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I. Her eyes are pretty


They're blue, he noted. Raku propped his chin up with his hand and carefully studied Chitoge as her eyes swept across her textbook. The two were studying in Raku's room when English homework lost his interest and he started to wonder what color her eyes were.

Well, he always knew they were blue, but despite her annoying nature and family background, her eyes were innocently wide. Even if they were looking at him questioningly, like now.

"What, Raku?" she inquired, biting her bottom lip. "Do I have something on my face?"

"No."

"Then what are you looking at?"

"Your eyes. They're blue."

With a roll of her eyes, she slapped his hand and sarcastically muttered, "No, they're green. Didn't you know?"

"They used to be brown, right? At least, I thought I saw brown in your baby pictures."

She grinned lazily, her heart fluttering a little. "Yeah, you're right. Now get back to work, Beansprout."

"Whatever, Gorilla Woman," he huffed, slightly annoyed. He felt her feet settle in his lap, her way of showing that she didn't mean the insult, and he didn't move away, his way of doing the same.


II. Her hair is long


"I'm getting my hair cut to here," she pointed to her shoulders. "All twelve inches of it."

"T-that's quite sudden, Chitoge-chan," Onodera said. "Are you sure you don't just want a trim? I know that your favorite actress just cut her hair, too, but I didn't think you were the type to imitate someone."

"It's not because of that," she answered, holding a lock of hair up. "I'm tired of having it like this. No one likes long hair, anyway."

"I like long hair," Raku blurted out and everyone fell silent. He blushed at the looks his friends gave him, backtracking. "I mean, I like your hair the way it is. It's you. It makes you special."

At that, Chitoge ducked her head and her cheeks turned red. Onodera and Tsugumi eyed Chitoge's locks before looking down, wishing their hair were the same.

"Thanks, Raku, but didn't you tell me you liked short hair?"


III. She's impulsive


"You didn't bring an extra set of clothes?" he eyed her dripping clothes as she shivered on his front lawn.

"Someone didn't tell me that we were going to have a water balloon fight," she gritted through her teeth. Onodera offered her a jacket, but Chitoge declined. "I can't get your jacket wet."

Raku sighed. "Follow me. You can borrow one of my shirts and I think you left some shorts here last time you came over. We'll dry your clothes for now."

She trailed after him and into his room. He threw some shirts at her and paused by the door. "There are some towels in the second drawer. Choose whichever shirt you want and close the door when you leave," he instructed, locking the entrance behind him. He heard her mutter something incoherent. "I heard that!"

"Shut up!" she shouted back.

He shook his head and went back to the rest of his friends. She came out a few minutes later, wearing white shorts and a light blue button up. She held up three t-shirts. "Hey, I'm keeping these!"

"But those are mine!"

"Not anymore," she stuck her tongue out. "You can have some of my shirts, if you want."


IV. She has a stunning smile


Raku happened to be walking down the hallway when he heard a laugh. Her laugh. As he rounded the corner, he saw her with an underclassman. Matsuda Hiro-kun, if he recalled correctly.

"-and I really like you," Hiro was telling Chitoge, fingers messing with the hem of his shirt. "Will you go out with me?"

She smiled and chirped, "Of course I will!" She pulled him in for a hug and Raku felt a bit uneasy at how happy she looked. She quickly released the brunette, though. "You did great! Now just look her in the eye when you confess."

"You really think Momo-chan will say yes?" the boy asked hopefully.

"You'll sweep her off her feet with that adorable speech of yours. Remember, she loves violets," she added, patting his head. "She's waiting for you on the roof. Good luck!"

"Thank you so much, Kirisaki-senpai!" Hiro bowed his head to the blonde. He then bowed to Raku, who he spotted a few seconds ago. "Sorry for bothering her, Raku-senpai."

As the boy scampered off, flowers in hand, Chitoge turned to face her boyfriend. "Are you a stalker? How long have you been standing there?" she demanded.

"Not too long. I didn't know you liked the younger boys," he answered and dodged her swinging fist. "Do you want to stop by the movies today?"

Her brilliant grin brightened. Impromptu dates were her favorite. "You're paying for my popcorn!" she teased before skipping off to get her things from the classroom.

Her smile always seemed more sincere when she was with him and Raku was momentarily speechless. When she beckoned him from the other end of the hall, he had no choice but to follow.


V. She likes festivals


"She looks different," Raku stared at the girl several booths away from him. "I just can't tell what it is."

Shuu slapped him on the back. "She pinned her hair up. Kirisaki-san looks nice with her hair in a bun. I think her blue yukata suits her."

Chitoge whirled around, as if she could hear her name being said, and caught their eyes. She beamed excitedly, gesturing toward one of the stalls. He could practically hear her begging for the giant teddy bear prize. Shuu shoved Raku in her direction.

"Go! Festivals are for having fun after all."

Fun, the ravenette realized. Chitoge is having fun. She had mentioned to him once that she loved Japanese festivals. They didn't have them in America. At least, not where she lived.

When he got to her side, she clamped onto his arm. "Please, please, please, get me that bear."

He raised an eyebrow at the target shooting game. "You can shoot better than I can."

"Ah, you must be this lovely lady's boyfriend," the person behind the counter chuckled. "She told me that she could shoot than her 'Beansprout' could, but you have to be a couple to try."

Raku was hesitant, but Chitoge was looking at him intently. With her bangs to the side like that, she was almost cute. Almost. He could feel her waiting for him to agree to play.

"Fine," Raku said, finally cracking. "Hand me the gun."

Chapter Text

VI. She's a crybaby


He sighed and handed her another box of tissues. She grabbed it gratefully as she and Onodera sobbed their hearts out.

"That was the saddest thing I ever saw," Chitoge blubbered, wiping away her tears. "Whose idea was it to watch this?"

"I believe it was yours," Onodera sniffled as she hugged Chitoge, "but I don't regret watching it."

The blonde nodded. "The ending song was either the worst or the best thing."

Raku stretched his arms lazily and surveyed the scene. Ruri had left the room immediately after the movie ended and Shuu had followed, holding a box of tissues. Probably for her. Tsugumi was sitting on the floor and leaning back on the couch, like him. She was tearing up, too, but she's too stubborn to ask for a tissue or show weakness in front of her mistress. Onodera and Chitoge were actually on the couch, trying (and failing) to get the other to stop crying. As for Marika...

"Raku-sama, cuddle with me!" she said, snuggling against his side. She spent the entire time attempting to get his attention and wasn't affected by Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki at all.

Raku ignored her and poked Chitoge's knee. She turned towards him, her face dripping with tears. He swiped his thumb across her cheek and commented, "It's a good thing you don't wear makeup."

"I don't need it to look pretty," she gave him a weak smile. He couldn't help but agree.


VII. She secretly loves cheesy pick up lines


"Hello, I'm a thief and I'm here to steal your heart."

"Stop it."

"Do you have a sunburn or are you always this hot?"

"Pipe down, people are staring!"

"Are you religious? Because you're the answer to all my prayers."

"Just because you're my childhood friend-"

"I'm no Fred Flintstone, but I can make your bed rock."

"Oh my God, Kenji," Chitoge groaned, hands covering her red face.

"I was blinded by your beauty so I'm going to need your name and number for insurance purposes."

"Unfortunately, you already know it."

"I have Skittles in my mouth. Want to taste the rainbow?"

She let out an embarrassed, "No."

"My love for you is like diarrhea. I just can't hold in it."

She slapped him on the arm, "That's gross!"

"How are you today?"

"Fine," she sighed, relieved that Kenji finally said something normal.

"Well, damn, I didn't ask you how you looked!"

...or not.

Raku went up to the boy, who Raku could hear from the other side of the cafe. Chitoge told him that she was meeting someone she knew before their date to the movies, but she didn't mention this. It was also a well known fact (to him, at least) that Chitoge was flattered by cheesy pick up lines from attractive people. Kenji, unfortunately, could be considered attractive.

Childhood friend or not, he tapped Kenji's shoulder and grinned, "Nice to meet you. I'm the boyfriend."

Raku could practically hear that boy's heart shatter.


VIII. She was a hopeless romantic


"Ohmygodohmygodohmygod," she squeaked, holding her shoulders.

He averted his gaze and stared at her suddenly interesting white carpet. "You're overreacting," he rolled his eyes.

"Overreacting?" she echoed. "Me? You're the one who was being a stupid beansprout!"

"What are you blabbing about now, gorilla woman?!"

Chitoge laughed, almost hysterical. "A first kiss is supposed to be romantic. Memorable. Like sitting on a beach during sunset with two people pledging their undying love for each other. In the car after their first date. In the rain after he chases after her and clears up some obvious misunderstanding. On the freaking doorstep when he hands her flowers and swears that she's his one and only!"

"What chick flick are you obsessed with now? If it isn't cliche...so?"

"So? A first kiss isn't supposed to be when we're watching The Avengers at my house while Agent Phil is dying! It isn't supposed to be when I reach for the popcorn! Hell, it isn't supposed to be when I'm in a tank top and shorts!"

"You were leaning in, too!" he shouted back, frustrated.

"You were leaning in first!"

"So now it's my fault?"

"It's always been your fault-"

Silence.

"Did you just fucking kiss me again?!"

He ran a hand through his hair. "Shut up! I read in this manga that a first kiss doesn't count unless you want it to. So forget about all the kisses until you find one that feels right."

"Stupid," she said after a while. She pressed 'play' on the remote, leaned against the pillows on her head, and pulled the blankets up around her. She rested her head on his shoulder. "Don't think all is forgiven. You just stole my first kiss."

"And your second," he added, choosing to ignore the fact that she just punched his side. "To be fair, you took mine, too."


IX. She's a horrible liar


"Chitoge-chan, are you okay?" Onodera asked, wondering why her friend was falling behind the group.

The girl nodded, "Yep! Just window shopping. I'll catch up with you guys in a bit."

Onodera kept her gaze of concern steady, but Chitoge waved her on. "If you're sure," the brunette hesitated before leading everyone else toward her family shop. Raku lagged behind and waited until his girlfriend caught up.

"I thought I told you to go without me."

"And leave you limping?"

"I am not!"

"Are too."

"Am not!"

"Then is it okay if I see your ankle?"

She whirled around with a huff. "I already told you I'm fine so there's no reason to check."

He could see her wince with each step away from him. "Enough of this," he pulled on her wrist and she found herself against the wall, Raku on one knee in front of her. He held up a hand, demanding, "Foot. Now."

She crossed her arms and, with an annoyed pout, allowed him to pull off her white wedges. "See? It's nothing," she said. "Not that bad."

"As if. Your ankle is swollen. You should've worn something more supportive than this," he shook his head wearily. "I guess there's no choice."

"What do you mean-EH? Put me down!" she pounded his back. "Hey! What're you doing?"

"I'm carrying you to Onodera's place. Now quit it, you're heavy enough. What happened?"

He wasn't going to let her down. She reluctantly leaned on his back, placing her chin on his shoulder. "I-I fell down the stairs."

He snorted. "Doubt it. You'd probably do a triple back flip and land on your feet."

"Fine, I hit my ankle on a t-table."

"Where?"

"A-at the mall."

"When?"

She blurted out, "Sunday."

He bumped his head with hers. "Liar. You were with me on Sunday, remember? What really happened?"

"Raku, you're really getting on my nerves," she gritted out.

"It's not my fault you stutter when you lie. Tell me or I'll tickle you."

She hated to admit defeat, but she was extremely ticklish. Chitoge buried her face in Raku's back and said, "I was attacked the other day." Raku stopped in his tracks. "Keep walking, dammit! Or I won't say anything else."

He complied.

"Tsugumi was on a different mission that day and I had escaped my other bodyguards. It was nearly evening and I was walking back home. Someone grabbed me as I was walking past an alleyway and one thing led to another. Typical 'girl is alone and almost gets-' Anyway, I escaped, but the guy had slammed my leg with a gun barrel," she shrugged. "You know, not much."

"You didn't tell anyone?"

She sniffed. "Why would I need to? Other than a few bruises, I'm not hurt."

"Chitoge, promise you'll call me whenever you need to go anywhere alone."

"Well, that defeats the purpose of going alone-"

"Chitoge!" he felt her flinch at his sudden outburst. "Just...just promise me."

"...I promise. As long as you don't drag me down."

"Deal."


X. She hates it when people wolf whistle


Raku opened the front door and was surprised to see Chitoge, frowning at the ground. "Ah, what're you doing here?" he inquired. "It's late."

"I was on an errand and decided to stop by. Hope that isn't a problem, darling?" she tilted her head. He opened the door further and she stepped in with a, "Pardon the intrusion."

As they made their way to the kitchen, where Raku was making dinner, she said, "Sorry I barged in. Your house was the closest."

"Closest?"

"Yeah, I was being trailed by these two drunkards," she shuddered. "I told them my boyfriend's place was nearby and they followed me to make sure I really was going to your house. Thank God you were only three blocks away."

"...did they whistle at you?"

She nodded, a slight expression of pain on her face. Raku quickly enveloped her in a hug, not wanting to see the tears well up in her eyes. He knew the story. She was kidnapped at a young age and nearly sold on the black market. The Beehive gang found her within two hours, but she was already scarred having to stand on a stage, blindfolded, as people called out bids and hungry pedophiles grabbed at her feet. But that's a story for a different time.

"Shh, it's okay," he muttered into her hair. "I'm here now."

"I know," her fingers grasped his shirt desperately. "I know, I know."

Chapter Text

XI. She notices the little things


"Why aren't you talking to me?"

She continued to ignore him and lightly tapped her nails on the steering wheel. "Was it left to the restaurant or right?" she muttered, biting her bottom lip. The car behind her honked loudly and, glaring at the rearview mirror, Chitoge was forced to make a right.

Raku groaned. The tense atmosphere has been there since she picked him up from the airport twenty minutes ago. His trip to Europe had lasted two months. He didn't remember doing something to upset her. Raku closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat. There was no use trying to figure out women.

"Fudge," he heard Chitoge breathe. He grabbed his armrest and the seat belt cut into his side as the car did a violent 180. Typical stubborn Chitoge. She didn't ask for directions and made a wrong turn. Chitoge slammed the gas pedal and they were soon speeding back toward main road. "...do you know the way, bean sprout?"

He peeled open a blue eye. "Excuse me?"

"Do you know. The way. To the restaurant."

He crossed his arms, refusing to look at her. "I thought you were giving me the cold shoulder."

"I'll take this freaking cold shoulder and shove it up your-"

"Language!" he snapped. "What's wrong with you today? Look, just stop by that store and ask for directions."

She blew her blonde bangs up, "Fine." She parked her red Ferrari and told him to follow her.

"I'll wait in the car," he said and didn't budge. He watched her get out of the car, find two nearby drivers, and write down an address. The younger one of the two men scribbled something into a napkin and Chitoge bowed thankfully. She tossed him the napkin when she slid back into her seat. "So what'd they say?"

"That I look pretty as hell and the idiot in the passenger seat wasn't good enough for me," she replied, reversing out of the parking lot. In a darker voice, she added, "And that he's a jerk."

"I'm the jerk?" Raku laughed dryly. "You're the one that's been rude this entire time."

"Coming from the guy who smells different!"

"...what?"

She waved an angry hand in his face and her ears turned red. "Your cologne! It smells different. It smells...feminine."

"That's what you've been mad about?" he raised an eyebrow when she stayed silent. "Chitoge, I stayed with Shuu and he thought that it would be funny to spray Dior on all my clothes. That's all."

"Shuu. Right. He's always the reason," she snorted. "I'm nineteen, Raku, not five."

He peered at her curiously. "Are you jealous?"

"N-not at all."

Raku hummed, not believing her, as he yanked the large sunglasses off her face. "You sure?"

The car suddenly veered to the left, but a surprised Chitoge quickly pulled the steering wheel back and yelled, "You idiot! Did you want to be killed?"

He poked her cheek despite the near death experience. "Aw, you're blushing!"


XII. She likes getting handwritten letters


"Raku Ichijou!" one of the Beehive members greeted him as he came through the front door. "If you're looking for Ojou-sama, she went on an errand with Tsugumi, but they should be back in half an hour. You want a drink?"

"I'll get some water myself, thanks," he nodded his head and made his way into the kitchen. As he filled a glass with iced water, he noticed a lavender colored sheet of paper, framed, hanging above the sink. It was a letter written in what he thought was English. Raku could make out a few of the words. "Mamoru-san, what is this?"

Mamoru stuck his head into the kitchen. "Ah, that? It was a letter from someone named Jackson, a friend of Ojou-sama's in America."

"What does it say and why is it hung up?"

"I'm not quite sure it says exactly, but Claude said Jackson wrote a poem...and something about seeing each other again? As for why it's hung up, Ojou-sama likes handwritten letters. She thinks it's sweet and romantic."

"Romantic, huh?" Raku muttered, taking a sip from his cup. He turned to Mamoru with a determined look. "Can you get me a pen and some paper? I think I can whip something up in thirty minutes. And a nice frame, too, for her to use later."

"Yes, sir!"


XIII. His presence calms her


Raku reached for his phone lazily, body not fully awake, and hit the 'Answer Call' button. "Hello," he yawned into his cellphone, but there was only heavy breathing on the line. "Hello? Who is this? I swear to God, if this is a prank call-"

"Raku," a high pitched voice cut him off, "I need you to tell me exactly every place we went yesterday."

"Chitoge?" he pushed himself up, resting on his elbows, surprised to hear his girlfriend's voice. "It's three in the morning. What are doing still up? Is that-are those cars in the background? Where are you?"

"I'm in front of the bakery," she answered shakily. "I checked in the park, in my house, around the arcade and the cafe we went to...I can't find it. I think I might have lost it in the school, but I don't want to break in unless it's there."

"Break into the school-wait, hang on, what did you even lose?"

"My ribbon," she breathed. "I have to go to a meeting tomorrow and I need it with me."

"Okay, just hold tight. I'm coming," Raku said, getting up to throw a jacket over himself. "Two minutes tops. Stay on the line with me and take deep breaths."

Chitoge followed his directions, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Like he said, he was by her side in two minutes, arms wrapping around her, face snuggling into her hair.

"Alright, let's go step by step, okay?" he murmured, hand curling around hers. "We'll find it; don't worry. I'm here."

The red ribbon makes her feel safe, but having him near her has nearly the same effect.


XIV. She's competitive


"Do you need something?" Raku asked, putting down the book he was reading. "You've been staring at me for, like, five minutes straight."

She blinked at him, gaze not wavering. "Don't need to know."

"No, tell me."

"You know," she said each word slowly, "I'm probably a better kisser than you."

He bookmarked his page and set it down on the coffee table before leaning to the other side of the couch, where Chitoge was sitting with her feet in his lap. "Care to repeat that, darling?"

"I'm just saying," she waved her hand as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, "that I'm a better kisser than you. Don't feel bad, Raku; you're okay. But not as good as I am."

"Is that so?" he raised an eyebrow and she tilted her head up, as if she knew what was coming next. "Care to settle this?"

"Gladly-"

She squeaked in surprise as Raku put his hand on her waist, pulling her toward him. Chitoge could feel a laugh bubbling in the back of her throat, but it was cut short when Raku pressed his lips to hers. Her arms wound around his neck, fingers digging into his black hair. Raku knew she was blushing like mad, but her stupid competitive streak didn't allow her break away first. Well, he'll show her. After all, he's the better kisser.


XV. Two words: Cheesy. Lists.


He found this checklist on her desk:

[X] Kiss in the rain

[X] Go to see a movie over five times

[X] Stay the night

[ ] Synchronized singing

[ ] Watch a sunrise together

[ ] Fall asleep in front of a fire

[ ] Matching sweaters

[X] Matching cellphone accessories

[ ] Watch a sunset

[X] Wear his clothes

[ ] Actually cook something good for him

[X] Say romantic things in different languages (and never let him find out what they are)

[X] Get away with not wearing underwear around him

[X] Movie marathon

[X] Holding hands while driving

[X] Be carried princess-syle

[ ] Photobooth pictures

[ ] Matching rings

[ ] Go to a concert in-

"RAKU FREAKING ICHIJOU, GET AWAY FROM MY DESK OR I WILL STRANGLE YOU."

Chapter Text

XVI. She's a midnight snacker


It was starting to become a pattern, Raku noticed, and it didn't take long for him for figure out what was going on. Every night he feels the bed shift as Chitoge gets up from her side. She returns half an hour later, sometimes smelling like popcorn, sometimes like chocolate chip cookies. And when he wakes up the next morning, there is always something missing in his cabinets or his fridge.

So tonight, he decided to wake up before she does to make her a small meal because, to be honest, she was eating his favorite chips and no one eats his chips. Not even Chitoge. At 11, he pulled back his blanket, careful not to wake his girlfriend, and made his way to the kitchen. He already laid out the ingredients before going to bed. All he has to do is throw it together semi-neatly. As he was working, there was a shuffle near the door.

Probably Chitoge, Raku thought as he walked toward the sound. He tried to be as quiet as possible; Chitoge would probably swing her arms in self-defense if he made a sudden move.

The shine of blonde hair confirmed his suspicions. Chitoge gave a yawn that sounded like a small whine, rubbing her eyes. Her hand patted the wall before finally finding and flicking the light switch.

"I need some-OH MY GOD!" she shrieked when the light came on. Raku was standing right in front of her with...was that a whisk in his hand? Chitoge clutched the shirt fabric above her heart until she calmed down. When she did, she was beyond furious. "Don't scare me like that! Good God, I was about roundhouse your head off!"

Raku took her punch to the shoulder, wincing, "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. But let's be honest, you were going to hit me if I made any noise anyway."

"That doesn't change anything," she huffed and crossed her arms. "What are you doing here anyway?"

"I was just making some food."

"At 12:46?"

"Well, I'd rather have you eat something other than my snacks," he patted her stomach. "Don't want you getting fat now."

"You're a butt, you know that?" she wrapped her jacket tighter around her body, blushing. "Are you saying you'll break up with me if I get fat?"

"N-no, that's not what I'm saying at all-"

"That's what it sounds like."

Raku sighed and quickly hugged her, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "Just shut up and eat. You're doing your own dishes."


XVII. She cuddles all the time with her ridiculous Tsum Tsum


Raku hmphed for the tenth time before slouching back against the couch. It's starting to get annoying. Here he was after two months of working in China, hoping to spend time with his girlfriend. He put on a movie, placing his arm on the back of the couch as an open cuddling invitation. And what does she do? She hugs the stupid Minnie Mouse Tsum Tsum that Jackson, that 'friend' of hers in America, gave her. The kid actually came to Japan to visit Chitoge two weeks after Raku flew to China and brought her gifts. That's why Raku was buried under a mountain of stuffed animals and clothes when he opened her closet.

Yes, Raku admitted, It's pretty cute. But would you rather choose a stuffed animal or your attractive boyfriend who can kiss, buys you food, and is trying his darn hardest to look as cuddly as possible? Exactly.

"Raku, is something wrong?" Chitoge asked when she noticed how he was staring at her, mouth in a frown. "Is there popcorn on my face?"

"Nothing's wrong."

"C'mon, I'm the best at reading your expressions so tell me what's up," she paused the movie and faced him with her back settled on the arm rest. When he didn't answer, she sighed, "We promised that we'd tell each other everything, remember? You've even told me about your crush on Kosaki and the passcode to your underground weapons storage so why can't you talk this time?"

"...it's silly," he muttered, not looking her in the eye. "You're going to laugh at me."

"I swear I won't."

"And you won't get mad?"

"I won't. Now tell me-WHAT IN THE WORLD. WHY DID YOU JUST THROW MINNIE ACROSS THE ROOM. GO GET HER. WHAT ARE YOU-"

Raku pulled Chitoge into his chest as he laid down, arms tight around her waist and face in her hair. "You said you wouldn't get mad," he mumbled. She glared at him for a second before relaxing into his embrace.

"Fine. Now, what's wrong?"

"I just-I really missed you, okay? And it didn't seem like you missed me, not with how you were hugging Minnie instead. I felt like I was third wheeling, which is stupid because Minnie's not even alive and you're my girlfriend."

"You're right, that was pretty stupid," Chitoge snuggled into the crook of his neck and placed a soft kiss on his jawline. "I missed you. Like crazy. But I'd seem like a over attached girlfriend if I called you everyday and told you I wanted to just spend time cuddling the moment you came back. You looked really tired when you got home so I didn't want to jump you or anything."

"You know I'll always make time for you."

"Yeah, I know. Now can you play the movie? The cool action scene is coming up and this cheesy atmosphere is kinda ruining it."


XVIII. She's horrible at art


Glue. Everywhere.

It was in her hair.

It was in her clothes.

It was on her shoes.

And she was ignoring it all, focusing only on the piece of paper in front of her.

"Chitoge, I knew you were bad, but I didn't know you were this bad," Raku laughed a little, swiping his thumb on the tip of her nose. "How'd you get so much glue on your face?"

She let out a hiss. "Stop talking, I'm trying to get this thing to dry."

"You're spending more time on your own picture than helping the first graders with theirs. Poor Onodera is taking care of the kids you're in charge of as well as her own."

"Well, it's not my fault. I've never done macaroni art before and this stupid glue is too watery! The stuff keeps moving around!" she groaned again when the pasta she was so carefully holding in place slid a little to the right.

"A true gorilla woman. You're not gentle at all."

"And you're actually in love with me. Who's the one with the problem here?"


XIX. She has names for almost everything


He was confused when she told him, "Can you bring Aika in from the other room?"

"Is Aika a new Beehive member?"

"No, silly, the guitar I got the other day. Oh, and can you water Lilia, too? It's on the way there."

"Lilia?"

"Yeah, the giant plant with the purple flowers?"

"...okay."

It was then that Raku learned: Chitoge liked to name every single one of her possessions. How she remembered them all, he had no idea. It was a little troublesome for him to memorize all their names, but he was starting to catch on. Besides, the look of shock and tiny smile of happiness that she always tried to hide when he actually got something right made it all worthwhile.

But there was one name that stumped him.

Like he did every Saturday night, Raku strolled into Chitoge's room, bookbag slung over one shoulder since they were going to do homework together. Instead of having a table and snacks prepared, the blonde was tossing things around in a frantic search.

"Leto? Leto, where are you? Oh, God, where did I put it?" she dove into a pile of stuffed animals only to reemerge second later, a pout on her lips. "Maybe one of the others picked it up by accident..."

"Do you need help finding something?" Raku piped up as he rolled up his sleeves. "Leto means hidden in Greek, right?" The meanings of the names usually corresponded to the item.

She yelped in surprise, whirling around to face him. "N-no, it's alright! You're here for homework, right? Let's get started. Don't give me that look; I said nevermind."

Three months later, he discovered that Leto was her secret scrapbook. A scrapbook about them.


XX. She doesn't think her scars are beautiful


"Well, they aren't," she murmured softly, "Why do you even like a damaged girl like me?"

The arms around her waist tightened, "Yes, they are. And you're not damaged. You're just healing. Besides, I come from a similar family, remember?"

Chitoge shifted closer to him instead of answering, pressing her face to his shoulder. He knew tears were building up in her eyes. He just knew it. So he did what he could.

Raku gently pulled her wrist to his mouth and kissed the pale skin. A thin line from when she fell on glass. "I love you." On her left ring finger, when some psycho kidnapper tried to "marry" her by forcing on a ring of thorns. "I love you." On her collarbone, when she walked into a gang fight and someone accidentally hit her. "I love you." On the side of her neck, when an enemy tried to strangle her until he was stopped by Tsugumi. "I love you." On her shoulder, when she rammed it several times into a heavy door just to save him. "I love you." On her ankle, when she tried to run away from a burning house in heels, tripped, and fell on shrapnel. "I love you." On the back of her knee, when she had to jump off the top of a building but couldn't stick the landing because of a fever. "I love you." On her abdomen, when she had to get her appendix removed. "I love you." On her hairline, where she had a burn mark, barely visible. "I love you." He went on, kissing all the scars he knew of, before he stopped at her lips. "I love you."

It was times like these that they truly treasured, when they're in bed and it's two in the morning. When one of them has nightmares and the other wakes up to comfort them. When they spill out all their insecurities and imperfections, wanting someone to listen. When one of them just can't take living anymore and the other has to bring them back from the edge. When, despite all the arguing they do, they know that they really need each other.

"I love you, too" she's crying now and clinging to him like her life depended on it. "I really, really do."

Chapter Text

K irisaki  C hitoge


 

XXI. The tips of his fingers were slightly calloused


She liked semi-cuddling on a checkered picnic basket under a shady tree in her backyard. It was eighty four degrees, pretty warm, but that didn't stop Raku from taking her hand in his and interlocking their fingers. Chitoge flushed almost instantly, blue eyes flickering around to make sure no one was looking. Thankfully, after nearly five years, the Beehive members were starting to trust Raku and allowed them privacy if she requested it. And she especially requested it because today they just wanted to take a nap in peace.

Chitoge sighed when Raku's thumb rubbed circles on the back of her hand. It was soothing, the way his skin felt against hers, so she moved closer to him and put a leg around his waist. Raku, laying on his back, peeled open an eye to look at her with an amused expression. She shrugged before throwing an arm around his chest and hugging him tighter. It was like hugging a body pillow.

"Your hands have gotten bigger," she murmured softly, holding their joined hands up and fanning out her fingers.

"Maybe yours have gotten smaller?" he fanned out his as well, aligning their palms. The pads of his fingers brushed against hers. "They're starting to look thinner...are you eating okay? Or are you finally starting your 'lady-like' development stage?"

"Shut up," Chitoge scoffed and lowered their hands again, her thumb running over his fingers. "Beansprout."

"Gorilla woman."

"Ugly."

"Uglier."

"No muscles."

"Too many muscles."

"Moron."

"Idiot."

"I love you."

"I love you, too."


XXII. He trusted her with his phone (OTPPrompts)


Which was insanely stupid, in her opinion. He knew that, if he left his phone out in the open, she'd mess with it. The first time it happened was when they were about to have a stay home movie night. He was out buying snacks (his cupboards only had ingredients for cooking) and, in his hurry, accidentally took her phone instead of his own. She had immediately reached for the dark blue phone case when she spotted it but frowned when it asked for a password. Raku never had a password before.

Maybe this has something to do with possible enemies going through his stuff again, she thought, typing in RAKU (or 7258). Didn't work. His birthday...her birthday? His dad's birthday? LOVE (5683)? Hey, it was cheesy, but you never know.

Perhaps...their anniversary? She put in the date and the phone unlocked. Now she knew his password and the fact that it was their anniversary made her heart flutter a little. Just a little.

Once Raku found out, he just shrugged, "I would've told you what it was if you were wondering. I decided to lock it because there have been some disturbances with other gangs lately and, if they got a hold of my stuff, they would see our pictures together. I don't want you getting hurt because they're trying to exploit one of my weaknesses." To which Chitoge vehemently disagreed. She could take care of herself, after all. He consoled her with a pat on the head.

Anyway.

Whenever she got her hands on his phone, she would change the home screen to a picture of herself, be it her hair, eyes, hands, feet, face, whatever. He'd chuckle to himself once he saw the pictures and ruffle her hair. "Cute," he'd say despite it being a close up of her split ends.

One day, it was way too hot to go to the park so Raku took Chitoge to an air conditioned ice cream parlor. They came so frequently that the employees knew their orders by heart so they just took their seats by the window. She held out a hand and he gave her his phone, taking hers in return. He had saved his work files on her phone ("Your screen is large and easier to type on.") and she had her games on his ("The phone is smaller and more comfortable to hold.").

Chitoge slid her finger across the screen, ready to sneak a picture of his face, but she froze. And her smile softened. The background was a picture of them, of when they posed in front of the shrine on New Years.

I don't want to change it this time.


XXIII. He's used to her indecisiveness


"Where are we going today?" Chitoge called from her seat on the couch. "It's date day."

"I know, just give me a second," Raku entered the living room with a booklet in hand. He found it a few days ago in an information booth. Restaurants and attractions and bakeries were listed on the pages and it wasn't hard to find somewhere to go. "How about the new confectionery place on 8th street?"

"Sweets again? We went to a candy shop two days ago. I'm going to get fat."

"Then a movie and lunch at the oriental restaurant?"

"Hmm, but we've seen all the movies that came out already."

Raku sighed, flipping through the pages again. Usually, he took charge on deciding their dates beforehand so that this back and forth situation wouldn't happen, but he said that he felt a bit controlling and wanted her to choose this time.

"Then...visit the animals at the school and then street vendors at the park?"

"Ah, I heard that the vendors all went on a holiday together."

"Let's take a road trip to the beach then."

"It's like a two hour drive though-yah, let go of my hand! Where are we going?"

"We're going to walk around the streets and go to the first place we see, okay?" he interlocked the hands together. "And when we're done, we'll go to the first place we see after ten minutes. So we don't have to decide anything."

"...alright."


XXIV. His eyes still wander


It's become routine now, hanging out every Sunday with the entire crew. Even Ruri didn't complain when all eight of them (occasionally ten when Yui and Haru can make it) get together. Today happened to be Sunday and Chitoge arrived a few minutes ago.

"Hm, is everyone here except for Miyamoto-san and Onodera-san?" Marika wondered, going on her tippy toes to look around the mall. "It's strange. They're usually never late. Oh wait, they're coming now!"

Chitoge whirled around to see an out of breath Kosaki running their way with a much calmer Ruri trailing behind her. "Sorry," Ruri's eyes almost burned into the back of Kosaki's head. "She was taking too long, trying to choose an outfit. But she looks nice, right, Raku?"

"Huh? Oh, y-yeah, you look nice," his eyes snapped up to her face. Chitoge didn't miss the way he was checking her friend out and it didn't sit well with her at all.

"Really? Thank you!" the blush on Kosaki's face was obvious. "Should we get going then?"

The group set out towards the movie theater, but Chitoge lingered in the back because Didn't they used to like each other? Her lips twisted into an unsatisfied frown. She wasn't the jealous type, not usually, but she couldn't help feeling insecure at times like these. If Raku fell for her friend before, who says he can't fall for her again?

"Chitoge."

The sound of her name made her look up. It's Raku with his hand reaching for her, expectant. She hesitated on taking it, but he interlaced his fingers with hers anyway. As if he knew what she was thinking about, he brought her hand up and kissed her knuckles. "She looks nice, but you look nicer."

She shoved him away, joking, "I thought I looked the nicest?"


XXV. He really hates cancelling. (wushu723 on FFN)


Raku was supposed to pick her up, but it's been nearly an hour and traffic wasn't even that bad. Chitoge dialed his number and brought the ringing phone up to her ear. On the sixth ring, he picked up.

"Hello?" his voice was groggy. "Chitoge? Ah, shit, I'm late, aren't I?"

"Just a little," she dug the toe of her shoe into the ground. "Hey, are you okay? You sound a bit sick. We can postpone this for another day, you know."

"Nah, I'm good," there was the sound of shifting fabric. "I'll be there in a bit. Besides, you were looking forward to going to the aquarium so don't worry about me, okay?"

"Maybe we should just have an in home date. Watch a movie or something."

Despite her being willing to compromise, Raku said that they should follow through with the original plan. As he said, he arrived at the aquarium in about twenty minutes and they made their way into the building. She tried to focus on the brightly colored fish swimming in the glass displays, but the fact that Raku's eyes seemed a bit unsteady worried her. His posture didn't look stable, either, and he's stopping to lean against the wall every ten feet. Finally, she can't take it any longer and ordered him to sit down on a nearby bench. Hushing his protests with disappointed click of her tongue, Chitoge felt his forehead and she was right: he has a fever.

"You're so stupid," she exclaimed, pulling him to his feet and trying to find the entrance. "You should've stayed in bed instead of coming out here. And no, it doesn't matter if I wanted to come to the aquarium today. We can come any other day once you get better. But if your fever gets worse because you decided to not listen to what your body needs, then that's a lot more cancelled dates."

"Sorry," he mumbled. "I just thought that you'll be sad that you can't see the dolphins or something."

"Idiot."

Chapter Text

XXVI. He's her emergency contact


As far as fights go, this was definitely one of their worst ones yet and Raku finds himself still seething about it three days later.

"She's so stubborn," he hisses, tossing his knife onto the kitchen counter. Once he threw in the red pepper flakes into the boiling pot of yellow noodles, he realizes how much it looks like her-golden smooth, really nice to run his hands through-hair and that sparks annoyance in him. "Geez, it was one time and it's not like she hasn't been hanging out with other people, too."

Raku didn't do much. Yeah, he stood her up five times in the past month and she may have gotten sick a few times waiting for him. And sure, he's been a little close with the new exchange student and declined Chitoge's movie offer in favor of showing the new student around, but he was just being friendly! That's why he took Yumi to a few of Chitoge and his favorite date spots and that's all. He doesn't understand why she's so upset with him.

But he knows exactly why he's upset with her. Staying after school to watch sports practices? Going with an upperclassman and his friends afterwards to dinner? Mindlessly chatting and flirting with said upperclassman in the halls all the time? He-quite calmly, mind you-confronted her and explained how he was...uncomfortable with the situation, but it got a bit out of control when she brought up what she called his "own offenses" and, well, things were said, feelings were hurt.

"Utterly ridiculous," he scoffs and wipes his hands on a piece of cloth. The phone was ringing. "Complete bullshit...hello?"

...

"Yes, speaking."

...

"What happened?"

...

"Of course, I'll be right there. Thanks for letting me know."

The moment he hangs up the phone, the calm facade drops. He switches off the fire, throws his apron to the side, and dashes out of the house with a quick, "Make your own dinner tonight, guys!"

Chitoge. Car accident. Hospital. He was her number 1 contact.

No matter how many stupid arguments they may have, it doesn't change the fact that he'll always be by her side when she needs him.


XXVII. She has an amazing memory when it comes to everything but chemistry


He first noticed it when she handed him a soda can, one that he's been hooked on lately, even though he didn't tell her. Since then, he's been making tiny adjustments to his behavior to see if she can catch on.

She has.

"I can't remember this stupid formula," Chitoge whines, burying her face in the textbook. "I can memorize the other things, but I just so happen to be stuck on the most crucial part of the entire chapter!"

"Stop doing that. You're going to leave drool on my book or something," he offhandedly mutters and she perks up with an annoyed glare. "But, hey, can I borrow a pen?"

There's grumbling, but when he holds out his hand, he gets ones. "Thanks. Is this a Zebra Flight pen?"

"Yeah, you've been using those a lot these days, right? I bought a pack to see what was so good about them. You've been using BIC pens for a long time now and for you to switch over means that it must be alright."

"So what do you think?"

"They make my handwriting look really nice!"

"You mean decent."

"Shut up."


XXVIII. Her tone changes with her mood


"Darling!"

Chitoge's happy to see him and that makes his lips quirk up into a smile, one that he struggles to keep from showing, but it's too late because she pokes his cheeks with a small giggle. Someone seems to be in high spirits today, he comments and she only answers with a shake of her head. He's happy, though, at her excitement. Taking her to a cat cafe took a lot of consideration, especially when it came to safety-for both her and the cats. He just hoped that she didn't break anything.

"Darling."

Oh.

Was it already 7? S-sorry, I didn't see the time, is his stuttered apology when he sees her dripping wet and shivering at his doorstep. He was supposed to pick her up after her part time job so that they could have a movie date at his house, but cooking an elaborate dinner and trying a new dessert took up all his attention and made him completely forget the time. At least she came. If she was really mad, she would've gone home, right? But she decided to walk to his place instead. That must mean something.

...right?

For now, he'll just grab some of her extra clothes from his bottom drawer as she stalks off to shower.


XXIX. She cares deep down inside


"What is this?" he asks, picking up a pale orange envelope from her desk.

"D-don't touch that!" she screeches from the other side of the room and tries to snatch it out of his hands, but he's already read the address. It's one that he recognizes, even with the English words and foreign names. "It's nothing!"

"Isn't this the hospital Marika's at? In Pittsburgh?"

"N-no, it's not."

"It is. I'm not an idiot. I've been sending her things, too, and I can read, you know. I think it's cute how you're writing to her."

"It's not because I care or anything," she pouts. "I just thought that she'd be bored in that room all day and wanted to know how things have been back here."

"So you do care."

"Leave."


XXX. She has a soft spot for Romeo and Juliet now


It's strange. She mentioned that she doesn't like Shakespeare-something about it being even harder to read in Japanese than it is in English-yet she has a copy of it on her shelf. He pulls out the thin book, hoping that she doesn't walk in and send him flying with a high kick.

"Oh, it's this one!" The weird script that they performed last year. Or has it been two? The specifics didn't really matter to Raku, but he does remember how it went. Not only was it one of the worst renditions he's ever seen (how it was so popular, he'll never know), but it was also the day that he and Chitoge forgave each other. He doesn't even recall what the argument was about...Raku flips through the pages. There's signatures along the margins of their classmates, actors and stage crew and costume design and everyone in between.

He spots some scribbling in the corner of the last page in Chitoge's handwriting, something he's grown familiar with over the course of their relationship.

H oping our love story stays away from Romeo and Juliet... the day I realized I loved him.

Chapter Text

O nodera  K osaki


XXXI. They take care of each other


Kosaki isn't blind. Even after Chitoge and Raku admitted that they were in a false relationship, she can see exactly they were able to make believe for so long. It's the little things they do, like how him putting his jacket over her shoulders when the wind picks up. Chitoge tries to shrug it off with a scowl, but Raku makes some sort of excuse about being too warm and not wanting to hold it in his arms. She snaps back with something along the lines of I'm not your personal coat rack, but accepts it anyway.

Or the time their group of friends were walking to a nearby diner and Kosaki sees Raku nudge Chitoge to the inside of the road as a cyclist rushes past them. He steadies her with a hand on the small of her back when she takes an unsteady step on the sidewalk and something in Kosaki wilts at how he doesn't move away until Shuu takes notice. Ruri attempts to push Kosaki to Raku's side, but the pavement can only fit two people side by side and she'd rather die of embarrassment than be the third wheel.

Later, once they got to the place and were seated, Raku excused himself to go to the bathroom as the rest of them looked over their menus. The waiter comes much sooner than expected and it's after everyone ordered that Kosaki notices someone's missing.

"A-ah, can you wait a second? One of our friends still hasn't come back yet," she says and the man reassures her with a No worries, I can come back.

"Oh, no, it's fine," Chitoge shakes her head. "I can order for him."

Kosaki's eyes scan the menu, finding the items that her friend lists off and finds herself surprised at what Raku's interests are.

Maybe she doesn't know Raku as well as she thought.


XXXII. Chitoge isn't too good at cooking


Kosaki has been in a kitchen when Chitoge before and made it out of there alive so the blonde isn't that bad. But she's heard the stories of the mishaps: her long hair brushing against the fire, the mix up between sugar and salt, accidentally cutting her finger, overworking the ingredients...hm, maybe Kosaki should be a little concerned for today's cooking class.

"The fire's too high!" The knife in Raku's hand clatters onto the cutting board as he reaches over and quickly turns the stove off. "You're going to burn your hair and our grade!"

"Well, how was I suppose to know that my hair would suddenly slip out of its bun like that?" she hisses, already gathering the blonde strands back into a ponytail. "Geez, you scared me."

"I just saved your life and that's the thanks I get?" he huffs. "This happens a lot at your house, too. You should invest in a hair net."

"A hair net? You're kidding me."

"It's either that or get better at cooking and we all know that that's impossible-did you just hit me, Gorilla Woman? I'm holding a potential weapon."

"My fist down your throat is a potential weapon, you-"

"Ms. Kirisaki, Mr. Ichijou, please quiet down. And watch your language."

"Yes, ma'am," they chorused and Kosaki ducks her head to Ruri's gaze pointed her way.

Her head stays down when she notices that Chitoge takes Raku's hand once she thinks no one is looking, squeezing it quickly and letting go, and Raku lets his arm brush against her back as he reaches behind her for another ingredient. Kosaki later finds out that they were apologizing to each other.


XXXIII. They have matching phone screens


Maybe Kosaki's overthinking, but something about Raku's home screen looks familiar. Shaking her head, she continues watching the short video he's holding out for everyone to see, but once it finishes, she catches another glimpse of it as he exits out of YouTube.

Ruri must have seen the question in her eyes because she points at Raku. "I feel like I've seen that background before. Where was it from?"

"Hm, this one?" Raku turns his phone to them and shows them the lockscreen. "It's the class photo from when we went on the overnight trip."

A quick glance at Kosaki's expression tells Ruri that isn't it. "No, the other one."

"Oh," the tips of Raku's ears turn pink. "It's, uh, Chitoge. She has the other half with me on her phone. You know, that thing where you take a picture together holding hands and split it in half. But yeah, we took it on the walkway next to the water at sunset. That's probably why it looks familiar."

Oh.


XXXIV. They pick up each other's habits


Tapping his pen against his lip in intervals of three as he mulls over the question. After several study sessions together, Kosaki notes that this is the same thing Chitoge does when she's thinking about a problem.

Taking a sip of her drink before eating. It's common, but Kosaki notices that Chitoge never did this before. Raku did, though.

It's well known that Raku and Chitoge don't have the same music tastes, but still. Kosaki guesses that the tune spilling from Raku's headphones is the chorus of Chitoge's latest favorite song.

All her writing utensils in her pencil case pointed towards the top stops of the zipper. With how often Shuu borrows a pen from Raku, she knows that Raku places his pens and pencils the same way.

On a day off, when the group decides to go to the movies together, Chitoge and Raku show up with coincidentally similar outfits: him in a white t-shirt and blue jeans and her in a white skirt and light blue sweater. Chitoge pokes him in the chest and comments that someone has to change and it won't be me. Raku just takes her hand with a huff and says that the movie's going to start soon.

How does someone tie in rock paper scissors nine times in a row?


XXXV. They watch shows together


Kosaki has a faint idea of what tv show Shuu is ranting about, but the character references and rants about last night's episode go straight over her head. The others at the table agree with him on how the main lead's dad shouldn't have died so suddenly like that, especially right after meeting up with the mother for the first time in seven years.

"No, don't tell me," Raku groans, covering his ears with his hands. "I didn't see it yet."

"You didn't? Don't you catch the episodes no matter how much homework you have?" Shuu asks. "How did you not watch it?"

"Chitoge was at a meeting last night so she wasn't home. We always go to her house to see it and, if one of us can't make it, then we wait til we're both available to see it."

"So that means...you don't know about the antagonist's new outfit change? Or their horrible back story? Or how the female lead is secretly in love with-"

"Shuu!"

Kosaki laughs as Raku shoves his friend on the shoulder, shaking her head when he pleads for help. "Sorry, Maiko! This was your fault." just as she was about to comment on Chitoge's absence from the lunch table, a familiar red ribbon peeks out from behind Raku's head.

"Boo! Hi, everyone!" she chirps and settles next to her boyfriend. "Were we talking about something important?"

"Not really, just about how Mizuki may switch sides and become the newest recruit in the bad guy's team because they revealed who killed her mom all those years ago."

Chitoge's smile suddenly chills and she turns to him, grin faltering. "Shuu...was that a spoiler from last night's episode?"

Raku, sitting between them, slides his chair back and lets out a small chuckle. "You shouldn't have done that. You know how upset she gets with spoilers."

 

Chapter Text

XXXVI. She can play piano


"No, that makes it minor," she points at the correct key and he adjusts his hand. "Remember, major chords are intervals of 2 and then 1.5."

"And minor is 1.5 and then 2, right?"

"Finally," Chitoge breathes out, leaning back in her seat. "You get one thing right. Now, play me an E major."

His fingers dance over the keys as he tries to remember what she taught him. "Why can't I just learn one song? I'll memorize it from watching you play. All this music theory is making my head spin and it's stressing me out more than it should."

"Well, what happens when you want to learn another song? I'd have to come back and why do that when I can avoid all that with just a few basic lessons? E major, Raku."

With a sigh, he presses down what he thinks is right and she nods in satisfaction. "Basic, you say as you throw five different books at me."

"It's simple information that every pianist should know. I never said I'd move slow, though," she huffs, but suggests that he let the information sink in as she gets snacks. "And maybe I'll put on a movie, I don't know."

He snags her wrist when she is about to leave and tugs her into his lap. She expects him to pack away the books with relief, but his arms loop around her waist instead, keeping her in place. "Play a song for me?"

"...what song?"

"Any song."

"Wow, thanks, that's helpful," she sneers, tapping out a short melody.

"Fine, what about that song you were humming the other night when we were walking back from the diner?"

"You heard me?"

"Yeah, I'd recognize your off tune voice-ow-anywhere. But it sounded nice-I mean, decent. Can you play that one? Unless you can't."

She rolls her shoulders forward and crack her fingers before wiggling them above the piano. "Oh, watch me."


XXXVII. She has her insecurities


Chitoge is a strong girl, Raku doesn't deny that at all, but even birds fall sometimes and her gravity comes in the form of shattered confidence. She was always horrible at hiding her emotions, unable to fight the grimace when she had the Joker in Old Maid, the tears when someone's insult hit somewhere deep inside her heart, and the smile when Raku takes her hand in public. So it isn't hard for her boyfriend to notice her fragile grin and barely held back tears and he excuses himself to get a drink, asking her if she wants to follow.

At the vending machine, he glances around before pulling her into his arms, letting her bury her face in the crook of his neck. "Something wrong?" he mutters and rubs circles into her back.

"Just the stupid things again."

"They're never stupid."

"Mhm."

He isn't too good at finding the appropriate words in situations like these, which made him feel a little incompetent at times. What kind of boyfriend is he, unable to help her when she needs him? It's fine though, she isn't too good at voicing her feelings either. She prefers it when he holds her like he is now, chest warm against hers as she tries to drown herself in his presence. After a few minutes, she lets out a shuddered breath and eases herself off him. With a small smile and noticeably happier, she mutters a Thanks, I guess and leads the way back to the classroom. The others don't mention that they returned empty handed.


XXXVIII. She's selfless


She's the type to hop up immediately and offer her seat to a pregnant woman, any single parent with kids, an elder, or anyone that looks tired. If she's on the bus or subway with Raku, she'd ignore his concerned stare and tighten her grip on the bar above her head. Even if she's tired herself, she would rather give up her own comfort for someone else's and Raku always tells her that he's sure they greatly appreciated it as he wraps an arm around her waist and lets her lean her head on his shoulder.

Chitoge also has a pen that she loves. Her mother got it for her and she's been using it for months now, which you can tell by how all her notes are written in the same color. Despite not using her other writing utensils, she still brings a case with pencils and pens that she doesn't use because her classmates tend to forget their own. So when the girl in the seat next to hers asks if she has an extra pen, Chitoge reaches into her bag.

"I don't have another pen, but I have a pencil," Chitoge says and shows her the mechanical pencil. "Would this work?"

The girl wrinkled her nose. "Ah, I don't like pencils. They feel weird when I write."

"I'm sorry, I don't-"

"Hey, how about that pen you're using? Do you mind if I use it?"

She blinks, unconsciously tucking it under the cover of her book. "I, um, I like this pen. It's a little special to me so I don't usually lend it out, sorry."

"Ey, c'mon. I saw Ichijou use it one time and you don't mind using pencils, right? I'll give it back at the end of class," the girl holds out her hand expectantly. "Promise."

Chitoge bites her bottom lip because, well, she really didn't mind using a pencil, but this classmate never ever gives back borrowed things. "Sorry, it's just...my mom gave it to me as a present so I don't, erm..."

"She can get you another one, right?"

How does she explain that this was a custom pen made for her hand shape and her writing style? Something in her heart aches as she hesitantly gives it up. "Please give it back at the end of class."

"Alright," the girl nods and turns back to her desk, thinking that Chitoge couldn't hear her mumble, "Geez, how stingy."

By the end of the day, the pen isn't returned and Raku finds her curled up behind the school, phone laying on the ground in front of her as she contemplates how she tells her mom that it isn't coming back.

"Raku, am I selfish for doing that?" she looks up at him with wet eyes once she realizes he's there.

"What are you talking about?" he sits next to her on the ground and reaches for her phone, shutting it off. "In the end, you did let her borrow it, right? You were pretty generous."

"But I want it back and I feel bad."

"For wanting something that should be returned? That's normal, Chitoge, since you weren't donating it."

"Still..."

"You're not being selfish," his pinky comes out and hooks with hers. "I'm sure your mom would say the same thing."

There are lots of situations like these, times where he knows she swallows her suffering and thinks it's fine like this. He always held her afterwards, when she beats herself over the slightest feeling of regret, and told her how her efforts were acknowledged. How he was proud of her for doing it.

But when he hears that the reason she ran away was because she was being selfless and wanted to remove herself from the triangle so that Raku and Kosaki could be together, he wasn't proud at all.

"I like you," she whimpers out, hands wiping away her tears furiously. "I like you so much that it hurts, but you and Kosaki like each other. There's no way I could get in the middle of your happiness like that."

"So you thought you were sacrificing yourself for us?" Raku raises an eyebrow and both girls present flinched at his low tone. "You thought that was the best course of action?"

"I-Ichijou..."

"Onodera, please stop. I need to hear the words from her."

There's a pause until Chitoge blurts out, "Well, yes."

The scoff that comes out of his mouth is harsh, even to him. "That's not being selfless, that's being selfish," he runs a frustrated hand through his hair. "Do you really think we'll be okay if one of our closest friends decided to suddenly disappear like that? Were you really looking out for us or were you trying to keep yourself from getting hurt?"

Her gaze is on the ground. "It doesn't matter."

"It does matter, Chitoge. You don't-"

"You always told me how it's fine to be selfless!"

"Not when it turns out like this! Not when everyone's hurt and sad and would rather you come back! Do you understand? We don't like this," he takes in a deep breath and continues quietly. "I don't like this. Come home, Chitoge."

She shakes her head, arms around herself like she was going fall apart at any moment. "I can't."

"Yes, you can," he steps closer and, when she doesn't resist, tangles his fingers with hers.

And like before, he's holding her again, except this time...she's being selfish and he says that it's okay.


XXXIX. She's not as strong as she thinks she is


"You've lived for long enough," Raku points the tip of the sword against Hiro's collar, running it lightly over the length of his neck. "Say your last words now, Tadashi."

Hiro eyes the weapon before snapping his stare up. "Just two words. You lose," and just like that, his leg shoots out and wipes Raku's from under him. The sword clatters to the ground and Hiro suddenly has a dagger in his hand, inches away from Raku's stomach. "I would offer you a chance to say your last words, too, Daichi, but I'm afraid you don't deserve it."

Raku struggles, trying wrestle the knife away from him, but Hiro's grip is tight and he flops back down in defeat. "If it's to you, I can give up my life. Do what you must and I hope that I was a worthy opponent until the very end."

Chitoge watches with wide eyes as the blade is buried hilt deep and has to turn away as fake blood spilled out from Raku's vest. "R-Ryuu," she stutters out the name of her character's love interest and he pushes her behind him like practiced.

"Stay behind me, Yoshino. The situation is going to get worse and I don't want you getting hurt."

"All of a sudden, Ryuu gets side tackled by one of the servants!"

"Wait, what-"

That certainly wasn't in the script, but Narrator Shuu had a knack for keeping the audience's attention so all the actors on stage played along with his words. Chitoge stumbled back from the pile of people on the floor, latching onto the feast table for dramatic flair. A few of the maids scream and run off stage while pretending to call for help. She has to commend them for their quick thinking.

"Unable to bear the sight of her love crumpled on the ground, Yoshino begins to cry."

Chitoge glares into the stage lights, the general area where Shuu should be sitting with the lighting technicians. How is she supposed to cry on demand? She may be able to read lines, but she can't convincingly play emotions, which was why she got a side character instead of the main lead. Besides, Romeo and Juliet was just a fluke because her partner happened to be Raku, but he's playing one of her enemies, the dead guy on the floor. She peeks over at him and...

"But which one is her true love?"

...feels the tears prick at her eyes. Dang, the other students did a really good job with the fake blood because it sprayed out perfectly and Raku really looked dead. Something about the thought makes her stomach twist into knots and, before she knows it, her cheeks are wet. Between the kid playing Ryuu and Raku, she's most likely able to act heartbroken with the latter so, taking shaky steps, she makes her way towards her boyfriend. "Ra-Daichi," she collapses onto her knees in front of him, managing to catch herself before she says his real name. "Wake up."

"Ah, as it turns out, she was secretly in love with her enemy!" Shuu adapts to the situation well and the audience gasps in shock. "She can't accept his fate just yet and tries to deny reality while our main characters remain off stage and call authorities!"

Out of the corner of her eyes, she spots the real leads stay just behind the curtains, about to jump in until Shuu added that. They're probably a little annoyed at the shift in spotlight, but she's focused on the still body of 'Daichi.'

"Tell me you're just playing," she balls her hands into fists and weakly punches his shoulder, "like you did when we were kids. This isn't funny, you know. If you wanted to play a joke on me, this is going too far."

Shuu lets out a soft, "Oh," and doesn't make any more commentary. Chitoge knows where she's going with this.

"You never said that you loved me back, you idiot. You never answered my feelings. You let me be set up with some other man-are you really okay with leaving me like this?" she's shaking him now, voice cracking. "Are you okay with leaving us like this? You didn't practice sword fighting for so many years only to lose this fight! You promised that you'd be by my side later! Was that all just a lie then? You promised, Daichi, you...you promised."

She stops pounding on his chest and presses her forehead to his heart instead. Her sobs are genuine, her body shaking with how hard she's crying, and she clutches his shirt. At one point, Shuu breathes out And that concludes Act II. There will be a 15 minute intermission and, once the curtains close, Raku immediately sits up and takes her into his arms, not caring that he was staining her dress. They're just side characters and aren't required to show up in the rest of the play. They stay like that for a few minutes, him rubbing her back and calming her with soft shushes while the stage crew maneuver the set around them, careful not to run them over with the carts.

"I just thought that you were a darn good actor," he palms away the leftover tears on her face. "Turns out it was real."

"I try," she lets out a laugh, slightly embarrassed now that it's over.

"How did you get yourself to do that, though?" he asks and helps her to her feet. "C'mon, we can change out of our outfits and ditch the last acts, if you want."

"No, we have to be here for the closing. And I can't just let out my secret like that. What do you take me for?"

Break ends and the show continues on with Raku and Chitoge watching from the side, passing a water bottle and snacks back and forth. They applaud with everyone else through all the scenes and tuck their legs out of the way when people run around to grab props. When the backstage director starts rounding everyone up, they're holding hands and next to each other in the third batch of actors. The third year that plays Ryuu holds onto Chitoge's other hand and Raku glances over with a frown, moving so that his fingers are interlocked with hers.

"And give it up for our dinner table actors!"

The clapping is ringing in their ears as they step out and take their bows. With the constant clapping, Chitoge figures that it would be hard to hear so she confesses, barely above her normal volume, "It was because I thought of you dying and I realized that I don't want that to happen."

Like she expected, he leans in closer, yelling out, "What was that?"

She grins and the whole auditorium is full of whistles and applause as they all take a final bow, "Never mind!"

"You just admitted that you love me too much, right?"

"...no," but her furious blush gives her away.


XXXX. She can surprisingly pass as a Sailor Senshi


One of the second years remembered the day Chitoge, in place of her usual half ponytail, tied her hair into a half bun instead and decided that the blonde was a perfect addition to their cosplay cafe for the school festival.

"Just a shift or two, senpai!" a crowd of girls corner her after their idea was approved. "Oh, pleasepleaseplease? Your hair is long and naturally that color and there's no way we can't have Sailor Moon in our line up. She's a must!"

It was a combination of the convincing puppy eyes and heart wrenching pleads that got her to agree, but she wonders if it was a good choice now that Raku is snorting water out his nose.

"You cosplaying?" he's cackling at the thought. "And as Sailor Moon? Do you know who she is?"

"No...I forgot to look her up, but I kind of have an idea of who she is."

"Here, you can see for yourself," he shows her a picture of the childhood hero and Chitoge almost drops her chopsticks.

"Why is her skirt so short?" she shrieks, zooming up on the miniskirt. "There's, like, barely anything there!"

"Don't worry, I'm sure they have an appropriate costume for you. But of all the characters, you look like Sailor Venus," he searches up that character and Chitoge has to admit that she does look a lot like her, especially the hair. "They probably have a reason though. If you had to have one or the other, Moon is more important."

"Either way, I'm having a fitting after school. Want to come with me?"

The moment she walked into the room with Raku, the girls squeal in excitement, pushing them into separate changing rooms. "This is perfect!"

"What's perfect-hey, what are you doing? What is this? What are you-"

The dress shoved into Chitoge's hand isn't the one she saw earlier. This one is white and long and shimmery and how do you even put this on? Getting some help from one of the girls, she tugs on the dress and steps back out into the open space where Raku is waiting in a black suit. It's clearly a costume, but she couldn't recognize what character he's supposed to be.

"I thought I was going to be Sailor Moon?" she asks, head tilted.

"You are!" someone explains. "You're just in her 'other' form as Princess Serenity and Raku is perfect as your Tuxedo Mask...or Prince Endymion."

On the day of the school festival, the couple became campus famous with how perfectly they pulled it off, reciting lines from the show that had everyone gagging at their chemistry. And getting to use the excuse of we were just in character to be affectionate in public without embarrassment? Worth it.

Chapter Text

XLI. She likes to learn different handwriting styles


When Chitoge writes with Japanese characters, there isn't much of a difference between her Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji. They're large, much like her personality; often written in a hurry; and only a little bit neater than the chicken scratch she had when she first started learning. Sometimes, when she practices her handwriting, she would produce perfect little characters with sharp corners and sloping curves that almost looked printed, but that's reserved for special occasions only.

Her English writing is very different. Raku never really noticed until he stopped by her room one afternoon to accompany her as she filled out paperwork for her mom.

"Knock knock," he says, tapping his knuckles against her door frame. "Delivery for a Ms. Kirisaki."

"Hey," she greets him without looking up from her desk. "You can leave that by my bed or something. I'm just trying to figure out this last thing, but I should be done soon."

He puts the bag of food where she pointed before walking over. He leans over her shoulder to read, but the pages were swimming in English. "Whatcha up to?"

"Taking some notes. Mom's too busy to read all the documents so I go through them and write down what's important. Condense it into easily readable bullet points. It makes her life easier cuz she has so much to do. These are just practice, though, so it won't be a tragic situation if I mess something up."

"What's all the scribbling on the papers?"

"More notes, but they're for myself, really. Sometimes if I need to go back to something or don't know what something means or need to clarify things, I put a reminder there and then reword it so I know what it means next time I read over it. Also, are you just gonna stand there, breathing down my neck and interrupting me, or are you gonna go away?"

"How about I stand here, breathing down your neck and not interrupting you?"

He lowers his face and exhales forcefully, hot air tickling the nape of her neck. Chitoge swats at him, huffing some kind of complaint, but allows him to settle next to her. his hip on the edge of her desk. It's quiet as her attention-and his-returns to her work. He finds it interesting the way her writing switches from a quick scrawl on her personal notes to a neat script on her notebook, the familiar yet unfamiliar letters twisting on her page. (He knows enough English to decipher the words, but doesn't understand a lot of the terms she uses. English class isn't exactly his strongest.) Raku blames the difference on the papers themselves. Her personal notes don't require a careful hand and a clear font; it's not like anyone else will read them. But then she flips the page in her notebook and starts writing in print, letters tall and strange. He recognizes it as the KG Skinny Latte font that she's fond of looking at and watches as she fills up the lines, waiting for her to finish her thoughts (interrupting them would only give him a punch to the shoulder and a string of angry words) before asking,

"What the fuck was that."

It comes out more of a statement than a question, but curious nonetheless.

"What the fuck was what."

He points to her book. "You switched from cursive to print."

"Yeah, and?"

"Well, why?"

"Well, why not?"

"Shut up, Gorilla Woman."

"You're the one who asked, Bean Sprout."

There's a beat of silence.

"So are you gonna tell me or..."

"Or what."

"You know what, never mind."

The corner of her lips curl into a small smile and his twitch up to mirror it. Despite his efforts, her smile always gets to him. She closes her notebook and opens to the first page, turning to the next slowly so his eyes can take it in. Lavanderia, Prince Charming, Market Diary, Paper Daisy, Coffee and Tea, Malaya, Always Forever, and a number of other fonts he knew but could not name.

"I like looking at fonts and trying to replicate them," she explains, thumbing through the sheets. "My mom told me that I could write like this because it makes her job a little more interesting."

"I like them, too," he reaches up to let his fingers graze the marks. He traces over them lightly. "It just seems unlike you."

"In what way?"

"Your art is usually absolute crap, so-" Thump. "Ow! You asked so don't just hit me! Go back to doing your work!"


XLII. She has the randomest items on hand


He's muttering to himself, trying to remember which episode they were on. It's been months, but they definitely left off on season 4...did the concert with Weiss happen yet? He scrolls through the episode synopsis list and hopes that one will sound familiar soon. It's approaching two in the morning and he isn't sure who suggested watching a show at this time, but it's too late to back out now.

Whub, whub, whub.

Raku pauses. He looks down, following the trail of his white headphones until his eyes land on the person displayed on his phone screen: Chitoge, with her hair pulled back and eyebrows shooting up questioningly, was staring back. His forehead furrows in confusion for a second, but she's already waving her hand with a Hurry up and find the episode. He rolls his eyes and is back on the wikipedia page. Was it episode 4 or 6?

Whub, whub, whub.

His gaze snaps to Chitoge immediately, and she freezes, one hand raised to her face, holding a...what?

"Did you find it yet?" she asks, continuing to flap the object next to her face. There goes the sound again.

"Are you fanning yourself? What is that?"

"Uh, a ping pong paddle?" she holds it closer to the camera and flips it around for him to see. "Obviously."

Raku drops his head into his hand so that his cheek rests against his palm. A grin tugs at his lips. "And where'd you get that?"

She picks up something beside her, a little off screen, and shows it to him. The white basket rattles as she shakes it; the handles of the things hit against each other. "The ping pong paddle bucket, duh. Don't give me that look; it's hot."

He's definitely smiling now as he stares at her. She's tilting her head with a smile of her own, though puzzled at what he was looking at. Or rather, why he wasn't finding the episode. So she asks him, and he shakes his head, gives a groan, and drags his hands down his face. His focus shifting back to his computer screen, but he lets out a chuckle.

"God, I love you."


XLIII. She really, really likes kisses


Kiss, kiss.

It's stupid. Really, really stupid. It all started with this little baby she knows; he was taught to give cheek kisses, which were more like an open mouthed transfer of slobber, whenever someone said "ooh ahh." His younger sister is learning a variation of the command: kiss kiss. Raku doesn't know when Chitoge planted this in his mind, but whenever she says the words, a nonchalant tone accompanied by the tilt of her head, he finds himself leaning over to peck her cheek.

Kiss, kiss.

Now it's become more like a game. At a stoplight, she says it fast, just as it's about to turn green, and he quickly kisses her cheek before turning his attention back to the road. Walking down the sidewalk, waiting for their order of food, dropping each other off at home, from all the way across the room, you name it. She often jumps away, dodging his lips and laughing as he misses. Oh, but he has learned. His hands shoot out and grasp her waist; she tries to twist her face, but her attempts are futile.

Kiss, kiss.

Sometimes, the words fly out of her mouth and Raku can't count how many times she's said the phrase. Two? Three? Four? He peppers her face with kisses, eliciting small squeals and giggles from the blonde, and neither of them seem to mind that he's done more than he needs to. In fact, she encourages him to give two or three more...just in case, you know?

Kiss, kiss.

He's tried to say the words to her, but only received a blank stare in return. It's like biting the hand the feeds, she offers as an explanation. I trained you, so you can't use it on me. He points out that her point is 1) very flawed and 2) very wrong because he's pretty sure that's not how you use that idiom. So he argues that if he makes a new phrase or action, she has to abide by its demands and can't use it herself, to which she agreed. He thinks of the silliest action he could and this ultimately backfires as he waves his arms wildly in public, attracting everyone's stare. Still, he thinks it's kinda worth it when Chitoge rolls her eyes, the faintest blush dusted across her face, and kisses him. Rules are rules.

Kiss, kiss.

Heat. It races up his arms, through his lungs, down his legs. His movements are as feverish as his skin, grasping at her curves and just about anything he can get his hands on. He feels strain in his fingers, which are settled around her thighs and almost locked into place; he's working hard to stay restrained. She shifts a little on his lap and ignores his obvious signs of distress, movements calm and languid. Her hands rake through his hair, follow the slope of his shoulders, and stop on his chest. He wonders if she can feel how fast his heart beats. Erratic and deafening in his ears. There's a slight purr in her voice as she says the words: kiss kiss, pressing her body against his. His lips tilt up eagerly to catch hers.

Oh god, the way she says it makes him come back for more.


XLIV. She's a huge tease (NSFW)


Duty calls isn't an unfamiliar phrase when it comes to their relationship. Raku finds himself leaving the country for days, weeks, even months at a time to tend to international matters regarding his family business. He doesn't feel too bad leaving Chitoge; she has just as busy a schedule, if not busier, with her own family business and helping out her mom overseas. Raku's thankful for having a girlfriend like Chitoge, someone who understands the responsibilities and hardships of being an heir, and wonders if Onodera would've been as understanding, had things turned out differently. On the outside, most likely, but she'd be hiding her inner unease. With Chitoge, Raku knows that her actions are true and that she really doesn't mind not seeing him for a long time.

They've tried a number of different methods: skype, rabbit, voice calls, Facetime. They found that the latter works best when they have small blocks of free time to chat away about their day, but it isn't uncommon for these calls to span across hours. This call was one of them, already approaching two hours.

"And then he had the audacity to say I was wrong," she huffs on the other end of the line, shuffling the papers on her desk. It was night time, but she busied herself organizing for the next day. "In front of everyone in the meeting! Which I wouldn't mind normally cuz I can take constructive criticism, but his tone. Oh my God, his tone had me so annoyed. It was so degrading, like I didn't know what I was doing, and it sucked, you know?"

Raku makes a noncommittal grunt of agreement. He wants to listen to her, he really does, but the way she's reaching for her stapler is also really distracting. She doesn't seem to notice that her cleavage had taken over the screen, black lace peeking out from the neckline of her shirt.

"But it all turned out okay because the team head called him out for having bogus facts and not enough information in his presentation while everyone told me that I did great. I wasn't actually wrong at all-" she quickly ties her hair back and his mouth goes dry at the sight of her exposed neck-"and it was super satisfying because I finally finished the project."

Sucked. Head. Satisfying. Finished. The words ring in his ears, and he feels a little bad about where his mind is as she tells him about work, especially when she waited so patiently as he ranted about his day for over an hour, but he can't hold it in much longer and calls her name right as she's about to launch into another story.

"Chitoge," he says again, softer this time, letting the syllables tumble out of his mouth. "Are you free for a, um, meeting sometime soon?"

He can't suppress the goosebumps on his arms nor the blush on the back of his neck, and he almost wants to bark a shut up at the leisure grin spreading across her face. It's one of realization, as if she now knows why he's been distracted while she was talking. With the long distance, they've been relying on exchanging pictures (encrypted with the highest security, of course. who knew that the advanced technology would be used for sending nudes?) and having video calls where they got each other off, inconspicuously dubbed meetings. Watching each other masturbate was an experimental decision, but it ended up working so, so well.

"I dunno, I can check my schedule," she crosses her arms and lets her chest rest on them, leaning forward for the camera. The low cut of her spaghetti strap tank top was seriously not helping, and she knows this. That's why the Cheshire-like smile hasn't left. "There's a few free spots in my calendar, but that's not for a week or two. If you ask nicely, I can make time...now."

He glances at the clock. He's home for another hour and a half. "Don't you have to wake up early for something? It's already so...late...for...y...ou," the words die in his throat and he swallows thickly.

Her hand trace along her collarbones, which he's absolutely weak for, and she smirks in triumph as his eyes follow. "Sorry, what was that?" she asks with feigned innocence, dipping down towards her chest, fingering the top of her bra.

"I don't want to keep you up or anything," he manages without much conviction.

"Mhm," she hums dismissively. Her hand's cupping her breast now, thumb swiping over her nipple. Raku can't tell if his brain's making it up or not, but he swears he sees the bud pushing through her bra and the tight material of the tank. "You're right, waking up in the morning is just so hard."

The slight moan at the end of that sentence doesn't escape him; he's palming the bulge in his pants. "Yeah, maybe you should-" shouldn't-"go get some rest-" oh, please please don't-"for the morning?"

There's a pause.

"Yep, I should! Okay, bye, I love you, good night!" she chirps, ending the call before he could register her sentence.

He's left staring blankly at the screen and blinks slowly. One. Twice. Three times before letting out a large groan. Of course, this is such typical Chitoge behavior, leaving him with a raging hard on and probably cackling to herself somewhere in America. Raku grumbles to himself, just about to pull up her pictures to use, when his phone starts to vibrate. A call from the she-devil herself.

He picks up and chokes on the complaints he was about to give. She's on her bed now with her back against her pillows. Her bra is gone and this time, he's absolutely certain that her nipples are showing against the tank top, barely contained by the fabric. He wants to tug the material down so bad-it's barely an inch-until her breasts are exposed for him to suck on, tongue swirling and flicking over the hardened buds. His mouth aches from muscle memory and as a reminder that he hasn't had her in so long; instead, he watches her roll a nipple between her forefinger and thumb and holds back a whimper. Her slightly parted legs reveal a darkened patch on her underwear, which she grazes over with her other hand.

"Are you just going to leave me waiting?" she raises an eyebrow. "Clothes off, Beansprout."

He makes no sounds of indignation at the nickname. Raku stumbles out of his pants and yanks off his shirt, nearing tripping in his haste to scramble into bed. His erection was getting nearly painful, confined in his jeans. He grips his dick through his boxers, prepared to rub his precum, but Chitoge shakes her head.

"I said off. All of it. I want to see how hard you are for me."

He's quick to respond, and she's content to see his cock spring up, already dark and leaking. Just for her.

"Your turn," he juts his chin at the screen. "I want the tank off."

She complies, though not as fast, and he has chills at seeing her chest. He misses feeling it in person.

"This can come off, too," she snaps the waistband of her underwear. The dark patch has grown with her working herself up. He nods furiously. "You have to ask nicely, though."

"P-please?"

"Please what?"

"Please take them off."

She pretends to consider for a second before shimmying the artcle down her legs and-Jesus Christ, oh my God, his girlfriend is so beautiful. Raku feels his heart pound (not the only thing he wants to pound) and wonders what he did in a past life to deserve someone like her.


XLV. She can't dance


"Is your vision okay? You keep thinking my feet are the floor and I'm starting to get a little concerned."

Chitoge levels him with a glare and he feels her hands twitch, wanting to push him, but he gives her waist a slight squeeze and continues to lead them across the ballroom. She's the one that wanted to learn for a friend's wedding, yet Raku feels like he's the only one learning. It's been hours in the room and she's making so little progress in shoes. Imagine how difficult it'll be when they switch to heels.

She manages to step on his toes again and lets out a frustrated sigh. "Let's take a break," she calls out to the instructor, waving for the music to be turned off. "Ten minute?"

The man gratefully steps out of the room, headed off to the bathroom.

"I wasn't really that bad, was I?" there's a hint of meekness in her voice, something unusual for someone like her. "Do you think I should even bother trying anymore?"

"Well," Raku mulls over his words carefully, "we've been at this for four hours so far and you've at least got the positioning and general technique down. Kinda. Sorta. Not really."

"Just tell me, Beansprout," she rolls her eyes. "I promise I won't punch you."

"In that case, yeah, you should probably stop."

Her shoulders droop. "I knew it. I'm not really cut out for these sorts of things."

"Hey, hey, chin up. Not all's lost! When someone asks to dance with you, you'll do so badly that you'll scare them off without having to make up some excuse. And besides, any wedding that has formal ballroom dancing instead of Cupid Shuffle...probably better to just sit aside and drink some punch. Maybe a glass of champagne. Definitely eating at the snack bar."

She chuckles.

"You won't be the only one sitting out either, I assure you. They're be lots of others, myself included."

"Oh, Raku, you don't have to do that. I think a lot of people would like to dance with you."

"Then leave them wanting. I came with a date and I can't just leave her alone."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," he says, patting her head, "you're stuck with me whether you like it or not."

Chapter Text

XLVI. She's very bad at being environmentally conscious


He doesn't know how many times he has to remind her that yes, those napkins can be composted, but the number is much more than it should be. It's not like he expects her to know what can be composted or recycled or to get it right every time, but c'mon, the waste bins even have pictures of what can be put into each and their school had a presentation for zero waste sustainability a few days ago. That last part shouldn't even be an excuse because Raku's been trying to push for zero waste for a long time now.

"Chitoge, can you use your brain for once?" he sighs and rubs his temples. "I know it's a little smaller than most people's, but I figured you'd get it by now."

The comment earns him a punch to the shoulder as she drops her paper wad into the compost bin. "It's just one napkin! It's not a big deal."

"It's never just 'one napkin,'" his tone's tired, sick of repeating the same thing. "I'd expect that from some other idiot who doesn't know what climate change is, not my girlfriend, considering how important this issue is to me and how much I talk about it. But whatever, do what you want."

"Your voice sounds condescending. I don't like it. What are you trying to say?"

"What do you want me to say?" Raku throws up his hands. "I'm so close to being done with your nonchalant attitude. Even if you don't really care for our environment, I wish you'd at least listen to me and do the bare fucking minimum when you're around me."

"It was literally one piece of trash!" she jabs a finger at his chest. She's getting defensive now. "Should I dig it out again cuz you can't count?"

"That's exactly the attitude I'm talking about! Chitoge, it's never one thing because you're going to go about your day and continue to throw things into the black bin: your lunch remains, your old papers, your online shopping packages, your tissues. It adds up when you're considering the fact that you're doing this every single day and so does everyone else around you. All that shit piles up and that's why you get overflowing landfills and dirty waters and that giant floating island of trash that's now twice the size of Texas. And Texas is huge."

"Well-"

"Let me finish. Do you know how much crap we put our planet through? First, we poison our land and crops by littering everywhere and dumping trash into lots. Then, we poison our water and sea life with sewage and more littering. We even burn trash in incinerators and poison our air. And it's all a cycle; we consume that trash again. We eat, we drink, we breathe it. Even if you don't care about how we're affected by it, can you think about areas that don't have the luxuries we do or even the future? I want our kids to actually have an Earth, y'know."

"Okay, first of all, I've been doing my best! I know I still mess up with remembering what goes where, but I'm making an effort to learn and fix my habits. Why do you think we changed all the lights and switches in the house to more environmentally friendly ones? I told Claude to use only compostable things if we ever need to dispose of utensils and I'm pushing for more alternatives. It doesn't seem like it, Raku, but I'm trying. I don't want our kids to live in a Lorax situation either."

Raku pauses to let his initial anger die down and her words sink in. She was right; she was making lifestyle changes and it wasn't fair of him to blow up at her without acknowledging her effort. "I'm sorry. It's...with the time ticking down til our imminent demise, I'm getting nervous. What's the point anyway, if we're making these small adjustments and these huge companies are still doing what they're doing? Do you think if we storm their offices with our Beehive and Yakuza groups, they'll switch to greener methods?"

"Oh, I love seeing a good fight," Chitoge cracks her knuckles, "but the poor guys won't know what hit them and I pride myself on being an honorable fighter sometimes."

"Also, you, uh," he rubs the back of his neck shyly, "you mentioned kids in the future. Our kids."

Faint pink dusts across her cheeks and she trips over her words, "Y-you said it first!"


XLVII. She uses a lot of hair products


"Hey, Chitoge, didn't we just buy hair oil and conditioner in the beginning of the month?"

"Yeah, and?"

"It's on the shopping list again."

"Yeah, and?"

"Um, we're out of it already?"

"Yeah, and?" From the other couch, she leans her head to the side and her hair spills over her shoulder in ripples of blonde, light catching on the thick layers. "It takes some maintenance to keep this from getting all tangled and messy, but I guess you wouldn't know."

Raku has to admit that he does little to his hair other than standard shampoo and conditioner with the occasional bit of pomade. "Have you thought about getting it thinned out? Or cut shorter? It gets heavy, doesn't it?"

"It does get heavy so I get it thinned every once in a while, but shorter? I think I'm so used to supporting this weight that, when the hair's all off, my head won't know what to do with itself," she mimics a bobblehead to emphasize her point. "Besides, my hair won't have that satisfying swish when I turn or that cool billowing effect when the wind blows it back."

"It's all fun and games until the wind changes direction and you're complaining as you're pawing it out of your mouth and face. Better yet, so I'm not trying to get it out of my mouth and face-ow! Add your dumb hair whips to the list of things I'd be happy to say bye to."

She shrugs. "You shouldn't have been in its path. Basically asking for it."

"God, you're so brutal. Not lady-like at all, Gorilla Woman."

"Oh, stop being such a pansy, Beanspout," she scoffs, gathering her blond strands in one hand, ready to launch another attack. "You were never into 'lady-like' anyway."

"I was into Onodera."

"Yeah? Look who you ended up with. Not quite the fairy tale confectionery store and bakery you dreamed of back in high school."

He takes a cursory glance at their surroundings to humor her. "No, not quite. Still deciding if it's a worthy replacement. Onodera wouldn't hit me with her hair."

"Yeah, but then you wouldn't have me. You can't have it all, buddy."


XLVIII. She likes back rubs


As Claude said, Raku finds Chitoge in bed, curled up and blanketed by darkness. He doesn't bother knocking or announcing his arrival when he comes in, just tip toeing into the room and lifting the corner of the covers just enough to slip in. She settles into his arms almost immediately; her head leans against his chest, hands seeking out the warmth underneath his shirt, and she sighs as his fingers thread through her hair.

There's silence as Raku contemplates what to do. Does he ask her about it? Does he wait for her to mention it on her own? Do they talk about something unrelated? His internal debate manifests itself in a tightened grip that she complains about with a firm push. She ends up solving his conflict for him by taking his wrist and moving it to her back, a cue for him to start rubbing the knots out of her muscles. He works his ways into her skin and feels her shoulders relax beneath his palms-good sign, he thinks.

"How're you feeling?" he murmurs, figuring it's safe to talk.

"Could be better, but I'm okay now."

"Okay."

"...Raku, I-"

"You don't have to say anything, if you don't want to. I'm here."

She burrows deeper into his arms and he squeezes her tight-if he holds tight enough, maybe he can put her broken pieces back together. But he knows her, knows that she'll get herself back up because that's the kind of person she was. She'd rather have the world bend than break her, a trait that Raku admires from his permanent place at her side.

"Thanks, Raku."


XLIX. She likes karaoke a little more than she likes to admit*


To Raku, Chitoge is a girl of few words and many actions, most of them leaning towards the violent end of the spectrum. If his questions ever made her feel vulnerable or awkward, she wouldn't avoid it with words like a normal person-no, she'd answer using her knees or fists or elbows, whichever moved first. He's learned to step back out of her attack range when he sees the telltale twitch in her brow. It's almost like fighting a video game boss, he muses. He's also learned that you have to build her up to the question. The last time he asked her point blank whether she was jealous, she almost crashed the car. To be fair, he did snatch her sunglasses from her face; he's thankful she was too busy driving to beat him up. The safest method for everyone involved is to ask mundane questions first and set up the foundation.

Oh, and never put words in her mouth or accuse her of anything she's denying vehemently. That's just a punch to the stomach waiting to happen.

So that's why Raku decides to keep quiet when Shuu invites them out for a small karaoke party and Chitoge insists with a shy wave of her hands that karaoke just isn't her thing, saying she'll have to pass. Raku waits until his friend is out of earshot before he leans over his girlfriend's shoulder and crows, "Bullshit."

She whirls around and jabs a finger into his chest, a blush rising on her cheeks. "Don't you dare! It's already weird enough with our friends, but Shuu and the others are bringing outside acquaintances, too."

"You love karaoke, though. You sing all the time at home in that one room."

"That's different; that's at home with no one to hear me except you, maybe. I'm-I'm not that good anyway."

"Hanging out in the booths is more about spending time with people and having fun than caring about the scores or how good someone is, silly," he takes her hand and pulls her behind him as he runs to catch up with Shuu. "Let's just go. Shuu! Wait, we're coming, too!"

Chitoge tightens her grip on his hand and clings on, even when they get to the karaoke place. Despite her initial hesitance, though, he could see her smile growing with every song their friends sing, eventually loosening her hold on his forearm to clap along. One of Ruri's college classmates hand her a tambourine, the rattling tipping the room's noise level from mild nuisance to headache inducing.

It seems a little different in here, Raku thinks to himself, scanning the barely lit space to see what was off. Right when he realizes that a certain redhead was absent, light floods into the room and Marika announces her arrival with a shrill shriek of his name, launching herself into his lap.

"E-eh?" the impact shoves him against the seat and, as his arms instinctively reach out to keep Marika from falling to the ground, he accidentally elbows Chitoge's drink out of her hand. The cup hits her knee, spilling its sugary contents, and she yelps as she collides with the person next to her.

The person, a classmate of Shuu's, is quick to grab napkins and dabs at the soda dripping down her legs. "Are you okay?"

"I'm alright," she grimaces, taking the napkins from him and wiping away the sticky feeling. "I should probably go wash this off in the bathroom."

"I have wet wipes?" he rummages through his bag and offers her a small orange packet. "If you want."

"Oh, those are great. Thanks, Aki."

"Ichijou Raku!" Marika cooes, nuzzling into his chest. "I haven't seen you in so long! Did you miss me? Did you miss me?"

"Uh," Raku glances at his girlfriend to see if she's mad at the stains on her stockings, but she seems to be fine so he turns his attention back to the girl writhing in his lap. She's failing to distinguish his legs from the cushioned bench, despite his protests.

From the corner, a suspicious chuckle begins to grow, "Hu...huhuhu...huhuhuhu!" Shuu shifts his glasses higher on his nose bridge, the frame catching the dim light and glinting in a way that makes Raku a little nervous. "Now that everyone's here, we can start pouring the drinks! C'mon, hold 'em out!"

"Why don't we play a game with it, too?" Jaein, an outgoing foreign exchange student from Korea, suggests. "I'll sing N'Sync and you have to take a sip every time they say Bye!"

Shuu hoots and hurriedly presses the numbers in. The others chime their agreement, raising various forms of bottles, shot glasses, and cups. It isn't long until anthem after anthem is queued on the waiting list; excitement builds with each lyric sung, even the slow ballads performed by Onodera and a few others. At some point, the colored disco turns on, tracing erratic motions with its rainbow hues. Raku tries to limit his singing to the ones everyone participates in, but before he knows it, he's pushed to the front of the room with a mic in his hand, getting ready to duet A Whole New World with Tsugumi, another person shying away from the spotlight. High School Musical moment aside, Raku swears that he can see her flushed cheeks, even in the dark, and doesn't know if it's her embarrassment or mad Asian Glow. He starts strong, a little bored even. Her first lines are tense and shaky as she holds the microphone away from her face. Her discomfort melts away once she gets immersed and, with a glance over his shoulder, it seems like she isn't the only one. Everyone's swaying and mouthing along to the Disney classic, everyone except a certain blonde. The Beehive heiress has her eyes closed, head lolling to the side and coming to rest on Aki's arm. The latter looks down in surprise, but adjusts his posture to support her, letting her lean on him fully.

Has the song always been this long? Raku keeps peeking over at Chitoge. She gets quite sleepy when she drinks and wakes up after a quick nap, often using him a pillow if she can't find a real one. Raku's sure Aki is a decent person, but Chitoge can get a little handsy when she's conscious - his Boyfriend side rears its head, snorting in impatience. As soon as he and Tsugumi sing the last line, he moves back to his seat.

"Raku, sing this one with me!" Marika latches onto his elbow and drags him back to the front. The instrumental of I See the Light plays, cutting off any complaints of Marika pushing her choice to the top of the queue; Disney's a safe choice. Raku manages to get halfway through it until he sees Chitoge fidgeting and promptly hands off his mic to another person to get to her side.

He gives Aki a nod of acknowledgement and eases Chitoge onto his chest. "Hey," he mumbles, brushing her hair out of her face. There's a bit of drool on her cheek, causing the strands to stick. "You fell asleep. Feeling okay?"

"Yeah, still tired, though," she yawns to accentuate her statement and waves her hand towards a glass of water. "...me mine?"

Raku twists all the plastic cups until he finds the one with her name scribbled on the side. He's careful to shield her from everyone else with his body, keeping her in his hold as he moves. She's much more vulnerable than she probably wants to be right now with all these new acquaintances and he knows she'll wail her complaints when sober and try to beat him up for not taking care of her. He helps her hold the cup to her lips and she pats his thigh in thanks.

"I thought you said you know this song!"

"I thought you meant the one by KISS, not by Nana Mizuki. I don't know how to sing this one. Hey, does anyone know Black Diamond by Nana Mizuki?"

Chitoge nearly chokes in surprise, Me! Her hand shoots up and waves wildly until Daisuke passes her the microphone.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Raku tugs on her wrist. "Chitoge."

"C'mon, man, let's let her do it!" Shuu shakes his tambourine in encouragement and Chitoge soon takes her place by her duet partner, Shiro. They high five and the violin intro starts. It's hard to stop her after that: she's either singing her heart out until someone pries the microphone from her hands or she's screeching from her seat. Despacito, Pick Me, Miss Independent, Neurose, Baby Shark, you name it, she sang it.

The hours fly by. One by one, people sober up and filter out of the room to walk home, waving to the rest and saying we should do this again another time! When the numbers dwindle down to just the original high school group, Shuu says that his home is nearby; an after party and maybe a sleepover is possible, if anyone wanted to continue. Raku shakes Chitoge's shoulder (she had knocked out again) and she stirs, hands coming up to rub away the sleep in her eyes.

"Hey, what happened to karaoke not being your scene," Shuu teases as he clears trash from the table. "You went wild, Miss Thang."

"H-huh? I did what?"

"We could barely get you to stop for someone else's turn! It felt a little weird without you joining in at first, but you made up for it in the end."

Raku feels a sharp poke in his side and turns to his girlfriend, who lets out an awkward giggle before turning to him. "You let me do what?" she hisses through gritted teeth. "In front of everyone?"

He holds up his hands in mock surrender. "Trust me, I tried my best to hold you back, but you were very insistent on going up there. Deep down, you probably really wanted to do it. Besides, you weren't bad. You looked like you enjoyed it, too."

"Raku!"


L. She thinks the Beehive can be embarrassing


"Excuse me, do you know who she is?" A stomp on the table.

"That's right, Kenji! Tell them!" Another stomp on the table.

"Guys, can you, like, not?" A desperate plea. "I just want to have a normal meal. Please."

"We can't let them get away with treating you, Kirisaki Chitoge," Kenji looks each staring person (at this hour, it's just the waiter, the chef, a small travelling family, and some guy in the corner with the munchies) in the eye, mentally burning the name into their brains, "the Beehive heiress like you're some regular college girl!"

"We're at Denny's and it's 3am," she deadpans.

"Still, they're expecting you to use the commoner's bathroom!"

Claude claps the younger boy on the shoulder, only fueling his passion. "Good job, Kenji! A worthy comment from a worthy man!"

Raku sits back in his chair, watching the scene play out with an amused expression. Kenji is practically glowing from Claude's praise; he crosses his arms triumphantly and puffs out his chest, which makes Raku internally roll his eyes. Chitoge's childhood friend, who is clearly favored in comparison to himself, believes that if he can win Claude's heart, he can win Chitoge's. It doesn't seem to be working out so far. The object of his affection is practically yanking her hair out in frustration. Raku admits that Kenji has some spunk, though. Maybe it's his youth, even just by a few months, but the kid still isn't tired after their long day of ice skating and sight seeing. If anything, he has even more energy, powered by the smell of crusty coffee grounds and crispy bacon.

"I could...show you to the employee bathroom?" the waiter, who has been silently waiting by the table during this fiasco, offers hesitantly.

"No, no need at all!" her face is pink with shame. "Raku, tell him it's fine."

"Don't worry about it," Raku waves his hand dismissively, ignoring the two glares boring into his skull. "The other two are just, uh, unaccustomed to the civilian life, that's all."

Claude gives a haughty scoff, prepared to retaliate, but Chitoge's already hissing at them to quiet down again.

Chapter Text

LI. She's a trained gymnast


4:38PM [Gorilla Woman]  I'm getting ready to go on the mats!

4:38PM [Gorilla Woman]  Whenever you and the others get here, Mr. Yamato will let you in

4:39PM [Gorilla Woman] Can you pick up some milk on the way

Raku types back a quick 'Already bought. On the way now' before sliding both his phone and her favorite post practice drink into his bag. It's not everyday she invites people to her training sessions, but when Onodera mentioned that she wanted to learn gymnastics, Chitoge didn't hesitate to pull some strings and get her a personal studio and an instructor.

"Someone looks excited," Raku snorts as his best friend wriggles beside him. "Don't be a perv, Shuu."

"I can't just ignore their outfits! So beautiful, so perfect! I bet the instructor is a goddess―ack! Ruri!"

"Don't say you didn't deserve it," Ruri sneers, rubbing her fist with her other hand. Shuu clutches at his growing bump with another cry of My youth! My boyhood! My teenage years! "Oi, if you don't knock it off, you won't make it to the gym."

Raku chuckles at the escalating banter, Shuu insisting that Ruri needs to open her eyes to the wonders of the world and Ruri retorting with her usual deadpan tone. They're both his friends and, sure, he knew the loud mouthed one longer, but if asked to intervene, he could only offer a shrug and a half-hearted Sorry, dude. Not that intervention is necessary. Usually, Shuu stops before Ruri gets too impatient, though Raku can never tell how he knows ("It's when her calm mask cracks and her voice gets more annoyed!" She's always annoyed with you, but okay, Shuu), and they resolve it between themselves.

There's a slight tug on his sleeve.

"When are you going to tell him that the instructor's a guy?" Onodera smiles. "A guy that's definitely not his type."

"He'll find out the same time he finds out we're participating as well."

"He's still in his uniform...this means he'll have to borrow something from the studio, right?"

"Exactly. Serves him right for that awful prank last week."

"He apologized." Onodera giggles.

Raku shoves his hands into his pockets. "Yeah, I know it was meant to be a harmless prank, but Chitoge felt honestly hurt and the damage was already done once we found out it was a joke. We're not mad at him. It'll be funny to see him squirm for a bit."

Unfortunately, this plan backfires because Shuu absolutely loves his borrowed outfit. He smooths his hands down his legs in glee, twisting and jumping, reveling in the discovery of tights. But his exclamations sound muted. Actually, everything around Raku feels like it's moving in slow motion, distorted, like his life is a Youtube video and some dork is watching it at .5x speed. He keeps his eyes trained on the girl in front of him. Blonde tresses roped into a braided bun, she's preparing to run through her floor routine one last time―nothing special, she claimed.

Nothing special, his ass. As the music starts up, she launches into a series of flips that he doesn't know the names for, but what he knows is that they're challenging and she's completely owning them. Ruri, Onodera, and Shuu join him on the edge of the mats, jaws slack as they take in the sight. When the song ends, they continue staring...and then break into applause.

"From recreating your first meeting with Ichijou, our school trips, and Tachibana's rescue, I always knew you were athletic, but this was impressive." Ruri claps slowly.

"You're amazing, Chitoge-chan!" Onodera pulls the girl into a quick hug. "I'm so excited to learn!"

"Thank you!" Chitoge rubs the back of her head sheepishly. "I'm not a very good teacher cuz I kinda just...do it, but I can definitely help! Can you do a backflip?"

"Nope!"

"What about a front flip!"

"Nope!"

"A cartwheel?"

"Nope!"

"Erm, handstand?"

"Nope!"

"...somersault?"

"Nope!" Facepalm.

"W-well, you have the enthusiasm, at least! Your instructor is here to handle the rest!" Chitoge takes Onodera by the shoulders and steers her towards Mr. Yamato. She glances over her shoulder. "The rest of you can work with me or mess around with what we have. The foam pit and trampoline are fun for non-gymnastic things. I'll be right there!"

"Yes, ma'am." Shuu gives a mock salute.

Raku shifts his gaze to the boy by his side as Ruri wanders to the benches, citing glasses issues. "...you better not be leering at my girlfriend."

"Me? I would never."

"Good, cuz―"

"I will say she looks fantastic, though. Kirisaki's always been gorgeous, but she's absolutely radiant here. The outfit helps." Shuu has a characteristic Ohoho! expression that Raku tries not to punch off his face. "Sike, I'm just kidding."

"Why do I have a feeling you're not?"

"You'd be right!" Another Ohoho! face. Raku's brow twitches. "I'm not trying to have a jealous Shuuei heir wipe my ass, but real talk, she's good."

"Yeah."

He shouldn't be surprised. He's seen her scale buildings and parkour across balconies and land perfectly from a falling rope ladder, but there was nothing awespiring about those moments. In situations like those, she's more worried about survival or not getting caught; it was better to do simple and effective moves than anything fancy. But in a studio, she can afford to show off and, man, can she.

"Chitoge, your drink's in my bag."

"Oh, thanks!" A quick swig before hopping back into position. "What'd you think of the routine?"

"Add in a few trees and vines and you'd be in your element. A true gorilla."

"Better than being a stupid beansprout!" she scoffs. "Bet you won't even last 15 minutes."

The way her body turns is...art. If Raku was in a cheesier mood, maybe he'd say that Chitoge herself is art, but that's a thought he tucks away for a later time. For now, he'll listen as she runs through the parts of a cartwheel and pray that he doesn't hit his head too hard.


LII. She's Marie Kondo's worst nightmare


"Okay, wait. Do that again."

It's...it's like a miracle and it's making his head hurt. Raku pinches his nose bridge as Chitoge struggles to fold her clothes. How did she even do that?!

"See!" She throws the offending item―a t-shirt, something that should've been easy―onto her bed. The attempt is better than the one before, but again, nowhere near acceptable. "This is why I don't bother doing laundry! Do you believe me now?"

"I guess even the impossible is possible with you," he admits.

He always thought her messy room (organized chaos! she always corrects) was a personal choice, a result of her laziness. He's realizing now that it was less a choice and more a...necessity? Coping mechanism? They've done this a few times already and, each time, he just shakes his head in wonder. There's definitely enough space in her drawer for something else; he's tried it himself with the shirt she just had and it fit. Somehow, between him giving it to her and her pushing it back into the drawer, refolded, it grew in thickness and size. How's that possible?

"Let's do it again, step-by-step. I'll do one alongside with you."

One minute later.

"SERIOUSLY, HOW?" It looks the same as his! It's even thinner and smaller than his! By all the laws of the universe, it should fit in her drawer!

"If I knew, I wouldn't be having this issue!" she huffs. This shirt is thrown onto her bed, too. "I wish I was exaggerating, but I really can't fold clothes. Just leave these here; I'll sort them out later."

"It's fine, I'll help you with them."

"Suit yourself." She pushes the pile of defeat onto a chair and takes the cleared space on her blankets.

"Why don't you get the Beehive to help you? I'm sure they'd be willing to. Your things are just scattered on the floor."

"It's...embarrassing."

"There's a lot of things that you should be embarrassed about, but this isn't one of them."

"Okay, not embarrassing, but..."

"But? You're mumbling, Chitoge. I can't hear you when your cheek's smushed against your knees like that."

"I don't wanna trouble them! I don't wanna be a bother...they already do so much for me." She throws up her hands. "You of all people should get it―I spent so much time trying to prove to them that I don't need to be babied, that I can take care of myself. If I ask them to do this for me, it's just proving that I'm still a child. Plus, they're all so busy..."

He gets it. He adores the Shuuei clan, he really does, but their yells of Young master! get awfully smothering. And when he was younger, he hated their presence. He could walk to school by himself! He could converse with people by himself! They didn't need to butt in all the time; it was humiliating! As he grew older, he understood their concern came from a place of care, however annoying.

A smile pulls at his lips. "It's sorta funny."

"What?"

"In my family, to prove my independence, I did things like clean and cook for everyone. I shied away from physical training, but I wasn't too good at that anyway. You're the complete opposite. To prove your independence, you rely on strength, on fighting, on punching your way through. And as for house chores." He snickers behind a hand. And swiftly gets socked in the shoulder.

"I guess it works out well then." She leans over his fallen body, pointing a finger to his face. "If I handle the rough stuff, you handle the household affairs. That way, I'll never have to deal with cleaning or cooking (except for special occasions) and you won't have to hurt your pansy hands. Deal?"

His face flushes. "H-h-hey, that sounds, uh, pretty domestic. Like a...proposal, in your own weird way."

She gives him a blank stare. He thinks her brain short circuited.

In seconds, her dazed look morphed into vehement shouts of denial. "W-who'd propose to a Beansprout like you! As if―as if I would! Don't make me laugh!"

"Okay, okay," he chuckles, sitting up and grabbing her swinging hand. "I get it, you wouldn't marry me."

"Well, I wouldn't say I wouldn't marry you," she pouts, cheeks aflame. She's pointedly avoiding his gaze. "B-but definitely not now!"

"No, of course not." He presses a kiss to her hair. "C'mon, let me up. If you're not able to fold your laundry, maybe we can hang it all up or sort them into better piles. There's no way you can mess up hanging clothes, right?"

That statement wasn't meant to be a challenge.


LIII. She's a coffee snob


The cafe looks familiar, but he just can't place it...Raku squints at the sign. Something about the name rings a bell.

"Oh!" He snaps his fingers. "This was where Chitoge and I went on our first date."

Tsugumi looks up at the sign and blanches. "Please tell me that was a joke."

"That entire day was a joke, to be honest. That's right, Tsugumi, you weren't with the Beehive then! The day after we started our fake relationship, we went around town and this place was one of our stops. I always wanted to come here, but after Chitoge complained about the quality to their faces, I was too embarrassed to come back." He glances at her. "It's been a while since then so they've probably forgotten me. Wanna grab a coffee before we go?"

"So you're serious. You really took her here?"

"Yes? What's the―hi, just a small cafe au lait please―issue? I thought she likes coffee?"

"That's exactly the issue. She likes―no, just a water for me, thank you―coffee too much. This place isn't..." With a quick look around, she drops into a hiss. "This place isn't good."

His expression is scandalized. "All the reviews said they're great! I did my research and this cafe qualified as a Best First Date location."

"Who were the reviewers, wannabe Parisians and their grandma?" She snorts. "The reason why this place gets so many positive reviews is because of their interior design and cute little cupcakes. Everything in here is perfect for photographing, but anyone with half a taste bud can tell that this coffee is just hot bean water. It's an insult to real French coffee and M'lady is a bit of a coffee connoisseur. She doesn't obsess over finding the best cup in town, but she has standards. For you to take her to such an overpriced, low quality place...I'm offended on her behalf."

"I, for one, think it's fine."

"You asshole, they use instant coffee mix. 600 yen...for instant coffee."

"Chitoge's favorite cafes have worse reviews."

"They're probably mom and pop shops, right? Family owned ones or something?"

"Yeah, usually."

"Like I said, it's not like she scouts places; she frequents cafes that she's been at before with either you or another friend. She likes supporting the small places. Plus, they don't claim to have the best coffee―just something warm and drinkable, unlike here." She waves a hand at the gaudy signs. "La Vie en Rose doesn't even have certificates or awards to back up their statement. As long as you don't tout your wares as the best this or that, she gives you a chance; otherwise, you better step up to the plate and deliver."

"Is this something she picked up from Adelt?"

Tsugumi nods. "The Boss taught her a little about coffee and wine tasting. Just enough to get by, but she wasn't interested in training her palate."

"She's more interesting in stuffing her palate―hey! No brandishing guns in a family-friendly space! I wasn't insulting her (much)!"

"If you want to impress her, maybe you should take her to a nice place."

"I'll think about it."

He does think about it. Then he calls in a few personal favors, pulls a few strings, and his next Saturday date with Chitoge isn't at the movie theaters anymore.

"Woooah!" Her eyes sparkle as she presses closer to the glass. It's almost comical how much she looks like a kid on Christmas day. "Raku, are you seeing this? Look at that pour!"

"Maybe if you stopped slobbering all over the window, I could."

She wipes her mouth with a glare. It's cool watching these barista students train. He doesn't understand the appeal, but seeing Chitoge this excited means mission accomplished for him. Maybe they could come here more often; the teacher, an old acquaintance of his father's, said she doesn't mind. He smiles to himself as a student offers Chitoge a steaming cup, which she takes gratefully.

"I'm glad you like it. I wouldn't mind doing this all the time for a pretty girl like you."

...never mind, maybe this will stay a one time thing.


LIV. She got crocodile handler training


Raku stretches his arms above his head and winces at the dull ache in his shoulders. It's been a long day; the sun's starting to approach the horizon. They've been at school since morning, but other than the exhaustion of his body, it didn't feel like that long. Beside him, Chitoge hums a short tune―a new favorite song, maybe? she's been humming it all day―and skips down the road with her hands behind her back.

"Honey?"

"Yes, darling?" she answers immediately. There's no one around, but using these formerly embarrassing nicknames have become second nature and it just seems right to call her his sweetheart. "Kirisaki" feels like an eternity ago.

"Thanks for helping Tachibana today." He leans back to watch the sky, wispy clouds disappearing into hues of sunset. Helping his so-called fiancee overcome her fear of animals wasn't how he thought he'd spend his Saturday, but he doesn't regret it. "She didn't say anything, but she looked grateful, too. The animals were manageable because of you." He turns to her. "Y'know, you've gotten a lot better at handling them. I'm proud of you."

"Of course!" she huffs, crossing her arms indignantly. "We've been taking care of them for so long, it's no wonder they've warmed up to me. Though...I can't say the same for you."

He stuffs his bandaged hand into his pocket. Turtles can have nasty tempers. "It's just a small scratch! Guess you have the advantage of being one of their kind, eh, Gorilla Woman?"

"Must be why you like to garden, stupid Beansprout!" She sticks her tongue out. The childish gesture would normally get a rise out of him, but the grin she tries to back back afterwards tells him that she's not that mad either. "I think everyone was well behaved today. Crusher Kato didn't try to poke your eyes out. Marika just stressed them out so they reacted badly, that's all. No one did it on purpose."

Oh, that reminds him. "How'd you know what to do with Margarita de Satou when she stepped on his tail? When he gets agitated, I usually wait for him to calm down, but you acted like an actual handler. Where'd you even learn that from?"

"Oh, Maa-chan? Sometimes when I have free time, I stop by the nursery with a few Beehive. They help me feed the animals and I noticed that Mamoru was playing with Maa-chan. Turns out he used to be a crocodile handler, but quit because it got too dangerous."

A Beehive member thought crocodile handling was too dangerous and instead joined a gang that eats gunpowder and blood for breakfast...he'll never understand that group.

"So he taught you what you did?"

"Yeah, he said we're lucky that Maa-chan is so docile. Mamoru helped me teach Maa-chan some tricks, too."

"Like what? How to fetch?" Raku starts laughing, but at Chitoge's blink, he chokes. "You're...kidding me, you taught that beast how to fetch?"

"And how to roll over, beg for food, talk on command, and shake hands."

"What! He's never done any of that with me! Is it just him? Don't tell me the others know tricks, too?"

She scratches at her cheek, avoiding his eyes. "U-uh, you see..."

He groans. Seriously, he started working at the nursery before she did; she only did it because Kyoko-sensei forced them together! "Did they all forget you're the girl who didn't know how to measure their food? That you called them by numbers at first instead of by name? That you thought being with them was a chore?"

"I was that girl, but now I know all their names and how to feed them! Don't knock my hard work!"

"Yeah, yeah," he grumbles.

It's annoying that this brash blonde got his charges to love her before he got them to love him. But something about it is also heartwarming. She comes to the nursery on her free time? She got the animals to trust her and come when called? She not only remembers all their names, but even calls them by nicknames? No, he really can't knock her hard work. While helping Tachibana today, she spoke about each animal with such fondness that he doesn't doubt it: Chitoge loves the nursery as much as he does. Smel-chan, she had smiled softly, squatting beside the capybara and rubbing its belly. Ham-kun, she whistled and petted the owl's head once it landed on her arm. Raku had to say His Excellency, Hameln just to get the owl to look his way.

Over ninety animals to take care of...it isn't easy. Suddenly, his cheeks grow pink. If he's technically the dad of the animals, does that make Chitoge their mom? Even though Onodera and his other friends occasionally help out, Chitoge's dedication is unrivaled. W-whatever, not that it's weird. He appreciates that he has someone share this space with.


LV. She was almost a beach volleyball champ


Raku sets his towel down beneath the large umbrella, ignoring the grumbles of the surrounding men. This happened the last time they went to the beach together; it's not his fault all his friends are attractive. Today, their group is comprised of himself, Shuu, Ruri, Onodera, Chitoge, Tsugumi, Tachibana, Haru, Fuu, and Paula―the number of girls had increased and he feels dagger-like stares digging into his back. Why has the grumbling increased...Ruri took off her glasses! He hears whispers of You're kidding me! and They're all babes! He tries to hold back anime tears of anguish. Again, not his fault!

"Hey, look at this! They're holding a beach volleyball tournament!" Shuu waves a flyer in front of their faces, failing to hide his expectant grin. "We should all join."

First place: a year's worth of protein powder. Second place: all-you-can-eat barbecue...why does he feel such strong deja vu?

"Seems fun," Onodera remarks, peering over Raku's shoulder. He inches out of her way, if only to get her breath off his neck. "They're only doing teams of two. We could all pair up, but how should we divide the teams?"

"Straws? Rock-paper-scissors? Something to make it fair―"

"I CALL THE BLACK TIGER!" Paula latches onto Tsugumi's elbow with a yell. "This competition will be a piece of cake with us together. Now, excuse us, we must discuss war plans."

"War plans?" Raku yelps. A pair of highly trained assassins doesn't seem very fair.

"E-eh? I was planning to team with M'lady...no, no boyfriend stealing tactics―Paula, please―"

He's not sure what that's about, but one highly trained assassin and her not trained yet still superhuman mistress also doesn't seem very fair. The only way to keep the competition level is to bar the three of them from entering completely.

"Raku-sama, a weak girl like me can't be by myself," Tachibana whimpers and sidles up to him, catching his arm between hers. "You'll partner with me, won't you?"

"Oh no, ouch, I hurt my foot in the foot in the sand. Looks like I can't partner with you," Ruri deadpans in the most unconvincing tone and shoves Onodera into his chest, despite her flustered protests. "Whoopsies, my elbow slipped. Guess you two will have to pair up."

"Oi, Marika, watch it!" A flash of yellow and Chitoge's pushing Tachibana back.

Fuu just silently reaches over and takes Haru away. Three very, very pretty girls fighting over him. He thinks he hears someone cracking their knuckles. Help!

"Ki...Kirisaki? Is that you?"

The tug of war over Raku freezes and Chitoge looks up. The dark-haired kid looks familiar...there's that feeling of deja vu again. Chitoge takes a step back, hand on her chin as she contemplates.

"Ah! Kageyama, what a coincidence!" she exclaims, clapping in recognition. "We went against you before in volleyball!"

Ohhh, Raku remembers now. This one is Kageyama, the awkward one who was amazed by Chitoge's playing and kept badgering her for her training regimen. He swears the guy almost got stars in his eyes when Chitoge admitted she's never trained before. Behind him, Raku sees the fire haired kid and the duo that pestered him about girls' phone numbers (?).

"Are your friends also entering the tournament? We're drawing straws, but there's an odd number in our group." Kageyama jabs a thumb at the waving boys. Raku feels like they're somehow glaring at him while grinning at the girls. "If there's also an odd number for you, do you mind...maybe joining us?"

With two pairs already together and Ruri sitting out...

"Yeah, it looks like we have one extra, too." Chitoge blinks. "Sure, I don't mind joining you."

Something about her walking over there makes his stomach twist. It's not anger or disappointment. "W-wait, I can join you instead―"

"But Raku-sama!"

In the end, he's partnered with Onodera, Tachibana is with Shuu, and Chitoge's with someone named Daichi whose gentle smile contrasts sharply against his bulky build. He sees his girlfriend shake Daichi's hand with a chipper greeting and Daichi shyly scratching the back of his head. It seems like Daichi wants first place while Chitoge wants second. Heh, looks like they'll have to switch partners―w-wait, Chitoge's yielding? Giving up all-you-can-eat food? Raku gapes; who is this guy and what magical powers does he hold?

"Ichijou." Onodera taps his shoulder. "It looks like we're going against Tsugumi and Paula first. Let's do our best!"

"Y-yeah." He listlessly accepts her high five and gets into position.

Game one: Tsugumi, McCoy v Onodera, Ichijou

"Yours!"

"Got it!"

"Onodera!"

"Nice shot!"

"Oh no, Black Tiger!"

"Huh, what are you―my swimsuit! Paula!"

The whistle tweets: disqualification due to almost indecent exposure. Paula doesn't look upset over it; in fact, she's cackling behind a hand as Tsugumi flushes and attempts to retie her top.

"Ichijou! She needs your jacket to cover up!"

"You conniving little...leave me alone, Ichijou, I'm fine!"

Raku looks over at Chitoge's match in time to see her double high five her partner, absolutely beaming.

Game two: Tachibana, Maiko v Onodera, Ichijou

"Mine!"

"Yep!"

"...that was scary! Oh, Raku-sama, I don't think I can't handle the (volley)balls...they're coming too fast..."

"H-hey, stop saying―"

The whistle tweets: disqualification due to inappropriate and suggestive language.

"It's too hot for me. Raku-sama, please help me off the court!"

Game three: Onodera, Ayakiji vs Onodera, Ichijou

"Sorry, older sis, but we're going to beat you!"

"Do your best! Ichijou!"

"Yeah, got it!"

"Fuu!"

"Yeah!"

"Solid receive!"

...

"...hey, what did you say, you perv?"

The whistle tweets: disqualification due to tackling a bystander.

"He was making comments about my older sister!" Haru fumes, stomping angrily.

Game four: Rando, Rando v Onodera, Ichijou

"Who are these people, Ichijou?"

"No idea, the author threw them in so it doesn't seem like we're the only ones in the tournament."

Game five: Rando, Rando v Onodera, Ichijou

"And these people?"

A shrug. "Same thing, I guess."

Game six: Kirisaki, Sawamura v Onodera, Ichijou

"This is perfect!" Onodera wipes her brow, slightly panting. After five games, they're both worn down, but their opponents are still standing. "They want first place, we want second. We can throw this match and everyone can be happy."

"Can we still try, though?" He feels bad for pushing Onodera and he knows she makes sense, but he really, really wants to prove himself for some reason. Not to show off because he can't do much anyway. He just wants to...beat this Daichi guy, which may be a lost cause. He watched their last match. Chitoge may have incredible strength, but Daichi doesn't lose out to her at all. He sets up her shots perfectly and didn't Kageyama say he's their volleyball team captain?

"Man, he's so lucky," someone behind Raku―Nishinoya?―bemoans. "He gets a hot chick as his partner! I wanted to draw that straw!"

Tanaka (?) shakes his head. "Same here. Maybe we can ask for her number after this tournament is done. Do you think we can get him to invite her to eat with us later?"

"Do you think we can get him to invite her onto our team? They completely obliterated us! She and that short haired girl are total monsters; we should ask them to train us. They're also super cute. That helps, too."

"So that's your goal." A snicker. "Seriously, he's acting like such a good guy. He's either blind or just too scared to get close to her."

"After seeing her spike? Probably the―"

"Hey, did you two want any watermelon?"

"K-Kiyoko! We weren't here checking out other girls or anything!"

"Y-yeah, you're obviously the prettiest!"

"...? Is that a yes to watermelon?"

Raku doesn't know what his face looks like right now, but Onodera gives him a sympathetic pat. "Yes, we can try! I don't know if I'll be much help against them, but I'll support you."

Game begin!

"Nice serve!"

"Here, Ichijou!"

"Thanks!"

"All yours!"

"Nice receive!"

"Block this, Beansprout!"

"Onodera!"

"Y-yes!"

"Good one!"

"Kirisaki!"

"Got it!"

"Mine!"

"Left!"

"Here, Dai―woah―"

Chitoge's foot slips on the sand and Raku automatically reaches for her despite the ball heading his way.

"I got..." Daichi and Onodera dash forward at the same time.

"...you!" Daichi catches Chitoge in his arms right before she hits the ground.

"...it!" Onodera returns the ball to the other side of the net. With both of their opponents occupied, the volleyball bounces into an empty space and rolls to a stop.

Point.

The whistle tweets: Team Onodera and Ichijou wins. His friends cheer and run towards him for celebratory high fives, which he returns, but his gaze is focused on the blonde girl leaning against Daichi's chest as he probes her ankle. She flinches.

Raku immediately ducks under the net and kneels down beside them. "Something wrong?"

"Ankle injury," Daichi says, pointing to her left leg. "Probably just a mild sprain. She'll be okay as long as she ices it for a bit; I have my team's first-aid kit with me. Does it hurt a lot, Kirisaki?"

"No, it's manageable. I'm more disappointed about losing." She frowns before flitting her blue eyes up to meet Daichi's. "Sorry about that; I know you wanted the first place prize."

"It's not important," he chuckles. "You wanted the second place prize and I'm fine with all-you-can-eat. Wait a minute...are you sure you didn't trip on purpose to make us lose?"

"N-no, I didn't!"

Raku suddenly feels a little left out. "Here, I can help her walk."

"It'll be faster if I just carry her. Kirisaki, do you mind?" At the shake of her head, he slips an arm under her legs and hefts her up bridal-style with such ease, Raku feels a pang of...something. He dismisses it as just worry for his friend.

"I'm not heavy, am I?" she asks cautiously. "I eat a lot so..."

"No?" Daichi blinks. "You're really light. Ichijou, I'll take her over to where my team set up. Your friends can join us in a bit?"

"Oh, um, sure. Yeah, thanks for taking care of her."

As they walk away, Raku hears muttering.

"I guess the blonde girl's with that guy." Rando 1 hisses. "I thought they were just friends. I was gonna buy her a drink."

"A shame, but hey, her friends are pretty cute, too." Rando 3. "I'm gonna go talk to the redhead."

So Chitoge is getting friendly with a third year from another school. Why does it matter to him! It's not like he's really dating her anyway. They've been...tip toeing the line of true and false, but if Chitoge wants to shack up with a pile of muscles, then sure! Be his guest!

Though, this wouldn't bode well for their fake relationship. She's technically his fake girlfriend and Claude would be suspicious so...yeah. He's gonna follow Daichi and make sure Chitoge's okay. Not that he's jealous of how close they are or anything. He's just, you know, keeping up his role as best friend and boyfriend of the Beehive heiress. Yeah, haha, n-no ulterior motives at all.

Hah.

Chapter Text

Beehive  Hive


LVI. They'll protect her smile...and so will he


Adelt Wagner saved him from a life of hardships, so it was only natural Daisuke pledged his life to the man. After a few years, this loyalty extended to the formidable Hana Kirisaki, too—a woman who, despite her lack of gang involvement, had fire in her veins and ice in her eyes.

He had been there that day, watching as a young student walked straight into their gunfight, not dodging or flinching at the whizzing bullets. She had made it to the middle unscathed, and her voice rang out clear: Who ordered the damn pizza? His first thought was, Okay, who orders pizza at a gunfight? And his second thought was, Okay, who delivers pizza to a gunfight? He knew then and there that that young woman shouldn't be trifled with, and his eyes flew around the field to find the customer. He and the rest of the gang gasped in unison as their boss approached her (did he order the pies? were they gonna get any?) and asked (both a shock and a disappointment) for her hand in marriage.

Flash forward another few years, and the couple presented a bundle, swaddled in fine linen, to the Beehive. Chitoge Kirisaki, they said her name was, with her father's nose and her mother's spirit. Adelt and Hana advised them to protect her, too, but the instructions were useless; the Beehive didn't need to be told. One slow blink and gentle coo from the child, hands reaching out in grasping motions to the armed men, and they all fell to their knees, vowing to lay down their lives for her. Daisuke thinks he even cried when she was transferred to his arms.

He would follow that family to the ends of the Earth, through Hell and back again. If they tell him to jump, he'd ask how high. If they tell him to leave, he'd beg and grovel at the doorstep until they take pity and bring him back in. The Beehive is his family, and God help anyone who dare to disrespect his family.

That was why he reacted so defensively when Chitoge and Raku announced their relationship. Who was this Raku Ichijou kid, heir of their rival, the Shuuei Clan? Did he have pure intentions with their lady? Was he going to guard her heart as fiercely as they did? Of course, he wouldn't. He couldn't; no one's passion could rival the white suited members of their gang, not when it came to the heiress. They had watched this girl grow up—a privilege he never takes for granted—into a beautiful, strong, and confident lady who deserves more than this world can give her. What could Ichijou offer that they couldn't?

Daisuke willingly followed Claude's operations at first. The pair were suspicious, with gritted smiles and stiff shoulders and mechanical conversations, and the introduction of Kosaki Onodera (and then Marika Tachibana, and then Seishirou Tsugumi despite her poor attempts at hiding her infatuation, and then Haru Onodera, and then Yui Kanakura...) only made the situation look worse. But over time, Chitoge and Raku fell into an easy pattern, and it wiped away all his doubts. He blamed their initial discomfort on being new to relationships, and both groups—the Shuuei Clan and the Beehive Gang—didn't make it easier by constantly tailing them. Daisuke, satisfied with knowing that his lady was happy, stopped going on Claude's spying missions, and so did most of the others. Eventually, Claude went on these operations alone, occasionally accompanied by one or two other men if he managed to convince them. Or bribe them. The Beehive were not above taking culinary bribes from their brothers. Daisuke understood the obsession, though. They all loved the blonde dearly, but some things should just be allowed to thrive on their own.

His nonchalance isn't without reason: Raku Ichijou had proven himself time and time again. There'd been too many instances to count, but there are two that burn in his memory.

One is the time when Hana visited for Christmas, and Raku nearly drove himself crazy trying to bring mother and daughter back together. Daisuke admired his tenacity. For years, none of them—not even Adelt—had the guts to defy her or tear her away from her work, but this child not only managed to do that within a few weeks, he was able to change Hana's mentality. She calls and visits more often now, taking time to tell everyone about her travels and then listening patiently as they recount their own adventures.

(...she's still scary, though.)

The other is the time when the Beehive had to move back to America. Their heiress was devastated, and his heart ached to see her try so desperately to stay. Please, she'd begged, tugging on her father's arm when she couldn't get through to Claude. Please, please, please. Daisuke tried to turn a blind eye to her heartbroken tears, but behind locked doors, he cried, too, at having to hurt her. He was actually the one to think of the petition. He caught the way his fellow members averted their eyes, fists clenched, as she flew around the house, trying to unpack faster than they packed just to stall for more time. A fruitless endeavor; she was one against hundreds. Seeing that his family was as pained as he was made him realize that he had to do something. But he was scared. With Claude spearheading the effort to tie Chitoge down, Daisuke didn't want to risk subordination.

What spurred him into action was thinking about Raku. Raku wouldn't have hesitated to help Chitoge. In fact, he wouldn't have even let things get as far as they did; he would've put his foot down and fought the moment the news came out. Daisuke definitely remembers sobbing as he pleaded for his brothers' support and again once he got 100% of the mansion's signatures, save Adelt and Claude. Presenting the signatures to their leader with a deep bow, he tried to calm his erratic heart and said that the signatures were his idea. If anyone had to get in trouble, he would shoulder the burden alone because his brothers didn't deserve to be faulted for their participation. And if he had to be banished for betrayal of orders—he swallowed thickly—then he was glad it was for protecting their lady's smile. It would've been the most honorable discharge. Just thinking about her anguished cries as she tried to fight her way out of the locked room made him sick to his stomach. Anything...anything to stop Claude, even if it meant Daisuke had to turn his back on his family. Luckily, Adelt clapped him on the shoulder and laughed, thanking everyone for their effort. He himself was wavering on what to do, and he was glad they all had their heads on straight and made him realize what the best decision was.

Daisuke didn't know Raku had actually attempted a solo rescue until the boy stumbled into the foyer a few moments later, badly beaten and bearing scratches on his face. Chitoge followed, fretting over the boy's injuries, but the two glowed with happiness at her release. Daisuke had to admit he was impressed. Claude's traps are nothing short of deadly, and even trained operatives have difficulty getting through some of his more complicated ones. He didn't know if the kid got through because of pure stupidity, luck, or both. From word of mouth, he later heard that their own Black Tiger, defiantly declaring My loyalty to M'lady comes before the Beehive. Always. as explanation for her actions, was responsible for tipping off the Shuuei heir, who immediately jumped at the opportunity to help. His heart warmed. So the boy was stupid. But no one could knock Raku's loyalty to Chitoge. Despite being scuffed up himself, he had pulled away from the blonde to check for injuries, inquiring worriedly about her ankles once he heard she tried to punch and kick at a fortified steel door. He brushed back her hair, gently tucking it behind her ear, before taking her hands and squeezing tightly.

Daisuke smiles. He knows he can trust Raku. For all their passionate speeches about doing anything and everything for the heiress, the Beehive knows there's a lot of things that only Raku Ichijou can do. Like this, for example...

He shakes his head to clear the memories once he hears the person on the other end pick up with a quick Hello? "Raku Ichijou! It's me, Daisuke." He asks, a touch too cheerful, "How goes the job?"

There's silence, and then the sound of a sigh. Raku must be pinching the bridge of his nose as he grits out, "What did you guys do this time?"

"Aha, a sharp observation! Truly the boss of the yakuza," he chuckles. "We might have, uh, ran a few traffic lights earlier and was wondering if you could put in a word."

"Daisuke, I'm a simple government worker in the department of public safety. Go take it up with the court of traffic violations." He pauses. "I do have a friend there, and I might be able to tell them to lessen your points. Though this conversation never happened."

"What conversation?" He plays along with a short laugh before dropping his voice. "We were in pursuit of enemy presence. Can't identify their group yet, but they're tricky to catch. Fearless shits, too, and don't blink at civilian endangerment. So far, their movements have remained in the eastern sector of town, so it's mostly likely surveillance and testing the waters. Claude has Beehive scattered around to track them, but he'll be contacting you soon to coordinate with Shuuei."

The sound of pen scratching on paper stops. "Do you know anything about what they're after? What they look like?"

"They were masked, unfortunately, but we were able to see a rose and thorns decal on most of their cars. Claude's currently touching base with leaders of the other branches to see if anyone has more information. We're hoping it's not who we think it is...last time we encountered them, they were after the Young Miss."

A snap. "Fuck—shit, sorry, let me rewrite everything." Must've broken his pen. "What do you mean, after Chitoge?"

Daisuke notes the hardness of his voice at the mention of his fiancee. "The, uh, heir of the group took a liking to the Mistress years ago." He winces at the sharp intake, despite knowing the anger isn't directed at him. "Like I said, nothing's confirmed, and there's a chance it's not them. We'll let you know as soon as we hear anything new."

"Of course. I'll draft up a report and let the Chief Commissioner know, too."

"Thank you, Young Master."

"Don't mention it."

"Uhm, Young Miss will be returning to the country at the end of this week, and we were given explicit instructions to not make a commotion and be there, but with this arising issue..."

"Understood. Shuuei and I will be there to pick her up. Do you want her to know about the situation?"

"We'd rather not have her panic before we're certain. She'll probably feel at fault for this and hatch some ridiculous plan, like offering herself as sacrifice to talk their leader down or something." A louder snap and a longer string of curses ending in a strained Absolutely not. Maybe he shouldn't have mentioned that. "We'll see you for dinner Friday?"

"Definitely. I'm gonna go call Tachibana now. Bye, Daisuke."

The line clicks, and Daisuke snorts. Simple government worker, he says. As if any other simple government worker has connections to the Beehive Gang, Shuuei Clan, Char Siu, and police commission, as well as all four forces to command as needed. Some of the strongest groups under his fingertips, but he still insists on being a regular man. Indeed, there are a few things only Raku Ichijou can do.

Daisuke's glad it's him. The boy seemed ill-suited for his mistress at first, but seeing them together now as two dynamic forces leading lives in two different, yet complimentary ways makes him realize that it couldn't be anyone else. It's always been him.


LVII. Tsugumi's more than her bodyguard


Useless. Tsugumi clenches her fists, nails digging into the callouses of her palm. Useless. The mistress gave her one mission, and she screwed it up. What good is she as Chitoge's right hand if she couldn't complete a simple order? She punches the vending machine with a low growl.

"Uh, Tsugumi?"

"What is it, Raku Ichijou?"

"I'm trying to get some tea from behind you..."

Oh, right. She steps out of the way and watches as he rummages in his pocket for some change. Five seconds later, the machine rumbles, and two cans drop into the bin. He hands one to her before leaning on the wall.

"What's got you so worked up?"

"Nothing," she snaps, popping the lid with a little too much force.

He just takes a silent sip, waiting for her to spill, and she pointedly presses her lips together to avoid talking. He doesn't get impatient, though, and keeps sipping his stupid tea, being his stupidly kind, patient self, and getting her stupidly irritated self to sigh. Dumbass.

"M'lady asked me to get this limited stuffed animal because she's too busy today. I got caught up with Claude's errands and left the mansion later than planned, and by the time I got to the store, it was completely sold out." She slightly crushes the can, tea splashing onto her fingers, but she can't bring herself to care. "I feel so ridiculous."

"Tsugumi, it's only a stuffed animal." He gives her this amused look, not quite understanding the severity of the situation. "She'll understand if you tell her it sold out."

It's not...just that, though. This is the third time this week she let her mistress down, and that's three times too many. "It reflects poorly on my skills, Raku Ichijou. T-that I'm too slow or incapable of multitasking or not focused enough on my assignments! Maybe I should go somewhere else to get myself together. I can't stay by her side, not in this condition." Her heart drops to her stomach at the thought of disappointing herself, but it drops through the floor at the thought of disappointing her most important person.

Raku regards her with emotionless eyes before flipping out his phone. "Honey? Tsugumi is doing the thing again. Yeah, she says she doesn't feel worthy and is moving back to Antarctica to train. Uh-huh, starting tomorrow. Okay, love you." He slips it back into his pocket and holds five fingers. Four. Three. Two. On—

"TSUGUMIII!" A cloud of dust appears on the horizon, drawing closer and screaming her name. Leaving marks on the pavement, the familiar blonde skids to a stop and stomps her foot. "How dare you think that way! We've been over this!"

"M'lady. I-I know, but..."

"No buts! I need you. Not 'I need you as a bodyguard' or 'I need you as a errand person' or even 'I need you as a friend.' I. need. you. Full stop." Chitoge pinches her cheeks with an indignant frown. "Don't ever let me hear you talking about leaving. Who did you vow your loyalty to?"

"You?"

"Yes! So that loyalty means you have to stay by my side, not ditch me for discipline training that you don't need! Are we clear?"

"Y-yes!" Tsugumi bites her lips to stop the tears that threaten to spill, but the sight of Chitoge's softening expression breaks her defenses, and she leans into the other girl's chest.

"There, there," Chitoge sighs and pats her back as she cries. "Geez, this is the second time Raku's had to call me. Next time, if you're not feeling well, come talk to me, okay?"

Tsugumi catches Raku's eye over her mistress's shoulder. He's still drinking his tea, but sends her a thumbs up anyway. It is the second time. The first time was when she momentarily lost her strength and thought Chitoge deserved someone stronger instead, but Raku did the same thing he did now: calmly call Chitoge and have her sort everything out. And pay for the wall his girlfriend kicked a hole through that time. Speaking of paying...she eyes the grass warily. In her hurry, Chitoge left a path of ruined green, and the school isn't going to be happy about that.

But for now, she's happy and Chitoge's happy, and that's all that really matters.


LVIII. He has an iron stomach


Cooking is her weak point. Or her strong point, if her objective is to give someone food poisoning on purpose.

Elias pokes at the mixture carefully with his fork, and his stomach lurches at its unappetizing wiggle. "What did you say this was again?"

"German meatballs," she groans, throwing her face into her hands. "I know, it looks awful! And this burnt mess is supposed to be weihnachtsstollen, but it's rock hard and terrible."

"Why the sudden interest in German food?" He nudges the plate away, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, and waves her closer. She seats herself next to him with a pout. "If you wanted to learn, I could've taught you, y'know."

"It was supposed to be a surprise for you and Aksel. Every winter, during the holiday season, I try to make traditional food for the newest members. It's tough spending this time away from your home country, especially when everyone's spending time with their family. Even my mom's coming to visit. You've never met her, right?"

No, but he's heard enough stories about her to know the general rule: bring an extra pair of underwear because you're definitely gonna wet yourself when you experience her glare for the first time. Elias wonders what kind of woman she is, to be able to make every member of the Beehive tremble at her name. Rumor has it, even Adelt is afraid to cross her.

He smiles. "That's really sweet of you. I can help you try again, and we could still surprise Aksel. I know he'll love it. He gets his fix at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but their menu isn't extensive."

"That'd be great!"

His heart warms. Like she said, he and Aksel are new to the main branch of the Beehive. He was recruited into the German branch not too long ago, but following a particularly well done mission, he was offered a transfer to the Japanese sector—not bad for someone who recently turned 28. He expected to lead a difficult life: waking up every day to the sound of gunfire, falling asleep to the steady shouts of opposition, tasting blood permanently in his mouth, rounding on enemies at every corner—basically everything he experienced in Europe and more. But he was shocked to find how easygoing everyone is here. Everyone's...kind, including their boss, who turned out to be a bigger jokester than his reputation made him out to be. Elias met him once before, when he was 25 and Adelt was coordinating an infiltration plan that required his experienced leadership, and the man commanded respect the moment he walked into a room. Elias shudders when he recalls the steely gaze. But here, Adelt is full of warmth and good humor, reflecting the general atmosphere of the mansion. Elias was almost offended at first. Where's the man he admired? Where's the group that thrived on fighting and bloodshed?

He soon discovered that it was all for the sake of Adelt's only daughter, Chitoge. In front of her, they acted so cheerful, it was almost sickening, but in the shadows, they lurked with quick fingers always resting on the trigger. It's not that she's ignorant about their line of work; she just prefers not being involved. He finds it hard to reconcile the two identities, but the more time he spends with Chitoge, the more he understands their overbearing protectiveness of her.

She's a remarkable girl, nearly a decade younger than him, yet easily achieving things that took him years of training. Her natural brain, beauty, and brawn makes her a triple threat, a certified genius, and he's glad she's not taking her family's career path. If she ever follows her father's footsteps and becomes the next Beehive leader...he feels sorry for whoever dares to get in her path.

"Show me what recipe you were using." He leans over her shoulder to look at her laptop. She points at the instructions, and he scans them quickly. Looks easy enough. "Why don't you prepare the ingredients for the dough while I clean the mixer?"

"Okay."

He takes the steel bowl of the mixer and rinses it in the sink, scrapping out leftover bits of dough. There's a sudden thump as he's drying it, and he looks back in time to see the flour settle around a flustered Beehive heiress.

"What happened! The recipe says 3 and 1/2 cups of flour, not a whole bag!"

"I tried! It just spilled out!" Her cheeks are aflame. Does this happen often? Is this why the other members prevent her from entering the kitchen? He thought their warnings were exaggerated.

"Here, I'll fix it," he sighs, rolling up his sleeves. "Go measure the sugar."

"A 1/4 cup..."

"H-hey, stop pouring. That's good enough—hey!"

"A 1/4 cup of milk..."

"What're you doing, milking a whole cow's worth?"

"Spices..."

"It's 1/2 TEAspoon, not 1 whole TABLEspoon!"

Two hours pass before they're finally done. He wipes the sweat collecting around his neck, exhausted from trying to keep up with her mistakes. He gets it now, why they call her the Kitchen Terror. But stealing a glance at the girl in front of him, brows furrowed in concentration as she stares into the oven, he can't bring himself to feel any regret for the time wasted. Her blue eyes are glittering with excitement.

The timer dings, and she hurriedly pulls on the oven mitts, throwing open the door with fanfare. The inner metal shelves clatter as she extracts their hard work and sets it on the counter to finish the last few steps.

"Should we try it?" She wrings her hands, still clothed in mitts, in anticipation. "I hope it turns out well."

It doesn't look amazing, but at least it isn't burnt. Elias is about to take a slice when a raven-haired boy wanders into the kitchen and perks up at the sight of Chitoge.

"Hey! I thought I smelled something cooking."

"Raku," she chirps. The name tickles in the back of his memory. She pushes the tray towards him. "Here, why don't you try it first. We made weihnachtsstollen."

He picks off a piece and pops it into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. "It's...actually not too bad. Knowing you, it must've taken a few tries."

"This was our first try together." She bounces forward on her toes. "Is it good? Is it okay?"

"Yeah, I like it." Chitoge's grin widens. "But I thought we were having a date today?"

Date, oh yes, this is her boyfriend, Raku Ichijou. Elias elbows her. "Go ahead. I'll take care of the clean up."

She hesitates before nodding. "Thanks, Elias! See you later!"

He reaches up to brush flour off her hair. "No problem. We'll tackle the meatballs next time. Nice to meet you, Raku."

The two say their goodbyes and quickly leave the room, talking animatedly about whatever movie they're going to see. Back to the loaf before him...

He takes a bite and almost immediately bends over the counter, clutching his stomach. W-what the fuck? It looks fine, but his body's reaction to the...the monstrosity tells him that it's not fine at all. How did Raku...? He has to throw this out before anyone else eats it.

"OH BOY, IS THAT WEIHNACHTSSTOLLEN!" Aksel.

"N-no!" He tries to swipe away the tray, but it's too late. Aksel shoves an entire slice into his mouth, and his face of expectation quickly morphs into one of horror, doubling over to mirror Elias's pose.

How did the Ichijou kid eat that like it was nothing and look like he enjoyed it? Elias chalks the reaction up to incredible acting abilities. No one could look into the Chitoge's eager face and tell her its awful, but to bypass the natural urge to retch...he has talent.

After properly disposing of the weihnachtstollen a la flamethrower and taking a few bathroom trips, he recounts the tale to Akira, who grasps his shoulders tight.

"Brother, prepare yourself. Valentine's Day is in a few months, and it's the scariest day of the year."

"Why?"

"This is mostly at Claude's insistence—you know how he dotes on her—but she prepares...handmade chocolates for everyone." Which is cute, but knowing her abilities, he pales. Damn Claude. "We have to line up by acting ability and stomach strength. The weaker ones are in the back so their reactions aren't as noticeable. Welcome to Beehive, my friend."

Is it too late to return to Germany?


LIX. He own a few..."pets"


"Hey, Vishal, Chitoge wanted to see the kids for a bit, but I have to run an errand. Do you mind taking them to her?"

That was the message Raku left this morning, and Vishal accepted, not thinking much of the request. Since Raku and Chitoge haven't even discussed marriage yet, much less children, he figures the kids meant their pets. Yeah, he's heard about them. Mamoru is particularly fond of Margarita de Satou (strange name for a dog) and visits often to train it. Chitoge mentioned that the animals are well behaved; they just don't like Raku for some reason, despite him knowing them longer. Deep down, Vishal wonders if these animals even like her because every time he's seen her pass a stray, they cower in fear.

But they have pets, and here he is, standing outside the Shuuei gates to pick them up. Ryuu opens the gate with a hearty laugh and a sympathetic pat. "New, huh?" The older man says, handing over a sheet of instructions.

Hameln only responds to Your Excellency, Hameln unless you're Chitoge? Margarita de Satou gets cranky if you don't give him his afternoon snack at exactly 2:05pm? His eyes trail down the list of increasingly ridiculous instructions. How does anyone remember all these?

"It'll become second nature eventually," Ryuu answers the unasked question sagely. "For now, just don't let Hameln peck your eyes out. And don't yell; you'll freak out Margarita. Ready?"

"As I'll ever be."

Ryuu slides back a door, and Vishal immediately swallows back the urge to scream. What...what the heck? His gaze flits down to the list again. That would explain the Brush leaves out of Margarita's scales. He expected a small snake of some sort, not this!

"Their leashes are on the wall over there. Be careful, the capybara doesn't take well to the green one, dunno why. Start with the crocodile. He's the easiest."

The easiest? Vishal breaks out into a sweat, tip toeing his way forward. "H-hi there, I'm friends with your owners! I'm just here to take you to one of them! C-Chitoge, do you know her?"

The animals perk up at the sound of her name. Okay, good, so they're at least cooperative.

"If you want to see her, you have to behave. C'mon, Margarita, you first. I'm just going to put this wraparound collar on you..." He feels a little silly talking like these creatures could actually understand what he's saying, but it seems to keep them calm, and maybe they did understand his words because Margarita lifts its head for him to reach the clasp. One down, several more to go. He approaches a flamingo who tilts its head curiously. "Number 24, you're on the list to be taken today, too. Let me just put this on you."

The bird squawks as he approaches, taking tentative steps back. God, this is going to take forever.

.

He feels stares burning into his back. He doesn't blame them: he'd stare too, if he saw a foreigner in a white suit, walking exotic animals through the streets. He tries to look calm and collected—cool, even, like an A-list celebrity—but behind his sunglasses, his gaze is flying around wildly to locate his mistress's building. The familiar glass doors have never felt so welcoming.

The receptionist eyes his company warily, but he slaps the desk, eager to have them off his hands. "Please, Kisuke, I can't stand having them for another second. Find someone to help me take them to her office. Or call her down. I have a strong feeling Hameln is gonna chew my ear off if he doesn't see someone he knows soon."

Kisuke thankfully picks up the phone to call Chitoge's office and gestures to the seating area. "She'll only be a few minutes. Feel free to take a seat."

As soon as he's off his feet, Vishal lets out a loud sigh. It's exhausting taking care of them. Margarita kept swishing its tail across the walkway, glaring at anyone who got too close. Hameln was prim and proper, but whenever a breeze picked up, it hit the side of Vishal's head, as if he was the one responsible for its ruffled feathers. Philippe II was scared of all the cars rushing by and tried to burrow into Vishal's armpit. Number 24 was fine until it got distracted by the outdoor market booths. How did Raku and Chitoge manage to tame all these creatures? He groans. Leave it to those two, honestly. Individually, they're already strange people, but together, they're even stranger. It both is and is not a surprise that they own a crocodile, among other things.

Vishal shakes his head as the elevator nearby dings, signalling Chitoge's arrival. She exclaims their names, rushing forward to pet them, and they tug at their collars to get to her. Lesson learned, he tells himself bitterly, handing over the leashes, never ever accepting petsitting duties again.


LX. They keep her out of the loop


Rick said he wouldn't cry at the ceremony, he wouldn't, and he's been able to successfully hold in his tears so far. But the moment the officiant says You may kiss the bride and Raku leans over to press his lips chastely against Chitoge's, he finds himself sobbing into his hands. He's not the only one, though; a quick look around tells him that there's not a single dry eye in sight, and the volume of the hall intensifies as the now married couple makes their way back down the aisle. Just as they're about to exit the room, she catches sight of him, tucked away behind the last pew, and hurries over with Raku in tow.

"Rick!" She kneels down in front of his wheelchair with a gasp and takes his hand. "What happened?"

He throws on his best smile. "A sorry sight, aren't I? It's okay. Despite how I look, the doctor cleared me for the day." He chuckles, thumbing the holster at his hip. "At my insistence, of course. I couldn't miss my girl's wedding."

"I'm glad you made it, but please take care of yourself," she murmurs. "Is...there something going on? I haven't heard anything from the others."

Rick meets Raku's eyes over her head—the latter's eyes flash dangerously. Of course she hasn't. They're trying their best to keep information as far away from her as possible. "Don't you worry about a thing, m'lady. Now go! This old man will be just fine. Everyone's waiting for you guys outside."

She gives his fingers a quick squeeze before rushing out of the doors and running into her friends' arms. They throw floral confetti into the air, and the petals catch on her veil as they wrap her in teary hugs. Raku, though, still hasn't moved from his spot, and Rick tries to shoo the boy away.

"You, too; go on, it's your special day. Don't think about work right now," he says, recognizing the hard look. "We can deal with it tomorrow."

"As much as I'd like to ignore the fact that there's enemies on our turf, it's a little difficult when I'm talking to you, evidence of their...presence. How're your injuries? I'm really sorry, I should've sent a bigger team with you."

"Oh, they got me by surprise, that's all." He waves a hand in dismissal. "If I was at the top of my game, those punks would've been done in a blink. They got lucky. We'll get them next time, Boss."

His eyes crinkle at the title. "Don't let Claude hear you; he'll get jealous. Will we see you at the reception tonight?"

"I'll meet you there. I suggest you get your friends to their cars, though. Looks like we have unexpected visitors."

A fair number of them—close to 50—not close to the number of allies in attendance, but it's risky, considering the number of civilians. It's enough to send everyone into a panic. Raku whistles sharply, and Tsugumi slides into position in front of their mistress. She mutters something to their closest friends, and they nod in understanding, branching off to hurry people out. No one could get mad at rude pushes when it's done by an apologetically smiling Kosaki Onodera or a clumsily cheerful Marika Tachibana. As soon as the entourage of civilians leave the gate, confused at the situation but sensing the urgency, Rick grins. Perfect.

It appears their enemies weren't aware that they'd encounter the leaders of Beehive, Shuuei, Char Siu, and ninjas—or maybe they were. Arrogant bastards. Raku barks out formations and orders to his men, who encircle the tight ring of Beehive operatives around Chitoge. The Char Siu members nudge their Don into the center of that circle, and Chitoge holds tightly onto the pregnant woman.

"Honda!" Marika shouts. "Stay here and help. They're not after me, I'll be safe with the others."

"I can't trust that they won't go after you, too! Please stay here with Lady Chitoge and Don Yui!"

Marika hesitates before running into the circle, taking Yui's other side. "Make it quick! I need time to change for the reception!"

Rick wheels himself into a shadowed corner of the hall, opening the briefcase next to him and quickly assembling the weapon. In his current condition, he isn't much help on the battlefield, but his sharp shooting skills could still help protect his lady.

Speaking of his lady...

"Really? On my wedding day?" The flowers in her hand tremble in anger. Rick knows she's itching for a fight, but Tsugumi's arm keeps her back. Raku runs over to the three girls, keeping them close as the enemies emerge. "Raku! Did you know about this?"

"I...no?" She stomps her foot, and he flinches. "Okay, yes, but it was to protect you!"

"I'm not a baby, Raku; I deserve to know what's going on! And what did Marika mean, they're not after her? What—who are they after?"

"It doesn't matter right now. Chitoge, Marika, take Yui and head into the side chapel. Tsugumi and Honda will cover you. Men, make way!" Raku barks, splitting the circle easily. She grasps onto his sleeve, but he shrugs her off. "I'll be there soon, I promise."

"Be careful," she pleads and attempts to make light of the situation while Marika tugs at her elbow with a force C'mon! "You're just a stupid beansprout. Don't pretend to be manly; it doesn't suit you."

"Of course, that's your area of expertise, right?"

Good, the three women are moving out of the way. Rick scopes their surroundings and looks for hidden snipers as Claude points into the city, waving rapidly towards rising columns of smoke. A few formations break apart at their leader's orders, and soon cars are speeding down the pavement to protect the city. Wait, why did Chitoge stop moving? Rick sees Marika and Yui speak urgently, trying to snap her out of her dazed expression, but her eyes are firmly planted on—

"Lucien," she breathes, recognizing the red haired man staring down the end of Claude's barrel.

"M'lady, look out!" Tsugumi yanks her weighted chains to topple a crowd of henchmen before dashing back to cover Chitoge, but a sudden blade swings down, stopping her path. Who brings swords to a gun fight? Tsugumi lets out an explosive Fuck! and flips away from another wide sweep.

Chitoge plucks the veil out of her hair, letting it flutter to the ground as she draws back a fist. "It. Is. My. Wedding day!" A quick punch sends an approaching man flying, knocking over a small handful of his allies. "Of all days, seriously! You couldn't try to kidnap me tomorrow? I'm free next Tuesday, why don't we reschedule!" A second man sent into the air. She flicks her wrist, and the flowing tulle of her skirt drops to reveal a shorter, much more manageable hemline: a surprise design feature probably meant to be revealed at the reception. "When I said I wanted today to be like a movie, I didn't mean this. Matrimonial kidnappings are overdone!"

She kicks off her heels, hitting someone square in the face, and uses that the moment of distraction to nail him with an uppercut. Another person coming up behind her. Rick squeezes the trigger, purposely missing his mark, but the sound is enough to alert Chitoge, who whirls around with fiery eyes. Her form is perfect, he notes, as she dips into a roundhouse kick, followed by a quick handspring and drop kick. Of course. She's the Beehive princess, after all. Realizing that their target isn't the damsel in distress they expected, their opponents lunge together. She falters a little—she can't fight multiple people at once—before crouching into a defense position. Luckily, Honda flickers into view. This is a mess, he tsks. Despite being outnumbered, the group is holding out pretty well. Should probably take care of them fast. He hefts the gun back into position.

"Rick!" He must've been too distracted because he doesn't even sense the person approaching. He just feels a heavy weight slam into his neck, and the last thing he hears before losing consciousness is another horrified shriek of his name.