The last three weeks of summer were full of activity. Takashi’s family was able to take a five day vacation, resulting in the first separation the young couple had faced. He could hardly refuse to go, however, and Saya accompanying them was out of the question. Takashi had seen little of his father all summer, and this would be an opportunity to spend time with him that might not come again.
“We can text and e-mail, and use video calls,” Saya told him the night before the Komuros were set to leave. “It’s only five days.”
“I know, he sighed. “I just. . .I don’t like being away from you, that’s all.”
“I don’t like you being away from me, baka,” she smiled softly. “But we must spend time with our families, Takashi. Besides, my mother informed me this morning that we are to take a trip as well. You and I will have three days together when you return before we leave for a resort in the south. We’ll be gone a week. So it’s not like it’s just you.”
“Great,” Takashi groaned.
“Stop it,” she demanded. “This is not a burden, Takashi, it’s a blessing to spend time with your family.” Saya knew that all too well. Her parents had made a supreme effort to spend time with her and Takashi over the past months and she had grown much closer to them as a result.
“I don’t think it is, either, Saya,” he nodded. “I just. . .I’ll miss you, that’s all.”
“And I will miss you too, my Baka,” she kissed him gently. “But once we’re done, we’ll have all the time we want to be together. Now kiss me, and go spend time with your parents.”
Once he was gone, Saya’s good humor over the situation left her. She had meant what she said, but-
“That was very mature of you, Saya,” Yuriko said from Saya’s bedroom door. “I heard what you told Takashi. Well done, daughter.”
“I’ll miss him,” Saya was near tears. “I know it probably seems silly for grown ups considering our ages, but. . .I need him,” she admitted.
“And you also need to be able to be without him,” Yuriko told her. “I miss your father terribly sometimes when he is away, but he is never gone more than he can help. What will you do, Saya, if Takashi follows in his own father’s steps, becoming a pilot? Being gone for days or weeks at a time?”
“I’ll die,” Saya moaned miserably.
“No, you will endure, daughter, because that is what love does,” her mother corrected her. “You are right that at your ages the world looks different, but as you grow, you will see that some things are eternal, no matter your age. If you love one another, then you will do whatever it takes to spend time together, even if it means spending time apart. I promise you that the pain you feel at being separated will be worth it when you are reunited.”
“I’m holding you to that, Momma,” Saya laughed even as a few tears fell. ‘Just so you know.”
“Takashi, I’ve been following your activities through your mother while I’ve been forced to be gone so much,” Takashi’s father said as they sat on the beach. Nobiki was in the water, having always loved the ocean.
“I’m proud of you, son,” his father said gently. “I’m sorry I have to be away so much. When I chose to be a pilot, all I could see was how sexy it would be,” he grinned. “I learned to fly in the SDF, and then decided once I was out to learn to fly commercial. The trouble with being an island nation is that so many of our flights go over seas. I can’t complain too much because I make a good living for us, but. . .it means I miss a great deal.”
“It’s okay, dad,” Takashi told him. “It’s not like we don’t know you love us.”
“Still, it’s a hard thing to be separated from your loved ones,” his father shook his head gently. “I know that coming on this trip was hard on you, but. . .I appreciate your doing it.”
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” Takashi told him honestly. “I’m lucky to get this time with you guys and I know it. Saya knows it, too. Her father is away almost as much as you, and maybe more at times. Same for her mother. At least I’ve got mom every day. She doesn’t always have that.”
“But she has you,” his father placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “You’re a fine young man, Takashi. I worried about you for a while, I admit. You seemed to be drifting through your life with no goal or direction. I sense that Saya-chan has changed that, though. She’s given you something to work for. Every man needs that,” he said wistfully as he turned his gaze to where Nobiki was enjoying the water. She saw him looking and waved, and he waved back.
“Souichiro tells me you and Saya are going to learn the sword,” his father changed the subject.
“Looks that way,” Takashi nodded. “I admit, it’s a little intimidating, but. . .Saeko says we can do it. She’d tell us if she didn’t.”
“I can’t imagine a better teacher,” his father grinned. “You’ll have to show me what you’ve learned some time. Are you going to compete? In school maybe?”
“No,” Takashi shook his head. “Saya and I talked about it, but we aren’t doing this to compete. We enjoy it, and we enjoy the time together, and with Saeko. It teaches discipline, too. But. . .if we tried to compete, then it would take time away from something else. I can’t let my grades suffer, and we’re both determined to learn the sword if we’re going to, so that means we will concentrate on that. We won’t have much free time as it is.”
“I’m going to increase your allowance,” his father said suddenly, rising and stripping off his shirt. “A young man that has so much going and has a pretty girlfriend to entertain needs to be able to take her to the movie and out to dinner once in a while,” he smiled down at his son. “Consider it a reward for your hard work in school and out. And for taking care of your mother when I’m forced to be away so much.”
“I. . .thanks, Dad!” Takashi was stunned. “I don’t know what to say.”
“You just said it,” his father smiled again. “Now, I’m going to swim with my girl, so you can have time to call yours.” With that his father ran toward the water where his mother was waiting.
Three days didn’t seem like much time, but they managed to pack a lot into those three days. They spoke to Saeko and she agreed there was no point in training for just three days, since the two of them refused to train separately, so they would begin when school started back.
Saya had spent much of her time with Saeko while Takashi was away, and while they sparred some for fun, they hadn’t done anything else in the dojo, spending the time as just teenage girls.
With Takashi back, all of her time until her family’s trip was spent with him. Friday was spent at the Takagi Manor, then Friday night at a movie and dinner. Saturday was another trip to the park where they spent most of the day just laying on a blanket, eating a lunch that Saya had fixed for them. They read, they napped, they talked. Not about anything serious, but about anything that caught their eye.
Sunday they simply spent quietly in each other’s company, with lunch at Takashi’s house so that Saya could visit with Takashi’s father before he left again. She had met him before of course, but this was the first time she’d been able to do more than speak to him briefly since she and Takashi had become so close.
All too soon, their three days were up.
“Go and visit Saeko while I’m gone,” Saya told him. “You two go out somewhere and have a good time.”
“I can’t do that,” Takashi protested. “That would look. . .wrong, Saya.”
“No, it won’t,” Saya insisted. “Everyone knows by now how close we are. There’s no reason for her to be lonely and alone just because I’m not here. What if something happened to me, Takashi. Would-”
“Don’t say that!” Takashi looked horrified.
“Shut up and let me talk!” Saya slapped his arm. “If something happened to me, would you stop being Saeko’s friend?”
“Of course not!” Takashi protested. “What kind of guy does that?”
“The sorry kind,” Saya nodded. “And you aren’t. Don’t act like you aren’t really her friend while I’m gone. It’s not right. Spend time with her just like you would if I were here with you. I did while you were gone. You will do the same,” she more or less ordered.
“I promise,” he crossed his heart. “But you can bet it will make people talk, Saya, so be ready for it.”
“Let me worry about that,” she told him firmly. “I’m through letting what people will say rule me. Thanks to you, baka,” she smiled, kissing him gently.
“Ta-kashi-kun,” Yuriko’s voice made Saya jump away from him like a shot, and her mother found her daughter blushing furiously when she walked into the library.
“Oh, dear,” she teased. “I seem to have interrupted something.”
“M-Momma!” Saya spluttered. “We were just talking!”
“Is that what kids are calling it these days?” Yuriko twisted the knife just a bit. “I had no idea.”
“You wanted Takashi for something,” Saya grated, blushing deeper.
“I did?” Yuriko reminded Saya of Shizuka for a moment before turning serious. “Yes, I did,” she grinned. “Takashi dear, we’re hosting a formal when we return, and Saya will need to be there. While we’re gone I want you to go here,” she handed him an address, “and see the man who’s name is on this card. He will fit you for a tuxedo and other accessories. I’ve already told them what you need, so all you have to do is let them fit you with it. I’ve taken care of it,” she added.
“I. . .I can’t let you-”
“Oh, Takashi,” Yuriko sighed. “When will you learn that men don’t ‘let’ women do anything. Daughter, you are not educating him properly. Dinner is two days after our return Takashi-kun. Six o’clock,” she threw over her shoulder as she left again.
“She has a point,” Saya sighed, moving back to cuddle with Takashi.
“What? What about?” Takashi asked.
“I am neglecting your education, baka,” Saya grinned. “You don’t let me do anything,” she mock growled.
“We’ll see,” Takashi smirked and kissed her again.
“Hello, Takashi,” Saeko said when he called.
“Hey, Saeko. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Takashi, how are you?” she asked. “Dying of loneliness no doubt,” she added.
“It does suck,” he sighed. “But, what are ya gonna do, right?”
“Right. So what’s up?”
“Well, I have to go down and get fitted for a tux sometime while the Takagi’s are gone. I have to have it for a formal dinner they are hosting when they get back. Wanna go with me? Once we get done we can grab a bite to eat and see a movie if you want. My treat!”
“Takashi,” Saeko said after a brief hesitation. “That might not be a good idea, you know. People will talk.”
“I know and so does Saya,” he agreed. “Her exact words were ‘don’t be a baka’, and ‘let me worry about that’. If it makes you feel better about it, Saya suggested I do it.”
“Well,” Saeko exhaled. Her ‘sister’ did trust her didn’t she. “In that case, I can’t wait to see what you look like in a monkey suit.”
“Meet you there?” he gave her the address.
“Meet you there.”
“What are you laughing at?” Yuriko asked as Saya giggled with mirth, phone in hand.
“T-Tak-Takashi!” she had to work to get his name out. Instead of trying again, she handed her phone to her mother. Yuriko took it and looked at the screen, where a very annoyed looking Takashi Komuro, wearing a face that screamed of long-suffering, was being measured for his tux.
The next picture was one of Saeko, making a monkey face into the camera.
“Oh dear,” Yuriko laughed. “He does look miserable, doesn’t he?”
“Yes!” Saya almost screamed in laughter. “And Saeko is there making fun of him since I can’t be. It’s priceless!”
“Saya, most girls would not be laughing at the idea of their boyfriend being out with an attractive young woman while they are out of town.”
“Most girls don’t have Takashi Komuro as a boyfriend, and Saeko Busujima as a best friend, either,” Saya shot back without a pause. “If there is anyone I’ll ever trust more than you and Poppa, it’s Takashi. He would never betray me.”
“People may talk,” her mother warned, passing the phone back.
“Let them,” Saya said firmly. “I told Takashi I am done allowing what others say to rule me. I am as sure of him as I am of you and Poppa,” she said seriously. “And of her. I’ll never have a truer friend than Saeko Busujima.”
“Daughter, I am impressed,” her mother smiled. “You are growing up. And you are blessed indeed, to have two such people in your life.”
“Don’t I know it.”
“I can’t believe you sent her that,” Takashi whined as he and Saeko walked through the mall, him with a milkshake and her with a cone.
“Had to be done, Takashi,” Saeko said, laughing. “If I hadn’t taken that, she would never have forgiven me.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he sighed. His ‘monkey suit’ as Saeko had called it, would be delivered at some point in the next few days to Takagi Manor, where he would try it on to ensure it fit.
“Her parents must really like you, Takashi,” Saeko observed. “You aren’t renting that thing. They paid for it.”
“I know,” he sighed again. “When I asked for permission to date her, Yuriko-sama told me that any time they had a formal anything where Saya had to attend, I would be expected to escort her. I guess buying is cheaper than renting if you’re going to need it often.”
“Didn’t think of that,” Saeko admitted. “You don’t seem happy, though.”
“I just don’t want to embarrass her. Or them,” he added. “What do I know about a formal anything?”
“I’m sure that Saya and her mother have thought of that and will make sure you know everything you need to know,” Saeko assured him.
“I didn’t think about that,” Takashi perked up a bit. “Thanks onee-chan!” he grinned.
“You are insufferable,” she rolled her eyes.
“Had it coming for sending her that picture,” Takashi shot back.
“Point,” she allowed. “Still want to go to the movie?” she asked.
“You?” he countered.
“What I’d really rather do is go to the arcade,” she admitted.
“Well then, let’s go,” Takashi agreed.
They spent nearly two hours playing games in the mall arcade, where Saeko proved to be especially adept at first person shooter games, much to her surprise.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” she told Takashi.
“Just point, and shoot,” he told her. “Eye-hand coordination is the key, and you’ve got that in spades.”
And she had. Soon she was giving Takashi a run for his money on a two person alien shooter game. After nearly an hour, during which they had drawn a crowd, the two managed to ‘beat’ the alien ‘boss’, and win the game.
The arcade awarded tokens for winning certain games, and they departed with Saeko hugging a stuffed monkey ‘in honor of your tux, Takashi-kun’.
“Well, I guess we should be-”
“Well, well,” a mocking voice broke into whatever Takashi was going to say as Rei Miyamoto walked up, Hisashi following her and trying to grab her arm.
“What are you two doing here?” she asked. “Cheating on Saya already, Takashi?”
“As I was saying,” Takashi turned to Saeko again. “I guess it’s about time to head home. I appreciate you coming with me, Saeko.”
“I was glad to do it, Takashi,” she smiled, also ignoring Rei.
“Don’t walk away from me, Takashi!” Rei called as the other two started toward the entrance. “You are going to talk to me!”
“Keep walking,” Saeko told him when Takashi tensed. “She’s making a fool of herself, Takashi. Just let her, and keep walking.”
“I just don’t understand why she does this,” he shook his head even as he followed her advice. “What does she gain from it?” he asked Saeko. She could see the confusion in his eyes, but had no answer for him.
“I don’t know, Takashi,” she admitted aloud. “I do know that she was held back this year,” she said softly.
“What?” Takashi stopped, looking at Saeko in shock.
“Keep walking,” she told him again, and they started again for the entrance. “Miyamoto-san and I were in the same class, you know,” Saeko said and Takashi nodded. “I do not know the reason, but somehow she was held back this year. She did not advance with the rest of us.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Takashi said as he opened the door for Saeko, then followed her through. “Rei is smart. She shouldn’t have had any trouble.”
“I agree,” Saeko nodded. “Rumor has it that Shido-sensei was involved somehow, but I know no more than that. Perhaps her anger issues are a result of her being kept back,” she suggested.
“Why take it out on me, though?” he was truly bewildered now. “And why set Hisashi on me over a lie?” he added.
“I cannot answer that. I can’t think of a reason she would do either, and yet, she is nothing if not persistent,” Saeko sighed.
“She’ll spread this like a wildfire,” Takashi told her. “By tomorrow, I’ll be cheating on Saya with you, according to her. You know, I was having a good time right up until she showed up.”
“So was I,” Saeko smiled. “Thank you, Takashi,” she added.
“For not ignoring me while Saya is gone,” she told him. “Most guys would have, and if you had, I would have understood completely, and not blamed you at all. But I really appreciate it that you didn’t.”
“You’re my friend, Saeko,” Takashi told her simply. “Family. Saya and I both feel that way. And Saya was determined that I not ignore you, too. She said it wasn’t right. Well, that it was a sorry thing to do,” he laughed.
“She loves you very much,” Saeko said gently. “Cherish that, Takashi, and never take it for granted.”
“I won’t, not ever,” he swore. “Are you taking the bus?” he asked.
“Yes,” she nodded.
“I’ll wait with you, then,” he told her. “I have to catch mine at the same stop.”
“That’s what Saeko said,” Takashi nodded. He was sitting on the sofa in the Takagi Manor library, Saya hugging his arm like a life preserver. She had called him the minute she had gotten home and told him Hari was on the way to pick him up.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Saya frowned. “Miyamoto is a bitch, but she’s not dumb. And why take it out on you?” she echoed Takashi’s own thoughts. “It’s not like you had anything to do with it.”
“I don’t know,” Takashi held his hands up in a gesture of helplessness. “There’s no sense to it at all.”
“Anyway,” Saya changed the subject, “you looked nice in your tux,” she teased.
“I’m sure,” he groaned. “Saeko sat there making fun of me the whole time, too.”
“Sounds like she had a good time,” Saya said.
“She did. We went to the arcade and played that alien game. The shooter one? You know, she picked it up pretty quick, too. Took us a while but we finally beat it. She won a prize and picked a stuffed monkey. In honor of your monkey suit, she says.”
Saya was still laughing when her mother came to talk to Takashi about the dinner.
It wasn’t as hard as he had imagined, in the end. Since he was not yet Saya’s fiancé, he was her escort. That meant that he did not join them in receiving guests, but would join her later among the visitors, and sit with her at dinner.
“Takashi, as our daughter and heir Saya is the hoped for target of many a marriage maker,” Yuriko told him. “Expect to get ugly looks from the younger men as well as some of the older, and for the women with eligible sons to be hostile and look for something to find fault in you with.”
“I’ll just stay quiet and focus on not embarrassing Saya, or you,” Takashi told her.
“You could never embarrass me, baka,” Saya told him.
“You are in no way an embarrassment,” Yuriko agreed. “Both her father and I agree that you are an excellent suitor for our daughter, Takashi Komuro. Indeed, one of the reasons I wanted you to be here is so that many of these vultures will see that Saya is off the market,” she grinned. “Having a strapping young man at her side will deter all but the most foolhardy of admirers.”
“And he can beat up the fool hardy ones,” Saya crowed.
“No, I can’t,” Takashi told her. “That would be. . .bad.”
“Indeed it would,” Yuriko nodded. “However, there are certain. . .issues, we’ll call them, that cannot be allowed to ‘slide’, as the term goes. Any insult to Saya’s honor must be refuted.”
“It will be,” Takashi said flatly, and Yuriko suppressed a smile as her hoped for son-in-law bared his fangs for an instant. Yes, he would do nicely.
“The mere fact that you are a student of the Busujima dojo will likely deter even the foolish ones,” she assured them both.
“How will they know something like that?” Takashi asked.
“Why, I’ll tell them of course.”
“You look very handsome,” Saya told him as she straightened his tie.
“You look magnificent,” he replied and she blushed. Her white gown fell off her shoulder slightly, baring a bit more cleavage than he was comfortable with her showing but well within social norms and fully in style.
“Thank you, baka,” she kissed him lightly to avoid getting make up on him. “Remember, just be the strong silent type and you’ll do fine.”
“I will,” he promised.
The guests began arriving soon after and Saya went to join her parents at the door. He hadn’t known what to think about Yuriko’s declaration concerning ‘suitors’, but as more and more guests arrived, he began to see what she meant.
It seemed that every family with a son made sure to spend all of their introduction time expounding that son’s qualities. Several of the sons tries to be chummy with Saya, but her coldly beautiful face never cracked more than a small smile for each introduction. She was properly polite, but nothing more.
Finally all the guests seemed to have arrived and Saya was able to join him in his standing around.
“I’m sorry,” she told him softly.
“For what?” he looked at her, puzzled.
“That you have to do this.”
“I don’t have to do this, Saya, I get to do this. With you,” he emphasized. She blushed beautifully at that and hugged his arm closer to her, all she could do to show affection in this setting.
Yuriko had done her work well it seemed. While Takashi did indeed receive many nasty looks and a few outright hostile stares, no one approached him concerning his literal attachment to ‘Lady Saya’. One or two looked as if they really wanted to, but parents who could recognize a lost cause prevented any of them from approaching.
That didn’t stop some of the more lecherous older men from ogling Saya’s form as she made her way through the crowd to him, though, and Takashi found himself memorizing every face of those who did.
Just to give him something to do, he promised himself.
When it came time to eat, he escorted Saya into dinner on his arm, just as Yuriko had shown him, and seated her before taking his own seat. He ate carefully, and the two of them shared small, quiet moments of conversation as the others around them droned on about politics, the economy, the foreign markets and governments, the list was endless, but extremely boring.
With dinner over, Yuriko gave Takashi a subtle nod of her head, and he rose, offering Saya his arm. She smiled, took it, and stood. Wishing everyone a pleasant evening, she allowed Takashi to walk her out. As soon as they were out of the dining room and the door closed, they raced upstairs to change. Fifteen minutes later they were on the balcony of her bedroom, looking at the activity below. The lights were off behind them, making them very hard to see.
“I really am sorry you had to do this,” she said again.
“Stop that,” Takashi told her, hugging her closer to him. “I would do anything for you, and you should know that by now.”
“I do,” she promised. “I just. . .I don’t want all this to make you uncomfortable around me,” she admitted.
“It doesn’t,” he assured her. “Not at all. Okay, the tux is a bit uncomfortable,” he admitted. “But that’s just a suit,” he grinned as she slapped his arm.
“Thank you, my baka,” she almost whispered. “I love you.”
“I love you too, my honey badger,” he whispered back, kissing her lightly.
The two sat there well into the night.