"What's got you into such a good mood?" questioned Chieko's mother. "Is it that boy Takumi at school?" Chie nearly spit out the tonkatsu that was half chewed in her mouth. "Aha! Didn't think your mom still had connections in your school? I've heard this Takumi boy is on the basketball team and he gets pretty decent grades. Not to mention he's a looker too." She swiped three pictures lying on the kitchen counter and held them up before Chie's face.
"How did you get these?!" exclaimed Chie. "What kind of connections do you have in my school?" She tried to swipe the very well-taken pictures from her mom, but failed to do so.
"Never you mind that. So how's it going with this Takumi?"
Chie's face flushed as she responded, "Fine. I'm not quite sure what our relationship is yet, but everything's fine."
"What?" Her mother seemed astounded at this response. "You don't know what your connection is with him? Then you have to clarify! Tomorrow's the last day of the cultural festival, right? I'll just go to your school and—"
"Oh no! You don't have to do that! I'll do just fine by myself. Good night, mom!"
The next day…
"Chie, you look like a mess."
"Yep, I agree. You look like crap."
"Wow," commented Chie. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys." It was true, though. She wasn't able to sleep well last night due to the running thoughts of how she'd confront Takumi about their relationship. Never had she run into this situation before, so she had decided to confide in her two best friends. Their advice wasn't very satisfactory however, and ended up making her more nervous than ever.
"If you want to know if you're exclusive," began Airi. "You've got to drop subtle hints. Keep an eye on him to see if he has any girls on the side. And if he does, beat him within an inch of his life."
A sigh came from Miyuki. "Just go up to him and ask him if you're his girlfriend. Why does everyone have to complicate matters? If you like him, you like him. End of story."
"What are you three talking about?" interrupted Mayu. "The Café's about to close down and we need hands to clean up! It's the last day of the festival after all, so we want to finish up early. I'm looking forward to the Bonfire Performance from Seraphim, Miyuki-chan."
"Alright," replied Miyuki. "Then let's get started now so that I can get down to the grounds to set up the stage." The girls rose from their seats and started taking down the decorations and moving the tables. As Chie cleaned, she scanned the classroom for Takumi but he was nowhere to be found. Her heart jumped in her chest as her imagination ran wild. Was Airi right? Was their relationship so unstable that he could be cheating on her this very minute as she cleaned up the room? Would she really be forced to beat him within an inch of his life? A set of hands came down to cover her eyes and Chie began to panic until she heard a voice say, "Guess who?"
"Ah, don't scare me like that!" She peeled the hands away from her eyes in relief. "Almost gave me a heart attack."
"And we don't want you to be deceased before the Bonfire Party," chuckled Takumi. This was it; the mood was just right and both parties were in a sensible state of mind. Now was the time to confront him, but just as Chie opened her mouth to ask the question, Takumi's phone went off. "Oh!" Takumi reached for his phone and took a look at the screen. "Sorry, I've got to take this." Immediately, he flipped the phone open and simply walked out of the room. So much for the simple direct confrontation. Maybe she should give Airi's plan a try.
"Thanks for helping with the stage preparations, Chie!" chirped Shin.
"Yeah, like I had anything better to do. That idiot ran out of the room as if I was less important than his phone."
"Something the matter?" asked Shin, strangely concerned.
"Oh, nothing. Um, do you know where Takumi went off to?"
"Last I heard, he's was headed for the third floor."
"Thanks a lot, Shin! Wish you luck at tonight's performance!" Chie yelled as she raced towards the school building.
The sun had finally fallen and the bonfire was lit. Chie could see the burning embers from the third floor and the hundreds of students who gathered around it. Energetic and upbeat music throbbed in the air, getting them excited and extremely wild. It couldn't be helped; when Seraphim played, people lost their minds and couldn't even think. The music hypnotized them in a way that just couldn't be explained in simple words. Even Chie had once gotten caught up in the kaleidoscope of sounds to the point where she didn't know the difference between up and down. But now wasn't the time to listen to music! She had a hot boy to find, and it seemed he didn't want to be found.
Chie had just about lost her mind until she heard some suspicious sounds coming from an empty science lab. As she got closer, the muffled sounds got clearer and sharper. Pants and gasps reached her reddening ears and a stuttered "T-Takumi…" broke her patience. When she turned the corner, Chie got an eyeful of something she didn't want to see, something she was scared to see. A gasp of disbelief left her mouth and the two figures in the science lab immediately whipped around to face her.
All she could do in that split second was gaze disbelievingly at the two. In the next second, she turned around and walked out. Her fight-and-flight instincts were put to action and she had chosen flight not because she was afraid but because she didn't want to spill some unnecessary blood. With her teeth bared and her fists curled into fists, Chieko was the image of the Goddess of War herself. Luckily, there were no other students in the halls; otherwise they would've gotten the wrong impression of the furious beast that traveled through the halls. She didn't know where she was going, but she knew one thing: she wasn't going back.
Her eyes had been blinded by red so far, so Chieko had no idea how she had ended up in the school gardens. Every so often, a chord of music or a random cheer passed by her ears and Chie wondered how much time had passed since she set out to seek for the scum sucking two-timing bastard.
"Chie-chan!" A voice called out in surprise. The anger instantly dissipated when the familiar voice reached her. "What are you doing here?" she asked Shutoku. "You're not a student here. You shouldn't be on the school grounds at a students-only event."
"I just had to hear my little sister perform, even if was only for a little bit," replied Shutoku. "Besides, I know how to sneak in here from my old school days. But enough about me, what are you doing behind the school? Shouldn't you be at the bonfire with the others? If we run now, we might get there in time for the last song." At that moment in time, all Chieko could think about was how Shutoku hadn't changed; he still kept a habit of looking at the person in the eyes whenever he was conversing. Even now, he stared directly at Chie as he tried to persuade Chie to join him to listen to Miyuki perform. That wouldn't be enough to cheer her up, though. Only now did Chie realize how hurt she was when her eyes met Shutoku's. Amber met green. The very same amber that Miyuki possessed; how she wished one of her friends were there in the garden with her. But it didn't matter to her now. She needed a shoulder to cry on and if it had to be Miyuki's Shu-nii, then so be it.
"Huh? What's the matter, Chie-chan?" Shutoku didn't seem fazed when Chie threw her arms around him and droplets began to fall on his shirt. Although his voice gave off an air of concern, Chie didn't utter a word. Her heart was getting squeezed by the devil and her brain was shutting down. With no organ to command her body, it seemed as if the tears falling from her eyes were involuntary. Her chest heaved with each wracking sob and she trembled from the audacity of Takumi's actions. A burning feeling radiated from her stomach, but not the kind of warm feeling one gets from simple acts of happiness. This burning consumed her to the point where Chie thought she was going to be sick.
Then, she felt a hand patting her head. It was a reassuring action and unimaginably comforting. No words had to be spoken at this point; all that there existed was pain, and no amount of talking could soothe it. The two stayed that way until Shutoku realized Chieko had stopped crying and shut her eyes. And that was how Miyuki found the pair: asleep and confused.
"What happened, Nii-chan?" asked Miyuki as they tucked Chieko into the backseat of his car. "She's a downright mess! Did you do something? I swear to God, if you—"
"No!" Shutoku whisper-shouted. "My lord, I would never take advantage of a lady in that way!"
"Is she going to be okay?" Airi murmured softly. Although it had only been minutes since the festival died down and they discovered Chie in her sodden state, it looked like Airi had aged five years with worry. "Actually, don't answer that. It's a stupid question. She's obviously upset."
"I'm going to call her mother and tell her she's sleeping over at our place," stated Miyuki. "Airi, you want me to phone your mom too?" Airi simply nodded her head while she crawled into the backseat with Chieko. Once the backseat doors shut, Shutoku spoke up again.
"Do you have any idea what made Chie-chan bawl like that? I've known her for years and I've never seen her so distraught."
"Oh…I have an idea," replied Miyuki with all the venom of a death adder. She pounded in the numbers of Airi and Chieko's mothers into her cellphone, cursing under her breath. The next time she laid eyes on that son of a bitch, she would…
Amber met amber. A knowing glint transpired between the two siblings. Blood related or no, family watched out for family. No matter what the consequences.