Stragglers and BerriesParing:
Chiaki is still lagging behind but Kotoha is there to help him. G Rating
The transition between everyday life and being one of Takeru's vassals seemed seamless for Mako, even Ryunosuke. Everyone seemed to be able to put their dreams on hold except for Chiaki and it made him angry. He'd sworn he was going to surpass Takeru yet he was the only one who seemed to be having trouble letting go. The fact that the other two were older so it be easier for them wasn't an excuse he subscribed to as Kotoha was younger then him and it wasn't an issue for her.
Per usual Chiaki was the only straggler. He might be able to come up with a fly by the seat of your pants and hope you win strategy faster then anyone else but in all other areas he came in dead last and it frustrated him to no end. He understood the risks, especially now, of having others involved but he was a social creature and there was only so much of Ryunosuke's incessant babbling that he could take.
So despite Jii's warnings he still snuck out, though this time he thought ahead and kept to the sidelines, watching as his friends got to live their lives. It was stupid really, a desperate way to feel included in something he wanted so bad he could taste but couldn't have just yet. His life was paused, it would stay that way until each and every Gedoushu was defeated. A fact which was made painfully obvious when Kouji and his girlfriend, a girl Chiaki himself used to be into, walked past as he hid behind a tree. That had been the last day he'd snuck out to see his friends.
It was also the day Kotoha found him slumped against the base of a tree in the yard. She hadn't said anything, just smiled and sat down beside him, her fingers toying with the trimmed grass and waiting for him to speak. At first Chiaki thought if he was quiet long enough she'd leave, but this was Kotoha and he couldn't bring himself to be that mean anyway.
Ryunosuke on the other hand...
“I'm an idiot,” Chiaki muttered dropping his head back against the tree so hard that Kotoha winced “Why wait for me when Kouji's right there?”
Kotoha was confused, anyone would be, but she gave him a reassuring smile and patted his arm, “Your not an idiot. Kouji,” she blinked and looked thoughtful, “That was your friend right?”
He offered her a lopsided smile glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, “The girl he's seeing is the one I liked in high school.”
Chiaki was almost expecting Kotoha to pat him on the shoulder and tell him it was okay, there would be more girls. Instead she made a face like she'd eaten something sour or a disapproving Grandmother, complete with narrowed eyes and crossed arms over her chest.
“She's stupid,” Kotoha said adding a little determine nod at the end.
This got Chiaki's attention and he sat up straight staring at her, “What? Why?” The particular girl, Yuriko, had always seemed so intelligent in school that he couldn't picture her on the other end of the spectrum.
“Kouji in place of Chiaki?” She genuinely looked confused. “Your brave, strong, and your stroke order in calligraphy class is getting much better! This girl is very stupid.”
Chiaki just kept staring, her words repeating over and over in his head. It wasn't long before Kotoha started to blush and tried to look away but he wouldn't let her, his hand gently cupping her chin and forcing her eyes to meet his.
“You really think I'm brave? Despite all the dumb things I've done?”
Kotoha made a small noise of agreement and Chiaki's grin grew right before he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers in a feather light kiss, one of those so light it might not even have been real contact kiss. To him she tasted of berries and when he pulled away both of them were blushing. Kotoha giggled, one hand covering her mouth, but her eyes never left Chiaki's as he grinned back at her. As the pair settled back against the tree again, fingers laced loosely between them, Chiaki decided that Kouji could keep Yuriko. He had something a much more precious.