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Guts. [Fin] Read 10922 times

VenomousEve

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #30 on: November 08, 2016, 08:34:03 pm »
Mei was looking at him when he came around the side of the table, but she hadn’t answered. It wasn’t that she was intending to be difficult so much as his concern startled her. She wasn’t particularly hurt, but he came to her in a rush and touched the nape of her neck and ran his finger over the soft rises of her vertebrae. “I just dropped a glass, that’s all.” She muttered, defensive. How unfair of him. She blinked at him when he took her finger to his tongue.

“What are you—“ she started with a tiny hitch in her breath. Lips parted, she watched him with the sort of expression that said she was expecting a trick at the end of this attention. Kou took her face in his hands and she swayed toward him, mesmerized. His fingers in her hair, she could pretend for a moment he wasn’t her brother and it made her vodka-teased thoughts ambitious. “Kou?” she asked, and it was a fair question of his behavior but it hung between them the way her words slicked the lips of her lovers. She’d used that same tone in falsified sweet before unraveling more than a few of his friends. It should not have upset him because he had drawn it from her, but because it was more genuine than she offered to anyone else.

Her lips twitched and then curled into a rueful smirk when he released her finger, their foreheads pressed close the way they had done often as children. When they weren’t bickering, they were often conspiring against Ouran and Teddy in the fondest of ways. It was familiar and intimate and it fueled the sharp burn in her chest. “If I’m not difficult, you won’t care like this, will you?” she asked. For all the sweetness she showered on him, these moments only came when she frightened him for her wellbeing. It was Mei’s constant frustration. When he laughed, she didn’t know how to respond, blinking at him from their close proximity. Her lashes were long and might have fanned his cheeks had she moved just an inch further.

She was too malleable in his hands, even when she didn’t want to be. Mei fell closer when he pulled her, hands on her cheeks to tilt her lips toward him. A soft mewl of surprise, but it wasn’t a motion she was unaccustomed to from other hands. Her eyes closed, and she would have given her all the softness and eager of her mouth if he’d let her. Kou was not so drowned in the illusion of their drink as she was willing to be. She felt his hesitation and her eyes snapped open, blue ring shimmering with its own light in the dim room. He shoved her then, and she had not expected cruelty on the tail of this, at least. It sent her sprawling, and the glass she’d collected carefully into the palm of her hand scattered, littering her hair and the floor with twinkling sharps. She was gasping.

He left her without warmth. Mei watched his ankles retreat, still splayed back on the kitchen floor. She felt a sting at the corners of her eyes and did not move until he’d left her alone. Mei had been quick to cry when she was young, the first trick to cement in the repertoire of her deceptions. She’d graduated from those kinds of emotional ploys, reserving them only for the best tantrums. The little wet trails on her cheeks now were honest and she sat up hastily to wipe them away, angry. “Fuck you too, Kou.” She breathed at his bedroom door.

It would have been easy to blame it all on the liquor and the heady drift that swirled their senses, but Mei knew very well it had little to do with it. It wasn’t the first time they’d been caught in some momentary web together, her heart pounding with the tiniest hope blossoming painfully in her chest. He pulled away from her every time and those shreds of intimacy vanished into the frequently questioned history of her memory. She cleaned up the glass carefully, this time taking a broom and dustpan from his hall closet to sweep up the glittering mess. She even took the time to wash the dinner’s dishes in the sink.

She could hear his shower running but paid it no mind, beyond rubbing her eyes dry. Mei sighed. Stupid, stubborn Kou. She shuffled to his room when she’d finished tidying his living space and sat listlessly on the corner of his bed, staring into the mirror he had propped against the wall. Anyone else would have felt lucky to have her, she was sure, even when her cheeks were wet and her mouth tasted like poison. Mei tugged her hair loose from her ponytail and flicked the band at her reflection. The dark strands draped around her shoulders like a thick silky fall, a soft curl in their ends from the way she’d styled it today. And that damn woman had wanted to cut it short. She scowled at the mirror and tugged at her waist-length tresses.

Mei sighed heavily and let herself fall back on the bed, arms spread. It wasn’t fair for Kou to be angry with her when he’d done it all himself. She’d been forward for years and he’d never had trouble brushing her off as his silly little sister. Why was it that he was allowed to tease her like that and somehow any fault was still hers? She hadn’t done a damn thing. She sighed again, frustrated.

Mei had intentions of waiting for him to come out of the shower and demand an apology, at least. She was tired of him getting away with pretending like everything that made him uncomfortable didn’t happen. The humming clear in her blood had other intentions, though, and she drifted off to sleep several minutes before he finally shut off the water. When he did emerge she’d be sleeping peacefully on one side of his bed, half wrapped in his blankets and dreaming away. As if his sister belonged nowhere else but in his bed, hair fanned across the pillow, thin shirt hiking high across her ribs, and a soft and carefree expression on her sleeping face. 

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #31 on: November 09, 2016, 06:42:11 pm »
He measured the tile with his hands, collecting water between his shoulder blades as uninterrupted, smooth streams found their way down his hair, head low. This was an old sanctuary, and though bathrooms never felt as endless as they used to, he still recognized the intimate solitude as a place that had given him refuge before. Today it wasn't the support he hoped. He always imagined the hot water cooked the alcohol inside and let him expell the stupor in every breath. So addled. It was easier to find this simple therapy – him and the temperature of this moving liquid suit – sufficient when he came in with bruises and cuts.

Everything was coated in fog when he stepped out. He'd not closed the glass door. The chill was more sobering than the heat could hope to be, but there were still two heavy eyelids when he wiped the mirror. He thought it was fatigue over drunkeness. It had been a long day. After some quick attention to his teeth, another fresh to a heavy head, and a violent toss with the towel, he hung a robe on himself and finally made it out. The room was tidier than he'd left it, and she was sleeping as though they hadn't collided before. Always that lovely expression. In the past he’d watched her sleep when he needed forgiveness. Old sins, first crimes, all that.

It was easier to be gentle with her now, when there were no consequences. He was that hypocrite. He quickly changed into his well-worn, ragged sleeping shirt - the logo from the city amusement park faded on the chest, she’d won it for him - and a new pair of the no-brand boxerbreifs he was ashamed of. Better be comfortable than dapper. He walked on his knees on the bed and put his cheek on her offered hair. The heat had gone away from the tresses at this distance from her, and only her scent and texture was there to welcome him. He fell saleep above the covers, hand on her ribs.

During the night, disarmed of his prejudice and rigid shame, Kou was a bit more honest. In his slumber he dug his cheek deep into the pillow, where her hair was, and pulled her into him until he could hook a hand around her bare waist and fit her into his body. There was no such subconscious drive with anyone else who’d visited this bed with him. He tied his arm wide across her, and squeezed her possessively as he pressed his lips against her temple, breathing the rhythm of his slumber into her mind. One leg, too, lifted to secure hers against him. A few times he rolled away, upsetting the sheets and their clothes, but would soon either drag her back or slide into place against her, again. At one point, between the deeper cycles of rest, he woke through a dream, smiled at her soft breathing, and didn’t let her go before he fell back into lucidity.

He woke with his mouth against her shoulder, tasting his own spittle. With a slurp he lifted his head, wiping is chin. He sat up quickly against the bedframe, and pulled his legs closer, elbows on knees as he stroked his scalp, upsetting his hair further. “Mmmnnghh…” Not the worst chemical backlash he’d had, but he wasn’t going running for sport, today. Seeing her still asleep brought a frown and then a grin as he stabbed her hip with his toes. She stirred. He shook her with his foot, and stopped abruptly, darting off the bed when she opened her eyes. The closet door was open, and he was already picking out his suit for today.

“Get up, Meimei.” He called. New morning meant a reset. Yesterday hadn’t happen, at least not the parts he didn’t like. Black one-button, and blue vest. Because he had to look better than the other sons if they met, he put a white tie over the white shirt, and would pin it with a silver pearl. He was well inside his outfit as he stepped out, tugging the tie into place. “I’ll drive you to school.” He said and quickly shifted into the bathroom. His hair was obedient today, and flowed back when his products said so. He was healing fast. The coloring still left from Bolo’s shoes was becoming of a man in his profession, anyway.

“We can eat at any place you want on our way.” He didn’t know they were already late.

Ouran, who had picked up the phone when Kou called, was already in the kitchen. Teddy stayed downstairs in the car. For anyone who wasn’t Mei, he would look particularly well groomed today. She only ever saw him when he took greater care to look proper. He knew his strengths, and dressed accordingly, omitting the jacket for now, slung over a stool by the island, to boast the flamboyant back of his vest. He knew Kou liked to take breakfast on the road, and was only barely resisting the urge to fix something for Mei. While a certain category of her brother’s affections were locked away from her, Ouran’s full spectrum of approval was available at any given time, and his smile said as much, waiting for her.

The bright greeting would not be followed by something as endearing. “Hey, Kou. Hello Mei.” Clear difference in his familiar tone and one of adoration. Sometimes Kou thought he should be insulted by how impartial Ouran was.

“Good morning, perv of the Aitawa household.” Kou said and swung his thumb over his phone screen. Ouran’s eye widened in a juvenile way, asking Kou to be better to him in front of his sister. This only cemented the Tzeng brother’s point. “Tell Teddy we’re going for food before we take her to school.” He muttered as he stopped at an article about smoking. It made him pat his chest for a packet. Ouran diligently held up a good brand with black paper inside. Kou was drawn.

“We can’t go. Not yet.” Ouran said as he was relieved of the exclusive favors. Kou thought it was odd and showed as much with the folds on his forehead as he threw away the clear plastic and flicked the lid open.

“The fuck. Why not?” he demanded as he tossed the unlit poison into a corner of his mouth. His eyes were on Ouran, but he leaned to the side, obviously waiting for Mei to bring fire to his addiction.



“Mr. Tzeng wants to see you both. It’s nothing important. He says he missed his beautiful daughter and his unruly son.”

That son was visibly bothered by the invitation so early in the morning. There would be no choice, though. The one person Kou answered to was his father. In very little time they would be in the car, and then they would be at the city house. Tall, dark building, pointed gates. New with gold letters saying its numbers. Kou always cussed under his breath rolling up to the doors.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #32 on: November 20, 2016, 02:14:09 am »
"You look at me, saying please. But" pronounced Bat. His voice came from an old cavern, and his face was like a new virgin, with closed eyes rolled in soot, and the tips of the barely-beyond-shoulder white hair dipped in ash. Young like the sense of revolution, starved and denied but straight bones, and old lethargy, like the true age of revolution. Ilya didn't have many years, and the wide expanse of his shoulders on his plucked-bare frame in an exquisitely draping dinner jacket didn't seem like the perch of his empire - small compared to the other criminal claims underneath Mr. Tzeng - but the grown man, salt in his beard and sickly swell and cut on his upper lip, saw the weight of the slight commander of men now. "you have nothing to offer. You're left with your humanity as a connection to me. And we're both hoping that is going to be enough." Ilya continued with a sigh, standing up from the table that parted them. The five enforces did not move from their places in the ring around the bound and the now upright conversationalists. "But" Bat. "It is your humanity that you betrayed first, Samuel." Took great care with the name, lips wide around the syllables until there was a gloss on Ilya's tongue. There was a lack of respect here, but it would not come from the young king.

"Please, boss." Samuel tried, his accent thicker than that of the pretty wraith underneath the Vladenko crown. He didn't know why they weren't speaking their native tongue, because he didn't remember the nationalities of the men that took him here for killing and burring Serge. "I am part of the family. I am a Cousin." And Samuel didn't see the way Ilya curled his musical fingers at that attempt for sympathy.

"I know you are. There are many cousin's blood on the floor. They were not your blood, but they will be today, because you took away another Cousin." Ilya cemented. Samuel struggled and made the bolts complain. He lowered his head and hissed in exhaustion. "Will you not tell me for what, Samuel?" he tried again, dipping those fingers inside the jacket that was close to his waist, but comfortably roomy everywhere else. "Will you not do me a kindness like that?" pronounced thet.

"Money." The word was full and complete. It started inside a closed mouth and ended out in the air between them. The entire word was said and then Ilya spun, a silver something at his fingers to free Samuel from the rope that held his his crossed wrists to the chair, but also to part his windpipe and open the column of blood that ran beside it. When Samuel stood and gargled, alive on adrenaline and memories of his childhood that fast passed into his adolescence and onward, Ilya helped him hold his own hands to the hissing and pouring hole.

"Then you will have all the money, Cousin." Ilya promised, landing on the floor with his knees to follow Samuel as the scenes of his ages barreled toward this moment. Both their sets of hands could not stave away what Ilya's knife had called on. Soon Samuel was on the floor, belly up and feet beneath him. Ilya was still holding on to his hands when they relaxed. But he couldn't help him squeeze the wound forever. He sighed deeply and stood up in the quivering puddle of Samuel's Luke warm conclusion.

The men saw Ilya like the roses he pampered, sprouted not from expensive dirt, but from a red lake he'd drawn for himself. Narrow stem that had hidden its stainless thorn. Just a suit and a flowerhead on top. White petals and charcoal on his eyes. Sometimes that soot was all you saw, and not at all the tired color on the big irises. Color gray, like the storm that he wasn't. There was blood on his pants but it only showed as reflections on the black fabric. The men waited for Ilya to have his motionless fit and then listened to the lacquered shoes step out of the blood, leaving only ripples and Samuel.

Ilya wiped his hands with his pocket square but couldn't cure the compromised cuffs of his white shirt. He tugged at hard cotton with a distant expression as three descended on the man he'd turned into only a body. It was Ilya's turn to lean against the wall, waiting, thinking regretful things as he studied how they methodically made the carcass into remains, and the remains into morsels that they gathered in black boxes.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #33 on: November 20, 2016, 10:15:09 pm »
Diluna wasn't part of the criminal world. She liked eating food with 'no sugar added' and wearing pretty things with hoods attached to them. On Wednesdays she scuffed the side of her shoe against a streetlight, waiting for the bus that took her to the woods were she collected material to build animals with. It wasn't hard to afford the things she loved in the beginning. She only loved trinkets and her father. Her father loved her, and when his anxiety over whichever game he was betting on turned to elation. His elation became scarce. Diluna's father was then part of the criminal world.

The money she saved selling her dried-leaf-and-pebble animals payed for half a debt once, when her father's addiction was in its infancy. And then there was no cushioning. Every time she heard of money she thought of a hole with teeth. One of her neighbors offered her two meals a day, but Diluna didn't come. She was just starting to see the shape of her teeth in the shadows where her cheeks used to be when a man that looked like the streetlight at her bus stop came to visit them with large people quietly stressing his words.

Diluna was asked to show the streetlight her room. His name was Ilya and she thought his eyes were smudged around the lashes.

"Your father doesn't owe me anything. He gambles in a Tzeng place, so I'm not here to collect." his voice was remarkably deep for his beautiful, starved face. "But I can pay for him if you're willing to sell yourself to me." She nodded, afraid, and grateful for the offer. If she had considered her virtue of any value, she would have already sold it to give her father peace of mind. "I'm not interested in the kind of thing that I'm seeing in your eyes, but it is just as well that you think that." What could she do but nod. "And now you scream like I'm cutting your liver out, and tear this room apart."

She was confused but her body understood. It was freeing to fill her childhood chamber with her pitched voice. She cried when she toppled her dresser and turned over her desk. Her throat was raw when there were no more things to break. Ilya's hand came out and she silenced. Her father was crying outside. He never played games that could hurt his daughter again.

Diluna remembered that day as the beginning of something wonderful but painful. Ilya had bought her body and face, and every time he exercised his right to her, surgeons took metal to her skin. A year later, she felt prettier than she had, her new features and hair not always her personal taste, but definitely a flattering image. Though she saw a stranger through the contacts she'd been tasked with, it was a pleasant looking one. And it made Ilya happy. So happy. She also changed the faces of any boy that spoke to her into Ilya's without them knowing.

She was wearing her favorite jacket, coming to see him without his invitation. It had been long since he last requested her company, when he'd only ask about her day and treat her to anything she wanted. Food with no sugar added. Pretty things. She thought he wouldn't need to court her anymore, and had come to assure him she didn't smile so bright about anyone else. Diluna dragged her new but scuffed shoe on the finer pavement of his block when he came out the door. At this distance he almost disappeared in the light. Her smile failed when a girl came out to take his hand. Diluna pulled her hood over her new face, and then watched it kiss Ilya on the cheek.

VenomousEve

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #34 on: November 22, 2016, 01:11:23 am »
Mei winced and scowled at Kou’s prodding, blinking the sleep from her eyes and rolling to stare foggily at his back. Her head was pounding. “Uh, no school today,” she protested. “I don’t wanna.” She explained. He tried to entice her with the promise of a warm breakfast and it worked, at least a little. Mei was generally a late riser and rarely had the chance to eat before school. It was a fair trade, by her reckoning, to the extra fifteen minutes of sleep. However, if Kou was inclined to treat her, she wasn’t going to say no.

She dragged herself from the bed reluctantly, shaking her head. “No school.” She repeated, throwing her hand before her mouth as yawned. Mei had the good fortune of looking well suited to any condition; she wore morning afters as pretty as she did Sunday afternoons. She was tired and her head was aching but she made the effort to undress within his peripheral vision and slip into the previous day’s uniform. Her hair in a wavy tangle and shirt half buttoned, she belonged in his bed more than she did a school desk. At least, Mei would have argued for it if he’d let her.

Instead, she tugged a brush through her hair and tied it back into low twin tails, cleaning up the remnants of yesterday’s light makeup like it was both deliberate and effortless. She followed him out of his room with a bit of sulking to go along in a last ditch attempt to win Kou over to her argument. He seemed unmoved, though, and she resigned herself to the impending school day.



 Ouran looked bright and chipper as usual, and Mei gave him a smile for his effort. “Good morning, Ouran.” She said. “He’s honest, not perverse,” Mei hummed when Kou took to pestering.

Ouran’s news seemed to chase the last of the sleep from her eyes. She slipped a hand into Kou’s pant pocket to pull out his own lighter and placed the spark to his cigarette, but her gaze never left the other man. “We can’t?” she asked, and sounded a little hopeful. Anything sounded like a good alternative to heading to class. His answer caused her to reconsider the earlier sentiment. Visits with Daddy were not such a bad thing, but it could really go either way when Kou was around. And she hated to see Kou’s mood sour that way. It might be a good visit, in the end, but she was unwilling to be overly hopeful.

Mei let the thought drift by and settled on a more amenable mood. Regardless of the outcome, her sour wouldn’t help either of them. Daddy was the boss, one way or another. It didn’t matter what she or Kou wanted. “Silly Daddy,” she said with a quick grin. “He must be lonely since I moved out. Have you been neglecting him, Kou?” she asked, and followed the two men out to Teddy and the car.

The ride was fairly quiet and Mei was even good enough not to pout when they forwent her promised breakfast. After all, she might get out of school for the day with this detour. She had, however, paused by Teddy’s window before she’d gotten into the vehicle. “That woman… she’s not supposed to be there today, right?” she asked. Last she’d heard, Suri was vacationing in Paris. Whenever she and her mother had big fights, the latter’s habit was to sulk somewhere beautiful in the world and pamper herself. Daddy had never discouraged the practice and it gave Mei some peace, so she wasn’t complaining either. Teddy had confirmed and Mei blew him a kiss, as if the large man was somehow personally responsible for the good news.

When they arrived, Mei held fast onto Kou’s arm. “Hey, do you think it’s really nothing?” she asked softly. It was rare that the both of them were called in together. “I mean, you don’t think it’s about Stanford or something, right?” she gripped his arm a little tighter. It might have been her fault, but it didn’t make her any more ready to accept a scolding for it. In all fairness, Daddy hadn’t ever cared much about those little messes.

-

She gave him a gentle smile and squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry zaika moy. It’s been a long day,” she said. “You pick where we eat,” she suggested. Steady girl, with her steadfast calm. Ivena led him down the path and past their gate, glancing at the hooded figure as they passed. “We can walk somewhere downtown. It would be good to get the fresh air.”

She was as lovely as her brother, tall and shapely with slender limbs and a lightness to her step. Her voice was cool and soft with pleasant rasp that danced like autumn off her winter lips. She had not meant to be dismissive, but she hadn’t known there was anything to dismiss in Diluna. It would have been difficult to invent maliciousness in that easy presence, which made it hurt more. Straightforward with still storms in her eyes, mild, and so to be overlooked was to be nothing. The tone of her voice made anything Diluna wanted to do, to make herself known, to call his name, seem selfish. The girl was concerned in her serene, fretting quietly, caring because she knew him like Diluna couldn’t. It was too comfortable, too simple, to clean. That girl belonged at his side. His posture said it, hers accommodated.

“I know what will make you feel better,” Ivena said. “Mei helped me select new music the other day, for my winter recital. Perhaps you’d like to see what I’ve put together so far, when we get home?” she asked. Dancer, born into something Diluna had not been. The girl pulled her hood further forward and hurried off. She didn’t want to see or hear more. She touched her face. How crude she felt.

Ivena wasn’t generally chatty, but she filled the voids when it was needed. Anything to keep Ilya from thinking about sad things, really. On occasion, she wondered if it was taking advantage, appealing to his dutiful nature toward her. “I’d like your opinion, to be honest. Perhaps that’s a bit selfish, but I rely on my biggest fan.” She bumped his shoulder lightly with her own. “We could invite Mei to see as well. And, perhaps, Kou.” The milky cheeks were pink from the crisp air and pinker at the thought of the elder Tzeng sibling. She wanted to tell him that Samuel had never been a good man and it was better for the family that he was gone. She knew it wouldn’t comfort him though, so she continued on about her new ballet piece and their friends and any other frivolous thing that came to mind.
 

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #35 on: November 22, 2016, 07:29:23 pm »
Ouran was still staring out the window, thriving on how Mei had defended him earlier. Damn right he wasn’t perverse. A flash of images of Mei falling over said he was a liar, but he lied a lot when it came to the princess of the Tzeng syndicate. He leaned back, buttoning the last button behind the knot of his tie. Kou might not be too strict as long as they cut a fair shape, but Mr. Tzeng demanded they stood on ceremony, always. The man at the top of this city didn’t think much of Ouran, but he was going to change that. Until then, he’d at least have to present himself in a way that didn’t come off as oafish.

Kou had been thinking about his relationship to their father when Mei poked fun at it. It was as complicated as any constellation with two male components. If he was honest with himself, the father did act a bit more familiar when Mei was around. Without her things were formal. It was probably out of habit from the older man’s side than a lack of love. Not that there wasn’t a lack of love, too. Kou wouldn’t know, either way. He was the prince because he was of royal blood, not because he was the favorite. A few initiatives might change that. Chief Abad came to mind. Kou became infinitely softer when her arms held his. She was adorable when she fretted, and he pulled her closer by her own grasp.

“Afraid he’ll make us stand in the closet and listen to scary music, again?” he teased. Father had a heavy hand, but there had also been more creative punishments for them, growing up. Kou’s instinct to protect her the way he’d taken to protect Ouran now hadn’t always worked, so the siblings had been sent to suffer together on occasion, both for committed and imagined slights. When locked in darkness, ominous music playing outside, Kou would hold her ears and hum a happier tune. He always preferred to be reprimanded alone, and that was why those instances had been more effective in correcting his behavior than simply beating the walk out of his legs. “I think if dad starts worrying about things like Stanford, the syndicate is doing well.” He assured her. There had also not been any indication from Ouran that this was serious.

A man who usually tended to deliveries opened the car door for them by the stone stairs beyond the fountain. Kou didn’t let go of Mei’s hand, stepping out. “Look at you, Tom.” Kou said and patted his shoulder. Tom was quietly elated and bowed to Mei and the other two. “Respect like that, huh?” Kou said and gave an expecting look back at his two friends. Teddy’s cheeks filled with laughter and Ouran just looked in disbelief. Kou frowned and walked her up the stairs. “Good people, you two.” He muttered and then challenged Mei with his warm brown eyes. It was all to make her laugh. Ouran and Teddy deviated after coming in and Kou had to assume father had said so.

He’d not known Suri was outside the country, and caught Teddy’s confirmation to Mei on the subject earlier. A bit disappointing but he was mostly relieved. It was straining enough navigating what father wanted from him without the woman’s distractions. To her credit, Suri Tzeng did make all meetings she attended more interesting. The corridors were large in the city house. Kou preferred style over pomp, but understood the need to showboat in father’s position. Kou’s apartment was mostly this, too. The son would take Ilya’s murder room over fancy halls for effect, any day, though. They were led through the incoming morning light to father’s usual office, nestled in the middle of the large house. In the waiting room, grand and a bit tacky, there was a demon, sitting in one of the dark chairs with red padding.

“Meimei!” Belou shouted, standing up. His suit sat a bit like Kou’s own. Kou’s hand squeezed hers a little harder when the demon ran to meet them. The brother didn’t like her nickname off the monster’s mouth. Belou didn’t even acknowledge the prince of Tzeng. With the drama of an incubus, Belou and all his blue tresses fell on his knees to embrace Mei’s waist.

The electric color hair stayed in front of one eye, because she had the other one. He smiled up at her, as he was attached to her now, his arms around her skirt. Belou quite loved Mei. At first he’d begrudged losing his eye as well as his liver, but when he was told it was for Mei Wing Tzeng, he had not objected. To a demon of his variation, she was a walking free meal. Her existence had noticeably raised the stock for his particular sin, and he’d known what she would become even when she was a child. If he could have decided to help anyone with his body, it would have been her. Kou tugged at her hand, hoping to bring her along and have the clingy otherworld male let go. Belou swatted at Kou as he stood, planting a kiss on her cheek.

“Your father actually told me to tell you to come in without her.” Belou insisted with a grin. A lie, one that wouldn’t hold, but Kou still let go. It seemed mr. Wing liked the idea of meeting the king alone.

“Keep your hands off her, Belou.” Kou warned, but the demon knew there was still gratitude between them for the ocular donation. “Mei.” Kou said with a nod before he turned, almost grateful there was someone there to occupy her.

When the sensual face of the former angel, now thriving deity of lust, whipped back, the hair lifted and his closed eyelid coupled with his other, open eye looked like a wink. “I’m so bad, aren’t I?” he asked and reached to squeeze the hand Kou had left. Still warm. Belou moaned, low. His teeth scraped his lip and he turned his head with sympathy, leaning close. “Now to my nefarious objective. If you want to, I can just practice my influence on Kou. You’re by far my favorite human. I’ll just whisper to that part of his soul, Meimei.” He sounded like her brother now, and it might be cruel, that Kou’s voice wanted her when whispered from other chords. “Imagine what someone like you could do with that. I’ll give him to you for as many nights you want.” Belou promised as he stroked her knuckles with his thumb. “He’s quite passionate, did you know? Wouldn’t you like to see it for yourself? Just like all the other girls. You could make his body remember you.”

Really, he’d been called in for a rapport – hard to control a demon without mr. Tzeng himself – but stayed when he overheard the king speak to Ouran.



Soon enough Kou would poke his head back out the door with a scowl on his face. His father had, in-fact, asked for them both.

-

Ilya was quite content with Ivena’s hand, but the endearment was truly a treat. His steps kept her pace and he was so engulfed in her company he did not see the human doll he’d treated himself to, even as he passed her shadowed form. “We protect a place by the artisan mall.” He suggested, very excited to have her for lunch, even through the heavy curtain of losing Samuel to greed. He looked at his tail of guards and they stopped in their stride. No doubt they would still be watching from a distance. He quite adored the thought of Ivena with Mei and nodded so his hair bounced when she mentioned music and her dancing. If not for the evening always lingering around his eyes, the dapper Ilya did not look the part of a recent murderer, but rather a lovesick companion to her.

“I love to see you dance.” He said it calmly because that was a fact. It gave him peace and was his very definition of beauty. His necessary indulgence. She was well practiced, he was well taught on judging the art, but he was of course so enamored by her that it wouldn’t have matter if she didn’t know her foot from her head. “Now this must happen. You promise, sestre.” Not even a question. “You will make me feel better, da?” A friend of fine things, Ilya - with his collections and glittering pastimes - but Ivena gave him the most satisfaction. “And I’ll teach you how to be better.” Laugher clucked in his throat. “I joke.” He would be devastated if she interpreted it as a pique. Biggest fan, as she said. He was about to agree as they walked, two statuesque idols in gleaming mood, when she said Kou’s name in that forbidden way. He frowned. It was a face he made before drawing knives on others, but she knew it only as her sulking brother.

“Mei can come. Kou has work.” And what is with that blush? He clapped his tongue against the vault of his mouth and turned away, his hair flailing with the motion. “He’s a bastard, you know, ribionok.” He said without ground. The weather tried to caress his cheek underneath the light hair, to calm him. Still, his step was true, and he kept her hand. He huffed. “Infuriating.” And his accent was thick on that word. “You should dance for me and Mei only. Kou is too dumb” said dem. “to appreciate.” When he looked back at her he was reminded her happiness was everything to him. The downturned arch flattened with some guilt. “He’s a busy man, like me.” He tried, looking for her temple with his forehead without stopping. “Why do you need any man but me, zaika?” he whispered in a voice he shouldn’t have for his sister. He thought to kiss her, and quickly lashed his lower lip with his tongue for her benefit. He angled closer to her breath. Ilya never learned, because his heart held her too hard to remember her old and recent rejections.

“If you want to you can come with when we meet him today, Zolotse moy, to see how poorly he conducts his business. His father wanted to send him to see me about Samuel. Policing or condolences or both.” He’d say after. Ilya was not a stickler about Ivena’s school, if he could, he’d have her with him all time. Perhaps it was a bit naïve of him to hope to distance Ivena from the prince of the syndicate by putting them closer. Mostly, it was only Ilya who imagined his shortcomings so vividly. He held the door for her and in that instance three servers hurried through the busy restaurant to meet them while two others shooed an affluent couple away from the best table.

VenomousEve

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #36 on: November 23, 2016, 12:21:54 am »
Mei was reserved, by Mei standards, when they entered the home of the king. It had been, until just last week, the tower of her residence as well. Tom smiled at her with a question in his gaze, and she gave him a slight and reassuring nod as she passed. He was kind and would have happily worried after either of the Tzeng children if the opportunity arose. Of course, most of the syndicate knew well enough to worry after Mei and step lightly around Kou. That structure was only softened in their inner circles, not broken.

“That was awful, wasn’t it? I wouldn’t hate it though. As long as you’re with me.” Mei replied, winking at him with her usual cheeky nonchalance. Her mood was better than it could have been, since Suri was gone. “Oh, did I show you?” she asked suddenly, mother on the mind, and gently pulled her hand free as they walked. She tugged back the collar of her shirt and tossed a fall of hair out of the way. There, over her left shoulder by her bra strap, was a small red welt, shiny and scarred. “Mother has that same habit of yours. Smoking. She’s not as cute about it,” Mei stuck her tongue out.

Volatile women, the both of them. She pulled her shirt back into place. “Now we have a little secret. Daddy doesn’t know of course.” She hummed. Which was to say, as well, that Kou didn’t know the half of it. The expression she wore assured him she was not innocent either. That woman was not prone to physical violence; Mei must have struck the worst sort of nerve to corner her in her own game. Still, she knew the way Kou let Mother draw him to distraction and this home was as much their father’s as it was Suri’s. Mei could only hope to sour the juvenile enchantment a little. She was quiet for the rest of their walk, hand back in his when she had smoothed the collar of her shirt and rearranged her hair.

In the hall outside the waiting room, she felt Belou before she saw him and the blue ring on her borrowed eye seemed to overwhelm the color of that iris a bit more and shine just a bit brighter. When they entered, she was already smiling for him. “Bel!” she called back and cradled his head against her stomach when he embraced her. “My Guardian Angel,” she laughed, and it was a whimsical endearment that Belou seemed to like about as much as Kou seemed to hate it. Mei ran her fingers through his unnaturally azure strands, marveling at the color as usual. Such an incredible thing, to be a Demon like him. Mei had never been jealous; she was too self-assured to believe she needed more, but she could appreciate the craftsmanship in a being twisted into lust incarnate.

It was apparent that Belou had no intention of listening to Kou’s demand, but Mei didn’t mind it. She waved at her brother and gave him something close to a sympathetic smile. It wasn’t that they didn’t care for their father. Mei got along with him quite well. But fathers and sons, particularly princes and kings, were apt to clash in one way or another. She was happy to play along with Bel’s whims on most days and started to giggle when Kou had left them, lacing her fingers into his. That momentary light was snuffed just as fast, though. She snatched her hand away from his and fixed him with an icy stare. “Absolutely not, you ass.” She snapped. “I want Kou to love me, not fuck me.” She hissed. The blue ring was shining. It was a half-truth; to say she’d not desired Kou in every way would be an insult to her feelings for him. However, she’d not take some half-baked illusion of desire cast cheaply on her one and only love. She’d rather die.

He had taken her hand again, though, and was entreating with her brother’s voice. “I’ll take your tongue to go along with your eye if you don’t shut up,” Mei growled, though she’d not taken her hand away. It wasn’t fair, really. He sang her greatest weakness from lips made to ignite passion. “Beautiful bastard.” She sighed. Mei had never been able to stay angry with Belou for long; they belonged to one another, in some sense. She pulled him back to his feet and then perched on her toes to kiss his lips lightly. “That’s a nasty trick of yours. I wish you’d just use it to play pretend.” She said, breath on his tongue. She moved when she heard the door and stepped away from him before Kou emerged to wave her in. “I’ll see you later, Bel.” She bit her lip, glancing back at him over her shoulder. “We need to catch up. You know me so well, after all.”

Inside their father’s office, Mei went over to kiss him on the cheek and stand behind him, looping her arms loosely over his shoulders. “What’s with the call, Daddy, do you miss me already? I’m skipping school for this, you know. I don’t mind it, but Kou will scold me for missing too much later.” She laughed.

-

Ivena’s expression was politely unreadable when Ilya brushed away the thought of inviting Kou. He knew her well enough to realize she’d have been disappointed, though, and she did smile when her brother tried out some gentler excuses. “You are too harsh, Ilyusha. Kou is your good friend.” Ivena scolded, but she didn’t argue further. Her accent was a good deal softer than her brother’s, and it was pleasant when it formed to cradle the nickname. She had been young when they’d moved and carried their late mother’s inflections on familiar and sweet words.

Her brow arched high as he tumbled ahead of himself, as usual. Her dear Ilya. “I do not need a man at all, my beloved brother.” She replied, lifting a finger to press against his lips and stop any further ideas he might be entertaining. “Kou is a good man, though, and he has your trust. He is not hard to look at, either,” she explained reasonably. It was out of consideration for his feelings that she kept her tone so remarkably level, though her pretty pink cheeks continued to betray her. She smiled serenely at him before taking his hand again and tugging him along to continue on their way.

“I would be happy to join you, of course.” Ivena did admit when he suggested it. She supposed it was a bit neglectful of his lovesick heart, but she did feel he’d have to accept the state of things eventually. Kou had never particularly shown interest in her, but she’d nurtured that one-sided affection happily enough. Her brother was the dearest soul in the world to her, but he’d never inspire the same sweet blushes. They reached the small bistro quickly enough, and Ivena watched the couple lose their table without much interest. She was not participatory in her family’s business and had no intention to join it. Still, she had become comfortable with that way of life long ago and was not very moved by the byproducts.

They sat at the table and Ivena folded her hands under her chin as she propped her elbows on the table. “Would you like to pick music for me next time? Then it can be a dance just for you.” she said. It was a treat for him, she knew, and hoped the offer might make up for her steadfast refusal of his affections. While he might not agree, she spoiled him by most standards. The very first time he had made his feelings known, she’d given him that familiar, unperturbed smile and told him a sister could simply not return such emotions. Then, she’d given him a kiss and gone off to school. If Ilya held her happiness above all else, she did try to do the same for him, tender rejections included. For that matter, she’d never taken a boyfriend among her suitors. It had been as much to spare Ilya’s feelings as it had been because of her dedication to Kou. “You can pick my costume, too. Actually, you can pick for this recital also. I haven’t selected anything yet.” In truth, most of the things she wore were gifts from Ilya and she’d never found his selections lacking. Ivena paused then; she realized she wasn’t quite sure if she was trying to take his mind off of Samuel or his unrequited crush.   

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #37 on: November 23, 2016, 06:44:08 pm »
Inside father's place of business – where he met with others mostly, he had a separate study for private scheming and essential paperwork - Kou still had some tension around the high of his spine. Mei's mark had stuck on his inner vision, and it was hard for him to connect it to Suri. He knew Mei wouldn't lie like this, though, and it was some level of proof that her mother was gone. Still, when she showed him, he had looked at her as though he didn’t believe her. Now he touched his own lips like their habit of pinching filters and blowing clouds was part of Mei's burn. It took two calls of his name from father to get Kou's attention. Annoyance in father's stare.

A well, barely aged man, Wei Xin Tzeng was of a naturally larger build than his offspring. They had old workers blood, bred for labor, with many short generations behind them. This pampered, nutritious life had seen both Wei and Kou sprout. Where Kou had become beautiful, Wei had always been intimidating, cheekbones sharp and brow prominent. The eyebrows were a point of pride. Kou remembered them growing wild but in later years Wei had someone tame them, somewhat. With only a look, father had asked where their precious girl was, and Kou had realized Belou's plot.

Belou hummed under Mei’s attention. Her touch was laced with his drug of choice, whether it came from her being or his own echo of it. Guardian angel, she said. Not in a long while, but what a lovely jest. He grinned appropriately, not one to miss The Eternal City in light of his indulgent existence on earth. When her brother was gone, and she heard his intent, she became vicious, and Belou gasped in awe at the anger. It was hard for him to know the distinction between love and lust, his heart was made of the latter, but he could reap reward from her passionate reaction, nonetheless. “Oh, but it’ll be love!” he said. “Soft at first, in discovery, slow. And then, the more he loves you the more urgent it will be.” The hand she abandoned played on keys that weren’t there. He knew the choreography of the game he described, had lost heaven for it. “And then there will be a debilitating togetherness.” The last sound became a soft, long hiss. “And then a slow fading back to this world. Who knows, Meimei, even if that love is fast, couldn’t it be real?” he was blushing furiously, staring into that scene by himself. He returned quickly. “Don’t underestimate fucking, mm?”

He wiggled his fingers for her touch back and soon their palms were intimate again. His tongue slid out eagerly when she offered to relieve him of it. His one eye grew at the thought of making believe with her. He kept Kou’s voice. “I could wear my hair black and douse myself in smoke, sister dear.” Kou said. “You could even bring Kou’s sleeping shirt and I could laugh like him.” Was that too much? A heart set on love was sometimes a bit weary of lust as a bandaid. He would do it all for his Mei, though. When the true Kou beckoned her into the room, the girl and the demon standing now, Belou grinned and slid his thumb over her special eye, caressing the eyelid when she closed it. “He’s not terribly hard to imitate. You call me. Not even on the phone. You just spell my name when you’re painting with your own moist, and I’ll come.” He had to let go, but held her fingertips between his until neither of them had any arm left before he relented and let her go to Kou. “See you, darling.” He promised with her brother’s voice.

“I like that guy, like, a lot.” The real Kou said when she came to the door. His voice was much the same, but laced with less enthusiasm for her and a good helping of sarcasm. If she looked back, Belou would be innocently waving with one hand, while the other feigned a phone at his ear and lips, that she might call him, but in the way he’d said. Kou did not see the hypocrisy of flexing for almost any suitor with eyes for his sister.

Her father lit up upon seeing her, and Kou trailed behind until she’d reached the older man, sitting without any company today. The house was rather scarce with guards, actually. Kou stood a bit from the desk, hands held in front of himself, hanging, waiting to be told while Mei became much more familiar with Wei. Mr. Tzeng, once she had her arm around him, reached back to touch her cheek and hold her chin gingerly. “Of course I miss you.” If she was attentive, she would see her brother roll a shoulder to rid of some of the discomfort at how father touched her. Hypocrite, again. “I just heard from Aitawa that you two were together, so I wanted to see you both.” The father continued. He let go of her with a last squeeze. “Are you going to start working too, Mei? You can shadow Kou until you’re ready.” In Wei’s mind, it was unthinkable that she’d not have anything to do with the syndicate, even if his old world views saw her somewhere managing transactions and the occasional scare tactic with a battalion of men to protect her.

“She’s actually going to study.” Kou injected, eyes imploring her to agree. Wei sat up a bit straighter and looked back at her to get confirmation, the examination became a bit more in-depth than anyone had thought, but eventually he did turn back to his son.

“Kou.” Voice harder. “Two people are dead under Vladenko. It’s not a big deal.” But Kou knew it was. Ilya kept everyone close in his veritably small arm of the syndicate. “But he likes to pretend to be sentimental, it keeps people afraid of him.” Again something that Wei didn’t understand. No one ran their underlings the way Ilya did. Mei behind him knew that, too. “You’re going to him, give some gifts. He likes roses, take something from the vault. Maybe something for the families. Don’t take no for an answer.” Kou nodded, more than eager to do that, but sucked the inside of his lip waiting for the kicker. Father was never into friendship. Also, it grated the son a little to see his friend get so much attention from his own father, who’d never been overly affectionate with Kou. “We need him in the future. I’m thinking there’s going to be war over our organ trade or demons, soon.” Ah. Made sense. He’d heard rumblings too. The medical corridors had become harder to traverse, these days. Kou nodded so deep it was a bow.

Wei turned around to Mei. “You can go with him.” he said and smiled widely. Over father’s shoulder she’d be able to see Kou shaking his head, but even the brother knew it was a hard offer to decline for Mei. No school and proximity to him. “Ilya likes you.” He ran his hand through her hair and at the furthest of that stroke he pulled her head in to kiss her on her forehead. It was true that the Russian King got along well with Mei. Kou was strangely comfortable with that relationship, since Ilya was very clear about his heart’s desire, but Mei would on occasion make her brother unsure about even that. “Everyone likes you, Mei.” Wei continued. “You move in soon again, eh?” he said as though he’d decided. His words did not have the same sway over her as they did his son. That was a big point of envy to Kou. Wei slapped her waist and then nodded for the door. “Now go, you can take something from the vault too.” Like he was giving them access to the pantry and all its sweets. Kou flinched when he heard the clap.

“Yes, mr. Tzeng.” Kou tried, hoping to get Mei closer to himself so he could walk off with her. There had been a few other pressing matters today, but he was willing to forego the best for the syndicate if it meant keeping Mei away from their father right now. “She and I will go now.” He beckoned her with his eyes.

-

The way Ilya flushed instead of becoming vengeful when she spoke of Kou did mean the Tzeng boy was a friend and not an associate. The kind of friend you push into the water or exchange fists with often. Ilya enjoyed the touch of her fingers to his mouth when she stopped his intimacy, he’d had experiences where that particular refusal was part of the dance. It was a good thing Ilya did not have Belou’s affections the way Mei did. But those lips tightened when Ivena pointed out Kou’s obvious physical blessings. “He’s actually very hard to look at.” He persisted, taken out of his emotional momentum. Not that he wouldn’t engage again if he thought she’d reciprocate. “Makes me sick. Ugly little Kou Wing Tzeng.” It was petty and passionate. Sometimes she found it amusing or endearing, and sometimes he was quite tiresome. The trust between himself and Kou was solid, at least when it came to anything but Ivena, from Ilya’s side. So she was right about that. Didn’t mean Ilya always liked the hotheaded barbarian. He would point out Kou’s shortcomings now that she agreed to come along. Ilya was still blind to the glaring flaw in his plan.

He enjoyed walking through the bistro with the others subtly looking. In part because he hoped he was romantically connected to Ivena in their minds. Service was good with equal parts respect and fear. If any lingering distaste still soured him it went away with the tempting eventually of picking her music. He liked to see her move. The more it was for him, the more he enjoyed it. As a child Ilya had not been the unbearable kind, his urges and hungers well-fed. He listened and obeyed. And now, when he could take what he wanted, he continued to keep himself with exclusive things, but Ivena was what he wanted most. Because he couldn’t have her in the way he wanted, he would have everything else she would give him. So in a way, the grown Ilya might be conceived as unbearable. “I’ll make you dance prettily then, sestre moy. I have a composer, you know.” And a pianist, and quite a few to take up the violin. And a harpist. Fine things. It was hard to get through your musical studies without loans. Ilya had inherited favors owed to their father too, of course, and he held them at higher value than the monetary fortune left behind.

A spark in his mercury eyes, shadowed like his eyelids and speckled with black. He had fantastic eyes, but they fit so well in the somber shade surrounding their settings that they barely got attention before you were on his chopping block. Ivena was familiar with them of course. “Your clothes, too?” he asked. “Ah, Solnyshko moy.” After all, an angel she was. Not the kind they bought, fallen, but a blessing. “My little doll, da?” he was very happy now. When the waitress came with wine glasses and a dusty bottle he waved it away. Restaurants always insisted they try a specialty or a la carte. If he wanted expensive he knew sellers more fit. He’d heard glorious things about lunch here. “Just a tasting menu and whatever you drink with that. And hurry. My dancer here is hungry from practice.” He warned. She laughed nervously and nodded. He laughed in response. Usually he wouldn’t joke when he knew they weren’t really listening for anything but ways to please him, but he was glad, now.

“You have a beautiful thing with straps.” He said, taking the water glass and rolling it in his hand. It was rather common in design as far as he knew, the item he was referring to, if not for the added details. He’d bought it because it was the most expensive item in that particular store, but thinking on it now, he really wanted it on her. An added surprise, value for its price tag, that he’d not seen in the box but she surely had discovered, was the nature of the item when it was held up to the light. “And your deep lipstick.” He added.

It was her intention of elevating his mood, and she was clearly succeeding. “I hear the university here in town has a few good programs. I asked if there was any place for a world class dancer.” Ilya had a quite different approach on helping with his sister’s continued studies. “I have donated in the past, and so did father. If you want to you can walk right in.” he said with a content, toothy smile. He drank some water just in time for a large tray of varied morsels to be put between them. He winked at the now waiter and held out his glass to be filled with water again. Two bottles of wine were put down as the server tipped the clear vial. It seemed they were still a bit nervous about his tastes, after all.

Ilya stood and stole her plate, starting to pick what things she should try first. “On the subject.” He said, and his tone was a bit stiffer. His guilty tone. “The dancing academy a few cities away sent a personalized letter.” The envelope had been cardboard with gold font. He’d thought it was offers from a good hotel first. “I took the liberty of throwing it away. That city is awful. Overrun by the new group.” Strada. Thanks to Tzeng’s attempts at expansion, Strada was weary of anyone connected to any other criminal body. Good funding and military grade weapons, but no organ trade. He put her plate back, weighted, and sat down. Apparently he was going to eat directly from the tray. His fork made circles as he continued. “Besides, I need you here at home with me.” He put some food into that smile, and chewed well. To the frustration of a waitress watching them at a distance, he did pick the red bottle to be opened, and started on it himself. For his sister, he would even have rolled in the dirty ground with his best suit to pick the vegetables. “And you need your bolshoy braht, too.” He declared just as he pulled the cork out.

VenomousEve

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #38 on: November 24, 2016, 12:45:09 am »
She had seen Belou’s gesturing and laughed, conjuring the decency to blush at the suggestion. It was a pretty trick. She had waved back before following Kou inside, leaning to kiss her brother’s cheek when he’d voiced his lack of enthusiasm for her Demon friend. The siblings hadn’t had the time to think on Bel all too much though; it would have been rude to fall into distraction in the presence of the king.

Mei was a better actress than her mother, and that talent had risen out of necessity. She had not courted Daddy’s attention, only basked in it, and learned to accept the changing tones as she’d grown older. She’d learned the ways to make Mother squirm, which was to say she’d learned to be grateful for her father’s elicit stares. In some manner or another, it always led back to Kou. If Suri was happy to tease her stepson, Mei was happy to make her suffer for it. It meant, though, that she smiled when Daddy was affection whether Suri was there to see it or not. She caught Kou’s small gesture as easily as he’d catch the flatness of her stare. That smile did not reach her eyes.

“Of course I’m going to start working. Soon, at least. Graduation isn’t for another few weeks and—“ she inclined her head at her brother. “Kou is inclined to see me sent off to Perseus University. That’s so far away from you two though, I don’t want to go.” She sighed with more drama than called for and stepped off to the side so that she could keep both father and brother in her view. Daddy seemed more content with her reluctance to leave than Kou, which annoyed her, but she kept her smile bright.

The curve of her lips faltered appropriately with news of Ilya’s losses. She wasn’t a stranger to death, given the family business, but she disliked the idea of sadness on Ilya’s pretty face. She maintained fairly close friendships with both of the Vladenko siblings, which placed them in the overwhelming minority of her connections. She hadn’t the need for any sort of professionalism with the elder sibling, like Kou did, and had cultivated her friendship with Ilya to a degree that had readily soured Ouran Aitawa’s opinion of the man. Still, if Kou found it questionable, it was only because he’d chosen to remain blind to the shared interest of Vladenko and his sister. Commiseration over unrequited love was apt to build strong bonds.

“Of course I’ll go,” Mei said, and it was out of a genuine desire to offer condolences then, even if Kou preferred she decline. She shot him a glance that was borderline apologetic, but was quickly distracted by her father’s fingers in her hair. “Oh, Daddy, you’re so silly.” She laughed, jumping a little when he tapped her and scurrying over to Kou. “You spoil me so much.” She said and elbowed Kou lightly in an obvious tease. Mr. Tzeng laughed waving them off in agreement with Kou’s sentiment.

“Take care of her, Kou. Anyone would want to get their hands on a treasure like our Meimei.” He called after them. Mei sighed softly and then blew a kiss over her shoulder.

“Bye Daddy, I’ll visit again soon.” She chirped. Mei slouched a little after they’d closed the door behind them. “Thank god that woman wasn’t there.” She muttered. If the interaction had been uncomfortable, it was only because Kou had not seen Mei and their father in the presence of her mother. She had a tally of strategic little scars for every kiss and spank her mother had been in proximity of, lately. Paranoia was an incredible thing, really. If Mei had been a nicer girl, she might have felt badly about it.

“I saw a nice shipment of watches the last time I was in the vault,” Mei said, clasping her hands behind her back as they walked. She had likely seen the storage more recently than Kou, despite his direct dealings with filling the family coffers. Mr. Tzeng was prone to gifts for his pretty daughter. “There’s one with a black face and platinum band. I think it’d be perfect for Ilya.” She suggested. “I hope it wasn’t anybody particularly close,” she added. It wasn’t as if trinkets really did anything to make up for losing men. That sentiment ran deeper in Ilya’s family than her own, but she could still be sympathetic to it. Somehow, she always seemed gentler with Ilya’s feelings than Kou’s.

In the vault, she picked out the watch she’d mentioned and handed it to Kou for inspection. “What do you think?” she asked, returning to the other timepieces to select a lady’s watch with a matched design and a pink face and rose gold band. She tried it on, admiring it on her slim wrist, and then replaced it in favor of another watch with both matched design and color to the piece she’d selected for Ilya. “It’ll make him even happier if we bring him something matched for Ivena.” She said, dropping the second watch in Kou’s hand. “I don’t need anything for myself today.” She told him, which likely meant nothing new had come in since last she’d been invited to peruse.

-

Ivena nodded reassuringly. “Of course. Pick anything you like, zaika moy.” Her lips twitched slightly when he mentioned the particular item in mind. In truth, she could not have attested to whether or not her brother had realized the full effect of the thing he’d bought, but supposed she could always insist upon a leotard beneath. Ever practical, much to Ilya’s chagrin at times. She took a sip of water when the waitress poured it for her and hummed in agreement. “The dark lipstick then.” She said.

The girl was quiet while Ilya explained his fine plan for her schooling. She was not ambitious, but she was driven. She was grateful for his intentions but would have preferred he hadn’t done any such thing. Ivena was fairly determined to be admitted for continued study by her own merit. The soft lift of her eyebrows would have said as much, though she did not voice it. Again, she took care to preserve Ilya’s mood where she could.

Even she could not remain completely neutral, though, when he continued on with his confession. She sighed. It was not unexpected behavior on his part, and she wasn’t opposed to staying near home. Still, she would have liked to see the letter herself. It had been a school she’d applied to without the influence of their money and connection. A submission for self-assurance of her skill rather than any real intent to attend. Ilya would not understand that need, she was certain, so sure of her talents as he was. Ivena sighed and took a bite of food, chewing slowly. “I will not leave you, Ilyusha. However, please do not throw away my mail without my seeing it first.” It was as good as scolding, though her expression had not changed. She took another bite of food.

Ivena had been a more rambunctious child, prior to the passing of their parents. In truth, her openness had rivaled that of Ilya’s at that time. Her reserve suited her now, the snowy Russian princess with kind eyes and poetic limbs. Still, she’d become harder to read to most anyone but her brother. He’d realize quickly that she was a bit more bothered than she implied. “It is unnecessary.” She explained, pressing the tines of her fork into another morsel. Ivena inclined her head slightly. “You know I won’t leave you, da?” she repeated. As if he ought to feel guilty for considering the notion. It was possible he ought.

She pushed her wine glass toward him slightly. “I would not want you sulking over nothing.” Ivena combed a hand through the shorter strands of her pale strands, which had fallen loose from the thick plait that hung over her shoulder. She looked mature for her age but no one would have questioned his sharing the bottle with her anyhow. “Of course, it would be good for you to consider a wife one day.” She paused and gave him a peculiar look. It was a topic she brought up on occasion but rarely went in any productive direction. “At which time, perhaps it will be you doing the leaving.” She finished. It was not accusatory. Ivena would quite like her dear brother to find himself a nice lady. It might resolve his current passions, for one, but for a reasonable other it would be well for the family to have the possibility of heirs.

She waved her hand at him before he could protest too much. “Naturally, I will be here for you always, regardless.” She assured.       

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #39 on: November 24, 2016, 06:31:50 pm »
To Kou, it was a very small comfort to see Mei play along with father. He preferred it to any kind of recoil that suggested she couldn’t navigate the kind of attention Wei liked to share with her, but it meant inappropriate threads trying to snare her, still. And there her formidable brother stood, with exactly nothing to offer to her aid. His spirit stirred a bit, though it did not lift, when she pleaded the case of remaining in their city after her current schooling. He already knew very well she was against the idea of Perseus, so he tried to be grateful she’d not completely drawn a decision out of father. The thought of her working displeased Kou endlessly, even if she wasn’t a stranger to a little task here and there, already. He was relieved to see her hurry to him. Perhaps he should be as tactical as she was. He had a hard time wearing masks.

“I always do, Mr. Tzeng.” Kou said as he followed her out after bowing. With the door closed behind them, he took his first easy breath. Belou was gone from the waiting room. Both siblings reveled in being outside of the throne room, it seemed, and Kou let it drag on before he looked at her, about what she said about her mother. There was a bit of scolding in his eyes, but he wasn’t going to play the dutiful son-in-law after having suffered so much under his own father’s presence. It was bittersweet to see it all pour off Mei so easily. Maybe she was better suited for this kind of work than he, even if he’d do what he could to stop her from having to.

He went along when she walked and made sure to bump into her every now and then, as he always did. He hoped to get her out of balance. It was such an old game it was almost cerebral now. These corridors had actually seen her fall a few times. He remembered his stomach dropping on a few nasty topples. “Ilya does like fancy things. Good idea.” He said, and didn’t have the irritation in his vibrato usually reserved for the Vladenko boss. If he knew anything, it was that his pallid friend did not take matters like these lightly, neither through a business nor an emotional perspective. For all the theatrics required in the echelons of their trade, Ilya played his role rather candid. Kou wondered if Ilya was capable of anything else.

“He’s close with pretty much anyone.” He didn’t know if that was to Ilya’s credit or determent in that statement. “And why don’t you ever pick out a watch for me?” he added quickly, pouting as they entered the vault before he even tried to recall if his accusation had a leg to stand on.

The design on Mei’s choice was rather handsome, he thought, and she could see by the way he weighed it in his hand that he was considering keeping it for himself. The thought of then putting effort into finding something to replace it was enough to deter him. He agreed by rolling the box of its perch as well and starting to fiddle with setting the watch into place. It was a large box. “It’s good. Good eye, Mei.” He had to say. Sometimes the material in these pieces were enough to warrant the price, but Mei had chosen something well designed, too. He could see this easily on Ilya’s wrist.

The matching, smaller one for Ivena was fitting and the set looked glorious in the package. “You’re right.” Ilya was famous for his adoration of the only living Ms. Vladenko anyone knew of. In-fact, bringing only something for her would have made Ilya’s day. He winked at Mei and closed the lid. “Are you sure you don’t want that?” he said and pointed one corner of the box toward the watch she’d tried against her own wrist. It wasn’t particularly generous to echo father’s offer, but Kou wanted her to have things she liked. The subject of her wrist let him remember something unpleasant she’d show him before they’d gone in to father, and he placed the gifts haphazardly on the shelf, grabbing her by both her arms and pushing her into a corner they knew to be a camera blind spot.

“Let me see that again.” He said, already sliding the collar of her shirt to the side, other hand expertly flicking her first button open. It had not been a forceful gesture to bring her here, but he would let her struggle quite a bit before listening, if she didn’t want to show him once more. He gasped, crowding her into the unseen nook between shelves that had seemed giant when they were smaller. He knew which brand Suri smoked, and the width of the mark was consistent. “I’m sorry, Mei.” He said, a trembling finger tugging the strap away so he could circle the hurt. His head hovered close to the redness, nearsighted in his worry. “Why did she do this?” he asked, and then suddenly turned her, recklessly, by her hips, to leave her with either her cheek to the wall, or her palms against it for support. He pulled the collar further apart and shook his head. Usually he would become angry, belligerent, but he couldn’t lash out at Suri, even in her absence, but his baby sister was marred and he would not let that be, either. His cheek brushed her hair as he sought some comfort for himself, for her injury. “I should have been there.”

-

How content he was when she agreed. He thought her reaction to his choice of item was odd, though, and wondered if they were even thinking of the same garment, anymore. Ivena would look stunning in anything, and really, the fact that she’d be wearing something he wanted – whether it was exactly that, or something else by mistake – was pleasing enough. Some of that bloat went away when she let him know of her displeasure at his small deceit. He’d feigned some other reason, obviously, but his attachment to her was always in the forefront of his intentions. He let himself watch her take her food, and wanted to compliment her on it, but still felt bad about the letter.

“Why do you need to read it? You weren’t going anyway, sestre.” He tried. He was flushing. “I mean, if you wanted to you could.” But that wasn’t right either, at least it didn’t taste right on his tongue. “Obviously you couldn’t.” He tried to see her reaction to that before employing some more ill-conceived damage control. “Ah, you know what I mean. I am sorry for burning your mail.” He neglected the detail of fire when informing her the first time, he realized. Suddenly the well-balanced flavors were not so gentle on his palled. His shoulders dropped and he was an exquisite image of guilt and quiet misery, picking his plate. Perhaps this tendency was exactly why his sister was so sophisticated with her expressions.

It made things better when she promised never to leave him. Mei had complained to him that Kou wanted to send her away, and Ilya, despite his usual tone to Kou himself, had to defend her brother, knowing what taxes this line of work could require. He was endlessly grateful for Ivena’s intentions to stay, but he worried for her too. The wine came to her glass as soon as it had stilled. He put the bottle back on the table and had in his hand the same drink. Out came his clear orb with grape’s life, waiting for the music of hers before he brought it back. It tasted as expected, fitting to the meal. He suppose the selling point of this place was not a perfect pairing, teeth and tongue. He had declined that himself, though. Eating like this had its own charm. Not every meal could be endlessly indulgent and hedonistic. The world only had so many little birds that could be drowned in liquor and then cooked.

He looked her over, and was appreciative of her beauty instead of leering. While he did have the hot kind of inclination toward her, Ilya worshiped Ivena in many ways. Her aesthetics were one of his favorite traits. He would sometimes tire his band of guards with pictures of her on his phone. A dancer, he’d tell them. They already knew, of course, but were obligated to nod along. “No more sulking.” He agreed. If she stayed, what reason had he, anyway.

Would seem the wine soured a little, judging by the set of his grimace, when she mentioned marriage. Would Ivena be terribly upset if she met Diluna? Surely her clone for his bride was a bit unusual. He was not immediately defensive. “Who would be better than you?” he asked brightly. His pretty sister who was so stately she could have wine in the open, despite her age. He did not think his own cadence and cohort had anything to do with it. “I suppose Mei Wing is rather a belle.” He said, crossing one leg over the other and blinking slowly with the meaning. His large mouth was suspiciously straight, and he even dared a look to the side to underline how easily he could converse about this. Ivena indulged him in many things, but she was not dishonest, so he would not receive the reaction he wanted. For one swallow that would bother him. He abandoned the act quickly after that.

“And how could I ever marry if I know you’ll be alone without me?” he injected. He could not offer the same kind of sentiment toward her. If he was the only one she was allowed to be with, then her hopes of love were gone if he promised himself to another. Such a considerate brother he was. He did not think of what kind of position he was putting Ivena in, that her own life might be on pause in that regard, simply because she was careful with his feelings. This could be his own suffering, too, because there was a longing in him to raise little children. Despite the man his father was, Ilya was very proud of their name, and could not imagine a life that did not include someone to leave it all to. He wanted desperately to bring a heir up with Ivena, for it to be theirs, but even he knew that would be at least odd. If she refused a kiss, she would not let him go that far, no matter her love. He often wondered if that kind of sympathy would be welcome or if he’d abhor it.

He sighed a little at the conundrum. “Perhaps if we adopt, though.” As though she’d spoken her thought. To him, family was everything, but blood was transcendent, and he adored many of the toddlers that ran to him, mistaking their father’s respect for kinship. Girls like that he looked like a doll, boys thought the handles of his knives were attractive. He grinned. Ilya’s heart was free, and loved in many directions. He could make life-long commitments on a whim. And Ivena would be stunning with a little one in her arms. Perhaps that would warm her to his affections. That alone should warrant a look into this. “Wouldn’t you like to help some unfortunate child? It would have your grace and my capability to love you, imprinted over time, if we raced it.” He sighed and put the glass down, scooping something up with his cork. “You would be beautiful with our baby.” He whispered. “I will look in to this.” He had made a few orphans himself, protecting the Vladenko properties in this city. Repentance could make a bond stronger than blood from his side, and the child would never know. How romantic.

Rarely a productive direction, but this was at least a new one.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #40 on: November 25, 2016, 04:04:55 am »
Mei waved him off. “Ilya’s nicer to me.” She told him, poking her tongue out and stretching. “We’re kindred spirits, too.” She said. Kou, she was certain, would take it for any meaning but the apparent one. She had hidden her feelings when she was younger, taking years to build up the confidence to express herself toward him at all. When he’d staunchly refused to acknowledge her efforts, Mei had become rather candid. It was only for the sake of her own pride that she had not been blunt.

She was happy that he agreed with her choices. Mei had a good eye, she was well aware, but it made her happiest when she thought it might also be to her brother’s tastes. In the end, his opinion was the only one that mattered to her. Mei was humming to herself, the song she’d recently shared with Ivena, when Kou had suggested she take the other watch for herself. She laughed. “I’m sure.” She assured him. She was obviously in a good mood, a small weight lifted now that their meeting with their father was concluded and she was fairly sure she was out of school for the day.

Her humming broke with a gasp when he grabbed her suddenly. “Kou?” she squeaked, eyes wide. She was too stunned to struggle, though she squirmed weakly in surprise when he tugged at her collar. “What are you—“ she inhaled sharply. To say she’d dreamt of him at this proximity to her, let alone touching her, would be a vast understatement. Mei’s cheeks were brilliantly pink. “I-is’ok!” she yelped, biting her tongue as she stuttered over the words. Why the hell was he apologizing? Mei could feel her own pulse speed and was, for once, glad that Kou never acknowledged his effect on her. She wasn’t inclined to acknowledge it herself. For all her fantasizing and pining, the girl hadn’t a clue what to do with herself in his grasp. She tried to come up with something coy to say, but he was asking her unpleasant things that brought her crashing back down from her high.

“Oh, well, you know. Daddy likes me better these days,” she mumbled. She squealed when he whirled her to face the wall, cheek against the cool metal of the vault. Mei all but trembled. With any other man she was well versed in the sort of thing that might come next. She could play the doe-eyed damsel when it suited the boys that wanted to play, even if it was not her preference. It was only with her brother dearest that she struggled to conjure any sort of act and found herself earnestly at his whims. But then, she hadn’t the ability to predict a damn thing when it came to Kou. “She’s a bitch, you know.” She tried weakly, though she was well aware it wasn’t the sort of comment he’d take to heart. Suri couldn’t be that kind of woman when she was so sweet to him. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t ask for Daddy to look at me like that.” She continued. Half of it was true. “She has to keep everyone wrapped around her little finger—“ she went silent.

It wouldn’t have mattered if he was there. His spell faded a little, which was fine. He hadn’t meant to weave it after all. She closed her eyes and leaned into the wall. “Nah.” She said. “You wouldn’t have done anything if you were there. Nothing she didn’t want, at least.” Her tone was flat. She reached up to touch his hand, guiding it to tug the blouse open further. More little burns, like constellations in hidden places. “Which one would you have stopped, Kou?” she asked, a little dreamy. “I think you would have scolded me for making her cry. She’s pretty when she does that too, though.”

She sighed. His cheek in her hair felt nice, but she wasn’t happy with their shared secret anymore. He wouldn’t be angry the way she wanted him to be. She’d known he wouldn’t when she’d first shown him too. This worry on his part couldn’t be satisfying the way she wanted it to be. “Hey Kou, will you like it better if I cut my hair short?” she asked, gaze sliding to catch his profile in her peripheral vision. If she wore it like Mother’s, would he look at her more? Daddy would call it a travesty, which Mother would like too.

“We should go see Ilya now.” She said.

-

Ivena must have been some kind of goddess for the great patience she had. If the added details regarding the fate of her acceptance letter was disappointing to her, it did not reach her expression. She had made her annoyance known as far as she intended to. “As long as you are sorry, it is fine.” She said at last, taking a long sip of her wine before settling on that answer. She would ask one of the hires at home to collect her mail for her from now on though. If Ilya noticed, he could sulk without her witnessing it. Ivena preferred it that way, when she was forced to act.

She did sigh softly when he was quick to point out that she was so apparently best. Perhaps it was too coddling of her to stay for university. She would have to reconsider her original compliance. If he was joking, it had not seemed it to her and she did think that it might give him a chance to change his perspective if she was beyond his grasp for a while. She was not well suited for that sort of tough love, though, and abandoned the thought quickly enough. Ivena was more receptive to mention of Mei though, and she even smiled at the suggestion. That comment, which most assuredly had not been serious, was a much more acceptable proposition. “We could stay very close then, if you were to romance Mei. Perhaps a double wedding then, and I could be both your sister and sister-in-law.” She was too perfectly straight faced. He was no match. She waited for him to digest her meaning and pout over it; a rare occasion for her to tease him that way. She must have been more sour over the ashes of her mail than he expected.

“Well, you see, if Kou and I were to marry I would not be alone.” She pointed out. Ivena smirked then, very briefly, before the snowy princess wore her impassive stare again. It was enough to chase the thought that far. She was certain she would pay for it later, too. Ilya would occasionally come to her with complaints of bad dreams, enticing her comfort where he knew very well she’d not deny it. Such events corresponded well with any evidence of her sweet spot for Kou Wing Tzeng.

She took another sip of wine and a bite of a nice cheese. “Braht, I am eighteen. I will not entertain raising a child.” Ivena said lightly. She had not, at least, shooed the idea off as completely unreasonable. In truth, if it had been the matter of Ilya’s happiness, she might have adopted a child with him. She had played house with him long enough as it was, and so long as he’d not cross those lines she could not accept she supposed she would do whatever made him smile. It seemed a poor reason to raise a child though and she’d not tell him it was any sort of real possibility. For fair reason, she feared he would trot out to find a suitable orphan that very afternoon if he thought it was the case.

Ivena inclined her head slightly, the tines of her fork still depressing her plump lower lip. With that consideration, perhaps her reply had not been a sure enough ‘no’ either. She had only offered the suggestion that she was too young. The pretty red lips rounded into a thoughtful ‘oh’ and she placed the fork down. “Mei is younger than me, by a little. If you wait a few years, perhaps you can have a child of your own.” She decided it was a good enough recovery, though he’d likely not appreciate the continuation of that folly. “You two do get on very well at least.” She almost looked apologetic for saying so.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #41 on: November 25, 2016, 04:15:49 pm »
It was hard for Kou to see in what way Ilya and his sister were kindred. Mei was a lovely, talented girl about to take over the world in one way or another, and Ilya was a psychopath with a deep voice. He supposed their friendship blinded Mei to that kind of difference. Perhaps their odd ends met well, and that in turn laid the foundation to their relationship. Kou was prolific in denying another probable explanation to the connection she’d named between herself and the Vladenko elder. At least Ilya would never see Stanford’s fate, since Kou also had a bond to him. Not that the Tzeng brother didn’t want to beat Ilya up on occasion. It was hard to find a reason when their Russian friend was perfectly courteous to his sister.

Her pretty reactions to his sudden determination to see her marks collided into his urgency, but he’d pushed that sentiment, if one it was, deep down. Her fretting and heating cheeks did not register to his tastes, even though those that were familiar with his vices knew Kou to delight in such a display. He was positioning her to see what she’d shown before. When her body’s rare tension was dispelled with a dark change in her spirit, he felt it in his hold on her. Father had a tender eye for her, these days, she said. What kind of explanation was that? He felt angry and low at the same time, and wrenched him so suddenly it made him nauseous. If she saw the pain in him, which was starting to win wrath’s favor on his features, she would remember it from a more earnest brother, younger, who'd not feared marrying her and playing house.

His lips parted quickly to tell her not to speak of her mother that way when she did, but something in Mei’s eyes forbade him from that. It was even a struggle to see why she was saying this at all. He’d already forgotten the burn in his rush to defend Suri. Kou was at the whims of his loyalties, always. But he remembered soon, because it accompanied what she said about father, that he already knew. Beads at the blades of his eyes when he heard she was paying for attention she’d never wanted. He knew Wei, because they shared the same darkness, but Kou always tried not to see Suri that way.

Her listless voice in the hard accusation, her assumption, about him closed his throat around a horrified breath. He knew the sound as someone being abuse when they had no breath left to steal, a ram into empty lungs. It was inconceivable for Kou not to help her if he ever saw her in pain. And yet, if he envisioned the scene she conjured, Suri’s eyes were overbearing. Kou shook his head to convince her, shook it at the result of his absence in this house. But it was written on her skin. His hand uncovered more of that story, a ladder in velts, of his shortcomings as her brother. He thought about Mei’s loneliness when she let him pick which singe he’d erase, which mar he’d protect her from. “Mei.” Little sister Mei, whom he was supposed to take care of. He’d not come between her and hardship, and here she was, wearing the proof of his weakness. Her blouse wrinkled in his fingers as his failure visited him fully and took some of his physical strength. “I… all of them, of course.” He tried. It was easy to say. But it had also been easy to move out.

And he couldn’t think of the truth of Suri’s prettiness with her face dressed in tears when Mei thought aloud he’d even lecture her for her father’s misplaced wants. Kou didn't want to be that kind of monster. “I’d comfort you.” He corrected and pulled to get her closer, to fit her into him, unraveling more of the wealth of mementos Suri had left. His other hand graced the cheek she turned him. He felt distant to her by his own actions. If Mei wanted, she could make him do anything, not unlike the boys she brought to the sheets. About her hair, he didn’t understand at first, and then his eyes grew. One step back, he turned her again, and held her to the wall by her shoulders so he could look at her fully. How disheveled she was, with her clothes gaping open. She truly looked like he'd had his way with her, hair caught in an exhale to the side.

“I don’t want that. I don’t want you to cut you hair if that’s not what you want.” His voice was as intact as her marked skin. Desperation to make her happy again was challenging the end of every syllable. What she said was hurting him too much. He'd rather be beaten to into father's floor. He looked from her stagnant gaze to her lips and thought he could silence her with his. He couldn’t take any more. It would be the bitterest and most selfish kiss, and something in him that knew it would work pulled at his jaw to make the little journey. His intent was clear in the warm brown of his usually black eyes. He stopped of course. She’d suffered enough for his weakness. And he felt as given up as her words sounded when she suggested they should leave, already. He let her go with his head dropped. His heart was sore.

"I... I'm glad you moved out." was all he had for her. He took a step back, into the light where the cameras guarded the treasures. His arm swatted and collected the box. "I'll visit you more." he said. If this was what Mei wanted, it had come at a high price for Kou. She could also ask him for anything now, and he would very likely give it, but he'd not said a bad word about Suri, yet. Wei liked to tell stories of a mommy's boy.

When they went through the corridors again, moving from bright windows to shaded interruptions, he was perfectly silent. The sturdy box hung in his fingers. But before they took the turn that would lead them into the foaje, Kou stopped and locked his free arm around her, kissing her fervently on top of her head and left his face there. Sobbed once. Sensitive boy, who wasn't used to love hurting like this. "I love you, Meimei." he said into her scalp with the boiling air that comes from a crying mouth. "I'll be better for you." But when he let her go and took her hand, he had collected all the pieces her misery had made of him, and even his hair was right.

"You okay?" Teddy asked, in the driver's seat already, as the siblings slid in. Kou nodded and spun the short side of the box on his fingertip. Teddy was perceptive, he could smell an ambush and find a liar before they spoke, but Kou didn't want to talk about it.

"Yeah, just the usual grind. Looks like we're taking Mei." he winked at her. "And we're not checking on the shops today, not yet." Ouran whined and turned from where he sat. His eyes of course stuck on Mei. The wrinkle between his eyebrows suggested he was also suffering from a spell of perceptiveness. Originally Ouran had looked forward to visiting his parents, who had a much friendlier contract with the syndicate than most restaurants, but now he might be wondering what was weighing Mei. "We're going to talk to Ilya." Kou said to throw of Ouran's scent.

"Oh. How nice." Ouran said and sat back, spine stiff. Kou coughed with amusement and sat back.

"Not nice. He lost two. Internal stuff. You know how he gets. This is for him." Kou shook the box and in the mirror both he and Mei could see Aitawa's expression was more engaged. Ouran was the face of sympathy when he was allowed to be.

-

Ilya supposed he did not mind getting to marry someone like his Mei, and still have his sister by his side, so he was immediately glad when Ivena spoke of it, and then immediately upset when she supposed to make herself his sister-in-law at the same time. He had a large mouth, and it performed at most of its depth when she took Kou as a theoretical husband. What did Ilya care if she was alone? It was preferable to her being with Kou! He did not see the contrast between this disposition and his former, thoughtful one. She'd punished him well for simply assuming she was not going to have a life if not with him. Unfortunately, he was not too far from the truth in regards of her romantic escapades if the past was any indication. So they sat eating, the child and his saint sister.

"Kou isn't worthy of you." he said, insulted, turning his head but not without something on his fork to keep him busy as he made sure she saw his reaction. Pretty flip of his hair that he never meant. He turned back to her soon again, silverware clean and down. "Anyone but him." As though she would believe that. "He abuses women. And have you seen his knuckles? They're discolored." The latter was true. Tattoos of attrition. Sometimes being a working man meant you have to work on men. Ilya had his own favorite methods to dispense such things, usually resting near his heart in lamb-leather sheaths. "Mei got all the good genes, there."

At first, when she would not share a child with him on argument of her age, he was about to plead his case. They could save someone from a distasteful upbringing, with their wealth and knowledge and culture. But he minded to listen to her wording before he protested it. Too clear on him when his anger from having to defend her from Kou, with that villain not even present, subsided to let him taste away on the tray, very abruptly collected and almost uninterested in their conversation. Ivena and anyone with eyes would know he was saving this little window to be opened at a later occasion. Sometimes Ilya was a curious contradiction with his statuesque beauty, that told a bit of lives he'd taken, and this very honest emotional simpleton.

For all his faithfulness to Ivena, he liked the idea of having a child with Mei. Surely that would make Kou very distraught. If Ilya named it after himself, all the better. Ivena could be the constant aunt. "How adorable." he mused and drank some more wine. "All three of us in the same home, taking care of a little someone." In his head, he was on the couch with Ivena on his lap, while Mei played with a fair haired child on the floor. "And we get along because she is reasonable." he wiped his mouth with a quick circle. "And, shall we say, we understand one another." Suddenly he was a perfect actor. Mei's secret was not one he'd share, neither with blatant words or subtle expressions.

"How about you two?" he offered in return. "She is your best friend in school, I think. If her brother isn't there, minding his work, I think it's alright for you to be with Mei." Sometimes Ilya could come off as very domineering, with his choice of phrase. In part it was Ivena's fault, for being a patient woman, and indulging him because she couldn't in other ways. It wasn't as though Ivena and Mei were strangers lately, but Ilya had still found time to get something of a pacifier in Diluna for when his sister was not available. What he was suggesting now was that the two women practice their friendship close to him. It might be harder than that, he realized. He could keep Ivena safe, even if she came with on the gritter tasks, but he didn't know what Mei was comfortable with. There would be a war, one the Vladenko family could not win, if something happened to Mei Wing.

Before he could add to his own thought, one of his guards went through the door. Ilya guessed the occasion and held out his hand before Mureg had produced a phone. Ilya always tried to eat undisturbed, and his people knew that. This was of some importance. A message from Kou. It seemed it was time to meet. He sighed and looked at his own plate, and then at his sister's.

"See? Kou doesn't even have good timing. Useless." he said, but she could see in his sparrow egg irises that there was a new spark. Camaraderie and rivalry. "I'm sorry, but we have to go. Maybe to teach them manners. I'd offer to let you stay here and finish up but I don't want you to eat alone, and it says Mei is with them, so maybe you would want to see her?" He rounded the small table quickly, and offered the hook of his arm. Being a dancer and of poise, Ivena was the perfect person to enter and exit with.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #42 on: November 25, 2016, 06:54:33 pm »
Mei sighed harshly. Of course he’d say that and mean it too. It was easy when that woman wasn’t around. She desperately wanted to believe it was all Suri’s web, but she had watched Kou for too long to fool herself. She didn’t care if he was hurting then. She was certain he deserved it for all the suffering of her own heart. Mei tipped her chin up, a little imperious, when he turned her. His breath against her lips and for once she wasn’t lost in it. He was being selfish, she thought. Didn’t he know how long she’d been waiting for him? Those little burns were nothing when it meant she’d won. She was better than Mother whether he’d realized it yet or not.

She nodded at him and straightened her blouse, closing the buttons which had been tugged open and smoothing the sweater vest over it. “If you say so.” Mei said. She refused to give him an avenue of forgiveness when his loyalty was still rooted with that horrible old bitch. A perfect son and a model brother and she hated him a little bit for it. Her smile was rueful. “Let’s not keep Ilya waiting.” She reminded. Suri had not been a bad mother until Mei had made her one, probably. But Suri had never been a good mother, either. She wasn’t the sort of women made to hold those kinds of affections.

Mei was relieved to be out of the vault. She’d not intended for any of this heavy. She never did. She was happiest when left to play in her make believe. Kou hurting for her like this left a bad taste in her mouth. Daddy had said she could take something she wanted out of the vault. She wondered if Kou would have listened if she’d picked him. Still, if she’d been angry with Belou for his offered deceits, she could not think to take the same sort of advantage herself.

She stiffened when he pulled her to him and she bit at the inside of her cheek. How dare he kiss her at all, conflicted like that. Mei was about to protest, angry that it made her heart flutter still, but was caught woefully off guard when he spoke. He didn’t say things like that much anymore and she ached to hear them. Like this, though, it was a slap in the face. Her shoulders sagged and she remained silent. And he wondered why she caused trouble. As if she could have this attention otherwise. Perhaps she ought to tell that woman to beat her up next time. Mei almost laughed. He wouldn’t believe something like that though. It wouldn’t be worth the bruises. When he let her go, she’d resolved to play the game she was well aware Kou would insist on. It was better than souring her day with him. She held on to his hand, just as tightly as she always did.

“He’s just annoyed I get to skip school today,” She hummed and stuck her tongue out at Kou as she flopped into the back seat. Mei smoothed her skirt. “And he’s jealous that I like Ilya better.” She added, tossing one of her twin tails over her shoulder. They had become a bit more disheveled in the vault. Mei folded her arms across her chest. “Are you jealous too?” she asked Ouran with a cheeky smile. “Do you wanna go on a date later to let me make up for it?” she continued. Brazen as always. There was nothing to brood over. Nothing had happened. It would not be the first time she’d gone out with Aitawa, anyway. The two did get along well enough and every party in the car was aware she only ever suggested it to irritate Kou. Sometimes it worked, sometimes he didn’t care. In the end, those dates were always delightfully tame. Ouran’s affections were too honest and she’d never touch him.

The mood did turn a bit more somber as Kou informed the other two of the nature of their visit, but there couldn’t be too much emotion spent over the matter. Sympathy was well placed, but in the end it was simply a known part of their line of work.

-

Ivena was pleasantly surprised when Ilya seemed more receptive to taking Mei into consideration than she’d anticipated. In the end, it was all idle chat, but any suggestion in a direction other than herself seemed like good progress. She did not even appear overly saddened by his continued disapproval of Kou. After all, she was happy to pine away. If Ilya found happiness and she could at least continue to see the handsome Mr. Wing, Ivena thought she could be content. Still, she was a loyal fan and did feel it necessary to defend him against Ilya’s sulking again. “It is not becoming of you when you lie like that, zaika moy. Kou is very kind.” She insisted, which might have been somewhat accurate in the context of their world, where her brother too was rather sweet. If she was wrong, it was not the kind of illusion Ilya would want to shatter too deeply. Ivena would fret over his work too much if she believed kindness did not exist in it somewhere.

She let him prattle on, entertained by his child-rearing fantasy at first, and then quickly concerned. He was not being particularly precise with her role in it, and she suspected she’d not fully approve of the details. Still, she determined it was fine to let him have his little dream, whatever it was. It was not as if he’d not conjured less practical daydreams than anything he might be thinking now. Nonetheless, Ivena was mildly relieved when his attention seemed diverted to more easily predictable topics. She dabbed her lips with her napkin.

“Mei and I get along well.” She agreed. “She is a nice girl. Fiesty.” Ivena mused. They were not particularly alike, but Ivena appreciated Mei’s understanding of their brothers’ world and her generally candid nature. She realized that the girl was rather adept at manipulations when it suited her, but she’d not been victim to that behavior herself. Mei had once told her that she was too nice to make it satisfying. In the end, Ivena had been placed in much the same category as Ouran. “I think she will begin working with her family soon.” Ivena added, as if she had read Ilya’s concerns. She did not particularly mind his implication; he was her favorite company still. She would have been happier, of course, if Kou had been invited to his suggested playdates.

Ivena took her brother’s arm, unbothered by cutting their meal short for the anticipated company. He might have noticed just a bit of haste in her step, even, at the prospect. A car was brought around, though they’d walked to the bistro, and neither sibling was surprised.

-

Mei made a soft sound when their vehicle pulled up and she saw the Vladenko siblings arriving as well. She had been happy enough to pick a gift for Ivena, but she’d not quite wanted to see her in attendance. For the same reasons as Ilya, Mei was not inclined to have the tall blonde beauty in frequent contact with her brother. Still, even she could not begrudge the girl too much, and smiled and sighed when she caught sight of Ivena already squirming and blushing in the back seat. For such a stoic woman, Ivena was positively hopeless around Kou. Mei was actually a bit sympathetic.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #43 on: November 26, 2016, 05:18:25 pm »
Kou was still hurting from her pummeling, though she'd meant to be transparent and not cruel. His dutiful heart did not know the difference, today. He believed as much in Mei as he tried to believe in Suri. No wonder he was the source of some frustration, this way, to his sister. Her perfect act once they were with Ouran and Teddy somehow worked to motivate Kou to be better, even though it would be easy to pretend he'd not gotten to see proof of Mei's struggle. She pouted a lot, and played whichever persona she decided she liked the most, so he tried to be alert when she let him glimpse truths about herself. They were synced for the facade in the car, and at least that was common ground.

Ouran huffed about Ilya. There could not have been another reaction from someone who was never very subtle about his feelings for Mei. It was good news to him that she would not be in school, though. That meant he got to see her more. "Yes." Ouran said, about his jealousy, because he wasn't a good liar, and usually answered her on reflex. It made Kou laugh and Teddy grunt. When she offered the date, and there was another, louder "Yes." both other males filled the cab with their cackles. It did nothing to damped Ouran's enthusiasm as he looked back at her.

Kou pushed the car lighter in from where he sat, not as cozy with his sister as when they'd come, but then remembered the science behind a cigarette burn and started rolling the window down. "You want some spending money?" he asked as he crushed his last packet of smokes and threw it out as Teddy drove passed the gates. Ouran wasn't sure how deep the sarcasm ran. The expression he could see in the mirror seemed only vaguely disingenuous.

Kou turned in to the air he'd welcomed when discarding the expensive favors. Ouran noticed a grim shadow in the corner of his eye, grown and shredded by the dance of his hair. "But we're going later, after this." Ouran tried, to see if Kou had an issue with his new plans. The usually animated leader of their gathering didn't even react. Teddy had the time to give Ouran an encouraging look before speeding up. Ouran winked back at Mei, thinking he wanted to make her happy, since she had to sit with her brother when he was like this. He could never see through Mei, every well.

-

Her zaika cared a great deal for what she thought of him. If she said something wasn't becoming, he was inclined to change it. His confidence in berating Kou in his absence was challenged, and he was visibly uncomfortable with his sister's small correction. It said all the apologies he mouth did not. Still, he would not have called Kou kind. He most definitely did not want her to think so. But Ilya knew he was already appearing a bit belligerent, and he would avoid upsetting her on the subject. Ilya refused to hear her take a firmer stance on her side, Kou's side.

Feisty was a good word for Mei. Ilya smiled thinking of how she'd cuss at Suri when she ranted about her, and the competent darkness he saw in her when she spoke of what she knew about her family business. She'd never been squeamish about the details he shared, and it allowed him to speak freely with her, almost more than he could with his own men. She was a good ear when he expressed his woes over the steps he had to take, and how he hated making examples the most, because those were always incredible acts of violence. Mei understood. He thought he saw in her that she would not have the same trouble as he, sending such messages.

"I think so too." Ilya agreed. He couldn't see any other plausible future for the girl. Her brother would send her anywhere in the world, and encourage any path but the one she would surely take. But Ilya had an interest in seeing her for what she was, as it might affect his own family. He'd be lying if he ever said he wasn't looking forward to the day they could speak as colleagues under her father. So there was a small smile when Ivena had the same observation.

There was enough bills to pay for the meal and tip when the pair left. He was quite proud to walk her out, but that good mood was completely dependent on that he chose to believe a meeting with Mei was the main reason Ivena was hurrying. He held the door for her and then slipped in quickly after.

-

Kou was first out the car, and stayed by it to let Mei pass him. It was not a sign of weakness to spoil your little sister. It was quite known to anyone in their circuits that Mr. Tzeng was overprotective of his princess. Few got to see how those affections might be twisted, though. Kou smiled with half his mouth when he saw Ivena's blonde hair through the front window of Ilya's car. Mei had suggested they meet here, because the warehouse was fitting with its seclusion and space, and this area was rarely used during the day. From what Kou knew, Mei would meet Ivena here herself, sometimes, because the availability of heated indoor spaces made for good make-shift dancing studios. He did listen when Mei told him of her day.

Ilya came out much in the same manner, and Kou's lips finally parted to see the two pretty Russians stand from their vehicle. Iyla was as protective as always, and was quick to meet Kou, quite obviously trying to get to him before Ivena could, arms out. "Weapon Cousin!" Ilya offered and embraced the son of Tzeng. "You're looking intact." he continued and then touched Kou twice on the cheek. It had Kou frown, but Ilya was fast passed him to embrace Mei in a much more genuine squeeze. "Ah, Meimei." and he quite liked saying the nickname everyone seemed to borrow. "You're so beautiful." he kept his hand on her shoulder. "Isn't she beautiful, Kou Wing Tzeng?"

Kou was about to start his usual asenine routine with Ilya, get your hands off my sister, but swallowed that bile and sighed to vent his tongue. "Mei is always beautiful." he said and then put his hand on the high of Ilya's spine. This gave Kou some time to shoot Ivena a quick smirk, the softest he had. Normally he would be hurrying over to greet her, but today was not social or even about the partnership between their families. The gentle gesture seemed to surprise the already playful Ilya, and he turned to look at the dark haired man. Kou leaned in close and held the box between Mei and the fair, boy in almost Victorian-gothic tailoring.

Ilya was confused at first, and looked over his shoulder, back at Ivena, always seeking her advice, before taking the box in both his hands. Kou's head was almost touching his as both were looking at the pretty lid. "Mei picked it out, boss. You bring us gifts all the time." Kou said and smiled at her. "We're sorry. Death in your family, Vladenko. My father wanted to know how you are." It would be obvious to Mei Ilya was a bit unsure as to how to proceed next, having expected the usual, loud Tzeng emissary, and not this level-voiced adult. It made Kou want to kiss him and drive this awkward interaction home, but it would be a selfish joke.

"Well, thank you. You didn't have to." Ilya said and then turned back to Mei, who was acting normal, at least. "And you, Mei. It's not good, what happened, but it's something I can handle. Let's see what you got me, da?" he said and thumbed at the lid. Kou nodded and then finally let go of Ilya to go to his arguably favorite Vladenko. He even tugged at his tie before reaching her and hugging her firmly.

"Ivena." he said, letting go, the name free of the accent her brother expertly wielded, which ultimately meant Kou pronounced her name wrong. "I've missed you." And he had, he realized. She was one of the prettiest things to come in contact with the Tzeng syndicate. On many occasions she was Ilya's only good attribute. "Sorry to hear." but he'd always known her to care more about her brother's sentiments than share them. "How are you? Still dancing, I hear."

"Oh, these are splendid." Ilya said with a bright smile when he saw the watches. He was as excited about matching his sister as Mei had said. "You know me so well, eh, Mei?" he said and touched his knuckles to her cheek. "But don't worry, okay? I'm not some bleeding heart boy." He graced the face of his watch. "But it's good that you come see me. How are you? You said you were moving out. About time." Ilya knew maybe more than Kou, and had offered her free apartments in any of the complexes he owned.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #44 on: November 26, 2016, 08:49:01 pm »
Mei squealed in real delight when Ilya came to her. His embrace was warm, and it was a good comfort after the morning she’d had. A selfish thought, she realized quickly, when he’d lost two men. Still, she wore more genuine delight on her features than she did around Kou. With Ilya her heart was lighter. She rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. “Ilya, why can’t you be my brother instead? You’re so nice,” she cooed blinking up at him.

She was as surprised as Ilya when Kou did not play his usual part, and she wondered if it was out of respect for the loss or because he was still in some sort of mood due to her behavior. She decided it must be the former. Mei was vain enough with most matters, but she had learned not to expect those indulgences from her brother. If it had been for anyone other than Ilya, she might have been annoyed that she’d been cast from his mind so readily. But it was Ilya, and she squeezed her arms around his waist once more to offer her own sympathy alongside her brother’s.

Mei did watch Kou go, though, and felt her heart sink a little when she saw him with the younger Vladenko. She chewed on her lower lip, wishing that Ivena might be a worse person for a little while so she could find ways of hating her. She sighed. If there was a woman on earth she’d step aside for, it might be Ivena. It didn’t mean it wouldn’t kill her to do it, of course. She plastered on a wide smile for Ilya though and watched him open the gift eagerly. “Ah, I mean, I know you’ll be alright Ilya.” She said thoughtfully, leaning into his touch affectionately. “It’s a good excuse though,” she pointed at the watch for Ivena. “You two make the best couple, after all.” She said. Mei would always cheer Ilya on. She shot a look in the direction of their siblings. “You look better next to her than he does, right?”

Mei scuffed the toe of her shoe against the ground. “I moved out a little bit ago. The new place is nice. It’s close to you, actually.” She grinned. “You should come visit and I’ll cook for you. Ivena too.” When she met his gaze again, there was a little relief there. “I’m glad to be out I guess. Even if it’s a little bit lonely.” She said. Kou wasn’t like Ilya, who kept Ivena within reach whenever possible. Sometimes Mei thought her brother’s intentions were quite opposite. “Kou hasn’t even asked for the address yet,” she complained lightly, tugging on one of her twin tails.

Ivena was starry-eyed the moment Kou had stepped out of the car, and it was only with great force of will that she maintained her composure when he hugged her. “K-Kou! I am so glad to see you! I missed you also,” she said, and her accent was nearly as thick as her brother’s then. She waved off the apology. “Please, my brother must do what is necessary.” She insisted. “But thank you for the condolences.” The sentiment was genuine. She was glad Ilya had friends to sympathize with him. It was a wonderful fortune that Kou was one of them.

She pressed her fingers together. “I am still dancing, da. Mei picked out music for me, for my winter recital. Will you come?” she asked. Ivena wore the sweet look of a maiden well and perpetually around Mei’s brother. Mei had wondered, on occasion, if it hurt Ilya to see her make those faces when they were never for him. “I promised Ilya an early peek. You and Mei could join as well, if you were not too busy for it.” Ivena suggested, and did feel a little guilty for extending the invitation when Ilya had been so cross about it.

Mei and Ilya came over to them then and Mei slipped herself between Ivena and Kou to take the other girl’s hands in her own. “Ivena! You’ve gotten out of school today too, then. That’s perfect!” she said brightly. It was difficult to tell if her enthusiasm was genuine or simply an effort to put space between her brother and the pretty blonde. In all likelihood, it was a reasonable measure of both. “Look at what we brought you! To match the one for Ilya…” she waved Ilya in closer to show her the watches and the four were then pulled into unnecessarily close proximity to one another. Ivena laughed. She was happy to be with all of them.

“It is beautiful, Mei. Thank you.” Ivena said, slipping the piece on then and modeling it for the others. “Shall we go inside?” she asked. Mei nodded and tugged Ivena with her; she’d not let both of the taller girl’s hands free.

“Come on, Ilya, it’s a bit cool out here. You too Kou.” Mei said, her eagerness to invite the two men after them quite markedly different. She even stuck her tongue out at Kou before darting off with Ivena in tow. Ivena was content to follow Mei’s energy, though her effort was significantly less than the smaller girl.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #45 on: November 27, 2016, 12:26:18 am »
Ilya was very glad to have Mei's attention and lifted her off her feet holding her to him. It was not a bad eventually she offered, that she was his sibling. Did that mean Ivena would not be? He wished that sometimes, because it seemed to be the only thing that kept her from accepting his advances, even though the same thing only fueled his infatuation. "I'll always be your brother, then." he said in a sure voice before setting her down again. Her mood wavered after their short reunion, and he turned around to be similarly afflicted. It was like this then, that both their hearts were paces from them, and they were where they stood, hoping the hearts would not find each other.

He turned to Mei when she wore her lips in a brave, pretty way. He didn't say anything, and she didn't have to. Ivena's watch glimmered for Mei's attention and he thought she was giving him the best compliment. "You really think so?" That he'd fit with Ivena. Sweet Mei, with her cheek responding to his hand. And then he grinned and nodded. "Oh yes. Kou doesn't fit with Ivena at all. I like him better when he's with you." That would be ideal for both of them. But it is not so, and that is why we have each other, said his little pinch before he took the hand back to pat the box, thanking her without words.

"I'll come." his deep voice determined in a lighthearted way, which was as good as a promise. Some things are so certain they don't need cementation. He'd not let his Mei live somewhere that hadn't been properly warmed. He gasped, and was happy to, since it was for her misery and Kou's wrongdoing, when she said Kou had not even asked exactly where she lived now. "See, that is why you're my favorite, and Kou is someone I have to tolerate." he encouraged and turned, his hand on her back so they could go to their confused siblings together.

Kou savored Ivena's glow when she spoke. She was lovely to him, and he deeply appropriated her voice and accent. It was strange how similar verbal tendencies were so grating to the ear when it came from her brother. She offered a better atmosphere than the one he'd contributed to in the car. He thought that she was such a welcoming refuge. He did not notice his own subtle smile when he concentrated on her and the things she said. Such focus could very well add to her blush, even though did not meant to.

"Your winter recital?" he repeated, happily surprised. "I will try not to miss it." he promised and was already arranging things in his head to make sure he'd be a face in her audience. He wanted to assure her he would not be absent, but he'd rather not disappoint Ivena of all people. It was his pleasure too, to see her dance. Mei didn't speak often about it, but when she brought it up, he was always interested. If not only for Ivena, he was attached to the art form itself. He dreamt about it as a pastime, and had even taken classes when he was sent away to study. Ivena's form was sure to eclipse his own on account of her talent and practice, which added to his excitement to see her dance.

His smile parted his lips and even his teeth at the prospect of seeing her in motion sooner. "Yes." it was not unlike the short and honest agreement Ouran had given to Mei when she asked him out. "If it's today I have time." If he was to carry out work as a courtesan on his father's orders, he might as well take pleasure in it, too. "I'd love to see you dance." He said it like a confession, and his meter was a bit more melodic than usual.

"Well, you're not invited." Ilya said behind him. Kou's lower lip receded a bit, and his eyes took on a membrane of glass, a perfectly poised irritation for only Ivena to see. He was about to turn and continue a withheld kind of interaction in contrast to their more common, vivid repartee, but Ilya shoved him to the side while hholding the giftbox. It gave Mei ample time to take Ivena's hands. Kou's eyes asked Ivena's what on earth was going on before he stumbled quite a distance. When he regained his poise his punching arm was cocked back. Ilya stood ready, closer to the girls, but both of them realized, as always, that their guards had drawn guns. Kou shook his fist into a wave so Ouran and Teddy knew to holster their weapons. It was only a formality anyway. Ilya accomplished the same with a toss of his chin.

"Charming as always, Vlad." Kou said with a deep frown, walking back in time for Mei to invite him second to the light haired joker.

"You never respect personal space." Ilya said as he triumphantly trotted closely behind their sisters. "You shouldn't stand so close to..." Kou's foot cut Ilya's gloating short, tripping him with his own shoes. Ilya stumbled forward but didn't falter as far a Kou had. His speckled eyes were humming with anger when he turned back, close to the door, after the girls had entered. "Such a child you are!" he said and quickly tried to close the barrier before Kou could come in.

Eventually, both of them were inside. Ilya had not spared any expense here. The other warehouses were used for business, but this one was only for recreation for his sister and her friends. In deep winter, this place would still be perfectly pleasant, and he would always ask what else Ivena might need. He was her greatest fan, as she'd said.

"You picked the music, I hear. She must trust you." Ilya teased Mei. He placed the box where he intended to sit and watch Ivena. It was the best view, of course, in a row of them. Kou shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the chair next to Ilya's. "Would you mind? I don't want to hear you breathing when Ivena dances." Ilya said with some acid.

Kou rolled his sleeves and tugged at his vest, quietly fuming. "Comon now, Rapunzel, if I can stand your gangly face you should be able to sit next to me." Kou winked at both Mei and Ivena, congratulating himself on the quip. Ilya made a wide gesture with both hands.

"You shouldn't even be here. You're making everyone uncomfortable." he said. They had both quite forgotten their company now, as Kou came to stand by the tips of Ilya's shoes. It was a rare occasion for the women to see which of the budding rams was the tallest. It seemed, like Mei and Ivena themselves, the fairer head stood an inch higher while Kou boasted broader shoulders.

"I was invited. You're just here because you're Ivena's brother." Kou said and into Ilya's face.

"You better not ruin my enjoyment." Ilya warned and pushed his hand at Kou's shoulder, which rolled to deflect the offense. He returned the initiative onto Ilya's single breasted breast and it resulted in Ilya fumbling back. Mei would know Kou's preferred patterns of motions, and she would see that he was being sloppy, which meant he had no intention of methodically or seriously engaging with Ilya. It was only their usual sparring.

"Just sit down and don't touch me." Kou spat and soon crossed his arms, sitting on the chair he'd claimed. In the end, the two were almost touching anyway, since Ilya had to sit where the box was.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #46 on: November 27, 2016, 06:35:06 am »
The girls were happy enough to take a backseat to their brothers’ squabbling. Ivena did lift a hand, worrying for Ilya despite herself, when the men began their shoving. It was Mei that lightly pressed the outstretched hand back down, glancing at her friend with some disinterest. “Don’t worry.” She said. Mei was keenly aware of when such feelings were necessary around her brother and this was not one of those times. “They’re just playing, really.” Ivena’s lips parted. Sometimes she wished she was more like Mei. She thought it might make Ilya happy, if she were to join the business with him. Even this much was not to her taste though. Beyond that, she wished she knew Kou’s movements well enough to speak with his sister’s confidence. Ivena nodded, humming, and inclined her head.

“Perhaps we should get ready. They seem to expect a show now,” Ivena said. Her expression was serious, but Mei heard the edges of humor in her tone. She started to snicker, but stopped quickly.

“What? We?” she blurted. Ivena noded.

“Well, you are here and you did—“ She began, but Mei clapped her hand over the other girl’s mouth quickly, shooting a glance in the direction of the two who’d finally settled down in their seats. Ivena raised a brow. “Are you shy? I would have to use the recording anyway.” She said. Mei flushed. It was true, but she’d not considered that much. “Was this not the plan for the recital to begin with?” Ivena pressed lightly. In truth, she was a bit surprised by the sort of expression the smaller girl was making and it intrigued her. It was not to say she wished to cause her discomfort, but she was not familiar with Mei being bashful about anything.

“Kou doesn’t know,” She muttered into the too-silent room. “Ilya hasn’t heard anything I wrote either…” She brought her sleeve up to cover her cheeks, annoyed with the blushing pink she knew was there. Ivena smiled suddenly. She had not realized she was special in that regard. Mei huffed and looked back to her brother, daggers from the mismatched eyes as if he was personally responsible for her forgetting to consider this particular situation. Ivena patted her head.

“Come, it will dazzle them both to see us together.” She said. Mei shifted and then sighed. It was a difficult point to argue when the alternative was watching Ivena take her brother’s full attention. She closed her eyes.

“Okay.” She said. “Wait here.” She said to the boys. Ivena hooked her arm with Mei and led her off to one of the small changing rooms Ilya had ensured were available to her. They were not long, returning once Ivena had changed into some simple suitable clothes and her pointe shoes. Mei had a stack of papers in her hand. While Ivena went to stretch, Mei marched over to the piano in the corner and placed her sheets up. She glanced back at Ivena, who gave her an encouraging nod.

Ivena sat down in front of Kou to continue stretching. “Mei is a surprising girl. I did not know she could speak other languages.” She looked to Ilya. “Zaika moy, did you know Mei speaks Russian also? She says she learned to make work with you and the cousins easier in the future.” She nodded seriously, sincerely impressed with her friend’s dedication to supporting the family. “Her accent is quite good. I help her practice now.” From her spot at the piano, Mei was bristling.

“It’s no different than you practicing your dancing so much, Ivena. Preparing for the future. I want to be useful.” She said, though she didn’t look back at them. Father had been very supportive of culturing that talent in her, and Kou was aware of it. She had not expressly admitted to either man she’d continued with her studies for the sake of the family business. It would have been too committal and she was certain Kou would have complained. Nonetheless, Ivena was not incorrect. She’d studied Russian, Japanese, and Italian in addition to Mandarin and English with the intent of being useful. It was good she’d had a natural talent for it, as much of her studying had been fueled by spite. So far as she could tell, Suri did nothing for their syndicate and developing her linguistic skills had been a point of pride she trotted out when she felt it appropriate to steal her father’s attention. Mei was thoroughly uninterested in discussing any of it now.

Mei stretched her fingers gently. “Are you ready?” she asked, eager to get on with things. Sometimes she wasn’t sure what Ivena’s motivations were. It bothered her, but she generally trusted they were simple and pleasant which kept her from complaining more. “They’re here to watch you dance, not prattle on about how wonderful I am.” She paused. “Don’t worry, I’ll take the spotlight when I want it.” Sarcasm because she didn’t know what else to do. Ivena stood and twirled over to her friend.

“I apologize, Mei. I am simply intrigued by that face you are making.” She said, bending over Mei’s shoulder. It was annoyingly sincere. “I do not mean to tease. I did not know you to be so humble.” She said. Mei struck a key with her thumb.

“I’m not.” She said. “Go on, get into place.” Ivena glided off to the middle of the floor and struck a fine line, the light through the high windows casting a soft glow on her ivory skin. She might as well have been a music box ballerina, porcelain and still with long slim limbs reaching with an easy precision. Her dancing was always very much like her personality, serene and restrained with a sweet undercurrent of sincerity. It was impossible not to enjoy watching her. It had always been, even when her technique had been less refined and her figures less elegant.

Mei produced a pair of glasses and slipped them up on the bridge of her nose and set her fingers on the keys. “I am ready.” Ivena said and Mei took a breath. The first words from her lips were soft, almost drowned out by the piano. Ivena arched and flew. Mei’s voice swelled and Ivena twirled. It was difficult to tell whether Ivena’s fluid movements were being strung along by the sweet and wavering highs of Mei’s voice or if the elegant extension of Ivena’s leaps were pressing Mei’s music forward. The two had obviously been meeting a bit more than either brother had suspected.

Ivena was a vision breathing life into Mei’s work, catching Kou’s eye when she could and watching Ilya the rest. Practiced performer, she swayed, the motion of each finger teasing the notes Mei’s fingers played. Mei was fast to lose herself in her sheet music; she was happy to pretend Kou wasn’t in the room as it was. Her voice soared and Ivena leapt. She’d taken care with the composition, laboring over the phrasing to meet the talents of her friend. She knew Ivena’s dancing the way she knew Kou’s fighting. Not as well as some, but connected a bit deeper. A musical puppeteer, this time. Her fingers were confident on the keys.

If Mei had learned new languages out of spite, she’d learned her music from a more genuine place. It was apparent now why Ivena had been a bit insistent on this. Their arts blossomed from the same sort of place though they were deeply different women. A kinship then, that they offered their brothers a peek at. When the last note was struck, Ivena bowed low, pretty feet and limber spine. Mei folded her hands in her lap. She seemed content to remain with her back toward the others.

“Was it very good?” Ivena asked, breathing fast. She had no distinct expression to touch her red lips, but her moon silver eyes were shining. She was generally a modest girl, acutely aware of her strengths and weaknesses both. She always danced earnestly, but she seemed considerably more invested this time. Mei, too, was listening. There was more to care about when both had been seeking to do the other justice and it was rather irresistible to see they’d quietly schemed this together. Princesses of criminal kingdoms with such a cute schoolgirl bond.

Mei finally chanced a look back at the others, smiling quickly at Ivena and then focusing on Ilya, her safety net still. “Yes, was it very good, Ilya?” she echoed. It was Kou’s approval she craved, but she was most certainly too proud to ask him. Ivena was not.

“And you too, Kou, did you like it?”   

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #47 on: November 27, 2016, 03:50:04 pm »
The hardness in Kou that stayed around him because Ilya was emitting the same cadence, soon left way for a more disinterested air. The two men were passionate about each other, even if it wasn't always a flattering thing, so they forgot as quickly as brothers do. Kou became more perceptive then, which didn't mean he saw much, but he noticed a new way about Mei, when Ivena talked her little secrets with her. He even met Ilya's gaze, and both wondered what their sisters might be on about, that Mei should be so reserved, suddenly.

Ilya, of course, scowled at Kou when Mei shot him that glance. Really, the pair without a blood bond were always too eager to villainize the Tzeng prince. Kou was left with his hands out and up, asking from this distance what he'd done wrong. Ilya huffed for Mei who soon turned away without an answer for either of the spectators. Kou continued to look at both Ivena and Mei, eventually stooping to lean closer to Ilya. "What was this about?" he asked. Ilya tsk-ed in his most bothered, condescending way before leaning back. He did enjoy explaining things to Kou.

"You see, if you don't know, you just don't know, Kou." he said. Kou gave him a lethal stare but realized Ilya, while he could probably share her ill will, did not know more than himself. Ilya was content, bloated, to have added to the injury.

"Well you don't know that your fliers are up and I can see all the way in. I'm sorry. I'm sure there's medicine and treatment for it. Or maybe you can just date a thimble." Kou said. Ilya raised the back of his hand for that, and Kou held his chin out as target. With so much space here, he wouldn't mind a scuffle. Ilya cleared his throat in that demeaning way only he could, but didn't land the strike. Later, when noone saw, Ilya would check his pants. Kou threw another glance at his sister, who seemed prickly about whatever had been discussed. He watched her and Ivena arm in arm, walking away.

Kou was confused when they came back, and Mei went to the piano. His attention darted quickly between Ivena as she stretched, which was impressive all on its own, and Mei as she readied herself by the instrument. Even Ilya took a few moments to asses before he frowned at the privilege of Kou getting to see his sister warm up. Dancing without it, though, was unthinkable, so Ilya had no choice but to allow it. He was not as surprised as Kou to see Mei take the seat by the keys. The piano had come here by his doing, and Mei had mentioned musicality to him, even if there'd been no details.

"I didn't know she keeps it up." Kou answered Ivena, and couldn't help but be stuck at her form, as she warmed her joints. Ilya coughed in a very dark manner.

"Mei is talented just like you." he said to his sister. Ilya too, was curious now. His eyes examined not only Ivena's pretty positions, but made sure she tended to all the important bends. He knew what injuries could do to practitioners of this art. Kou had to keep something from tumbling out his tongue when Mei explained herself. Ilya remembered Kou was not fond of Mei in the family business, and meant to berate him about it when Mei urged they should move it along. Perhaps she'd wanted to avoid that kind of discussion.

Kou laughed with some pride when she promised to get her own attention if she wanted it. There was not a part of her brother that could object to her confidence, even when it was spoken with some jest. Both boys turned their heads to follow Iven as she got up and in place, and it seemed their hatchets were currently discarded, though never buried, for this.

The tension in Kou's face was pained in anticipation, as though what would come next might hurt him. When Mei sang he breathed better, and his eyes stuck on Ivena's dance. If the song was sad, then it was beautiful because of it. Very few of his questions about Mei's talent remained when the scene took him, and her singing lifted Ivena. Even Ilya - who knew Ivena to be a perfect dancer, and had planned to enjoy her while explaining to Kou why he was an idiot for not understanding the movements the way he ought - could not speak while the performance played.

Ilya liked practice, because there was so much of Ivena then. Of course he appreciated the seriousness and pomp of the coming performance, in a hall of other people, but this was more real to the seasoned fan of the art. He noticed every time she gave Kou attention, but that fire didn't have time to cause a reaction before she'd bound him with her form again.

Both boys remembered where they were when Ivena bowed. As someone who would usually down liquor and trade sordid stories for recreation, the ordeal had taken a deeper toll on Kou. He looked a bit scattered where he sat, and it took Ilya a few claps to awaken him to his attempt at an applaud. Kou made up for his tardiness with enthusiasm as he stood.

"Yes." Kou said to Ivena, like Ouran, again. "It was, lovely." he continued. Admittedly a simpleton on this subject, Kou had the secret love for it, and knew he'd been moved. Ilya lifted his brows when Kou took a few steps forward to meet Ivena. It was obvious he who was not her brother intended to congratulate her in a physical way.

"Perfect!" Ilya said, and it was quite a volume to the praise, to snap Kou out of his dream. "Sestre! You did so well." he continued, and it worked to at least have Kou look at him. "I think emotional content is strong here, da?" and it was the kind of tone that suggested he was obviously underselling his meaning. "It seems expensive, with Mei's music and your dancing. Perhaps it will even be out of place outside of a theater?" more praise. It was quite something to earn the title Expensive from Ilya who could afford most of his wants.

Kou did seem a bit lost then, because he wouldn't know with expertise what was good or poor in this venue, other than the clips he'd seen, but he couldn't have enjoyed anything more. "Yes. You were beautiful, Ivena." he said as Ilya quickly bridge the distance between himself and her, to lift her by the waist and spin her once. Kou found himself wanting to catch her eyes in one of the circles. He could do that much, at least. And found that he wanted to. At first, when she moved to Mei's voice, he'd wanted to console her, but it seemed she was not necessarily taken by the emotion in the song as much as she was of it. You don't console the water in a wave.

Ilya turned to Mei, holding Ivena to himself, tenderly but also a bit like something that had done well, that he owned. Always the friend of finer things. "Your singing is out of this world! How could you keep this secret from me?" a bit of genuine insult there. "It is marvelous. Look at you, making Ivena dance like that. It was like your heart is a hundred years old, Meimei."

During their conversation, Kou had found his way over to her, where she sat, and he already put his hand on her shoulder. "What a wonderful song." he said with a bright smile. "I didn't know you could do that." When they were younger, Mei was quite musical. He'd always assumed that interest had gone away when she'd become a little harder. "You'll have to sing more for me." he decided. A finger on a key, and it sang for his pressure, too. He leaned close. She was tense, exposed, and he wanted her never to regret it. "Thank you." He tilted his head a bit. "Are you singing on the recital, too?" An underlying promise that he'd come no matter what, if she was.

Ilya smirked from where he stood and kissed Ivena's temple. "Look at him, being a good brother for once." he said. He walked them over there, and remembered to lift and catch Ivena once more before they reached. Audacious and filled with inspiration from the performance, Ilya even lifted and placed his sister on the piano. He was delighted at how prettily she sat. "Meimei." he continued, and it was apparent his continued use of the endearment was getting to Kou. "songbird, Meimei. Would you like some water or something else for that pipe of yours?" Ilya liked to be host. "I hear you have an apartment close to mine. If you'd like, you can show us." He was very pleased with his idea.

Kou imagined he would have to go along either way, since he'd been told to grease Ilya up for Wei. It seemed Ilya knew, since he wasn't shooing him away for work. If anyone liked courtesies like this, the Vladenko man would. Kou knew it was why Ilya was easier to deal with than the other arms of the syndicate. And it was very important Kou see where Mei lived. Some mischievous tinge pulled at his lips, and he spun around Ilya, leaving Mei's side to get to where Iven was now perched. Kou was also inspired by her movements, and dared to extend his arms and catch her waist in a sturdy hold.

"Yes!" he said and then lifted her off the piano, spinning her once, twice, aiming to adapt to whatever way she shifted. If she cued him in anyway, he would do his best to come along. Even if he'd not practiced a little and knew enough to be safe with her, his strength was enough to compensate. "Ivena here can dance on your table!"

Ilya, who did not have time to react before the ambush was well on its way, stared with horrified eyes as the other man held and handled his sister, should she allow it, and had to admit Kou in his tailored vest looked quite fitting, dancing Ivena around. It made Ilya furious and he looked at Mei, asking her wordlessly what was wrong with her brother.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #48 on: November 27, 2016, 06:46:37 pm »
Mei was acutely aware of the disparity with which Kou admired them and was, as usual, relieved that Ilya was there to impose and sweep his treasured sister away when Kou thought to reach for her. She had expected he would be kind in the way he ought, so she had steeled herself for his closeness and wore a satisfyingly unimpressed expression when he came near. That face could not completely save her though, and she was stiff under his hand. “Of course not.” She said lightly, when he voiced his surprise. She had not gone out of her way to share it with him and he did not ask for things she had not already offered. When she was feeling charitable about her brother’s character, she accepted it as respect for her privacy. On days like today, she was inclined to find it neglectful. Mei liked to be a good girl around Ilya though and she’d spared Ivena the truth of their shared feelings for her brother, so she said it like she’d meant for it to be a secret and gave him the remarkable smile that he liked not to see through.

“I would rather sing for Ilya and Ivena.” She told him, pouting a little and looking adoringly to the fair-haired pair. “You’re annoying.” She explained. Mei told him often enough, but it was always she that followed him around whenever she could. If Kou was annoying, she was a shameless glutton for punishment. A little quieter, when the firm set of her lips cracked just so and she had shaded her stare with her lashes, she did admit her participation in the recital. “It was always the plan. It was meant to be a surprise for Ilya.” She said, inclining her head so she could press it against his shoulder for a brief moment. “I figured you’d be there too, for Ivena.” She said. That defeated tone, again. But then she sighed and flashed him a better smile when she sat up straight. Even Mei could tell when she was sulking too much. Kou did care, even if it was not how she wanted it, and she knew better than to reject what she could get.

Ivena was watching the two as well, from her perch on the piano. There was something about them that made her heart hurt just a little, but she couldn’t say what it was. It was not difficult to see Mei, but somehow she felt Kou was intentionally blind. But then, Ivena was herself if she could not precisely place what it was she was seeing in her friend either. Ivena nodded. “Kou is a good brother.” She agreed in part, because she could not conceive it was an unusual feature of his behavior.

Mei pursed her lips. “Thank you, but I’m okay.” She said to his first offer. To his suggestion of her apartment, she seemed hesitant, but did accept it. “Of course I’ll show you, Ilya,” she said pointedly. She did consider Ouran for a moment, to whom she’d promised a date. He’d likely be unhappy that the plans would have to be postponed to entertain Ilya further, but Aitawa himself had suggested they’d be going out late. She then turned her thoughts, as always, to Kou. He’d not asked to see her apartment. She didn’t really want to show him until he did. A slight huff.

But she could not fuss over that injustice for all too long, her brother moving toward Ivena in such a way that she felt her heart drop before the other girl had noticed he was coming. When he did catch the grey-eyed pretty by her waist, both girls could not hold back a simultaneous “Kou!” from their lips. It was good that they were twirling off and that Mei’s own syllable had been strangled and small as she clapped her hands over her mouth. They did not hear her.

Ivena had caught her breath easily enough, a single number unable to tire the girl who practiced for hours when left alone, but Kou stole it again the second she’d uttered his name. If she had not been so natural in her art now, she’d surely have stumbled between her surprise and this sudden and unfamiliar partnership. She was light on her feet though, rising en pointe before he’d finished spinning her the first time. When their eyes met, she was confused, but glowing. “Both of you, with the secret talents,” she gasped softly, and it was unintentionally intimate, before she used their momentum to burst free with a grand jete. She flowed into the next movement, a sure landing off the leap and then spritely pique turns back into his arms. Ivena stopped them there, though she held fast to his shoulders, because she had not forgotten Ilya even if Kou did not seem to mind their company.

Mei returned Ilya’s gaze, less anger but equal distress in her stare, and she reached for his hand suddenly. “Maybe some water, like you said.” She mumbled. She did not want to see the way Ivena was looking at her brother. The bitter part of her wanted to remind him later that she had not indulged Ouran for all these years for the sake of his friendship, but thought he’d not care for that sort of suggestion in relation to Ivena. After all, should he provide some reason the two were not equitable, Mei would not be happy to hear it. She stood very abruptly from the bench and gathered her sheet music which was, on closer inspection, hand written. “Or we should go now, maybe? To my apartment?” she suggested brightly. She looked happy enough, staring only at Ilya. Mei pulled her glasses off and stuffed them with her papers into her bag.

“Shall we go, Romeo?” she asked a bit louder, turning to face the other two with a deep breath. Ivena, blushing, stepped away from Kou and folded her hands neatly in front of her. “Juliet?” she continued on, disinterested tone and hard set shoulders. “Or shall we leave you? Ilya can come with me on his own.” She said. It was an empty suggestion, because Ilya would not leave Ivena with Kou and she was certain Ivena would find the implication too drastic for her good heart to accept. Kou would certainly know these things too, which left it a lazily administered challenge. Did he want to show off so badly? She shot Ilya a conspiratorial look, lips curling when she’d found her stride. “I’ll sing for you more, if you like.” She offered.

It was inevitable that they’d all proceed out then, because Mei had not left much room for argument, really. “You tease too much, Mei,” Ivena remarked, though she was still blushing and fidgeting where she stood. Mei was not in a sympathetic mood.

“Fair is fair, you made me sing early. Besides, it’s a bit rude to play like we aren’t around.” She yawned. Ivena looked at Ilya, some guilt there. Mei had not been harsh for selfish reasons alone, after all. Still, Ivena hung back with Kou by a few steps when Mei had breezed past and Ilya had followed, reaching for Kou’s hand again. She smiled at him, like she was going to tell him a small secret, and twirled herself in his grasp once and lay into his arms for a low dip. She was braver than Mei, in the end.

Ivena straightened her hair and her top and hurried after the other two. “I apologize. I did not know your brother could dance.” Ivena offered. Mei glanced at her friend, still with the bored eyes.

“Fighting and dancing aren’t so different.” She said bluntly, though she hadn’t known he danced either.

In their cars, when the sibling pairs had parted ways for the short drive to Mei’s apartment, the two sisters did hold rather different moods. Mei was quiet in an overly disinterested way, while Ivena apologized earnestly to Ilya though her eyes were still shining. Mei pulled out her phone.

I’m bringing over some guests. Please, no surprises. She tapped in and sent it to Belou. The Demon did not live with her, but he did own a key. Access to Mei’s bed had been, after all, a mutual interest. She slipped the phone into her bag again.

When they did arrive, the apartment was dark. Mei drew back the curtains in her living room and the afternoon light poured in through the wall of glass. She turned and smiled at the other three, and it was as if her sour in the warehouse had evaporated. With the orange light at her back, she even looked sweet. “So, this is home,” She announced and waved her hand. It was a pleasant space, and she’d obviously hired professional help to decorate the sleek modern room. It was not unlike the aesthetic of Kou’s own apartment, but that was no surprise. She’d had a hand in decorating that space as well. There was a baby grand piano in the corner and a mess of sheet music on the bench. A cookbook in her kitchen lay open to a recipe for one of Kou’s favorite dishes. There were a few pictures on her refrigerator, smiling faces with hers. Belou, Ilya, Ivena, and Teddy and Ouran. There was one of Kou also, but she was not in it; a photo snapped at sunset when he’d been out for a smoke. On the table was and unopened pack of cigarettes, Kou’s preferred brand, and if he asked she’d insist absently that she had them for when he visited.

It was not an unexpected space, but it was somehow foreign because Mei had come to exist as Mei without further context for all three of the others. Ivena spoke first. “Mei, it’s very nice. But somehow, it seems lonely that it’s just you.” Mei scoffed. She considered saying something about having plenty of company to call on, but reconsidered.

“Well, you know, it’s good to grow up eventually I guess.” She said nonchalantly. Then, brighter, “And now you and Ilya can visit me whenever you want!” She had gone over to hold Ivena’s hands again and the taller girl was nodding seriously.

“I will visit you all the time.” She promised. Mei twirled off toward her kitchen. It was not elegant the way Ivena moved, but it was cute. And it was sure. If Kou or Ilya were paying very close attention they might have even noticed something familiar about the way she moved. Something a little deceptive, the promising bud of being dangerous, and the signature of a white-haired wraith with burning eyes.

“That’s settled then. Shall I make some tea?” Mei chirped.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #49 on: November 27, 2016, 10:30:49 pm »
Kou squeezed her a bit, standing by the piano she'd convened with for them, as though to warm her when her body offered a certain rigor to his touch, and that grip turned to a pinch when she abandoned his audience in favor of the two others. He was sure their talk in the vault was not the reason for her harshness now, but he was also sure in his chosen ineptitude, that he could not guess what was to blame, instead. When she also added that it had been designed to surprise Ilya, Kou soured. Selectively deaf, he did not react to her suggestion he would attend the recital for Ivena and not for her.

Ilya, in turn, was listening closely, and thought to bring his palm fast across Kou's dumb face for being so insensitive. The boy could read a threatening situation well enough, and conversed masterfully with murderers, but now he couldn't take the simplest series of hints. When Ivena came to Kou's aid, Ilya did not apply the same kind of judgement. In his defense, he was blinded by love, and not blind to it. And then he was not blind anymore, to the violence that Kou wrought on himself and Mei, by stealing Ivena from where Ilya had put her.

Kou was not some expert in this endeavor of play, and it showed, the way his eyes fixed on Ivena's motions, awed at times. He'd done it for enjoyment, and she honored his physical request by making him feel as though he, indeed, knew what he was doing. After her small escape, her return delighted him into a small laugh until her hands were on him again. He sighed with some satisfaction.

Ilya did not have time to pluck a bouquet of silver flowers from his chest and throw them at Kou to celebrate this little performance, because of Mei's reaction to it all. He was terrified for her, the way she retreated into an act. It scared him how genuine the facade seemed. She was a strong liar, then, and Ilya blamed Kou for that, fully. It was a testament to her distress, that Ilya knew the most out of the three, that it made him forget Kou's villainy long enough for Ivena to break the dancer's lock herself.

"Romeo." Kou echoed, eyes still on Ivena as she stepped away. "And Juliet." the last one might have been for Ivena's benefit. He was being charming, and Ilya was furious at it, because of Mei and because Ilya was standing right there, when Kou knew how he felt about Ivena. Kou was not with them, though, not intending to hurt, caught in the bridge the little spin had built. Ilya was about to hurt him out of it, somehow, when Kou blinked back into their gathering at the prospect of more singing from Mei. "I would like that." he said with new enthusiasm. It seemed loving Mei's voice was not as prohibited to him as loving Mei herself.

Kou went for his jacket as Ivena apologized mostly to Mei's back. During the drive Kou attempted to shower her with praise, and poor Ouran despaired to have missed the performance. To have seen Ivena dance was a privilege, but to have missed Mei sing her own music, that was worse than any other abuse. Kou consoled him best he could, and Teddy glared at Kou for reasons Kou did not understand. It was also strange that Teddy asked Mei how she was doing, when she was only bored the entire ride. Simple Kou even thought that this was better than how she'd been on the drive from father's city house.

He was, however, very relived when she drew the curtains to her apartment. She was more open now, he thought. Kou was quick to notice the direction in her living space, and was impressed, because most of the things he knew about design, he'd gotten from her. Ilya stayed close to Ivena with his hands in his pockets until Kou gravitated toward the packet of cigarettes. Then Ilya was free to explore, with that distance between the thief and his sister.

Kou had the idea to stop smoking to feel as though he did something to prevent Mei's burns, or at least suffered for them, but if she had them here, then surely his resolution was unneeded or misplaced. He regretted crushing and rumpling his own packet earlier. He lifted it to Mei and she had no objections, so he discarded of the plastic to unsheathe one of the vices. The filter fell from between his lips, though, when Mei moved to her kitchen. Kou turned to Ilya, and Ilya looked like Kou felt. Before either could comment, and say the name of the strong enforced of the syndicate itself, there was offer of tea.

"I'll have some." Ilya said and took a few steps toward the chirping, but then casually stopped for no apparent reason. Kou thought it looked awkward to halt in the middle of the floor like that, but then realized Ilya was exactly between himself and Ivena. The Tzeng brother nodded slowly and tired at Ilya, who feigned to know nothing. With a wink at Ivena he went to the kitchen himself, to give Ilya some relief.

Kou went past Mei where she was preparing to serve Ilya, and straight for her fridge. He thought the lit innards of the box was rather pleasant. In fact, many things inside were exactly his taste. Part of him filed it under her having soaked up some of his preferences, but he also realized the connection between the groceries and the recipe for sweet meat. He stuck his head over the door and smiled at her knowingly. Kou was also spoiled.

"Do you have a recording?" he asked and pulled a water bottle out of the door before closing it. "I would like to listen to your music often." He was already comfortable here, a product of it being her home. He had drank hard, and hadn't realized he was so thirsty. Elbows on the counter, he looked at her and then around, to see what kind of kitchen his favorite chef thought she needed. "You shouldn't keep this things from your brother." he mumbled to himself as he took in the details. "What other things are you keeping from me?" he mused and then quickly returned to where he'd gotten the water to pick a glass bottle instead. Ramune. The marble sunk beautifully and he drank quickly. He didn't even ask. "Does this mean you're not sleeping over, anymore?" the sparkling beads were still dying on his tongue.

"Did you see his form?" Ilya asked when he was alone with Ivena by the large window. At a certain angle their home could be seen from this view. He was reliving the small dance she shared with Kou over and over. Maybe it was good that he'd not acted then. He fought Kou on occasion, but the anger would have come from a very different place, this time. He performed a dry laugh. "Like a box with arms. Arms of lead." And he was probably not wrong, since Kou knew very little compared to the Vladenko siblings. Ilya was going to join them in the kitchen, but would wait until Ivena made to go, too. Ilya had caught all the clues as to what occupied Mei's mind, mostly, and wondered how deeply set Kou's denial must be.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #50 on: November 27, 2016, 11:33:40 pm »
There was a strong possibility that Mei had lived a good deal of her life out of spite. With a family like hers, a mother like Suri and a brother who wore oblivion like it was salvation, she had made it a furious sort of art. She was resilient for it, mostly, and had developed a sort of cactus flower pretty. Still, there were times when she was immensely grateful to her brother’s watchful enforcers, who had become her surrogate sympathy when she could not be by Ilya to rage in concert. She had been very sincere when she’d nodded at Teddy. She had not been alright, really, but she would be. She had known her idiot brother for too long not to be.

For all that resolve and the fine way she’d let her friends into her home, she did not stray far from her natural tendencies. Which was to say she was immediately enamored and irritated by how comfortably Kou began to settle himself into her flat. She was moderately annoyed, even, when it was Kou that followed her to the kitchen. But she did cheer silently for her brother in suffering, hoping Ilya might be able to draw some better sympathy from Ivena for the earlier display when left alone. Perhaps the impromptu dance had not been a real crime, but she was of the mind that it had still been an injustice. Ivena was a good sister. She had probably already apologized numerous times on the way over.

“Of course I have recordings.” Mei said blandly, back to him as he rummaged through her refrigerator. She took a pretty kettle, transparent, and filled it with water and set it to boil. She was a fan of blooming teas for their aesthetic and had been meaning to share with Ilya. He would find it dazzling too, she was sure. “I’ll give you some when there’s reason to.” She hummed, swatting off his sentiment as frivolous. It did make her happy to hear it, but she felt disinclined to share with him then. “If you listen to it too often, you’ll just grow tired of it.” Mei said with some practicality. She did not have faith in Kou’s interests.

In the living room Ivena stared out the window and inclined her head slightly. “His form is very amateur, da.” She agreed, but somehow it sounded like she found it endearing rather than laughable. The pale gaze slid in her brother’s direction. “You have watched me for so long, your technique would likely be better.” She started. It was best to finish that thought before Ilya let it inflate his ego. “But, he has passion when he moves. I think it is beautiful. Like Mei’s singing, a bit. They are similar in odd ways.” Ivena gave him a soft smile. Again, with the quiet reprimands. She would apologize for wounding his feelings, but she’d never give him anything satisfying for speaking ill of Kou.

She seemed disinclined to speak much further on it and stayed quiet for a while. In all honesty, she was replaying the way Kou had swept her off the piano over and over. Her cheeks were pink again. “It took quite some time to convince her to give me her music to use.” Ivena said then. She pressed a thumb to her lower lip. “She is honest with us, I think, but rather dishonest with herself.” Ivena clasped her hands behind her back. “It is good she has a straightforward brother. Perhaps she will learn a bit from that.” She said. Whether it was willful ignorance on her part, then, was hard to tell. It was not as if the look in Kou’s eyes when he looked at her would have given her reason to think he was anything but sincere.

Mei took the kettle off the heat and dropped a bulb into water. “Kou, the cups are in the left cupboard. Can you get them please?” she asked. She paused when he rambled about secrets. “I am more than just your baby sister, you know,” Mei said, turning to face him with the kettle dangling from her fingers. “If you want to know more than that about me, it’s your job to ask. Spoiled.” She said. There was some spark in her stare, the blue ring bright, but she stuck her tongue out at him as if it was only teasing and turned away from him. “Spoiled, spoiled, but don’t worry your stupid head. I’m a sensitive soul. I won’t leave you lonely. I’ll sleep over whenever I please.” She said as she ambled out of the room.

Ivena had just turned to head for the kitchen when Mei emerged, a satisfied expression on her face when she lifted the kettle to show off the blossoming bulb inside. “Ilya, Ivena, come look. It’s pretty isn’t it?” She said. She took it over to the low table near her couches and set it on a pretty lacquered stand. “Kou, hurry with the cups. Let me borrow your lighter too.” She called. When he came, she’d light the little tea light beneath the pot stand to keep the tea warm. “Ivena, help me pick clothes out in a little bit. The boys can talk shop or whatever. I need to pick something out for my date tonight.” She suggested as she kneeled, serving the tea into the dainty set of cups.

Ivena took her cup, curling her slender fingers around the glazed porcelain and savoring the warmth. “Yes, of course. Are you going to see Stanford?” she asked, which made Mei’s lips twitch as she shook her head.

“No, no, I promised Ouran a date tonight.” She explained. Ivena nodded as if this weren’t a surprise, and it was likely not. They were typical girlfriends in that way, and she was more or less aware of the men in Mei’s life and who she kept company with and why. To Mei’s general misery, she was also well acquainted with Ivena’s interests.

“Mei, I think any man would take you on a date if you let them, so I know you are already selective.” Ivena began. “But you might try falling in love sometime, I think. You would be cute.” She said with a small laugh. Mei froze for a brief moment, catching herself and lifting the teapot before Ilya’s cup spilled over. She laughed, louder than Ivena.

“You’re right, I should, but I’ve yet to meet a man worth the effort, I guess.” She said. She did not look at Ilya then, because she felt badly for lying to his sister in front of him, but she thought he would forgive that much this time.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #51 on: November 28, 2016, 07:53:25 pm »
There was an assumptive sound from Kou's throat when she admitted to having her singing saved somewhere. Kou was not so pleased to hear she would not readily share. Unlike Mei, Kou had perfect faith in the loyalties of his tastes, but his wardrobe, the smiles he liked to kiss, and the places he liked to go for leisure were seasonal at best. True to his head in the sand, Kou did not associate with such introspection until it collided with him in the loudest of ways. "Please. Why would I grow tired of that?" he offered as rebuttal, and his voice was convincing because it was sincere, then.

”I’m bad with those things.” He admitted when she encouraged him to ask more. In that moment, grown up in her own kitchen, her point was clear. So clear he had to try not to see it. It wasn’t as if he didn’t know that he lingered in the comfort between them. He’d rather it not change. His head was mostly in work. It was a poor excuse and he was aware. An apologetic smile. It wouldn’t nearly be enough, but she would usually let him off with less.

He was pleased to hear he'd still get overnight visits, even with her new found sanctuary. "And I'll come to sleep over here." he promised with more of the soda on his palled. Another thing he meant as he said it. Kou loved Mei the most, but between his work and fear of endangering her or being an inconvenience, he might never take the initiative to come unless he needed to in some way, whether it be social or more urgent. It was not his private affliction to be so neglectful, but he'd caught it in an acute way because of his circumstances. Or so he argued to himself.

He grinned as he put the bottle down to start looking for the cups. "Remember the little stool you carried around when you were small--" her looked back at her "er? It was so adorable." He looked around to see if she had something to pad her height with here, or if she simply climbed the counter. With some frustration, he was left in the kitchen to keep deciding between porcelains when Mei was done.

Ilya did not like his sister's pretty eyes when she agreed that Kou was not a well polished dancer. He should also like to be charmingly lacking at something. Sometimes Ivena's faces would suggest that's how she felt about his candor with his feelings about her. That much he could be proud over. Still, he objected inwardly to approval of Kou's dancing, almost as much as he objected to the dancing having taken place at all. If there had been anything right with those maneuvers, it was because she herself was so well honed.

Ilya was not even allowed to agree when she was so sure about his own dancing. He practiced, also, but there was very little time to keep anything secret from her. Without a doubt, he'd carry her better, as he'd proven today, than the clumsy Tzeng son. He was especially unhappy to hear her go on about Kou's passion, and refused to think it had any likeness to Mei's emotional eloquence. "Mei is sharp, pointed and precise, Kou is just a piece of broken glass." he said and shook his head.

He thought on Mei’s music with Ivena, and smiled a bit to himself when he relived the pretty song. He had to fix his eyes on the ceiling and then the floor on the subject of Mei's transparency, and also Kou's. Kou might be the most willfully daft person Ilya knew. It was not his analysis to share, because it would have given something away about Mei, too. "I'm glad you talked her in to it." was all he could offer on that. "Hopefully this will grow into a symbiosis between you too. It was quite beautiful." For all his deeply seeded fondness for his sister, Ilya was snob in many aspects, if he said a piece of music was good, it was certain he at least thought so.

The two hurried around Mei when she came. Ilya was all teeth, sitting down to watch the submerged flower. When Kou came with the cups, and Mei lit a fire underneath the kettle with Kou’s lighter, the blond male clasped his hands together. A snob in many aspects. He was greedy for his cup and sipped it with excitement. It was good that he had his lips free when Mei mentioned her date. Kou was surprised to receive his quizzical attention then, but it was soon clarified her date was not with him. Ilya apologized silently with a look Mei’s way, instead.

“You are kidding with this, Da?” Ilya said to divert attention but also with real disgust as he gestured at Kou’s bottle of soda. “You’re a grown man, Kou.” Kou thought the tea looked fun enough to try it, after that.

His grin was not too subtle at the mention of Stanford. It was a frightening amusement that splayed on his expression and Ilya was contaminated with some of that wolf’s curl too, recognizing the attitude. It was quite clear, then, to the other working man that Stanford was likely not a part of Mei’s life anymore. “Too bad. He was civil.” Ilya said and Kou performed something dark that could have been his version of a giggle.

As subtly as he could, Kou would glance over at Ivena, hoping to catch her silver with his well-meaning darkness, but only when he thought Ilya did not see. Kou remembered their secret second helping in the warehouse, how generous she’d been to quickly indulge before Ilya and Mei were even in their cars. His hidden gluttonies had never been so refined, before. There had been an impulse in him to follow when he dipped her, and see if she tasted as elegant as she danced. Because of the myriad of reasons he should not, there had been no stolen kiss. He was a bit regretful now, but knew it was for the best. Ivena should not be something he concealed. Just for practical reasons he should abstain, as that kind of dalliance might spark a war. Kou, despite all his dodging from Ilay’s surveillance, did not have eyes on Mei and what she saw. This unawareness came to a point when he leaned across the table to refill Ivena’s cup before it was even empty. Ilya held his breath, and met Mei’s eyes over Kou’s back with vessel-popping distress.

“Mei’s going to be a nun, did you know?” Kou injected when Ivena suggested she fall in love. It earned a huff from Ilya and Kou hoped it would amuse his sister, too. He turned to Mei and stroked her spine. “Yeah. I hear there are good convents on mountain tops where you won’t have to worry about falling in love.” Ilya was laughing. Ivena would know the sound to be dryer than usual. Kou was none the wiser, though, and took another taste to the tea.

“It’s funny because you’re stupid, Kou.” Ilya said and held his cup in a very regal manner, which of course added to the insult. Kou was suddenly very straight-backed. He had no idea Ilya was trying to spare Mei from her brother’s ignorance. “Why upset, Weapon Cousin? You know I always laugh at you.”

It seemed as good a time for any for the girls to leave. Kou was still pleading his case vehemently when they went out. Ilya listened until he was out of tea, and made sure to pour himself another cup while Kou invented new insults. Then Ilya hushed the dark haired child and stood. Kou wrinkled his forehead but then stood too, rolling his shoulders if Ilya wanted to engage. But suddenly there was a smug grin on the gaunt pretty, and Kou relaxed into a confused half smile. “I’m a dancer, not a fighter, Kou.” Ilya said and held out his hands to invite him in. “Let me teach you how to properly lift and spin Ivena.” He offered. Kou could easily see how Ilya’s snobbery could be offended by someone not only holding his sister, but holding her wrong. Usually Kou would throw a quip back, but he was very interested to learn, and came in. “First lesson is always your core.” Ilya started.

Kou looked down where Ilya pointed to his diaphragm. A frightful realization came but there was no time for Kou to react. Ilya planted a fist, curved just underneath the edge of his rib cage. It was a swift and deep blow. It effectively bereft Kou of all the air in his lungs. He folded with a gargle, but refused to fall, clawing on to Ilya’s jacket. “Actually, the first lesson is don’t dance with Ivena.” Ilya said above him. Kou’s mouth drank emptily at oxygen and swallowed none. Ilya was impressed but not so much that he didn’t grab Kou by his shoulders and introduced a knee to his stomach. Kou lifted with the assault. Ilya tore him to the floor where he continued shallow, useless attempts at gasps. Ilya thought that the second punishment was for Mei. On his knees now, Ilya wore an expression akin to what he’d show to anyone in the killing room who wasn’t family. “I love you, Kou. But you’re not welcome to my sister. Stop your tricks.” The accent was impossibly thick. Ilya let Kou’s head bump on the floor when he let go.

Ilya sang quietly to himself as he remained on his knees, looking around as though he had all the time in the world. Kou did not seem to get his breath back, but Ilya had seen him take worse beatings and gone out for drinks afterward. Eventually the intact man decided to stand and enjoy the rest of his tea. Upon rising, Ilya discovered that his tie was heavy. Heavy like another person. Looking down he saw Kou’s fingers around it. A long tug rolled Ilya onto the floor and Kou was able to throw a leg around him. The Tzeng brother was now straddling Ilya, lifting him by the tie and readying his other hand to come down on his delicate cheekbone.

Ilya laughed through his teeth and didn’t even lift his hands to protect his face. He stared up at Kou who was taking needed breaths. Kou’s frantic anger, barely held back, eventually became an even rhythm of inhales and puffs. “What, you’re going to court my sestre and then beat me up, mr. Wing?” Ilya pressed with challenge on his lips. Kou’s high fist squeezed, eager to grant the scenario. Then he let go of the tie. He rolled off to lean his back against the little table, and reached to scoop up his ramune again, taking a sip.

“What the fuck, Vlad.” He said, trying to be angry so he wouldn’t feel ashamed. “It was just dancing.”

Ilya sighed as he sat up and started correcting his tie. “You’re telling fairy-tales and it’s not bedtime.” He said and then crawled closer to help fix Kou’s hair. “Prince of the Tzeng family. Runt of the Tzeng family.” He muttered, and Kou thought his mother language was so strong then, it might as well have been in Russian.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #52 on: November 29, 2016, 04:35:36 am »
Ivena did catch Kou’s eye and seemed a little concerned by the expression he wore. She savored the private glances, but what troubled the storm soft eyes was the thought that Mei might be suffering under domineering not unlike Ilya’s. If there was one thing she could sympathize with beyond all else, it was an overly protective brother. Still, she tried a small and secretive sort of smile for him because she was disinclined to lose the shared moment. It would not take her long to spin that tiny unrest into something charming in her head either. What a good brother, keeping his little sister away from men that might take advantage.
 
Besides, Mei seemed to see the same humor Ilya and Kou shared. If Kou was overbearing in some way, she was not visibly concerned by it. She did not laugh, but the short upturn of her lips seemed to give some smirking approval to her brother’s behavior. After all, if Mei had anything to pleased about this week, it was that Kou had come to her defense when she’d entreated it. A year ago, she might have played the same fantastical game Ivena was, reading Kou’s intentions as they suited her. The satisfaction she took now was a simpler sort. Mei wondered if Kou would be glad to know that her heart had grown stronger.
 
Stronger she thought, but perhaps it was just weary. Kou afflicted her moods in ways that made it difficult for her to be too confident in any one sentiment. The gaze she met Ilya with was tired. This entire meeting had been taxing, despite her affection for both Vladenko siblings. She even shrugged just so. It wasn’t the time to expend the energy of being distressed. What could either of them do? Their locked stare was broken by Kou’s fingers on her spine and Mei would have jumped if she’d not been immediately soured by his comment and ready to argue over it. “I’d be a waste in a convent.” She muttered. Ilya’s laughter stole her irritation, though, and bestowed it on her brother instead. She giggled, and then nearly spat her tea when Ilya began to tease. “Ah, you can be really dumb, Kou.” She agreed.
 
“He just worries for you, Mei. It is what brothers do,” Ivena piped up, having fully committed to her current fabrication of Kou. Such a good brother. Mei laughed a little harder and rolled her eyes as she finished off her cup of tea.
 
“I’m sorry Ivena, I’m not laughing at you. It’s just… this man here really is an idiot. He doesn’t see my potential, you know?” she said, reaching over to pinch and tug at Kou’s cheek. “Honestly, he could probably bear to worry a little more.” She stood and motioned that Ivena should follow her. “Let’s go to my room for a little,” She said. Ivena followed with a sigh.
 
“Ilya would cry, I think, if I called him an idiot.” She said to Mei, when they had nearly left the room. Mei giggled again.
 
“Kou should be comfortable with it, by now.” She hummed and aimed a cheeky smirk back in his direction before she disappeared into her room. She paused and then stuck her head back out to blow a kiss toward Ilya. “You’re perfect,” she said and retreated from the doorway again.
 
Ivena was already at her closet. “Ouran Aitawa is very in love with you, is he not?” she was asking, running her fingers over the clothes hanging there. Mei shrugged at her friend’s back.
 
“I guess. I think we have an understanding though. Kou would hate me if I was involved with Aitawa, I think.” She said, which she supposed was only partially true. In all honesty, she wasn’t sure what her brother would think if she could return Ouran’s feelings earnestly. It was not the circumstance though, so she would not entertain it. “They’re close and it would make things difficult on both a personal and working level if he and I were really involved or if things went poorly.” She explained. A practical answer that Kou would probably have approved of. There was more to it, she felt, but wouldn’t have had the confidence to say it.

Ivena pulled a fluttering white garment from her closet and held it in Mei’s direction. “This would be lovely. Simple and pretty. From the things you have told me of Ouran, he would like this, no?” she asked. Mei reached out to touch the hem of the dress. It had been a purchase she’d made after Kou had complained she wore her skirts too short. Mei had never worn it, of course, annoyed that she’d bought it in the first place when she quite liked her usual fashion. Her wardrobe was not scandalous or unsuited to her. But her skirts were a bit short. She glanced at Ivena. Of course she’d be the one to pick this dress.

Mei smiled and agreed with her. In the end, she had not landed on a poor suggestion. Ouran would surely be dazzled. She paused, hanger in hand. That was not a fair point of reference, she realized. Ouran would be dazzled if she went to him in a paper bag for a dress. Outside the room she heard the makings of a scuffle but said nothing. Ivena had not seemed to notice. She locked the door to change, tossing the pieces of her school uniform haphazardly onto her bed. Ivena cooed, impressed by Mei’s pretty lace underclothes. “You look like a doll, Mei,” Ivena said. Mei laughed.

“Coming from the perfect prima ballerina, that’s quite something,” Mei said, grinning at her friend as she slipped into the white slip of a dress. It flowed in loose romantic folds to her knees, but cinched in tight to her small waist. The two girls were not strangers to attention when they were out an about together, both lovely in rather strikingly different ways. If anything, they accentuated one another when they traveled as a pair. It was not so different seeing her brother beside Ilya. “It will be cold in this, though.” Mei remarked, tugging at the light fabric, but Ivena had already selected a black sweater and stockings to remedy the situation. Mei thought the girl must spoil her brother with the natural way she doted. Mei slipped on a pair of dainty white heels and set her long hair loose before waving Ivena back toward the door.

“We should not leave them too long, should we,” Ivena seemed to agree. Mei nodded and grabbed a thick red scarf on her way back into the living room. It had been a Christmas gift some years ago from Kou. If that brother had ever payed close to mind to her, he would have found she rarely wore anything without a small token of his. Some of those small presents were older now, as they’d become less frequent the more work had kept him busy.

Ivena did not notice that anything had been amiss when they went back out to the others, or if she did she did not show it nor comment. Mei, on the other hand, did send a questioning glance toward her brother. She would not have been glad to know the reason they had tussled, because she would have known precisely who had been on which side of the argument. “Do you approve, Ilya, brother dear?” She asked the two with a twirl. “Is it ladylike enough for your Aitawa?”

« Last Edit: November 29, 2016, 04:48:33 am by VenomousEve »

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #53 on: November 29, 2016, 07:24:31 pm »
The boys had settled into their seats. Though they were brave in many ways, and reckless in others, there was some pressure to behave in Mei’s home. Always good to avoid questions from the women. Kou was certain something had bruised on his torso. The fact that Ivena had been on his side before leaving had probably propelled Ilya’s strikes farther, harder. A quick touch to his vest, where the fist had sat, inside his opened jacket. Not that Mei hadn’t been as chummy with Ilya as always. Fucking double standard. He frowned and Ilya shrugged, self-justified. For that, Kou was well in his right to slap him and exact exact revenge. Even to the boiling-blooded, feral prince that would have seem childishly petty. Admittedly, Kou’s hair was perfect thanks to the help. Ilya looked proud. Kou reached up to dislodge a blade of black to hang over his forehead and frame one corner of one eye. Ilya tsk-ed and looked away, completely losing faith. Kou grinned into the bottle mouth.

The two men turned when their sister’s came in. Ilya had his serene smile on, always happy to be reunited with Ivena, and Kou acknowledged the taller girl before quickly turning to Mei. He shook his head so she wouldn’t fret. It had been a minor fight, at most. No surprise that Ilya spoke before Kou could. “Oh, Meimei.” Kou’s head tossed back at the nickname, but he didn’t say anything. “You’re so scrumptious!” He was louder in his praise than usual. Kou looked from the dramatic, supposed king of a criminal family to Mei. With a little tug of realization on his lips he then looked all the way back to Ivena and considered her up and down. Of course. This was as much like Ivena that Mei had ever dressed. Kou did not point that out, but he let as much be known with dark eyes onto Ilya’s beaming face. Ilya waved it away with a scoff and stood.

“Look at you.” Ilya said with almost pained satisfaction. He took her hand and stepped back to see her before tossing that hand to the side and have her spin. Kou had to admit Ilya had a dancer’s way about him. After the pretty lift of the skirt and a smaller flight of the scarf, Ilya caught Mei’s returning hand and sighed. “This is for Ouran, da?” he asked, examining the fabric and then gave Mei an encouraging kiss on her head and now loose hair. “He won’t be able to take it. Maybe you’ll come back married and he’ll move in here.” Ilya suggested. For a murderer and famously violent debt collector, he was conservative in his romanticism.

Kou felt a bit of panic rising at the joke. Mei would know what he thought. Ouran would have given his soul for a chain of events anywhere near what Ilya described. Given half a chance, Aitawa would see it happen by his own efforts. It was good then, that Aitawa was about as forward or intrusive as the horizon. Still, Kou flared his eyes at Mei to make the comment between them. Then he smiled at Ivena, who’d certainly had all her fingers on this choice. “It’s very pretty.” Kou said when asked. He wanted to go to her too, and turn her around better than Ilya had, but that felt almost like a struggle for her approval, and he was her brother, not someone hopeful for her hand.

Instead he noticed the red fabric he’d picked from a stand in Singapore. If the other siblings were looking at him, a nostalgic, absent softness had taken his smile away. It returned soon as he stood, moving over to tug at the scarf. “You still have this?” he asked and met her eyes. “I got this for you.” He remembered when she opened it. It was important to him that she have good holidays, so he made the effort. With her access to the vault and more money than she cared to use, he always had to put more thought and heart into what he gifted her. He’d though this would look good with her hair, and it always did. He made sure she saw him look at the rest of her ensemble as well. “Ouran will be thrilled.”

Kou didn’t know why Ilya patted him on the shoulder, then, but the light haired man was suddenly in a better mood. Kou put his hands in his pockets and stepped back to see Mei fully again. “Aitawa better vote me boss of the year after this.” He muttered, picking out his phone to tell Ouran to dress well for his date. Send. It could have been Kou’s imagination, but he thought there was an elated and scared howl from outside. He smiled. Ouran was sweet, almost too sweet for this line of work. There would of course be no time for him to change anything but his outlook. A joke about Kou tagging along for a double date with Ivena filled his cheeks, but he didn’t share it. After fisticuffs came weapons, and he didn’t want to christen Mei’s new home with his or Ilya’s blood.

Ilya noticed Kou intentionally avoided looking at Ivena now. Normally it would have been rude, and the brother would not approve. In light of recent abuse, Ilya could not hold it against the other. Kou was uncomfortable about it. Ivena was a reasonable person, and she’d always at least been courteous with him. Maybe it had been unfortunate that she showed him such a beautiful performance. It had of course been a greater misfortune that he couldn’t keep his hands away. Now the memory of their stolen dip was almost painful. He finished his soda and looked at the watch, the leather band and lithe face felt a little lacking after the gifts for the Vladenkos. “Oh. Look. I think we’ve kept Mr. Aitawa waiting long enough. Perhaps you should go down and see him?”

In his mind this would excuse him from this gathering, too late he realized the logistics of two cars and one being reserved for Mei and Ouran. Ilya did not think that far ahead as he nodded. “We will see you off, Mei. Won’t this be just like a family?” Ilya suggested and Kou was sure he thought so.

Ouran was not deterred by the four of them coming down. Kou was surprised to see him in other clothes. Jacket and a sweater, of all things. Must have already changed before the message. Kou lit the cigarette he’d picked off the floor and leaned in to Mei. Smoke billowed out his lips when he said. “I’m just pretending to say something to you so he’ll feel uncomfortable.” Kou was Aitawa’s older brother in some ways, and would exercise his privileges accordingly. At this distance, only the other, pale pair could hear him as Aitawa hurried to meet them. “Take it easy on him, okay? He really likes you.” Odd that Kou would preach tenderness on the hearts that someone else put in your hands. “He looks grown, but he’s just a little baby.” The last part, he intentionally let Ouran hear.

“Mei!” Ouran said, coming to a sliding stop. Both Kou and Ilya rolled their eyes at that, but kept back. “I didn’t know you would be so beautiful. I can change. Look at me.” He said. Embarrassed. If Kou thought he looked smart casual, he did nothing to let him know. Ilya waved his finger with some encouragement. “Oh, let’s go. I know a place.” Ouran said and held out his arm. He would know a place. Their family of restaurateurs should know all the places. Through heavy fumes, Kou still knew to trust Ouran to pick the best stands for late night food.

Teddy caught up eventually, the giant enforcer dwarfing both Kou and Ilya, standing next to them. Not that his services would be needed when Ilya had his people in their own car. He supposed father would rather be cautious than trust. He did have the throne for a reason. Kou would bet good money on Teddy and himself against Ilya and the handful of men, some of them now forced to cram themselves into another car since Kou and Teddy would need a ride. He wondered briefly if by some happenstance and great lack of foresight on Ilya’s part, he could end up by Ivena, and if that would be a good or a bad thing. At least it would worry Ilya.

“Oh, Mei.” Ouran said,  holding the door for her. “I have to say that I’ve missed this.” He admitted. “Thank you for coming.” He leaned closer. “Are you sure this is alright? Kou looks a bit irritated and stiff.” Ouran didn’t know Ilya and Ivena were the reasons for that. He didn’t wait for an answer before rounding to his side, though. He’d probably not trade this for Kou’s approval, anyhow.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #54 on: November 29, 2016, 08:35:52 pm »
Mei was happy to take Ilya’s praise and she rubbed her cheeks like she was embarrassed, though it was really just an easy satisfaction at his approval. “It’s nice. I haven’t worn it before, though I bought it some time ago.” She shrugged and gestured at Ivena. “It’s good to have somebody else pick out your clothes sometimes.” Ivena was nodding, agreeing because she was pleased with her own choice. Neither girl lost Kou’s smile and for whom it was intended. It left Ivena’s grey eyes sparkling, like she’d received a grand compliment, and Mei wondering if Kou saw her much at all anymore.

When he came to investigate her scarf, she clutched the fabric with her small hands. “Of course I still have it.” She said. Mei met his gaze, unsettlingly sincere for a moment. “It’s a good memory. Happier times.” She said. There was that well-practiced smile and she turned away, collecting the tea cups and kettle from the table. Mei was tidy and particular about certain things, though she left other aspects of her life in what was practically and intentional disarray. She took the items to the kitchen, Ivena following to attempt to take some of the dishware.

The girls returned to the living room in quick order and Mei agreed it was time to be off. She teased Ouran often, but she was polite about their dates. If anything, she might have had a better grasp of that relationship than most her others. She was gentle with him in these more direct manners because she understood what it was to have an unrequited love. It was that same understanding that prevented her from feigning ignorance. Mei had suffered that enough on her own.

When they were walking to the elevators, Mei fell into stride beside her brother. “I wouldn’t mind marrying Ouran, you know.” She said. It was odd, because she wasn’t joking. “Someday, maybe, that will be best, right?” she asked. Mei looked at him with a real question there, because she had considered it from time to time. Kou had made himself clear to her again and again, denying her efforts. She was stubborn, but not stupid. “Will you be made at me if I do? I don’t think I can love him really, but I could probably make him happy.” It wasn’t the sort of thing she’d ever brought up before, but Mei might have been more traumatized by Kou and Ivena’s little dance than Ilya had. And Mei couldn’t hate Ivena. Defeat, even in the small ways, was a lingering thing for a girl whose temper had always been a brief blaze.

She played along with him when he made efforts to tease Ouran; she might have taken care with his heart in the ways she could but she had never been above that much. Ivena shook her head and glanced back at the other siblings. “Mei, you tease too much. Poor Ouran.” She remarked, though her tone was light. Ivena stayed close to Ilya. It was something of a habit, though she trusted Kou, to stay near her brother when associates outside their group were near. She’d never been threatened; it was a very stupid man that thought to engage with ghostly Ilya’s most beloved person, but she was reasonably cautious.

“Ouran, you look fine,” Mei snickered, his fussing endearing. “I let Ivena dress me is all, you don’t have to worry over it.” She said as she reached to take his arm and step away from her brother. She took her seat when he opened the door for her. He always was a perfect gentleman. It was actually quite regrettable, she thought, that he was wasted on her.

She waved goodbye at the others as Teddy appeared near and did not change her smile when Ouran inquired on Kou’s mood. Once he had gotten into the card, she did wink at him though. “Kou is always irritated and stiff. He must be such a difficult boss.” She laughed. “Honestly, I’ve missed this too.” She paused, brow furrowing as she set her hands in her lap. There was the usual apology on the tip of her tongue. “As usual, this is shamelessly selfish of me, of course.” She said instead. They had an understanding. “But I do enjoy it. Playing pretend with you.” Mei sighed. “I’ll help you find a good girl someday, Ouran. You’ll like her if I pick, right?” she smiled with some real affection. She’d not share the same suggestion she’d made to Kou. That would be too much for what was supposed to be a relaxing evening.

As Ouran pulled away from the curb, she glanced back out the window to catch Kou’s eye. It was an expression he’d recognize, a little funny because he’d seen it often enough and she seemed so serious about it every time. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him. I won’t hurt your friend. “So, where are we going?” she asked Aitawa, chipper once she’d gotten past what seemed to be obligatory sympathizing. “I’m kind of starving, actually. I’m excited.” She said, hand on her stomach. They had missed breakfast, after all, and the sun was setting now. “Kou never got me my breakfast,” she reminded him. “I showed them all my apartment today, which I hadn’t really been planning. I was kind of okay leaving it a secret for us to keep from Kou.” She said, leaning against the car door so that she could watch his profile comfortably. “I mean, I was going to tell Ilya, but Ilya is precious like you are. It would be mean to keep it from him.” She said.

Ivena waved after the car until it had pulled around the block and then glanced around her. “Zaika moy, shall we deliver your friends home?” she asked, recognizing then what the other had not well planned for. “Unless there is another car waiting…” she peered over their shoulders to confirm there was not. She had not moved far from Ilya’s side, but was watching Kou then. She would not mind a ride with him in the back seat, as improbable as it was that Ilya would allow it. Just the thought was enough to put pink on her cheeks. She took Ilya’s hand, as if it would conceal her anticipation.


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Re: Guts.
« Reply #55 on: November 30, 2016, 06:53:39 pm »
Kou was happy to be reminded of the time and the world they'd lived in, when she'd gotten that scarf from him. He would have liked to live like that forever, but his responsibilities grew with father's expectations. They were dark royals of this city, and that kind of title came with a price. He'd tried to make peace with it long ago. His sister was the only thing that really kept him from becoming the husk his father wanted. Mei anchored Kou.

He wanted to tell her that they could have those times again as they touched the red fabric together. A bright and selfish lie. "You're going to be happy today." it was true, but it was useless. Like so many times before he was being a useless brother. He and Ilya stayed and said nothing while the other two went on with the dishes to the kitchen. Ilya didn't get on his nerves in any way during that short time, and Kou wondered if he would understand. Both of them were born and bred, but it was foreign to imagine Ilya as anything than what he was now. Maybe others thought the same about Kou.

Kou took Mei’s hand when she made sure to walk beside him, and he listened to her. He couldn't help but smile for Ouran's sake. She spoke of a practical way of life. And father would like that, too. Kou shook his head. "Best for Ouran, best for the syndicate." he started, and he realized how hollow those things were. "But it won't be best for you." He took great comfort in the choices he believed she had. His sin was Wrath, not Envy. "If I’m mad it’s because I’m your idiot brother, and Ouran will be happy whatever you do because he loves you." it felt wrong to speak for Aitawa, but it was also blatanly true, and not a secret he’d try to keep. "If you marry someone else that you adore, he'll cry like a baby, but he will still be Ouran to you. He’ll mourn for himself but rejoice for you." Kou grinned just in time for the elevator, and squeezed her hand all the way down. Ilya thought it was the best brotherly behavior he’d seen from Kou in a while.

Ouran was immediately encouraged when she approved of his clothes. She always saw him in a suit, and while it was flattering, he wanted her to know he was another person outside of work. Today would be about her, not about work or her brother. Ouran also associated the well-cut lapels and ties with harsh men, not something he wanted to project to Mei when he wanted her to be comfortable and happy. Also, better she not compare him to neither her brother nor Ilya, with their statuesque builds to hold up their tailoring and handsome faces over their ivory collars. Mei’s ‘Fine’ was better than anyone else’s praise to Ouran and he tugged at the jacket with some pride. He waved at Ivena to thank her on Mei’s behalf, as though the Vladenko woman had a hand in putting her in front of him.

Well inside the car he shook his head at her suggestion that Kou was hard to work under. He also listened to her padding his heart from disappointment. Ouran was dutiful, always, toward both the Tzeng children. He was also grateful she minded his feelings. Everything Mei did had a rosy sheen to Aitawa. “Oh, Mei, don’t worry about me and other girls.” As though there could be other women for Ouran. He couldn’t imagine feeling another way, since he’d been stuck on Mei for so long. The issue of her being hungry was much graver to him than the subject of his future marriage.

“We’ll hurry then.” He assured her and drove faster toward the inner city. “This is almost like corporate espionage.” He said and turned to her during the changing of traffic lights. Apparently that was a joke. His attempts at being funny were usually more endearing than amusing. Whether she laughed our not he would continue. “The owners of this new place used to have a small tent by the docks, great grilled meat, and now they opened a little restaurant in the city.” As expected, Ouran was an attentive driver, considerate to a fault. And patient. If Wei hadn’t been so cruel in building Kou’s inner circle, Ouran would have no place in the syndicate other than to help his parents pay the protection fee.

“You are truly beautiful, today.” He said and afforded a look to her side. “I can’t believe I get to try their new menu with you. They will be so disappointed when I go there without you in the future.” Kou and Teddy also relied on Ouran for gastronomical experiences. It might not be a surprise to her, but it said a lot that he’d save a location for her before he took his friends. He laughed at himself. In the light from the neon–spangled city outside the window, perhaps she could see happiness with him, even if she didn’t give him all of his heart. He had pleasant features, and one could guess that was out of his own effort with his expressions, even if Ouran had the great misfortune of having no intriguing shadows like the ones lingering around Ilya’s dotted mercury eyes, or Kou’s precise chin and addictive smirk.

Lib knew of addiction. His immersion into the concept spotted his shallow veins and burnt his lungs. It was only fair, then, that beside the solace it gave him, the years of life it cost, he’d also acquired a denied pretty from it. Cheekbones that shadowed the hollow of his cheeks, and a complexion that mixed the ashes on his spoons with the pale of his powders. That skin was splayed with Agatha where she slept in verse on his right shoulder blade, and crawled over his arm to become a two-sentence delta dividing on his backhand and climbing his victory fingers all the way to the nails. Selma spoke another language, and ran with only two long choruses on either side of his windpipe down to cross his collarbones to disappear into the loose sweatshirt with a generously cut out neck.

It was no secret, through the gossiping drape of his clothes, that his neck was long and his muscles were stretched over a lengthy frame of bone. Feminine eyes, green, and black hair shaved above the ears to flop with great length to one side until that shining wave crashed onto Agatha’s shoulder. The restaurant was intimidated and grateful for his patronage and he paid with large, wrinkled bills to keep himself out of thirst rather than hunger. In the light of his booth, his skin between tattoos was snow glaring in high sun, cut through with emerging asphalt.

Ouran didn’t know it was a mistake to book publically, on their site, but Lib had found that mistake and eaten it. The pretty couple came in through the door.

“I called ahead, Mei.” He said with some pride as they were lead into a booth. It wasn’t an exclusive place by any means, she’d know Kou to pay Ouran far better, but he was confident here. If she knew the depths of his infatuation with her, she would be impressed already, that there was such a restaurant Ouran Aitawa deemed worthy to sate her hunger. A grill in the wall, built between the booth and the kitchen. The meats were already dripping on her fire and coal. Some of the skewers were obviously ready. He hurried to let her sit. The chef ran by their window now and then, tending to the other booths as well. The owners didn’t trust anyone but family to handle their ancient recipes.

Oran was almost too excited to pick skewers for her as he called for side dishes and rice. He produced a pretty plate and a glass for her before tending to his own helping. “Please, don’t wait.” He insisted and laughed again, nerves and elation. She’d always thought he was honest, and it wouldn’t be hard to see, now. He tipped the bottle for her, and the glass filled quickly. In this kind of environment, Ouran was more of a prince than Ilya and Kou could hope to be. Perhaps that had been his intention, too. “So, Mei, how is your life?” he asked, curious. How abundantly clear in his engaged face, that he meant to know her better, and enjoy her company, rather than hoping for something he was surely dreaming of. “With me it’s the same. Mother and father are glad for the fee relief and wish me well with my current work.” He shrugged. He’d rather be in a kitchen. “My brother is still out of country. But he might come home for Halloween, of all days.” He laughed as though it was unthinkable.

-

“Yeah, Zaiko.” Kou asked. “Our car can meet us. Unless you’re going to invite me up into your home, too.” He added, sure Ilya would not think of it after the conversation they had in Mei’s apartment. The men that had come with Ilya looked at their employer and Ilya waved at them. They started to walk.

“Don’t call me zaiko, Kou. You know it’s zaika.” Ilya replied with some frustration, but Kou was already calling for Ivena’s laugher with a meaning glance. If it was not funny to her, at least it had served to irritate her brother. “Of course you can ride with us.” Ilya added and walked them toward the large vehicle. The math, them to the number of guards plus the driver wouldn’t work for the available seats, but Kou was happy enough he and Teddy would be getting to go along. Sometimes Ilya could be petty. He realized that Ilya had not stated whether they were welcome to his and Ivena’s home, yet, though.

-

“This is bullshit!” Kou said where he sat. “I thought you were joking.” From his seat in the trunk of the bulky car, he could see the backs of everyone. Teddy had been given the place next to the driver, and the rest were in the back, in front of Kou. “You’re the rudest, Ilya, and I’m going to tell everyone.”

Ilya turned around and slapped the back of the seat. “Da, da, da.” With increased, chastising volume, as though Kou was their dog making ruckus. “Are you baby?” he continued. Kou realized he must be getting to him since Ilya’s grammar was usually spot on, despite his accent. Manners were important to Ilya. “It would be worse not to give you a ride, niet?” he said and then flicked his hand at the noisy Tzeng. Kou huffed, having gone in to play along with what should have been a playful suggestion from Ilya. It was not so funny when the door closed and the car started.

“Hey, Ivena, this is how he treats his friends. Remember that next time you defend him.” Kou said, sour, and moved closer to them, resting his chin on his hands, which were on the back of their seats. Unintentionally, or maybe not, since he was facing her, the angry, warm breaths rolled over the leather to coil against her neck and cheek. “Is he like this at home too?” Kou continued, scorned. Ilya clicked with his tongue, probably regretting putting Kou’s blabbering mouth so close to his own ear, and leaned away, speaking in his native tongue to the guards instead. They laughed.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #56 on: December 01, 2016, 06:31:21 pm »
Mei was happy enough to take Ouran’s assurances and settle into a comfortable rhythm with him. She was eager for the restaurant, being picker about taste than price tag and knowing full well to expect excellent selection’s from her brother’s kind enforcer. “I can’t wait. I’m seriously starving.” She replied, realizing exactly how hungry she was the more they talked about it. “You should just take me more often; you know? If it’s on your recommendation I am sure I’ll love it.” Mei nodded to herself. She was happy to forget about Kou for a while.

When they reached the restaurant, Mei was hit with the fragrant smell of sizzling meats and spices. As usual, Ouran did not disappoint. “This is amazing.” She said honestly as they made their way to the booth. “You’re so wasted on my brother. You should be a food critic or go run your own place.” Mei told him, settling in her seat and folding her hands under her chin as she leaned over the table. She was grateful that they were quick to service the table and watched with some anticipation as Aitawa filled her place. She did not take too much encouragement to try the food and let out a satisfied sigh. “Seriously.” She said, emphasizing the sentiment. “I’m happy you guys are friends and all, but it’s not all that hard to teach someone to be reasonably lethal.” She paused. “Talent in the kitchen isn’t so simple, I’m convinced.”

It was a silly sentiment from a girl raised around guns and men with calloused knuckles, but it wasn’t wholly untrue. At least, in Ouran’s case, she was certain his culinary talent outstripped his potential as a guard, particularly when his competition within the syndicate weren’t even fully human. What Ouran brought to Kou that was most treasured was loyalty, she thought, which was the only reason her comments were made lightly. Perhaps he’d be able to retire out of this business and open a restaurant anyway, someday. “Ah, your brother. I haven’t seen him in a long time. He’s very good with making sweets, isn’t it?” she said, wrapping a strand of hair around her finger. Mei had actually been rather small when Ouran’s brother had begun traveling, but she did think she remembered him giving her cakes to try from time to time.

“I’m mostly just holding out until graduation right now. I’ve got good enough grades that I don’t really need to bother with going much now. Kou would complain if he knew I was skipping too much though.” Mei pursed her lips. “I don’t know what to do after that.” She said. Ouran knew a bit more than her brother, in that regard. They’d spoken of her taking on a tutor to train her in the arts of the family business last year, though she’d never divulged specifics beyond that. She hadn’t wanted to risk getting Aitawa in too much trouble with Kou, if it ever came out.

“I can go to university in town and start working for Daddy, but I think Kou would throw a fit.” She said. “He wants me to go far away or, if I do stay, work in an office somewhere.” Mei sighed and leaned back in the booth, taking another bite from her skewer. “It makes me mad, because he gets sad about it. If it were anything else, I’d just do what I want but…” she trailed off and made a helpless gesture with her hands. “I don’t care if he’s angry. He’s cute when he’s angry.” She was pouting then, which was cute on her too.

There was glimmer in the blue ring on her eye when she stared back at Ouran. “Will you be sad if I start working here? You know I can handle myself, right?” she asked.

-

Ivena did not seem to understand the joke, really, because Ilya was right and Kou was clearly mispronouncing the endearment. However, Kou seemed to find it funny and looked pleased with the reaction he got out of her brother, so she did smile a little when he caught her eye. It was the sort of smile she gave Ilya, when he was proud of himself for things she didn’t care about too. Like a serene mother, which was part of her charm. If Mei was feisty, Ivena was the best kind of ice princess. Even the small smiles were precious.

She did not seem overly surprised when Ilya insisted that Kou take his place in the trunk, something like a family pet at that point, and took her seat calmly ahead of him. She was gracious, of course, and gave him an apologetic glance and a pretty blush with it. “He is my brother, I will always defend him.” She said with the sort of sensibility one would expect from a Vladenko sibling. However, before Ilya could take too much pleasure in it, she continued. “But, I will always defend you also, Kou. You and Mei are very precious to me.” She said, and the pink flush grew deeper. Mei had been included in that statement as a safeguard as much as because it was true.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #57 on: December 01, 2016, 10:21:12 pm »
Ouran was filled with pride at her praise. He was confident in his choice, but the point was of course for her to enjoy it. Few parts of Ouran were ego driven. How he lit up with all the innocence she'd come to expect when she wanted him to bring her with him more. If he found moments when he thought that kind of question was appropriate, he would have asked Mei all the time. She probably knew this, so she probably meant it when she said it. It wouldn't be so much trouble to her, but it would mean quite a bit to Aitawa.

"My father's the critic." he said, laughing at the idea of lecturing anyone on how to make food. For that reason, Ouran did not teach. He was rather a critic, though, when it came to his own cooking. But running his own place, ah, that was a good dream. He would be a rebel, then, and his parents would come to see his ingenuity on their cuisine. In this dream, there was Mei in an apron and band on her head, because he wouldn't have its lengths concealed with a net. She was also always holding a knife. Maybe it was not cruel that she suggested it, his restaurant, because she believed it, but the hope that swelled when he stopped to stare at her and imagine it, perhaps it was still cruel to lift him so high, if only for the quantity of longing to his usually meandering heart.

"The kitchen is simpler." he said, sure, yet to land from the flight of her compliment and company. He would mean that, a chef's son, doing a brawler's work. Wei knew what he wanted of people, and had seen the good qualities in a very young Ouran, which Wei then wanted for his son's closest. Perhaps this debt of Ouran's life path was why Kou protected him so fiercely. Wei, most likely, had not meant for Kou to learn compassion thanks to the Aitawa son.

He nodded slow. Ken was very good with sweets. "My parents never really knew what place Ken should have in the restaurant." He told her, amazed at the story himself. It was quite a feat to make work so boisterously fine it could not be served with an Aitawa menu. "He was good enough that they would send him to any school he wanted to attend." He smiled with some sadness. There were broken pairs of siblings everywhere, in the Syndicate. "I think mom and dad were relieved. And I'm glad he's happy."

Ouran wouldn't be the kind of boy to skip school if he could help it, but he nodded along when Mei spoke of it. He thought she was such a free spirit, and that her solution was so practical. Why come to a class that you don't need? In reality, without being swayed by a story from her lips, he would tell anyone there is virtue in adherence. Now, it didn't even enter his mind. She could have told him to drink gasoline and he'd run out to the car.

He followed her moods with his bowl close to his mouth, watching a show as she spoke of her brother and his part in her decisions. "Of course I won't be sad!" he said and was a bit embarrassed when some rice fell back into the bowl because of his outburst. The tender to the grill stopped and Ouran smiled with an apology. "I mean, I do want you to be safe, but I believe you will be very good at anything you do." It was too generic, wasn't it, even if he meant it. "Ah, and you have this kind of life in your veins." he pointed out. He wanted her to know she could do this, if she wanted, and it seemed she did. "Your father's the king and Kou is next. You're already good at this. It is your birthright."

The bowl dropped somewhat when the blue in her eye flared. He nodded. The magic was her beauty, to Ouran. No need for spells. He quickly scooped a few more skewers onto the plate in front of them, and took one for his own bowl. "You've practiced, haven't you?" he asked, recalling she'd gone into training on her own initiative. He was excited to see that, and thought of it often because it was something he wanted to discuss with Kou and couldn't. He was grateful it hadn't come up yet.

"Kou practices too." he said and shook his head, turning down to what was left of his rice. His hesitation went away when he looked at Mei again. That was usually her power over him. "He doesn't really subscribe to form and school, as you might have seen." He laughed and silenced it with another piece of pork. He was also quick to wipe his mouth. "So he lowers his hands in most fights he's in." Mei would have seen this growing up with him, and perhaps not thought it as fascinating as Ouran. Either of them were left to suspect why such self-abuse might be attractive to the future king. More than likely the answer would be some dark contradiction. "I don't think you should train like this." he said with some horror.

"Hopefully, by the time you do get more involved," Ouran knew she'd done some work for her father, he'd gone along - with Kou - to make sure she was alright. "things will be easier." he chewed and had some to drink. Water. He had the keys, after all. "On our last shipment there were no cops." he shook his head, dramatic. It was a big deal. A farm without pigs. "Either someone paid them off, and even then there is at least something or someone looking around, or there's something I don't know." He smiled at the thought. "Ah, I don't know. I don't usually listen too closely. Kou and Mr. Tzeng has the plans." He looked at her. "You don't happen to know anything, do you?" he laughed at the question, but it wasn't the kind of sound that took it back.

"Kou will take care of it, he always does." And that much was true. At any expense to himself. "So, I think if you decide to stay here with m... us, then he'll make sure you can." He tried to drink his slip away and had to refill his glass. "So, Mei as a business woman?" he repeated. It would be apparent then that he'd been quite stuck on the idea. "I think you would look beautiful in office clothes. You should at least give it some serious thought." He laughed again, as though he should be embarrassed, but wasn't.

-

Ilya's attention was drawn and he turned to look at the two conversing. He was flattered by her first objection and then attentive to the addendum. Kou felt comfortable in saying what he wanted because he knew the other overbearing brother was watching, and so none of it could be wrong. No shady intention if it was all left in the open. It worked quite to the opposite of how Ilya wanted.

"And I will always defend you, Ivena." he said and let his fingers live in wave beside his chin, drumming the leather four times as he smiled in a small way. "I'm strong you know." hr reminded with an almost lewd lilt in the words. Ilya threw a quick slap over Kou's head, upsetting the hair they'd both worked to make presentable. Kou, contrary to the past but true to character, did not move, and only wore the scattered hair across one eye as he kept the other on Ivena. "See. Super strong."

This caused Ilya to cuss in a language that neither Teddy nor Kou would understand, and grab hold of Kou's forehead, shoving him back. "The back is too good for you, Kou. You have no shame." he said and the other men in the car that weren't Teddy chimed in "No shame!" Kou only seemed amused by it, and stayed where he was sent, but pushed his shoe into the back of Ivena's seat, to see if he could elicit a response.

-

Lib tore the meat from the bone he was holding. He wasn't looking, only throwing glances, and listening with some skill. His collarbone shifted in the exposing neckline of his violated shirt when when he reached for the glass and drank the malt down. He'd suspected Ouran Aitawa would be a problem. With the next bite, he crushed cartilage and ground it methodically.

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #58 on: December 02, 2016, 05:40:26 am »
Ivena bit her lip, pretty grey eyes and a sharp inhale. She was caught by the poetry of it. “Will you really?” she blurted, because her heart demanded it. She had turned in her seat to look back at him as directly as her safety belt would allow. Somehow, considerations of Ilya’s feelings paled when Kou played these games. If he knew it, he was cruel. But then, it wasn’t as if Ivena would have the chance to see him without the oversight of her dear brother. Not without a good deal of subterfuge that could well result in a clash of syndicates should her guardian rabbit get wind. Ivena recalled Mei. Romeo and Juliet, she’d said. Ivena had not lost the bite of it, when Mei had said it, but she fancied the romantics of that forbidden love. It was more than the situation demanded, but that kind of fantasy lifter her pulse and made the car ride seem conspiratorial. Like they would speak in code to one another.

Her winding daydream was lifted by Ilya’s palm to Kou’s forehead. His response was not as eloquent or charming as Romeo might have been, but it was enough for Ivena and she thought he was impressive in the face of her brother’s abuse. “That is comforting.” She said, because he would endure more than that if his heart ever reached hers. Would Ilya have been able to stomach it, if he knew that his persistent intervention only strengthened her dreams? There was no winning to it of course, she’d loved what of Kou she’d met and she loved what of him she’d been left to invent on her own.

Ivena turned back to face forward, folding her hands lightly in her lap though she did laugh just a little when she felt the toe of his shoe in the back of her seat. She was quiet for the rest of the ride, which took them to Kou’s apartment rather than their own home. If it was meant to be disappointing, it was not because Ivena had never seen Kou’s building and it felt like she’d been brought just a bit closer to him. When Ilya’s men helped Kou from the back kindly, brusquely, and stepped aside to let Teddy out also, Ivena hung herself half out the window to wave him off. “Goodnight, Romeo,” she said, a bit softly but not so quiet that it would be missed. The pretty blonde tucked herself back into the vehicle and rolled the window up.

“Shall we go then?” she asked, and it was obvious she was mildly annoyed with Ilya’s bubbling temper. Even if it had been something of the norm between the two, Ivena was never too happy to see it. In her head, Ilya would one day accept Kou as a suitable man to whisk her away. She was well aware this would not be the case, but she liked to pretend. “You should not use such crass language, braht.” She said into the quiet. “Kou was only being kind,” she said, though she was not so naïve as to believe that nicety. Still, it seemed Ilya ought to learn tantrums weren’t fair when someone showed interest in her. As if Ivena applied the same rules to anyone but Kou Wing.

-

Mei inclined her head. “Aitawa, you see such a nice version of me.” She said, and her expression was momentarily sentimental. Then she laughed. “Which, naturally, is the correct one. Of course I’ll be good.” Mei took a bite of rice. “I don’t know about birthright though.” She said, and thought of Suri and then of Belou. To what had she been born, really, under those tensions. Harlot daughter, criminal princess, Demon’s tie. Mei smirked. It could all sound poetic in her hands though. Kou and Daddy be dammed; she would be good because was Mei. The spark in her stare said as much, though she said nothing on it. Ouran had only meant a compliment by it and she had never taken pleasure in crushing sincerity.

Mei listened to him as he went on about training and her brother’s own efforts in the physical arts. “I’ve been training, yea.” She agreed. “Kou would be the type to like getting up close and noticed, so I can’t say I’m surprised.” She said, and the curve of her lips was affectionate. “But I can’t say much for poor efforts at defending himself.” And she didn’t know what to make of it, because between the two of them she’d always felt he guarded himself most furiously.

She supposed it must be that her feelings were that distasteful to him. He did not defend himself against Ivena’s longing glances, after all. He practically fell into them, reaching, chasing after the soft sweet of her pretty pink lips. Mei sighed. How unfair would it be to waste her evening depressed over a man like that when her kind Ouran sat across the table. “I’ve been practicing for quieter work, I guess.” She said lightly. Mei took a drink and set her cup down. It was a more refined sort of business carried out from that perspective, she thought. If she didn’t need muscle, she wouldn’t need to take in men like Ouran and steal blossoming chefs from their culinary alters.

“My instructor is proficient in all the necessary things, either way. I’ve simply asked to learn what I feel suits me.” She said. Mei shrugged, because that was where it was best to leave that conversation. Ouran didn’t need to know the details and she supposed it was sparing him the conversations with her brother and his own worries.

She seemed intrigued by his thoughts on the lack of cops, though her gaze did shift briefly over the rest of the dining room. The syndicate did not hide, but that was because they did not have to. It was incredibly difficult to pin down an effective crime family for anything. That was how they survived. Part of that was knowing what sorts of things they could speak about and where. Mei was still new to it, really, but had been raised on the side of caution. “Nobody around doesn’t really mean easier, does it? That just means plans are getting more complicated. There are more unknown factors and more things to juggle.” She shrugged and smiled brightly. “Every good business knows to mitigate risk. Even fortunate things should be taken with a measure of skepticism.”

Mei cleaned off her skewer and took another spoon of rice. “In your case, it’s good not to know the plans, right?” she asked, not as an insult but because she understood it could be a safeguard. It did not give him a clear answer, in the end. She tucked her hair behind her ears. “Will you excuse me for a second?” she asked, and slipped out of the booth. “I need to stop in the lady’s room. I’ll be right back.” Mei said.

She passed by a strange man on her way, handsome and sitting alone with the sort of face that was memorable because of its edges rather than the lovely green eyes it held. It made her pause, three steps past his table, and she couldn’t say why. It wasn’t a frightening feeling she got, nor a pleasant one. Simple and otherness that called for her attention, whispered, and easy enough to ignore. Had she been near a mirror, she might have noticed the way the blue of Belou’s eye seemed to glow and flood the rest of the dark iris. Mei did not hesitate long, and went on her way.   

Verse

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Re: Guts.
« Reply #59 on: December 02, 2016, 01:23:11 pm »
Ouran thought her confidence was delightful to see. Mei Wing would do flawlessly. He looked forward to her choices, and hoped, perhaps more than Kou, that she would indeed stay in the city her father ruled. It was also good to know Mei did not go about seeking out punishment the way Kou could be accused of doing, some times. Ouran was naïve, both across a pretty girl, and in the game of men oppressing other men with threat of great violence, but even he knew what Quieter Work meant. He’d heard it referred to as such, those exact words, on occasion. He blinked, trying to recall the lips. It was almost overwhelming to imagine her as a blade in the night and bright daughter and sister the next morning. He blushed.

He was sure to listen intently when she theorized about the missing security at the docks. It was very clear to him then, what Mei would choose for herself. He wondered how it would be to beside her. Distracting, for one. “Oh yes, I rarely ask about the plans.” Ouran answered quickly. If there was a bit of haste in his voice, it was because the same question from Mr. Tzeng certainly would have been cause to worry. Kou trusted Ouran with any detail, a bit reckless, but suggested he never ask, so he rarely did. Not quite as stoic as Teddy, but still willfully in the dark. It was duty over passion with Ouran as an enforcer. Perhaps that was perfect in his position. Mei had been sharp to see it, he thought. He nodded when she stood and turned to the man on the other side of the grill to place a few other orders, excited to play host. “Little lady’s room.” He mumbled to himself and chuckled. Mei was too adorable.

-

Kou was handled roughly, extracted from the door to the storage in the car. He got his balance back fast after their unceremonious discard. A quick swipe of his hand and his hair was under control again. The men were glaring because they expected their King to allow it now. Kou was used to underlings trying the line, so he put his hands in his pockets and indulged in a long step into the private sphere of one almost Teddy seized ruffian. The man knew not to defend himself, and they had to go, eventually. Kou snickered but then wore his sincere face, smiling slightly when Ivena referenced Mei’s nickname. He, still with his hands in his pockets, leaned close when the car started, knowing its masters will. If the vehicle had not moved her before he was at the lowest point of his bow, he would have kissed her. Instead his head hung there, turned to see her go with a grin. Who knew if he’d gone so far if the shift of gears had been faulty, or if he’d stopped. “In fair Verona, next time.” He called.

With a satisfied sigh he stood straight and watched them go. Teddy loomed in a different way than usual, and Kou had to turn his way eventually. “You’re having fun.” Teddy stated, and Kou shrugged. “This is dangerous.” And it had to be if Teddy took time to say it. Kou didn’t even debate it when he whined and put his hands behind his head, almost dropping back on the asphalt, looking up into the sky as he rolled his eyes.

“I knoooow.” He said with frustration, fighting off images of Iven stretching in front of him. “Fuck, Teddy. I’ll get a grip.” He said and then fell forward instead, squatting, hands still on the back of his head. He stared at his shoes. “Should have seen her, though. She let me dance with her a little.” He muttered, hiding like a child in plain sight.

“Kou, don’t let this happen. She’s Mei’s friend and she’s Ilya’s sister.” Teddy continued and Kou groaned to hear the voice of reason hammer in the facts. He stood and corrected his jacket.

“Okay.” He said and flared his hand outward. “Phssh.” Sound of wind. “There. Forgotten. All over. No Juliette, no fair Verona. No poison, no tragedy.” Teddy patted his back with a large palm. Kou frowned. “Let’s go. Now that Ilya has other things to think about we have some work to do. I want to oversee the distributors for Wondertown. I didn’t like their terms.” Kou said. Teddy recognized the harder voice. It would be good for Kou to dive into his job, a bit.

-

“Do you want to break my heart, Ivena?” Ilya asked her as they were in traffic. No answer, just a question for her. “Kou is a good business partner, but a horrible other partner.” He said. He wanted to tell her about Mei, it would solve this problem quickly, but where would that leave his other sister, who knew his pain? Ilya ran his hand though his hair and sighed before curling up and falling on her, head in her lap. “He does this just to spite me.” He said and turned to look up at her, which made him hard to fit, despite having thrown his leg over one of the guards, who was visibly uncomfortable. He reached to touch her cheek.

“Don’t spite me too.” He said, and there was no threat or anger in him, just that plea. He skin fast soft and his thumb traced her lip. “If you only know what he does to his lyubite, Ivena. He’s not kind.” Kou was actually not so sordid, from what Ilya glimpsed, but it was still far worse than he would ever stomach for Ivena. Actually, holding hands was too much. “You stay with Zaika.” He encouraged.

-

Lib supposed it wasn’t strange that she stopped to look at him. He wasn’t being shy about the fact that she had his full attention. As the blue in her eye fanned out to greet him, and warn him, he held her gaze and lifted his drink to his mouth, as though she was another thing he’d ordered to enjoy. Before she left, he lifted the well-kissed glass to bid her on her way with a smirk that promised something. Mei Wing wasn’t a saint, and so he hoped her lack of sanctity would work in his favor. If Libertine was anything, if he looked like anything, it was an adventure. Another drink to leave the glass empty, weighing down a sizable tip.

He would catch her by the mirrors, the faucets, no doubt. They’d put money into their facilities here, new place and all. He liked that trend. Was she surprised to see him? His shadows hadn’t belied the kind of man he was. The marks that ran down to frame his throat would bring to mind a jackal and not deer, despite his reaching limbs. A doll of purpose, perhaps, with a grown man’s joints and desires, come alive to have her. He wasn’t shy about what he wanted now, either, and would catch her, and lift her onto the counter if she didn't indicate strongly to the opposite. “I’m sorry to ruin your date, but it’s time for desert.” He would feed her a kiss, as that promised, if she didn’t twist out in some way. Daughter of crime in this city, knew there was more to life than charred meat and home made sauces. And if she was completely unwilling to dance, he would gladly step aside until she passed him, and then wrap her in his doll limbs and lift her.

There was a large window here, fogged, facing an alleyway. Shadows there, too. And they did lie.