Warning: Guro/violence (nothing explicit, just ideologically sensitive.)
Side note: Tei's last name means "healthy sound".
I don't actually like Tei much! Making this work was a challenge. I'm interested in trying to write about more minor pairings/duos/characters in the Vocaloid fandom. Also, no contempt towards Miku intended. Note that this is mainly from Tei's perspective, so of course she will project Miku in a negative light.
To put it simply, today was simply not Sukone Tei's day.
'Deep breaths,' she reminded herself, 'Don't think about it. Don't think about it. Focus only on the knife.'
She chopped rhythmically at a cucumber to accompany her salad. The silver-haired girl found the sound of the knife sliding through its target and meeting the countertop with evenly paced beats to be rather satisfying. 'Focus on the sound.'
Slice, slice, slice.
With a long sleeve, she vigorously rubbed away some tears. Now wasn't the time to be crying. She took another cucumber out of the fridge. Not that she even wanted to eat so many, but she needed to hear that sound.
Slice, slice, slice.
It was like a quiet lullaby. Something utterly tuneless, but droning at just the right frequency to help her thoughts stray somewhere meaningless. What kind of dressing did she want on her salad? She wondered if blue cheese would be better with all these cucumbers or not.
Finally tossing the ingredients together, Tei curled up all alone on a couch and poked halfheartedly at the snack she had devoted so much time towards making. The sound of the fork piercing the moist, lush lettuce leaves was nice, but not quite lyrical enough. Her mind had no choice but to go elsewhere.
In solitude, her mind converses with her about things most distasteful.
She knew she shouldn't be thinking about it again, replaying the events in her mind. Even just touching upon the idea of remembering was making her heartbeat quicken, and it was disgustingly loud in that dead, empty apartment of hers. She pressed more salad than she really wanted into her fork, just to make some noise. One of her legs thumped nervously against the couch.
Thump, thump, thump.
She yelled internally for it to stop, but already, the film reel was rolling. Silence—the show had begun.
It was about five in the morning when Tei had awakened earlier that day. Face washed, teeth brushed, and a brightness all her own—as the sun wasn't quite ready yet—Tei donned an apron and flipped merrily through recipes with only her beloved on her mind.
Today was Kagamine Len's birthday, and Tei was finally going to put her baking hobby to good use.
As she gathered ingredients into a perfect assembly on her countertop, turned on the oven and basked in its warm glow with a cheery, nameless tune forming at the back of her throat, the lovestruck girl fantasized over how her crush would receive the gift. She knew he'd be happy, regardless of how successful the results were, because that's just how sweet he was. But she really wanted to blow him away. This wasn't going to be any ordinary cake. It was going to be a masterpiece worthy of her sweet Len.
She poured generous portions of white sugar and brown sugar into a bowl, and continued to think about Len. Tei felt a bit silly for acting like a giddy child, but how could she help it? Her heart flowed with so many overwhelming and sincere feelings for the boy, she couldn't help but smile and gush when his name crossed her thoughts. She could go on forever listing the things she liked about him. His smile, which had a calming effect on Tei like nothing else had ever had before; his mannerisms, which were reserved, considerate, and full of boyish charm and innocence; his voice, which bubbled brightly, at pitches left still unburdened by the strains of puberty. But most of all, he was the first person to reach out to Tei and pull her out—if even only for a moment—from her lonely world of solitude. The girl's state of emotional instability had become a fiercely catching, wildfire-like rumor when she transferred to her current school, and before she even had a chance to form a renewed image for herself, already were people shunning her from their social circles.
Not like she cared, she told herself at the time, using the same over-sized sleeve to smudge away stray tears. She didn't want their friendship, either.
Then a few months ago, finally a bit of good fortune had shared itself with the lowly girl, and she had the joy of crossing paths with Kagamine Len. 'Are you okay?' she remembers him asking so clearly. She remembers how his thin eyebrows were drawn together in genuine and pure concern. She remembers the comfortable sensation of his small, warm hand rubbing at her damp cheeks. (Ever since, she couldn't bear to ever rub away tears with her own hands. Their coarseness only reminds her of how much softer Len's were. She opts for the fabric of sleeves, which is a texture altogether different, so there's no resemblance or comparisons to be made.) From the moment that she realized, yes, he actually cared about her and her well-being, she had fallen head-over-heels. No one had done her such a favor since…
...She couldn't remember when the last time was, and that was all the more reason to love him for his generosity.
However, even in the midst of such a blessing as Len, she still had troubles—these ones perhaps even deeper and more grave than the old ones. Tei felt such great unhappiness when others demanded her love's attention. She knew—she KNEW—that she couldn't expect Len to focus solely on her, because that's just how 'normal' people were. But, she supposed, she wasn't really normal, so she had no qualms over loving, thinking of, and desiring Len, and no one outside of Len. Sure, she persuaded herself to smile and make small chitchat with the other people that he called 'friends', but regardless of whoever she was talking to, her eyes were ultimately on HIM. She wasted as little space in her thoughts on other things as possible.
Especially that girl…
Tei was innately jealous towards any girl for whom Len spared second glances—maybe excluding Rin since she seemed more like a sister figure—but that girl in particular made the silver-haired girl's temperature rise uncomfortably.
That Hatsune Miku.
Who was she to be the target of love and adoration from the entire school? Who was she to have a voice, so much clearer and more pristine than Tei's? Who was she to grab Len's arm so familiarly when they met? Who was she to make Len blush like that from something as simple as saying his name?
No, no. No reason to get worked up at a time like this. Tei shooed away the thoughts of that wretched girl. Such a distraction would just cause her to make mistakes, and she was determined to do no such thing to Len's cake. She channeled her frustration into her right arm and stirred batter with the energy of a blender.
Hours, several slip-ups, and a few burns later, Tei was boxing up a beautiful cake. The texture was perfect—moist and smooth, with a pleasant and soft texture that broke cleanly between teeth. The frosting was delicious and addictive—sweet, but not saccharine, and flavored with Len's favorite fruit (a taste Tei was dubious over succeeding as a frosting, but her expertise had made it work.) Her clean and precise frosting cursive neatly spelled out "Happy Birthday, Len!" Symmetrical, balanced, and beautiful to boot, Tei wasn't one to praise herself, but she really had to give herself a mental pat on the back for this one. The cake was every bit as perfect as she had hoped it would be.
She glanced at the clock. Almost seven. She'd better get dressed and ready if she wanted to get to school on time (and she definitely did; she couldn't wait another minute longer to give Len his present.)
"Len…" Tei uttered his name quietly, sudden stage fright hindering her every move. She knew she had no reason to be nervous, but just seeing his face was enough to make her choke on words. Luckily for her, despite the numerous people clambering over him and wishing him a happy birthday, he seemed to have heard her small voice.
"Tei! Hey!" He grinned and waved, trying to push his way through classmates to approach her. "Whoa, what's this?"
Shakily, she extended the large box to the boy. She felt her hands growing clammy, and the fact that his hands brushed against hers as he received the package did not help one bit. "Happy birthday, Len," said Tei, feeling even her ears begin to heat up. The flapping wings in her stomach beat ten times more furiously as Len's face illuminated.
"Aw, thanks! You didn't have to…! Can I open it now?" Tei nodded mutely, so Len peeked open the lid. The smell immediately seeped out of the box, and the way his expression grew brighter and brighter made the girl so indescribably happy, all she could do was flush and enjoy his brilliant smile. "Whoa! Did you make this? It smells amazing!"
Again, Tei nodded mutely, but this time with more energy, and his infectious, goofy grin plastered all over her face. Len continued to marvel at her craftsmanship.
"Geez, Tei! Thank you so much! I can't wait to eat this! I really appreciate it."
She could have died and gone to heaven right there.
And in retrospect, she kind of wished she had, because what happened next almost completely spoiled her giddiness.
"Leeen!" A familiar voice that Tei had learned to loathe echoed loudly throughout the busy classroom. "Happy birthdaaaay!" With a swish of teal and a thud of bodies colliding, suddenly Hatsune Miku was crushing Len in a very uncomfortable looking embrace. Tei was very conscious of the growing crimson on Len's cheeks, but did and said nothing.
"M-Miku! Thanks…!" he stuttered with an awkward giggle.
"I brought a little gifty gift for you!" the taller girl hummed musically, snatching up a box she had tossed carelessly onto a desk prior to tackling Len. "I hope you like it! I picked it up this morning at a really cute bakery down the street."
Len expressed his gratitude, which, in Tei's desperate opinion, felt slightly less sincere than the thanks he had given her. He took the box, which was plain with the store's logo, and not yellow—Len's favorite color—like Tei's box was. He lifted the lid to reveal a small, generic cake. Tei was both angry and relieved; angry that some of her thunder had been stolen, relieved that her cake looked a million times better.
"Thanks a ton, Miku! It looks great!" Len chirped, and flashed that same toothy smile in Miku's direction.
Miku flinging herself onto Len. Okay, Tei was used to that by now (somewhat). Miku bringing a duplicate of the gift Tei had slaved over. Well, that was just an unlucky coincidence. But Len sharing his smile with that girl.
It wasn't until the taste of iron filled her mouth that Tei realized she was biting her tongue mercilessly. She knew if she watched any long, the boiling hatred that scorched her veins would make itself visible on her face. So she seated herself at her desk by the window and tried to appear fascinated by the clouds outside.
Tei knew it was petty. She knew it.
But she couldn't stop hating Miku.
The agonizing day of school was over. Tei tried to put on a happy face for Len's sake, but she couldn't rid herself of the bitter taste that morning had left on her tongue. To make things worse, it seemed like everyone wanted Len's attention, and she knew Len was trying to divide it evenly, but she really wished they could just have some time alone.
Tei lit up with a wonderful idea. She could ask Len out for a birthday dinner! Even if it couldn't be today, that would be alright. It was a good excuse to ask her crush out on an inconspicuous date, something she had yet to work up the courage to do.
"Len!" Miku called out to the blonde before Tei had the chance to act upon her plan. Tei watched dumbly, waiting for her turn to talk. "Are you busy tonight?"
"Huh? Ummm, I don't think so. Why?"
"Oh, I was just thinking, maybe I'd take you out for your birthday? We can go shopping or something, too, if you want. I've got that new car, so I thought we could drive around…"
Rin teasingly objected, "Are you gonna kidnap him and leave me home all alone?"
Miku giggled. "Don't be silly. You can come too." Rin cheered and asked where they were going to eat dinner. The girls chattered about restaurants with Len wedged between them, and they sort of inadvertently carried him away. Tei had never felt more invisible. Len's back had been turned to her, so that couldn't be helped, but didn't Miku see her standing there? Not like Tei even wanted to, but didn't it even occur to Miku to ask her if she wanted to go too? Tei couldn't help but feel as though she were intentionally snubbed.
She probably was. Miku just didn't want competition around. She wanted to steal Len—the only happiness in Tei's life—away. How ridiculous. Tei knew Len loved her. He had to. Why else would he give he so much attention? Why else would he talk to her so kindly? Miku was just a siren. A hideous monster with a beautiful mask. Tei knew her type. She knew it too well. Miku was bad for Len. Miku was bad. Evil, even. Len shouldn't even talk to her. Or see her. Ever again. Tei had to do something. For Len's sake. Had to deal with that girl. That monster.
As Miku, Rin, and Len left the classroom, Miku glanced over her shoulder and cast Tei a look. Then they left. Yeah, she was definitely snubbed.
There were a lot of pleasant little rhythms going on in this room. Tei took a sort of childish comfort in them all.
The clock on the wall faithfully counted by Mississippis.
Tick, tick, tick.
Each breath she took exhaled loudly through her nostrils.
Sigh, sigh, sigh.
Her heart was surging like a drum.
Thump, thump, thump.
Slice, slice, slice.
…her knife cut nicely...
Slice, slice, slice.
Tears slid off her face and dissolved into teal hair.
Plip, plip, plip.
Tei wondered miserably if Len would still love her.