Disclaimer: Last Game is the property of Amano Shinobu. All the amazing characters belong to them.
'Focus on what's right in front of you.' Mikoto inhaled, going over Yanagi's words in her head. Surprisingly, the advice seemed to help calm her nerves even if he'd thought she'd been talking about her accounting courses instead of her failure of an attempt to capture his attention. Slowly exhaling the breath, she watched as he fumbled with the lock of his apartment before dropping his keys for the second time.
Whomever he'd been texting with had flipped a switch in him and now she couldn't help but think he was the one acting strangely now. Though, it wasn't as if she'd never seen him like this before. This was typical behavior for him but he'd been fine most of the day before those texts and now he was frazzled and clumsy.
He'd dropped his cell phone at the store, cracking the screen. He'd tripped over his own feet and fell into an old woman on the street, crushing four of the eggs they'd just bought. The woman had been shocked, but thankfully not injured. Yanagi had ended up with raw egg all over his pants though. There was also that annoying habit he sometimes had of muttering things to himself. She wasn't positive but thought he kept repeating something about reality and getting carried away.
The entire turnabout had left Mikoto feeling a little insecure and upset. It wasn't any of her business, but there was a large part of her that really wanted to know who he'd been talking to that would cause that sort of physical reaction in him. Could that possibly have been the person he liked? Did Yanagi feel guilty because he was spending time with her instead of that girl?
'No! I can't think about that sort of thing right now. Even if I did, that changes nothing. Focus on now and what I can do. I'm here. I have a chance. There may be a gap between our knowledge about love, but I don't want to give him up to someone else.'
Refreshed, Mikoto followed Yanagi inside as he finally opened the door. She reached over to take the bag from his hands. "I can put these in the kitchen, if you want to go get changed."
"Oh?" His gaze drops to his clothing, obviously reminded of his mishap with the eggs. He gives a little laugh at the mess he'd made. "Yeah, I should probably go shower quick, shouldn't I? It's pretty gross."
"I can get dinner started if you want," Mikoto replies, heading toward the kitchen with the bags.
"NO!" He screams, crossing the space between them and grabbing the bags. Mikoto stops in her tracks, stunned at his sudden outburst as they both hold the grocery bags between them. "Don't. Touch. Anything."
"O-Okay?" Confused, she tries to focus on the frantic expression on his face and figure out why he's so adamant about this. Mikoto is really bad at this whole 'reading other people' thing, so she just bluntly addresses it head on. "Why not?"
Yanagi's face blooms red, which Mikoto notes makes her heart start to race to see. There is no sunset to blame it on this time, which leaves only one explanation. 'Is he embarrassed?' It seems impossible and she can't exactly understand why he would be in this situation.
"J-Just don't! I'll do it when I get out!"
Her jaw drops just a little, blinking in surprise as he lets the bags go and storms off in the direction of his bedroom. "But--" she starts, looking at the kitchen and then back to Yanagi as she tightens her hold on the bags in her hands. "You can't cook, Yanagi."
"I know! I'm working on it."
The corners of her mouth turn down, looking at the ingredients he'd picked up in the bag before glancing back up to his retreating form. First the job at the diner and now cooking economical meals at home for himself. "Are you sure you aren't having money problems?"
Incredulous, Yanagi stops at the entryway to his room and turns to look back at her, blue eyes wide with shock and filled with questions. "No! Where did you get that idea?"
Suddenly feeling guilty, though she's not quite sure why, Mikoto looks at the ground and tries to ignore the butterflies that have erupted in her stomach. "Well, first you got the job at the diner. Now you're cooking really cheap food for yourself..."
He places his forehead on the doorframe, looking tired. "No, I'm just trying to stand on my own two feet and not rely so much on my family. It's not easy."
She's taken aback by his answer; she hadn't known he felt that way about things. Had something recently happened to bring upon this change? She understood the reasoning, but he hadn't always thought this way. She hesitated asking, fearful of an answer she didn't want to hear but she couldn't help herself. "Did something happen?"
"Err--someone told me that my father's accomplishments only meant that he was the impressive one and that it didn't mean I was anything important."
Surprised, Mikoto just stared back at him. The harshness of the words falling over her. Sure, Yanagi could be extremely spoiled and self-important at times. Especially when he was younger, but for someone to say something like that to him was a little much. That he took those persons words to heart and was attempting to better himself because of it---she couldn't help but feel a little jealousy about.
Yet Yanagi just stood there in slack jawed exasperation staring at her for a moment before the frustration he was feeling visibly ripped through his body. "IT WAS YOU! We were ten! I swear you never remember anything!" He stormed into his room, slamming the door behind him before yelling through the closed door. "I was scarred for life and you don't even remember saying it!"
Stunned, Mikoto just stood there holding the bags in her hands as she stared at the closed door. Had she really said those things to him? She didn’t remember. She hadn’t exactly been the most tactful child in her youth. Things such as friendship, kindness and social interaction hadn’t been things she cared about at all. Her focus had been on doing as well as she could in school so she could eventually take care of her mother for all the hard work she’d done raising her. Everything else didn’t matter and she just blocked it out in pursuit of her goal.
She tried to think back to that year, the images in her head blurry as the memories were hazy. Every day passed roughly the same, so nothing really stood out. She remembered the look of the classroom. She vaguely remembered the teacher. The other kids in the class, even though they had recently had a reunion, their faces mostly blended together.
Where the other kids had given up attempting to interact with her fairly quickly, he’d constantly been in her face. No matter how much she tried to avoid him, he continually insisted on making his presence known as he buzzed around annoying her. It was an emotion she hadn’t known back then, but could identify today. Annoyance. From the very first time they had talked.
‘Ah! You beat Yanagi! You got a perfect score!’
‘She ran faster than even Yanagi!’
‘You’re just a transfer student. Don’t be so arrogant! You got several good grades by accident! Don’t get carried away!’
‘You bastard! Don’t ignore me! Don’t you know who I am? I’m the successor to Yanagi Resorts! My father is the president!’
Frowning, she’s not sure what she’s supposed to be feeling right now. He’d given her the impression that she was supposed to feel bad for the things she’d said in the past, but there was a slight issue with that. The twenty year old Mikoto completely agreed with her ten year old self. She’d probably say the exact same thing if those words had come out of his mouth today.
It was a stupid thing to get upset about but sometimes he got mad at her for random reasons that she couldn’t understand, so she shouldn’t really take it to heart. It wasn’t even the sort of thing she could imagine him thinking, let alone saying as he was today. Mikoto moved to put the groceries away but the reminder of where the conversation started forced everything into its proper place and she finally understood.
A concept that almost made her feel self-centered to think it had something to do with her, but it’s the only thing that made sense. It wasn’t that he was upset about the words. They’d left their impact on him though and the person he wanted to become had been shaped by them. Getting a job, learning to cook, earning his own money to buy things were all done in an effort to obtain things with his own hands. Was it possible that he was insisting on being the one to cook for them because he wanted to show her what he’d achieved?
She was sitting at the kitchen table when he finally came out of his room smelling of soap and shampoo. He looked refreshed and in a better mood than he was before he went in. She didn’t think she’d ever seen him so dressed down before, wearing a pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt, both with the name of their college tennis team printed on them. For some reason she tended to forget he was on the tennis team and had been for years. He’d often tried to get her to join over the years but she’d always refused the invitation. Shamefully, it wasn’t until that very moment she realized she’d never even seen him play before. She couldn’t even manage the whole friendship thing, how on earth did she think she’d be able to reach him in love?
“You annoyed me.”
His icy blue gaze captured hers, curious. She took it as a sign to continue. With a shaky breath, she continues her confession.
“I do remember. I haven’t forgotten. It just wasn’t in my narrow vision at that time so I didn’t care.”
His lips press together tightly, obviously trying to hold back his laughter from escaping. It doesn’t work and he busts up laughing. “They called you ‘The Iron Daughter’ in middle school.”
“I probably would have been proud to hear that,” she replied, smiling back at him. “I wasn’t interested in interacting with others and you were constantly in my face about something or the other. It annoyed me.”
“With the amount of entitlement I had, you had every right to be annoyed.”
“You aren’t that same kid anymore, Yanagi.” She can feel her cheeks warming beneath her skin as she speaks; talking to him about this wasn’t easy. “Though you annoyed me, you were the first one to show me that life outside that narrow vision was worth it. I’m still working toward that goal.”
“You aren’t the same either,” he replies as he turns away toward the kitchen. For a few moments she just sits there taking in everything he said. The thing about being around Yanagi is even though he made her forget about everything except for the way her heart beat around him, she genuinely enjoyed just spending time with him.
Getting up from her chair, Mikoto moved toward the kitchen but stopped in the doorway knowing he didn’t want any help. He could be remarkably stubborn about things when he chose to be and for some reason she knew this was one of those times. Instead, she watched as he worked on their dinner and…well…judged his cooking skills. There were a lot of mistakes already and she had to bite her tongue to prevent from saying anything to him. Yanagi looks up from his chopping and gives her a questioning look. “What did I do?”
“Ah, it’s nothing,” she brushed off, trying to focus on anything else other than what he was doing. It shouldn’t change the taste of the dish too much; it would more be a texture issue.
“Just tell me!” he demands, putting the knife down on the counter. “I’m still new at this but I can’t learn if no one tells me I’m doing something wrong.”
She hesitates for a moment, biting her lip before finally answering. “You’re going to burn your oil. Also, if the rice in that rice cooker is for this, that’s fine but it works better with old rice that’s been refrigerated for a day or so.”
He looks absolutely stunned and looks at both the pan of oil and rice cooker before turning back to her. “Why?”
“You’re also using the knife wrong. There’s a faster way to do it.” She anticipates his annoyance so when his groan of frustration comes out instead she feels a little grateful. “Are you sure you don’t want me to help? I promise I won’t do any of the actual work, just walk you through everything.”
“Fine,” he sighs, looking only a little dejected by the offer as he welcomes her into the kitchen.