“Will you marry me?” Kento hears himself say, small hands grasping larger ones. The adorable bakery chef looks at him in shock.
Age 8: When the precocious skeptic meets his love
Kento thinks love stories in the movies didn’t happen in real life. Love at first sight, that happily ever after- his mother and father fell apart six years into their marriage. His grandmother had told him his mother was proposed to three months in knowing his father. Kento knew the word for it: rushed. So no, he didn’t really believe that messing up brain chemicals and acting on that jumble was going to be a good idea. His mormor and morfar had been worried over what view he’d take after the truth had been said. Kento loves his grandparents, he does- but they cannot protect him from what he’s already known.
He’d been witness to his parents’ downfall: small quarrels first, then loud shouting and mean, terrible things that cannot be taken back. Decisions should be thought out properly and acting hastily meant bad results. He isn’t going to believe in that nonsense magic they had called love. It had only been some weird fixation (infatuation?).
Kento thinks he’s prepared for what will come his way.
One week under the care of his morforældre, he’s brought along to the local bakery. A woman was manning the counter, lovely, warm, and powdered with flour. Her pastries were heavenly as well. Kento couldn’t stop staring at her. She later came over to their table and entertained his grandparents with a smile. Everything about her seemed to be dipped in light.
When golden eyes came into contact with his, they lit up like the sun. She had come into eye level at Kento and asked toothily, “Is our little prince enjoying our humble portions?”
Kento stews while his grandparents share private smiles and snickers.
“Stop making fun of me,” Kento crosses his arms.
“We’re not making fun of you. It's just-” His mormor replied, “We’re very delighted by your actions. You seem very taken with Yuuji-chan.”
“What’s her full name?”
“Hold your horses Kento, you’ve only met her once and you’re already making plans?” His morfar said with amazement.
Morfar feigns a troubled sigh, “Who am I to stop you? Her name is Itadori Yuuji. Are you going to propose to her the next time we meet?”
“You’re not fooling anyone,” Then his morfar puts a hand on his shoulder and whispers with a tone just as scheming as a villain’s, “Just time it right and- ow!”
His grandma had elbowed the other. Kento blinks.
“Why do you like Yuuji-chan?”
“Because she’s bright, and her pastries are delicious.”
Then after chuckling to herself, mormor turned to him and said, “You know Kento-kun, Yuuji-chan is a very nice girl, but she’s honest. So, if she says no, take it with grace. If she says she doesn’t want to be courted, respect it, alright?”
Kento nods slowly.
“But… if she doesn’t say you should stop your courting, then trying doesn’t hurt.”
“Be nice.” His grandma punctuates.
“Yuuji-chan likes polite men, you know.”
Age 12: when Kento-kun strikes again.
“Will you marry me?” Kento mumbles, taking the change from the purchase.
“What was that?” Yuuji asks, peering at him.
“I asked if,” Kento straightens his shoulders, trying to power through his awkwardness. “If you’d marry me.”
Yuuji must see his earnest sincerity because her rosy cheeks turn even rosier, “Oh! I-” She bit the inside of his cheek. “Why do you like me, Kento-kun?”
“Because you’re kind and beautiful.”
She laughs, but it isn’t cruel, only elated. “Thank you for sharing the truth, but I won’t give you an answer just yet.”
“That’s not a no.”
Yuuji heaves a breath, rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly. “Not a no you smart child, now go.”
But before Kento gets to leave, he’s told something: “And Kento-kun, please be more confident with what you say. I promise I’ll never chew you out.”
Age 16: when the knight protects his lady’s honor
Kento stiffens when he hears the wolf-whistles and comments like, “Damn, look at that ass.” and “Fuck you man, her chest is way better.”
The new customers, a ragtag bunch of high schoolers not so far from Kento’s age. Yuuji looks uncomfortable serving them, jaw tight. Earlier, they had been insulting her pastries and her hovel of a bakery. Kento had only restrained himself because Yuuji had communicated to him with a shake of the head. Now, however, they were also going to shit on her dignity and Kento couldn’t take it. Kento slams his book down, storming towards their table. “Get out.”
“You talking to us, beanpole?”
“Get the fuck out if you aren’t here for the food you assholes.” From his periphery, he can see Yuuji’s stunned expression on the counter. He’s never raised his voice before.
Kento would like to say he had gotten an inch back, but the damage dealt was purely one-sided. In fact, Yuuji ended up rescuing him after a few seconds into the mess. Kento watched her beat the living lights out of those teenagers, pure muscle rippling under her work sleeves. He always knew she was strong. After forcing them out of the premises, she had brought Kento to the storage room and tended to his injuries.
“Idiot, why’d you do that?” Yuuji chides, pressing a bag of frozen peas to his black eye.
“Because you don’t deserve that disrespect, and they don’t deserve your food.” Nanami answers, mouth feeling a little funny from his swollen cheek, “Yuuji-san, whatever you make is good. Don’t believe a word they say.”
Yuuji smiles, and it may be the trick of the light, but Kento thinks he can see the glossy sheen of her eyes. “My own knight who’s stuck to me all these years.”
“Hardly a protector. I’m gangly and weak compared to you.”
Yuuji holds his bruised hand, “You don’t need physical strength to be my knight, Kento-kun.”
“Marry me.” The words just flew out of his mouth, and Kento has the heart to be at least ashamed (read: mortified) with the timing of his confession.
“Then…” Yuuji thankfully continues on with patching him up, smile still intact, “Why do you like me, Kento-kun?”
“Because you’re strong enough to hold back, strong enough to be kind and patient. But please, if anyone did that again, just punch them immediately.”
She dissolves into giggles, “You’re going to be a lady-killer in the future Kento-kun, I just know it.”
“There’s no point if it’s not going to work on you,” Kento mutters, cheeks aflame while Yuuji continues to laugh, pretty and unabashed.
Age 21: when the associates find Kento-kun’s weakness
Kento regrets bringing his co-workers over to his safe haven. Alas, their office room has some sort of sprinkler problem and so they had to improvise for their group discussion. Yuuji would allow the noise in her bakery, so long as it wasn’t anything disruptive. Back to the problem at hand, he regrets inviting them along if all they were going to do was act smitten.
Well, maybe he couldn’t really blame them. 32 years old and Yuuji had only grown prettier with age. She remained a bright light in Kento’s life, her presence a reward to bask in before the morning grind and after a day’s work.
“Yuuji-san, are you dating anyone?” Gojo the nosy shit, butts in when she serves them a batch of freshly-baked muffins. “Because if you aren’t-”
Kento kicks him under the table, typing at his laptop still. “Don’t bother her. Get back to our itinerary.”
“No need to be so mean Kento-kun,”
“I’m currently single,” Yuuji replies, holding the tray close to her chest.
“Then would you perhaps fancy a date with me? If you’re feeling up to it?” And oh if Kento’s looks could kill.
Yuuji chuckles, “You’re funny Gojo-san, but,” she briefly flits her eyes to Kento’s before saying, "I’m currently being reserved.”
Did she mean-
Gojo’s mouth hangs, and then he recovers. “Who is that playboy who’s toying with your heart? Reserved?! Preposterous.” Haibara makes a noise of agreement. Ieiri and Getou are staring at Kento, having caught the exchange.
“It’s nothing worthy of drama. I just don’t have enough in me to deny a boy’s request for marriage. I won’t hold it against him if he changes his mind though.”
“A boy? A boy called dibs?” Gojo finally spots his funny expression and says, “Hey, why are you blushing Nanamin?”
“Yes Kento-kun, why are you blushing?” Yuuji teases, walking away and ultimately leaving him to deal with the mess at the table.
All they manage to eke out of him is that he was eight when he had proposed to Yuuji, nothing more. They’ll never let him live it down if they knew he’s proposed to her a couple of times throughout the years. Later, Kento helps Yuuji close up the shop. He’s the only one who can see when she’s worn through the bone and dozing between tasks. She fell asleep counting the week’s earnings. Kento puts his jacket over her and continues her work. After he’s done with that, he goes back to her seat and does his own work, periodically watching over her in case she’s roused.
“You know, even now, I still want to marry you,” Kento boldly admits to the unconscious audience. “I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind.”
It’s a funny thing, how Kento, fresh into his adulthood, becomes a boy with Yuuji. He’s a boy who sticks to his favorite corner because it’s the closest to the displays and to Yuuji. He’s a boy who wants her attention. He’s a boy when he eats what she makes. He’s a boy when he has always held close to the growing memory of her anywhere and at any time.
Kento will wait a little longer, and then he’ll try to bring up the question again.
Age 24: the maiden waits for her beloved’s return
“They’re offering me a deal in the US,” Kento informs, croquettes eaten, coffee half-full, “Team lead. Thrice the wage here and with additional bonuses.”
Yuuji comes back to his table and sits across him. “I see.”
“I’ve already said yes.”
“Congratulations are in order then,” Her voice falters just a little, but she musters a smile and takes his hand, “Order anything you want, on the house.”
“It’ll only be three years,” Kento squeezes back, “And after that, I’ll come back.” To you.
“Silly boy, you haven’t given up on me at all?”
“Stop this already,” Yuuji’s tone changes, tight and profoundly sad, “You aren’t obliged to keep what your eight-year-old self promised.”
Before Kento can say anything, she continues, “You’re a handsome and bright young bachelor. I’m sure you’ll find an equally nice and young lady to settle with. I’m glad to have seen you grow, but please don’t burden yourself like this. I won’t be able to give you an exciting life and I’m older than you-”
“Age is a small matter.”
Yuuji huffs, “This isn’t funny, Kento-kun.”
“It’s not a joke.” Kento faces her, “It’s not. I promise it isn’t.”
She sucks in a breath, worrying at her forehead. Kento gently takes her hands and cradles them, letting sincerity from all years tide over. “... My mormor said that if you don’t want to be courted, I have to respect it. If you’re telling me to stop because you don’t feel the same as I do, then I’ll do it. I cherish you more than anything else, reciprocation or no. But, if you’re telling me to stop because of misplaced guilt... then I won’t.”
Kento presses her encased hand to his face, “Please give me a chance, Yuuji-san.”
“I won’t always be pretty.”
“But you’ll always be Yuuji.”
Yuuji looks like she’s about to cry. “Then, where are your words?”
“Will you marry me?”
“And why do you like me, Kento-kun?”
“Because the world is so much better with you in it, because you’re home, and you’ve brought magic in my otherwise dull life. Because you’ve always been at my side, sweet and strong. You’ve never taken advantage of my absurd affections and you’ve always been my closest friend and confidant.”
“That’s so corny.” She’s crying now.
“You wanted to know.” Kento gently wipes at her tears with a handkerchief.
“And no ring?”
“Right here, in my jacket.” Kento’s about to unbutton and show off his panel when Yuuji flusteredly blocks his action.
“How long have you carried that?”
“The gold ring I've carried since I had the salary to afford it. The steel one, when I had the allowance in high school. The candy type, when I didn’t.”
“Should’ve known you were always prepared.”
“I’m sure of my decisions Yuuji-san, and I’ve always been sure of you.” This wasn’t rushed. Sure he had fallen in love at first sight, but he kept on loving her and loving her until the skeptic's heart was just full of it, full of her magic and stardust.
“I don’t think I’ve broken your heart yet.”
Yuuji kisses him on the cheek, simple and sweet. “If you ever find yourself feeling the same way when you come back, I’ll give you an answer.”
Kento is a little stupefied from the kiss. “You’re making me wait.”
“I’m going to be waiting for you too, you know.” She removes the black ribbon holding her hair and winds it around Kento’s wrist. “A little favor before you go on your journey.”
“Now you’re the one acting embarrassing.”
She squawks, walking away. Kento nearly trips on his feet trying to reach for her.
“I miss the Kento-kun who told me I was a disney princess.”
Age 28: happily ever after
The first thing Kento does when he lands in Tokyo is to propose, because he's terribly weak like that. He heads to the bakery, bringing no special props or bands to serenade Yuuji to. Just himself. Yuuji has always appreciated things without fanfare, wanting things simple and sweet. She says yes.
They're married to the day.