Bitter & Sweet

Bitter & Sweet

Happy birthday, Goro!

 

 

Just as with every morning, the alarm started it symphony of high-pitched beeping at exactly 5:25.  Unlike every morning, a hand reached out from under the thin blanket and slammed down on the snooze button.  

It then slid back under the blanket cocoon, pulling it ever tighter around the occupant.

Fuck today.  And fuck his agent for booking him on a morning news program today.  If Goro Akechi thought the detective prince’s reputation could survive the break in character, he would gladly bail on the whole thing.  

The best thing to do with today was ignore the whole damned world.

Goro curled up all the tighter.  He liked playing the detective prince.  He liked solving puzzles, and he adored being the center of attention.  Unfortunately, center of attention also meant putting up with idiots and their repetitive asinine questions every fucking day.  

Worse, a magazine profile including his birthday, which he had never divulged, but had instead been “leaked” by his cretinous agent, had just hit the stands last week.  Nowhere near enough time for people to forget about it.

The alarm’s irksome beeps sounded once more.

One swipe of his arm sent the clock halfway across his apartment.  The resulting crash as it hit his clothes rack sounded louder than the original beeps.

Guess that meant it was time to crawl out of bed.  He’d feel better if he had time for a run anyway.

Goro growled, wiggling his way free of the thin blanket.

Even nestled back in a quiet neighborhood, he had to get in character before heading out.  Presentable and cleaned up, but with a little bit of bedhead remaining so it didn’t look like he worked on it too hard.  If someone recognized him, he had to be exactly who they expected.

Goro had long since mastered adapting his voice to sound like a sweetie, but it had taken him a long time to get his phone set up perfectly too, allowing him to switch between things he actually enjoyed and things he was supposed to enjoy.

For instance, whenever asked what he listened to during workouts, he always answered with something energetic and popular with the girls.  Given his own preferences though, he preferred to listen to audiobooks, both fictional and nonfiction. Most of the nonfiction was in Japanese, but he listened to quite a few novels in English.  He liked being able to read and listen to them in their own language when he could, and held top ranks in his English assessments, well above a typical high schooler.

He set his phone to play a reading of “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”.  It felt appropriate today, one of a small handful of gifts from throughout his life.

For a moment, Goro stood still.  The kid who had given it to him, who had silently listened to it beside him and accepted him into his space, had died before graduating high school.

He’d snuck on a train to attend the funeral.  There he’d seen the loner’s grave, surrounded by newfound friends.  

Goro’s hands tensed.  That was when he had decided that living in an institution simply wasn’t worth it, no matter the alternative.  

He jabbed his phone to set it so he could quickly switch to boring pop music if need be.  He then rushed out the door, wanting to run until it made sense why his chest hurt.

 

 

 

Ren Amamiya rolled the spoon around his mouth, making sure to savor every bit of curry.  Sojiro hadn’t come into Leblanc yet, so Ren had just grabbed some leftovers from the fridge.  

On the plus side, it meant Morgana could sit on a stool next to him.  

“We should watch the news for any info on Madarame,” the not-cat suggested.  

Ren silently switched on the television, grabbing another spoonful of curry in the process.  Good thing he liked curry or he would have starved already.

“Oh, it’s that detective.”

Ren looked up from his delicious curry to see the detective who had come into Leblanc shortly after the Kamoshida incident sitting across from a morning news host.  

Maybe it was just make-up and lights, but Goro Akechi looked really different to him.  The smile which had seemed so easy in Leblanc now felt forced.

Did interviews make him nervous?

“Now, Akechi-kun, talking about your work as a detective and how you balance that with school is always fascinating, but I think we both know what the audience really wants today.”

“I’m afraid I haven’t had the time to properly interview them all yet,” Akechi answered, beaming a bright smile out at the crowd.

More than one audience member screamed out his name.

“He’s not so great,” Morgana grumbled.  

Ren clamped his mouth around his spoon.  He recognized that they had spoken all of once, but he felt a definite draw to the young detective.  He certainly wanted to speak to him again at least.

“Come now, Akechi-kun.  Are so busy you forgot your own birthday?”

It happened so fast, Ren wasn’t entirely sure he had seen it, but he felt he saw Akechi twitch, right side of his mouth attempting something beside a smile before the young man reeled it into the expected elation.  

“Is it?  I’m afraid these things do sometimes pass me by.”  He moved his hand behind his head and chuckled in apparent bashfulness, but not before Ren noticed how tense it had gotten.  

“You saw it too, right?  Our star detective has a crack.”

“Imagine that?  A genius detective forgetting his own birthday.”

“I suppose it’s a good thing I have all of you helping me keep track then.”

More squealing girls.

“Well, I thought we could take this questions to ask some birthday themed questions.”

“Go right ahead.”

“Yeah,” Ren muttered.  The response felt off, and in an unpleasant way.  He clearly didn’t want to talk about this.

“Alright, we’ll start with a classic then.  What’s the best birthday gift you’ve ever gotten?”

“I have to say it’s the opportunity to talk to all of you.”

“Now, now, you’re the gift to us.”

“Thank you, very much, but truly, the opportunities I have right now…they’re a truly amazing gift.”

“Wow, how do we follow that one up?”

“You don’t,” Ren muttered, “that’s the point.”  He knew deflection when he heard it.

“How about as a kid?  Any toy or book you remember fondly?  Maybe a family trip?”

Akechi opened his mouth slightly, but then simply shook his head.  “Not particularly.”

Ren stared at the television.  This time, he definitely saw irritation overlaid with sadness.  

It seemed the interviewer caught it too.

“My apologies.  I didn’t realize this was a sensitive topic.”

“Oh no, it’s quite fine.  I simply don’t think back that far very often.  High school and detective work are both rather all consuming.”

“Once more too busy, huh?”

“Indeed.”

“Hmm, it’s not much to go on, but it’s still solid intel if we have to deal with him.”

“Morgana,” Ren chided.  

“Phantom thieves must always prepare to face off against the detective.”

Ren nodded slightly, returning his attention to the TV just in time to catch Akechi bow out.

The sound of a key rattling in a lock turned his attention to the door.  Morgana dove into his school bag just in time for Sojiro to walk in.

 

 

Goro stood outside of the small cafe, wondering if he should really go in.  It looked rather empty, and the owner had rushed out just a moment ago, supposedly to go grab something.  

Or check in on his shut-in adopted daughter.  He didn’t know the full details on that, but her name, “Futaba” constantly nagged at the back of his head.

Now wasn’t the time to dwell on that.  

The cafe did say it was open.  And nearly empty suited him. He had come here for a quiet place to sit after all.  

Goro walked in, bell above the door jingling softly.  Not surprisingly no one greeted him at first, but he heard the sound of someone washing dishes.  

“Sorry for the intrusion,” he called out.  

The black haired kid he’d met before walked out from the small kitchen in the back.  “Sorry about that.” He then stopped, still hands paused in the act of wiping water off his hands.

“Is something the matter?”

He shook his head.  “Have a seat.”

“Thank you.”  Goro took his seat at the bar, the black haired kid moving behind it.

“I’m not as good as Sojiro, but would you like some coffee?”

“That would be lovely.”  Whatever. He did legitimately like the coffee here, but just the two of them felt nice.  Maybe it was because this kid was about his own age.

“My name’s Ren Amamiya.”

Heh?  Why had he suddenly introduced himself like that?

The other boy, Ren, carefully watched the water boil.  Not much for exposition, was he? Unsure what else to do, Goro pulled out his book.  

“New book.”

Goro looked up.  Ren eyed the mugs on the wall.  

“You were reading something with Arsne Lupin last time.”

Ah.  “Ah, yes.  I finished that and have moved on to The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie.”

“Is it good?”

“So far, quite a lot.  It’s very intriguing the way she plays with perspective.”

When was the last time someone had actually asked about what he was reading?  Goro took great pride in his ability to absorb information from books, not to mention reading complicated novels in English.  

Ren pulled down a rather large mug, certainly larger than the servings usually came in.  

“Have you ever read a Christie novel?”

“No, but I thought the Lupin one you were reading last time seemed interesting.”  

Ren moved back to the small kitchen area.  What was he doing? Goro could hear a fridge door open and close.  A little bit later, Ren brought out the mug again.

He checked on the coffee.  “I was hoping you’d come in today.”

“And why is that?”

Ren placed the coffee filter over the mug.  “I saw your interview this morning.”

Shit.  The last thing Goro wanted to talk about was his abhorrent interview.

Ren poured out the hot water.  Then, without saying a word, he pulled out a small candle from his apron.

What the hell?

He then lit it and set it…in the coffee?  The top of it stood out of the cup, flickering gently.

Ren carefully laid it on the counter.  Peering in, Goro could see why the candle stuck up.  Ren had embedded it in a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

“Happy birthday.”

What the hell?  Goro stared at the flickering candle, worried that if he moved something would show on his face.

This didn’t make any sense.

Goro slowly turned his head up to look at Ren.  Seeing the other teen quietly watching him, no judgment and no expectation on his face and just waiting for whatever came next, forced his curiosity.

“Why?”  He tried to keep his voice neutral, just a bit of curiosity, but he felt it crack a little.  He couldn’t quite tell if it was only the confusion or a bit of something else.

Ren shrugged.  “Just seemed right.”

Right?  But…

“You seemed upset on the interview.  Thought, ice cream and coffee might help.  Should probably blow out the candle before too much wax melts though.”

Yeah.  Goro leaned over it slightly.

“Make a wish.”

He only really had one wish.  Right now though, a different wish felt appropriate.  Silently, he wished to get to know Ren Amamiya better, simply for the sake of it.  

A quick puff extinguished the small flame.  Goro gingerly pulled the candle out. He held it across the counter.  

Ren took it back with a smile.  “Make a good wish?”

Goro placed a finger over his lips.  “It’s a secret.”

“You’re smiling.”

“Well, next time they ask about my favorite gift,” he raised the coffee mug in a toast, “I’ll have an answer.”

He took a sip.  Ren was right, his coffee wasn’t as good as the owner’s, but it was still above average and he had clearly bought fairly high quality ice cream too.  

“How’d it come out?”

Maybe it wasn’t the best coffee or the best ice cream but, “It’s perfect.  Thank you.”

“Good.  Boss would kick me out if I served bad coffee.”

“Heh.  How much do I owe?”

Ren shook his head.  “A gift, remember?”

A good opportunity to pry more into why he was doing this.  “Didn’t take you for a fan.”

“I’m not.”

Goro stared at him.

“That interview is the first time I saw you on television,” Ren explained.

Not helpful.  Perhaps this individual required a more direct approach.  “Then why?”

“I told you.”

Because he seemed upset?  That didn’t make sense. You didn’t do something just because someone…

Goro buried his face in his hand.  He needed time to think. This didn’t make any bloody sense.  You didn’t just… No one had ever… And this guy didn’t even know him, either the real him or the celebrity.  He saw movement out the corner of his eyes; Ren cleaning up the coffee grains.

His left hand clenched the mug.  Who was this guy to get him so riled up over something so trivial?  

More movement.

Ren sat down on the stool beside him.  “Mind if I taste my own handiwork?”

His voice jolted Goro out of it.  “No. Of course.”

Ren reached out for the mug.  His hand touched Goro’s arm, the dangers of a of a lefty and a righty sitting next to each other.  The sudden contact caused Goro to recoil.

Ren took a sip.  “Good. I worried you were just being polite.”  He handed the mug back. Goro took it with both hands this time.  

He then took a nice long drink, letting them both sit in silence.  

The door jingled.

“What are you doing?”

Ah, the owner.  

“Helping a customer,” Ren replied.  

Goro put down his mug.  “He might even get better than you one day.”

That seemed to take the man aback.  Good. At least someone here responded like a normal person.  

“That will take a while,” Ren joked, moving back behind the counter.

Goro let them work while he finished his drink.  He didn’t feel like talking too much with Sojiro around.  Besides, he had come for quite, not conversation.

A few more pages of his book and he had the drink done.  He slid it forward, making sure Ren saw it first. “Thank you for the drink.”

He stood up to go.  He wanted to talk to Ren more.  To figure out what was going on inside the other teen’s head, but he wasn’t quite sure how to continue.

Hadn’t he said the Arsene book looked interesting?  Perhaps that would make a good in.

“Amamiya-san?”

Ren looked up.

“Would you like to borrow my Arsene Lupin books?”

“You have multiple?”

“I have all of the ones published in Japanese,” Goro confirmed.  

Ren smiled.  

“What is it?”

“Just surprised you’d read about phantom thieves.”

“I like mysteries, in all their forms.  From the genre itself to detective stories and the criminals they face.”

“You must read a lot.”

“There is no shortage.”  And yes, he did read a lot.  It was cheap, yet seen as dignified, and something you could do on your own.  The perfect entertainment, really.

“I’d like that.”

“I’ll bring a book by next time then.”

“I look forward to it.”  

Goro smiled, waved goodbye, and headed out of the cafe.  His smile even stayed on after he was out of sight. For once, he actually felt content.  

Something about Ren reminded him of the teen who had given him the audiobook for The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood all those years ago.  He felt like someone he could just sit in a room with and do his own thing. Someone he could spend time with in quiet companionship.

It didn’t hurt that he was cute either.

Goro brought his book close to his chest.  It seemed too much to hope for and yet his own delusional nature kept such a wish on his mind the whole way home.    

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2018 Prompt 01

I thought it would be fun to start writing session with a somewhat random prompt, so you can expect a lot of this throughout the year.

My first prompt is: You’re enjoying making sand castles at the beach, when the ocean waves wash up a message in a bottle.  You pull out the message: What does it say?

Anonymous

This is not a plea for help.  It’s a confession.  I don’t think I’ll survive, but if I do, then I don’t want anyone to know.  Maybe if it’s anonymous, you just won’t believe me.  If I’m dead, I need you to believe me.  If I’m alive, I hope you think this is a joke.

It happened in a hot summer, when days are longest.  When nights are short, but shadows long.

Maybe it won’t surprise, but it happened on a boat.  Just out with some friends watching for whales.  When we didn’t see any, we decided to go ahead and check under the water.  I put on my dive gear and leap into the icy water, my

It doesn’t matter now.

We didn’t expect to find anything.  Hoped for a whale or dolphins, maybe some nice fish, but that’s it.  It’s hard to image that no one else has ever been here.  Hard to image that we’re it.

Then again, the ocean is vast.  The last frontier.  Still more to it than we can imagine.  That’s why I liked diving.

I didn’t realize how outside my imagination it would really be.  Or maybe, not so much outside my imagination as outside my reality.

A little hole.  My dive buddy signaled he wanted to go in.  You don’t see things like that in the middle of the ocean, but he wanted down.  I stayed outside.

Five minutes he signaled.  Tops.

When the others came by, I gestured to them that he had gone down.  He did stupid stuff all the time.

Even going down a hole for longer than he had said.  I went down after him.

Gotta keep it short. Gotta tell you everything.

He wasn’t stuck.  Something drug him down.  I found his tank at the bottom, bit of wet suit clinging to the straps.

A tunnel.  Circular but not.  A circle not at 360 degrees.  I don’t know how else to describe it, but that’s what it felt like.

Something moving in the gloom.  So little light.

Grab the tank.  Try to swim up.  A clawed, webbed, hand reaches around me.

Rips regulator and part of my lips off my face.  I barely manage not to gasp.

The salt in the wound still hurts.

I spun in the water.  Not a good look.  Enough.  My friend stared back at me with bulging eyes and sharp teeth.  Gills under the dive suit.

I kicked him and swam.  Grab emergency regulator and just go up.  Don’t care about the sickness.  Just up.

Fins ripped to shreds.  Dive suit torn open.  Blood on my lips, down my legs.

Grab my arms.  Stomach clenching, lungs want to pop.

A bit.  Shark teeth in a human mouth.  Reach for the light.

Break the surface screaming.  Their screaming stopped.

Sitting in the decompression chamber, and their screaming stopped.  Tossed me in, started screaming soon after.

Sound of gnashing teeth.

Just gonna make a break.  Get this out.  There’s something in the water.  And there’s more than one.  Something here.

It’s knocking on the door.

 

Author’s Note:  Okay, so I was ready to end that.  I’ve been thinking for a while how Lovecraft’s impossible angles would work though, and my thought was simply a world where the rules of mathematics are either different or, more terrifying, constantly changing.  I feel like our brains would try to translate it into something we know, but the feeling of not quite right would linger.  Like, how are those angles all obtuse?  A circle would probably be the least changed since it’s a loop, but I’m not enough of a topologist to know for sure.

 

 

 

First Laughter

First Laughter

Author’s Note: This is a sequel to Mistletoe, seeking to further explore the relationship between Akira and Akechi as they go into the New Year.  Happy New Year!

If you have not read Mistletoe before reading this, it goes into how Akira found Goro.  This story is post-game and thus Akechi spoiler land by default.

 

 

“White,” the young man muttered, peering out of the small apartment window.  A sudden influx of tourists, not too surprising really, had forced him to delay a trip to Tokyo and stay in Sapparo for the New Year.  Looking at the unfamiliar world of freshly fallen snow it felt appropriate.  He had died in Tokyo.

Not the place to usher in a new year.

It was here, in this world of white, where he’d been found.

Arms wrapped around his waist, pulling him back into bed.

“Ughkira,” he grunted.

A disgruntled mreow, and a cat leapt past him to settle on the desk.  “What are you doing?”

“Snuggling,” came the muffled reply.

“And I had just gotten comfy,” the cat grumbled.  He licked a paw to wash his face.

“I’m not going anywhere,” promised the young man.  He stroked Akira’s hair, reaching around awkwardly to get at it.

The arms reached higher, embracing him in a tight hug.

The young man, Goro, patted Akira’s hands.  “It’s a new year.”

Grumble.

“We should spend the day together.”

Grumble again.

“It’s been a long time since I spent New Year’s with someone.”

The hug grew tighter.

“Do you know how to get to Hokkaido Shrine?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Why don’t we make a visit?  It’s still early enough.  We can visit the shrine and get to the cafe with plenty of time.”

The same influx of tourists which had filled up the trains had convinced the cafe owner where Akira, and now Goro, worked to open on New Years.  After all, what could be better on a snowy day than a fresh cup of coffee or tea?

Akira moved his chin up to rest on Goro’s shoulder.  “You want to?”

“With you,” Goro clarified.

The cat, Morgana, began coughing.

Both young men looked at him.

“Sorry, though I’d hack a furrball.”

“Maybe we should get you some medication for that,” Akira offered.

Catching on, Goro added, “You do seem to cough a lot.  Perhaps a trip to the vet is even in order.”

“It’s recent too,” continued Akira. “I think he’s really gotten sick.”

“Hey, hey, hey!  I am not sick, and I certainly don’t need a vet.”  Morgana looked away.  “Just a bit much sugar,” he muttered.

Akira rubbed his cheek against Goro’s.  “Just enough,” he corrected.

Morgana hopped onto the window.  He and Akira had lived in this apartment long enough that they’d figured out a way for the cat to open the window from the inside.  Knowledge he now fully intended to use.

“Going out?” inquired Goro.  Morgana had barely given the two a moment alone in the slightly over a week he’d been there.

“I’ll meet you two at the cafe.”  The black and white cat opened up the window.

“Your scarf,” Akira reminded him.

“No need,” huffed the cat, hopping outside.

Goro freed himself to close the window.  “He’s going to follow me.”

“Probably,” Akira admitted.  He rolled out of bed.  “Guess we should bring his scarf for when he gets cold.”  He moved over to his small dresser.  Hanging on the side were three scarves.  One small yellow scarf with red hearts, and a full sized red scarf with yellow hearts hung together.  Haru had made them for him and Morgana when he’d told her they were moving to Hokkaido for college.

A red and black scarf, thicker than the homemade pair,  hung on a separate hook.  Akira had gotten it shortly after rescuing Goro from the cognitive world.

On a similar note, two coats vied for space on the tiny rack by the door.

Akira had succeeded in explaing to his landlord that he simply had a guest for the holidays, but the apartment was definitely meant for one.  He’d already managed to talk his landlord into letting him keep Morgana without charging more than a base deposit and didn’t exactly have a ton more goodwill to work off of either.

Life would have been a lot harder if he weren’t so darned debonair.

Akira looked at the small mirror on his dresser, a grain playing across his face.

“Reveling in narcissism again?”

“Is it narcissism if you’re really that good?”

Goro leaned over his shoulder.  “You needn’t remind yourself of your excellence.  I’m quite capable of completing that mission myself.”  His lips curled into a thin smile.

Akira still hadn’t gotten used to the sight of smiles reaching Goro’s eyes.  They seemed so much brighter than he remembered them.  He’d seen signs of it while living in Tokyo, a glint in the back of his eyes, or a warm pride, but never had Goro Akechi truly opened up to him before now.

Never before had a mischievous side caused them to sparkle.  And they had certainly never appeared quite so warm.

They had both seen each other’s dark sides now.  Nothing more to hide.

“Suddenly I don’t feel so hasty,” Goro admitted.

“Do I have to play villain who pulls us outside now?”

Goro backed off.  “Hardly.  You’re just blocking the dresser.”

Akira flung open the small wardrobe beside the dresser.  “All your clothes are hung in there, remember?”

“And yet I still find myself requiring access to the dresser.”

Shaking his head, Akira opened up the dresser.  A quick moment of digging and he threw a pair of underwear and socks to his roommate.

“Thank you.”

Akira spun around.  “Guess we have to get dressed now.”

“Indeed.”

Their first time together without Morgana, and neither knew quite how to proceed.  Should they just leave?  Or, perhaps, there was something else?

Goro grabbed his pants, long-sleeved shirt, and sweater vest out of the closet.

Guess that answered that.  Akira turned around to grab some of his winter clothes too.

 


 

Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year, could get crazy, and seeing as they hadn’t arrived all that early, the shrine grounds looked more like a sea of people than a place for worship and introspection.  Akira and Goro melded in with the mob generally moving up to the shrine.

Akira rubbed his gloved hands together to keep them warm.  Without Morgana on his shoulders he felt abnormally cold.

“Anything I can do to help?” Goro offered, holding out a hand.

Akira graciously took it.  Goro had gloves on as well, but neither of their gloves were particularly thick and some heat still made it through.

He shoved his other hand into his coat pocket.  “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Goro replied, glancing around at the people around them.

In such a mob very few people even noticed the two guys holding hands.  A few did a double-take, but no one looked too askance.  New Year’s wasn’t an uncommon time for romance and hand holding, so at least the general attitude towards signs of affection didn’t cause too many issues.

“Don’t worry what they think,” Akira whispered into Goro’s ear.

“A hard habit to break, I’m afraid.”

Akira scooted even closer.  “You’ll get it,” he promised.

“A New Year’s Resolution, perhaps?”

“Could be.”

“And yours?”

“Hmmm.”  Akira squeezed Goro’s hand tightly.  “I think I’ll just wish for a good year…”

Goro turned away.  “Seems simple enough for you.”  He spoke sharply, a reminder of the jealousy and anger he had displayed when battling the Phantom Thieves.

“…together,” Akira finished.  “I’m selfish, remember?”

“Very,” Goro replied dryly. He did manage to look back at Akira though, so it was good enough.

They slowly oozed forward with the mob, until their turn to take the steps to the shrine came.  Akira slid a five hundred yen coin into Goro’s hand.

“Let’s make our wishes come true.”

They ascended the steps together.  Stood beside the offering box together.  Tossed in their coins together.  Bowed together.

Clapped twice, and held their hands there, thinking of their wish.

Akira hadn’t been joking when he said he wanted a good year together.  All of his friends, all of the phantom thieves, together again.  Even more though, he didn’t want Goro Akechi taken from him.  He knew it would be a fight, and so to Okuninushi specifically he prayed for the strength to fight on.  To prove to his friends that Goro deserved a second chance, and to see it through.

He bowed down, glancing at Goro as he did.  The other man still stood praying.

Akira stood, slowly walking away from the shrine.  He had barely turned when an arm wrapped around his own.

“And where do you think you’re going?” Goro reprimanded.

Akira leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

He sighed.  “We should get to work.”

“Not before I get you a New Year’s charm.”  Akira began dragging Goro along.

“Akira, it isn’t necessary.”  Goro tugged back.  “You’ve done more to aid me than any charm ever could.”

Akira turned to him, surprised.  He generally just went along with what Akira wanted.  He’d been expecting Goro to push back at some point, but over getting a good luck charm?

“I am enough of a financial burden without the gifts.”

“You’re not a burden.”

People pushed past and around them on the crowded shrine grounds.

“And you’re the first person to ever believe that.”

“Then you should be the second,” Akira countered.  He clenched Goro’s hand tightly.  “You should have been the first.  You,” he stepped closer, making it easier for people to get around them, “you are not a burden.”

“Then tell me, phantom thief, what am I?”

Leaning in, Akira replied, “A Phantom Thief of Hearts and…”  His breath warmed Goro’s lips, a devilish smile crossing his own.

“Your lover,” Goro finished.  The word felt weird on his lips.  Foreign.  A concept he had so little grasp of that even saying it felt strange.

“Your lover,” Akira whispered back.  He offered Goro a quick kiss.

“Mine, huh?”

“Yours.”  The devilish smile had broadened now, and an internal fire granted warmth to his gaze.

“Well then, I suppose if I am yours as well, then things may work out.”

“I really mean this.”

“Impressive for a man with so much dating experience,” Goro retorted.  He shook his head in exasperation, “but I believe you.”  He spoke gently again.  “I don’t know why, but I almost always believe you.”

“Guess I have an honest face.”

Raising an eyebrow, Goro replied, “Truly?  I find it rather reminiscent of a kitsune’s.”

“I am fond of foxes,” Akira admitted, “but I find I prefer crows these days.”

Goro’s face reddened slightly, his body making an escape attempt through his cheeks.

The devil grin returned.  “Come on, let’s get to the cafe.”

 


 

Being one of the few nice cafes open on New Years definitely presented a financial advantage.  Master had been thrilled when Akira had brought Goro up to him, asking about work.  If they were going to make being open on New Year’s day worth it, they needed the extra help.

And Goro rocked the uniform.  Seriously, distractingly, rocked the uniform.

Akira had known it was coming.  Master took Goro’s measurements almost immediately upon meeting him, but Akira hadn’t expected it to be so damn perfect.

The last patron they had in the afternoon rush left.

Goro leaned slightly against the counter.

He’d been all smiles and complements the whole shift.  The Detective Prince once again.  Seeing Goro frown when he caught sight on an unreported spill actually made Akira feel a bit better.

“I’ll get it,” he offered.

“Thank you.”

Akira nodded, waving the towel he’d already been using to wipe down tables as he did.  He was already equipped for this sort of job after all.

“Well done,” Master congratulated.  He handed Goro a fresh cup of coffee.  “You do seem to have a knack for this sort of thing.”

“Thank you.”

“I told you he’d be perfect,” Akira called over.  The table already looked pretty decent.  He stepped back, examining it.  Spotless.

“Still, sorry to hear you had to cancel your trip to Tokyo.”

“It’s fine,” Akira assured his boss.  “Just decided on it a bit too late.  I’ll have to go visit next break.”

“Maybe you should invite them up.”

“No place for them to stay,” Akira replied with a smile.  He moved to the counter.  They had a small bin for rags behind the counter where he tossed his own rag.  Laundry after this wouldn’t be fun, but at least they didn’t have to worry about it quite yet.

Akira leaned back near Goro.  He too received a cup of coffee.

“Hey, Morgana,” the man suddenly called out.  Akira and Goro both jumped.  “I made you an extra creamy latte.”  He lightly tapped a saucer on the counter.

“Seriously!”

Akira and Goro exchanged glances.  Neither of them had seen Morgana earlier, so he must have slipped in before they got there.

The disgruntled, and clearly recently awoken, Morgana hopped of a beam near the back entrance.

“You weren’t supposed to tell them I was here,” he attempted to berate the manager.

“There you are.”  Master tapped the dish.  “Lots of cream with just a bit of coffee.  You want it.”

“You sure are responsive to good coffee,” Akira teased.

“I’m sure you two had a good time,” grouse Morgana.

Goro sipped his coffee, but neither cat nor boyfriend missed the smile on his lips.

Morgana put a paw against the edge of his dish.  He then slowly drug it further away from Goro, sliding it over until he was on the other side of Akira.

“You have a strange cat,” Master remarked.  “Came in on his own just before you got here.”

“Really?  Well, glad he made it here.  He’s pretty stubborn.”

“Very,” Goro added dryly.  He didn’t even bother to look at Morgana.

“Perhaps he doesn’t like someone new in his space,” Master mused.  “Cats can get rather territorial after all.”

“I’m not a cat!”

“He’s always so loud.”  Master smiled.  “Like he wants in on the conversation.”

“I do.”  Morgana splashed at the creamy coffee.

“Hey now, no messing up the counter or you get fed on the floor.”

Morgana stopped.  Akira chuckled.

Master held up his own mug.  “To a new year.”

“A new chapter,” Akira added, lifting his cup.

“A new life,” Goro replied quietly.  He raised his mug as well, but stared straight at Akira while speaking.

“Lady Anne,” Morgana called up with a sharp meow.

“Newly available, I hear,” Akira added.

Morgana splashed cream on his uniform.

Master broke down laughing.  “I don’t know how you do it, but if I didn’t know better I’d think you and that cat were best friends.”

“Friends furever.”

Goro and Master just blinked at him for a moment.

Morgana recovered first, muttering something about knowing where he slept.

“Heh.  Ha….Ha,” a strange grunt following from Goro’s mouth.  He put down the coffee.

Now all eyes turned to him.

The laughter grew steadier.  Goro leaned over the counter slightly.

“It wasn’t that funny,” Master remarked.

“I…I know, but…”  His voice shook from laughter and, maybe, something else.

“Goro?”  Akira leaned down.

“Sorry, sorry.”  Goro stood up straight.  He wore a big grin, but large tears clung to the bottom of his eyes.  “I guess all of it just hit at once.”

Akira lunged forward, wrapping him in a big hug.

“I didn’t think,” Goro wrapped his arms around Akira.  He took a steadying breath.  “I really didn’t believe I’d see a new year.  Ever.  I didn’t think I’d live.  I didn’t really plan to.  And it’s not that you were funny, it’s that you and Morgana just play off each other so naturally.  You’re a pair.”

“We’re a pair too.”

Morgana walked over. “Look, you’re not my favorite person.  I don’t trust you, but you’re one of us now.  And if Joker trusts you, well then, I guess I can give you another chance.”

“Heh.  That almost sounded nice.”

“I am a gentleman,” Morgana reminded them.

Akira chuckled, pressing his forehead against Goro’s.  “You heard the cat.”

“Not a cat!”

“I may not know quite what’s going on,” Master suddenly cut in, “but,” he raised his glass yet higher, “this is looking an awful lot like the part where you kiss.”

A disgruntled meow begged them against it.

The two fools, already so close, leaned in together.  It wasn’t their first kiss.  Goro had kissed Akira when he had first entered the cafe a week ago.

It was, however, long and warm, and even when it ended they held each other tight.

“Don’t make me lose you again,” Akira whispered.

“I think by now it’s quite clear you’d simply find me yet again.”

Akira leaned into the warm hug.  After so many quiet New Year’s, so many years the same, or alone, it felt good to lean against someone.

“Happy New Year, Akira.  I don’t know what it’s worth.  Used to think nothing, but…for what it is worth: I love you.”

Akira clung to him even more tightly, digging his hands into Goro’s back.  “You’re my treasure.  Worth everything.”

“Happy New Year!” cheered Master.  He took a big gulp of coffee.

Morgana let out a gagging sound, but put a paw again Akira, and another on Goro’s arm.  “Happy changing year, you two.”

“You too, Morgana.”  Akira nodded to his employer, “Master.”

“Perhaps it really will be happy,” Goro mused.

Akira kissed him again.

 

End Note: A common term for a significant other in Japanese is “koibito”.  It’s a gender neutral term, but used very much like how we like to say girlfriend/boyfriend.  That’s the world they’re using when they talk about being lovers.  I wanted to stick to the gender neutral aspect to help convey the idea, especially for Goro, that what’s surprising isn’t that he’s dating a guy.  It’s that he loves anyone and, even more strongly, that someone else loves him.  Whether it be a guy or a girl isn’t the point.  It’s the simple act of loving and being loved.

Miku Monday: Percussive

Miku Monday: Percussive

Apparently, October is International Drum Month, so I thought I’d do a post focusing on percussion.  Generally, not hard to find in Vocaloid.

Image by Ekkoberry

Monster by YusukeKira

First off is a pretty new upload from YusukeKira.  It’s always nice to be able to include something new, because there always are new things.

Here’s the Bandcamp link if you want to purchase it.

Tantas Cosas by Aku P

It doesn’t really surprise me that while looking for different beats I ran into a Mexican producer.  I don’t have enough Spanish under my belt to understand the song, but I like it well enough and it’s nice to get something a little different in the mix.

You can get the MP3 on Bandcamp.

 

[86] by Dasu

Well, this was an awesome surprise.  It sounds great and the lyrics really hold out.  If you don’t see the English lyrics make sure you’ve got captions on.

Here’s the Bandcamp Link.

 

Oblivious Pumpkin by Pinocchio-P

Seemed reasonable to throw an actual Halloween song in here, and I always love Pinocchio-P’s beats.

You can find it on iTunes, the song is labeled Tarinai Kabocha.

 

TV by Creep-P (Eyeris)

I’m a little sad at how thoroughly accurate this feels right now, just about media in general, and I’m not as jaded as many of my friends.  Television, and news in general, has an amazing tendency of making every issue, every person, two dimension.  Right or wrong.  There’s no reason.  There’s only drama.

Also, I really like Ruby.  Here’s the Bandcamp Link.

 

Miku Monday 2017 Playlist

And here’s the playlist for the year.

Miku Monday: Piano Songs

Miku Monday: Piano Songs

Turns out September if National Piano Month.  Not one to let a good musical excuse go by, I decided to try and focus on piano heavy songs.  They’re not necessarily piano solos, but I think I managed to get a nice mix this time.  No vocaloid is used twice.

Cover image MMD Maika by YoiStyle.

Deja Vu by Circus-P

I might be slightly, a tad, just a little bit obsessed with this song.  Of course, I’m pretty much obsessed with Circus-P and highly suggest the album this is on 715.  You can get it on Bandcamp.  It’s a pretty awesome album.

Human Version by JubyPhonic and Rachie

Starlight Keeper by Momocashew

Thought it was time to throw some Oliver into the mix.  I know this one is old, but I like the lyrics and the piano part, so it fit the theme.

I found some really good ones while hunting around, so you can expect more of him.

Cover by JoyDreamer

So, I had no idea about this, even though I follow JoyDreamer.  Guess it’s easy to miss things when  you follow people who have been at it for a while.

Happy Days by Ghost

A song from this year!

I know I must have run into Ghost before, but I don’t remember any of the music.  Maybe it was a brief encounter.  Not now though.  I love these songs, and the PVs that go with them are really cool.  Expect more Ghost in the future.

There’s a download link in the video description, but if you want to support the artist here’s the Bandcamp link to purchase it.

Odette by Apakilypse

Piano and Strings Version

Sunflowers in Your Eyes by EmpathP

I guess the same person wrote the lyrics for this as Odette, huh.  Oh well, this is one of my absolute favorites.  It’s probably shown up before, I admit, but when thinking of piano vocaloid songs this was first to mind.

If you want a whole bunch of piano vocaloid songs, then Salutations and Sayonara is the album for you.  A lot of it is pretty sad, but it actually really helped me go through some hard times.

Miku Monday 2017 Playlist

Miku Monday: Back to School

Miku Monday: Back to School

I know it’s a bit late for most schools, but I was still on my summer term with a lot of schools started their autumn term.  Long and short, my second full year of grad school begins this week.  As such, I thought I’d go through some school themed music.

Featured image from Pixiv.

Rolling Girl by Wowaka

It’s worth noting that each of these three videos has a different person doing the lyrics, and they’re all notably different, especially the English Covers.

JoyDreamer, who did the lyrics for this video, has an acoustic cover, but despite how amazing her voice is, I just generally don’t go for acoustic covers.

You can find Rolling Girl and several other popular Wowaka songs on iTunes with the album Unhappy Refrain.  Amazon also appears to have used physical albums for a reasonable price.

 

English Cover by JubyPhonic

English Cover by Zoozbuh

Lost One’s Weeping by Neru

Remixed Len Version by kyaami

There are a lot of English covers of this song, but while not bad none of them really struck me, so I thought a remixed version with Len leading could be fun.

Monochrome∞Blue Sky by Noboru↑-P

Interesting note: while on the hunt for a cover I liked I found a lot of spanish covers.  Like, a ton.  And one Thai cover, which was pretty decent.  A lot of people’s voices seemed to break getting some of the notes right.

While it’s not the original, you can find this song on iTunes as part of “Exit Tunes Presents Kamikyoku wo Utattemita 4”

After-School Stride by Last Note.

This is the beginning of a school series (Mikagura School Suite) by Last Note.  It was recently adapted into an anime, which can be found on Crunchyroll here.

You can buy the song on Amazon either individually or as part of the album first trip.

English Cover by Jubyphonic

Friday’s “Good Morning” by HoneyWorks

You’d think I do a better job remembering that I really like HoneyWorks.  I don’t think I’ve found a song of theirs I don’t like yet, and this is really adorable.

English Cover by JefferzKM

Hey, a different cover artist!  Yay.  Always good to find some new sources for videos and songs.

 

Miku Monday 2017 Playlist

Here’s the playlist of all the songs I’ve used this year.  Feel free to comment some artist/song suggestions for me.

Songs of Love and Hope

Songs of Love and Hope

My Grandmother died a week ago today while away on vacation.  I wanted to collect some songs to help express how I feel or that cheer me up as I sort through it.

Featured image from Pixiv.

Aikotoba II by Deco*27

Fell in love with the first song playing Future Tone.  Fell in love with this one listening to Rachie’s cover.  Obviously, I knew my Grandmother for more than five years, but the thanks and hope expressed in this song has really been helping me sort through this.  This is the song which inspired this list because I can’t say “thank you” enough.

English Cover by Rachie

 

Hope by Yuyoyuppe

English Cover by Zoozbuh

Piano English Cover by Joydreamer

I’d listened to this song a fair amount before hearing this cover, but this is when I really fell in love with it.  At the same time, it’s surprisingly hard to find the rock versions of sadder songs.  I won’t even pretend this cover isn’t make me cry right now.

Satisfaction by kz(livetune)

No matter how sad you feel, you can’t always be miserable.  I use this song to force a smile.

English Cover by zoozbuh

I like English covers since I never have any time to pay attention to lyrics will playing the games, and would rather dance to it than watch a video I’ve seen five thousand times.

Y to Y by JimmyThumb-P

I remember running into this while playing Future Tone and thinking “this is really sad” and “this clearly goes with one of the other songs I ran into”.  Yes, and yes.

English Cover by Jayn

Glory 3usic9 by Nanou

Bonus! Nandemonaiya (English Version) by Radwimps

I try to keep it to vocaloid and Utau, I really do, but… This song and Sparkle have both really helped.  For all Your Name. made me cry, it’s also rather hopeful.

For the record, you can find this album on Amazon, Spotify, and if you get the Collector’s Edition of Your Name. from Funimation.

Crying even when I’m happy

Smiling even when I’m feeling lonely

It’s because the heart of mine

Has made it here before my body

Miku Monday 2017 Playlist

Here’s the playlist for everything in Miku Monday this year.  I’ll try to get back to doing things more regularly, but it’s surprisingly difficult.  I’d like to branch out into more lesser known songs and well, they’re lesser known, so they can take time to hunt down.

I promise, I don’t usually push Miku this much.