Well here it is, the epilogue. Special thanks to my good friend Fear Silencer for getting this to me in a timely manner. Seriously man, your help is always appreciated. I am so happy to finally mark this as complete.
Now before we begin the story there's something I want to say to you all of my readers. From the bottom of my heart thank you for having kept with this story for the past two plus years, I know that there might have been times where it seemed like it would never get to this point, but you all have stayed with me for this, so thank you once again.
IIonezerozero (Don't know where you are, but I hope wherever you've ended up you're doing okay)
Fear Silencer (Thank you for filling in the shoes my old beta left behind. Your help was invaluable.)
Lil' Miss Pug
Guest (Not all the same people)
BlueDrizzle (I hope you're still reading, I very much enjoyed your lengthy reviews.)
PrinnyMuchIt (Thank you for that kind PM you recently sent me, I'm glad to know that you've stuck with this story for so long.)
A Fanfic Reader
Steak (I really wish you had an account. There are so many times I've wanted to respond to your reviews. Thank you)
UltimateWolf14 (I hope this ending is everything you wanted. And I have really enjoyed our chats.)
Merlin's neon spotty left sock
I want to thank you all for taking the time to review my story. Seriously in the two year span of this fic every time I received a notification that someone had reviewed this story my day was made. So thank you for making my day so many times. I'm glad to know so many people enjoyed this story. And with that I present to you the epilogue.
Life at the Shinozaki's
Chapter Fifteen: Epilogue
It was the night before the culture festival that Shinozaki Ayumi found herself entering her sister's apartment with Yoshiki. The twin tailed girl had happened upon the blonde while at a convenience store near her house.
She'd gone there to print off something important that she had planned to share with her friends the next day. 'With this charm we'll still be connected...' Ayumi's thoughts turned to Suzumoto Mayu, who would soon be leaving Kisaragi. A soft sigh escaped her as she patted the doll charm tucked away in her bag. She really hoped that Mayu would like what she had planned.
The thought of being separated from any of her friends was enough to nearly reduce her to tears. The brown haired girl had done well to put up a brave front at school, even though it was obvious that she wanted to cry as well.
When Ayumi had looked up the Sachiko Ever After charm on Saenoki Naho's blog she had thought that it sounded interesting and was something that her friends would appreciate. She had tried to print the required doll at home, only to find that the printer was out of ink. With a resigned sigh, the blue haired girl had slipped on her orange hoodie, and left the warm comfort of her home, venturing out into the autumn evening to walk to the nearby convenience store.
By chance her search had lead her to cross paths with Kishinuma Yoshiki, her closest friend. That thought brought a small smile to the blue eyed girl's face. If someone had told her six months ago that she would consider Yoshiki her closest friend, tears would have streamed down her cheeks in the midst of her laughter. But that was her reality now. Yoshiki was one of her dearest friends.
After he left her house she had ended up spending a lot of time at his apartment, mostly to see her sister at first. As time went on the purpose of her visits also started being about seeing Yoshiki. Once their summer vacation came to an end, and school started back up she had made it a habit to walk home with him to do their homework together. Ayumi had become very accustomed to doing her homework alongside the blonde. The idea of doing homework outside of his presence now felt so weird. If Hinoe was there then she'd usually stay for dinner, and Yoshiki would walk her home afterwards.
The sound of the of the door clicking softly behind them echoed in her ears. "We're back!" Yoshiki called out as he entered his apartment followed by the twin tailed girl. He closed the door behind her as she slipped her shoes off.
"We're?" Hinoe's curious voice sounded from the kitchen as the two teens finished putting their shoes away. Upon them entering the living room they saw her in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal. The young woman's face, not expecting to see her little sister, brightened upon catching sight of her. "Oh, Ayumi-chan! What a pleasant surprise."
The dark haired girl returned her sister's smile with a warm one of her own. "Hey, Onee-chan. Kishinuma-kun bumped into me on his way home from work. He asked if I wanted to come over for dinner..." She trailed off, hoping that was okay.
Hinoe nodded, finding her hesitation unnecessary. Ayumi was always welcomed in her and Yoshiki's apartment. "I see, just be sure to call Otou-san and Okaa-san to let them know." She didn't want their parents to worry about Ayumi's whereabouts.
The dark haired girl repressed a sigh as she remained in the living room. 'I probably should have already done that.' The twin tailed girl grumbled in thought before pulling her phone out of her hoodie pocket. "Of course." She replied to her sister's condition while dialing her house phone.
Yoshiki, having retreated to his room to drop off his bag, came into the kitchen. "Do you need any help, Hinoe-san?" He asked, looking over to where she was standing by the stove.
When he had first moved in he hadn't quite been keen on the idea of making Hinoe do all of the cooking. If he was going to be living with her for an indefinite amount of time he felt that he should strive to help out as much as possible. Over the five or so months he had been living with her, Yoshiki had made it a point to try and learn how to cook. With Hinoe, who was willing to teach him, his ability in the kitchen had improved. He could manage some simple dishes, but he was still nowhere near the level of Asuka, Hinoe, or even his sister.
Hinoe glanced at him, appreciating his offer to help. "If you want you can chop some vegetables for me." She told him, offering him a task.
The blonde nodded, accepting the task, before rolling up his sleeves and washing his hands. The two roommates were quiet for a moment before Hinoe broke the silence. "So, you just happened to bump into my cute little sister, huh?" She quietly asked in a teasing voice. Seeing the telltale blush on his cheeks was enough to make her chuckle in amusement. It was always fun to tease Yoshiki about his feelings for her little sister.
"It was a coincidence." Willing away the heat in his cheeks, he defended the happenstance for what it was after a moment.
He had been walking home from work, since his boss had told him to go home early tonight. When he passed by that store he had been delighted to see Ayumi. Upon approaching her the dark haired girl had greeted him with a warm smile that radiated happiness. The two had talked for a little bit until Yoshiki had invited her back to his and Hinoe's apartment for dinner. At the prospect of seeing her big sister the dark haired girl had agreed instantly.
The twenty-seven year old woman's lips curved into a tiny smile. "I see, I see..." Hinoe said before looking into the living room, where Ayumi was currently on the phone informing their mother that she was at their apartment. In a quiet voice she asked. "Are you still going to do it tomorrow?"
The blonde glanced at her with a nervous expression before switching his gaze to Ayumi and then back to Hinoe. "Yeah." He said quietly as the heat in his cheeks returned at full force.
Ayumi's elder sister smiled encouragingly at the blonde. "Good luck, Kishinuma-kun. I know that it'll go well for you." Yoshiki offered a thankful nod as she turned back to the stove. He was nervous as hell for tomorrow, but he was so ready.
After dinner Yoshiki offered to do the dishes while the two siblings went into the living room to talk. "I remember my second year culture festival." Hinoe reminisced to her sister with a fond smile. "My class did a play, but unfortunately I wasn't much of an actor so I just handed out fliers." She had a look of nostalgia for her high school days.
Ayumi smiled. "My class is doing a red bean soup for the festival. I drew the poster, my classmates said that it came out good but..." Well she always was her worst critic.
Hinoe gave her sister a warm look. "I'm sure it's lovely, I wish you had shown it to me. I always enjoy seeing your drawings." She told her.
Ayumi smiled at the compliment. "I'll be sure to get a copy." The twin tailed girl promised with an appreciative nod.
Conversation drifted to the impending departure of her friend. "Tomorrow will be Suzumoto-san's last day at Kisaragi." Ayumi told her sister, feeling sad just thinking about it. "But it'll be okay, because we'll be able to see each other during vacation." The dark haired girl said, trying to keep upbeat. "And also I found something neat, a way for us all to stay connected." Hinoe raised an eyebrow as she prompted her little sister to keep speaking.
Reaching into her bag Ayumi pulled out the paper doll, not seeing the alarmed look on Hinoe's face. "I saw a post about it on Saenoki Naho's blog. It's called the Sachiko Ever After Charm. And all you need to do is-." She was cut off as she felt a gentle yet firm hand on her shoulder. Looking up she saw her older sister's expression, more serious than she had ever seen. "N-Nee-chan?"
"Ayumi." Hinoe said, her voice very tense as she looked at the paper doll in her little sister's hands. "I don't think you should do that charm." The older woman informed her younger sister after a lengthy pause.
"Huh? Why not?" Ayumi asked, her expression morphed into one of bafflement. What was wrong with her charm? Why was her big sister making such a scary expression?
Taking a deep breath Hinoe explained the bad vibe she was receiving from the paper doll. "I'm getting a very bad feeling looking at that doll. I feel that if you go through with the charm something horrible will happen. Something you won't be able to fix. Please, promise me that you won't do the charm and that you'll dispose of the doll."
A part of Ayumi wanted to argue that there was nothing wrong with a silly little charm, but the worried look in her sister's eye was enough to make her pause. If Hinoe was that concerned maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to brush her warning off. Now that she thought about it, while reading Naho's instructions for the charm a part of Ayumi had felt that something was off, but had chosen to ignore her reservations at the time.
Pursing her lips Ayumi found herself nodding at her sister's words. If Hinoe felt that it was that important then tonight when she went home she would tear the doll to shreds and forget about it. She'd find another way to keep her friends connected.
"Okay, Onee-chan, I promise." At her agreement Hinoe visually relaxed.
After Yoshiki finished washing the dishes he joined the two siblings for a little bit. Eventually though Ayumi had to go home as they still had school tomorrow. As the dark haired girl made for the door Yoshiki had jumped at the chance to walk her home. Even though Ayumi weakly protested that he didn't need to do that he wouldn't take no for an answer.
The walk home was filled with discussion of the culture festival for tomorrow. The blonde had expressed some excitement at attending this year. Last year he hadn't bothered, not really having any friends to enjoy it with, but this year was different. Looking at the dark haired girl walking beside him he smiled, it was thanks to her that he was where he was today. 'And tomorrow I'm going to tell her.' Yoshiki silently resolved.
After escorting Ayumi to her front door the blonde bid her good night, with the promise to see her the next day.
She had just finished eating breakfast the morning of the culture festival, when Ayumi entered her room to grab her bag. At the unexpected sound of her phone chirping at her she paused. "Huh?" The dark haired girl wondered who could be calling her. Picking her phone up she was surprised to see that the caller was Yoshiki. Why was he calling her before school? "Hello?" She greeted unsurely as she put the phone to her ear.
"He-hey, Shinozaki." Yoshiki greeted, trying to sound casual but failing. "Uh..."
Ayumi raised an eyebrow. What was wrong? "Kishinuma-kun, are you alright?" She asked, wondering why he sounded odd.
The blonde released a shaky breath. "Ye-yeah." His voice sounded somewhat strained. "I...Can you meet me in the park? The one near my workplace, before school?"
Ayumi glanced at the clock, having woken up early for the festival she had more than enough time to go meet him. Though she was curious as to why Yoshiki wanted her to meet him in the park. 'Does he want to walk to school together?' They could have just met at his apartment. Ayumi frowned in confusion, but didn't argue. "Okay, I guess."
She heard him breath a sigh of relief. "Cool, thanks Shinozaki. I'll see you in a bit." He said before hanging up.
Ayumi pulled the phone away from her ear and looked oddly at the screen. "What's up with him?" Him calling her out of the blue at this time of day was odd. If he needed to contact her early in the morning he normally did through text. "Whatever it is, it must be important." She decided that now was a good time as any to leave.
He was seated on a bench when she arrived, looking at him sitting on that particular bench brought up memories of the day she apologized to him after their big fight five months ago. With a frown she pushed thoughts of that incident to the back of her mind and hastened her steps. He didn't notice her at first, so lost in his thoughts. Ayumi raised an eyebrow at his distractedness.
Seeing as he still had yet to notice her presence, even though she was standing just a few feet away she decided to call out to him. "Good morning, Kishinuma-kun." She greeted him like it was any other day.
The blonde jumped slightly before looking up at her in surprise, wondering when she had snuck up on him. With a nervous smile he greeted her. "Go-good morning, Shinozaki..."
When he didn't say much else, Ayumi realized that she would have to be the one to break the silence. "So...why did you want me to meet you here? Is something the matter?" She inquired, wondering what was going through her friend's head. 'Kishinuma-kun seemed to be thinking about something...' Ayumi recalled him being lost in thought upon her arrival.
"N-no, nothing's wrong..." The blonde wiped some imaginary dust off his pants leg before standing up. "I...I just needed to tell you something."
Ayumi tilted her head, doe eyes staring back at him. "Tell me something?"
Yoshiki looked back at her, his heart beating so loud in his ears he was certain that she could hear it too. "Yeah." This was it, this was the moment he had been waiting for and he couldn't wait any longer for it to come. Taking the plunge he spoke. "Shinozaki Ayumi, I'm in love with you..." He told her in an uncharacteristically soft voice as she gaped at him.
Blue eyes widened as she registered the words. Ayumi couldn't believe that he had just said those words to her. In the time they had known each other she would have never expected that sentence to fall out of her blonde friend's mouth. After everything they had been through she didn't question his sincerity, because she could see it in his expression and had heard it in his voice. Yoshiki wasn't the type to joke about this sort of thing. He wouldn't bring her out here and tell her this as a prank, so she had little choice but to accept that Yoshiki had feelings for her.
When she didn't speak Yoshiki took that as a sign to keep talking. "The day we met...I think that was the moment when you first captivated me. You...You were the first person to stand up for me. You believed in me. You even cried on my behalf." He said with a soft chuckle as he recalled that day, how she had even lied for him. Not taking his eyes off of the surprised girl he continued. "I never properly thanked you for that day. I'm sure for you it was just a simple case of stopping a stupid delinquent from making a huge mistake, but for me...it was everything."
Ayumi didn't know what to say, she had never expected Yoshiki of all people to confess to her. As much as she hated to say it, if she claimed to feel the same way he did then she'd be a liar. However in the same breath if she said that butterflies didn't appear in her stomach at his confession then she'd still be lying. Biting her lip she looked at the blonde boy, he hadn't looked this vulnerable since the time they reconciled in this very park.
Realizing that she had yet to properly answer him the twin tailed girl stepped forward. "I...Kishinuma-kun, I can't say I feel the same way as you." The momentary flash of defeat in his eyes made her heart cry out for him. She hated seeing that look in his eye. "But I can't say that I don't feel anything." Ayumi quickly added in, her face heating up at the admission.
Yoshiki felt a momentarily surge of hopefulness before nodding at her answer. He felt that her response was far more positive than negative. Reaching into his jacket pocket he produced two tickets for a local art museum. "Th-this Saturday, will you go out with me?" He asked, his tone slightly nervous. Despite Ayumi claiming that she couldn't deny feeling something for him he still felt that rejection wasn't completely off the table.
Ayumi couldn't say no, she didn't want to say no. She was nervous and unsure as to where this would go, but she wanted to try. Yoshiki deserved a chance, he was her close friend who she cared dearly for. Maybe she wasn't in love with him right now, but that didn't mean that she couldn't see herself falling in love with him. With a timid smile of her own she accepted one of the tickets. "Yes." The thankful smile he gave her was enough to make her own heart start racing.
The awkward air remained around them for a few seconds until Yoshiki cleared his throat. "Then...I guess we should get going." Ayumi looked at her watch and agreed with him. If they wanted to be on time they really would need to hurry.
The culture festival was a roaring success. Class 2-9's red bean soup sold exceptionally well, Ayumi was pretty pleased with the turnout. However watching the rest of her friends, minus Yoshiki, walk off to check out the haunted house exhibit was enough to momentarily make her forget that.
Cheeks flushing in mild embarrassment Ayumi glanced at him. "You didn't need to stay with me, I said it was okay." Ayumi told the blonde who was currently seated beside her. Before their group of friends had left he had mentioned the haunted house that another class was hosting, and asked if they wanted to check it out. Everyone had seemed so excited about it and ready to go.
Sadly Ayumi had been forced to decline and stay behind as she had to watch her class's exhibit. Yet when she told everyone to go on without her the blonde had been adamant in not leaving her alone. She had made it a point to ignore the wink Seiko shot them as the group walked away.
So now here they were, seated next to each other. The awkward air from earlier was mostly forgotten. Though in her mind she still had to scream at herself that yes, she was going on a date with Kishinuma Yoshiki this weekend, five days from now to be exact. That was not enough time to wrap her head around all of this.
With his feelings finally out in the open the blonde seemed much more relaxed than he had this morning. "Eh, I didn't want to leave you alone." The blonde admitted to her with a warm half smile half smirk that Ayumi was slowly realizing was reserved only for her. The butterflies in her stomach needed to leave her alone.
Ayumi gave him a look, slightly annoyed by him going out of his way for her. "I told you it was fine." The dark haired girl repeated. "I don't like people going out of their way for me..." She told him in a huff, her lips dipping into a small pout..
Yoshiki looked at her for a moment before a low chuckle escaped him. "Well, what if I told you it was for my benefit?" Ayumi looked at him oddly and he felt himself becoming nervous. "I-I...A while back I decided the thing I cherish the most between us are these quiet moments." Both teens looked embarrassed by his admission but Yoshiki kept speaking. "Where we're just sitting together and enjoying each other's company." He looked away, afraid that she might think him weird for saying that. "I wanted more of that..." He said, still finding it hard to meet her gaze.
Ayumi watched him, finding this side of him kind of cute. 'Did I just think that?' She asked herself before shaking her head. Her eyes trailed down to his hand that was just hanging loosely by his side. She was briefly reminded of Shishido Yui's story about her high school boyfriend, how when they held hands their hearts were connected.
Ayumi decided that she wanted to feel that way, she wanted to see if holding Yoshiki's hand would allow her that feeling. '...' Before she could even question what she was doing Ayumi reached for the blonde boy's hand. His hand was smooth and calloused...and warm. '...and a little sweaty.' Though when she thought about it, she didn't mind too much, it actually felt nice to hold his hand. Ayumi's lips curved into a tiny, satisfied, smile as she laced her fingers with his.
At feeling a smaller hand in his own the blonde whipped his head around to look at her. His expression was one of bafflement, as though he couldn't comprehend her initiating something remotely intimate between them. "Sh-Shinozaki..." He said in a quiet voice, his ears turning a light pink.
Ayumi looked at him with nervous eyes, suddenly afraid that she might have overstepped some sort of line. "Th-this is okay, right?" She asked, her heart rate speeding up as she waited for his answer. It seemed that he was able to make her nervous too. Despite her uncertainty regarding their relationship, she found that she didn't want to let go of his hand.
The hand she was holding squeezed back and she knew instantly that his heart had to be beating just as fast as hers. "Yeah..." The blonde told her as he relaxed in his seat and allowed himself to enjoy the feeling of holding the hand of the girl he liked.
Ayumi watched him for a moment before a relieved smile graced her face. Readjusting in her seat she focused her eyes forward before allowing herself to scoot a little closer to the blonde. 'This is nice...' Sitting quietly with a boy who likes you, one who you may like...it's nice.
When the rest of their friends came back and they were still holding hands, Seiko's squeal of congratulations was heard all across the school.
And that's everything. I hope that you all enjoyed this, I know I did. Anyway a couple of things I want to announce. Firstly, having gone through the earlier chapters of this story I have noticed that there are some glaring mistakes that I have missed, a few misspelled or misused words, among other things. Eventually I want to go through and fix these. It will probably be a while before I do this, but eventually I will. When I do I intend to alter all of the chapters in one big go and post another chapter informing my readers that the story has been revised, before taking it down.
Secondly, more important news. There will be a sequel for this. Surprising right? Well to be honest I had planned to have a continuation of this story almost since the beginning, what has changed however is what the sequel will be. Initially I was going to have the group go into Heavenly Host but decided against that, hence why it's impossible for them to go now.
Instead what I am planning is a series of one-shots set before, during, and after this story. One chapter might be set six months before the events of this story, while another might be set five years down the line. Either way I hope my readers will return to read this, the sequel to this story will be called, Life Together.