The first story of the Fiction Anthology (Summer 2010 edition) is the second chapter of Millennium Match.
Chapter 2: Meeting
Ryogo and Saki had never even exchanged glances with each other even though they both went to Crossroads Academy.
Crossroads? I think I’ve heard of that before… Didn’t it burn down five years ago?
Yeah, but this story takes place years before that happened, so don’t expect to hear some kind of amazing origin. Although…
Don’t go making things up now.
Oh, alright. Woulda been cool though. Ninjas would be involved.
Please just resume the story.
Mm hm. Okay, so yeah, Crossroads Academy. It’s strange that they had nothing to do with each other up until now because Ryogo and Saki were two of the most talked-about people on campus.
Yukiko: Masaki? Everyone knows he’s in the yakuza. Pretty scary guy. What’s someone like him doing here?
Natsuko: He’s in my home ec class. He’s the quiet type, but his food is just to die for!
Yukiko: Maybe that’s how he gets them. First he tempts you with some cake, next thing you know he’s having YOU for dinner!
NISHIJIMA Yukiko, MATSUDA Natsuko, both age 16. Saki’s friends.
Natsuko: Well, I don’t really think he’s as bad as people say. But why do you ask?
Saki: It’s just… (I can’t tell them the truth…) I’m… doing a favor. For a counselor. Masaki Ryogo isn’t the most approachable guy, and he’s pretty intimidating because of his family, but as a fellow student I should be able to connect easier with him.
Natsuko: Wow. So you’re going to be counseling him?
Saki: Th-that’s right.
Yukiko: Well, if anyone can whip him into shape it’s you. It just pisses me off that some spineless old coot passed this on to you. What are they being paid for?
Saki: It’s alright. But that’s how it is… I need to gather some information on him before I can feel confident enough to approach him.
This was the third day after Saki refused to go through with the marriage and was cut off by her father. She mostly survived by sharing lunches with classmates and having sleepovers, but any longer and it would be obvious that something strange was going on. She decided she would at least make a show of agreeing to wed. For a while. Even if the wedding was only ritual and not actually official, she would eventually have to meet with Ryogo and risk being seen with him. He had a crappy rep, but Saki’s fake excuse plus the fact that Yukiko was a shameless gossip gave her a small window of opportunity to be seen talking to him without damaging her own image. With the plan set, her goal now was to determine what he really was like and if he would agree to her script.
Meanwhile, Ryogo had already agreed to wed despite the fact that there’s already a girl that holds a special place in his heart. To him, the marriage was just another business deal that he was forced to accept.
Wait, there’s another girl?
Sort of. Hey, don’t interrupt me! Ahem. Ryogo didn’t necessarily hate the family business. He actually loves his family and extended family. While he is a part of the so-called yakuza, they’re only yakuza by tradition. Officially they run a business known as the Misaki Alliance of Confectionery Distributors, a candy-making and bakery operation with Ryogo as their top chef. It used to be a front, but ever since they got run out of Kobe it’s been their chief source of income. Ryogo’s cousin Rei flew overseas to try to form a foreign branch in southern California, but he’s been distracted by a certain girl.
Ryogo (on cell phone): Huh. So you’ve been dating her for a month now? And you’re already engaged?
Rei: Yeah. Man, you read about love at first sight all the time but you just can’t take that talk seriously until you’ve experienced it first-hand. Oh, and Mariela has the most amazing voice. I think she could sing at our bar.
Ryogo: Bar? You’re supposed to be opening up a bakery!
Rei: No reason it can’t be both. Bread and liquid bread. It only makes sense!
Ryogo: Whatever. Oh, and did you talk to Cuz yet?
Rei: The would-be bride? No, but I heard about what happened from Shunya. Sucks that shit had to go down that way. But at least you’ve got yourself a golden opportunity! The chief sent me the file, and your new fiancee is pretty darn cute. If only I could be so lucky at your age!
Ryogo: That’s slightly creepy, you know.
Rei: Hey, don’t worry. I’m not into underage girls. But you’ve accepted, right?
Ryogo: I don’t have much of a choice. But this changes nothing. I don’t want you to forget your promise.
Rei: Tsk. You still want me to go through with it, huh? Well, if it brings you closure…
Ryogo: I just want to know if Mizuno-chan is alright. Don’t forget what you said a while ago about love at first sight.
Rei: Love at first sight is different when you’re 25 as opposed to 5. But I owe you this one, so you can count on me.
Ryogo: Thanks. I have to head over to homeroom now. Talk to you later. And you should give Cuz a call.
Rei: I guess. But she’ll be pissed once she finds out I’m getting married. Like rubbing salt in the wounds or something.
Ryogo: Don’t worry about that. She’s more pissed at me, believe me.
* * *
Akiyama-sensei: Today we’ll be covering Meiosis. Um… it seems a number of our light microscopes have been damaged recently, so you’ll have to pair up and share.
AKIYAMA Marie-Antoinette, Age 32. Youthful Biology instructor.
Biology is the only class that Ryogo and Saki share, so this was the best opportunity for the two to talk to each other for the first time.
Saki: Misaki-kun. Do you mind?
Ryogo: … Satoumura?
Saki: . . . I… I just want to get my work done, and figured it would be convenient…
Ryogo: Oh. Sure, go ahead, I’m in no hurry.
Between homeroom and their fifth period Biology class, Saki learned a lot of conflicting information about Ryogo. However, none of the stories she heard took place during class so she figured at the very least he probably wouldn’t make a scene here.
Ryogo: So, what is it?
Ryogo: You’ve just been staring at me. Do you have something to say?
Saki: Not necessarily. I’d rather hear an explanation out of you.
Ryogo: An explanation? Okay. The way I see it, Meiosis is essentially the same thing as Mitosis except that it undergoes-
Saki: Don’t do that. You know what I’m talking about.
Ryogo couldn’t help himself. He did want to talk to her about their situation, but if possible he didn’t want to have anything to do with her in public. In his mind a certain someone’s eyes were hovering over him, and he couldn’t allow them to be under the wrong impression.
That’s kind of dumb.
Isn’t it? But he’s a hopeless dreamer.
Ryogo: What could I possibly tell you that you shouldn’t already know?
Saki: Are the rumors true?
Ryogo: Depends on the rumor.
Saki: How many girls have you raped?
Saki: It’s a simple question. How many? Or have you lost count?
Ryogo: Hey, that’s not funny. I’ve never-
Saki: How about fights, then? How many have you gotten into?
Ryogo: That depends on what you consider a fight…
Saki: Ever killed anyone?
Ryogo: No! Look, I don’t know what kind of person you think I am…
Saki: That’s why I want to know! All I know about you is your reputation and I haven’t heard a lot of good. Don’t you care?
Ryogo: Not really. It doesn’t really affect me if other people have the wrong idea.
Saki: Well it might affect certain other people! Don’t be so selfish!
Ryogo: Selfish? I already agreed to go through with the whole thing. What more do you and your father want from me?
Saki: What does my dad have to do with this?
Ryogo: You and him are the same. Caring only about appearances and what you stand to lose by associating with others.
Saki: Th-that’s only natural, isn’t it?
Ryogo: Maybe, but not for me.
Saki: . . . But still… I have to…
Ryogo: I’m only doing it because I have no choice. I really couldn’t care any less about what you think about me as long as you don’t interfere.
Ryogo took his bag and walked towards the nearest door.
Saki: Interfere with what? H-hey, where are you going? How dare you!
Akiyama-sensei: Um, excuse me, but class isn’t dismissed, Misaki!
Ryogo dismissively waved his arm and walked out. He didn’t have anywhere to go and intended to attend his home ec class, so he headed to the nearest restroom and sat in a stall. He’s found that sitting on the porcelain throne helps him to focus and reflect on himself.
Ryogo: *sigh* (There was no reason to mouth off to her like that, was there? I mean, it’s not like I’m looking forward to this either. And she wasn’t entirely wrong. If people actually say those things, it could be troublesome…)
Ryogo thought about it and decided that addressing the rumors would give them credibility. As for what he would do about Saki, that would have to wait because Home Ec was about to start.
* * *
Home Ec that day focused on sewing, something Ryogo didn’t have much interest in. After gathering some fabric for his group, one of the girls asked him about something that was on everyone’s minds.
Natsuko: Hey, I heard you walked out of Bio last period. What happened?
Ryogo: Oh, that? Nothing, really. I was just bothered by something Satoumura said.
Natsuko: Something Saki said? Oh yeah… She did mention something about an odd situation you two were in.
Ryogo: Huh? She told you that?
Natsuko: Oh, was it supposed to be secret?
Ryogo: I don’t know… I figure it’s something that others shouldn’t know about…
Natsuko: I guess that does make sense. But don’t take it too personally. She’s probably just annoyed because this is something that was forced on her. She hasn’t exactly done this before.
Ryogo: Well obviously. But it’s not like I wanted this either.
Natsuko: Maybe not, but can’t you do her a favor? She might take things seriously, but all she wants is for this to be done and over with. So if you could just play along for a while it should be quick and painless.
Ryogo: Hm… yeah, your’e probably right. But first I should get on her good side. You’re friends with her, right? Think you can smooth things out? Let her now that I’m sorry about going off like that?
Natsuko: Sure! You know, I told her you were a good person, but it’s just that there’s all those rumors…
Ryogo: Where do you hear these rumors, anyway?
Natsuko: Oh… here and there…
Ryogo: “Here and there?”
Natsuko: It’s not right to reveal gossip sources.
Ryogo: So this is common knowledge?
Natsuko: Pretty much.
Ryogo: *sigh* Oh yeah, on second thought…
Ryogo ripped out a small piece of paper and wrote on it.
Ryogo: Give this to Satoumura. I want to clear everything up personally.
* * *
Saki: What is this note?
Natsuko: Misaki said that he wanted to talk with you personally and apologize about before.
Saki: (So why didn’t he come to me himself? Or… is he being considerate about my position?) Fine, I guess I can get this over with. I don’t like how our first meeting ended at all.
Natsuko: I’m sure you’ll find he’s a good guy once you get to know him.
Yukiko: Are you sure about that? You can’t really trust a guy like that just because he’s nice to a few girls. You never know. Saki, you want me to come with?
Saki: No, I’ll be fine on my own. This is something I have to take care of by myself anyway.
The note was an address and vague directions on how to get there from the school. Saki walked there herself and found that it led to a small out-of-the-way shop near the port.
Saki: What is this place?
Ryogo: Welcome to Sweet Tears. What’s your favorite?
Saki: What is this?
Ryogo: Like I said, Sweet Tears. We sell pastries and candies.
Saki: Do you work here?
Ryogo: My family owns the shop. This is what I do. So yes, basically, I work here. You want something?
Ryogo: How about a slice of cake? Here, try some.
Saki was hesitant, but she tasted the offered slice and was delighted by it.
Saki: (Natsuko was right, this IS good…)
Ryogo: Well, how about we get down to business, then?
Ryogo: Well, we won’t get anywhere being indirect. This branch is safe and out of the way, so no one should see us here.
Ryogo: To get straight to the point, I think we should do it.
[Yukiko: First he tempts you with some cake, next thing you know he’s having YOU for dinner!]
Saki’s runaway imagination caused her to fall backwards.
Ryogo: Hey, you okay?
Saki: Of course not! How dare you! I should’ve known this was a trap!
Ryogo: Anyone ever tell you you use that phrase a lot? And what do you mean trap? It was your dad’s idea.
Saki: WHAT?! How could h- Oh wait… you mean the marriage.
Ryogo: Of course I did. What else would I be talking about?
Saki: N-no… nothing… Go on.
Ryogo: I just want to know… you’re not crazy about the idea either, right?
Saki: “Either?” So you too?
Ryogo: Yeah… I’m just going through with this to fulfill my duty. Otherwise I’ll be disowned… the hard way.
Saki: You mean?
He did the thumb-slicing-throat gesture.
Saki: (So he’s basically in the same situation as me… Then I’m sure he’ll see my point of view.) If that’s the case, then there’s no reason we can’t work together. We’ll go through with whatever ceremony they want us perform.
Ryogo: Yeah, we don’t have much choice.
Saki: But I don’t think we’ll be off the hook just like that.
Ryogo: Huh? What do you mean?
Saki: Are you dense? You do know what comes afterwards, right? The prophecy? There are two parts to the fulfillment.
Ryogo: Well, there’s the union of the two families… and… Ah, crap…
Saki: That’s right, the bearing of the child that should be born two years from now. And as much as I hate it, the plan is for us to… you know…
Ryogo: But… well…
Saki: Of course, all we have to do is say that we tried. Then once two years have passed this whole thing will all collapse on itself. But if I know both our families as well as I think I do, they won’t be easily convinced if we just live our lives the way we have up to now. In short, we can’t avoid each other.
Ryogo: . . .
Saki: As part of our cover, I’ve already got a rumor spreading around that I’m counseling you.
Ryogo: Huh? Counsel me? For what?
Saki: Well, all the other rumors going on make you look like a thug. And multiple rapist.
Ryogo: Where the hell did-
Saki: Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we can talk to each other on campus without arousing suspicion. As long as it’s during class or in the library or some other place that’s appropriate. Not only that, but with a little work, both of our reputations will skyrocket.
Ryogo: Last I checked, your rep was already at the top.
Saki: I know! Isn’t that awesome? I swear, it almost scares me how brilliant this plan is.
Ryogo: How like a politician. What if everyone at school was to hear you like this?
Saki: The important thing is that they don’t. Anyway, the logical progression is that the time we’ve spent together will lead to us falling in love with each other, which means that we’ll start dating and can be seen together in more places.
Ryogo: Wait… You’re telling me to fake a relationship with you?
Saki: I thought we already agreed to this.
Ryogo: Well, it’s one thing to fake a marriage to our families, but…
Saki: Do you even hear yourself talk?
Ryogo: Yes. I know it doesn’t make sense, but something about your plan doesn’t seem right.
Saki: Everything about the entire situation we’re in isn’t right, but I’m trying to make the best of it! If we pretend to date, then we are effectively creating a cover story for the public while fooling our families at the same time. They’ll start to think we’re genuinely in love and it’ll make the lie sound more believable. Now, do you have a better idea?
Ryogo: Well… No. But…
Saki: Unless you do, that settles it.
Ryogo: …Fine. I guess you win.
Saki: We both win. Now, just one more thing…
Saki: Do you have any caramel tarts?
* * *
Saki returned to her home and met her father waiting just past its gates.
Eiji: Saki. I suppose you’ve had enough?
Saki: Hardly. I’ve just had a change of heart. I accept, but not out of necessity.
Eiji: Trying to save face? Well, it doesn’t matter much to me, just as long as the outcome is the same.
As Saki walked past her father, she noted that his eyes were focused right where she wanted them: on her bag from Sweet Tears, and the logo of the Misaki Alliance of Confectionery Distributors. He let out a short, almost inaudible gasp, and Saki grinned triumphantly behind him.
Before Saki opened the door, her father called out from behind her.
Eiji: The wedding will be this Saturday.
Saki: . . . .
Eiji: The ceremonial garbs have already been selected. It will take place on what I am told is Misaki-owned territory in Arima.
Saki: And you?
Eiji: You will be the only one from our side present. Do you have any problems with that?
Saki: . . . No. Why should I? I trust Ryogo completely.
Eiji: . . . Very well.
Saki: Is that all?
Eiji: Yes. Now go to your room.
Saki wondered if referring to “Ryogo” so casually would be too unbelievable. Then again, she hadn’t been home in three days; a lot could have happened in that span.
If I were in his shoes I might have been pretty suspicious. And horrified.
Well, you have to take into account that he didn’t plan on Saki actually taking it this far. He figured she would have come back the next day. Of course, truth is he had some security tailing her to make sure she was safe. She wasn’t bugged or anything; they just knew enough to report back where she was staying the night and if she was eating right.
Oh, that rhymes!
Hey, it does! Alright, next chapter will be all rhymes!
I don’t think you could pull that off.
You say that now, but we’ll see next time!