Disclaimer: It's a work of fiction and just having fun with my favorite SNS pairing
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Aida Shion was as suave as the day I met him.
Actually, I think he may have made a bit more effort on his coiffed, fresh clean shirt with neatly rolled out sleeves. Meanwhile, across the table, I felt underdressed in my bikini with my midriff exposed.
Better suck in my gut...
"You look great," Aida-san stated. Those words coming from him were sincerely flattering. I was fully subjected to his charming personality,
I found myself fiddling with the bandana tied around my wrist to calm down while I muttered a thanks. "So, how have you been?"...let's move things along.
"Pretty good: just the usual promotional shoots, filming an MV and a studio recording. I've a rehearsal tomorrow before the concert on Saturday." he then beamed brightly, "but I arrived a day early to find you."
His words and boyish grin could make a girl swoon.
I dismissed his words as the usual celebrity witty banter; of course he had a good reason to find me: "I can't thank you enough for holding on to my phone and forwarding the calls."
Aida-san produced my phone which had a new screen protector and covering, "I hope you won't mind." He placed the old cover next to it.
Whoa, I was not expecting such service from him, "I like it, thanks!" I shared a heartfelt grateful eye contact with him.
"One Shinko Macha. Thank you for waiting and enjoy your drink." our part-timer, Katsura-san, a young girl from a local middle school, was starstruck the moment Aida-san revealed his identity. He replied with a small smile, as natural as could be, but it made her blush deeply and scurry away in fangirl giddiness.
Aida-san pulled out his own hand phone and proceeded to take a few photos, posing for some with the drink as the main subject. I gave a small laugh at this amusing side of him, the typical "influencer" life while he uploaded on his social media.
"This tastes good." He said after a good pull, "what's in it?" I explained the drink to him, leaving out some details of that night the drink was made. "So, that's how the name, 'Shinko' came about?" Aida-san looked towards the other half of the drink's name sake, "Yukihira Soma… haven't a chance to speak with him." He then looked back to me and considered me for a moment, "I don't mean to assume and I didn't ask before... you're both not dating, are you?"
"Wha- I… I mean we…" I glanced over to Yukihira, who was busying himself with some kitchen prep for the evening service.
Sensing my sight, he looked up and caught my eyes. 'You alright?' His look conveyed to which I just nodded slightly in reply and he resumed whatever he was doing.
I turned back to Aida-san, who was patiently waiting for my response despite my stammer, "N-No… no, we're not."
"Ah, I thought to ask. I mean, both of you were having that bit with the camera earlier…" his tone was teasing, with an edge of seeking for more information.
I realized how it looked, considering that it was one of the first things he saw while he waited for my availability. "It's nothing," I laughed to mask my nerves; just under the table my hand was now twisting the ends of the bandana.
"You're Aida Shion!" Our attention was drawn away, and I can't believe I am saying this: I'm glad to see Yukihira's supposed girlfriend, Fujiwara Yumiko, here. "This is surprising." She threw me an impressed expression.
"Pleased to meet you." Aida-san politely responded with a slight head tilt and light smile, seating relaxed, though it seemed he was more interested to continue our conversation.
Fujiwara proceeded to ask the usual questions that fangirls would like "When did you arrive? What's the next single? How do you reach such high notes? May I suc-" … alright that last one is something I made up but you get what I mean. All questions were politely entertained by Aida-san until Yukihira came along.
"Ah, Yukihira Soma, right? Would you like to join us?" Aida-san somehow sounded glad for Yukihira's arrival, he joked, "you know, for someone whose number that I have already memorized, we haven't really chatted." right off the gate, Aida-san took the lead in the conversation.
"Wow, AiShi has your number?!" Fujiwara remarked to Yukihira, excitedly wide-eyed. Aside, I found it amusing how her cool façade drops in the face of a celebrity.
I threw a questioning look at the word, 'AiShi', to which Aida-san just smirked, "Fan name."
Meanwhile, Yukihira had adopted a neutral expression, in contrast from his usual cheer… Oh come on; what's with that? "Just some circumstances." Yukihira replied and before Fujiwara could probe further, he addressed Aida-san, "Though it's thanks to you that Hisako is able to work."
Aida-san eyebrows raised at Yukihira's use of my first name. A pause fell at our small gathering as I looked between Yukihira and Aida-san who were sizing each other up.
You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Fujiwara to the rescue again, "well, it's nice meeting you, AiShi," she slid her hand into Yukihira's, "I'm impressed that you're acquainted with my boyfriend."
And with just a few words, the situation was defused. Aida-san brightened with an inaudible "oh" and his smile widened as he turned towards me, "so, I'm thinking to ask if you'd like to join me for supper tonight, Arato-san."
I felt different looks falling on me at his words:
Confident patience as Aida-san waited for my response
Expectant by Fujiwara, as if I would be crazy to turn it down.
Curiosity from our two part timers from their position at the counter,
And Yukihira: well, he was… neutral.
Honestly, I was hoping he would have expressed something.
How often does a celebrity invite you for a meal with them? I thought being around Erina-sama should have made me used to that kind of thing. But, for whatever reason, I found myself...
..I was hoping to find a hint of disapproval to prompt a rejection.
But that neutral expression was, inexplicably, annoying.
It's just supper. If anything, it's a chance for me to repay Aida-san for his assistance in the past week. Besides, Aida-san's use of my family name to address me did not escape my notice. It should be a platonic invite.
Fine. If there are no objections from the table, "Sure. After our evening service."
It was a busy afternoon service as Aida-san's social media post made its rounds and even started a new "#新辛抹茶 (#shinkomatcha)" hashtag, Despite the increase in workload, my mind was more on my supper appointment with a local celebrity.
Yukihira had adopted his usual service persona, but I have come to see through him and knew something was on his mind.
If I had to guess, it should have to do with Aida-san.
Hey, he could have said his piece.
Evening came and Aida-san turned up just as we closed the shop. "Are you ready to go?"
Huh? Are we not having supper here?
"I would love to try your cooking another time," he winked in reply, "but for tonight, I would like to take you out."
Oh wow… I was not expecting that.
Well, it has been over a week since i got here and treating myself would be a nice break to the routine. "I'll get changed."
"It's alright, you're fine in that," Aida-san assured me before ushering me out of the restaurant and to a chauffeured car.
Swept up in the moment, I didn't even have an opportunity to let Yukihira know that I was heading out.
We were already well underway when I realized my phone and wallet was still back at the shack. "Where are we going?" I assume tonight was to be hosted by him and I didn't really want to spoil the mood by insisting we turn back.
Besides, with a chauffeur and who I was with known, I could be fairly certain nothing bad would happen.
"It's a surprise." Aida-san could barely hold in this enthusiasm. "I know it was a long day for you; so, thanks for agreeing to meet."
"It's the least I can do for your help in the past week, though I should be treating…"
Aida-san waved it off, "It's alright; besides, it allows the pleasure of a reason to look for you."
I hid a polite laugh at his forwardness, feeling my cheeks warm; I had never experienced such kind of attention before and found it flattering.
I did not find it...objectionable .
"So, how did you get into the singing business?" I asked, moving the conversation on.
He told me his story of how he was found just two years ago and climbed his way up to his status as a local celebrity. However, he admitted that while he liked the attention and adoration his fame brought him, he did not appreciate the false friends, much less simpering relatives.
And he confessed that he did not like to be put in that spot. "With fame, Real friends are hard to find."
We soon arrived at a seafront hotel. Wow, was where he was lodging? It was a relatively large hotel for a seaside location. Though being used to this kind of place in my line of work, being brought there took me aback... I mean, why are we here?
Sensing my hesitation, he assured me, "We're only going to the restaurant, it's a pretty well known one." He then reached out a hand to help me out of the car, "I did say I wanted to treat you, didn't I?"
I looked at his outstretched hand for a moment, then looked up to his assuring face and the professional chauffeur behind him. It should be alright to follow along and allow him to help me out, "I'm just thinking how underdressed I was for this place." I said the first thing that came to mind.
Aida-san grinned as he ushered me through the main doors, "Let's look into that." At his nod, two concierge staff walked over with an ivory white dress and a box to present to us. "These are for you." Aida-san looked excited about this. The dress was in a cut that was fitting for beach wear yet would not be out of place in a semi-formal setting. In the box lay a pair of white heeled shoes. "I hope you like them."
Admittingly, it was a beautiful dress as I felt the high quality cotton of the dress through my fingers, however, "I can't accept this.'
His smile faltered. "Is it not to your liking?"
"I mean, it's a nice dress but…" Why is he giving me these? However, being aware of the concierge staff, I was suddenly self conscious that I was making this awkward. "You're too generous."
A relief came over the atmosphere, "Don't mention it; go try them on."
Personally, I would prefer not to. However, he was hosting, and since it has already come to this, I may a well go with the flow.
And so, I ended up in the flowing dress which, being loose, fitted well.
On the other hand, the shoes were slightly too big, but the hotel staff surprisingly produced two more pairs to fit me into the right one. It was when I got out of the changing room that I found that he had actually bought shoes of different sizes for my benefit.
Clearly, guessing a dress size was easier than guessing someone's shoe size. The extent he had gone to accommodate me was really surprising.
Despite my reservations, I liked the way everything came together.
I was then escorted through the hotel's restaurant, conscious that I had turned a few heads from the other patrons. Being Erina-sama's secretary, I was used to having looks focused on us as I shadowed her. Now, being at the center of attention, this was different.
"You look great." Aida-san remarked as soon as I came into view and stood up to pull my chair back for me like a gentleman would.
I muttered a polite thanks as I settled in. It was a good class restaurant and we were seated in a private section with views of the sea. The maitre d' greeted me and offered me a menu to peruse. My mind, however, was still on the whole situation so I did not give much thought on what I picked.
Just something with uni in it.
We fell into small talk, all the while I was finding the right moment to ask him a few questions. The opportunity came in the middle of our meal when Aida-san suddenly dropped this bombshell:
"I must say, I'm glad to have met you at that station."
Whoa there, that sounded heavy, but I finally was able to simply ask "Why?"
"Because I met with someone who has caught my attention."
"I'm sure with your fame, you would have many that will clamor for it."
He scoffed lightly, setting his chopsticks down, "They clamor for the wrong reasons: Access, social clout, money." he punctuated by counting off the three items with his fingers. For the first time, his emotions were on display. His tone then softened, "even those I have known since middle and high school... "
Wow, this was a touchy subject for him… I guess it was only appropriate that I set my utensils down too.
He continued, "I'm sick of that. Fans are fans; I was just being placed on a pedestal. You saw how your friends looked at me…" he reached out and covered my left hand with his right, "Unlike you, Arato-san: from our first meeting and until now, you haven't changed and treated me on the same level."
I did not know how to respond to his words. For my part, I guess I was used to being around celebrities that his status would not have affected me as much as others. Although, "I understand where you're coming from."
He seemed glad at my words, but I pressed on: "but I want to know, what are your intentions?" he looked at me questioningly, "why did you bring me here? This dress and shoes… you are obviously getting to something." I took this time to withdraw my hands from under his to make my point, "what are your intentions with this?"
He was stunned for a moment, "Is something wrong?"
"I want..." better to get to the point, "this is quite a lot you've prepared for me and of course I would be curious what your goals are."
He considered my words, then apparently seemed to understand what I meant, "What if I said I'm interested in you?"
I was caught like a deer in headlights. This was a new experience. Fortunately, I still had my wits about me, "Then I'll point out that we barely know each other. Getting all these is not something people usually do."
He laughed, "I like your quick mind and forwardness; it's different from those who would usually jump at the opportunity of an open wallet."
"Not to sniff at your gift but I was referring to the meaning behind it."
He nodded, "Yes, I've read about your family; these gifts are more of a consideration than material value. Aside: it's impressive what they are currently working on in China." He pressed on, "I wanted to do something nice and took a chance to treat you." a loose interlock of his fingers in front of him, "and in terms of getting to know each other... we can work on that together."
I found myself unable to refute his words. It was not odd he had read about my family; just head to the corner pharmacy and you would likely find it a subsidiary of my family's holdings.
What? You thought the Erina-sama's family would just let anyone near them?
Anyway, maybe I was just overthinking this and had made assumptions against his character. He may be upfront and had toed the line of being pushy, but I could not fault him.
And I would be lying if I said I wasn't flattered.
The meal went by without fuss but that matter was still on my mind all the way through the car ride back.
However, the car did not stop at the shack, we arrived at the concert venue instead. It was unlit but such a huge stage had presence. I have a rough idea what he wanted to do; and I can't say I was not intrigued to have a look around.
"It was on the way back." Aida-san explained, escorting me past the security staff, through the clutter of the backstage and onto the stage.
Despite the lack of lighting, the majesty of the stage was undeniable: Speaker and lighting stacks stood towering over us, while standing at the focal point of the audience area brought up the gravity of the position. I can imagine the deafening cheer of fans, hot lights illuminating every move, and the rush it must feel to be right where I am when the concert is in full swing.
"It's something you have to be here to feel it." As if he read my mind, he took the words right from my mouth. "I had that same look of awe when I felt it the first time I got on stage." He then smirked as an idea came to mind, "you know what will make this moment better? Try a little dance."
I shot a look towards him, questioning if he was serious,
"How often do you get the opportunity to dance on a stage like this?"
That's true, so why not? But, "...I can't dance."
"Sure, you can."
He guided me to the middle of the stage. Interestingly, despite the empty audience area in front of us, I felt excitement building in my chest for this new experience. "This is an easy one, Follow what I do."
I followed Aida-san's choreography: Clumsily uncertain at first, I got a hang of the moves that I began having fun while he sang his songs to accompany the dance.
Being in heels and all, I inevitably tripped and was caught by Aida-san. I was brought out of the moment to his chuckle.
"You did well," a grin of assurance kept the atmosphere casual.
"Thanks." I composed myself, lightly heaving.
Besides the matter of surprising me with the dress, this evening was rather enjoyable. But I had enough for one evening and told him as such.
"Let me walk you back." Aida-san offered, "The restaurant is right there, isn't it?' He was right about that: just a few hundred meters, a 5 minutes walk tops..
I politely declined, saying it's alright but fell on deaf ears as he sent the car ahead. We thus walked on the sand towards my destination. He must have wanted a stroll to enjoy the company as we walked in silence.
While I... I did not feel anything strongly about it.
I mean, it wasn't uncomfortable.
But neither was it remarkable.
We finally got to the shack, the chauffeur waiting beside the car, and I was kind of surprised that the kitchen light was still on. Nonetheless, we stood outside the entrance, the usual cliché of how the night would end. "Thanks for tonight. Although, I should be the one treating you for your help in the past week."
"Let's do it again and we call it even. Besides, it's my pleasure." He said, then paused.
I have read enough light novels to know this was when he would be searching for a cue.
And that cue came in the form of Yukihira stepping out of the shack. "Hey." There was something about the way he said it; it lacked his usual pep.
I would have sworn there a flash of annoyance from Aida-san, but he smirked, "well, this is it. Thanks for your company." He took my hand and held it up, peering into my eyes, "I'll see you tomorrow."
I made a non-committal hum but he took it positively. He shot Yukihira a quick look before getting onto his awaiting car, leaving Yukihira and myself with an awkward atmosphere between us.
It was Yukihira who broke the silence, "You got a new dress." a lower glance, "and shoes." neutral toned, not a question nor accusation, but I knew he had more to say.
"Yes, Aida-san bought them." I replied as I made my way to the residential area, finding it hard to meet him in the eye that I got to the bathroom as swiftly as possible.
Now alone, I had some time to reflect on the evening.
It was… an experience: a new outfit set, dinner by the sea, an ad hoc dance lesson and a walk on the sandy shore.
Is that what you would call… a date?
Though it had its moments, I did not find it something to write home about. His interest was pretty obvious and a nice person. However, inexperienced as I am, was what I am feeling...usual?
A quick shower later, I found Yukihira sitting at the table, clearly waiting. "You're still up?" A glance at the clock confirmed the late hour.
There was a pause before he decided his words, "You just disappeared, without your phone and wallet," he met my eyes, "I had thought something happened."
I immediately prickled, looking away to break eye contact, covering it by setting my items down and getting a cup of water. I was suddenly feeling thirsty.
Yukihira continued, "Seems like you had a good evening."
"It's alright." I took another gulp of water.
"You could at least tell me that you left." his words began to contain undertones of being critical.
I spun around, "I didn't have the time" my words were more forceful than I meant to.
Yukihira got up to his feet, "Don't you think that it was a concern? That you suddenly disappeared?"
"And what's it to you?" I interrupted, "I didn't say anything when you went out with your girlfriend."
"I had thought something happened to you! And-"
"Don't you think I can look after myself?!"
There was a pregnant pause while we stared down at each other. Yukihira pressed on with a frown, "Do you even know how old he is? You saw the way he looked at you. What if he did something to you?"
"I don't understand what you are getting at." I snapped back at him. This thankfully threw him off, as he searched for a response.
A response that I didn't stick around to find out. "This is ridiculous, I'm going to sleep." To make a point, I did not waver from my beeline as I made my way to my room, our shoulders bumping in the process.
I fell into bed, my heart beating in my ears, face warm and restless.
This was the first time I saw Yukihira making that kind of face.
And it pained me to think that I was the cause of it.
Author's note: Thank you for the reviews and feedback! the do give me that kick i need to refocus here :)
I was writing this chapter in the spirit of having both of them getting character development and some build up and foundation for later chapters. Though I would like to make every chapter about fluff to express my preference of this pairing, I would like to portray them as real people with a strong bond at the end of the story.
I thank you all for your reviews and such feedback also allows me to contemplate how things should flow. So please share me your thoughts and we can weave this story together!
Cheers and (though 2 weeks late,) Happy New Year!