Chapter 1: The morning after
It was already mid December and the snow was falling gently over Kanagawa. Just last night, a snowstorm occurred and it drowned the entire city with masses of ice. The usually green grassed lawns were now covered with thick, blankets of white frost while frail icicles hung from branches of trees and were sparkling like chandeliers. The normally busy city now displayed a perfect image of a tranquil scenery.
Most people decided to stay inside their warm, cozy homes but others wanted to go outside and enjoy the wondrous beauty of the snowy wonderland. Children, who were bundled in thick jackets and many layers of clothing, were found playing on frost-covered parks and hills. Even some of the adults found amusement in the snow.
In one of the houses near the park, a chilly wind came blowing in, effectively waking up one of its inhabitants. Letting out a small yawn, Tachibana An stretched out her arms and slowly sat up in her bed. A small smile graced her face when she looked out the window and saw crystalline snowflakes dancing in the wind. She shivered when another gust of wind made its way into the room.
“Ohayo,” she greeted no one in particular. An felt that today would be a perfect day for her. Here she was in her room, snuggled naked in her soft, comfy bed. She reminded herself to take a long, hot bath and drink a cup of hot cocoa afterwards. Maybe later on she could call her senpai’s and invite them to spend the entire afternoon with her.
Wait a minute…
What the hell?!
An gaped at her realization. She looked under the sheets and confirmed that she was indeed naked. She immediately scanned the room and realized that it was not hers. She hastily pulled the blanket around her bare body, her heart thumping wildly.
She tried to remember whose room it was but then a wave of nausea suddenly hit her. A small movement from her left immediately caught her attention. There was someone in bed with her! An gripped the bed sheets tightly, her breathing suddenly becoming heavy. Gulping, she slowly pulled the blanket off to reveal her company and gasped when a mop of silver hair greeted her.
She looked around again and it was just then had she figured out that it was his room she was in. She often came there, along with all the other Rikkai regulars, whenever Masaharu Niou was bored. Ever since she came into Rikkai Daigaku Fuzoku to attend university, she became really good friends with the Rikkai boys. She especially became close to Niou, whom at first, she thought, did nothing but play tricks on people. But then he proved her wrong when during one of her darkest moments at school, it was Niou who helped her and brought the smile back to her face.
What am I doing here? Did something happen between u--
Her thoughts were interrupted when she felt another movement, now from her right, and heard a groan. When she turned to the source of the sound, she found herself face to face with a groggy and equally naked Kirihara Akaya. It took a whole minute for the black-haired lad to realize that An was gaping at him. He blinked when he saw her, scrutinizing the girl from head to waist then back up.
Both Kirihara and An screamed, backing away from each other. An desperately pulled the sheets to cover herself while Kirihara hugged the nearest thing to his right, which turned out to be Marui Bunta. Both boys let out a girlish scream.
Marui fell down from the bed as he struggled to get away from his kohai. Kirihara quickly crawled off the bed, face flushed.
“What the hell are you doing in my bed?! and with Marui-senpai?!” Kirihara pointed at An accusingly, surprise evident in his voice. An felt another wave of nausea hit her.
“This is not your bed, idiot!” she answered, not looking at him. Kirihara scowled and was about to retort when Marui interrupted him.
“Before you say another word, Akaya, can you please cover yourself first?” the redhead told him. Kirihara gawked at his senpai before looking at his naked form. He covered whatever needs to be covered with his hands and hurriedly ran towards the bathroom. Despite the awkwardness of the situation, An couldn’t help but giggle at her friend’s silliness.
“Oi, what’s the ruckus all about?” a sleepy voice asked. An took a deep breath before turning to look at the silver-haired trickster. It was then Marui’s turn to gape like a fish when he saw his best friend lying on the other side of the bed. Niou merely blinked at him before turning to the girl beside him. Something interesting caught his attention.
“Nice design, An,” Niou whistled, eyeing the star-shaped tattoo located on her lower back. “Very sexy.”
A loud slap was heard all over the house.
“So… can anyone tell me what’s happening?” asked Niou as he combed his unruly hair with his hand. Sporting only a dragon-patterned boxer shorts, the golden-eyed boy rubbed the cheek An slapped a few minutes ago.
“You tell us!” Kirihara, who was now wearing a pair of Niou’s clothes, shrieked. “This is your room and you’re the perverted one here!”
Marui frowned at his friends before handing An a bathrobe he found in Niou’s closet.
“Thank you, senpai,” muttered An, smiling at him. The three boys stared at her as she carefully wrapped the robe around her body. Noticing this, the brunette shot them a glare, pulling the blankets that were sliding dangerously low, exposing her. The three Rikkai regulars quickly looked away.
When she was done, An sat on the edge of the bed and looked at the boys one by one. She bit her lower lip, brows furrowing.
“Uh…so,” the redhead started, breaking the eerie silence and catching the others’ attention. “Does anyone of you guys know what really happened?”
Niou sighed. He stood up from his computer chair and picked up something near him.
“Apparently, it all started with this,” he said, shaking the empty beer bottle in his hands. Niou’s family was out of town for the week so the trickster decided to hold a house party reunion for the Rikkai regulars and An. It had been a while since all of them have actually hung out together. University was already taking a toll on them, especially the third years, and since they have chosen different courses and had different schedules, they weren’t able to hang out together that much often.
Kirihara and Marui arrived there early because they didn’t have anything better to do at home. An, who came all the way from Tokyo because she visited her family, arrived there an hour and a half later. The others had other business to attend first and were supposed to follow but due to the strong snowstorm that night, they weren’t able to go to Niou’s house at all. Still, the four friends enjoyed the night together, drowning themselves in beer, pizza, takoyaki and laughter.
The former junior ace took the bottle from Niou and examined it.
“Che, they weren’t lying when they said this stuff was really strong,” he said, his head throbbing, “The only thing I remembered is that I drank around 6 bottles of this then I felt very sleepy so I went up to Niou-senpai’s room to take a nap…”
“You mean that’s all you remembered?”
“What about after that?”
“Huh, about after what?”
“Nothing,” Marui rolled his eyes, somewhat irritated. Kirihara can be so slow sometimes.
“How about you, senpai? What do you remember?” Kirihara asked, leaning on the computer table for support.
Marui furrowed his brows, “Well, after the movie marathon, I was the only one left in the living room because An went upstairs to check up on Niou, who at that time puked because he had too much beer and takoyaki,” he snorted at the trickster, who simply ignored him, and continued, “I wanted to follow but I was too tipsy so I decided to just stay downstairs.”
“But you were beside me this morning! How do you explain that?”
“Hey, how am I supposed to know?!” Marui snapped, “I don’t remember anything anymore after I slept.”
Kirihara groaned. Then, they turned to Niou.
“I gagged, went to my room, took a shower and immediately went to sleep on the futon near the bed. That’s all I remember.” he explained nonchalantly. Kirihara and Marui eyed him, not quite believing what he said. The amethyst-eyed tensai then turned to An.
“How about you, An?”
All eyes were now fixed on her. An bit her lower lip in thought.
“I’m sorry guys, I don’t remember much as well. All I know is that when I entered Niou-senpai’s room to check on him, I accidentally stumbled on something… or moreover someone…” An paused, looking at Niou, “…and fell on the bed. I supposed the liquor’s effect was, without a doubt, really strong as I passed out after that...”
Silence reigned the room for a while and it was Niou who broke it. “So… it was Kirihara’s fault then,” he finally concluded.
“Huh, why me?”
“Because you were the one in bed with An-chan,”
“But I didn’t do anything!” Kirihara protested, glancing at An and hoping that the girl wouldn’t believe the trickster’s lies, “And besides, you were right next to her when we woke up!”
Niou just shrugged but was still grinning at his kohai. Everybody knew that Kirihara had feelings for the beautiful brunette and Niou just loved tormenting him about it.
“Well then, maybe it was with Marui you had sex with,” Niou’s eyes flashed in amusement. Kirihara’s face was suddenly struck with pure horror at the thought. A shoe flew towards Niou, who barely dodged it.
“Fucking bastard,” Marui cursed, ready to throw another one.
An rubbed her temple to somehow lessen the headache that she was feeling. It was very odd that nobody remembered what really happened last night, even herself. Was that the effect of the strong beer they drank yesterday? Was it really possible to not remember anything at all?
Finally, she broke the verbal spat that was happening between the boys.
“Guys, I think we won’t be able to sort out this problem right now, with all of us having major hangovers. Maybe we should take a long rest first then think things over later on. In that way, we might recall what the truth is.”
With that, she stood up and started collecting her clothes, which to her horror, were sprawled all over the room.
“Uh...Kirihara-kun?” An called out to the raven-haired boy, who was obliviously standing on top of her underwear. Realizing this, Kirihara quickly jumped away from the piece of clothing like it was fire, his face a deep shade of red.
An went inside the bathroom to change but a few seconds later, her head poked out of the door.
“Uhm…Has anyone seen my, err… bra?”
All of them turned to Niou, who was busy pulling and stretching the red lingerie in his hands.
“Do you have any aces?”
“Go fish!” An replied cheerily.
Six weeks had already passed by since the ‘incident’ but An sometimes still couldn’t believe that she actually ‘slept’ with her friends. She still flushed at the thought that she might have actually done it with one of them – or worse, with all three of them. Though she still didn’t remember what really happened that night, the fact that she woke up naked in Niou’s bed, with three equally naked boys beside her and her whole body aching like something pounded it a couple of times, was enough proof that something did happen between her and her friends.
“Woo!” Kirihara beamed, flashing the ace he just pulled out from the pile of cards in the middle of the table. “Since I pulled out this baby… Niou-senpai, do you have any aces?”
Niou stuck out his tongue, “Go fish.”
An went back to Tokyo to spend the rest of her winter vacation there. The boys, however, took this as a sign that she was angry with them. And she was not. She just needed to sort out her feelings about that very embarrassing situation. But the three felt very unsettled because of the thought that they might lose their one and only clipped-haired princess, a nickname Niou gave her which she very much despises.
Marui carefully examined his cards, a slight creased formed between his eyebrows, “An, got any sevens?”
“Sorry, go fish!”
Kirihara, Marui and Niou decided to go for a surprise visit to make peace with her. Armed with dozens of presents, the trio arrived at their house the day after Christmas. Although An’s parents already knew about the Rikkai boys being close to their daughter, they can’t help but think otherwise as the boys showered her with chocolates, flowers and plushies. Kippei was not that amused but he just kept silent as the boys weren’t really doing anything wrong to his sister…yet. Or so he thought.
“My turn!” An announced, “Hmmm… do you have any tens, Marui-senpai?”
Kirihara snorted as An pulled a card from the deck. She gazed at him, baby blue eyes twinkling in amusement.
“Got any tens?”
Scowling, Kirihara handed over his card. She smiled sweetly at him before turning to Niou.
“Got any tens, senpai?”
“Go fish!” he smirked at her.
“Oh well,” An shrugged, reaching for a card.
Trying not to alert her parents, especially her overprotective brother, that something wrong happened between them and An, Niou told them that the purpose of their visit was to simply, finally meet their little princess’ parents. An scowled at him when he mentioned that disgusting nickname again. The gifts they brought were Christmas presents, all in the spirit of the holiday season. Meanwhile, Kirihara felt uneasy all throughout the visit as he remembered that he did something awful to their son when they were still in junior high. Surprisingly, even though An’s parents knew about the incident between Kippei and him, they never made Kirihara feel uncomfortable. They were actually very accommodating and friendly, making the former junior ace sigh in relief.
Assured that no one will suspect about real purpose of their visit, the boys immediately bombarded An with apologies. The girl laughed at how desperate they look before hugging each one of them. Telling them that there was no need to apologize as she was part of the situation they were in, An simply told them to just forget everything that happened about that fateful day – not that they remembered anything at all – and made them promise not to tell anyone about it. The boys agreed with no questions and they left Tokyo that night without anymore doubts.
“Marui, hand me over your kings,”
The redhead made a face before handing over three cards.
Niou then turned to An and asked, “Got any fives?”
“Go fish, senpai!”
Niou pouted as he reached for a card. His frown immediately turned into a smirk. “ALL YOUR ACES ARE BELONGING TO ME, AKAYA!” he playfully proclaimed.
“Wait, I just asked you for an ace!” Kirihara protested.
“But I just drew this wonderful card,” replied Niou, waving the last ace in front of his kohai. “Now, be a good boy and hand them over.”
“Cheater!” the black-haired boy accused.
An laughed at her friends’ antics. Despite what happened between them, she was very thankful that her friendship with the three Rikkai boys wasn’t ruined. Embarrassing at it may be, the apology they did meant so much to her. It assured her that no matter what happens, they will always be there for her. She was very happy to have met them. And although the boys can be such real bastards at times, An didn’t mind because she cares for them. They are the greatest reasons why her smile never fades away.
It was a hectic Friday morning for the university students of Rikkaidai. Today was the last day of midterm examinations. Most students were either busy studying for their remaining exams or complying with their subject requirements. The thought of the upcoming weekend with no projects or assignments at all is what motivates them to do their best. Some are already done and are hanging out lazily on the school corridors. Later, they will go out and celebrate with their friends.
For most people, today will be a perfect day.
But for a certain Tachibana An, today was one of the worst days in her life.
“Good morning, An-san.”
“Eh?” An blinked, looking up She saw Yagyuu Hiroshi staring at her, “Good morning, Yagyuu-senpai.”
An nodded and the gentleman sat across her.
“I’ve been calling you for quite a while now but you didn’t even spare me a single glance. Is something the matter?”
“Huh? Oh, yes… I mean no! What I mean is yes, I’m ok and nothing is wrong,” she replied, smiling sheepishly at him, “I’m sorry, Yagyuu-senpai. It’s just I didn’t get enough sleep last night because I had to finish a project due later this afternoon...”
“Aah…” Yagyuu nodded but not quite believing her.
“Don’t worry, I’m really okay! See?” She flashed him one of her sunny smiles.
Yagyuu smiled back at her. He fixed his glasses first before speaking once more, “I don’t see any of your boys around. It’s a miracle they have abandoned you.”
An chuckled at his teasing, “Well, Niou-senpai still have exams until the afternoon. Marui-senpai and Jackal-senpai are in the library, finishing their reports. And Kirihara-kun…Well, I haven’t seen him yet.”
The school bell rang.
An looked at her watch and stood up. “Ah, I have to go now, senpai. I still have to submit these to my Literature professor,” she said, waving the papers in her hand.
“Shall I accompany you to your classroom?” Yagyuu offered, standing up as well. An beamed at him but refused.
“No need, senpai. I’ll be okay. But thanks for the offer. I’ll just see you later at lunch, ne? Ja!” The brunette waved cheerily and ran off. She wasn’t that far from the gentleman yet when her head began to spin and her steps begin to falter.
She then felt strong arms support her by the shoulders.
“You look really pale, An-san. I think it would be best if you go see the doctor.”
“But my assignment…”
“I’ll take them to your class after I drop you off to the clinic.”
An was about to protest again but seeing the firm look on Yagyuu’s face, she could only nod, “Thank you…” she said softly.
On the way to the clinic, An was beginning to feel queasy again.
“Senpai, can you please take me to the restroom? I need to use the toilet first.”
Yagyuu understood and assisted her towards the girl’s lavatory. An thanked him once more and told him that it will only take a minute. She immediately ran inside one of the cubicles and threw up everything she ate earlier. Her head began to hurt. Ever since last week, An had been feeling so tired and ill. At first, she thought that it might be the lack of sleep. But then, she began to vomit almost every morning and her body felt sore. Silly, but sometimes, she gets the feeling that she might actually be…
An covered her mouth with her hand, realization dawning upon her. Her eyes widened in sheer horror.