Tsukiko swayed slowly from side to side on the chair, humming.
From time to time, Taiyou-kun turned and looked at her, but soon returned to what he was doing, never saying a word.
You wanna tell me to stop, she knew, her smile broadening. She was also absolutely sure the overly polite boy would never say something this rude, so he simply resumed cooking their breakfast.
“What’s the matter, Taiyou-kun?” she teased him, stopping her swaying. The girl also knew there was another reason the boy wouldn’t tell her to stop. He’s just as happy as me. Tsukiko had already caught him grinning twice.
“You two seem too happy this early in the morning,” a voice said, followed by a yawn.
Tsukiko turned her head. “Rin-nee!” Even if the sight of the woman coming from the bedroom wearing nothing but a shirt and a short surprised the girl the first time she saw, now she was used to it, and her smile grew. “Good morning!”
“Morning.” The boy’s aunt yawn again, rubbing her temples. “Could you please not speak so loud?”
“Okay,” Tsukiko said as the woman sat next to her. The girl stopped swaying on her seat.
“Thanks.” Rin-nee rested her forehead on the counter. She groaned suddenly, her voice muffled. “Never again, I swear. Thanks, Taiyou,” she added when the boy brought her a cup of coffee.
“You say this every time,” Taiyou-kun whispered. It wasn’t loud enough for his aunt to hear, but it was enough for Tsukiko, and the girl chuckled.
“It wasn’t my fault.” After the first sip, Rin-nee seemed a bit more energetic. “It was all Sawako. Her daughter spent the past few days with her parents and is coming back today, so she wanted to ‘go wild’ before going back to motherhood.” She took another sip, this time taking her time to savor it. “I should’ve known she was missing Aika-chan. Wait… so it is my fault.” Despite her words, Tsukiko saw the smile on the woman’s lips. “So, why are you two so happy this early?”
“We’re gonna spend the day in Akihabara!” Tsukiko announced with her biggest smile yet.
Rin-nee widened her eyes so much the girl chuckled for the exaggerated reaction. “For his first time to be with a cute girl… My nephew’s not ready for that,” she said, shaking her head. “Ouch.” Suddenly she pressed her temple with the left hand.
Tsukiko laughed. Rin-nee never missed an opportunity to tease her nephew. I have much to learn with Rin-nee, she thought and then turned to the boy. His reactions are too adorable. Taiyou-kun blushed and tried to hide his face by turning his back to them.
“He may not be ready, but he’s gonna do his best for me,” she said, leaning turning to the boy. “Isn’t that right, Taiyou-kun?”
The boy didn’t answer. He kept cooking as if he heard nothing, but the girl could see even the tip of his ears reddening.
Rin-nee chuckled. “I can’t believe my little boy’s growing up,” she said, finishing her cup of coffee and filling it again. “What’s the special occasion?”
“My birthday,” Tsukiko said quickly, putting a lock of hair behind her ear.
Rin-nee widened her eyes again. This time Tsukiko knew it was for real. A second later, the woman had a smile on her lips. “Happy birthday, Tsukiko-chan.”
“Thanks,” the girl said. “It’s actually to-tomorrow.” She blushed a little and avoided the woman’s eyes.
Rin-nee stared her while drinking her coffee. “How old are you turning?”
“Times goes by so fast. It feels like just yesterday I saw you with a randoseru,” Rin-nee said, almost singing. The girl blushed and kept quiet. The woman put a finger on her chin. “What should I give to a fourteen year-old?”
Tsukiko’s cheeks reddened even more. “There’s no need to trouble yourself,” she added quickly.
“It’s no trouble at all. You only turn fourteen once.” Rin-nee finish her coffee and rested the cup on the counter. “It’s been years since I turned, so I doubt it’s the same as in my days. And I’m sure you don’t the same as me,” she said, glancing at her bedroom door. “Oh, and don’t ask Sawako. She’ll say it’s been less time since she turned.” She laughed so loud she covered her mouth the next second.
Even Taiyou-kun smiled as he placed pancakes on two plates and handed to his aunt.
“Thanks. I’ll make sure Sawako knows who cooked it. The last thing I want is to say it wasn’t me over and over.” Rin-nee grabbed a bed tray from the cabinets, placed the food and coffee and took it to her bedroom.
When they were alone again, Taiyou-kun handed Tsukiko her plate. She took a big sniff and her stomach rumbled as response. “Thanks for the food!” the girl said, bringing her hands together.
She waited as Taiyou-kun sat on the chair and did the same as she. Though he mumbled his thanks, the girl felt the excitement on his voice. With a huge smile, Tsukiko took the first bite from her first birthday present off the day. He already made my day with this, she thought, taking another bite.
As soon as they finished, they were heading to the train station. “We’ll go to the event first. Then we can hit the game center, and afterwards we can eat something at a maid café,” Tsukiko announced, counting their plans with her fingers. With no reaction from him, she glanced down at the boy on her side; his face was slightly red, and the girl had a sudden urge to tease him. “Taiyou-kun, I know you’ve never been to a maid café, so I must warn you. It’s not like in the anime. Even though you’re too cute, the maids will get mad if you look under their skirt, so you better not be planning anything like that.”
Taiyou-kun turned to her at the same instant, his face an alarming shade of red. “I’d never do something that!”
It was even better than I expected, she thought, laughing. Tsukiko’s her hand flew to the boy’s head, messing his hair.
Silence reigned as they climbed aboard the train; he was too embarrassed to say anything and Tsukiko was humming all the way to Akihabara. She made no effort to contain her huge smile, too happy to care if people looked at her.
Even when they arrived at Akihabara, there was still no conversation between them. Taiyou-kun had forgotten his embarrassment and now stared around, his eyes wide open. Is he trying to see everything at once? The girl wondered as she watched his reaction. The boy turned his head in every direction, his eyes stopping at anything that called his attention.
Taiyou-kun saw a company mascot trying to bring people to the store. He watched the huge screen on the building when an idol group appeared dancing on a commercial. He looked at a group walking around wearing cosplays.
They’re not half bad, Tsukiko thought, taking her eyes from Taiyou-kun for a moment and staring the group as well. The guy’s bandana has the wrong symbol, though. And the girl’s knee sock is black instead of dark blue, her inner critic screamed the minor flaws. When she realized what she was doing, the girl sighed. Why I’m complaining? My lonely cosplay is full of flaws too… and I didn’t had the courage to bring it today… Tsukiko shook her head, dismissing the thoughts. Why I’m doing this? I should be enjoying my birthday with Taiyou-kun.
She turned her attention back to the boy. He had taken his eyes from the cosplayers and now stared at something with his cheeks red. Tsukiko followed his line of sight and then chuckled. A maid with cat ear and a tail handing flyers from a café.
Tsukiko lowered her head and leaned closer to his ear. “Why are you ogling her that much?” she whispered. Taiyou-kun gasped and turned to her, his eyes wide open. He opened and closed his mouth several times, but no words came from him. She laughed. “You really have a maid fetish, you erobrat.” With his cheeks bright red, he looked down, avoiding her eyes. Her smile growing thinner and thinner as guilt poked her conscious and she stopped teasing him. Tsukiko looked around and then pulled him by the hand. “Come one, we don’t wanna be late,” she said
Taiyou-kun raised his eyes and she indicated the huge screen on the building. The idols were gone, and now it was showing a commercial about the My Guardian Persona event. The one that would start in thirty minutes and they would attend. The boy smiled and then raced up a little, catching up and walking side by side with her, not letting go of her hand.
With eight floors and only a banner with the name hanging on its side, they would have never paid much attention to the building. Today was different though. The bookstore, which already contained many books, manga, and light novels Tsukiko would buy in a heartbeat, was the place of the signing event.
“It’s bigger than the photos, right?” Tsukiko asked without taking her eyes from the building. No matter how many times I come, this place’s still impressive. When there was no answer from the boy, she turned her head. Taiyou-kun wasn’t listening to her, his stare fixed on the banner. “Come on.”
There was a line at the entrance. Thought there were many kids with their moms and dads, there was considerable number of older guys alone. Are they here for the event too…? Suddenly Tsukiko felt the hand boy’s hand tightening around hers and she smile as they got in line to enter.
“Excuse me,” said an employer when the line started walking. He waited as the customers turned to him. “If you are for the signing event, please have your tickets at hand and proceed to the elevator.”
Many parents did as bid. Tsukiko pulled their tickets with the free hand as they entered.
Despite all the shelves and pile of book here and there, there was space to walk without bumping into anyone. Tsukiko realized why right away. They put away too many books for today.
As they walked through the hallways, Tsukiko did her best to not look the shelves. If I look the manga, I’ll lose track of time… again… With her eyes set on the back wall, she pulled Taiyou-kun, noticing how he was distinctly heavier to pull. Guess he’s just like me, she thought, chuckling.
There was a line to use the elevator. “I never thought it’d be this crowded,” she said, sighing. “I’m happy the manga is getting the popularity it deserves, but I wished it weren’t this many people…”
“I don’t think that’s the only reason,” he said in his low voice.
She looked at him and he indicated a poster with his head. An advertise for the latest volume of Trouble, a popular manga that was getting an anime in the next season. She raised her head and looked around. That wasn’t the only poster. In fact, this poster was all around the store, almost as many as the signing event poster.
“So that’s why…” Tsukiko finally knew the reason there were so many older guys alone. “I can’t believe both things ended up on the same day.”
“Hey… I’ve seen this manga on your room,” Taiyou-kun said, his eyes fixed on the poster as the line to the elevator walked. “What’s about?”
“Ah, it’s an ecchi harem about a guy who met this alien princess…” Tsukiko said uninterested. Then she realized what she said and widened her eyes as she truly looked at the poster. The woman with ample buxom holding the main character as a doll. “No, Taiyou-kun. Don’t look at it. You’re too pure and innocent for that!”
“Meaning you’re not?” the boy asked in the same low voice, looking at her with his clear eyes.
His words drew muffled laughs from the nearby customers. Tsukiko blushed and messed his hair to hide her embarrassment. “You’re spending too much time with me. You’d never say something like that before.”
Even though she was still red, when she saw the boy laughing, all her embarrassment went away, and she couldn’t help but smile as well. He’s opened up to me, she thought, holding his hand tighter. Maybe I can be the fun sister… since there’s no way I can’t be the reliable big sister type now. An hollow laughed echoed in her head.
They said nothing else as they became the first in line. The moment the doors opened again, an employer asked for the tickets. After she collected them all, she pressed the last floor button.
The room where the event would occur could held almost a thousand people. At least according to what Tsukiko had read on the bookstore website. Even so, it was almost full.
On the opposite wall to the elevator was the stage where the authors would answer a few questions and where the voice actors would perform an original short play written by the authors themselves. Behind it, there was the huge screen where they would show part of the original OVA that would be sold with the special edition of the latest volume.
We definitely need to grab two copies right now. Otherwise it might be sold out, Tsukiko thought, as she headed to the stands with the manga/DVD bundle. Halfway to the stands, the girl stopped moving. Taiyou-kun pulled her a little before realizing the girl wasn’t moving anymore, and stopped too.
“Taiyou-kun!” Tsukiko whispered, her voice brimming with joy. She shook the boy’s hand to call his attention even further
“What?” He asked tilting his head.
“Look!” The boy did bid, and then turned back to her with the same puzzled look. She stared him bewildered. “It’s Yuuno-sensei!”
Grabbing the manga/DVD bundle at that moment, was a girl dressed with a short shorts, blue and white knee socks, a puffy white shirt and a big had with a spade shaped brooch. “She’s one of the best cosplayers I know.”
The cosplayer was trying to balance the manga and the huge blue brush she was holding when the girl walked towards her, pulling Taiyou-kun without realizing. “Tsukiko-chan!” the cosplayer exclaimed, her surprised expression turning into a smile. “I didn’t know you were coming,” Yuuno-sensei said when they were close enough. “Taiyou-kun?!”
Tsukiko blinked and looked between the cosplayer and the boy. “You two know each other?”
They both avoided her eyes. Taiyou-kun looked around, suddenly finding the event room more interesting than at first. Yuuno-sensei covered her face and had an awkward smile on her lips.
Before anyone of them said anything, the lights dimmed and a spotlight appeared on the stage. “Please take your seats,” a voice said on the sound system…
“That was great!” Tsukiko said when they entered the line to the elevator. She stretched her arms, the sac with the manga/DVD, booklet and drama CD she gave herself as present bumping on her elbow slightly.
“Yeah, it was,” Taiyou-kun agreed, his smile growing. “Do you think they’ll add the play on the manga or the anime?”
“You should’ve asked that yourself. Not only you got the signs from the authors, you even got the voice actors too.” She poked one of his cheek, taking out her little frustration. She had lost her chance to get all the signs because of a guy who was clinging too much with the main character’s voice actress, shaking her hand as if she was his goddess. The staff had to ask him keep going, but by that time the line had stop for too long, and Tsukiko ended up losing one signature. “But you were too busy drooling over them.”
The boy blushed and looked away. Yuuno-sensei chuckled. “You two are really good friends.”
“Oh, yeah. We still need to talk about the fact that you two know each other.” The event had swept all from her head. Even afterwards, while she watched the cosplayer pose for photos with many kids and even some of the older guys there, the girl didn’t remember.
“How about if we talk in a quieter place?” the cosplayer said, pressing the third floor button. Even if they were one of the last to leave the event room, they weren’t alone on the elevator.
They exited on the bookstore café. Yuuno-sensei headed to the counter after asking what they wanted, while Taiyou-kun and Tsukiko went to find a table for them.
After the cosplayer brought their drink, there was a long silence, broken only when they drank. “So how do you two know each other?” Tsukiko finally asked when she couldn’t take anymore.
Yuuno-sensei looked at Taiyou-kun. After a moment, the cosplayer sighed and told her everything.
“Wow… I had no idea your aunt was friends with Yuuno-sensei, Taiyou-kun.” Tsukiko had no idea how to react. But that wasn’t the biggest piece of information. “And you’re a man? For real?”
“Please, not so loud,” Yuuto, Yuuno-sensei’ true name, said, looking around to see if anyone as eavesdropping. And he confirmed they were saved, he sighed again. “And please don’t tell anyone.”
“I can’t believe the cosplayer I admire was a man all along…” Tsukiko said, thinking back on the times she had see the cosplayer on the events and such. To think that cute girl with awesome cosplays was a man. I never even suspected anything… he’s better than I thought!
“I’m sorry for deceiving you,” said the cosplayer, dropping his shoulders.
“No!” Tsukiko quickly added, moving her hands. “I’m more surprised.” Tsukiko had an awkward smile on her lips. “To think I was admiring a guy…”
“I’m sorry,” Yuuto said again.
“It’s not that! I’m surprised because you can make himself cuter than most girls.” Tsukiko was sudden all fired up. “If a guy can make himself this cute, it makes me want to work harder on my cosplays!”
The cosplayer blushed and showed a gentle smile on his lips. “Thanks.”
“Please let me call you master!” The words came out before Tsukiko realized what she was saying.
Yuuto widened his eyes. “There’s no need for that much…”
“Please!” Tsukiko’s eyes shone with a fire. “I want to become as cute as you!”
“You’re already cute,” Taiyou-kun whispered. Little by little, his eyes widened and his cheeks blushed.
As she turned towards him, his words sank in and her face became an alarming shade of red. She opened and closed her mouth many times before pinching his cheeks. “You’re gonna give a lot of girls troubles with that loose tongue, Taiyou-kun,” she said to hide her embarrassment. Why a brat’s word are making me blush this much?
A low chuckled brought her mind back. “You two really are good friends,” he said with a huge smile this time. Tsukiko turned back to the cosplayer, letting the boy’s cheeks go. The cosplayer phone ringed. He pulled from the short’s pocket and stared the screen “I have to go now.” He stood up bowed his head to them. “It was nice to see you two here. And please don’t tell anyone about… my identity.”
“Don’t worry, Master,” Tsukiko said, beaming. The cosplayer had an awkward smile, sighed and then headed to the elevator chuckling.
“You made him uncomfortable…” Taiyou-kun mentioned.
“You think?” She turned to look at him. He stared her with those too innocent to be true eyes. “Come on, give me a break. It’s my birthday… I mean, almost.” Tsukiko laughed and messed the boy’s hair, forcing him to stop looking at her. “Besides, Master Yuuno is my ideal cosplayer. I’ve looked up to her, I mean him, for a long time. To imagine she, I mean he, was a boy… it makes me want to go all out and reach her… his level.”
Though it was almost invisible, the girl could see the smile on his lips.
“Why are you smiling?”
“Yuuto-sensei is a great person, but he fears is people rejecting that side of him. But you’re still treating him the same way. You’re great person too.”
Tsukiko blushed. “You should’ve told me you knew Master Yuuno.” She pinched his cheek.
“How was I supposed to know?” He rubbed his cheek when she stopped. “You never said anything.”
The girl opened her mouth… but when no sound came from her lips, she closed it, pressing her lips. He’s right… again… Tsukiko shook her head. “Come on, we still have a full day,” she said, pulling him by the hand.
After leaving their bags on a rental locker on the station, they decided to kill some time before lunch at the game center. “Which game first?” Taiyou-kun asked.
It wasn’t Tsukiko’s first time there and even though she had played almost every game there, she looked around, trying to find something to spark her interest. When her eyes ended up on one particular game, a smiled popped on her lips. “That one,” she said.
The boy followed her eyesight. When he saw which game she was talking about, he smiled too. “Are you sure? Last time you complained a lot.”
“You still haven’t given me a rematch, you brat” she said. So he does remember, she thought, her smile broadening as they headed towards the fighting game, the same one they played the first day they talked.
They sat next to each other and started the game at the same time. Both screen flashed for them to choose their character—Tsukiko was player one— and then the fight began.
“You’ve been practicing, huh?” Tsukiko grunted, forcing the controllers. It’s too different from mine, she complained. This fight against Taiyou-kun remembered a lot their last one. When I lost, she thought, still a bit resentful. But today’s the day. She pressed her lips and forced the controllers even more, almost standing from her seat.
“Maybe you’re the one who’s been lacking training,” he said. Even though it was with the same low and polite tone, she could feel the mocking behind his words. “I mean, you are getting older.”
The girl couldn’t hold her laugh. “You’re getting too cocky!” she screamed, preparing her character’s special move with a grin on her lips.
Taiyou-kun managed to dodge her attack on the last moment. Right afterwards he took advantage from the character’s cool down time and used a combo, defeating her. His screen flashed ‘you win’ while hers showed ‘you lose’ in huge letters. Why it look bigger and flashier? She thought, not daring to turn her head and look at him. But she did after feeling the boy’s stare.
He had a tiny smile on the lips, and it was enough to make her eye twitch. “Again!”
They played for almost an hour when finally decided to stop.
Tsukiko flashed a smile and turned to his direction. The boy avoided her eyes. “Oh, come on. Don’t be a bad loser,” she said, poking him on the cheek. They had both won and lost many times, but in the last fight, Tsukiko had one victory over him. Now I have two, she thought, but never voiced it. “Don’t pout just because you lost. I mean, I’m older and wiser than you.”
Taiyou-kun turned back to her. “You’re right about the older part,” he said in his cool and low voice, his expression the same as always.
“Why you brat…” She messed his hair. Even when he teases me he’s cute.
A laugh behind them brought Tsukiko back from their world. She hadn’t realized, but for some reason they were attracting too much attention and now there was crowd around them.
“Hey, isn’t that Keiou Girl?” a voice echoed among the crowd.
“Yeah, I think it’s her.”
“Oh, Keiou,” a man dressed in the game center’s uniform said, walking towards them as most of the crowd dispersed. “So you decided to show up after all.” Three more people stayed.
Tsukiko widened her eyes when she recognized the people. Then she smiled. “Hey Poruko, I didn’t know you guys were here. Show up to what? Tsukiko asked back tilting her head. “Ah! The offline meeting! I completely forgot!”
“How could you?” The woman standing next to the employee covered her face with both hands and shook her head.
“And here we thought we were best friends.” One of the man hugged the woman and tapped her back gently, pretending to comfort her.
Tsukiko and the other two laughed. “Could you two be a little more dramatic?” she said. “Maybe then I’ll feel sad.”
“If you’re not here for the meeting, why are you here?”
“I came for an event with Taiyou-kun,” she said, turning to the boy. “Now we’re just killing some time before lunch.”
“Oh, so this is the infamous Taiyou-kun.” The woman eyed the boy, her face too close to his comfort.
“He looks just like you said,” The employee spoke. “Maybe a little shorter.”
“But just as cute.” The other woman said.
With three people speaking almost at once, the boy blushed and lowered his head.
“Hello.” Despite his embarrassment, he spoke in his same tone as ever and even bow his head to them. “My name is Fuyuzora Taiyou. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Wow, he’s just like you said, Keiou,” the woman said, smiling to him. “It’s pleasure to meet you too, Taiyou-chan. I’m Akiho, but you can call me header.”
Tsukiko couldn’t help but chuckle seeing Taiyou-kun’ reaction. “They’re my gamer friends,” she said. “Let me introduce you to them. This is Header, that’s Poruko, he’s Keikaku and she’s Egomin.”
“And you’re Keiou Girl,” Header said. “I know you never said it to him. There’s nothing to be ashamed and here you are trying to hide it.” The woman shook her head.
Taiyou-kun turned to her, his eyes shining full of curiosity. Tsukiko’s cheek blushed slightly and she looked away, avoiding his eyes. “They call me that… for some reason…”
“For some reason?” Header laughed. “Haha, that’s the first. Keiou Girl’s been humble and all. Let me tell you why we call her that, Taiyou-chan. She’s always grabbing about defeating us by K.O. on fight games we just ended up calling her that.” The woman patted Tsukiko on the head and then showed a sly smile the girl recognized. “And this kid was making you all worried.”
The others laughed. “Taiyou-kun, we need you into our group,” Keikaku said.
“Yeah. K.O. needs to keep her ego like this during the games.” Egomin slapped Taiyou-kun on the back in a friendly way.
Despite his cheeks reddening, Tsukiko saw the boy smile on the boy’s lips. Damn! I wished I could talk back, the girl thought.
“Excuse me for a moment,” Taiyou-kun said and then left.
“Haha. Did perhaps we made him uncomfortable?” Poruko asked, scratching his beard.
“Maybe. Don’t worry about it though. He’s that shy,” Tsukiko said, but despite her words, she kept watching the boy as he walked to the bathroom.
“So that’s the boy you kept talking, huh?” Header said.
“I thought for sure he was older,” Keikaku said.
“I thought he was her boyfriend,” Egomin added, elbowing Tsukiko lightly.
The girl blushed. “Did I really talk about him that much?”
“Yeah,” Header said. “But it just mean he’s that important to you, right?”
Tsukiko widened her eyes and turned towards the men’s bathroom. What Taiyou-kun is to me? To her, the boy was important. Whenever something happened, good or bad, Tsukiko wanted to tell him, just as much as she wanted to tell her friends. But there were parts of her she would never dare to show her friends, and even went to tiresome lengths to hide it from them. But if it was Taiyou-kun, the girl would gladly share without giving a second thought.
The mornings when they had breakfast together, both when he invited and cooked for her or when she invited him to the family restaurant, had become the best way to start her day. In fact, they spent so much time together it was weird if the boy wasn’t the first person she talked to in the mornings.
The occasional meals she had with his family also were precious to Tsukiko. She loved hearing about his mother’s work stories in the flower business and his aunt’s adventures when she was younger. Her complaints about Sawa-chan-sensei were interesting to hear as well.
Even when they did nothing especial, and just hang out playing video games or even reading manga in the same room were fun to her. We’re really that close, she realized, surprising herself. I had never stop to think about it.
“Yeah, he’s very important to me,” Tsukiko said, a gentle and warm smile on her lips.
“Is that so?” Egomin smiled too.
“Then make sure he knows,” Header said, messing Tsukiko’s hair. The girl blushed but didn’t push the woman’s hand away.
“I will,” Tsukiko said, still blushing.
“Umu,” Header hummed satisfied. “I’m guessing since you forgot about the meeting, you’re not coming with us to buy the game, right?”
“Oh yeah…” The girl had forgotten about that as well. Even though the game would only go on sale on midnight, she thought about joining her friends to buy and stay all night playing with them. She even had gotten her dad’s permission. But after Taiyou-kun made the promise to spend that day with her, Tsukiko had forgotten about everything else and only thought about what they would do. There was no part of her that would choose the game. “No. I rather spend the rest of the day with him.”
“Ouch!” Poruko said, putting both hands over his heart as if something had hit him there. “I can't believe we lost to a kid.”
“You better believe!” Tsukiko beamed and they all laughed.
“We’d buy the game for you as birthday present, but…” Keikaku started, looking at the floor.
“I know, I know. One per customer.” Tsukiko waved her hand to dismiss his apology. “Don’t worry. Actually, it’s best this way. You guys need to buy the game before me and have a head start. It’d be too boring if I left you guys behind too soon.”
“That’s the Keiou Girl we know.” Egomin said and they all laughed again.
Poruko looked at his watch. “We have to go now,” he said. They all checked the time.
“Oh crap! We’re supposed to meet Yareyare at the restaurant in like two minutes,” Header said. “We need to go, but happy birthday, Keiou. We’ll see if we can by some extras for you.”
They all said goodbye to her. Tsukiko was still smiling when Taiyou-kun came back from the bathroom. The boy looked at her for a moment and then looked around.
“If you’re wondering about my friends, they already left. So you don’t need to get shy again,” she teased him.
His cheeks went a shade of pink and he looked at the floor. “Where did you meet them?”
“Header is my senior. She graduated last year and is now a first year at Hyouzan. She introduced her gamer friends to me.”
“They seem like good people. I’m glad you have friends like them,” he said, smiling.
Tsukiko blushed. Damn it, I loose my words when he smiles like that, she thought, quickly trying to change the topic. “So, where should we go next—” before she could finish her sentence, her stomach rumbled rather loudly. She widened her eyes and her cheeks reddened even more. Taiyou-kun smiled and chuckled and the girl messed his hair. “Let’s eat before anything.”
I can’t wait to see his reaction, Tsukiko thought, trying her best to suppress a grin while leading the boy by the hand. She knew exactly where they should go. A famous maid café located on the basement of a shop close to the game center. It’ll be my payback for making me embarrassed, Taiyou-kun.
There was nothing indicating the café except for a discreet sign near the stairs, not even any decoration. Tsukiko chatted happily as they climbed down the steps, making sure Taiyou-kun was distracted enough to miss reading the shop’s name.
The grey and hard from the alley changed to white, pink, frilly and delicate the moment Tsukiko opened the door. “Welcome master and lady,” three maids said at the same time.
Almost in no time a maid with cat ears, a tail wiggling behind her and a frilly black and white uniform came to greet them. They followed her as the woman led them to a table for two. Tsukiko noticed Taiyou-kun suddenly was stiff and had trouble containing her laugh.
“Master, lady, please call Otsuu-chan when you decide your order nyaa,” she said, handing them two menus and then walked away laughing.
By that time, Taiyou-kun was speechless, his face an alarming shade of red and his eyes wide. The boy moved his head, turning his neck as little as he could, his sight scanning the café.
Is he trying to check the maids without looking so obvious? Tsukiko could barely contain her laugh now. Before she realized it, she had taken her phone and snapped a photo of him. The sound made him turned to her right away, his cheeks somehow reddened even more. She couldn’t keep any longer, and laughed.
“Stop that…” he whispered and used the menu to hide his face.
It took awhile for her to stop, her face red, though nowhere near Taiyou-kun’. “It’s not my fault you’re too shy,” she said with a smile on her lips. “But that’s one of your good points.”
Taiyou-kun finally lowered the menu. “You never said we’d have lunch in… here,” he mumbled the last word, his eyes looking around. Even though his face was rigid, Tsukiko could see he wasn’t mad at all.
“I said this morning, didn’t I?” she said, grinning. “Besides, I wanted your first time to be with me.” Her smile widened.
Taiyou-kun blushed again and lowered his eyes. Tsukiko could almost see the steam coming from his ears. He’s too fun to tease, she thought, reaching her hand and messing his hair. He didn’t try to stop her.
The maid brought two glasses of water. “Did the master and lady decided their order nyaa?”
“I’ll have the moe moe curry.” They both said at the same time. While Tsukiko looked at Otsuu-chan when he said, Taiyou-kun couldn’t do the same, staring the menu all the time. That managed to get one more chuckle from the girl.
“Understood nyaa,” the maid said, laughing and tilting her head. Did she realize he’s too embarrassed to even look at her?
In little time, the woman brought their meal. Taiyou-kun still didn’t look directly at the maid, but after resting the plates on the table, she joined her hands, making a heart with her fingers, and said, “Get delicious, moe, moe kyun!”
It was too much for the boy and he turned to his plate as if the food was the most interesting in the world. He joined his hands and mumbled thanks for the food. Tsukiko did the same after she stopped giggling.
“Delicious,” Tsukiko said, putting down her spoon after she finished.
“Yeah,” Taiyou-kun mumble, his cheeks back to its normal color. After the meal, he became somewhat used to the maids. He still couldn’t look them directly, but he managed to glance at them without his face reddening.
The girl stared the boy and a mischievous smile popped on her lips. “Your omurice is just as delicious, but I don’t think it was a fair fight.” The boy still looked the women walking around the room and only mumbled something to the Tsukiko, not listening to her at all. She leaning closer to his ear and whispered, “How about you using the moe moe kyun spell next time?”
Taiyou-kun turned to her the next second, putting a hand over his ear and his face flushing. His eyes were half-closed, but they widened when he understood what she had said. He shook his head. “There’s no way I can do something that embarrassing,” he whispered, looking around to check if any maid heard him.
Her smile grew. “Come one. Just once,” she said, leaning closer to his face. “For me.”
Taiyou-kun looked down at his plate and started playing with his hand. “Just for you,” he mumbled, not looking her in the eyes.
Tsukiko leaned back to her seat right away, her face flushing and her heart beating a bit faster. She covered her mouth with a hand and looked away. Damn… I always forget he can be this cute, she complained, glancing him through the corner of her eyes. The boy was still red, but there was a smile on his lips. Was that his payback for all my teasing today?
To hide her embarrassment, she reached for the bill, but Taiyou-kun was faster. Tsukiko tilted her head and stare at him.
“I’ll pay,” he said in a strong and firm voice she had rarely seen him using. His eyes shone so brightly the girl pulled her hand back and stared as he stood up. He’s not just a kid, he’s a boy too, she reminded herself, watching his back as he walked to the register, a gentle smile across her lips.
Tsukiko pushed herself from the chair, stretched her arms and headed to the bathroom to wash her hands. When she was back to the main room, Taiyou-kun had already paid and was waiting for her at the entrance. She stood where she was and stared him. The boy played with his hands and glanced around.
Maybe I went a little overboard with the teasing, she thought as guilt filled her. After all, he’s spending the day with me as a birthday present. He could be tired of my teasing and wanna go home… All the happiness she felt got a little smaller. She shook her head, sighed and forced a smile as she walked towards him. “Do you wanna call the day?”
“I’m here today for you. I’ll accompany wherever you want,” he said, his face back to the calm expression as usual.
Her forced smile became real. “Then let’s go. The day’s far from over,” she said, pulling him by the hand.
It was almost dinnertime when they got back. They would have gotten back a bit earlier if Taiyou-kun were faster. But I can’t blame him, Tsukiko thought, glancing the boy with a smile. He was carrying all their shopping—most of it was hers— and all the weight had taken its toll on his speed, each step taking some effort. He kinda looked cool… Her cheeks went a shade of pink and she twirled her hair with a finger and looked away, remembering the scene.
When they finally decided to finish their day, they headed to the rental locker to pick up the rest of the stuff. Whaa… it’s way more than I remember. She looked between the purchases inside the locker and the ones she had on her hands. Just the idea of carrying it all to home tired her. Maybe I should mail this to home…
While the idea became more and more inviting, Taiyou-kun turned to her. “I’ll carry it for you,” he said. Despite showing the same calm expression, his eyes shone full of determination. It was impossible for her to refuse. He has his pride too, she thought, as the boy picked up everything. The pile was so tall Taiyou-kun could barely see where he was going. Tsukiko walked next to him while matching his speed. Though it took much longer than it should have, she didn’t mind at all.
The girl opened the door and stepped aside as fast as she could. Taiyou-kun entered the apartment, took his shoes off with his feet and walked towards the dinner table, his arms shaking so much the purchases threatened to fall from his hands any second now. When he reached the table, he put everything down, his breathing irregular and short.
Tsukiko took her shoes as well, walked to the kitchen and came back with a glass of water. The boy drank it all in one swallow, choking a bit. She patted him on the back until he stopped.
“Thanks, Taiyou-kun,” Tsukiko said, standing next to him with her arms behind her. “You’re the best.” Before she realized it, she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. Despite already red, his face flushed. He placed a hand where she had kissed and looked her, his eyes wide. When he looked down, rubbing his cheek, Tsukiko leaned backwards, blinked a couple times and then chuckled. “What do you want for dinner? Do you wanna go out or order something? I’m in the mood for pizza.”
Taiyou-kun took his hand from the cheek and looked at her. He opened his mouth for a second, pressed his lips on the next and then pulled his phone from the pocket, looking between the screen and Tsukiko.
Ah, maybe he made plans to eat dinner with his family, she realized. Yeah… Even if we are on school break, he spent the entire day with me… His mom wants to spend time with him…
“Er… I’d like to take a shower first though,” he said, putting his phone away and cleaning the sweat from his forehead.
Despite talking with his usual voice, the boy didn’t look her in the eyes. Her smile grew smaller. “Okay…” He’s forcing himself… She believed that and watched as he headed to the entrance of her apartment, the guilt growing in her heart. I don’t wanna be alone today, she thought, and kept her mouth shut as the boy opened and closed the door.
With a heavy sigh to ignore what her feelings, Tsukiko grabbed the manga, anime DVD, light novels and any other otaku thing she bought and carried it all to her second bedroom. After she stored everything in the right place, she went back to the living room and picked up the rest of the purchases.
He looked too funny when I showed him this, she thought, staring the clothes. During the afternoon, they went to a cosplay shop. Taiyou-kun didn’t expect that and much less expect when she bought and wore the pleated black and red skirt and black jacket, the My Guardian Persona character’s uniform.
She rested the cosplay and picked up the other clothes she bought, turning the white frilly one-piece dress around to see every side. Though I bought this at the cosplay shop, this is just a cute dress… I can wear it with no problem. The cosplay belong to a character whose sense of fashion was so good Tsukiko could wear the cosplay, say it was a regular clothes and no one would say a thing. Suddenly a mischievous smile popped on her lips. For some reason Taiyou-kun blushed more when I show him this, she remembered. What will he do if I wear this now?
She walked to her main bedroom with the picture of Taiyou-kun in her head, but when she opened the door, a package on top of her bed made she forgot the boy for a second. What’s this? The package was small, almost like a DVD case. She grabbed it and turned it around. There was a note attached to it.
Happy birthday, Tsukiko. I’m sorry I can’t give this to you in person, she read her father’s words. My secretary told me I shouldn’t give you this, saying something like this isn’t for girls and all, but I know you’ll like it.
Dad… thank you, Tsukiko thought, reading the note again and again with a tiny smile on her lips. My birthday’s just as painful to him as it is to me… The girl felt the tears coming, and did nothing to stop. When they finally stopped, she cleaned her face and then ripped the wrapping paper. A sudden urge to laugh overtook them. You’re awesome, dad.
It was a game. The same one her friends were standing in line right now to buy it at midnight. They’ll get so jealous. She took a picture with her phone and sent it to them. Their messages came almost at the same instant, everyone asking how she got it. Guess I won’t be giving you a head start, she wrote, her smile growing.
When the conversation ended, she rested her phone down, but it vibrated before she stepped too far from it. Tsukiko answered right away when she saw who was calling her. “Hey, Taiyou-kun,” she said before he could say anything. “If it’s a trouble to you, you don’t have to eat with me. I know your family likes to eat together…” Even if it’s my birthday, I can’t be this selfish… especially with him.
The other side was in silence for a while. “Actually I wanted to invite you to eat with us,” he said in his low voice.
Those words made her face beamed. But she had to control herself. “I don’t wanna impose… You already did so much for me today…”
“My mom insisted,” he said, his voice stronger than before. “And… I want it too…”
“Okay!” She said before she could stop herself, standing up from the bed. “I’ll be right there.”
Tsukiko changed to her new clothes and stood before the mirror on her closet, brushing her hair. She wondered for a moment if she should change tie her hair in a different way, but ended up deciding on the same ponytail on the side. Besides, Taiyou-kun did look more at the maids with tied hair.
In less than five minutes, she was standing before Taiyou-kun’ door, suddenly hesitating to ring the bell. Why am I nervous? She thought, but still checked herself with her phone camera. Taking deep breaths and barely containing her smile, Tsukiko ringed the doorbell.
The boy opened the door almost right away. He looked at her and then stepped aside, letting her in. Was he waiting on the other side? She wondered for a moment. Wait, did he see me? She blushed a little. “Excuse me,” she said, taking off her shoes.
When Taiyou-kun closed the door, Tsukiko realized the lights were off. Why is it so dark?
“Happy birthday!” The lights turned on at the same time she heard.
“Wha…” she managed to mumble, her mouth slightly opened. She too overwhelmed to say something.
Taiyou-kun’ mother was there. Rin-nee too. Even Sawa-chan-sensei and her daughter, Aika-chan, were there. The kid even had a party popper and pulled right away, the confetti raining over Tsukiko.
The girl stood there, watching speechless. The table was full of food, and there was even a strawberry cake, her favorite, with the number fourteen on top of it. Taiyou-kun had to push the girl slightly to make her walk.
“I know it’s not much, but we had to celebrate your birthday, even if it’s a day earlier,” Rin-nee said with a smile, messing the girl’s hair. “Come on, don’t be shy.”
“I wanna give her, I wanna give her,” Aika-chan was saying. Sawa-chan-sensei picked up a present from the table and handed to her daughter. Aika-chan walked to Tsukiko and offered the present to her with a huge smile. “Here, onee-chan. I helped choosing!”
“Thanks,” the girl managed to say, hugging the child with the free hand.
It was the best birthday party she had in years. Almost two hours later, Taiyou-kun was walking her to her apartment. I’m guessing Rin-nee told him to do that, she thought, almost skipping. “It was great,” she said. “I really need to thank your mother and aunt. I can’t believe they did this for me.”
“I know it must be awkward… having a birthday party with another family and all,” he started saying, avoiding her eyes.
She gave a big step forward and turned around to face him. She lowered her head and their faces were close. “It was one of the best parties I had,” she said, beaming.
The boy opened his mouth, and then closed it, his lips curling into a smile.
“I don’t even know how to thank you for today,” she said, turning around. If it’s Taiyou-kun, I can say it. He won’t pity me or treat me any different, she told herself. “To be honest, my birthday’s actually today, but I hate this day.” Tsukiko took a deep breath. “My mom and I shared the date. We used to have a sort of joined party every year since I can remember. But five years ago, she had a midlife crises or something on our birthday. I think seeing her friends from college talking about their jobs and stuff really got to her. After the party, she went out, saying she had to find something and I haven’t seen nor talked to her since that birthday…” She felt the tears coming again. It’s been awhile since I said this to anyone…
Though his silence was hard on her, she was too afraid to see what kind of expression the boy had, so she didn’t turn around. Suddenly she felt his arms around her. Wha…
“I knew… My aunt told me,” he said his low voice. “And my dad taught me sometimes a hug is better than words.”
“Taiyou-kun,” Tsukiko said, “So you already knew…” For some reason, it hurt her heart, and the tears fell. So that’s why he put up with me today, Tsukiko realized the reason it bothered her.
“But don’t misunderstand. I didn’t spend the day with you because of that.” He tightened his arms around her waist. “I did it because I like hanging out with you…” he trailed off.
She rested her hands on top of his, feeling his warmth. “Thanks Taiyou-kun…”
They stayed like that for a while. When she stopped crying, she cleaned her eyes and turned around to face him. “I feel much better after saying to you. Thanks for listening to me.” She showed him a smile. He blushed and took a step backwards. Tsukiko giggled with his reaction.
Taiyou-kun put his hand inside the pocket of his jacket, looking the girl in the eyes. She tilted her head and came closer.
Suddenly he pulled his hand from the pocked, offering something to her. Looking closer, Tsukiko saw it was a small figurine, the main character from My Guardian Persona wearing the same cosplay as the one Tsukiko had.
“Happy birthday,” he said, looking away, his face the most red she had seen today. “I know it’s not much…”
“When did you…” Tsukiko accepted the gift, turning around.
“When we were on the arcade…”
Ah, so that’s why he took some time, Tsukiko realized. She kissed him on the cheek again and then hugged him. “Thanks for this. And thanks for putting up with me. Hope we can celebrate my next year together too.”
She could feel him trembling. Is that from embarrassment? She wondered, but for once, she didn’t feel like laughing. Instead of pushing her away, he hugged her back.