesn't mean that I have to move back with him though, I still get to stay at Stardust House. Second, my great-grandfather, Kidai, will be visiting later today because he wanted to attend the Foundation Day Festival tomorrow. This is awesome, we're getting somewhere with this whole thing— Tani-san's diaries and my great-grandfather's visit."
"We did good, Kaito! Hell yeah we did!" Just from out of the blue we ended up doing the hi-fives and the fist pumps and whatever hand gestures that we could think of. Sadly, our little hand celebration, my phone vibrated right away.
I reached for my phone and read the name on the screen. I pressed the green phone icon and answered. "Ah, Tachibana-sensei! Good morning!"
I explained to her the reasons why I called, right from the accidental discovery of a second house within Stardust House estate borders to the discovery of the forgotten and neglected Irie Murders incident. She then explained herself how she got involved with this situation as well. Kaito and I sat down on the same bench I was sitting earlier with Tani-san and listened to what Tachibana-sensei had to say.
"I actually did plan on calling you, Kairi, hoping that you would also help me with this investigation, but since you're also investigating this by yourselves, I really do think that we can work together. Recently I joined the Hinasaki City Historical Society, responsible for collecting, storing, and preserving any historical artifacts and stories relevant to Hinasaki and of course, the people of Hinasaki. Anyway, I always planned on writing a book about very little known true stories that I feel the world deserves to know. One of the seniors of the society discovered that you became one of my students, plus the fact that we're close, they hoped that with this connection that I would be able to accomplish in finally discovering the real story behind the Irie Family during the early 20th Century. They came upon this particular story by a few of your ancestors and relatives back in those days but somehow the authorities didn't really take a look in to it. I can't believe this entire incident had been silenced for over eighty years after reading about it through the microfiche I checked out from the school library. I wanted to read what was written about them first before I started contacting people."
"I was happy to learn that you're the one who will finally be reporting all this to the public once we finally put the pieces together, Sensei. So this is your summer project then?"
"Haha, you can say that. I'm off-duty during the summer because of you guys, and I need to do something to kill my time other than just going to places and relax. I always found writing as a good method of relaxing and taking a breather from all the loud noises from those classrooms, so here I am!"
"So, what did you find out from the microfiche you're currently reading, Sensei?"
"I'd love to sit down and talk to you all about this, Kairi, but I'm actually at the doctor's office right now for my medical checkup. I also have a family outing with my brother, you know Ogina-sensei, and his wife later tonight as well. And then tomorrow, of course, is the Foundation Day Festival so both of us would be very busy. Sunday would be a good time for me to meet up with you. How about Cafe Gillette?"
I began to think about the meeting place at first. Since we were going to talk about the history of my family and of course, Stardust House altogether, there will be a time that eventually I will have to invite Sensei inside Stardust House. She would probably be the first teacher who will be visiting my home, as well as the temporary home of StarPros' top teen idols in the industry today. But then, she doesn't know the directions to Stardust House, so that can only mean one thing.
"Cafe Gillette is good, Sensei. Is it okay if I bring someone with me?"
"Sure! Would it be your brother? Or Yukinojou-kun?"
"Well, you'll eventually meet them anyway, but I'm actually referring to Kaito…"
"Oi, Kairi, what's with my name?" I heard Kaito ask curiously but decided to keep going with the conversation.
"Kaito-kun? Well, you two are very close after all. No one else better to bring along but the boy you love—"
"Er, it's not really like that, Sensei!" I gulped nervously. "It's just that Kaito's great-grandfather, Kidai, was a close friend of one of the murdered Irie Siblings, that's all, and he's still alive up to this day. He'll be visiting Hinasaki from wherever he may be coming from later today."
"Well, if Kaito-kun is okay with it, sure, why not?"
"Awesome! What time?"
"I still have to do a few errands in the daytime, so maybe around 4 in the afternoon?"
"Sounds great!" We then confirmed the meeting place and time before we said goodbye to each other and hung up the phone. I explained to Kaito what Tachibana-sensei knew about the incident. Sadly, the things she learned were the same thing that we learned.
Few minutes later, the rest of the tenants exited. Looks like they really didn't find anything from whatever sources the school from the archives department. We met up with them and asked them about their findings in case they actually found anything.
Yuki shook his head. "We couldn't find anything new, Kairi. Their superior did show up and then we had to explain to them our reasons for looking in to the incident, with me being a family member, plus Tachibana-sensei, the one who has special access to the archives, is our homeroom teacher. The superior also did his best to help us but we really didn't find anything significant. He did lend us two things though."
Right then, Takara reached for his humongous backpack and, in an old box, revealed two very old-bound books. I quickly read, or tried to read the cover of these two books: "Class of 1932" and "Class of 1934."
"Yearbooks?" I asked them curiously. "What the heck are we gonna get from these yearbooks?"
"These are not just plain yearbooks, Kairi-chan," Kouta-san spoke out. "These are yearbooks donated to the school by Kenjiro and Kana-chan. There are personal messages written here, yearbook autographs, I believe they were called? We found a few clues from classmates written in these yearbooks addressed to Kenjiro. The Class of 1932 yearbook contains the most relevant clues. The Class of 1934 yearbook was donated by Kana-chan."
"What kind of clues?" I asked curiously.
"Maybe we should head home first for lunch, then let's take a look at these yearbooks," Kaito suggested. "Let's be sure there aren't any stalkers hanging around behind us or else all of us would be in big trouble."
You got that right, Kaito. We decided to split up in to two groups: the idols and the non-idols. I overheard that Hattori-san wanted to try out driving this new bus conversion thing that they kept talking about designed for the idols to travel at long distances for venues. It was highly imported from America and it was highly custom-built, hybrid engine power so they get to save money for gas and use a lot of solar energy for its electrical component. They said that bus conversions are used a lot by Hollywood idols and celebrities when they travel long distances. I've never seen a bus conversion thing before except for the fact that they're just huge-ass buses. Dad ordered four of them and should fit at least thirty people in each. That would mean the idols themselves, the managers, and the staff, including the driver. One of them just arrived at Stardust House garage area, all ready to go. That's what Takara said just now.
The idols decided to take the family limo. The rest of us non-idols get to ride the new bus conversion, which made no sense whatsoever. There were more of them idols than the rest of us plain-joes and plain-janes. Shouldn't it be more logical to have the idols ride at the bus conversions and the rest of us ride the family limo? I don't particularly like riding buses anyway.
Oh well, whatever. I'm hungry.
STARDUST HOUSE - Family Library
We had Ochazuke for lunch because Ken was too tired to cook and we pretty much ran out of ingredients. Time to hit the groceries again. Luckily for us Japanese, when there is nothing left, there's always good ol' Ochazuke. You got your leftover rice, got plenty of bags of green tea, and other spiffy condiments like seaweed sprinkles and pre-cooked fish fillet and other stuff. Ochazuke is normally eaten to cure the consumer of his or her major hangover, but overall, still a good bowl to feast on when you're hungry.
We don't normally eat at the library because of the fact that no one really eats at the library, but since this is our home library, we can do whatever the hell we want here. We had our ochazuke lunch at the long table while we looked through the yearbooks that we checked out from the school library. Kaito already talked about his great-grandfather arriving in Hinasaki later today at his grandparents' home and I also talked about Tachibana-sensei's phone call and of course, the new friend I made, 90-ish Jiro Tani.
What surprised me with this whole discussion was Grandpa Kuze's reaction to Jiro Tani. I don't think I mentioned this, but Grandpa Kuze is currently staying here at Stardust House for the time being. He sleeps at the servant quarters in the kitchen along with Hattori-san, even if Dad insisted that he should just sleep in the master bedroom with him.
"You know Jiro Tani, Grandpa?" I asked curiously. "He's here for a visit his old school, and he said he knows Great-Grandpa Kenjiro when they were in their teens!"
Grandpa Kuze scratched his head. "So it wasn't a pen name after all."
"Pen name?" I asked curiously.
"You do know that my parents worked in the Takarazuka Theater Troupe for a living, right?" Grandpa Kuze began his answer. "They don't use their real names when they present their pieces to the troupe. In fact, the entertainment world back then knew them as the Tani-Hana Pair of composers and playwrights. Dad wrote and composed music under the name 'Jiro Tani' and Mom wrote her plays under the name 'Snow Hana.' Dad mentioned that he's using 'Jiro Tani' as a dedication to one of his closest friends… I thought he was joking at first. So there really was such person as Jiro Tani."
"So I'll just say that you've never met him, Grandpa," I said.
"Naturally, Kairi. Dad… well, your Great-Grandpa Kenjiro, always told me and my siblings plenty of stories about him and his friends including Jiro Tani himself. However, he's never really invited them over or even have a get-together or something along with their families. I thought at first that maybe because of the war that Dad never had a chance to introduce us to them… and vice-versa."
The war? Oh, that's right. The Second World War. I guess despite the fascism going on those years ago, Great-Grandpa Kenjiro and his buddies were still young and carefree. I would have to assume that all of them including Great-Grandpa Kenjiro were drafted to fight in the battlefield, risking their lives for the Emperor. Jeez, I'm glad I wasn't that born during that time. I'm not doing things just for the Emperor, that's for sure. For the people and myself, yes, but for the Emperor? No way.
"Why, Grandpa? Are you trying to hint something?" I asked curiously.
"What on earth are you going on about, Kairi?" Grandpa stared at me curiously.
"N-nuthin'! You just said! Great-Grandpa Kenjiro also used the name 'Jiro Tani' as a pen name! He wasn't a ghost, okay? I saw him flesh and 3-D, you know, my naked eyes! I didn't have to use that weird-ass goggles that Takara had the other day!"
"Oi!" I heard Takara protest. "Don't hate on modern technology, Girl K-I!"
"Who the hell is 'Girl K-I'?!" I called out when Grandpa suddenly calmed both of us down.
"Speaking of Jiro Tani," I heard Yuki speak. I turned my head to see him already pointing at a particular photo in the yearbook. "Here's Jiro Tani as a 10th Grader in the Class of 1932 yearbook." He then moved the Class of 1934 yearbook closer and then pointed on another photo two years later. "And here's Jiro Tani as a 12th Grader, Class of 1934."
Kouta leaned over Yuki to gaze at the yearbook photos. "Wait… I… I think I recognize him…"
"Eh? You do?" We all gasped.
"Yes. Of course. Jiro Tani. He was the younger brother of Masami Tani. He was one of Kirie's suitors."
"What? Jiro Tani?" I gasped once more.
"No, Kairi-chan. I'm speaking about Jiro's older brother Masami."
"Oh. Right, right."
"The man you say whose name is Jiro Tani, Kairi, everything you told us about him, now that I recognize the name and the face now thanks to these yearbooks, are absolutely true. He and Kenjiro go way back in elementary school. He was also Kenjiro's dorm mate during elementary and middle school. Masami-kun and Jiro-kun were children of famous jewelers in Tokyo, which was why Masami is potential to be matched with Kirie. Of course, same with Kidai-kun. But my personal choice was Kidai-kun. Same with Kyosuke…"
Quickly, Kouta covered his mouth, then gasped. "Wait… let me think… I… I think I'm recalling some memories from the past…"
We all stood up and stared right at Kouta, waiting for him to recall more things. He then closed his eyes and contemplated like a Buddhist monk would in order to achieve enlightenment. Few seconds later, Kouta's eyes opened and Gin suddenly shivered from out of the blue.
"What happened, Gin? Are you okay?" I heard Ken worry for his buddy. Gin-senpai blinked his eyes.
"Sorry… I thought… just for a moment I thought I saw another flashback."
"Really?" I gasped, just like how I saw a flashback last Sunday regarding Kouta's accidental murder by his younger brother Kyosuke.
"Um," Gin cleared his throat and turned to Kouta. "I… I was wondering if… can I… pat you on the shoulder?"
"Pat me on the shoulder?" Kouta wondered curiously. "But of course. I would like to give you a pat on the back as well, Ginzaburo-kun." Okay, that didn't come out right, but whatever. Let's pat each other on the shoulders.
Once I placed my hand on Gin's shoulder, Kaito also placed his hand on mine. Then everyone else started placing their shoulders on other's shoulders. Well, with the exception of Shunta. He's still a yellow-bellied chicken. Jeez.
At that moment, my vision blurred in a snap.
FLASHBACK: STARDUST HOUSE
July 5, 1929 (late afternoon)
"Kirie! We're home!"
Fifteen-year-old young angelic beauty, Kirie Irie, stood up from her seat at one of the tables of the family library when she heard the familiar endearing voice. She ran to the door to find her older brothers, eighteen-year-old Kouta and seventeen-year-old Kyosuke. What she did not expect was that they brought along a guest with them: a rather tall, extremely good-looking young man that even towered both her brothers combined. The young man with the brothers gave a rather bashful expression on his face, once he first glanced at this naturally simplistic yet absolutely breathtaking beauty of this young girl.
"Welcome home, Kouta-niichan, Kyosuke-niichan," Kirie greeted her brothers, bowing first, then embraced the two. "How was your trip to Ginza?"
"It was alright. Nothing much spectacular, unless if you're completely vain," Kyosuke joked while Kouta snickered along with him. "How was your omiai meeting with… uh, what's his name?"
"Masami Tani?" Kouta corrected him. "Yes, how was that meeting?"
Dressed in long white dress with short lacy sleeves, Kirie sighed deeply and then lowered her head. "Masami-san is such a kind young man, but… I just can't find him… well… how do I say this… he doesn't attract me romantically."
"I see," Kouta said, nodding. "Well, you really can't deny your own personal feelings. At least you are honest."
Kirie frowned once more. "If I were in front of Father and Mother right now you know they will be very angry again. I've already turned down three others before Masami-san. Now I will have to turn him down as well." She sighed again and closed her eyes. "Why… why do I have to go through all of these omiai meetings, just like the both of you? I have no stake for the family fortune anyway. It's like… Father and Mother are selling me to another elite family who may probably just treat me more as an outsider than actually become part of their family…"
"We'll have to be betrothed to someone we end up falling in love with in order to continue our family line, Kirie, you know that," Kyosuke reminded her. "Unfortunately for us, the ones we must fall in love in order to make our marriages work is that they must be from other families of the same level as us."
"I've asked Father and Mother that same question, but neither of them can give me a direct answer. I hoped that the two of you would be able to tell me the real reasons and… at least, I would know if getting engaged through an omiai is simply a child of an elite family's duty or not."
"Well, speaking of omiai," Kouta said, "we're giving you a pre-omiai meeting for your final potential candidate. We brought that said candidate to you right here." He then turned behind him and signaled him to enter the library.
Once the tall, mesmerizing young man dressed in a dark gray suit entered, he bowed directly at Kirie with utmost respect. "We've met before, Kirie-chan, but it was a long time ago. I understand that you may not recognize me since I was only eight and you were only six."
The young girl gasped and then placed her hands over her blushing cheeks. "Good sir… you're… you're like a true knight who just leaped off a mighty white horse…" She bowed in return, then even gave him a curtsy. "I was to meet a Kidai Ichinose for my final omiai meeting this weekend, but I'm sorry that I couldn't remember the name and the face, even if both my parents insisted that we've met before. I haven't even seen your portrait prior to the omiai appointment."
"Well then, there's no harm in re-introducing, right?" Kidai smiled and then bowed again. "My name is Kidai Ichinose. I'm the eldest son of Noriyuki and Kuriko Ichinose, a pair of local doctors catering to the elite families. I was to inherit the family practice, but I have my own set of goals, also in medicine, so I plan to decline the inheritance and open my own practice."
"Then, my name is Kirie… Kirie Irie. I'm the sister of your long time friend, Kouta Irie, and of course, Kyosuke Irie. I… I'm not sure what I would like to do yet when I graduate from high school, and so, my family is helping me find my path to success through these… omiai meetings."
Kouta interrupted the introductions briefly. "Would you like some tea, the both of you? The maids were given the day off today, so Kyosuke and I will prepare for you."
"Will you, Kouta-niichan, Kyosuke-niichan?" Kirie asked happily.
"We'll be back shortly. In the meantime, please enjoy each other's company," Kyosuke said.
Kirie smiled in return. "Yes! I… I have a very strong feeling that Ichinose-san and I will get along very well."
"Please, Kidai would do, Kirie-san."
"Very well then, Kidai. Call me Kirie." The two laughed, while the two brothers exited the library, making their way towards the kitchen.
When the brothers arrived at the kitchen, both brought out the utensils and the ingredients to make classic Gyokuro green tea. As they prepared to brew the tea, the brothers began speaking to each other.
"I'm glad Mother and Father considered including the Ichinose Family in their list of potential match for Kirie-chan," Kyosuke admitted, sighing in relief. "I'm doing my best as I can to stay celibate and to… set myself apart from her… but are we really doing the right thing, Oniichan?"
Kouta sighed in return. "Kirie has to find the right one to marry soon or else she will be the one in trouble— and both of you will be in trouble altogether and you will be written off the will. They will have Little Stardust House destroyed should they ever find out about you and Kirie."
"I… I can't leave her alone, Oniichan. I just can't let her go to any other man out there. Ichinose is the only one I feel I can trust the most with her and I thank you for making this pre-omiai meeting arrangement possible today. I know it pains both me and Kirie, but we have to respect our limitations when it comes to relationships more sensitive than just siblings."
"Yes, Kyosuke. I myself am fighting my own battles as well when it comes to love. I can't let society win and take over my independence and my own decisions when it comes to love. I have to win this… but the only way that I can win this is when the time comes that I officially become the new head of the Irie Family. I know it sounds selfish, but the title and the inheritance to this house and everything else included is the only ticket that I have to freedom."
Kyosuke gazed at him curiously. "You mean… are you telling me you have a love of your own?"
Kouta sighed and nodded. "Yes, but… this cruel society seems to rule everything. It's wonderful to be in love with that one person you know and feel you are truly destined to be with, Kyosuke. To the eyes of the society, she may be nothing, but to me, she is everything I've ever dreamed of."
The younger brother smiled happily and gave a nod. "Then, fight for true love, Oniichan! No matter who that girl may be, I will support you all the way!"
Right at that point, a familiar female voice called out at the kitchen area. "Ah! Kouta-sama! Kyosuke-sama! What are you doing here in the kitchen? Please, let me do all this for you!"
Another angelic-faced young lady in a black and white maid uniform appeared at them, bowing to show them respect. Kouta then smiled happily just by gazing at her face, as Kyosuke answered her. "Ah, you're here all this time, Sazae-san? I thought you took off for you day off today?"
Eighteen-year-old Sazae Wakamatsu grinned nervously. "I decided to stay here. Kirie-sama needs company and I can't leave her alone. I was just replacing the curtains in your bedrooms, Sirs, which was why I just arrived here today."
"No worries, Sazae-san," Kouta replied gleefully. "Kyosuke and I are preparing tea for Kirie-chan and our guest."
"Ah, Kirie-sama has a guest?"
"You remember Kidai Ichinose, Sazae-san?" Kyosuke answered. "He's the final candidate in our parents' omiai list. Rather, we really hope that Kirie would choose Kidai-kun this time. Oniichan and myself really like him a lot and would love to have him in the family. What do you think, Sazae-san."
Sazae quickly covered her mouth. "Kyosuke-sama… I never thought you would ask someone like me for my opinion about… family matters. I know nothing much of your affairs, I simply just do my tasks."
"We're not like our parents, Sazae-chan," Kouta assured her. "We're more open-minded than you think. And remember, whoever Kirie-san may marry can have a significant effect within this family, therefore, while I'm still in line to become the new head of the family, everyone's opinion counts, even yours."
"Well then," Sazae placed her hands down and then held them together. "Kidai-sama is a very honest and kind individual. One time while he was visiting you here, he found me and Kozaemon-kun gardening, and Kozaemon-kun pricked his finger accidentally at the rose garden. Rather than passing us by, he came by to take a look at the finger. Quickly with just a small piece of cloth he tore from his handkerchief, he tied his finger so the bleeding would stop. I can tell right then that he cares so much about children."
"Then, you have met the real Kidai Ichinose, Sazae-san," Kyosuke chuckled. "He has a very huge ambition. He wants to be a pediatric surgeon."
"A pediatric surgeon? What is that?"
"A healer of children, Sazae-chan," Kouta smiled.
"Well, that would mean that he would truly become a good father to his future children. He is the type who will raise them well. His future children will grow responsible, filled with respect and dignity, and will definitely learn how to get along with people of all backgrounds and origins. I guess the Ichinose Family Clan are truly destined to the field of medicine."
"Indeed," Kouta smiled proudly. "I'm happy that he is one of our close friends, and to have a future doctor in the Irie Family would be one of the greatest honors a family could have. And just a secret between the three of us— Kidai-kun fell in love with her the first time they've met, even if they were still children then."
Kyosuke nodded. "I thought it was adorable. I know in some ways, it hurts, but I would be very happy if Kidai-kun would be the one she chooses to marry."
Sazae chuckled. "I can truly imagine it, Kyosuke-sama, Kouta-sama. Kirie Ichinose… it would still rhyme as Kirie Irie, ne?"
"Close, but somehow, the name really does sound beautiful," Kouta grinned. At that point, they heard the kettle whistle. The boys were about to head to the stove, but Sazae immediately stopped them.
"Let me. Please. You need to attend to Kirie-sama and Kidai-sama."
"Well, there's no stopping you, Sazae-san," Kyosuke chuckled. "We'll see you later then."
Sazae bowed to the brothers, as the two also returned the bow. The brothers made their way back to the library to meet up with Kirie and Kidai.
STARDUST HOUSE - Family Library
We all screamed in shock and stood up from our seats, staying away from the table set we were just sitting right now. Kouta slowly stood up from his seat and then began to gently rub the table. We all turned to each other in complete confusion, but we all know that we all saw the same thing. At this point, this is where things become very confusing.
In a way, I feel bad for Kaito. Well, not Kaito directly, but towards his great-grandfather Kidai. So, all this time, Kidai-san was really destined to be a part of the Irie Family by potentially marrying Kirie-san. In a way, it's rather clear regarding the relationships with these siblings. Kyosuke was simply being protective of Kirie, so much that maybe his caring and overprotective nature made Kirie fall in love with him, thinking that he too may be falling in love with her also? What? Can someone clarify all this…?
We found Kouta with his head dropped, sighing deeply. "The table that we're sitting at right now… this is the exact table and the exact spot where Kirie and Kidai were getting to know each other again… right here…"
That was the reason why we all screamed in shock. Yes, that's right. We were all sitting around the same table Kirie and Kidai were sitting. Well, this took place a few weeks before the murders. Can you believe that?
"Even though I have recalled memories," Kouta said, "the ones I've recalled still doesn't explain the true relationship between Kyosuke and Kirie, or the intent of the murders. I know what happened to me, but I don't know how and why both Kyosuke and Kirie were both killed just moments before I died."
"You're right," Yuki frowned. "I wonder what the one we saw was trying to tell us. The only thing I got from that moment was that both you and Kyosuke-san really intended to make the final omiai meeting work and that Kidai Ichinose will be the one to marry Kirie-san. Other than that…"
"I've already had my suspicions then but I didn't reveal it to anyone until later. My insistent on matching Kidai with Kirie and convince my parents to forget those other guys and approve Kidai instead was indeed my way of preventing Kyosuke and Kirie from… doing something forbidden and then tarnish our family name."
Kaito sighed deeply. "So, back then, my family would have been related to your family by marriage."
Kouta shook his head and faced Kaito. "On behalf of what happened those years ago, I want to apologize to you and your family for using Kidai-kun… but don't get me wrong, Kaito-kun. Kidai-kun really loved Kirie. It's just that his way of thinking may probably not suit my parents' preference on what a suitable groom should be like."
Kaito shook his head. "Great-grandfather Kidai will be arriving later today here in Hinasaki. He will be attending the Foundation Day Festival also. Maybe when there's a chance that you and my great-grandfather meet and… well, clear some things?"
"Yes, Kaito. That would be a great idea. I would love that. Oh I hope Kidai wouldn't be afraid of me or be skeptical when I introduce myself to him once more…"
"It'll be fine, Kouta-san," I said. "We'll help you get comfortable with Great-Grandpa Kidai when that time comes."
Right then, we spotted Gin gazing at his hands. It looked like he had a realization just by the facial expression he has right now. "Looks like my medium superpowers have increased, somewhat. I realized that when I place my hand on an object— or a person— I see flashbacks… and when one of you guys touch me on the shoulder or wherever, you get to see what I see. Crazy stuff."
"That would be seriously helpful when we go back to Little Stardust House, Gin-senpai," I said to him.
From out of the blue, Takara exclaimed. "Why not we go back to Little Stardust House tonight? We take a long nap early this afternoon so we can have enough energy to stay awake until midnight! Remember, past midnight until 4:59 am is when the presence of spirits become very powerful. If we go during those hours—"
"Let's wait until tomorrow night, Takara," Gin-senpai said immediately. "Tonight's a bad time because of Foundation Day Festival tomorrow. We gotta get ready for that."
"Then," Kouta said with a nod. "Tomorrow night, let's go back to the Little Stardust House."
STARDUST HOUSE (Batting Range)
I haven't been to the batting range for quite awhile now. It wasn't because I lost my enthusiasm in baseball altogether, but somehow so many things happened so fast that I never really thought about heading back down here just to relieve all my stress. Tonight, I had something else in mind other than relieving my stress. I wasn't thinking about Tai-nii and Kouta-san and the Little Stardust House at all. Rather, I came here to swing because of a very petty reason.
Tomorrow is the Foundation Day Festival. Not only that, 1-A will be manning the Kissing Booth, with Jun and me assigned to work at the ticket table, selling the tickets, collecting the money, and making sure that we properly mix up all the ticket stubs in two raffle boxes: one box for the girls and one box for the guys, obviously. At this point, ever since that vision of a flashback between Great-Grandaunt Kirie and Kaito's great-grandfather, Kidai, Kaito suddenly came in to my mind.
I couldn't shake off the feeling that maybe, maybe just a bit, despite of what we've heard so far regarding Great-Grandaunt Kirie's and Great-Granduncle Kyosuke's real relationship with each other, that maybe Great-Grandaunt Kirie probably had some special feelings for Kidai-san. It's hard to explain why I felt that way and I also couldn't shake off the fact that in some ways, I'm in the same situation with Kaito as Great-Grandaunt Kirie was with Kidai-san. Well, maybe that was a bit over the top, but I can somewhat imagine what would've been if those two actually did end up get married. If that happened, then Kaito and I would have been related to each other and things would probably be different between us. Or even then, neither me nor Kaito would even exist in this world today also.
I need to organize my thoughts and shake off the nervous hype off my back. My mind is in serious chaos at this moment. I had to get the whole Little Stardust House bit and my screwed-up family history out of my mind tonight. I also need to stop thinking about the Kissing Booth and Kaito and this complicated thing called young love. And seriously, after about eight pitches coming out from that pitching machine, I still haven't hit a single grounder or a fly ball. Only foul balls or nothing at all.
Come on now, Kairi. Just one good hit and you can wash up and head to bed. I heard the machine make the pop sound. Whoa, that looks like a fastball. Once I swung the bat right when I wanted the ball to be, I felt relieved and slugged a fly ball. That would have been a home run, or so I thought. Apparently, an unexpected catcher had to catch it while standing next to the machine.
As I dropped my bat and walked closer, I thought Kaito was the one who arrived. It wasn't. It was someone I seriously did not expect at all.
"Kouta-san? Wh-what are you doing here?"
There he was, my great-granduncle trapped in my older brother's body, despite that he was eighty years past his prime, he still wore that standard red t-shirt and denim long shorts. He also wore a mitt on his right hand. That only meant that he's a left-hander. Tai-nii was a right-hander, so that alone already proved to me that the Tai-nii standing in front of me isn't really Tai-nii.
Once I got close to him, he gazed right at the machine. I went at the back of it and turned the remote mode off.
"Well then, I see baseball training technology has become very innovative! A pitching machine!" Kouta chuckled, patting on the machine itself. "Simply amazing."
"Yeah, a lot of things really advanced since your death, Kouta-san," I said to him.
"All of these gadgets really made life a whole lot more convenient. A radio, a television, moving pictures… and a portable flat-screen telephone that plays music instead of the bells ringing! Japan really has progressed, ne?" I nodded with a sheepish grin.
"Y-you… caught the ball I just hit…"
"You haven't played baseball in awhile, have you, Kairi-chan?"
"You can tell…?"
"Of course I can." He tossed the ball from his mitt and I quickly caught it. "Still. Beautiful swing, Kairi-chan,"
I backed away for a few meters, then threw the ball at him. Quickly, he caught the ball with his mitt. "How'd you konw I was here?"
"Kaito-kun advised me you were here, so here I am." Right then, he threw a fastball right at me, and boy, was it very fast? That ball just flew right on to my path that I can even feel a bit of the pain on the palm of my hand. This only reminded me one thing about Kouta-san. Definitely, Kouta-san was a baseball player himself.
"You play ball?" I asked curiously. Still, after almost a week of having Kouta living with us since his freedom from the Little Stardust House sunken garden area, I still didn't know a lot about him or any one of his siblings for the matter.
"We all did. Kyosuke and Kenjiro included. Both our parents were not much of baseball fans, but the rest of the Irie Family, most especially our grandparents, always came to all of our games when we played."
Wow, so the love of baseball also became part of our genes too. Amazing. "You were a Little Leaguer?"
Kouta-san offered to pitch the ball for me so I can continue on with my batting practice. I followed what he said and headed back to the box. As he pitched— and damn so far I haven't even hit a single pitch coming from him— we talked more about himself and everything else involving him and this family.
"The Hinasaki Little League Team was known as the Hinasaki Marlins. When I heard stories from the boys about the Little League team today, the Hinasaki Park Ballers, I had to do my own research to see why the team name was changed. Kenjiro must have had a difficult adult life going through long periods of war that baseball completely halted during that time. Well anyway, Kyosuke and I attended Barakuma Boys Middle School, and eventually, its high school branch. There weren't any middle schools and high schools back in Hinasaki then, at least during the time that we both lived, but the Barakuma Bears baseball club back then always made it to the Koshien. From 10th Grade until graduation, I had the best opportunity to play at the Koshien three years in a row. Kyosuke also right after I graduated."
"Great-Grandpa Kenjiro was one of the first high school students to attend Momiji Academy," I said. "In fact our baseball team found its arch rival in the Barakuma Boys' baseball team as of late."
Right then, Kouta decided that we should stop or else we would tire our arms and may become useless for tomorrow's festival. We then sat at the stands to take a rest. He was diligent enough to bring iced water bottles so we have some refreshment. We continued on talking about baseball in general and somehow my love for baseball immediately grew even more than it was before. Kouta revealed that he, Kyosuke, and Kenjiro were pitcher, second baseman, and catcher, respectively. Among all three of them, however, Kouta was the best pitcher but Kenjiro was the real slugger. Kyosuke was best known in their team as the clean-up. Then we talked about the battery relationship in general and how he became closer to Kenjiro despite the long distance became stronger. Whenever he talked about the battery relationship, I began to recall my Little League memories with Kaito. Sure, Tai-nii was our ace back in those days with Kaito being backup reliever, but during practice, Kaito and I really did build a very solid battery relationship that this simple connection, for me that is, somehow transformed in to something a whole lot deeper than just a pitcher and a catcher.
"Ne, Kairi-chan," Kouta's voice lowered, but in a rather tender tone. "You know I'm also working hard to release myself from your brother's body as much as Ginzaburo-kun's grandfather doing all he can to exorcise your brother so both of us can be free from each other."
"You can tell that I'm nervous?" Right then I gazed at my right hand. Definitely shaking like I just got struck by some disease or something. Immediately, Kouta placed his hand on my shivering hand and then held it tightly. It's completely hard to describe, but somehow there was warmth growing right inside of me. It was the type of warmth that I can finally feel relaxed and at ease. There were a few times that Tai-nii held my hand like this, but somehow they weren't as sincere or as loving as the way Kouta's hand on mine right now.
"You and your friends suddenly appeared at the sunken garden that day, and most of all, you brought someone, like Ginzaburo-kun, who has a natural ability to see wandering spirits like me and have the ability to view flashbacks from out of the blue like that. I don't know what happened but all of a sudden, I got in to your brother's body. I already know that I've been dead for so long, but it seems that since that day, it felt as if it was the same day being recycled over and over again. I never realized that over eighty years already passed until you arrived in the grounds."
"Can I… confess something, Kouta-san?"
"What's in your mind, Kairi-chan?"
I swallowed nervously at that moment. We may not have a chance to talk with each other alone like this later on because anything can happen once we go back to the Little Stardust House tomorrow night, so I might as well bring this up right now.
Somehow, I feel like I wanted to cry. Just having Kouta-san around the house made me feel so much at ease. We got along with each other and at first it was peculiar considering this was Tai-nii being all nice and respectful and supportive of me, but now I've gotten used to it, so much that I've almost forgotten that this was a ghost-possessed Tai-nii who was giving me so much comfort and confidence. Tonight was a major realization that soon and very soon, Kouta-san will be leaving us and then the mean and bitter Tai-nii would return back and then it would be hell all over again.
"I wish you would stay with us, Kouta-san. I'll even call you 'Oniichan' from then on if you do. I don't know why I feel this way. I mean I miss Tai-nii and all but the usual Tai-nii isn't the one I want back and… I don't know… I'd feel all hell again if you leave…"
He sighed, then gazed right at me. I felt my eyes becoming wet but I had to keep a poker face. "I want to thank you and your family and friends for welcoming me back in to Stardust House. You know, you have showed me the atmosphere of what a family should be. I felt more at home now than I was over eighty years ago."
"Then, can't you stay?"
"You know that's impossible, Kairi-chan. We are all aware that if I stay here, I'll be killing off your brother. It's not worth the sacrifice, ne?"
"Well, can't ghosts, I don't know, become one with the living? I mean, you can be like… Tai-nii and then become half-Kouta-san?"
He almost broke in to laughter, but somehow I was becoming to sound silly. "You're just like him, you know."
Him? "Great-Grandpa Kenjiro?"
He nodded. "He cried a lot when he was little, you know. But I understood why he was like that. The only thing that he could say to us whenever my parents would send him out of the house and have him board at his school was that he would work hard. He would work hard to win the hearts of the entire family. He may have not admitted it directly, but I can tell then that he felt that he wasn't accepted simply because he looked completely different from myself and our other two siblings." Well, I can imagine a kid being a weak little crybaby with screwed up parents like that, but as he got more mature, he got a lot stronger and more independent.
"Kairi-chan, it's okay to cry sometimes, you know."
"I know but I can't afford to cry…"
"Did you cry when your mother passed away?" Of course I did, Kouta-san. What kind of a child wouldn't? Well, unless if that child has so much grudge and hatred against his or her mother. If that was the case, then…
"I was completely devastated. I know I barely know you as a person, Kouta-san, but somehow I feel like I would become as devastated as I was before when you leave…"
"Kairi-chan, my time here on earth has been over eighty-three years ago. If I stay here, I will be taking away a lot of things from you and your brother. For one thing, I will be taking away your brother by killing him instantly if I stay. Second, I will also be taking Mirai-chan away from your brother as well." He cleared his throat and then changed the tone. "My father did more taking than giving back in those times. He was an entrepreneur, remember that. He gained so much money to increase the family fortune that he simply just didn't know what to do with all the surplus. I was the original heir to this house and the land surrounding this house, but I did all I can not to become like my father. I'm not going to be like him now, not ever. Kenjiro did exactly what Kyosuke, Kirie, and myself hoped he would when he got older. You and your father and your grandfather, and your brother and Yukinojou-kun and the twin brothers and the continuous existence and the thriving of this house was more than enough proof, at least for me.
"Think thoroughly about your brother, Kairi-chan. Imagine yourself in his shoes right now. How would you feel if a ghost suddenly possessed your own body and you can't even control your own actions because of this ghost?"
I fell silent and began to contemplate. I did try to place myself in Tai-nii's shoes, but then if it was possible that I'm seeing all this while I'm seeing this ghost taking over my body completely then obviously I would be both pissed and scared all at the same time.
"I can feel and hear his thoughts, Kairi-chan."
I gasped and stared at him with my eyes wide open. "Tai-nii's here? I mean… he's still… here?"
He placed his hand on to his chest. "He's in here." Immediately he took my hand then placed it right on his chest. "His heart is still breathing right here. Here, listen." He slowly took me in his arms and then he had me place my ear against his chest. I can hear his heart beating, but somehow the beating had a very slow pace.
"When he dies and I take over his body permanently, you will not hear any heartbeat at all. This body will be completely cold and spirits have no heartbeats, you know. I would be just moving this body but there will not be a heartbeat. You notice how slow his heartbeat is right now. As time passes, the pace will become slower and slower. When July 27 arrives, this heartbeat will stop permanently. Then you will know that Taisuke-kun will be gone forever."
I really wish I could do something. I don't want Kouta to leave but I can't let Tai-nii die. I guess as the saying goes, you can only have one or the other. Having both would be just simply selfish and that I would have no regard on the ones I currently have and favor the ones I don't have. At this point, there were no words to be said that can come out of my mouth. The only thing that would come out from me now are tears.
He reached for his pocket and then gave me a clean handkerchief. I took it and used it to wipe off my tears. Poor Tai-nii. Kouta-san was right. It wasn't as if he wanted to possess Tai-nii in the first place. Things just happen in a quick snap without any reason or explanation of why things happen the way they should.
"You're not the only one who wants me to stay, Kairi-chan."
"What? You mean everyone else too?"
He shook his head. "Mirai-chan also wants me to stay as well. I can already tell, she's beginning to fall in love with me…"
"Well it's natural, Kouta-san. You are in her boyfriend's body after all…"
"I don't mean that. She's beginning to fall in love with me. Me, the spirit."
"But you're in love with her too, right? Wait, that came out wrong."
"I cannot reciprocate her feelings for me. I get mesmerized by her so much because she looked so much like Sazae-chan. As I got to know Mirai-chan more, I realized that she is a completely different person from Sazae-chan. I knew then that if I stay, I will only be breaking up such a perfect couple. After all. Sazae-chan and I did not end up together because of my death. However, someone of her line and someone of my line eventually met and then fell in love with each other. The only difference between us and them was that my parents would not accept Sazae-chan, and likewise with her parents as well because of social standing. But Taisuke and Mirai were both accepted by everyone. They are free to love each other, Kairi-chan. Let us not be stingy like my parents were. Let's not make history repeat itself again, ne?"
After wiping off my tears, I released a huge sigh. There really was no loop that would make the impossible possible for Kouta-san. Tai-nii has the right to live his life and Kouta-san already had his life those eighty-three years ago. This century is meant for the descendants, not for the ancestors.
"Do you understand now, Kairi-chan? You will help me set the both of us free. Do all you can to save your brother's life. When you do, you'll be able to set me free."
"Set you free…"
"Yes. Free from this physical world and finally would be able to live among you forever as a special guardian."
I smiled, remembering that back in those days, everyone practiced Shintoism because it was the law. I feel bad for choosing something else other than sticking to Shintoism, but you know, Mom's influence. "Yes. You'll be the Guardian of Stardust House."
He nodded. "I feel slightly lighter as this week passed. It is a good sign for me and for your brother. But I know I am not finished yet. There are still some things that I still need to fulfill. You and your family and friends will help us, ne?"
"Taisuke-kun and me, Kairi-chan."
"Kouta-san…" Without any more words spoken, I threw myself on to him and cried my heart out. I felt his warm and caring arms around me, giving me the time to cry.
MOMIJI ACADEMY GRAND STADIUM (The Kissing Booth)
The festival doesn't open officially until 8:30, but heaps of people already arrived for this grand annual fundraising festival. I prayed for a good weather tomorrow and God answered us with the happy smiling shining sun and the cool and calming morning breeze. Thank you for this wonderful day, Dear Lord.
Jun and I were assigned to work at the main booth to sell and collect the tickets, and of course, collect the cash flow for the tickets and the donations. Mirai had this strange idea that we should show up in long flowery dresses with ribbons on our hair. She thought that it would somewhat good training for us on how to dress as real deal Nadeshiko girls for the upcoming Hinasaki Summer Festival this August when we do wear yukatas. Jun of course would agree, but then Mirai outsmarted me somehow that she would use her fashion magic to transform me in to a girl that hot, smart dudes like Kaito would beg to the heavens to have a chance to kiss my lips at the Kissing Booth. I didn't care about the other guys, but rather, I thought about Kaito every time someone mentions about the Kissing Booth. After all, Kaito and I have two things in common: we love baseball and together, we're like sushi and wasabi. Wait, that came out wrong.
So here I am in a sleeveless long white dress with yellow and red flowers on it, along with two red ribbons pinned on both sides of my hair. Jun donned a short-sleeved baby blue dress with dark blue and purple flowers with her waist-long hair tied in a ponytail supported by a baby blue ribbon. Both of us were wearing white sandals. Yeah baby. It's all about flower girls now. Mirai did all of our makeup head to toe. I personally hate makeup, but I have to admit that Mirai did such a good job with it. I still look the same, except that somehow my face looked brighter, more vibrant, more refreshing. Thank you so much, Mirai-senpai!
Since the StarPros idols are the main highlight of our Kissing Booth, us Stardust House non-idol tenants had to leave early. We rode the bus conversion this time because Ken and Gin brought a lot of instruments that they were going to lend to their classmates at 2-A to perform and provide the music on stage. Their class is hosting and sponsoring a Fortune Telling booth, with Ema and Mayumi, Gin's and Kaname-senpai's girlfriends, as the fortune tellers. I heard that Gin hated the fortune telling idea because he felt that his sixth sense may probably have been revealed and thought that he may predict the future by contacting spirits. Luckily he didn't really have to do anything, except sit behind the table and collect the money from their customers. Their class is raising funds for the Odyssey of the Mind Club. I don't know anything about that club, but Takara stated that he was a member of his international school's Odyssey of the Mind Club during his two-year schooling stint in America. Right.
I was told by class rep Hara that Mio and Kotono are at the school print shop to print out a chart of the volunteering kissers for our booth. Meanwhile behind us, Takara and Vyn are helping out class rep Hara and Dori in setting up the cameras and all the other gadgets in the private kissing room of the booth. I gotta admit, the boys did very well in constructing this booth. It's so sturdy that it may even be very difficult dismantling this entire booth right after the festival is over.
Oh hell, why dismantle when we can just save the entire unit and then use it for next year? If it becomes all junky then we can always fix it. It may probably have to have new paint job though.
Tachibana-sensei came by with two more rolls of tickets, one colored maroon red and the other colored yellow. She wore a very flowery blue spring dress, short yet flowing sleeves and hem stretching down beneath her knees. She also sported a large white hat with a baby blue silk ribbon on it, and somehow the hat really accentuated her earlobe-length bob. This morning, the hardworking, dedicated teacher looked gracefully divine. For sure if dudes see a lady like her hanging around the kissing booth, she would be doing a subliminal promotion by buying the tickets, have their chance at getting a kiss from any of the girl kissers, and then earn money for the baseball team.
"Well then," Sensei sighed in relief, stretching her arms. "The sun decided to become very friendly to us today. After all, it is the Foundation Day Festival, ne? Eighty-years-old. Can you believe that?"
"Heh, I'm surprised there ain't any dumb urban legends regarding old schools like how they're always portrayed on TV," I responded. I was really tempted to ask her about her research regarding the Little Stardust House murders, but because it is Foundation Day Festival, it was best to just take a break.
"Every school has its own urban legend, you know," Sensei simply chuckled. "You know, I recently learned this from Doc and even some members of the school's alumni association. The Kissing Booth itself is also eighty-years-old."
"Eh? Really?" Jun gasped in shock. "But… how did society react to the Kissing Booth when back in those days, everyone is so conservative, you know?"
"Well, it's not like the kissing itself is public, you know," Sensei laughed. "Well, back then, the focus of this school was to give students a chance to become free thinkers, but you know, this was sometime in the early 1930s, which is about ten years before the war broke out. Momiji Academy was under complete scrutiny by the government. All subjects were required to be absolutely loyal to the government and not promote free thinking among the people, most especially the youth. Some of the teachers, well, even the first principal himself, had to go through secret, underground meetings just for them to attend class and study different subjects not quite common knowledge to the Japanese society back then. Everyone was forced to see Shinto as the one and only true religion of Japan, and those who were converted in to Christianity by ancestry were forced to follow Shinto diligently or they face persecution. I've quite done a lot of research myself regarding this school. A lot of struggles, but hey, they were worth it. Momiji Academy is still standing eighty years right after, ne?"
"You sure know a lot of history, Sensei," Jun chortled. "But, you chose to be an English teacher?"
"I double-majored in English and History," Sensei explained. "Apparently I was rather upset that the way the Japanese education system teach English to our students just for the sake of getting good grades and not actually putting it in to real-life practice is just horrible. Japan is one of the worst countries in the world who lacks English fluency, and while the rest of the world are becoming a lot more advanced in the latest technology and trends, Japan is simply falling behind. Even North Korea has some fluency in English more than we do. The lack of fluency of one of the most universal languages used in the world makes Japan an illiterate laughing stock in the eyes of all the known educators and scholars globally. It's really depressing!"
"Well, I'm glad that we've got schools like Momiji Academy who wants to seriously tune in their education and made sure their students actually learn something and make it useful in real life, rather than just studying for grades, honors, and… well… grades…" I shrugged.
"True that, Kairi," Sensei muttered. She then changed the tone back to the old subject. "Speaking of urban legends, we do have one. It's probably, primarily, the reason why the Foundation Day Festival is so popular throughout Hinasaki, not just in this school."
"Oh? What urban legend are we talking about here?" I asked curiously.
"We're currently hosting it." She then opened her hand, presenting the Kissing Booth itself to us.
"Wait— our booth has actually an urban legend, Sensei?"
"I did mention that the Kissing Booth was one of the first booths featured in the very first Foundation Day Festival of this school. You know, the urban legend states that students who are randomly picked to kiss one of the kissers in the list are destined to be together till death do them part—"
I quickly stood up while Jun became startled at my action. "Wait… repeat that again, Sensei?"
"Silly Kairi! The urban legend of the Kissing Booth goes like this in a nutshell. Remember, not everyone who buys a ticket for the Kissing Booth gets lucky to kiss the kisser. Let's take you, for example."
"Okay, I'm listening."
"While you wait and hope that your number in your ticket— or tickets depending on how much you buy— gets picked from the raffle box, Kaito comes out to the front of the booth and was randomly chosen to pick one ticket from the box. He calls out the number he randomly picked, which turned out to be one of the numbers in your tickets. You claim that you have the number of that ticket. As a result, you win a kiss from Kaito. The two of you enter the room and then you share your first kiss. The urban legend states that the lucky winner and the kisser are destined to be together. In this case, you and Kaito will end up falling in love with each other, start going out with each other, you end up marrying each other, and live happily together for the rest of your life, filled with happiness, love, and success."
"Wow!" Jun giggled happily, nudging me right on the side. "Ne, Kairi, are you going to buy some tickets?"
"What the hell, I don't have any money," I frowned, crossing my arms. "I forgot my stupid wallet at home."
"I plan on buying tickets because I want to protect Yuki's lips from some stranger girl…"
"But if this urban legend thing is true, it's close to impossible that you and Yuki will end up in that kissing room. You pretty much have… oh I don't know… fifty-fifty chance?"
"Even if I don't end up getting picked or I don't end up having Yuki as my kissing partner, I'm glad to contribute something for our baseball team, ne?"
"Did I mention that the urban legend only works if the lucky winner and the kisser are both single?" Sensei added.
Now, most of the time, urban legends are a bunch of baloney, but even though most people know that urban legends are probably made up by people who got nothing better to do or simply just wanted to whore some fame, kids just get in those pointless shenanigans anyway. I gotta admit, the Japanese are very good at crafting fiction. The problem is that because these cliches are so common that people who aren't familiar with our pop culture would think that whatever happens in fiction also happens in real life. Eh.
"Are you serious about that, Sensei?"
"That's what they say," Sensei laughed. "That also includes divorcees and the widowed also."
"How come you're not in the list of the volunteer kissers, Sensei?" That came out wrong. I didn't mean to let that come out. Sorry about that, Mom.
"Your teacher's really pretty, you know." Again, Mom spoke out from out of the blue. Telepathically, of course.
Mom, I don't mean to replace you and all.
"I'm not kidding! I know, I may sound conceited but you really do have a beautiful teacher, Kairi. If you feel comfortable with her becoming you new mom, then I would be happy also. After all, there is nothing more important to me now than to see both your father, your brother, and yourself happy in a complete family again."
Really, Mom? Well, she is pretty. Too bad she was also widowed young.
"She may be widowed early but she sure has no clue how many men are after her," Mom chuckled. "Your father, your Uncle Kenzo, even Kouta himself."
"Not Great-Granduncle Kouta, silly. I'm talking about Kouta, Kaito's father. Dr. Ichinose."
Oh, him. Wait… why didn't I just realize this before? Great-Granduncle Kouta… and Dr. Ichinose's first name is Kouta… Oh never mind, I was just thinking.
"Here's a little trivia for you, hun. Your father and I shared our first kiss at the Kissing Booth during our Foundation Day Festival about thirty-ish years ago. Hint hint!"
Don't give me any funny ideas, Mom.
"It worked for your father and me. I'm pretty sure the urban legend will work for you and that lucky boy!"
Right, Mom. Sure.
"Well," Jun suddenly nudged me on the shoulder. "You're single… and that certain tall, creamy white, handsome, and dashing heartbreaker with the sparkling indigo dark eyes and dark caramel hair is single too… are you going to let some other girl steal kisses from him and then leave that poor guy to be miserable with that girl for the rest of his life?"
I sighed. It's really uncharacteristic of me to make all these dumb urban legends in to a big deal, however, Kaito is one of the kissers. I can't believe he volunteered to be one of those kissers. He's gotta be the best-seller among the other guy kissers among the girls. I can already sense it. Just you wait and see. We're gonna be so busy at the table selling tickets and collecting the cash flow it's not even funny.
"I didn't even plan to buy tickets. I was going to save my money for food since I heard that the food stalls here are really good, you know? Dad's probably just gonna donate a huge sum of money to the team anyway in the name of the Irie Family."
"I'll pay for your ticket if you like, Kairi-chan," Sensei suddenly answered. "5000 Yen for a red ticket, no problem!"
"Uh, no thanks, Sensei. I mean thank you, but no thank you. Just donate the money to the baseball team, heh…" These two must have read my mind for them to insist that I shouldn't be shy and just go buy a ticket and have my chance of winning my first kiss even if it was just for baseball. But then what if I end up getting some goon as my kissing partner? That's just disgusting, man.
Right then, Chie and Tomi appeared with a huge flyer sign, looking as excited as ever. They greeted us as Tomi began to tape the flyer in front of the table. The flyer displayed the following:
THE FOUNDATION DAY FESTIVAL KISSING BOOTH
(80 Years and STILL Open!)
Here's your chance to share that special dream kiss with your favorite DREAM BOY or DREAM GIRL!
BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW and who knows, YOU could be the LUCKY DUCK of the day!
WHITE TICKET (1-second or Less Kiss) - 500 Yen
YELLOW TICKET (2-second to 30-second Kiss) - 1000 Yen
GREEN TICKET (31-second to 1-minute Kiss) - 2000 Yen
RED TICKET (2-minute to 3-minute Kiss) - 5000 Yen
Buy MORE THAN ONE TICKET and you have plenty of chances to win your kiss! Don't forget that each ticket will only equal to one kisser from our list and that you are not allowed to kiss the same kisser if you happen to be called up more than once. MUST BE PRESENT DURING THE RAFFLE DRAWING OR ELSE YOU WILL LOSE YOUR CHANCE.
PROCEEDS GO TO THE FIERY RED HOT MOMIJI ACADEMY MAPLE LEAVES BASEBALL TEAM. HELP US SEND OUR BALLER BOYS TO THE SUMMER KOSHIEN THIS AUGUST AND OTHER MAJOR OUT-OF-REGION HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL TOURNAMENTS!
DONATIONS ONLY: If you prefer not to kiss anyone, free donations of any kind to the MAPLE LEAVES BASEBALL TEAM FUND are welcome! You will receive a complimentary Momiji Academy Maple Leaves baseball cap or an autographed baseball signed by all of the members of this year's Maple Leaves Baseball Team, whichever you prefer. No minimum amount required. We will even accept even a 1-Yen coin donation, but we prefer 10,000 Yen bills. Thank you!
Wait a second. The Summer Koshien? Are they kidding me?
"Sorry for the delay, girls!" Chie giggled. "Last-minute change!"
"What's the last-minute change here?" I asked. "The ticket prices and the time period are still the same."
"Well, that wasn't the change, Kairi," Tomi said. "The Summer Koshien part is the last-minute change."
"Ah, that's right!" Tachibana-sensei snapped her fingers. "I forgot to mention this to you girls! This morning my brother, that is, Ogina-sensei, received a phone call from Doc regarding this awesome news! Based on the play record our boys played throughout the prefecture, they have been undefeated. I feel rather bad for not keeping up with the team, but either way, this is awesome news! Now people will have a whole lot more reason to buy tickets, get their kiss, and then they would be helping our boys' travel and boarding expenses to the Koshien next month!"
"If you ask me," I frowned, "most of these people probably still don't care about our slugger boys. We all know the obvious reason why they would want to win a kiss from Japan's hottest guys— and girls— anyway."
"Still, it is for the love of baseball, Kairi," Jun added. "Just be proud and smile whenever customers arrive to buy tickets, ne?"
"I guess." I shrugged my shoulders. I grinned happily, thinking about this wonderful news regarding high school baseball. I dreamed of watching baseball games at the mighty Hanshin Koshien Stadium one day and cheer on for my favorite team, but I never expected that dream would come to reality starting today.
"Still though!" I stood up and then raised up my first. "We're talking about the Summer Tournament and the Summer Koshien and our Maple Leaf Boys! This is gonna be the coolest summer ever!"
And with that, coming from my right side are Coach Ogina and the rest of the baseball team, jumping and skipping and cheering, screaming, and chanting "Koshien! Koshien!" several times. Class rep Hara and Dori must have heard the joyous cheering from their teammates and ran out from the back of the booth, screaming in excitement and then giving each other high-fives, also joining in the cheering. Right then, Momo-chan, Dori's girlfriend, came out from the crowd and ran to us like a crazed fangirl.
"Oh my god! Oh my god!" Momo-chan shrieked. "We received word that our team's chances in to getting in to Koshien are at a very high percentage! We have been undefeated back in spring and we're continuously playing so well in the beginning of the summer! We can seriously see the Koshien not far back from where we are now!"
"I heard!" I shrieked along with her. "I just heard! Waaaaaah the Koshien! The Koshien!" Just like that, she and I couldn't help each other screaming, jumping with our hands held as if we had just saw the hottest idol we've ever seen in history. In the end, even Jun and Tachibana-sensei joined in our "Koshien!" chanting. Boy, did we get all the attention during the setup minutes!
Meanwhile, after we had our short celebration, Mallory arrived from out of nowhere with an ecstatic look on her face. She dashed right in front of our table, breathing heavily, but she can't contain that huge smile on her face. Of course, that smile didn't mean she was happy for our slugger boys' huge chances in getting in to the Top 49 teams for the Koshien Tournament next month.
"Aaah!" She shrieked right the, clinging on to her white Android phone. "Guess what! I'm gonna get a special delivery from Sora-kun!"
Sigh. Sora-kun. Again. Although it's only been three days, I still don't know a single thing about Mallory other than the ones Ken and Vyn told me of her. That long-distance boyfriend of hers and that cellphone of hers are taking her attention span away from real life. I need to take that phone away somehow.
"Really? He's coming over?"
"Well, no, but… it'll be delivered personally by hand, and… you know, just to be sure that I do receive it. But I'm excited to see what that gift may be! I… I think I'm already shaking!" Girl, I hate to break it to you, but I have never met anybody in my life who would get nervous over a gift being delivered to you from a person you've never even met, or rather, seen with your own eyes. You heard the voice and you felt his gentle touch.
"So, Mal, do you know who's going to deliver that gift thing to you?"
Mal stood still and then began to contemplate. "I'm guessing… Ren Tsubasa?" Makes sense, of course. He would be moving in next week, so there isn't any other logical choice Sora may have in choosing a middleman between him and his beloved Mal except for Ren. It wouldn't make sense for him to choose Vyn because he would eventually tell her anyway. Well, maybe not tell her but maybe she may be able to read his mind anyway. You know weird things twins possess together.
"Speaking of Ren Tsubasa," Jun interrupted, then pointed her thumb backwards to her left. "Mio and Kotono just arrived with new signs again. It looks like the chart of the volunteer kissers. Shall we take a look?"
We all got up and watched Mio taping and stapling the signs on the front wall of the booth while giving a boost by Kotono by sitting on her shoulders. They posted three posters: The first being the baseball team photo; the second being the male volunteer kissers; the third being the female volunteer kissers. I wondered why they were only able to post these up right now rather than earlier.
"Last minute changes," Mio giggled as she stapled the posters using a staple gun. "I'm so seriously stoked that Ren Tsubasa will be one of the kissers too! Waaah, I'm so going to buy plenty of them red tickets because I so want to kiss that hottie's tender lips! Tee hee!"
"You'd wish, Mio," Kotono smirked. "Not if I get to him first…"
"Hey, get your paws off him, Kotono! It's bad enough that you're showing off your big boobs again and wearing those daisy duke shorts? You're out to seduce men obviously!"
"Ha! Don't hate because I got something you don't, Mio!"
"Oi, oi, quit it!" I quickly interrupted them. The two girls ended up laughing as their reaction. After they were finished, Kotono gently sat back down as Mio got down from her shoulders. They exchanged hi-fives and then laughed again. Seriously, these girls are messing with me.
"Ne!" Jun chuckled and then nudged Mal on the shoulders. "It looks like Ren Tsubasa will definitely come to the festival, and of all places, a volunteer kisser?"
Mal slowly nodded. "I really don't know what Sora-kun is up to, but you know, maybe that's the reason why he asked me to buy a ticket."
"What?!" I shrieked in shock and turned to her. "Your boyfriend told you to buy a ticket so you can participate in the Kissing Booth? Seriously?" Mal nodded with a sad frown on her face.
"This is horrible! My lips only belong to Sora-kun! What if I end up kissing his best friend? He would be so angry!"
"Maybe if you and Ren do get paired up to kiss, maybe in the booth, he'll just give you whatever Sora-kun wanted to give you, you know? Maybe he's gonna do it in hiding because he doesn't want those weird fangirls make a big fuss about it when he gets spotted giving a non-idol like you something, right?"
Mal shrugged her shoulders. "I guess you're right, Jun-chan… Maybe." I just realized that Jun forgot to talk to her in English, but whatever. At least Mal understood her.
Meanwhile as we looked through the charts, mainly the guys since I couldn't care less about the girls, Takara and Vyn climbed down from the roof of our booth after finishing their equipment installation. They wanted to take a look at the volunteer kisser charts obviously.
"Dude, I'm envious, man. Why so many pretty boys in this school?" Vyn frowned, crossing his arms. "How the hell am I supposed to find a fine hunnie with these goons around, man?"
"Why don't you look at the girls chart, dude?" I suggested to him.
"Oh! Oh yeah. Duh? Hahahahaha!" I shook my head as he shifted his head from the guys chart to the girls chart. In the meantime…
"Oh hell no, you've gotta be kidding me!" Takara exclaimed, showing a discontent expression.
"What's up, Takara?" I asked curiously.
"Whose dumb idea is it to put my picture in the guys chart? I ain't kissin' nobody!"
"Huh?" Kotono wondered and pointed to the name right underneath the photo. "But it says 'Irie Hinata' underneath! That's the photo that we were given when we were making the final edits."
"Um," Mio interrupted, "but don't you think no one can tell that it's really you, Takara-kun? I mean it's very difficult to tell which one of you is which. You're pretty much 100% identical to each other facing up front!"
"For sure, no one can tell, but dammit, I can easily tell which picture is me and which picture is him! If y'all wanted to have a picture of Hinata you could've asked me. I've got plenty of better ones than the one you're using on the chart right now."
"Oh for goodness sakes, Takara, just let it go," I said, shaking my head. "Besides, only the closest people to the family only know about the idol Hinata being a twin. If they see this, they'll automatically think it's Hinata and not you."
"Well, it's Yukinojou-kun who sent us this picture," Mio said, crossing her arms. "We left him a message in his phone. We know Kairi has no pictures of you guys so we asked your older brother directly. He sent us a photo. I think you look really cute here, Takara-kun… well, if that's really you…"
Takara tightened a fist. "When I see him, I'm gonna kill him… and Hinata too!"
Jun continued to gaze at the chart and then placed a finger on Yuki's face. "It would be just like he was shooting a scene in a movie, he said. I know he's kissed plenty of girls before, so this whole Kissing Booth thing is probably nothing to him."
"Well he better think that way or he's gonna get a serious can of whoop-ass if he screws up."
"It'll be fine, Kairi. I trust him with all my hear." Yes, Jun. You definitely do.
Speaking of trusting boys, I spotted Mal staring at the guys chart. I thought with just one glance she wouldn't even be interested in any of those guys, let alone overly handsome idol dudes oozing with too much hotness even on profile pics on paper. Suspicious?
"I know… I know my heart is completely filled of Sora-kun right now…" She muttered without even looking directly at us. "But… I can't help but feel nervous…"
"Nervous? About what?" I asked curiously.
"Ren-kun…" Well, obviously he would be the middleman between her and her beloved Sora. Why is she even nervous towards the middleman?
"Well, isn't he going to be the one, assuming that is, who will be giving you whatever that Sora-kun wants to give you?"
"I know, but… I can't stop thinking about what those girls have been saying about him…"
"Hm?" Jun asked curiously. "What girls?"
Mal quickly turned to us. "The girls in my old school. Back at St. Paul's. The Ren Tsubasa fangirls!" Well, of course, it's natural that there will be a fanclub within a school where their idol is also attending, just like the numerous fangirls here at Momiji Academy with too many idols as students here.
"Why? I mean, you and he already met back at Sports Day last month," I said. "You two should get used to seeing each other again, you know? I mean for goodness sakes you two are from the same school!"
Much to my surprise, Mal answered in Japanese. "It's just that… It's because… well… those girls… they say… when he's in front of everyone, he becomes very sweet, very down to earth… but in private when he's not in front of the masses, he's… well… he's not a very sociable person. Vyn keeps on telling me about Ren-kun's real personality! He's not friendly, he says!"
"Eh, I wouldn't go that far, Mallory. It ain't that Ren's unfriendly or anything like that. He's just picky with the people he wants to talk to." From out of the blue, Takara, in his non-accented American English, joined in the conversation.
"You met that Ren dude, Takara?" I asked curiously in Japanese.
"Not personally. Well okay, sorta. We kinda talked once when my dad and I had to pick up Hinata from the workshops. Dude's got all shocked when he learned that Hinata's a twin. Yeah, he talks to him a lot too."
"Why are you replying to me in English, Takara?"
"Sorry, habit. I'm still trying to get used to living here in Japan again after two years living in Atlanta, you know." Takara cleared his throat. "If you ask for my opinion, I think Mallory here may be the first girl Ren-senpai may open up to. Well, I mean to say, she would the first non-idol single girl whom he may open up to. The only idol girl he talks to is Mirai, but you know he's Tai-niichan's girlfriend, so that doesn't really count…"
Vyn shook his head, crossing his arms. "Seriously yo, I'm gonna open a can of whoop ass on that Tsubasa goon if he ever makes you cry, Mal. He may all acting all sweet and down-to-earth and acting all overall cool in front of people but that dude's been in the same class as me since April. I pretty much know his personality and attitude, yo. Seeing him in the Kissing Booth is suspicious, man…"
Mal shook her head at her twin. "Whatever, Vyn. I can take care of myself. It's not like I have a major crush on that Ren guy or anything. I mean, why look at him when I already have my sweet Sora?"
"The hell? That Kazamatsuri dude's a whole lot more suspicious than that Tsubasa dude! I dunno what's up with you, Mal, but you sure know how to attract the wrong dudes, man…"
"Alright, alright, break it up, you two." I managed to keep the twins quiet and both finally dropped the subject.
Still though. I'm more worried about the rest of the female population and Kaito. Even the slugger boys think that Kaito is the primary target of majority of the female customers in our Kissing Booth. Even my gut feeling is already telling me. They're going to buy so many red tickets so they can have their kiss with Kaito that would last for two to three minutes. Ugh, why am I bothered by all this?
Okay Kairi. Be cool. Just stay cool.
At this point, we heard dance techno music being played throughout the speakers for a few seconds. Then the music faded for a bit and we heard Doc's voice speaking through the mic.
The Foundation Day Festival is officially open. Let the party begin.
MOMIJI ACADEMY GRAND STADIUM (The Kissing Booth)
During the first hour, Jun and I ended up chatting some more since we were sitting bored at the ticket table, waiting for customers to line up. Class rep Hara arrived at our table with a roll of name tag stickers. The sticker had the text in English: "HELLO! My name is…" and at the white blank space at the bottom, we wrote our names. Since not all Japanese are fluent in reading Kanji (how embarrassing, really…), some of us decided to write our names in Hiragana and some of us decided to write our names in the standard romanized alphabet. If a Japanese can't even read the simple "A-B-C" alphabet, then there must be something really wrong with that person's brain. Since we have the Clark Twins who still probably isn't used to reading simple Japanese writing system just yet, we decided to write our names in standard romanized alphabet anyway. Jun took the effort of decorating her own name tag that I decided to decorate mine as well. We weren't the only ones who had to wear the name tags. The others including the idols also had to wear them as well.
The boys, including the idols, decided to wear some kind of a uniform. Since we were sponsoring the baseball team, they all wore burgundy red baseball hats that has the team logo on it. The baseball players themselves: class rep Hara, Dori, the Doumoto Boys (hot dude Hokuto and little shrimp Nobuyuki), and the silent big guy Kirby Moon, donned their baseball jerseys with their surnames at the back and their jersey number, of course.
When the clock stroke at 8:44 a.m., some kids started coming up to us and purchase their tickets. The first customers we received came from Barakuma Girls High School who also declared that they are die-hard fans of the Starduster Studs, Ren Tsubasa, and of course, Cousin Hinata. Most of those girls are actually Kaito fans, which somewhat irritated me a bit. Well, of course, they're fangirls, but the way they acted sounded as if they were so confident that they would make someone like Kaito fall for them. Now when I'm around he ain't. While we were giving away their tickets with Jun counting the money herself (I did mention that I hate math, right?), more and more customers came from fellow classmates to schoolmates of other levels to even the middle schoolers from Takara and Hinata's school. Mal was with us also, occasionally mixing the ticket stubs in the raffle box while also getting herself busy texting with people through her cellphone.
The first kissing raffle will begin in thirty minutes, which was why the customer line increased immensely. I didn't notice until now that there was a huge tent behind our booth. Apparently, the idols, the peeps from 1-A, and other non-kisser volunteers who are maintaining the booth are in there. Right behind us was another table, where all the computerized camera equipment are located. The techies, lead by class rep Hara, Dori, Vyn, and Takara, were busy playing some online game or something called DOTA just so they can kill time. The only online game that I actually played in my lifetime were Ragnarok Online and Maple Story. They were a lot of fun actually, but then school got harder and I ended up abandoning them.
Somehow as I was giving out the tickets and placing the stubs in the box Mal was holding, I felt a bit depressed. I haven't spoken to Kaito since we left home at around seven in the morning. I shouldn't be since I've gotten used to not seeing him and the rest of the idol tenants during school because of their schedules, but for about two hours? Am I already suffering from Summertime Blues? Some girl eventually is going to kiss Kaito and that same girl will receive a kiss from Kaito and then they would be so in to it for two to three minutes… and here I am behind the ticket table regretting for forgetting to bring my wallet to the festival. Damn, I'm hungry… thirsty… bored!
Luckily none of those idol idiot girls are gonna have their way with Kaito or any of the idol guys. Good thing Kaito, Yuki, Ren, and Hinata will be the last four guys who will be doing the kissing near the end of the festival. The other guys before them are willing to kiss multiple girls, especially with Shunta. He thinks it would be on-screen kissing practice for him. Himemiya and Shinoda also fell for that urban legend and think that they may find that one special girl from all the bevvy of girls who are buying these tickets like there was no end. Even Hokuto Doumoto, the hot guy of the baseball team, was willing to kiss more than one girl throughout the festival. Although he has a girlfriend already from the Barakuma Girls' High School, it still upset poor Kotono.
Speaking of Kotono, she, Mio, Chie, and Tomi were going around the festival themselves, selling tickets out in the field. Kotono decided not to wear that chest-flattening tape around her chest so she can use her assets to attract male customers in to buying tickets and get their kiss from volunteer idol girls, whom Himemiya worked so hard to convince them to volunteer. I wonder what happened with Shinoda and that Uehara bitch? I thought Shinoda has a thing for her? Ah well. Speaking of Uehara bitch, she was also one of the girl kissers. Bah, I don't wanna see her face in here and not ever.
Just as I was about to give up and about to drop dead due to the boiling point of the atmosphere's temperature, a hero came to our rescue. "You guys thirsty?"
Although it was a good idea to show up with iced bottles of water, it was also a bad idea to come out in the open without any personnel protection around him. Hordes of girls currently in line cried and screamed as if they just saw God and were ready to die in heaven.
I grabbed the iced bottled water from Kaito and then placed the water on my forehead. "Thanks, Kaito…"
"Are you okay? You look like you're going to die of dehydration out here."
"We're doing good, Kaito-kun. Thank you very much," Jun answered diligently like what a kind and sweet girl like her should be. "You look really handsome today!"
Girls in line were already protesting and bashing against Jun and me for having no shame in flirting with Kaito behind the table. I wanted to just stand up and yell at these morons to shut the hell up, but instead Kaito simply patted me on the shoulder. It seems he was indicating that I should stay quiet and let him take care of the mess.
"Aw, why thank you, Jun-chan. It's too bad you're not in the girl kissers chart so I too can have a chance to kiss you too!"
Right then, the girls reacted like they were out to kill us.
"That's sweet of you, Kaito-kun," Jun snickered. "But as you can see, the boyfriend will not allow it."
Immediately, these same murderous girls fell silent and instead, they showed expressions of gawking.
"True. And I'm a bit intimidated by the boyfriend. All I have is respect for the lucky man." With just one grin, some of those fangirls waiting in line already fainted. Great.
Later, Tachibana-sensei arrived with a huge box of First Aid supplies and two white arm bands with a red cross on them. He handed them to Kaito directly. "Whew, finally the First Aid kits arrived. The medical peeps arrived rather late today."
"I'm sorry about that, Sensei," Kaito apologized as he placed the First Aid box on the ground. "The services at my family's hospital isn't exactly this slow."
"Don't worry about it, Ichinose-kun, there was a huge accident while they were on their way and even stopped to provide First Aid to those who got injured. At least we got our kit."
Kaito then gazed at the two arm bands. He placed one of them on his left shoulder. "This extra one belongs to…?"
"Please give that to Momoko Bunchin, the baseball team's equipment and first aid manager. She will be assisting you with the First Aid when needed."
"Ah, thank you, Sensei." He then gazed at his watch. "Well, I better bring these back to the tent and meet up with Momo-chan. Thanks again, Sensei. Take care, ladies." We waved at Kaito as he made his way back in the tent. The girls in the long line sighed sadly as he walked away.
MOMIJI ACADEMY GRAND STADIUM (Stage Area)
Kouta, still trapped in Taisuke's body, applauded at the end of a song and dance number just performed on stage, with Mirai sitting next to him. The couple nibbled their caramel apples, with Kouta gently patting Mirai's caramel-patched lips with a napkin after taking her bite while the girl in love giggled at his simple gesture. Knowing and being with Taisuke for over a year now, Mirai knew that the boyfriend had never done any simple gestures such as wiping her mouth off this way. Girls normally would do this to their guys, but the other way around was not common, at least for her.
Luckily there were no crazy fangirls or fanboys around the stage area. No photographers or videocameras as well. They were all so focused towards the Kissing Booth that none of them realized that showbiz's most popular teen couple was not even in the Kissing Booth charts at all.
"That's never been done before, Kouta-san," Mirai giggled.
"What, Mirai-chan? Wiping off the caramel off your rosy red lips?" Kouta grinned. Mirai felt her cheeks blushing just by those simple words alone. "This is part of the Yamato spirit, love. Do men of this time not wipe off the gentle lips of the women they love the most like this anymore?"
"I don't know, to be honest," she answered, still giving that sheepish grin at him. "Things are very different now from how it was during your time."
"You're telling me. Women have stronger personalities and independent minds now and are not afraid to show some skin in public regardless of obscurity or not. I was very shocked at first when I observed the people in general present in this festival." He reached for his paper cup of tea and took a sip. "Is that why you and Kairi-chan and Jun-chan and that mixed-blooded young lady— ah, Mallory-chan— dressed in modest long dresses for the festival today?"
She gazed at her lavender floral-patterned dress that stretched all the way to the bottom of her knees. "Is it bad…?"
"No, it's not bad at all." He gently patted her on the cheek, as he continued to take a bite off his caramel apple.
"Kouta-san. Why didn't you volunteer to be one of the kissers for the Kissing Booth? Well, um, I'm just… curious…"
The ghost-possessed young idol chuckled. "Isn't it logical for a man to never give away his kisses to any other girl than the one he loves, Mirai-chan? I may not be your beloved Taisuke, but I also have my own principles."
"Tai volunteered to be one of the kissers at the Kissing Booth during last year's festival. I was a little jealous, but you know, I participated also and bought some tickets. I didn't get to kiss him, sadly, but even after that…"
"It's understandable, Mirai. Both you and Taisuke are… what is it… idols, you say?"
She giggled. "That's right. There was no such thing as teen idols back in your time!"
He shook his head. "Local popular boys, yes, there was such thing. Kyosuke and I have experienced all that growing up. Even our male cousins our ages also experienced all of that. Of course, it's the Irie Family trait. Kenjiro may not be born with that trait, but his body definitely carried it. Just seeing many of the family coming from his own line was already proof. That irresistibly handsome and dashing boyfriend of yours is very strong proof."
"You're so conceited, Kouta-san!" She chuckled, covering her mouth to contain her laughter. Right then, she changed the tone of her voice in to something a bit more serious. "Ne, Kouta-san. May I… ask you something…?"
"What is it, Mirai?"
"About… last night… when you brought me to my room when Mallory was still in the restroom brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed… when we both sat on my bed… why did you… I mean… why did you come on to me…?"
"Come on to you?"
"You know… you… pinned me down and then you kissed me… as if… as if…"
The teenager sighed deeply. "I've seen what happened… but it wasn't me… that is… how do I explain this… there was a time that I felt like I was no longer in control…"
"You said you would never do that to me… I just thought it was rather strange…"
"Has Taisuke ever… well… with you…?" Quickly she shook her head.
"But secretly… deep inside… I…. I wanted him to…" She slowly dropped her head and sighed. "I felt envious with the other girls and their boyfriends… how they always bragged about how many times they have done it and… the things they've done and… I… I thought Tai may not love me enough for him to…"
"I'm not assuming anything at this point, Mirai-chan, but somehow… I did mention to you that there was a point at that time when I felt like I was no longer in control of Taisuke's body… that can only mean one thing…"
She gasped and then covered her mouth once more. "Then… that can only mean… was that… Tai himself… who… who pinned me down and… and…"
"It's possible, Mirai. It's very possible that I'm close to being separated from his body. It's very possible that it was Taisuke, not me, who did that action to you last night."
"He… he could've continued… I've been waiting for a very long time for this…"
"That was rather awkward of you saying that, Mirai," he chortled. "Don't forget, you are no longer alone in that room. You have a roommate now. You don't want anyone else to walk in while you and he… well, you know."
"How sinful of me!" She giggled, while he patted her on the shoulder gently. Once the laughter faded, it was his turn to change the subject.
"I would like to thank you for agreeing on becoming my date to this wonderful school festival, Mirai-chan. You have no idea how happy and excited I am right now."
"I want to compensate for you and Great-Grandmother Sazae, Kouta-san. Somehow I was also very excited to spend this entire day with you, just having fun and you know…"
He nodded. "Yes. Sazae-chan and I never went on an official date before, so yes. This is definitely a compensation. Thank you, Mirai-chan."
"Thank you for giving me the opportunity, Kouta-san." With that, he slowly bent over to her and kissed her on the cheek. He turned to his left wristwatch and read the time.
"I believe the first round of the Kissing Booth has started. Shall we head there now?"
"May I… cling on to your arm again?"
He snickered and offered his right arm. "Come then, my dear. Let's not miss this for the world." The couple stood up and both quickly finished what was left for their caramel apples.
"Ah! We should've donated to the Kissing Booth earlier! Now it'll be crowded!"
"Don't worry, Mirai. Yukinojou-kun helped me out with everything including how to dress." He gazed at himself wearing high-end white polo shirt, dark blue jeans, and beige-colored Timberland boots. "I look awful, don't I?"
"No, this is how Tai usually dresses."
"Ha ha, I figured that!" He reached for his pocket and then took out the wallet. "This is Taisuke's wallet. He sure brings a lot of cash in here. There's about 50,000 Yen here. This boy is quite careless in handling his money! What if he gets robbed?"
"He's a very responsible guy, Kouta-san, don't worry."
"Well, in any case, I will donate 10,000 Yen to the baseball team. I know I will not be around to see it, but I would love to see Kenjiro's school's baseball team do make it to the Koshien."
"I really do hope they make it there."
Immediately, the couple made their way back through the festival booths and then to the Kissing Booth.
MOMIJI ACADEMY GRAND STADIUM (The Kissing Booth)
We went through two rounds of the Kissing Booth raffle already. Looks like the lucky ones who had their numbers picked were completely satisfied and had their money's worth. Two of the boys we were familiar with from those two rounds, the soccer team's Striker Prince Arata Kodaka got to kiss two girls from the raffle. Baseball prince Hokuto Doumoto, on the other hand, was able to pull two ticket stubs and called out the numbers, but none of those people who owned those ticket numbers were even present. Oh well, their loss.
After those two rounds, we had our lunch period. Ken was finally relieved of his cooking and grilling shift and now can roam around the festival for the rest of the day. He made us free lunch. It looks like a rice bowl but an unfamiliar rice bowl. Still, it was delicious. While we were eating, we were still selling tickets at the table. We took turns of course and at the moment, Mallory was already counting and handling the money while Jun was handling the tickets. I was now sitting at the extra chair next to them just enjoying my lunch while monitoring the two raffle boxes filled with ticket stubs with numbers in them.
Kouta and Mirai stopped by earlier and donated 10,000 Yen from Tai-nii's wallet. I don't know what kind of person Tai-nii is when it came to money and charities, but I do hope that once we set Kouta free from his body that the 10,000 Yen that Kouta gave away was for our beloved slugger boys and their quest to claim a spot in the Koshien next month. The two looked so happy together that it almost made my heart break. Very soon, Kouta will be leaving us for good and that Mirai will also be heartbroken even if her true boyfriend would finally come back to her. He was a very kind and admirable young man, Great-Garnduncle Kouta. He truly was meant to be the heir to become the next family head of the Iries. It's too bad he had to die so early.
Aside from those two, the adults also arrived, with Dad, Uncle Kenzo, Dr. Kouta Ichinose, and even the Aino managers. The pain of my eyesight regarding the adults was that even that bitch Akari Yamamoto was still around Dad. Uncle Kenzo complained that he had no choice but to donate money instead. He wanted to purchase a ticket so he can have a chance at the kissing booth himself, however, the one he hoped he would get to kiss wasn't even in the girls kissers chart. It turns out that the one he hoped he would get a kiss from was none other than Tachibana-sensei. Nice try, Uncle Kenzo, but no.
Speaking of Dr. Kouta Ichinose, he brought along his grandfather. In short, Kaito's Great-Grandfather. And to be further more specific, the centenarian retired doctor, Kidai Ichinose. Even with the obvious signs of serious old age and the almost completely white hair, somehow he still looked rather handsome and he also stood tall that he almost has the same height as Kaito himself. At 100 years of age, he didn't look like he was going to become frail anytime. He walked around with a walking cane, with the help of Dr. Ichinose, of course. I asked about the man in between Kidai-san and Dr. Ichinose, also known as Kaito's grandfather. His grandfather couldn't make it because he was in the middle of an important surgery with a very ailing patient at the hospital. Ah well, that's how it is as a doctor after all, let alone a surgeon.
Kidai-san still has yet to meet his best friend, Kouta-san. They decided to stay at the booth area and wait for the third round to begin. Third round consists of the same guys from the first and second round, plus the new dudes in the list: Himemiya, Shinoda, and Shunta. The fourth and final round would be the most valuable ones, Kaito, Yuki, Hinata, and Ren, will be participating.
Still, we were continuing to sell more tickets, and what shocked me the most was that the yellow tickets and the red tickets were selling out very fast. I gulped nervously seeing the amazing sale of this entire kissing booth. Mallory's rather slow but very accurate count of the money we earned gave us a confident boost that so far we earned about 30,000 Yen. Even though there was no definite goal, Ogina-sensei hoped that we would be able to reach 500,000 Yen to ensure that there are enough funds to cover the entire team's travel expenses and for new equipment. I guess 500,000 Yen would be enough just for the Koshien Tournament.
After some minutes later, all of the rolls of red tickets except two remained. I guess if I could find some way to get about 500 yen just for a white ticket I guess that would be enough. Instead, I would feel a whole lot cheap. I may not ask for money but for sure I am not cheap. Just as I thought hope was gone for me, a guest who slipped off my mind at this point came to our booth. He stood with a dark gray hat, white short-sleeved polo shirt, and dark beige slacks, just like any elderly man would wear on occasions such as these. With that wooden walking stick in his hand, he stood there with that familiar smile on his face.
"Ah! Tani-san! Welcome!" I shrieked, standing up from my seat.
"Good thing I finally found the famous Kissing Booth! I apologize for arriving late," Jiro Tani said, still remaining with that humble smile. "It looks like the booth is doing very well in sales. I see you are almost out of red tickets."
"Yeah. These are the final two," I said to him. Quickly I introduced him to Jun and Mallory, who are currently manning the ticket booth. They bowed and exchanged their greetings and introductions.
"My great-granddaughter is interested in participating in the fourth round of the Kissing Booth because one of the boys in that chart happens to be her long-time crush. Well, I've seen the photo and I have to admit, he is quite a very attractive young man. Understandable indeed." He then turned his eyes right at the red tickets. "She only said she wanted one ticket, but two or more would give her more chances, therefore I would like to buy the remaining two red tickets for her."
"Ah, sure! Of course!" Jun exclaimed happily. "That would be—"
"10,000 Yen, yes?" Immediately, Tani-san already had the 10,000 Yen cash in his hand, then passed the money right in Mallory's hand. Jun quickly tore the stubs of the final two red tickets and handed it to him.
"I'm sure your great-granddaughter would be very happy, Tani-san," Jun made her statement.
"She should be," Tani-san chuckled. "Since she was a young girl she's always been in love with Ichinose-kun, way before he got in to stardom, so she says."
What? Why that… well, it's Tani-san's great-granddaughter. I can't be greedy with all this. After all, it's my fault for not bringing my wallet in the first place. And of course, I wouldn't be the only one who's got the hots for Kaito. Still, I saw him first! Little League became one of my best memories I've experienced because that's how I met Kaito! And now… and now…
"I'm sure she will be the lucky girl whom Kaito would definitely kiss at the final round later today," I said humbly.
"I'm very sure as well, Kairi-chan." Aw, dangit Tani-san, I should've told you that I have a thing for Kaito too. Man.
"Very well then, now that's taken care of…" I didn't notice that he was also carrying a strap messenger bag. He reached inside and revealed a small black leather box. "Here you go, Irie-san."
"What's this?" I asked.
"As promised yesterday. Here are my diaries." The diaries! I quickly took the box from him. Then, he handed me a small key to the lock of the box. "I've already read through these several times and I have no use for them anymore. After all, I'm still waiting for my time, you know?"
"R-Right," I said. "Thank you for this, Tani-san."
"Always welcome, my dear. Well then, looks like the third round is about to start. I will be back when the fourth round begins along with my great-granddaughter. Good day, ladies!" He tipped off his hat and bowed, as we also returned the bowing to him.
Fifteen minutes later and the third round of the Kissing Booth began. Once again, class rep Hara was the MC of the raffle, and through the list in his hand, he calls out the kisser from the tent to pick up a stub from the raffle. Looks like Striker Prince Arata has been relieved from his kissing duties and now the others take over. At this point, Kotono and Mio, as well as Chie and Tomi, bought their own tickets. Since there were no more red tickets left, they opted for the green and yellow tickets instead.
Hokuto Doumoto was called out for the third time. He hasn't kissed anyone as of yet because those people who owned those ticket numbers were not even present at the booth. He was the fourth guy ever called out by class rep. Once he came out, there were some hordes of girls— probably baseball fans themselves— cheered and cried out like they just saw God. He stood in front of the girls' raffle box to reach for a ticket. Once he did, it showed: "Green Ticket… number 700925."
Quickly the girls scrambled through their green tickets. Hokuto repeated out the number again. In the meantime, Jun and Mallory were endlessly giggling while I simply shook my head. About two minutes later, Mio, who was behind the booth at the techie table along with Kotono, shrieked out.
"Oh my god!" Mio called out! "We got a ticket here!"
Hokuto Doumoto turned his head towards the techie table. He gazed at Dori, Takara, and Vyn. Quickly the three pointed their fingers towards Kotono.
"W-wait! Um… there must be some mistake…" Kotono gritted her teeth, then quickly covering her busty chest with her arms. "Um… you must have misread it."
"Do you have ticket number 700925 or not, Ayase?" Hokuto directly questioned her. "Well?"
Kotono dropped her head and then handed him her green ticket. He read the number indicated on her ticket and exactly matched the stub he picked from the raffle box. "Well then, Ayase… are you sure?"
She lifted her head and gazed at her former salsa partner who was actually the boy she's been crushing on since who knows when. "It's… it's for baseball after all… ne?"
"Come then." Hokuto reached his hand towards hers. Kotono, despite of her tough demeanor and her rather sultry summer look she's donning right now, gritted her teeth. "Are you nervous, Ayase?"
"But… what about your girlfriend… Doumoto-kun?"
"We're kissing for baseball, ne?"
"You're right…" She then took his hand as he led her to the little itsy bits teeny weeny kissing room where there was no windows or view whatsoever except for a vent that only people from the tent behind us can see. Some 40 seconds later, Kotono quickly ran to the techie table and hid her face in embarrassment on Mio's shoulder.
"I'm so sorry… Doumoto-kun…"
Wow, I thought. That must be some kiss. Now I'm curious. And with that final kiss, Hokuto Doumoto was finally relieved off of his kissing duties. He then called out Kotono as the round continued after he exited from the room some five seconds later.
"Ayase… a word with you?"
Kotono hid behind Mio, already bending down considering Mio's short height. "Just… just forget about it… I mean it's for fundraiser, ne?"
"Please? Can we?" Slowly, she crawled out from Mio's back and followed him.
"Where are we going?"
"To the tent. It won't take long, I promise." The two disappeared from my sight and then entered the tent.
Because of my curiosity, I ran to the techie booth, where Dori was always rewinding the footage in his laptop that the room camera recorded of the kissing session between Kotono and Hokuto Doumoto. "What the hell happened, Dori?"
"I don't know, Kairi," Dori said. "Let's find out." There was a unit that has sockets for headphones connected to his laptop, so whatever headphones were available there, we listened through and then watched the video the kiss.
HOKUTO: You're feeling nervous, Ayase?
KOTONO: Um… well… It's not exactly like that, I mean I've never kissed anyone before, let alone a boy…
HOKUTO: But this isn't for real, you know? I mean, we're just kissing because we both want our team to get in to the Koshien, ne?
KOTONO: Well, I know that.. It's just… it's just…
HOKUTO: Relax, Ayase… don't be nervous. It's just me, remember?
At that point, he placed his hand on to her shaking hands.
HOKUTO: Close your eyes, Ayase…
KOTONO: Um… okay…
Aw, I thought. She looked so innocent there and I gotta admit, Hokuto Doumoto got all hot and sexy there! Sexy innocent girl meets Sexy hot baseball player. What a perfect combination. The kiss lasted for about fifty seconds. Once Hokuto withdrew from her, Kotono suddenly got in to a panic attack. Sort of.
KOTONO: I love you, Hokuto Doumoto! I've loved you ever since we first met back in middle school! I… I know this may sound weird considering that I'm not really that nice with guys but… and… and I know you have a girlfriend already but… you're the only one who's making me feel like this and… and… and… oh god, what am I saying? I'm sorry, Doumoto-kun! I'm sorry!
HOKUTO: Wh-what…? Ayase…
And just like that, she got up, opened the door wide and ran off.
HOKUTO: Ayase, wait! What did you just say just now?
And that was when we all heard Kotono say to him after she hid behind Mio: "I'm so sorry, Doumoto-kun…"
"So she confessed to him? Whoa," Dori snickered. "I didn't know she had it in her. Man."
"Way to go Kotono!" Mio giggled happily. "But she shouldn't be scared around poor Doumoto-kun…"
Takara shrugged his shoulders. "She probably got chickened out from rejection."
"You know, seriously, yo, I'd have that Ayase hunny anytime. That Doumoto dude better not reject her, man. He'd be seriously insane to reject her…" I heard Vyn make his statement.
"Even if he already has a girlfriend, Vyn?" I asked him curiously.
"Oh… well… um… okay, I take what I said back…"
Why do I get the feeling that something special is going to happen today? I don't know why, but you know those gut feelings that something may happen but not quite sure what that something may that be? I know, I don't believe in urban legends, but dang it, I'm still hanging on to that urban legend Tachibana-sensei mentioned earlier. Now, if Doumoto didn't care about Kotono's feelings then he wouldn't be running after her. What's up with that?
Just as things proceeded, the four handsome senpais of the Singers and Songwriters Club, as well as their girlfriends, stopped by the booth. Ken immediately gave us 50,000 Yen donation to the baseball team. They all chipped in their savings so they can have one huge lump sum of donation.
"Would you like hats or autographed balls?" Jun asked diligently.
"We can't have both?" Kaname-senpai sighed, crossing his arms.
"I'm afraid not, sorry Kaname-senpai," Jun answered with a grin on her face. "Autographed balls are very limited, but we have plenty of hats!"
The Korean Japanese couple picked the hats quickly. The rest of the girls wanted the autographed balls. The other three boys also requested for the hats. Once they received it, the boys and Ki Hyeon-senpai wore their caps. Right then, third round just ended. Why do these girls kept buying tickets and yet don't even show up for the actual raffle rounds to receive their kiss? I feel bad for the idols Himemiya, Shinoda, and Shunta. They picked their ticket stubs but none of the ones who have those numbers were present. Tsk tsk.
"Well then, we will be having a thirty-minute break. In the meantime, the fourth and final round will begin," class rep Hara announced through the mic. "For those who just donated a portion of your cash, we thank you. Hope you enjoy your new official Maple Leaves baseball cap or your autographed ball signed by the entire team including yours truly. Those who haven't bought the tickets and have been waiting for the final round to have a chance to receive and share a kiss with Japan's hottest idols, such as Kaito Ichinose, Yukinojou Irie, Hinata Irie, Ren Tsubasa, Haruna Uehara, Aki Kitano, and others, here's your chance now! Please head to our booth and buy your tickets now! This is the final round and you won't have a chance to share that one special kiss with your favorite boy or girl if you miss it— you'll have to wait until next year!"
Immediately, a huge scramble of teenagers from around the stadium area ran to the lines. Great, busy again. Right then, some of the Kyokushin Karate boys, as well as Kirby Moon and little Nobuyuki Doumoto arrived at the table.
"Okay ladies," Nobuyuki said, "y'all relieved for today. Let us dudes take over now, hehe."
"Whew," I sighed in relief. "Thanks, dudes!"
MOMIJI ACADEMY GRAND STADIUM (The Kissing Booth)
The fourth round officially begun and because Jun, Mal, and myself were already relieved from our duties, we get to sit at the seats laid out at front of the booth with the other customers and donors. Since the front rows were already filled, we all sat at the last two rows at the back. Thanks to Vyn's charitable act of lending 4000 Yen for the green tickets, Mal was able to get two green tickets. Jun didn't buy a ticket, but Takara advised her that he, Yuki, and Hinata donated 20,000 Yen to the team which included her name in that donation. The cousin's girlfriend wanted to pay the boys back, but also told her that it wasn't necessary. Chie, Tomi, and Mio were still hopeful that one of their tickets would be randomly selected from the raffle boxes. Kotono, on the other hand, looked rather glum with her head dropped while sitting next to Mio. I wonder what happened between her and Hokuto Doumoto after the kiss? Ah well, I'll just ask her when the right time comes.
Speaking of tickets, I still don't have any. It's okay though. I thought about calling back home to bring my wallet to school, but then I didn't think of that until right now. Ah well, too late to do that now. After all, the tickets were completely sold out now, which also included the white tickets that would only get you a one-second kiss.
Shunta came up at the raffle boxes first right after the girl kissers went with theirs. He picked a number and no luck once more. The one who has that ticket number was a no show. Shinoda drew a ticket next and also had a no show. What's up with these girls who buy tickets but don't show up during the raffles? Ah well, at least they paid for them and they go to the baseball team's fund.
Himemiya came third. Majority of the teenage girls, assuming they were fans, gathered closer to the booth so they can have a closer look at this shameless player. The ticket he pulled out was a yellow ticket and called out: "Seriously, we're harmless! What's up with all you ladies doing a no show during the actual raffle? Not confident that your ticket would be picked? This is my second time drawing a ticket and I haven't even kissed anyone yet."
"Just read the ticket number already," I heard Tomi mutter. "If you get another no show then nothing you can do, dude."
"Alright, here goes." He cleared his throat and called out the number: "098867. Yellow Ticket #098867. Anybody…? Somebody…? Where are you, oh mystery ticket holder…?"
I noticed Mal gazing at her tickets and then shrugged. Next, I turned to the other four girls and were now looking through their tickets. Kotono was still sulking like the world was about to crumble around her. From out of the blue, Mio shrieked in shock.
"Gaaaaah!" Chie and Tomi shrieked along with her. Then both faced towards Himemiya and stood up. "WE GOT A WINNER!"
"What? No!" Mio gritted her teeth as the two began dragging her out of her seat. "Let me go! Jeez, are you guys insane?!"
"Why are you hiding, Mio? Himemiya-kun's waiting!" Chie snickered.
"But… I don't want Himemiya to receive my first kiss… I was hoping Ren Tsubasa would pick my ticket—"
"Oh come on, Mio, you bought the ticket, same color, same number. You're the lucky girl who gets to kiss one of the Starduster Studs!" Chie giggled. "Besides, you got plenty more tickets, so you'll have plenty of chances that Ren Tsubasa will pick your ticket!"
"But… but… but…" Well, sorry Mio, can't help you there in that department. Looks like you'll have to deal with Himemiya. At least it's a yellow ticket so it should be less than a minute. Jeez.
Some moments later, Mio ran out looking as if she was about to break in to tears, while Himemiya exited the room at the back of the booth. He called out: "Orihime! Why the hell are you panicking for? It was only lips touching each other— and I brushed my teeth and freshened my mouth with mouthwash, dammit!"
After Himemiya finally came the fourth round-only boys. Hinata was first on the list to pick, followed by Yuki. Second to the last is Ren Tsubasa. Kaito is the last kisser to draw a ticket that will officially end the Kissing Booth raffles, and of course, the festival altogether. Just as Hinata came out after class rep Hara called his name, the Ichinose men arrived and sat two seats away from where I was sitting.. Dr. Kouta Ichinose, Kaito's father, recognized me immediately and greeted. He also introduced the great-grandfather, the centenarian retired pediatric surgeon Dr. Kidai Ichinose, and we exchanged our greetings.
"After all these years, the Kissing Booth is still alive and well, ne?" Dr. Kidai chortled. "I remember the very first Foundation Day Festival. Back in those days, the adults hated the idea of a Kissing Booth, but back then, it was quite innocent. I did participate as a ticket holder, but you know, none of my tickets were picked, so no kisses."
I grinned. "Well, it became popular so it's still ongoing right now."
Right then, the old man noticed my hands. "Hm? No tickets?" I told him the entire story of how I ended up forgetting my wallet and that all the tickets were sold out at this point when I realized that I should have just called Hattori-san to drive back home and bring back my wallet since I was on ticket selling duty almost the entire day.
"That's unfortunate, Kairi-chan," Kidai sighed sadly. "Ah, if we have seen each other like this earlier, I would have paid for your special ticket, unless of course, there wasn't any boy in the chart whom you particularly would like to kiss…"
I dropped my head and told him that there is one single boy whom I really wanted to share my first kiss with. I didn't tell him that it was his great-grandson whom I was aiming for, but since I have no ticket, some other girl would be lucky to receive a kiss from him.
"My great-grandson, Kaito," Dr. Kidai suddenly brought up his name. "You know… he admitted to me earlier that he hoped that he would pick the very special ticket and that the one who owns that ticket would be the girl he really wanted to kiss."
"Oh?" I gasped and gazed right through the older doctor. "R-really? He does?" He nodded right at me. "I… I see."
"I will come by and visit Stardust House tomorrow. You already know the reason why and it's not only because I want to spend some quality time with my great-grandson. Now is not the right time to talk about it though." I have a feeling he already knew about the Little Stardust House murders and most likely Great-Granduncle Kouta possessing Tai-nii's body, so I decided not to prod for answers.
"Thank you for visiting Hinasaki again, Dr. Kidai," I said to him. "I really do hope we can put the pieces of the puzzle together before the twenty-seventh."
"I may be a hundred years old now but my memory is as sharp as a shark's tooth. I really do hope that I may be able to help." I'm pretty sure you will, Dr. Kidai. No doubt about that.
Hinata, first and last time he would draw a ticket from the girls' raffle box. He picked up a white ticket, however the owner of the ticket number called out was another no show. Yuki went next: a yellow ticket but another no show. Jun even sighed in relief knowing that Yuki wouldn't be kissing any other girl in that kissing booth at all.
There were two guys left in the final round: Ren Tsubasa and Kaito. Class rep Hara called out Ren's name and almost the entire female population present literally screamed their lungs out for Ren's name. He exited from the tent and arrived behind the raffle box. Judging by his rather lifeless-looking expression, he didn't look so enthusiastic. Oh boy, I thought. This must be the real Ren Tsubasa that Vyn warned us about before. I still have yet to hear his English fluency and his British accent to see if Vyn was right about him all along.
I heard Mal gasp once she saw Ren standing behind the raffle. I turned my head towards her as she slowly dropped her head. It seems that she was about to cry and she was already crumbling the green tickets she was holding. Behind me, Mio returned looking stunned, but at the same time she scrambled through her tickets in hopes that she would get called back up again and this time she and Ren would be sharing the kiss.
After mixing the box well, Ren picked up a ticket. I shrieked in shock that the ticket he held was green. I then nudged Mal on the side. "Mal, the ticket is green! Get ready!"
Slowly she opened her hands and then focused on the ticket numbers indicated. Right then, Ren called out the number: "Green #8081345," despite of his unenthusiastic tone. As he repeated the number three times, Mal screamed and raised her hand along with that green ticket.
"I— I have Green #8081345!" Mallory shouted.
"What?! Noooo!" Mio gritted her teeth as Chie and Tomi comforted her. The other fangirls were left completely stunned, with just a simple yet elongated "Ehhh…" that came out from their mouths.
As Mal came up the booth and gave her ticket to Ren to confirm the numbers, the reluctant-looking singing idol nodded and then gazed right at the Clark Girl. "Have we met before?"
"I… I'm… Mallory… Clark… you don't remember me…?" Ren was taken aback right then, followed by a sigh.
"Well then… Mallory-chan… shall we?" Right then, he extended his hand to hers, which also made the girls go insane as well. Mallory was shy at first, but slowly she took his hand. He then lead her right at the kissing booth, where they will be kissing for about a minute.
"Maybe in the kissing room is where Ren-kun is going to pass on Sora-kun's gift to Mal! Ooh, so romantic!" Jun giggled happily.
"Let's just hope that's all Ren Tsubasa is towards that Mallory girl and that mysterious long-distance boyfriend of hers!" I heard Mio shout from behind. We all hushed her in silence, as she remained silent.
About a minute later, Mallory exited the room slowly, with her fingers gently caressing her own lips and her eyes wide open and made her way back to our direction. Few seconds later, Ren exited and simply turned the opposite way towards the tent. That was it, I thought. How cold! He didn't even like, follow her or even smile or say thank you. I feel like kicking his ass for some reason for acting as if Mallory didn't even exist right then.
Last, never the least, and the anticipation has finally arrived on the scene. There he was, standing so tall and handsome, right behind the raffle booth. Dammit Kaito, even with that Maple Leaves baseball cap you're wearing, you're still deadly attractive. I dropped my head and then covered my face with my hands. I don't want to hear some annoying fangirl screaming once he picks a ticket and then calls out the ticket number.
The urban legend is seriously going to go in to effect! Most likely the lucky ticket holder would be single, and since Kaito is single, they'll definitely end up together and live happily ever after. What does that make me, man? Sigh.
"Ah, Kairi-chan! You're still here!" A family elderly voice suddenly spoke right at my ear. It wasn't Dr. Kidai Ichinose, that's for sure. "Aw, anything wrong? Lift up your head, dear."
I slowly lifted my head and turned to my left. I almost had a heart attack then, but good thing it was just the kind elderly man named Jiro Tani. "Ah, Tani-san! Yes, the final round's about to end! Where's your great-granddaughter? Didn't you say she wanted those tickets?"
Tani-san just grinned and then shrugged his shoulders. "Well, can't be helped, ne? Apparently something important came up and she couldn't attend the festival today."
"What?" I gasped in shock. "But didn't you buy the final two red tickets for her?"
He reached for his pocket and he retrieved the red tickets he purchased earlier. "Yes indeed. But since she won't be here…" Unexpectedly, he placed the red tickets on my open palm. "These tickets would be a waste if that kisser picks your ticket, ne?"
My eyes opened in shock and then bit my bottom lip. I just wanted to burst in to tears of joy right at him, but instead, I bowed low tos how my gratitude. "Thank you so much, Tani-san! I… I can't believe… you're giving me these tickets?!"
"Remember, it's all for the love of baseball, ne?" I nodded quickly and then he patted me on the shoulder. "Well then. I must head back home now. I wish that boy you wished you would share your first kiss with picks your ticket." He gently rubbed my head and he exited the row.
After Tani-san left as I waved at him, Dr. Kidai suddenly squeezed in. "Kairi-chan… that man…"
"That man… something about that man… well, maybe I'm just thinking too much, hehehehe…"
I laughed along with the retired doctor. "Ah! Looks like Kaito-kun's already picked a ticket— could it be a red ticket?"
"Red ticket!" Kaito announced through the mic, showing the ticket he randomly picked from the box. With that, those with the red ticket holders also raised up their red tickets, showing Kaito that, as a possibility, he wouldn't have a no-show ticket once he announced that the ticket color is red.
I now have Tani-san's two red tickets in my hand. I gazed at them and the numbers, 878654 and 878655. He then cleared his throat and then read the numbers slowly.
"8… 7… 8…"
Yes! Please make the fourth number a six…
"… 6…" I gritted my teeth while tightening my first right then.
I then closed eyes shut, keeping my cool and not freak out once I hear the final number. Please make it a four or five… any of those two numbers would do. Please… please… please…
"… 5…" Eh?
I opened my eyes immediately and heard plenty of the red ticket holders sighing sadly. Please repeat it again, Kaito?
"Red Ticket #8… 7… 8… 6… 5… 5…" Immediately I turned to Tani-san's tickets and my conscience started to leap happily for joy. Thank you, Tani-san!
"Hey! It's your ticket, Kairi!" I heard Jun call out for me. "It's yours!" I know, girl, I know!
I stood up slowly and then raised up the winning red ticket. "878655… 878655…" My gut feeling was already informing me that the rest of the ticket holder girls were giving death stares right at me. It wasn't as if we cheated or anything. He just so happened to pick a red ticket that Tani-san bought and eventually just gave them to me for free since his great-granddaughter wouldn't show up.
When I got to the booth, I grinned nervously as I handed the winning ticket to him. "Why are you so nervous?"
"Me? Nervous? Look, I got the winning ticket, okay?"
Kaito snickered and read the numbers aloud to confirm. "Yup. You're the one. Let's go." He turned over to the rest of the girls, took off his hat, and then bowed. "There's always next year, ne?"
Both of us got to the kissing room at the back of the booth. Jeez, this room was way more compact than those nasty-looking portable toilets you see at those recreational parks. There were seats against the side walls, but our knees were already touching each other. Dori, who was facilitating the room through his laptop, made sure that we were comfortable sitting down and had us relax a bit.
"You'll be timed in here, and since it's a red ticket, you have about 2-3 minutes. You may leave anytime you want, as long as it's within 2-3 minutes. If you exit and it hasn't reached 2 minutes yet, I'll let you know. If the time reaches 3 minutes, I'll come and knocking on your door. Any questions?"
"I'm good, Dori," Kaito said. He then turned to me. "You?"
"I'm ready, Dori." The not-too-stout slugger boy raised his thumb.
"Well then, have fun." He quickly gave us a grin as he closed the door.
Finally, the moment has come. Sure, even if this was for charity and this kiss involved monetary donations in it, still. I guess the only way for me to go through this was to pretend that this was for real and that we recently just confessed our love for each other. Yeah, that would be the way to go for me. For him, I know he would just take that this is just another movie or TV drama shooting, so he would just kiss away.
"Your hands are shaking," he said. "You sure you want to go through this?"
"Tani-san came by and gave me these tickets that he bought for his great-granddaughter but she couldn't make it and…"
"I see," he snickered. "Good then. I hate no-shows and definitely I'm not going to have a no-show kisser on my first time working in this booth."
"Glad I saved the day, heh," I grinned, but somehow inside of me my body was ready to explode in to panic.
"This room is too small," Kaito sighed. "My legs are too long, I could barely move…"
"Good thing there's some room in these seats."
"I'm going to sit next to you. I can't reach you by sitting across from you because our legs are blocking our way. I'll move…"
"O-okay…" I slowly scooted to my left and raised my knees up so he would have room to move. Carefully he stood up, still lowering his upper body, and then sat down at the space next to mine. Now he can stretch out his legs with his feet resting on the seat across from us.
Without anticipating anything, he placed his left arm around me and now we were a whole lot closer than ever. With that arm around me, there was no way I would resist because I can barely move anyway. Maybe this is why the kissing room was designed this way. None of us would be able to run away or avoid each other.
"Aren't you… nervous?" I asked curiously. "I mean… it's me you're going to kiss and not some really hot and pretty girl that you're probably used to kissing…"
"I'm as nervous as you are, you know?"
"Sorry to disappoint you, Kaito."
He then broke in to laughter. "Disappoint me? It's not about that, Kairi. I'm nervous because… I…"
"I… I'm not confident if you don't want to go through this or not… I don't know what you're thinking right now, Kairi… and that's what makes me nervous."
I then raised my right palm. "H-here, Kaito. Um… place your hand on mine… Mom used to do this whenever I get nervous and shaky and… well… you know…"
"Sure." He raised his right palm and then placed it on my left hand. His hands felt slippery and a bit damp. It was either he was really nervous or that the weather was just too warm earlier.
Some moments later, I don't feel my hand shaking anymore. "I'm… not shaky anymore…"
"Me too," he said, smiling. "I'm ready."
"Me too, Kaito." I returned the smile. Well, okay, I'm ready. Definitely ready.
"I won't let go…" I thought we were going to release our palms together at that point. Instead, he gripped his fingers in between mine and now our hands are locked together. His left arm around me got together, and I became a whole lot closer, just a few inches closer, to him.
I'm not going to mess this up, I thought. I closed my eyes and then began imagining that scene. I confessed to him and even said those three words in that scene. I also heard the imaginary voice mimicking his voice speaking the words "I love you, Kairi."
In that imaginary scene, both closed eyes and then lips finally touched. His lips were soft, tender, smooth, and most of all, warm and enticing. I'm not a really good romance writer to describe this, but there was a major hot jolt that transcended from him to me. That hot jolt suddenly transformed in to this gentle warmth that grew within me. I can breathe easy and now my body was crying for more.
Quickly without even realizing it at first, that jolting warmth disappeared immediately. He released me right then. That was too quick, I thought.
"It's not even two minutes yet."
"But why did you stop…?"
"I'm feeling way too cramped in this room… Lower your head a little."
"I'm switching positions." I did as he said, and to my surprise, he lifted me from my seat, and then he sat me down on his lap. Now my legs are bent with my feet already touching the right wall with me facing right towards the door. He lifted one leg and leaned it at the wall opposite from the door. I have to admit, I feel like I have a lot of room now.
"Here we go. That's better…"
"I'm… sitting on your lap…" I muttered.
"Are you okay with that?"
"Well… as long as you're feeling okay in this crazy tight room…" I chuckled. I found my heart leaping for joy. That kiss earlier was just the first round. Time for the second and possibly final round.
He placed both his arms now around my waist, with one of his arms already placed at the small of my back. Now I'm the one gazing down at him and him gazing up at me.
"Arms around me, Kairi. Don't let go or else you'll fall."
"Oh… Okay…" I placed both my arms over his shoulders and around his neck. He leaned forward and I closed my eyes. Our lips connected to each other once again. No more words spoken.
That same jolt of warmth began flowing from his to my body all over again, just like before. Only this time, somehow something intense was happening. It's hard to describe, but somehow my body was reacting strangely, as if it was demanding for him to give me more than just this jolt of warmth.
I gasped in shock when the unexpected happened again. I now felt his tongue slipping through and met mine. My mind is thinking that maybe we should stop right now, however the rest of my body including my heart leaped for excitement and were now crying for more. Kaito, I don't know how you do these things and what to do next, but please, don't stop. Don't ever stop. Please…
I know myself that I don't want to stop. Somehow I'm tempted completely to give him more kisses, but I shouldn't be making moves if he didn't want that. Still, I know we're just kissing for baseball, but for me, this would be something very special to me that I would never forget this moment, even if it only took 2 to 3 minutes. As for Kaito, I know this was just another kissing session for him. I mean he's done it plenty of times with plenty of girls. This was probably nothing to him, but even if that was the case, I'm happy that he gets to be the one who gives me my first kiss and that I'm also happy that he gets to be the one whom I shared my first kiss with.
If only we were able to control the time and freeze everything except us, we would have plenty of time to kiss and… well… do more things with each other. Sadly, all things must come to an end, especially with just a door knock. Kaito released himself from me once we heard the knocking. We even heard Dori's voice calling in.
"It's three minutes already. Everyone's tearing down the booths right now." Dangit Dori. At least it was you who interrupted my moment and not some crazed fangirl who's out to steal Kaito from me and out to kill me at th esame time.
"I'm sorry…" Right then, Kaito apologized for an unknown reason. He gently carried me off his lap and slowly sat me on the seat. "Let me go out first." Quickly he opened the door and he exited first. Then, he waited at the front for me. Once I exited my head first, he held my hand to help me come out. Once I was finally out, Dori closed the door behind him.
"Oi," Dori said, patting me on the shoulder. "No sad looks, ne? You can always continue it at home—"
"Shut up, Dori!" I quickly blurted to hide my embarrassment while I heard Kaito laughing at the same time. Before weird things happen, I dashed away from the boys and found Jun, Mal, and the other girls waiting at the seats.
MOMIJI ACADEMY GRAND STADIUM (Parking Lot)
The two adult Ichinose doctors, retired pediatric surgeon Kidai Ichinose and his great-grandson, neurosurgeon Kouta Ichinose, caught up with the youngest Ichinose male, teen idol Kaito Ichonse, at the parking lot, waiting outside the Irie family limo, looking through his cellphone. Kouta called out for his son first to get his attention.
"Kaito," Kouta called his name. His only son, standing steadily at 6'0", just like his father and even his centenarian great-grandfather on walking stick, looked up to find his elders meeting him.
"Dad. Grandpa Kidai. How was your day at the festival?" Kaito nervously grinned.
"Why are you so nervous for, Son?" Kouta snickered. "You just kissed an Irie Girl earlier. You sly dog you!"
"Dad, that was only to help out the baseball team! I mean, it's just stupid that the school administration didn't even get any sponsors to fund the team just because they didn't have a winning record in these past years, you know?"
"The baseball team were back-to-back champions when I was a student there, you know," Kouta snickered, then patted his son on the side. "But you know, Son, it must be destiny that the ticket holder you randomly picked turned out to be Kairi-chan, ne?"
"I… I don't know about destiny, Dad… it's just that a kind old man gave his red tickets to her in the last minute. Well, that's what Kairi said to me in the kissing booth before we… kissed."
"Ah yes, she was telling the truth, Kaito-kun," Kidai said with a nod. "I was just a seat away from that man. He says his great-granddaughter should be the one to be the ticket holders for those tickets. It would have been her whom you should be kissing, Kaito."
"She was a no-show eventually and I hate no-shows," Kaito shrugged his shoulders. "That kind old man was very smart to give them to Kairi— and somehow, I'm glad that he and Kairi got to know each other before…"
"You have a name for that man then?" Kidai asked curiously.
"Jiro Tani, she said. They met yesterday morning at the front of the library at the same time as I was on the phone with you guys."
"Jiro Tani, huh," Kouta said, gently rubbing his chin. "What a simple, easy-to-remember Japanese name. I barely remember a Tani living in Hinasaki as far as I know of…"
"Wait, Kaito-kun, say that name again?" Kidai gasped from out of the blue. "Jiro Tani, you say…?"
"Did I get the name wrong, Grandpa Kidai?"
Kidai then scratched his head. "No, you got the name right, but… ugh, I knew there was something about that man…"
"According to Kairi, Grandpa Kidai, Jiro Tani was one of her great-grandfather Kenjiro Irie's best friends since school or something like that."
"Oh I know that from the start. I can never forget that name— his name and his older brother's name, Masami Tani."
Kaito gasped in surprise. "Then, you know about what's going on with the Iries back then?"
"My mind is as sharp as a shark's tooth, you know," Kidai touched his forehead with his finger. "But here's the thing, Kaito-kun."
"What's so special about Jiro Tani— or those brothers altogether?"
"There were three of them brothers: Takuya, Masami, and the youngest, Jiro. In the late 1930s, all three of them were drafted in the war and they were also separated from each other. Takuya was assigned to Taiwan, Masami was assigned to Malaysia, Jiro was assigned to Korea. I remember it clearly because I had to stay here in Japan to work in the medical department to aid all our injured soldiers. I even remember working at Stardust House with my wife and the rest of our medical staff to nurse our injured soldiers then. If I remember correctly, I was in charge of nursing of all three of those brothers…"
"What are you trying to say, Grandpa Kidai?" Kaito asked curiously.
"I'm curious about that too, Grandpa," Kouta also agreed with his son. "This is the first time I've heard of all this."
"The government, most especially the military, back then were a bunch of self-centered, power-hungry bastards back then. They forced a lot of families of all classes to give up all their fortunes and all of that for the war relief. Kenjiro and his family gave up a lot of their family fortunes that they almost went broke. There were a lot of elite families who were forced to give up their possessions and work for the war relief. I couldn't afford to give up some of our family fortune just for that and instead, offered our medical services instead. Stardust House was turned in to a giant infirmary for all the injured and dying soldiers and we were completely understaffed, so much that even the Iries had to work as part-time nurses just to keep up with their fortune. Those were hectic and horrible times, I tell you." Kidai sighed, shaking his head. "Now, going back on subject of the Tani Brothers… I'll just make the story short."
"What's that, Grandpa Kidai?"
"From what I heard, all three brothers were killed in the war. I do remember tending to one of the badly injured soldiers then who was one of the Tani Brothers. I just can't recall which one…"
"So," Kaito cleared his throat. "If you say that all three of them were killed in the war back then, then… who was that old man Kairi met yesterday? Are you saying that man was not Jiro Tani?"
Grandpa Kidai nodded. "He may not be Jiro Tani… but I know that man must be a very important man."
Just as the conversation was about to continue, they hear a voice about the same age as Kaito. "Kidai Ichinose… is that you?"
The three Ichinoses turned their heads behind and found a young couple standing just a close distance from them. Kaito cleared his throat and greeted. "Tai-senpai, Mirai-senpai, there you are! We've been waiting for you here…"
"I'm going inside the limo right now. I'll leave you guys alone." Mirai gave a quick kiss on Taisuke's cheek and then headed in to the car.
At this point, Kidai walked forward and got closer to Taisuke's body possessed by his great-granduncle, Kouta Irie. "You just… how did you know that I was Kidai? This is the first time that we've met, Taisuke-kun…"
"I know those sharp, dark indigo eyes very well. For someone who's a hundred years old you still have the power to capture the attention of the female population, don't you think?" Taisuke grinned, which shocked the old man right then.
"Impossible…" Kidai gasped in shock. "Kouta…?"
"I'm right here, Grandpa," Kouta Ichinose answered. His grandfather snapped his head directly at him.
"I wasn't referring to you, Kouta-kun," Kidai said immediately. He turned his head back towards Taisuke and then called out his name.
"It's been forever, Kidai. How have you been, old friend?"
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here we are, Chapter 3! Tomorrow is NaNoWriMo 2012 Day and I plan on participating in the yearly event. I'm writing something that's somewhat related to the Stardust House series, probably a side story or maybe even Chapter 4 that would have 50,000 words (I usually write about 20,000-30,000 words a chapter), but we'll see what happens. Nevertheless, it may have to be delayed. Thanks for reading and your support!