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What do you mean 'huh'?!

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Octopuses are amongst the smartest inhabitants of the water, Azul himself is proof of that. Even if he was once a chubby octopus, it was his diligence and keen mind that made him who he is now.

Intelligence, however, isn’t an all-encompassing term, as there are several kinds and just because Azul is gifted in some, it doesn’t mean he is perfect.

Male octopuses aren’t good at romance, however, considering they die shortly after mating.

There are several plants in the world that trick their prey with sweet colors and aromas, only to snatch them up the moment they are unaware. His silver tongue is exactly that, though less viciously mortal. He isn’t a blue-ringed octopus, after all. Nonetheless, he is perfectly capable of poison, even if not to the extent of the Pomefiore Queen’s level.

 


 

The moment Jun realizes Azul is going to talk to her, Azul sees the prefect straighten up. For the nth time. He's not that imposing, is he? Okay, he kind of is, he keeps everyone who knows him on guard. Especially if he tried to take over her home and only place in the world. It's a different kind of fear perhaps, not the terror inducing of Malleus' name nor Vil's own brand of strictness that has reached the ears of the Octavinelle students.

Azul has a silver tongue that works on people most of the time, but has a different effect on those who know him.

And that includes Jun.

There is something different in her that nags him day and night, since Jun is one of the few people who do know the real Azul.

And this is why her fear of him is bothering him, a nonsensical contradiction. In reality, Azul thrives on being feared and respected; that gives him control over people. He is aware that feelings of hate and love make people prone to insurrection, hatred in fact is a powerful motivator, as he himself knows. Fear on the other hand is a powerful way of control.

He should in fact like that the person who managed defeat him is scared of him.

But it is this fear that is annoying because she knows the real Azul, the crying chubby octopus that no one should ever be allowed to see, and that is an unexpected closeness he never considered fostering.

It’s simply because the moment his defeat had been stated, he has been unable to stop thinking of her. In a way, her knowing that much about him, having seen the cursed photo of Atlantica’s Museum, having been a witness to his overblot, it is a weakness by itself. And he should try to erase her memories of it, to make her forget everything she experienced. However, her non-judgmental stance, her words of support after everything was said and done, that is what has him obsessing over her.

Azul doesn’t openly admit his feelings, they are weaknesses your enemy can use against you. His mask is perfect that way, but even so he is aware deep down of his own attraction to the girl.

In the end, her aversion to him is bothersome, as you want your rival to fear you, not the person you like.

 


 

It’s been so many days since Jun has started working at Monstro Lounge, but this is the first time Azul tries to converse with her. He asks her about her experience in his domain. Of course, this serves a double purpose. Sure, he wants to chat and get closer, but this is also a way to gather more information to deepen the bond. Does it sound utilitarian?

Perhaps.

But that is the only way Azul knows how to deal with others, and it’s not like he is hurting her by asking about her feelings. It doesn’t go as he wants, however, as she takes the conversation somewhere else, even if her reply is sincere, as is the smile she has finally shown in front of him.

“It’s professional and business-like. I like it,” Jun says, having accidentally broken something once, but not being yelled at, unlike at her home.

This information, in theory, should be invaluable. It proves this is different, a much preferred place she can be at, where she won’t get scolded and she even acknowledges this. However, it hits him right in the chest, as he controls his emotions and reels them in. His jaw tenses and his eyes grow colder. “Why would I waste breath scolding you?” he says and in those words, he can’t help but let some of his cold venom drip on his words, he’s an octopus after all and Jun simply doesn’t understand.

Professional, yes, Azul is always a professional.

Business-like? That hurts him more, far more than he is willing to admit.

He had an inkling Jun was a simpleton, given how much Ace teased her according to his intel, but to mistake his real kindness for business-like? It is true that he wouldn’t spend his breath berating a useless worker, the almost army of Anemone-head students could attest to it. However, he wouldn’t waste his time on any of them either, that is something Jade or Floyd can do. That he is directly addressing her, when she is making a mistake, isn’t it obvious?

In no country, not even in her world, would that be business-like. The manager doesn’t interact with the waiters and waitresses. The manager only interacts with the people he is interested in.

Jun’s tension makes him realize he was letting his feelings take over again. It is becoming slightly bothersome, since he is the calculating boss who doesn’t show any weakness. Jun is certainly something unexpected in his perfect plans for the future.

An unexpected outcome that is not by any means unwanted.

However, it does bring some inconveniences, such as him needing to not scare her once more. Even if she is somewhat aware of his true nature, he can’t get closer to her if she wants to run away from him at every not-so-casual chance he talks to her.

He clears his throat, putting on a smile once more, because he shouldn’t get distracted by his own anger, especially when his eyes pause on the notebook she has with her. It reminds him that well, to a certain degree her experience must be eventful here, if she is bringing that item to her work. Even though thievery is unheard of in Monstro Longue, it wouldn’t exactly be a place someone else would bring an important personal belonging, with how easy it is to be taken advantage of. Jun brought it, however, and is always scribbling in her free time. Azul is eager to know what she writes on those pages, after all, she could be writing something about him.

That thought alone is enough to make him puff with pride and dissipates his previous anger, and without beating around the bush, he asks for the journal’s contents with a light-hearted teasing statement.

Surprisingly, Jun continues to be honest, Azul wouldn’t give an open reply like that, but Jun is Jun, not Azul.

“It’s a journal,” she states. “I write interesting happenings in my day or things I have to do. It’s messy, but it helps me keep track of important things as well.”

So his assumption had been true and Azul smiles more brightly. Jun doesn’t see the change in his eyes, but the octopus swells in pride because perhaps Jun isn’t a completely lost cause.

 


 

Even if he thought Jun wasn’t a lost cause, it didn’t mean he would be sitting and waiting pointlessly.

The several meetings after work hours should have been a clear sign of Azul’s interest in her, but Jun never asks for a meaning and Azul doesn’t like explaining himself without reason. In reality, it is a lie, because he would rather have Jun confess than to expose himself without any good reason or certainty. Deep down, he is still that little crybaby octopus and he doesn’t like the idea of opening his heart just to have it ripped to shreds. The tiny problem is that Jun is too dense and her tensing at times makes him wonder if he is seeing things that don’t exist.

Azul likes certainty for that reason, he can move without any issue and luck is a concept he despises. Randomness is his greatest enemy and sure, he can come up with a thousand plans for anything that comes his way. However, when it involves his feelings, he likes it even less. He is talking about his heart and the exposure is too much to risk himself over it.

Nonetheless, it is becoming exhausting to play the waiting game. It’s ironic, he has spent years planning his revenge, patiently and carefully. Jun should be the same, right?

It’s not, because his feelings have brought other unwanted consequences, such as sometimes daydreaming during their tea parties that maybe they are closer than it looks like. That Jun is enjoying herself and his company. These meetings have been kept a secret, he assumes, because Ace and Deuce aren’t there to attempt to punch him, like angry puppies trying to keep their favorite person safe. Should he take it as something positive or negative?

 

At times he is emboldened, at times, he is terrified.

But this day, it is the one time he is fed up with waiting and it’s also one of the times when he is sure of himself and his careful observations. Jade has been making obnoxious teasing remarks, but that even Floyd said something along the lines of ‘Jun seems to like you’ gives him enough courage to take a leap of faith.

He invited Jun to his office, with a slight authority in his words, in case she didn’t get the message. Jun appears, unfazed and possibly without any idea of what is going to happen. He lets her sit on the couch for a moment, he can’t avoid being dramatic because it is a special occasion.

Jun is obedient and waits for him. Azul isn’t in reality writing anything down, he is assessing the situation as he gathers the courage because planning is one thing, and bringing it into action is another. Before long, he sits on the same sofa Jun is sitting. It isn’t anything new, he has been slowly paving his way to her, Jun doesn’t freeze like the first time he did so, when she thought he was going to scold her. It has been a long journey, that is certain.

“Look at me, please,” he says. Azul can’t get rid of his business-like speech, a sign he is rather nervous and clinging to the thing that gives him a sense of security. His tone, however, betrays him, unexpectedly passionate. He IS baring himself to her.

Jun looks at him, her eyes show a flicker, she seems to recognize the change in the mood, but Azul doesn’t let her say anything before his lips meet hers. Jun’s are incredibly soft and warm, a sharp contrast to his, and he likes the sensation too much. It would be horrible if she rejected him, because how would he forget this? However, Jun doesn’t push him away, his eyes staring holes into her because he is looking for the hint of an answer. Jun looks dazed, perhaps she is wondering if this is a dream, so he leans in once more to confirm it isn’t.

Azul is kissing her.

It just so happens that Azul is a greedy octopus and he wishes for another kiss. This time, there’s a reaction Azul notices as he pulls back. Jun’s face is flushing, as she brings a hand to her lips. She blinks rapidly, his actions are dawning on her, about damn time, because he wants a reaction of sorts, something that tells him he did take a good step.

Jun looks at him speechless, and this is making the cool businessman scream internally. Wasn’t she supposed to swoon? He did his research in romance novels and movies, even looked into some high-school dramas, so he would know what to expect. He doesn’t have any experience whatsoever, so this unclear result is killing him.

After what feels like an eternity, Jun asks embarrassed, “Wh-what just happened?”

Azul wants to escape. He could cut off his arm to avoid the shame, as he runs away and leaves it to scare a predator, but he cannot regrow his heart as it is close to shattering into a million pieces.

“It is real,” Azul mumbles, trying to not bring up the fact that he kissed her twice.

“W-what’s your aim?” she asks nervously, so much she is fumbling her words and it takes Azul a minute to comprehend.

“I-isn’t it obvious?!” he says, and now he is losing his cool as well.

“You kissed me… I-I mean, you want something….!”

“Why would I kiss you if I plotted something nefarious?!” he retorts quickly, trying to steer away this conversation off the dangerous path it is taking. “Have I given you any hints that you should doubt me?”

“You haven’t given me any hints to trust you fully either.”

Azul huffs, embarrassed as his cheeks grow red, unable to control himself from feeling dumber. The one time his carefully crafted reputation is destroying his chances, he could have never foreseen this. He takes a deep breath, trying to calm down. This is the time he channels everything he has learned to put on a smile. It’s probably not working, he thinks his entire face is stiff. “You might be right, but tell me, do you think I would invite anyone to tea after work?”

At this rate, he is sounding desperate but right now, he is wracking his brain into stopping this and he can’t try to control his own voice.

Jun shakes her head furiously. “Look, you have to be straightforward with me, I don’t do well with subtle. What if you tried to make me go through another shady deal, would you invite me to tea as well?” Her question hits him like a slap to the face, but the only glimmer of hope is that she keeps touching her lips as her face continues to be bright crimson, one putting to shame the logo of Heartslabyul.

Azul grinds his teeth, he is thankful no one is seeing him this humiliated. He takes another deep breath, as he munches through his words. “I-I invited you for tea because I…might be interested in you…romantically.”

“Huh?”

“Why are you so surprised?!” he hollers, so ready to hide himself. Human bodies are so inconvenient, if he were at sea, he would be stuck in his safe and wouldn’t leave for days. Instead he is standing like a moron, because when he thinks about it, he truly is one for letting his feelings grow instead of squashing them.

“Uh, wow, Azul, I didn’t know you felt about me this way…” she replies, clearly flustered as Azul wants to strangle her. There is an awkward silence as she seems deep in thought. “I guess this explains a lot. I-I might have thought about you being interested, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder if you were trying to do something else…”

“What are you even talking about?”

“Can you blame me for not being sure what to think?!” Jun admits sheepishly and Azul doesn’t like where this is going for one second. “I mean, you tried to trick me into giving you my home, so I worried at times this was some sort of vengeance plot.”

“Could you stop it with the time I tried to take over Ramshackle dorm?! I thought we were over that part!”

“Did you stop when you devised your plans to get even with your classmates?”

Azul opens his mouth and immediately closes it as he clenches his jaw so much his gums begin to feel the tension. Turns out, in a turn of events that at any other time would have been wonderful news, Jun seems to understand Azul really well. She also brings up his qualities and turns them into his worst points as well. He clears his throat as he puts up a bitter smile.

“You are making this extremely difficult by bringing up valid points to distrust me. At this rate, if I heard of your description of me, I wouldn’t trust the guy myself.”

Jun can’t help but shrug. She isn’t lying, he can tell from the look in her eyes. The honesty is the kind that might wound his pride a little.

“I’m being honest… I thought that but I also enjoy our times when we do nothing? When we’re together, uh not together together.”

“The times we drink tea.” Azul purses his lips, this isn’t an outright rejection

“Y-yeah, it’s nice. I mean, sometimes I think you are either ignoring me, but sometimes I think you watched me? Those times were nice, except when Jade gives me his usual hideous mocking smile, but yeah… It’s just…I don’t know what to say…I uhhh don’t know how to react to this…” Jun admits with a sigh to end the sentence.

Azul swallows hard trying to be understanding and unfazed. Trying because he has no clue what to make sense of this but he is a businessman and he can’t really show himself crying in front of her, again anyway.

The silence between them grows awkward, as Jun quietly excuses herself and Azul sits on his sofa and buries his head in his hands as he shuts his eyes as hard as he can. It doesn’t help at all, the small tears manage to find a way through, signs of his frustration and sadness that he finally allows himself to voice in the solitude of his room.

 


 

The next days are awkward in Monstro Longue. Azul limits himself to his office, because he doesn’t want to come across her. In fact, he immediately turns away the moment he believes she is nearby. After all, octopuses avoid fights and hide. Sure, he can’t exactly hide the same way he wholeheartedly wishes, at the bottom of the sea in the darkest cave, but he can prevent any meetings.

At first his heart aches, he refuses to admit he has been shedding some tears every night before he drifts to sleep. However, as the strong impression of whatever that meeting and confession was, something begins nagging at the back of his mind.

Jun didn’t exactly reject him. Sure, that doesn’t imply she likes him, but she didn’t outright refuse him either. She didn’t back off with the kisses, his cheeks burn bright whenever he remembers that lapse of judgement on his behalf, nor had she yelled at him for doing that or mentioned the name of someone else. This is the faintest glimmer of hope Azul has, though at times he wonders if he is deluding himself to protect his wounded ego.

 

That’s when he then notices something on a fateful evening at the kitchen. Azul goes there to ask Jade to retrieve some ingredients he had ordered, deeming Floyd ill-fitted for this task. Seconds after his voice breaks the busy atmosphere, he hears a metallic storm and a muffled high-pitched scream. Jun has accidentally dropped the cutlery she was carrying to the sink in order to wash it.

The sound makes him turn instinctively to where she is and their gazes meet for a fraction of a second, before Jun kneels down to pick up everything. She doesn’t look flustered or embarrassed at first sight, but as Azul stares at her, her movements are stiff, she is aware of him staring. Jun had always stiffed at his appearance in the early times, but there’s something different this time, though he can’t exactly be sure if it’s not his mind trying to see things once more.

He doesn’t say anything else, nor does he expects her to react, but Jade’s mocking smile later on makes him wonder if he is right on track.

After that, he pays careful attention to her, as much as he can without having the sinister eyes of his henchmen because they would surely be having a field day with this. The mere sound of Azul’s voice causes Jun’s attention spam to immediately evaporate, as she laughs almost hysterically before scurrying away. Sometimes she adds excuses, like how she has to wash Grim or finish her Alchemy homework seven times, that she needs to restock the sugar in the containers, even if they are already bursting.

It’s a miracle she’s not mixing up orders, but that’s only because Azul isn’t with the customers. The moment he gets closer, her memory blanks and her conversation skills tank.

It is then when he decides to be bold once more, because there is a glimmer of hope, and as he knows, it is one hell of a curse. It keeps him up at night as he wonders if he’s not overthinking it, if he’s not fooling himself once more.

The almost desperate knocks on his door let him know Jun has arrived, as he summoned her to talk after her shift has ended. She is back in her uniform clothes, though he can’t help noticing her tie is crooked and the collar of her blouse is up.

He motions her to sit, and she does, but the atmosphere is heavy as Jun looks everywhere but at him and he is trying to be composed.

“Jun,” he says, his tone is soft even though desperate. “Have you thought about what happened the other day?” he finally blurts. Though it’s not because he is ready, but because he is fed up of these anxious mess of feelings he has been holding.

Jun naturally jumps at her name being spoken and her face turns light pink. She plays with her hair as she fumbles to find the words. “I-I might have…I mean, I never thought someone like you could be interested in me, so I never imagined uh…I mean, it’s not that you are bad or anything, it’s that you seemed so out of reach? So why bother? Except you then told me, so now I have to yes bother, but uhhhh, I am not exactly sure what to do…”

Her mouth is going full throttle, Azul has to pay attention closely to get what she’s saying even if she’s not really making any sense. However…

“I mean, I had never thought about you and I as a couple, but now you confessed and well… You still feel like on a different level? But I did like our talks and the tea and…” She takes a deep breath and timidly looks him in the eye. “I-I guess I’m not opposed to the idea? Like I might like you if I uhhh…” She doesn’t finish her sentence before laughing nervously and then biting her lower lip.

Azul blinks, at loss of words for a moment. This isn’t exactly the sure-win he was hoping to have but it is not the octopus slaying he was fearing. Nevertheless, Azul is a businessman and he won’t let an opportunity like this slip his grasp.

“Fine then, let’s make a deal.” He smiles, this time genuine and relieved, and he might swear Jun’s face turned brighter in spite of the slight twitch of her lips. “Fear not, I won’t make a contract. But perhaps after a month with me, you might want to make it real.”