4: The Wedding Date
Kazuo sat on the floor of Kenji's apartment, staring in disbelief as his best wizard—or friend rather, rolled around on the ground in pursuit of the infant crawling across the tatami mats. It's a baby… a real baby…
"Kenji," he started, "how…?"
"Gotcha!" yelled Kenji triumphantly, as he seized the little boy by the diaper and yanked him onto his lap. Leaning up on his elbows he shot a glance at Kazu, who cleared his throat and raised an eyebrow. "Sorry, man. Did you say something?"
"Where'd the baby come from?"
"Oh you know, when a guy meets a girl and they lust for each other enough—"
Kazuo groaned. "I know how it works, moron. I meant: is it yours?"
"Didn't we cover this yesterday? Of course he's not mine."
The rest of his sentence was drowned out by the sound of not-actually-Kenji's baby letting out a wail for attention. A grin that Kazuo could only describe as idiotic spread across Kenji's face as he made cooing noises and gently tickled the little boy's feet.
"I hope you didn't kidnap him," grumbled Kazu under his breath.
"Of course I didn't. Now, what were you just saying?"
"I was asking—"
Kazuo flinched as Kenji suddenly bolted upright and pointed at him. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Why are you pointing at me like that? No, wait… why are you grinning?"
Kenji winked. "A little birdie told me that you went home with Hyouko Reina's little sister last night. I hear she got hot. All according to plan, eh?"
"What plan? It was all Nakano and her game of 'Electrishity'…"
"Hey, I'm not judging. If anything, I approve. I've always thought that Hyouko-san had a stick wedged up her—"
The two men exchanged glances as Kazuo's phone began to ring.
Kenji grinned. "You don't think that's…?"
"Can't be, I never gave her my number."
The grin grew wider as Kenji inched closer. "Well the Ice Queen has it, doesn't she?"
"She does—though I thought she would have deleted it by now. But why would she give it to—"
Kenji pounced, filching Kazuo's phone out of his pocket and flicking it open as he commando rolled away. "Hello? Hiroyuki Kazuo's phone."
"Oh… um… hi, this is Hyouko Sakura—"
"It's her," mouthed Kenji.
Kazuo lunged at him. "Don't you dare—"
"Um. Is uh, Kazu—I mean, Hiroyuki-san there?"
"No, I'm sorry, but he's currently indisposed," replied Kenji cheerfully, grabbing the baby and using it as a shield as Kazuo chased him across the tatami mats. "Don't hit the kid," he mouthed as Kazuo glared at him.
"Oh, well, um… do you know when he'll be back?"
"Could be a while; the poor guy ate some bad oysters. Would you like me to take a message?"
"Kenji," hissed Kazuo. "Give. Me. The. Phone."
The baby gurgled gleefully as Kenji continued to roll away. "Uh-huh… so that's when? Oh, I see. Yes, he's free. Sure, I'll pass on the message. He'll be there, no problem." He snapped the phone shut and threw it back at Kazuo. "She sounds cute," he said with a wink.
"What did you just do?"
Kenji shrugged. "Oh you know… I simply fulfilled my duties as wingman and accepted an invitation to be her date to her cousin's wedding on your behalf."
Kazuo froze. He could already see the look that would be on Reina's face when she found out that he was seeing her sister again... and in a public place this time too. She was going to murder and then castrate him. Or castrate and then murder him. Or do both at the same time. He went pale.
Oblivious—or perhaps, completely aware of the situation and disregarding it nonetheless—Kenji sighed and said, "You know, now would be a good time to say, 'thank you for getting me a hot date, Kenji-sama! Please, allow me to be your slave for the rest of my pitiful life!'"
He grinned and hid behind the baby once more as Kazuo's eye twitched and he flung himself at him.
When was the last time he walked up this ridiculously long driveway? Three years ago? Four?
Kazuo dragged his feet as he walked along the path lined with cherry blossom trees. He eyed the sprawling traditional Japanese garden nervously; he'd almost forgotten just how wealthy the Hyouko family was. There were numerous sheltered patios, elegantly carved statues… they even had a lake for goodness' sake!
Taking a deep breath, he approached the door of the mansion and rang the intercom. The door was opened almost immediately, and by the worst person possible. Kazuo smiled nervously as Reina stared him down with a glare cold enough to make hell freeze over. She was wearing the black dress from the other day and her hair was out of its no-nonsense bun, instead arranged into an elegant affair of pined curls.
"Well, don't you look nice, Rei—"
The door slammed shut in his face.
With a sigh, he reached forward and pressed the intercom again.
The door swung open once more and Reina crossed her arms, her glasses flashing menacingly in the glow of the porch light as she growled, "Go home, Bakazuo!"
"I would but your sister is expecting me."
Reina smiled icily, completely unfazed by the fact. "Oh, I'm sure I can create a reasonable excuse, or create a reason for you to need an excuse. Your choice."
Subconsciously, Kazuo moved to protect his family jewels.
"Nee-san, what are you doing?"
Both Kazuo and Reina let out sighs as Sakura's voice rang out from behind them—Kazuo's relieved and Reina's irate. Reluctantly, she stepped aside and let him in. "If anything happens tonight I will make you regret it," she threatened as he crossed the threshold.
No need to tell me twice, he thought, removing his shoes and entering the hall. There was absolutely no way in hell that he was going to let things go any further than—
He froze as Sakura saw him and turned bright. That was not a good sign. A trickle of sweat ran down his spine as Reina walked past and clipped his shoulder on her way to another room.
"A-ah, Kazuo, you really came!" stammered Sakura, taking a few tentative steps towards him.
He forced a smile onto his face. "I did promise." Or rather Kenji did for me.
"Well, um, I'm glad you're here. I'm sure the rest of my family will be glad to see you too! It's been ages since you last visited, right? Not since… you and nee-san… erm…" Her eyes widened as she realised what she was saying and the words trailed off into silence.
Kazu fidgeted. I'm going to regret coming here tonight, aren't I? he told himself as Reina came back in, followed closely by her parents and their driver.
She looked at Sakura and then at Kazuo and shook her head in resignation. "Let's go," she said finally, and led the way out the door.
Awkward silence. Those two words summed up the drive to the church perfectly. Reina had done nothing but give him the evil eye the entire time. Her parents had completely ignored him, just as they had done when he'd originally been dating her. And Sakura had sat there, oblivious, smiling and blushing as she held his hand.
He sighed and rubbed his hand over his face as he stepped out of the car. He'd never been so glad to see in a church in his life—at least until the shrill exclamation of, "Hirokicchi!" met his ears.
Kazuo froze and then groaned as Nakano popped out from behind a pillar and ran over. This was reminding him of high school. He'd walk in through the gates—or climb over the fence because he knew that she'd be staking them out—and then she'd magically appear from behind a bush or a tree to ambush him.
He heard footsteps stop slightly behind him and turned to find Sakura blinking in surprise."Oh, Mai-san, you're here already?"
The older woman beamed. "Of course I am! Today is a special day, after all."
"Ah, yes, Yamato-nii's wedding is a pretty exciting affair," agreed Sakura with a bright smile. "The church is beautiful and Naomi-san looks absolutely stunning in her dress." She let out a soft sigh and added almost inaudibly, "I'd like to have a wedding like this…"
Nakano giggled. "That's not the special event I was talking about," she said with wink.
"Oh?" asked Sakura, tilting her head slightly.
Nakano just smiled and turned as a voice called her name from inside the hall. "That's my brother calling," she said. "Well, I'd better go. Don't want to miss out on the good seats!"
I will never understand that woman, thought Kazuo as he watched her twirl and flounce away.
He glanced sideways as Sakura's fingers intertwined with his own. She smiled at him and blushed. "We should go inside," she murmured.
He nodded and let her lead the way.
It was a nice ceremony. Harps. Roses. Live doves. However, Kazuo would have been able to enjoy it more if he hadn't been awkwardly placed between Sakura and Reina, with Nakano and her family filling up the rest of the pew.
Every time he glanced to the left, Reina's face would cloud over and she'd dig the heel of her stiletto into his foot. Every time he looked to the right, Nakano would flash him a wink or a peace sign over Sakura's head, and then quickly changing her expression to an angelic smile when Sakura happened to catch her. In the end, all he could do was stare straight ahead at the happy couple pledging their vows to one another.
Now, seated at the reception he found himself in a similar position. Reina sat in the chair his left, wearing a smile he recognised as her business smile as she engaged in animated conversation with Nakano's parents and brother about their families companies. Beside her brother—and directly across from Kazuo—was Nakano. Sakura was supposed to be on his right, but her mother had dragged her away for a chat with the bride almost as soon as they'd walked in the door.
He jumped as something brushed against his leg under the table. The impact rattled the cutlery on the table and drew a sharp glare from Reina. Kazuo swallowed. "Sorry, I—"
He bit back a yelp as she stomped down on his foot and turned back to her conversation.
"What was that for?! I didn't—" He clenched his jaw as she stepped on him a second time, and gave up. There was no point in saying anything; she wasn't going to listen anyway.
Across the table, Nakano threaded her fingers together and flashed him a smile. "Sooo…" she purred.
"What is it, Nakano-san?" asked Kazuo with a frown, leaning down to rub his injured foot.
She sighed. "I told you to call me Mai-chan, Hirokicchi. Anyway, aren't you curious about that special event I mentioned earlier?"
"No, not really." Given that it was most likely something that Nakano herself had cooked up, it was probably safer for him not to know.
"Bor-ing," whined Nakano, pouting, and continued to rub her foot against the outside of his leg.
"Please stop that."
She just winked in reply.
The conversation ended as the bride's father tapped a spoon against his wine glass, starting off the first of many speeches for the night. Even shy, flustered Sakura took the microphone and stammered some semblance of congratulations. Bowing politely to her cousin and new cousin-in-law, she passed the baton on to her father.
Mr Hyouko cleared him throat, expression sombre. "Tonight is a night to celebrate. It is not often that we see the union of two young people as beautiful, intelligent and successful as my nephew and his bride. And so, I would like to propose a toast. May you two find true happiness and wealth with each other."
Claps and cheers erupted throughout the hall. They were silenced a moment later with a wave of Mr Hyouko's hand as he continued, "And on that note, I would like to announce another upcoming union of happiness and much wealth."
Right on cue, a line of waiters walked out with trays of drinks.
"A toast…" said Mr. Hyouko.
Nakano smiled broadly as she plucked two glasses of champagne from a passing waitress and handed one to Kazuo with a wink. He took it and eyed it carefully. After sniffing and swirling it cautiously to check for any suspicious substances she could have mixed in there, he took a sip.
"—to my daughter, Hyouko Reina, and her fiancé, Nakano Tarou."
The champagne came spraying back out through his nose.