Sangwoo: *knocks on the bathroom stall door* open the door Bum. YoonBum: NO! Sangwoo: You lockin doors Bum!? *starts pounding and kicking the door endlessly* U LOCKIN DOORS BUM !?!?! U LOCKIN DOORS!?!? YoonBum: * S C R E E C H E S * (It's from a vine lol)
Mai squinted at her reflection in the mirror and sighed heavily at the sight of the darker hue coloring the tender skin under her eyes. She pinched her cheeks and bit her lips lightly with the hope to replace their paleness with a suitable rosy colour, but the outcome didn't meet her expectations. Only a good dreamless night of sleep could repair her damaged complexion, but that had been a luxury recently.
In the last few days, every time she had let her head hit her pillow she had felt herself thrown back into these sunny flowery hills and this weird stone circle, the immovable silhouette of Naru -or the smiling version of him- waiting for her. Every night they had strolled in the fields and stopped at the highest hilltop to admire the scenery. She had seen it so many times now that she would be able to draw it in its tiniest details: a particularly large patch of poppies south, a small village and its grey church in the distance, the dusty road snaking around the hills, the little lake shimmering under the sun that Naru kept looking at in sorrow…
She couldn't understand why she was having this particular delusion, but her mind seemed determined to metamorphose the cold and sarcastic gentleman she knew into a nice, compassionate and melancholic person. In her dreams he always kept silent, but the gentleness of his gaze and the softness of his smile was enough to make her heart flutter and her resolution waver. Despite her vow not to succumb to his charm she had caught herself more than once wishing she'd see that beautiful smile on the real one…
Well, she had seen it, she recalled sourly, and even if it had only happened once the sight was engraved in her mind as if with a branding iron. Maybe that infernal smile was the cause of her recurrent night fantasy. It was all Shibuya's fault, her growing exhaustion or the ridiculous habit to wear her dressing gown in bed, which she had developed to avoid the mortification of being in a compromising state of dress in the presence of a gentleman, be it a dream or not. That infuriating Naru had been the source of too many headaches, she decided. But that smile, and the sadness that creeped sometimes in his gaze…
She shook her head meekly as to dispel any thoughts of him, and lazily spared her mirror a last glance to ensure her hair still was correctly arranged. Suddenly she froze in shock, and for a second she thought she was having an epiphany. The identical face smiling at her on the glass tickled the back of her mind furiously, but whatever luminous revelation it had been, it had faded almost instantly, slipping inexorably through her fingers, leaving her with this awful feeling of having something of the utmost importance on the tip of her tongue. She stared at her reflection for a minute or so, hoping it would trigger something again. But the moment was definitely lost, and nothing happened.
Fighting a surge of disappointment and frustration, she resigned herself to leave her bedroom to join the family downstairs.
After an uneventful breakfast the ladies gathered in the morning room, waiting for Takigawa's visit. The clergyman had come every day of the week prior to spend some time with his cousin, and Mai had rapidly grown fond of the gentleman. Masako, on the other hand, still opposed to his cheerful manners a rather cold and distant behaviour, but after her friend had told her how highly she thought of the man the dark-haired girl had started to mellow a little.
Lady Hara, on the contrary, was completely and utterly mesmerized by the man and his flirtatious flattery. Mai had never seen the old woman so civil and cordial, or her mood so bright. She hadn't even commented on her awful complexion this very morning! The young orphan was fairly certain that her cousin's cajolery toward her foster mother was his way of buying the lady's good disposition so that she could benefit from it. And each time the gentleman proffered an outrageously fake compliment to the mistress of the house, while Masako was cringing or barely restraining a roll of her eyes, Mai felt a surge of gratefulness for the clever and generous cousin who put her well-being above his ridicule.
The younger ladies were occupying themselves with embroidery work while their mother was reading out loud a book of sermons -a passion she had conveniently developed after meeting a certain clergyman- when they had the surprise to hear the recognizable voice of Ayako speaking to the maid in the vestibule.
"Ayako!" greeted Mai with unbridled enthusiasm, letting her half-embroidered fabric fall to the floor in her haste to welcome her friend. "It has been so long since we last saw you!"
"Indeed," replied Ayako, who smiled affectionally when she saw the brown-haired girl stumble clumsily before her. "We have not seen each other since the ball. I came with the hope to spend the day with you and keep you girls informed about the latest gossip! Lady Hara," she greeted with cold politeness, "I hope you will not mind my borrowing Mai and Masako for a little trip to Merryton."
"I would not have in different circumstances, however we very unfortunately have another visit already planned," replied the old lady with a tone that demented any sincere regret on her part. Her jealousy toward the Matsuzakis reflected into the unhealthy pleasure she took to oppose a refusal to the elegant and overly confident Ayako. "Mr Takigawa should arrive any minute now."
"Takigawa? I do not remember having the pleasure to hear about this gentleman?"
"He is a new acquaintance of ours. A very refined gentleman, with excellent taste," gloated the old woman.
"We met him very recently, he happens to be Mai's distant cousin," specified Masako while picking her sister's embroidery off the floor and setting it securely on the nearby console.
Ayako looked fairly astonished by the news, her eyebrows quirked in an interrogative expression.
"I was not aware you had any family left," she addressed her friend rather tactlessly. Realizing how insensitive the statement sounded, she hastily amended more gently. "I mean, it must have come as a surprise to you."
"It did," confirmed Mai . "But I am quite fond of my new cousin, so everything is for the best," she smiled.
"That is nice to hear," replied Ayako sincerely. "Well, I will take my leave now. I am very sorry to have come at such an inopportune moment, it certainly did not was my intention to intrude on a family reunion. I suppose we will soon find a more suitable occasion to see each other."
"Nonsense!" objected Mai. "You are absolutely welcome to stay, I would be more than happy to introduce my cousin to one of my dearest friends. And a little walk to Merryton sounds like a nice distraction, I am certain Takigawa will agree to join our little party."
Lady Hara looked nothing too pleased by the perspective of Ayako staying, but she couldn't possibly deny her foster daughter's right to present a family member to a friend. So she reluctantly grunted her approval.
"In that case, I will take upon your offer."
The auburn-haired woman immediately took place on a sofa and waited expectantly, obviously thrilled to meet another potential gossip subject. She didn't have to bear with her curiosity for too long since Takigawa made his appearance only a few minutes after.
Mai breathed in relief when her cousin entered the morning room: his attire was a lot more conservative than usual, and she had to admit that despite his goofy grin he was rather handsome. The gentleman performed his social duty by greeting the ladies of the house, his eyes narrowing in undisguised interest when they fell upon Ayako. After the required introduction the clergyman smiled charmingly to his new acquaintance and fell into his sycophantic ways immediately.
"Each time I enter this house I realize it holds the most charming creatures. What a lovely surprise to see their number has increased."
Lady Hara simpered in delight and batted her eyelashes, to Masako's utmost mortification. To spare her sister's pride and prevent any more foolish behavior from her mother, Mai promptly suggested that her her cousin should join their group for a little trip to Merryton.
"My fair cousin, nothing could agree me more than walking in such enchanting company. Moreover, I would gladly follow you to the other end of the Empire if that was your wish."
This time it was Mai's turn to blush in embarrassment before such an unabashed statement. Masako groaned audibly and Ayako had to cough to hide her reprobation before this evident attempt at flirting. To put an end to the uncomfortable silence that ensued the young orphan bid goodbye to her mother and hurriedly headed outdoors, the rest of their little crew following soon after.
"We should follow this path," indicated the cinnamon-eyed girl, pointing to a small country lane. "The apple trees along the road are in bloom, the sight is most pretty."
"Certainly not as pretty as you," promptly offered the gentleman. "Please lead the way, your enjoyment shall be my only compass and guide."
"Mr Takigawa, you seem to be well versed in the art of pleasing a woman's heart. May I ask if you think of these inspired comments in advance, or if they come to you on the spur of the moment?" asked Ayako with false ingenuity.
Masako's lips twitched upward suspiciously as she pretended to watch with great interest a cherry tree, while her sister slowed her pace significantly to stare wide-eyed at her sophisticated friend. The latter's statement earned the complete attention of Takigawa who didn't appear much deterred. If anything, amusement shone for a fleeting second into his brown gaze before he schooled his features into a mask of innocence.
"I have no merit celebrating youth and beauty, their mere presence should suffice to inspire any gentleman a gracious comment. However," he added, staring at Ayako intently, "I must admit that pleasing those whose freshness and assets have already wilted sometimes necessitates some preparation beforehand."
The auburn-haired woman emitted a strangled sound and blushed furiously, eyes shining with a murderous gleam. She was wealthy, handsome and witty, but also almost twenty six years old. And her drawing near the limit of suitable marriage age was an extremely sensitive topic. Mai immediately regretted having insisted on her meeting Takigawa: her friend had obviously started the hostilities, but her cousin had strung a dangerous chord. Ayako was widely known for her sharp tongue, and she feared the argument would escalate into some irreparable offense.
"Oh, but I am certain you could have many occasions to polish your skills," she seethed. "I highly suggest a mirror as your training partner."
"I have taken careful note of your advice, miss Matsuzaki, but I assure you there is no need to worry on my account. I have now plenty of material to work on."
"That is a relief. There is no doubt you are in dire need of such a competence, seeing as your fashion taste may attract more old matrons than elegant maidens. Did no one tell you that ponytails are out of date since decades ago?"
"That is extremely kind of you to share your knowledge about the previous decades' fashion with me. Should I suppose that you got such information firsthand?"
Ayako spluttered indignantly, her whole being vibrating from irritation, a dangerous fire lit in her brown eyes. Meanwhile, the clergyman's smug look was telling that the man felt he was up to the challenge. Mai and Masako send each other worried glances, not daring interrupt the heated verbal sparring, in spite of dreading its potential consequences.
Changing tactics, the lady opted for a more physical retaliation. She angled her closed parasol so that it blocked the gentleman's path, and the latter, too busy savoring his apparent victory, didn't notice it before his legs were effectively trapped by the elegant device. That made him lose his balance and after a rather unmanly yelp he fell face first onto the dusty road.
"How clumsy of me! Let me help you…oops!" said a remorseless Ayako, letting her purse fall heavily onto the back of Takigawa's head.
The two sisters were torn between laughing hysterically at this strange scene and showing some sympathy for the offended gentleman. They tacitly decided that staying out of the whole ordeal was the sagest position to adopt.
Mai's cousin ignored Ayako's helping hand, got up and sent her a vicious look, clutching his head with a pained frown.
"Shall I ask what exactly is kept in that purse of yours? I could swear it is filled with lead!"
"Mister Takigawa!" the auburn-haired woman exclaimed in fake outrage. "How bold of you to ask a lady to reveal the content of her purse! However, I am feeling generous enough to enlighten you. I simply carry coins, otherwise called money. Could it be that it is something you are not familiar with?"
The gentleman cursed under his breath and dusted his coat, but didn't reply, retroceding Ayako the upper hand. Satisfied, the lady smiled demurely.
"I hope you will not hold my clumsiness and this regrettable incident against me."
"Of course not," was the sarcastic reply. "Such an unfortunate chain of events was clearly beyond your control."
"What a relief! As you are the one and only family member of my dearest friend I would be devastated to lose your good opinion," she added almost warningly. As harsh as she could be, she was also very protective of Mai, and was letting the man know that dealing with the young orphan meant dealing with her, too.
"As long as I do not lose yours," bowed the gentleman, the ghost of a smile on his lips.
Masako took advantage of the momentary truce to divert their attention from the previous argument as the little city came into view.
"Ah, we are almost arrived at our destination. Have you ever been to Merryton, Mr Takigawa?"
"Not really. I only passed through the day of my arrival. But it seems to be a merry little town!"
The ladies cringed at the overused pun, but the mood undoubtedly took a lighter turn thanks to the clergyman's sense of humour. They were discussing what shop to visit first when a sweet but heavily accented voice rose at some distance behind them.
"Takigawa, fancy seeing you here!"
A short and juvenile-looking silhouette emerged from the crowded street, waving his hat energetically, blond hair shining under the sun.
"Brown!" replied the gentleman cheerfully. "What a great coincidence!"
At the very same moment Mai caught sight of Shibuya and Yasuhara riding horses down the street. She turned to the rest of the party to notify their arrival, but the words froze in her throat.
Without warning, Masako fainted.
AN: Sorry for the delay, life kinda got in the way. I hope you liked Monk and Ayako sparring, in any case I had much fun writing it. Next we will focus a bit more on John, because I love him and can’t leave him out of this story. A la prochaine!
I was heading down to Broadway about bought a record called “Little Shirley Beans" of course I got it for Old Phoebe. Later then I went to go meet up Sally at the Biltmore Hotel, although she arrived late she looked attractive. Sally then irritated me once we got to the ice skating arena she began to flirt with others. She then was angry and I left without her.
One more reason to glory in your coming demise.
Badass. I am so glad he keeps on getting his due. The more Lan the better, imo.
>.< yakumo love.~~