The Zai of Reunion

A Law of Ueki Fanfiction

Sano Seiichiro X Rinko Gerrard


Ch. 1 - Invitation


The invitation was delivered by a man in a crisp uniform that was completely incongruous with its patterns of pink lace and yellow flowers. Sano hadn't needed to see the Gerrard Foundation logo on the man's collar to know who had sent him. He took the envelope, opened it, and began to read.

.~*~.

The invitation came just as the first week of summer vacation was beginning. Rinko nearly threw it out along with the junk mail that the Gerrards sometimes got, when her parents' secretaries and personal assistants weren't very thorough with their morning tasks. Her parents weren't very keen on socializing unless it was with the right people, and the right people could generally afford to have their invitations brought in person by some subordinate, rather than having to rely on registered mail. Still, she paused over the envelope. She couldn't quite place it, but it smelled sort of familiar. She thought about it for a while, and decided that the envelope smelled like sandalwood soap over mineral salt or maybe warm metal, the mixed scent one she associated with spas and hot spring resorts.

She opened the envelope. She was right: it had come from Sano Seiichiro, inviting her to the soft opening of his hot spring resort.

She smiled. So he had managed to make his dream come true, she thought. It had taken him over three years, but so what? All in all – especially considering the injuries he'd sustained at the end of the God Battles, and not receiving the Null Zai's aid to boot – he'd done an amazing job…

"Has it really been three years?" she said softly to herself. She looked at the invitation again. There was a small, handwritten note inserted into a corner of it. Ueki, Mori, Hideyoshi, and Kobasen are coming. I have reserved rooms for you.

Isn't that just like Sano, Rinko thought. So presumptuous. I might have been busy. She flipped open the pocket organizer that she had toted around since entering high school, and logged the weekend in among her appointments. Still, since he's already made the arrangements, it's a good thing I hadn't anything planned. It'll be good to see them again.

.~*~.

Sano was a bundle of nerves as he waited for his guests to arrive. He wasn't worried that his place wouldn't come up to scratch. He had worked on it intermittently over the course of three years, taking on odd jobs in the evenings to finance himself rather than attending cram school, spending his weekends and holidays digging and shaping instead of with his peers. The resort was a small one, still, fitting at the most around ten people, but it had a simple and homey elegance, and it wasn't meant to be a business anyway. Nevertheless, Sano was a bit nervous about showing the culmination of his dream to other people.

It's a natural thing, he told himself. We were very good companions, and we were even friends, but I haven't seen them in over two years. Who knows what might have changed.

.~*~.

Nothing much, it seemed, as the group sat down to a small dinner later that evening. Everyone had come and mostly had contributed something to the table, although Sano, as the host, had prepared most of the food. Mori's bentou was, as usual, extremely large and contained something that appeared suspiciously as if it were alive. By now, however, everyone except Kobasen had experienced enough of Mori's cooking to know that no matter how horrible it looked, it actually tasted pretty good. Nobody refused second helpings.

Ueki, too, didn't seem to have changed – he looked as obtuse and acted as directly as ever. He did seem somewhat more… charismatic, but Sano supposed that, with the help of the Zai of Reunion that Ueki had turned the Null Zai into at the end of the God Battles, the talents that he'd lost in battle were slowly beginning to return to their proper owner. (Actually, Ueki still hadn't told anyone what he'd written on the Null Zai, but Mori had found out around seven or eight months after the God Battles and of course she'd spread the information around.) It had hardly surprised anyone that he had chosen something so simple and even frivolous; that was typically Ueki. What was surprising was how wise it seemed, later on, the more one thought of its implications. Here was a prime example. Ueki had once had a Charm Zai; now, apparently, he had it back, and probably a handful or two of others besides. This was a good thing. The last time Sano had been with Ueki, at the end of the God Battles, he'd been one Zai short of completely disappearing.

Sano hadn't been around Hideyoshi and Kobasen long enough to judge if they had changed: most of the time that Mori and Ueki had spent getting to know Hideyoshi, Sano had spent in the hospital with Rinko, recuperating from their battle at Doguro Mansion with Robert's 10. Kobasen meanwhile had spent most of the God Battles in the Death Row of Hell's Prison with Inumaru, who had then been Sano's God Candidate. Inumaru was God, now. Sano wished he could have invited Inumaru to his resort, but there simply wasn't time – he couldn't even spare Yodogawa, who had been Ueki's second God Candidate and was now God's Assistant.

Sano admitted, deep, deep inside, that the person whose opinion most concerned him was Rinko. Rinko was the person he'd spent the most time with and, of the group, the one he knew best and the most intimately. True, they had spent a great deal of their time at loggerheads with each other, because they were complete opposites. But there is no better way to get to know a person's essence than to fight them, and then to fight with them, and on the battle field they had realized that they could complement each other. He observed her covertly throughout dinner, wondering what she thought of everything, noting that the past three years had brought her to physical maturity, and worrying that she might have changed beyond the obvious.

"If you're thinking dirty thoughts, Sano-kun, you'd better stop," Rinko said suddenly, punching him on the shoulder. "You're grinning at me strangely and I don't like it."

"What?" Sano replied, thrown off his musing. He frowned at her in mock outrage. "Do you really think so low of me?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?" was her quick rejoinder.

Beaten for the round, Sano coughed and stood up. Time for a change of tactics. "Okay, everyone, time to head for the baths," he said.

.~*~.

'The baths' was actually one large pool, with a bit of a bamboo divider in the middle. "Sorry about that," Sano said, with an embarrassed grin. "I hadn't quite managed to make a separate pool for girls, yet."

"That's okay," Ueki said. He took out a bit of trash from his pocket and grew a thicket of trees across the middle of the pool. "There, now there are two areas," he said.

"Good enough," Hideyoshi declared. Mori was less accepting. "Nobody had better peek," she warned, glaring at Ueki and Hideyoshi, "and if I see anyone climbing the trees they'll regret it for the rest of their lives."

"I'm already regretting it!" Hideyoshi teased, making eyes at Mori, who threw a rock at him. Sano, however, stepped between them and caught the rock. "No violence after dinner," he said firmly, "it's a house rule."

"You're making it up," Mori complained.

"It's my house," Sano reminded her. She seemed about to say something else, maybe argue some more – she wasn't this argumentative in his memory, although she'd been rather aggressive and nagging; maybe Ueki had spoiled her – so Sano gave her a towel and a bathrobe to shut her up. "The changing room's that way," he said, pointing to it with one hand as he handed Rinko her towel and bathrobe with the other. She accepted it without comment and hurried after Mori.

.~*~.

Later, after everyone had soaked to their hearts' content and all were making ready for bed, Sano stopped in front of the room being shared by Rinko and Mori. He knocked hesitantly. "Come in," Mori's voice called. "We're decent."

Sano opened the door. Mori grinned when she saw him. "I thought it was you," she said. "Hideyoshi would have pounded on the door, and Ueki would not have bothered to knock." She laughed. "And, of course, Kobasen would not be knocking at girls' doors at this hour."

"Everything all right?"

"Yes, it's great," Mori replied. Sano smiled at her, his eyes searching out Rinko. "How about you? No problems?" he asked her.

Mori grinned slyly. So that's how it goes, she thought. "Ah, I just remembered, I have to check if Ueki's unpacked properly," she said. "Excuse me." She stepped into the doorway so that Sano, who was still trying to talk to Rinko, had to step into the room to allow her to pass – and then she pulled the door shut behind her as she went into the hallway. She held the door closed as Sano pounded it from the other side. "You two have a nice chat in there," she said, "but don't do anything!"

She could hear Rinko and Sano's voices calling after her. "Ai-chan!" "Mori!" She sniggered. It's time you two had a talk, she told them in her head, and went on her way with a smile.

When Mori failed to return, Sano and Rinko stopped calling out. "Well, it's not like we haven't been alone in a bedroom before," Sano sighed, shrugging. "Of course, neither of us was in any shape to even move, so – "

"You're not implying something, are you, Sano-kun?" Rinko asked. Her voice was sugar-sweet but Sano thought he could detect an edge of menace to it. He swallowed and loosened his collar just a bit. "N-not at all," he said. "I only wanted to talk to you."

"Alright. About what?"

Was he imagining it, or was she just a little bit flushed? – Don't read too much into things, he told himself sternly. If she's a little pink, so what? She's just spent an hour soaking in hot water. The reminder made him notice other things, now. He'd already noticed that Rinko had grown – not that much taller, but more mature, more womanly; she'd been a pretty girl, but now she was bordering on beautiful. Now he observed that she smelled of the resort's sandalwood soap, a brand Sano himself used, and it was almost like he could smell himself on her skin. Damn this, he thought.

"Okay, that's it, I think you need to cool your head," Rinko said decisively, as she had read his mind. One hand clamped over Sano's wrist. "Come out of the house, Sano-kun. Let's go for a walk."

.~*~.

Walking under the moonlight, just the two of them, brought back memories. He'd been the one to invite her outside, then. He'd said it was so that Mori and Ueki could have a moment alone, but what he had really wanted to do was ask her if, perhaps, after the God Battles were over, she might want to go out with him on a date. He had wanted to tell her that he'd never met anyone like her. She could drive him mad, she was so stubborn and cautious, but he admired her pluck and her capability to plan and execute elaborate schemes. At the same time she was so gentle she would get hurt rather than harm an animal, and so kind-hearted she would always try to find a way to defeat her enemy without hurting them, so that sometimes she got hurt instead. He wanted to tell her that he wanted to protect her, and ask her if she would let him. He never got the words out, though. It was too obvious that she still felt something for Robert Haydn. Sano had told her not to worry, that they would definitely get him back from Anon, and he had consoled her while she tearfully explained that even if her feelings were one-sided she intended to offer them to Robert anyway. It wasn't as if Sano couldn't understand. He intended to tell her, too. Then, of course, Anon ate God, and then the Fourth Round started and everything save the life-and-death battle was driven from their minds.

"So… how are things between you and Robert?"

Rinko took a moment to reply. "I wondered what you wanted to talk to me about, and that was it?" she said at length. "You're a bit late on the news. Actually, Robert and I broke up more than two years ago. He's with Marilyn now."

Actually, Sano had heard from Mori that Rinko had gotten together and subsequently broken up with Robert within six months of the end of the God Battles. Still, he had wanted to hear it from Rinko herself. She had surprised him, though. "Marilyn – Marilyn Kerry?"

Rinko laughed quietly. "Why the surprise? She's actually very nice, you know, and I think they're pretty good for each other."

Pretty good? Pretty scary is more like it, Sano thought, imagining the two blonde, blue-eyed fighting machines together and having to repress a shudder of dread. Rinko observed it and smirked. "Hasn't any of Marilyn Team been writing to you? Marilyn writes a lot to Ueki and Ai-chan, and after she got together with Robert, she's been writing to me too. Robert goes out for parties, now. They're much nicer now than they used to be, you know. Ueki got to them."

"He does that," Sano agreed. "It's good, though. You don't seem very broken up about the whole Robert-Marilyn thing."

"Oh, ha-ha, I was," Rinko said drily. "You should have seen me right afterwards. I was a complete wreck. I mean I thought I'd be okay with it, because I was the one who broke up with Robert, but…"

Sano felt the urge to put his arm round her and pat her back consolingly. He said instead, "Can you tell me about it? Or is it none of my business?"

"Actually, I don't know what to tell you," Rinko replied. "You're aware, of course, that I liked Robert for a really long time, completely one-sidedly?"

Sano nodded.

"Well, after the God Battles, he seemed so changed that I went ahead and confessed to him. He took it really well, for him – I mean he's not exactly normal, is he, he's a bit awkward even now –"

"That's an understatement," Sano muttered under his breath.

"– and we agreed to go out. We'd been together maybe two months when we had our first official date. After that I can't remember what happened, but we must have been in a fight or something and I must have blacked out, because the next thing I knew Robert was beat up really bad and had to be hospitalized for a week. He wouldn't talk to me and finally I just told him it was all over."

I know what probably happened, Sano thought, struggling to keep a poker face. Robert must have said something wrong and brought out Rinko's Evil Side. She beat him up and forgot all about it. No wonder he wouldn't talk to her. He almost told her his theory. Almost. To tell the truth, Sano was afraid of what might happen if Rinko ever found out about her evil persona. Shooting the messenger with bead-sized bombs was probably the least of it. "Well, I'm glad you're okay now," he said awkwardly.

Rinko smiled. "Yes, perfectly okay," she said. "I've even gone on double-dates and triple-dates with Marilyn and Robert. It's all good."

"With whom?" Sano found himself asking.

"Oh, it depends," Rinko said lightly. She held up her fingers and began to count on them. "Usually with Ueki and Ai-chan. Once or twice with Caption of Caption Team, oh and I did go out once with Gr_, that guy who could turn models into reality. I've been going with Edward Kilnorton, mostly, though. The guy on Ballow Team, with an IQ of 179? He seems best able to handle being in Robert and Marilyn's presence."

"That weakling!" Sano snorted, put off. "He couldn't even last a minute against Anon!"

"Nevertheless he got into a top high school," Rinko countered. "He's tall, and he knows how to play the piano, and if he leaves Bianca at home he's got eyes only for me."

"Bianca?"

"His glasses."

"Oh, right, I remember." Sano nodded. "Come on, though, Rinko. Surely you could have done better than Kilnorton?"

Rinko shrugged. "Maybe," she said. She wasn't as interested in the topic as Sano was. She clapped her hands over her arms. "It's getting kind of cold, isn't it?"

Sano was immediately solicitous. "Do you want to go in now?"

Rinko shook her head. "Later. Ah… how do I put this…"

Sano stood stock-still. He could hear his heart thumping against his chest. She wasn't planning to – was she?

"I wanted to thank you," Rinko said in a rush. "I mean, I heard… during the Marilyn Team battle, you carried me to safety when I had fainted, even if I was completely useless. When Anon was making his Path and I fell off the cliff, you pulled me up. And during the last battle –"

"There's no need for thanks," Sano said, interrupting her. "We were companions. Of course I had to save you." He turned away, and added softly, "But, even if we hadn't been…" His voice grew stronger and surer. "You weren't weak, or useless, Rinko. The Marilyn Team was very good, way above our level at that point. It was my fault you got knocked out. I knew your fighting style and I was supposed to back you up, but I was so worried about the lack of fighting ability in Hideyoshi and Mori that I didn't watch out for you."

"You shouldn't have had to," Rinko said, shaking her head. "I wasn't supposed to be a liability, I was supposed to be able to fight. But I was much too slow."

"Ah," Sano said, not denying it because it was true. "Nevertheless, how was I to call myself a man when I let someone important to me get hurt?"

"Oh!" Rinko gasped. This time she really blushed. Sano realized what he'd said and blushed too. "I- I mean, you're my friend, and of course you're important to me," he stammered. Coward, he chided himself, but he couldn't help it.

"O-Of course," Rinko agreed. The two of them were silent for a long moment, trying to avoid looking at each other. Finally Rinko said, "I think we should turn in. We're tired."

Sano was not sure if he was glad to agree.

(to be continued)


A/N: This is my first ever Ueki fanfic! Please review. I have three more chapters coming up, but I'm not done writing them yet, haha~

Oh yes, some notes:

Canonically, Sano Seiichiro is 15 years old during the God Battles (having been born on Feb 6 of an unspecified year). His blood type is O. He is in 9th Grade at Inaho Middle School. Apparently, since he has been shown to hitch-hike and go mountain-climbing randomly, never mentions family of any sort, and has a very intense attachment to Inumaru, he is an orphan or at least is living alone in the country. According to Mori, immediately after the school year of the God Battles ended, having taken high school entrance exams, he spent his vacation looking for hot springs. He intends to study geography in high school and probably in college as well. For the purposes of this fic and any other Ueki fics I might write, I shall assume that Sano rents an apartment by himself, somewhere near whatever his school is. Somehow I imagine him as an Okinawan.

Canonically, Rinko Gerrard (Gerrad, Jerrad – sp. varies) is 15 years old, born on December 24 of an unspecified year. Her blood type is AB. She is in 9th Grade of an unknown middle school. Her family is very rich. Presumably, given especially that her name is given with the surname said last, she is only half Japanese (if at all); also, it must be her father that is foreign. According to Mori, after the God Battles, she confessed to Robert Haydn (presumably, another foreigner or halfie, although since he really is a Heavenly Being who can tell? – who, canonically, is only 14 – a year younger than Rinko), but (a) in the manga, Robert unknowingly insulted her and she beat him up in Evil Rinko mode and (b) in the anime, Mori just says that while they dated once, she "broke up with [him] for unknown reasons". For the purposes of this and any other Ueki fic that I may write, I have assumed that the Gerrards have a Japan residence in Azabu, which is a prime residential area with many consulates and close to several foreign embassies. Descriptions of the Gerrard residence are modeled after the homes of Suou Tamaki (Ouran High School Host Club) and Nakahara Mine (Yamato Nadeshiko Sichi Henge). I have also assumed that Rinko's father is either French or Danish, and that she attends an exclusive international school (of which there are two or three in the Azabu area). Lastly, I have assumed her to be younger than Sano.

Last name - Gerrard: This distinguished name is of Old Germanic origin, from a personal name introduced into Britain by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066 in the Old French forms "Gerard, Gerart" and "Girart". These were adapted from the Old Germanic "Gerhard, Girhard", composed of the elements "geri, gari", spear, and "hard", hardy, brave, strong. The personal name was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 in the Latinized forms "Gerardus" and "Girardus", and one Jerard "filius (son of) archidiaconi" is mentioned in the Lincolnshire Documents relating to the Danelaw of 1149 - 1162. The personal name proved very popular, as can be deduced from the great number and variety of variant forms that were generated from it, almost all of which are surviving as surnames. These range from Garrett, Garratt, Garred, Garrad, Jarratt and Jarad, to Garrard, Gerrard, Jarrard and Jerrard. One Edward Garrard was an early emigrant to the New World Colonies, leaving London on the "Ann and Elizabeth" in April 1635, bound for St. Christophers and the Barbadoes. A Coat of Arms granted to a family of the name depicts two silver lions combatant on a blue shield, while the Crest is a wivern, tail nowed proper pierced through the neck with a gold spear, headed silver. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Gerard, which was dated circa 1170, in "Documents relating to the Danelaw", Lincolnshire, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling. (web)