Chapter 17:

Under the Moonlight

Will The Stars Remember My Name?

Ryuuji was late. He looked at his watch and then hastened. His fast walk had become a jog now.Bookmark here

"Ah shit, I'm late."Bookmark here

He took a turn and felt even a greater sense of urgency as he saw the familiar cafe.Bookmark here

Nagasaki's Cafe.Bookmark here

It was written in bold italic and had a huge steaming cup of coffee along with a plastic banner. He sprinted to the door and stopped just outside. He brushed off dust from his clothes and pulled his blond hair back revealing his deep, intense eyes. He pulled his cheeks and flashed a smile at the door.Bookmark here

"Alright then, here we go!"Bookmark here

He stepped inside the cafe as the bell on the door tinkled softly.Bookmark here

"Oi Ryu, you're almost an hour late!" Came a familiar man's voice from behind the counter.Bookmark here

"Miyuki, Ryu's a popular boy in school. He must have been busy with his friends..." This time the voice was a bit kinder and polite. It had a slight crackle in it like an old woman's voice.Bookmark here

Suddenly, a sound of crashing plates came. Bookmark here

"Eep- I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I'll clean it up right away."Bookmark here

The young lady's voice was a bit high pitched as she apologized to the customer near her. Ryuuji's eyes observed everything quietly.Bookmark here

"Natsu! Ahh, how many dishes will you break!? Ryuuji, why are you just standing there, help her cle-"Bookmark here

Ryuuji raised his hand to silence Miyuki's rant. The entire cafe went silent and all of them looked at Ryuuji, waiting for him to speak or move. Bookmark here

He pulled back his hair once again and breathed in deeply as if getting ready to speak. Then he said, "Tell me Natsu-senpai..."Bookmark here

Natsu raised her eyebrows as Ryuuji twisted his head and lifted his chin. With an intense gaze he swerved his eyes towards her.Bookmark here

"Is it just me or am I shining like a star on a dark night today?"Bookmark here

"Just you."Bookmark here

"Just you."Bookmark here

"Just you."Bookmark here

Came three swift responses from Natsu, Miyuki and the customer who Natsu was apologizing too.Bookmark here

Ryuuji clenched his chest as a crocodile tear fell from his left eye. He wiped it off dramatically and murmured in a shaky voice,Bookmark here

"Ah, this world is full of cruel people."Bookmark here

The cafe burst out laughing as various regular customers cheered Ryuuji for his performance.Bookmark here

"Nice one, mate! It seemed more realistic today."Bookmark here

"Yo, do that tear thing again. Seemed so real."Bookmark here

Miyuki came out from behind the counter and dragged the bowing Ryuuji to the staff room so that he could change his clothes and get to work. Bookmark here

Mrs. Nagasaki chuckled at the scene. She beckoned Natsu and held her hand. Bookmark here

"Natsu, thank you for everything."Bookmark here

Natsu blushed and replied, "I'm sorry for all the trouble and worry I have caused."Bookmark here

She bowed as Mrs. Nagasaki shook her head slowly.Bookmark here

"We all just care about you a lot. I'm glad things are back to normal now."Bookmark here

She nodded as Mrs. Nagasaki let go of her hand.Bookmark here

"Oh, and one more thing Natsu..."Bookmark here

"Hm?"Bookmark here

"I'll be deducting your pay for this month's salary for breaking the fourth dish in a row."Bookmark here

"Manager, you're a sly old businesswoman saying all that emotional stuff before deducting my pay."Bookmark here

The manager chuckled softly.Bookmark here

"I have my charms."Bookmark here

Miyuki came back and saw the manager and Natsu talking to each other. He approached them and asked, "Natsu, do you need any help with the broken dishes?"Bookmark here

She smiled shyly and said, "Not really, but I wouldn't mind you helping out."Bookmark here

Miyuki turned red but, just then, a girl sitting in the corner called out, "Excuse me! I'm ready to order!"Bookmark here

Natsu sighed and murmured under her breath, "Tch, stupid customer."Bookmark here

Miyuki ran off to take the order.Bookmark here

The girl asked Miyuki, "Um... Did I do something wrong? Just now the lady staff was staring daggers at me."Bookmark here

Miyuki fumbled with his words, "Oh that- No, she was... Uh… don't worry about it. She was just a bit jealous."Bookmark here

Miyuki smiled weakly as the girl with braids and glasses giggled.Bookmark here

She gave her order and Miyuki noted everything promptly. Before leaving, Miyuki informed her, "Just one more thing, my shift is about to get over so Ryuuji will be the one serving you."Bookmark here

The girl pouted and turned her head.Bookmark here

"Hmph! I would rather get served by the girl staring daggers at me than that stupid head."Bookmark here

Miyuki smiled nervously, "I'm guessing you didn't like his performance, did you?"Bookmark here

The girl twiddled her thumbs and said in a high and mighty voice, "Well... in terms of acting it- maybe it wasn't that bad..."Bookmark here

"Hah. It's understandable if he seems stupid sometimes. His girlfriend is the only one who keeps him in check."Bookmark here

The menu book slipped out of her hands.Bookmark here

"He has a GIRLFRIEND!?"Bookmark here

"Uh... Yeah."Bookmark here

She picked up the menu book. Trying to keep her calm composure, she said, "No- Not that I care who dates that brick head, but, just out of curiosity, and curiosity only... Okay? Who... Is his girlfriend?"Bookmark here

"Her name's Futaba. She's a regular here."Bookmark here

The girl dropped the menu once more.Bookmark here

"Fu- Futaba... Sakamoto!?"Bookmark here

"I... Think so, yeah."Bookmark here

The girl's face turned pale as if she just saw a ghost.Bookmark here

"Um... I really have to go now. I'll ask Natsu to serve you instead. Would that be ok?"Bookmark here

The girl meekly nodded. Bookmark here

Miyuki turned around smiling to himself. Bookmark here

He whispered to himself, "So, finally a love rival?"Bookmark here

He chuckled to himself and went to the locker room to get changed.Bookmark here

———————Bookmark here

Later that evening, Mrs. Nagasaki called everyone to the cafe, including Haruto and Shiomi. Ryouta and Ryuuji were the first ones to arrive and following them Haruto, Futaba, Shiomi, Miyuki and, at the end, Natsu arrived.Bookmark here

The manager served hot coffee for all of them and then went behind the counter. She stood straight and cleared her throat, catching everyone's attention. Bookmark here

"Now then, I called you kids here today because I wanted to say a few things. First of all, I would like to thank Shiomi for promoting our cafe by celebrating her birthday party here. Because of that event, our cafe has become more popular than ever. Shiomi, I'm sorry I couldn't attend the party as I was out of town for some personal business. I want to wish you a very happy belated birthday!"Bookmark here

Shiomi bowed slightly and smiled back politely.Bookmark here

"Second, all the staff members have worked so hard for this cafe that I would like to repay them somehow. There are not many things an old lady like me can do, but I hope what I offer will be enough for all of you. For this evening, we are going to change our roles! I will act as the staff and you kids will be the customers and, just for today, the food will be free!"Bookmark here

The small group cheered for the manager. The kitchen staff helped the manager to serve the group. They ate lots of food, laughed and enjoyed themselves to the fullest.Bookmark here

While they were having some delicious sandwiches, a drop of ketchup fell on Haruto's t-shirt. Immediately, Shiomi picked a tissue and wiped it off.Bookmark here

"Silly boy, you're still so messy! Eat properly in front of us..."Bookmark here

Miyuki grinned and chided, "Shiomi always takes such good care of Haruto. They're like one of those sweet old lovebirds."Bookmark here

Shiomi's hand stopped midway and Haruto stopped chewing. They both turned red and looked away.Bookmark here

Ryuuji scrunched his eyebrows and suspiciously asked, "Oi, oi! I expected Haru-senpai to retort back or Shio-senpai to give one of her blank expressions but what's this!? Both of you getting flustered? Ho-ho, so finally Haru-senpai made his move?"Bookmark here

Shiomi's cheeks turned even brighter as Haruto exclaimed, "No! I didn't make the move, it was her- "Bookmark here

He clamped his mouth to stop himself for speaking when he realised what he had just revealed. Bookmark here

Shiomi looked down and muttered, "Stupid Haru."Bookmark here

Ryuuji stood up and held Haruto and Shiomi's hand. Bookmark here

"Congratulations to both of you! With this, my dream has been completed. Not forgetting our dear Miyatsu, or Miyuki-Natsu, all of us are happily with the people we love."Bookmark here

He gave a stink eye towards Ryouta and continued, "Except this loner of course. Bro... You seriously need to learn womanizing skills from me." Bookmark here

He patted Ryouta's shoulder while Ryouta sighed, "Well, you should be careful with your words little brother. Look to your left."Bookmark here

Ryuuji's head slowly turned towards Futaba. Red light shone from her eyes like a demon and a dark aura surrounded her. Bookmark here

"Womanizing skills huh? So that's what you call those silly antics of yours?"Bookmark here

Ryuuji stammered, "Ahh... Um... FuFu I- uh... Of course n- not. I was only jo- joking around..."Bookmark here

Natsu burst laughing and everyone looked at her. In between her laughs, she said, "I- I am sorry but his expression- "Bookmark here

Miyuki looked at her laughing, glad that she was back to herself. Of course, it wasn't as if nothing had changed. Natsu was still trying to come out of her past. But, right now, Miyuki was happy that she was able to enjoy herself like this. The present. That's where they lived. Everyone has their past mistakes and regrets, some even have trauma. But living in the past has never helped anyone move forward. People don't realise that it's the present they should live in. Bookmark here

And this...Bookmark here

This was their present. Natsu and Miyuki's. Bookmark here

The one filled with good friends, laughter and happiness. Miyuki was glad about everything that had happened. He was glad that he had the courage to approach her that day. He was glad he told her about Nagasaki's. He was glad... She was here, right now, with him, smiling and laughing.Bookmark here

The party ended soon and it was time for everyone to go back. Futaba hugged Natsu and Shiomi before leaving with Ryuuji. Ryouta, like the responsible kid he was, offered to stay back for a little longer so he could help the Manager clean up. Haruto and Shiomi lived next door so they left together, both of them still a bit flustered. Miyuki offered to drop Natsu and she gladly accepted.Bookmark here

Natsu hummed as she walked beside a silent Miyuki. When they arrived outside Natsu's building, Miyuki broke his silence. He asked as they climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, where Natsu's flat was, "Hey, did you enjoy the party?"Bookmark here

"Hm? Yes, of course I did! It was fun eating with everyone and it's obvious with Ryuuji around there's never a dull moment." Bookmark here

"I'm happy you enjoyed yourself."Bookmark here

Natsu blushed slightly. Bookmark here

"It's all thanks to you Miyuki that I enjoyed myself today." Bookmark here

She skipped a few stairs ahead and turned around. She put her hands behind her and smiled at Miyuki.Bookmark here

"Thank you Miyuki... For everything."Bookmark here

Miyuki looked at Natsu's smiling face shining under the starry sky, the wind slowly moving through her soft hair. It was almost as if Miyuki was looking at a beautiful mirage, something that would fade away if he got any closer. Bookmark here

Miyuki looked down and muttered to himself, "I should be the one thanking you."Bookmark here

They walked to the flat and Natsu popped in her key but left it there, not unlocking the door yet. She came closer to Miyuki and hugged him. She stayed there for some time and Miyuki felt their warmth mixing up. He softly rested his cheek on her head. When Natsu pulled away she looked straight into Miyuki's eyes. Their faces were so close it was as if they were breathing the same air. Miyuki leaned in a bit and Natsu closed her eyes. He was just about to kiss her when he saw something. Natsu's fists were balled and slightly trembling. Even though her eyes were closed and lips open waiting for Miyuki's lips to press on to, she was still shaking so slightly it was barely noticeable. Bookmark here

Natsu opened her eyes to see Miyuki had pulled back.Bookmark here

"Natsu I- I want to be good to you. I will control myself for you. You're still scared aren't you? I realised that when I saw you trying to control your trembling. It's ok Natsu, you don't have to force yourself for me."Bookmark here

He smiled at her and said, Bookmark here

"I will always be with you so I can wait as long as you want me to."Bookmark here

Natsu looked at him with almost tears in her eyes. Bookmark here

"I knew it. I can never ever in my life find a man like you."Bookmark here

Miyuki blushed.Bookmark here

"Goodnight, Natsu."Bookmark here

He turned around to walk away but he heard Natsu running towards him. He turned around and Natsu jumped on him. Surprised, he caught her instinctively.Bookmark here

"Natsu, wha-"Bookmark here

She put her finger on his lips.Bookmark here

"Shhh... You are so kind Miyuki, that you spoil me too much."Bookmark here

She wrapped her arms around his neck and legs around his waist. She slowly leaned forward and kissed him. Bookmark here

When she pulled away she rested her forehead on his, their noses touching and eyes staring into each other. Bookmark here

"I know I've had bad experiences but... But this is different. I'm in love this time. I... I want you to kiss me and touch me. It's just that my body reacts as if I'm still scared even though I'm not. So... Please don't hold back Miyuki."Bookmark here

Miyuki smiled.Bookmark here

"Then... Allow me to taste your lips again."Bookmark here

"With pleasure."Bookmark here

The two came closer and faded into darkness as the moon hid behind the clouds.Bookmark here

~End of Second Arc: Touch-me-not~Bookmark here

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