Solus: The Pairing of Fate
"So, what's it going to be, Izuya? Are you planning on joining?"
As there weren't many matches left in the afternoon, it ended rather quickly and the crowd was beginning to disperse.
The three of us remained in the hall to discuss whether we would like to join.
"It seems interesting...I'm not too sure about joining it though. Argh, why does our school give credits for being in a club!" I cried out in frustration.
"You don't have to join one, but I guess you would, Mr. Top Scorer." Madoka teased.
Although my grades were most definitely at the top of the school, they won't necessarily remain that way. I wasn't so naive as to think that it would be mine for my whole duration here.
The moment when I lose the top spot in this school would be the time where I would lose my place here. Hence, being in a club to get extra credits would help me tremendously.
"So are you the three who expressed interest in joining?" A senior approached us while still in gear.
"Ah, yes. We would like to try out." Ikuro responded.
"Nice to meet you. My name's Hazuki, I'm the captain of the Kendo club here. It is rather rare for someone with no experience to express interest in joining a sports club, any reason?"
"Well…" I can't just simply say that I wanted credits and this club is full of beautiful students.
"Ahhh, no need to say it. It's for the extra credits, right? Judging by your build, you probably wouldn't want to join a static club and all,"
Right on the nail…
"That said, I still have to test you and all. This is a club full of rather strong athletes."
A test? Does she mean like a sparring session? I didn't know about this!
"Don't look so worried, you three. Of course, we will go easy on you, seeing how you bunch have no experience after all."
Hazuki-senpai guided us on how to wield the sword properly and had us put on our hakama as well. She had Ikuro and Madoka take the test first with everyone in the club, including those from our sister school looking. I wasn't worried about Ikuro failing it as we both trained together but I was surprised that Madoka seemed to be rather good.
"Lastly, Hikaru-kun, come on up. I will -"
"Could I be the one to try a spar against him, senpai?" Someone interjected and walked onto the center of the hall as Hazuki-senpai was getting ready.
Shizuku had waltzed to the middle, already wearing her mask with her sword in one hand. Despite wearing the mask, I could see her look of anger behind it.
"Shizuku? I mean sure, but why so sudden?"
"I just know him a little."
"You two know each other? Well, fine then. Make sure to take it easy, you got it?"
"Eh." Shizuku readied while replying to Hazuki-senpai.
As the match started, I decided to concentrate all my senses on the figure in front of me. The look in her eyes told me that she wasn't going to take it easy at all. I prepared myself to defend, making sure to cover all my blind spots and then, I saw the ceiling.
In an instant, I was knocked backward and downed by her. I wasn't able to see it coming at all and before I knew it, I was on the ground, losing consciousness as I tried to make out what they were saying…
The last I could see was an upside-down image of Madoka and Ikuro rushing over to me.
“As I said, I'm terribly sorry for knocking you out in one hit!”
“That isn’t an apology at all!”
I woke up in the infirmary in school, still feeling a little dizzy from the incident. I could barely recall what happened during the try-out but I could probably guess it. Looking around, I saw the main culprit of the incident sitting by my bedside.
“Oh, you are awake. Great now to get the apology over and done with.”
“I’m terribly sorry for knocking you out with a single hit from my sword. Sigh...I wouldn't even want to apologize if not for Captain.” Shizuku said with a sarcastic tone.
This brings us back to the present, where we were arguing back and forth non-stop. Both of us seem to have forgotten that we were currently in the infirmary and began shouting at each other, being able to be heard from outside.
“That’s enough out of you two!” Captain Hazuki screamed with a deafening voice as she stormed into the room.
Needless to say, we were thoroughly scolded yet again.
“Whatever the reason for it, you two need to stop it and makeup. After all, you will be seeing each other more often at practice from now on.”
“~Eh?” Shizuku and I were both puzzled at Hazuki-Senpai's statement.
“Congrats, Izuya. From today, you are part of the Kendo club.”
“~Hah?!” We both exclaimed.
“B-But, I was certain I failed seeing how the try-out went.”
“Well, in the first place, the try-out itself was unfair, thanks to a certain someone.” She glanced at Shizuku as she said it.
“But your friends were persuasive in letting you join them. Bragging about how you were better at them and all but wasn’t given the chance to show it. Ahh~Friendship.”
Kill me. Did Ikuro and Madoka say that? I mean, sure and all we wanted to join the club together. But doing it like this makes it seem like I was some sort of loser!
“Well, that’s that. You two should settle your differences here and now.” Hazuki-senpai said while smiling.
Although the both of us there could tell that there was no kindness behind that smile. She wasn’t asking us to do it, but rather forcing us to. Unwillingly, I laid my hand out for her while looking away and was met with her hand as well before we gave a firm shake. Both of us had clicked our tongue at the same time, unknowingly to the other party.
“Alright! Now, Izuya. If you are feeling better now, you should go join your friends. I believe they are waiting for you. And Shizuku, you are on clean-up duties, I don’t have to tell you why, do I?”
We parted ways while still having sour feelings between us as I headed over to the entrance where Ikuro and Madoka were waiting.
“Izuya. Feeling better now?”
“Ah, yea. Sorry to keep you and Ikuro waiting.”
“Sigh...What is it, Ikuro?”
“To think that of all people, you would get knocked out in one move...Pfhahaha!”
“I like to see you take her on then.” I said with an irritated tone
“No thank you. I couldn’t possibly compare to you.” Ikuro said with a sarcastic tone.
“Why are you guys waiting out here anyway? Did we have anything on today?”
“Oh, the thing is-”
“Beep-Beep” A car horn sounded out as Ikuro was trying to explain.
“‘You three, get in already.”
“Aya-nee?!” I shouted, being surprised by her car suddenly stopping in front of us.
“We are going to get the suits and dress ready for tomorrow, ahaha.” Ikuro explained.
Come to think of it, he did mention that he was going to bring me to get some proper clothing for the event tomorrow. I simply assumed we would be doing it on the morning of the day itself. Not wanting to disturb the traffic, as well as wanting to avoid the curious stares from the remaining students in the school, the three of us got in the backseat of the car.
“Nice to see you again after so long, Izuya-kun.”
“Geh! Mom?! What are you doing here?” Ikuro exclaimed.
Sitting in the front seat with Ayane was Ikuro’s mother, Amagami Azusa. She looked after me a lot during my childhood days as Father was busy at work and I usually spent my time at Ikuro’s house.
“I-It’s good to see you again too, ma’am.”
“Uhuhu. No need to be so formal now.” Azusa chuckled a little as she said.
“Forget that! What are you doing here, mom?!” Ikuro added.
“What? I can’t be here? I was the one who extended an invite to Izuya-kun after all, so I wouldn’t want him to be dressed inappropriately for the event tomorrow now would I?”
“That’s right~ Mom is here to help pick out proper clothes for Izuya-kun!” Ayane added.
Somehow, all this talk seems to be pointing at me not having a good sense of fashion or what to wear to the event…
Do I dress that badly? I think of myself as a rather fashionable person, with fashionable clothes being the best-looking clothes I can find in my cupboard but I don’t think it looks that bad…
As they continued subtly criticizing my fashion choice, we arrived in front of a prestigious-looking branded store. On the display case outside were countless apparel that looked like it would only be worn by the best of the best.
Gulp...Looking at this place, I don’t belong here.
“Izuya! What are you waiting for? Get out of the car and come in?”
Seeing Ayane behaving like her usual self with her energetic voice relaxed me a little, giving me the slightest hope that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all…
That was what I thought! What is this place??!! The outside looks all fancy and luxurious, but the interior looks like a goddamn castle! Are those spiral stairs leading to a second floor and even a third?! Wasn’t this supposed to be a clothing store?
I glanced over at Ikuro and Madoka, hoping they would be sharing the same sentiment as me. Madoka was looking all around and at the various dresses that were displayed while Ikuro had his hands behind his head and casually strolled along with us.
Somehow I just can’t seem to relax at all in this atmosphere. Especially since we seemed to be treated more carefully than the other guests currently in this ...store? Can this be even called a store?
We were guided by a professional-looking servant into a private room with two dressing rooms and handed a catalog. I did take a small peek at it while Ayane and Azusa were flipping through it and couldn't seem to tell the difference between all the different clothing.
Somehow...I feel like I do have a bad fashion sense now… Even Ikuro and Madoka seemed to be looking through the catalog like they were used to it.
“Hmm? What is it, Izuya?”
“Are you getting a new suit as well?”
“Well, yea. That’s the whole reason I am here as well.”
“Don’t you have a wardrobe full of them by now?”
“I mean, sure I do. But different clothes for different events, right? What’s wrong with-Oh...Is our little Izuya too nervous in this shop? Do you need me to hold your hand?” Ikuro teased.
“Tsk, I shouldn’t have bothered to ask.”
“Don’t worry too much about it, Izuya! Just sit back and relax, we will get the clothes for you to try out.” Ayane slapped me on the back as she comforted me.
Sure enough, Azusa pointed out a few different clothing from the catalog and the servant went to get them and was back within a few minutes. What happened next was me essentially being a ‘model’ of sorts and trying on suit after suit and getting reactions from the others on it.
“Well, they do say that the clothes are what makes the man. We will go with this set.”
After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally done trying out the different suits and settled on one. Without even noticing nor having the time to look at what Madoka or Ikuro tried on, they were already done with their pick and were waiting for me.
As Ayane paid for the clothes at the reception, I coincidentally saw the cost. Let’s just say that one of these suits could probably get me by for the month…
And to think Ikuro has a wardrobe full of them...That wardrobe is a treasure vault.
“Hey, Ikuro...Is this alright? Paying for mine as well and all…” I whispered
“Don’t worry about it too much, Izuya-kun. A small amount like this is nothing. Besides, I can’t make you pay for something I practically forced you to wear now, can I?” Azusa overheard and gently said.
S-Small amount? Well, this would definitely be a small amount to a wealthy family like the Amagami, but to think she could so casually roll it off her tongue made me speechless.
Gulp...Anxious would be the best word to describe how I was feeling at this moment. Standing in front of me was a luxurious ballroom that seemed like the medieval era and the modern world had a collaboration. I have been to several parties with Ikuro before but none of those could compare to the scene I was looking at right now.
Glorious chandelier lighting that seemed to glimmer across the hall, each one of those glimmers belonged to a diamond. And that wasn’t even the main hall where the event would take place, but rather the lobby instead. Curved stairs that were present on both sides had a red lining carpet that led up to a similarly colored red door.
“H-Hey, Ikuro. You sure I’m allowed to be here? This can’t compare to anything you brought me to before…” My eyes darted around as I asked Ikuro, who was walking leisurely by my side.
‘Ahh~ I sorta knew you would be like this. It’s the main reason I didn’t even inform you what type of event this was anyways.”
“Wait a second! Is that the actress from the recent hit show?! Wait, the balding guy over there seems familiar!”
“Minister of Justice,” Madoka confirmed my initial thought.
“What…Why am I here again?”
“Because I thought it would be amusing, ufufu.” Azusa snickered as she led us up the stairs.
Stepping into the room, I felt as if it was a different dimension. Compared to the glamouring and luxurious lobby, the interior was much grander but not as flashy. Various exquisite foods were on display and for the taking and most of the guests were standing by them while having their conversations.
I gawked around like a child who had gone outside for the first time. I could make out some of the guests as people of great importance and some celebrities.
Ikuro and Madoka had been attending parties like this since they were young?! Although I somewhat had an idea that they went to grand parties as part of their families but I never expected it to be this much. I began to look at them in a different light yet again.
After making her way to the inner part of the hall, Azusa gestured to Ikuro to move on as she began to make her way to her husband. Ikuro’s father, Amagami Ikuto, one of the most well-known people in the country, was recently engaged in a conversation with a group of people.
“Come on, Izuya. Don’t just stand there in a daze, take the chance to get some good food.” Ikuro pushed me from behind as I was still standing there aloof.
“That’s right, Izuya. The food here is made by famous chefs as well. You probably won’t have many chances to taste them.” Madoka tugged at my sleeves as she walked forward.
Was the food so important right now? I was more concerned about what I was doing here and why they were so eager to guide me. It wasn’t long before I knew the reason for their enthusiasm.
“Izuya?” A familiar voice called out my name as we slowly approached the buffet area.
Dressed in an elegant coral dress and at the same time, emphasizing her modest figure, was Suzuha. Her hair was done up in a crown braid and her face was applied with minimal make-up that made it seem natural.
“Suzuha?!”I called out her name in reflex.
Now I knew why these two were so adamant about pushing me here. They must have known that she was here front the start and wanted to stir some trouble up. As we slowly got closer to her, it was only then that we found out that she wasn’t alone.
“Greetings to you, Amagami Ikuro, Nanaho Madoka...and you are?”
A tall and sturdy-looking man stepped forward and extended his greetings. He looked towards me and then back at Suzuha, his eyes asking if she knew me.
“Ahem. It’s good to see you again, Ikuro-kun, Madoka-san. Izuya-kun, this person here is my father, Mikase Rushida. Father, this is Hikaru Izuya, a classmate of Ikuro and me.” Suzuha introduced me to her father as she explained.
“A classmate..? Were you perhaps invited here?”
“That’s right, Mikase-san, my mother had extended the invitation to him out of courtesy of our long friendship.” Ikuro calmly told him.
Ikuro was speaking in a way that I would have thought was impossible. He was speaking like a true gentleman while not being rude in any way. It was a rather shocking sight for me but I guess it was considered normal for him.
“I-It’s nice to meet you, Mikase-san.” I bowed to him instinctively.
“Hmm, yes. Suzuha, go ahead with them, I will head elsewhere.” He said as he began walking towards a gathering of people not far away, not before giving me one last look.
Was he not satisfied that I was here despite my status?
“I didn’t expect to see you here. It’s a pleasant surprise.” Suzuha said as she gave off a slight smile.
I could just see the two of them grinning behind me despite only looking forward.
“Yeah, I was given the chance to come here after all. I didn’t even know you would be here too.”
“Hm? I would always see Ikuro-kun and Madoka-san at these events so surely they would know about it.”
“Ho...Is that so?” I looked back to see Ikuro looking away and whistling while Madoka was facing the other direction.
Was this the reason I was invited here in the first place? I recalled Azusa’s words that she gave me the invitation as she thought that it would be amusing. Perhaps Ikuro told her about how I knew Suzuha and all, which led to me being invited here.
I then looked around to see if I could spot Azusa anywhere and sure enough, she blended in with the crowd so that it was hard to spot her. She was peeking over in our direction to observe the situation. As she caught my line of sight, she gave off a slight wink and laugh before getting back to the conversation.
“Ah~Ah, I thought I noticed something displeasing and I was right. Why are you here, Madoka? After essentially running from the house to a boy’s house, you have some nerve to turn up here.” A sneering voice sounded out behind us.
“Hah?!~” Both Ikuro and I jerked to the source of the insult, only to find Madoka’s sisters standing in a group together.
“Hm! As if sticking to the 'Amagamis' was not enough, to think you would hang out with a person of such low class too.” Madoka’s oldest sister, Tsukiko exclaimed as she eyed me up.
Both Ikuro and I had a displeased look on our faces as we faced them, but I couldn’t find words to retort what they said when Suzuha spoke up.
“Hm, I don’t appreciate you insulting my personal friends over here, Tsukiko-san”
“And who are you - Why, isn’t this Mikase-san? Are you friends with them as well?” Tsukiko and her sisters were rather adamant about arguing back before they realized that Suzuha spoke.
Although it could be said that the Nanaho and Mikase family were almost equal in terms of authority. The Mikase household plays a more prominent role as Suzuha’s heir means that she was in a higher position than all of us here.
“W-Well… I guess we shouldn’t bother with the likes of you now, we have somewhere to be now so goodbye.” Tsukiko said as she hurried off, not wanting to deal with an argument with Suzuha.
I could feel the sisters giving me a nasty look before making their way off.
“Ahh~ That felt refreshing! I never saw those looks on their faces before. Thanks, Suzuha-chan!” Madoka stretched her arms up and placed them over Suzuha’s shoulders.
“Don’t mention it. Besides, I didn’t like them insulting you guys.”
“You mean insulting Izuya, right?” Ikuro added, resulting in Suzuha looking downwards with her ears showing a tint of red.
“Cut it out, man.” I elbowed Ikuro’s sides.
“Hey, did you two know? I heard from Mother that there are some bigshots from overseas here today as well.” Ikuro asked the two girls.
“Yes, my father mentioned it as well. One of the biggest Italian Mafia is here today.” Suzuha added.
“Italian Mafia?! Aren’t the mafia usually, I don’t know, criminals of sorts? Why would they be here?” I exclaimed.
“Izuya...You watch too many movies. While it’s true the Mafia may be seen as some sort of gang, they are a prominent association and are a rather important figure in various businesses.” Madoka shook her head at my statement as she explained.
For someone like me who had lived an ordinary life since I was young, I couldn’t even fathom being here, much less being at an event with all these important people. Maybe I could even see a real-life Mafia boss here in person.
As I was lost in my thoughts while the three of them were talking about who they met today and whatnot, a figure approached me from behind and locked me in an embrace. The two soft feelings that rested on the back of my head determined that it was a woman and the two hands that hugged over my chest gripped tightly.
“What~?!” The three of them, similarly shocked by the sudden embrace, looked towards me and said harmoniously.
“Who-” I looked upwards, attempting to find out the identity of the mysterious woman before she cut me off.
“Who do we have here? This makes the whole trip here a hundred times more worth it! What are you doing here, Izu-chan?”
After a hard struggle, I escaped from her arms and turned around to take a look.
“Eh? EH?!” I shouted out loud without thinking.
“Mother?!” The three echoed after me in surprise.
Standing in front of us in shades, with a blazer draping over her right shoulder, was my mother. Unlike the other women in the hall, she was wearing a white shirt with pants and had her hair tied up in a simple ponytail,
“That’s right. I’m the one who is surprised to see you here, considering that I never told your father or anyone that I was coming here.”
“B-But what are you doing here?! It’s been years since I last saw you!”
“Just for some business, nothing much.” She casually said as she ruffled my styled-up hair, making it a mess.
“Argh, stop it, mother.”
“You little rascal, already growing so fast and tall. I heard you are living alone now? Are you lonely? Are you eating alright?” She bombarded me with various questions as she continued messing up my hair.
My mind was in a complete mess from her sudden appearance, and I couldn’t think straight. At that moment, I had completely forgotten what sort of place we were in and how we were attracting a lot of attention. All I could think of was how happy I was, seeing mother suddenly again. Ikuro, Madoka, and Suzuha were also baffled by the situation and had difficulty finding words to speak.
“Izuya...This is your mother?”
“Ahh, right. You guys have only ever seen Chiyaki-san. This person here is my mother, Hikaru Rizuha. Mother, this is Mikase Suzuha, you already know of Ikuro and Madoka.”
“Good to see you three.”
“We know her, Izuya?” Ikuro flusteredly asked.
“Well...Not really, I think she met you once when we were kids but that’s all.”
Before we could continue our conversation, a bald, bulky-looking man dressed in a suit walked up to mother.
“Boss, you are needed over there.” He whispered in a soft voice, although we were still able to make out what he was saying.
“Eh~ I wanted to spend more time with Izu-chan. Sigh...Fine, let’s go. See you later, Izu-chan!” She ruffled my hair one last time before leaving with him.
Thanks to her endless ruffling while holding me in place with one arm, my hair was a complete mess.
“So this was your mother you told me about.” Suzuha asked, still feeling puzzled by her sudden appearance
“Ah, yeah. I was just as surprised as you were. Why is she here anyway?”
“Izuya, come over here.” Madoka dragged me away from the hall and into a room with Ikuro
“Ah, then I will see you guys later! I need to find my father.” Suzuha told us as we left the hall, and into a private room.
“You can fix your appearance and take a break in here.”
Looking into the full-sized mirror in the room, I looked like a complete mess. I didn’t notice when I was in the hall, but most of the guest’s attention was on us due to the ruckus and my appearance then wasn’t necessarily the most optimal, so Madoka had dragged me here to avoid the crowd.
“What was that!” Ikuro finally let loose of himself and asked me.
“I don’t even know! Why was she here anyway?!”
We continued this back and forth and decided on simply asking my mother later on. I slumped down on the couch as Ikuro had a more serious look on his face.
“What’s wrong, Ikuro?”
“Well, I just realized. If Madoka’s sisters were here, there is a high chance her parents are here as well.” Madoka’s face looked grim as Ikuro said it.
It took me a few seconds to contemplate what was wrong with Madoka’s parents being here at the event.
“Ah! Then isn’t it dangerous for us three to walk around together?”
“Yeah...Her father is most probably keeping a watch on her, so if he finds out the fact that there is a chance that you...might be her Solus partner…”
We were so engrossed in the party and our conversations that we had completely disregarded the fact that Madoka was still in a rather difficult position. After that day, we found out that there was a rather high possibility that I could be her partner, we were trying to avoid meeting her family when the two of us were together.
Seeing as how even Ikuro had forgotten about that fact, it probably means that he wasn’t expecting the Nanaho family to be attending this party today.
“Well, then perhaps we could just spend the rest of the time here?” I proposed.
“Not possible. Thanks to that commotion just now, they probably already noticed Madoka’s presence. So if we were to hide here, it would only make them more suspicious about our actions.
“Let’s at least rest here for as long as we can before going out then.” Ikuro said.
The three of us sigh at the situation as we relax on the couch, thinking about the struggles to come.