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[personal profile] stormymood posting in [community profile] arashi_exchange

A piece of rainbow for [personal profile] phrenk 

Title:
Of Tea and Novels
Pairing: Nino/Aiba, implied Ohno/Sho
Ratings/Warnings: PG-13
Summary: Nino, a poor young lad wants to get out of his debts from a loan shark. When he was about to sell his mother’s most valuable necklace, a guy sleeping on top of garbage bags asked for his help. Two servants appeared, and the man claimed that he’s a noble and he would help Nino clear the debts under one condition…
Notes: To my dear recipient: I hope you’ll love this story. I hope you are fine with all the cliché stuff I mixed to form this fluffy slush! Sorry, I was still in Kizoku Tantei high when I wrote this but I really enjoyed taking some elements of your prompts to form this story.
Thank you so much to my Beta K (you are awesome!) and to our Dear Mod, who is so considerate to me. To everyone else, please enjoy!


***

“Takayasu! Please don’t leave!” he cried, running after the woman who was dragging her luggage. A servant in a black suit held his arms so that he could not go further. “Let me go, Matsumoto! Get your hands off me.”

“I can’t do that, Young Master,” he replied. He howled in pain – the boy had stepped on his toe.

“Takayasu!” he yelled, running towards the large wooden doors. He hugged the woman’s waist. “Don’t leave. Please don’t leave!” He buried his face in her clothes and cried noisily.

The woman patted his head. She pulled away from him and crouched down to face him. “Don’t cry, young master. You are the future lord of this house. You should be brave.”

“I don’t want to be!” he answered. “What can I do without you? I’ll mess up everything! I’ll tell father! I’ll… I cannot be a good leader!”

The woman shook her head. “No, young master. If you make a mistake, learn from it. I know that you will be a good master of this house.”

“No!”

“This is goodbye now,” she said. “Matsumoto-san?”

The butler reappeared behind the boy. He held the boy’s arm. “It has been an honor working with you, Takayasu-san.” He gave a box to the woman. “Please consider these our parting gifts.”

Takayasu took the box and bowed respectfully. “It has been an honor to serve you, young master. I wish to see that your dreams came true when we meet again.”

“Takayasu!” the boy screamed. Matsumoto just let him go when the car taking Takayasu out was too far away to be chased. The young master cried and cried while he ran after the car. Before he had realized it, he was in front of the large gates, which shut once the car passed through.

***

Nino sighed for the fifth time that evening while he stared at the pieces of paper in his hands.

“New bills?” his friend Sho asked, leaning on his shoulder.

Nino rubbed his face. “Yeah. On top of that, the loan shark from last month threw a rock with a threat through my window.”

Sho clicked his tongue. “Well, how much do you need?” he asked, seemingly taking the wallet out of his pocket.

“Sho-chan, even though I’m the stingiest person in the world and I enjoy your dinner treats, I’m not that desperate,” Nino said, grabbing Sho’s hand to stop him from taking money out of his wallet. “Besides, a new debt won’t solve another debt.” He anxiously placed his hands inside his pocket. “I might as well sell this.”

“What is that?” Sho asked curiously. He was silent for a moment. “You don’t mean…?”

Nino nodded. He took out a golden chain from his pocket with a pendant dangling from it. Nino swung it a little and looked at the little glowing emerald in the middle of the flower emblem.

“You told me it has sentimental value!” Sho said, shocked. “Your mom gave you that!”

“Well, my mom is more important than any sentimental value,” Nino replied. He pocketed the pendant. “Just imagine! This thing can be sold for 1 million yen! I don’t know who'd be crazy enough to buy a necklace for that amount.”

Sho’s eyes widened. “I know for a fact that it’s a solid gold necklace with real gemstones but I don’t think it’s worth that much. Maybe it’s a scam, Nino.”

“Well, I’ll have to find out for myself.”

***

Nino felt the pendant inside his pocket. The buyer that he had met on the internet told him that they would meet in a café by the park. He actually felt bad that he had to sell the necklace. His mother had given it to him and told him that he should take good care of it. Well, his mom was more important than any fancy jewelry.

Nino’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted when he saw something move in the garbage bin in front of their dingy apartment. He decided to walk closer to see if it was an unfortunate cat in a sack so that he could help it. However, before he could check, a man suddenly sat up from the garbage bags and stretched and yawned. Nino jumped away out of reflex.

“Well, that was not the best experience,” the man said with another yawn. He spotted Nino and grinned. “Hello there.”

“What the hell are you doing on top of garbage bags? Are you crazy?”

“No, I’m not,” the man just replied. “Help me down will you?” he said.

Nino clicked his tongue. For someone who was sleeping on trash, this guy sounded as if it was Nino’s responsibility to help him down He offered his hand and winced when he felt something wet on the man’s hand. “Thank you,” the crazy guy said.

Nino scanned the man from head to toe. Yes, he was wearing something simple but at the same time, it seemed like he was not a beggar. He even looked regal: the way he carried himself and the soft voice. “So, what were you doing there?”

“That? Oh, I was looking for inspiration,” he said, dusting off some candy wrappers on his shoulder. “Now, where are they…?”

“My lord.”

Nino almost jumped when he heard the voice from behind him. He turned around and saw a handsome, tall man wearing a suit with coat-tails and a dark green bow tie. He kept his head down.

“Ah, Matsumoto,” the trash guy said. He let the man give him a coat to wear.

“The chauffeur is waiting at the end of the road, my Lord,” Matsumoto added. He turned towards Nino. “Thank you for assisting our master in his work.”

“What? What the hell is happening? Is this a play of some sort?” Nino asked in disbelief.

The lord smirked. “Matsumoto, where are your manners?”

“Forgive me, my Lord,” Matsumoto answered with another bow. “I am Matsumoto Jun, the butler.”

“Butler? You mean, this guy sleeping on trash is filthy rich?” Nino exclaimed. Matsumoto seemed uncomfortable with the language but he just nodded and smiled.

“There you are, punk!” another voice interrupted. A voice that Nino did not want to hear.

Nino’s eyes widened. He wanted to run away that instant but the trash-can-guy and his butler were blocking his way. However, the next set of events surprised him – the loan shark who was chasing after him fell unconscious to the ground. Behind him appeared another man, shorter than Matsumoto. He also bowed with a smile. The man went through the unconscious loan shark’s pockets and retrieved a small badge.

“My Lord,” the man also said with a bow. “I’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes already and I got worried…” He looked at Nino’s bewildered face. “I am Ohno Satoshi, the driver.”

The weird guy silenced him with a gesture. “Who is this man and why was he chasing you?” he asked Nino. Yes, he sounded high and mighty, but at the same time, he looked concerned.

“He’s a loan shark. I borrowed money from him for my mother’s hospitalization,” Nino explained in all honesty. “I was about to get some money when you suddenly appeared. And now that you hit him like that, he might kill me when he wakes up. Their whole group will kill me once they found out what happened!”

The man frowned. “Oh, really,” he said. He looked at Matsumoto, who nodded in response at his silent order. “Well, where are you going to get money? You said yourself you borrowed from a loan shark.”

“I was about to sell something,” Nino said, placing his hand inside his pocket to make sure that the precious necklace was still there.

“What item exactly?” the man asked. Nino hesitantly took out the necklace and showed it to the three men. He watched trash-can-guy’s expression and could see a glint of interest in his eyes. Maybe Nino could sell the item for a higher price to this man.

“My lord…” Matsumoto started.

 “Matsumoto, let me take a look.”

The butler gently took the necklace from Nino and placed it in the lord’s hand. “Hey! That’s mine!”

“Where did you get this?”

“That was with me ever since I was a kid,” Nino said. “It looks like it’s expensive so, yeah,” he added with a shrug. “Wanna buy it?”

The trash-can-guy returned the necklace to his butler, looked at the ground with a small smile, and then looked at Nino with a serious expression. “Yes,” he said. “But I have a proposal. If you’re interested, come with me.”

Nino was a bit hesitant but after seeing the encouraging and kind smiles of the servants, he followed the stranger. The man stopped walking after a while. “Where is your house?” he asked.

***

“Is he fucking crazy?” Nino asked Matsumoto – Jun, as the butler had insisted to call him – who was pointing at the handsome BMW parked in front of the dingy apartment. It really looked out of place.

“Indeed, Ninomiya-sama,” the butler replied. “My Lord is really serious about this proposal.”

“Why is he doing that? Okay, I mean, sleeping on trash bags is not normal. What are you rich people playing at? Are you mocking poor people like me?”

“No, My Lord doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Jun replied. “The thing is that, he’s in trouble and this will help him a lot.”

“In trouble?” Nino raised one eyebrow. Before Jun could say another word, Ohno blew the horn.

“I apologize, Ninomiya-sama. My Lord will return here on the said date, as discussed. In exchange he’ll arrange all your debts so that they will disappear and the yakuza will not come after you.” Jun smiled, gave a subtle wink, and went to the car.

“Hey! Hey!” he yelled, going towards the car. He blocked the nobleman’s way so the other could not enter the car. “What do you really want?”

“For now,” the nobleman answered with a gentle smile that made Nino gulp. “Promise me that this will never leave your neck.” He held out the necklace that Nino had been about to sell earlier, and placed it around Nino’s neck. After that, the nobleman - teasingly - leaned down so that their eyes met. He patted Nino’s chest, where the pendant was.

Nino felt weird. His heart beat faster and his throat was dry. The man certainly made him speechless and he could not understand why.

“That’s a very precious thing and I know that you shouldn’t sell it,” the man reminded him. He ruffled Nino’s hair and got inside the car.

Nino caught a last glimpse of the arrogant-looking nobleman before the tinted windows rolled up. He was practically wrestled in an agreement that was so weird, and with a person who did not want to tell his name. The man had agreed to pay all of Nino’s debts from the loan shark in exchange for a very silly proposal.

Suddenly, Nino’s phone rang. It was the number of the doctor from his mother’s hospital in the countryside. He picked up nervously. “Hello? Did something happen to Mom?”

“Congratulations, Ninomiya-san. Your mother was granted the regional sponsorship by the hospital. You won’t have to worry about any hospital bills. The hospital foundation will even pay for the treatment not covered by her insurance!”

“That’s good news!” Nino exclaimed. He gave out a sigh of relief while he let his tears fall. “T-thank you, Doctor.”

***

Matsumoto placed his iPad on his lap. “It's done. Are you sure about this plan, my Lord?”

The nobleman raised an eyebrow. “What makes you think I’m not serious about this?” he asked, narrowing his eyes at his butler. He closed his eyes a bit and when he opened them, he smiled. “I know. You probably think that this is the silliest idea ever.”

“Apologies, my Lord,” Matsumoto replied.

The nobleman nodded and looked through the window. “Ohno?”

“Yes, my Lord?”

“You know very well what we have talked about.”

The driver tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “My Lord, I don’t want you to do something that will put you in danger.”

“I want the both of you to stop thinking that I’m a young boy,” their master said, clicking his tongue in disapproval. “I am the lord of the household now and these are my orders.”

“We understand,” the two servants chorused.

The master leaned back comfortably in the backseat and crossed his arms. He whispered, “It’s show time.”

***

“… Lose weight fast! Avail of the…”

“…tomorrow never knows how much I feel…”

“Sho-chan, can you stop switching channels ever so often?” Nino said, annoyed.

“… owner of Japan’s largest estate has been missing since last night…”

“… giant pumpkin wows farmers in…”

Sho, the owner of the secondhand bookstore where Nino worked, turned the TV off. “You seem so down, Nino,” Sho just replied. He offered him the plate of cake but Nino declined.

Nino fixed the vintage books and placed them on their proper shelves. “I met the weirdest guy,” he said.

“Oh really? The good or bad kind?”

“The bad. Very bad!” Nino shook his head as he spoke the words. “What have I gotten myself into? Just to pay my debts…”

“Nino, you’re not selling your body, are you?” Sho said with a worried voice, suddenly standing up from his sitting position.

“No! Of course not!” Nino looked at the book he was holding. Children of the Sun by Miyabi. “Wow, I haven't seen this one in ages!”

“Let me take a look,” Sho said. He looked at it. “Wow, it's that book!” he exclaimed. “Such a rare find.” He returned the book to Nino. “You know, I remember when that book came out. It was the perfect story, everyone was all over it. But the author refused to show up anywhere.”

“Ah, yes, I think I know about that,” Nino replied. “My mom loved it. I remember that we went together to a book signing event but the author was unable to come because of security issues.”

“So, back to the topic… You’re not – well – you know…” Sho started in a hushed voice.

“No! Of course not!” Nino hissed. But then, he did not really know. What if that nobleman suddenly wanted extra service?

“Then what is it?” Sho asked curiously. His hand was on his chest, probably calming himself after the revelation that his friend was not trying to sacrifice his body for money.

“That trash-can-guy-who-is-actually-rich wants to live in my apartment for a month for the purpose of research,” Nino said. “I don’t get it. What kind of person sleeps on trash and lives in dingy places for research?”

“I don’t know, novelists, maybe,” Sho answered. He flashed a smile at the customer and waved her goodbye.

“Why did I even say yes to that proposal? Am I that desperate?” Nino wondered aloud as he placed the last book on the shelf.

“Well, you said yourself that this is for your mom, right?” Sho said. “Well, I am not really into these kinds of weird arrangements – it seems so surreal, like it’s out of a novel,” he added. “But Nino, if ever this man gives you trouble, give me a call and I’ll put my muscles into use.”

Nino burst into laughter, making Sho blush. “Sho-chan, are you sure? He has a butler, and a driver who looks like a small sleepy guy but is actually an MMA fighter or something!” he said. “You are no match for them.”

“You are fired.”

***

Nino was sitting on the floor when Jun and Ohno carried their master’s belongings inside the apartment. Nino had expected them to bring the nobleman’s personal bedroom but he was surprised and pleased to see that they only brought in two duffel bags that did not really look so heavy.

“Wait, what is that?” he asked when Ohno placed a box in the corner of the room.

“My Lord’s personal office space, since you don’t have a room conducive to work,” Jun answered for the driver. Well, Nino had only heard Ohno speak like three sentences before.

Nino watched as Jun and Ohno fumbled here and there, revealing that the box was actually a low study table, complete with its lamp, drawers, laptop plug, and a cute cushion chair in deep green.

“Matsumoto, Ohno, is everything ready?”

“Yes, my Lord,” the two chorused.

“Ahhh, this is so nice!” trash-can-guy said, sticking his head through the door. Nino’s eyes widened when the arrogant-looking rich guy entered the genkan and stepped onto the tatami mat without removing his leather shoes.

“WAIT!” Nino yelled, making the nobleman stop in his tracks and turn to him with narrowed eyes, anticipating Nino’s next words. Since the three men were looking at him, he felt a little embarrassed and probably red in the face.

“Ah! You’re as red as a tomato!” trash-can-guy teased with a smile.

Jun coughed and Ohno puffed his cheeks before resuming a serious face.

“Shut up! You, Mr. Nobleman, listen to me,” Nino said, walking towards him. “This is my house, and you should follow my rules.”

“Even though we discussed that I’m going to clear your debts?”

“Yes, even though we discussed that!” Nino replied breathlessly. “My house isn’t a mansion but it deserves to be respected.”

“What form of disrespect did I show?” trash-can-guy tilted his head to the side.

“For starters,” Nino pointed at his feet. “Shoes off the floor!”

“My Lord,” Jun said in response, holding out a nice pair of silken slippers. Trash-can-guy surprisingly walked back to the genkan to change into the slippers.

“Okay, what else?”

“Lights off at 11 PM,” Nino said, inventing the rule out of the blue when his eyes caught the mini-office the nobleman had brought in. “I don’t care if you’re using your own electricity source but I don’t want anything disturbing my sleep.” Well, that was not true. He could play games for 24 hours without sleeping.

Trash-can-guy nodded. “What else?”

“No smoking. And – and no women!” Nino found himself blushing at the last statement. Where the hell was that rule coming from?

Trash-can-guy suddenly smirked. “Why, Ninomiya? You wouldn't like it if you saw me with one?” he asked.

Nino shook his head hard. But then, he inexplicably wanted to agree with that guy’s statement. He had an image of this nobleman: always carefree, no regard for others, and bedding women every night.

“I don’t care. If you want to have sex or something, go get a hotel room,” Nino snapped.

Trash-can-guy shrugged, an annoying expression on his face. “So, I think that’s settled then. Matsumoto, Ohno, you can now go. I think you have lots of things to do? Don’t forget to give me updates as discussed.”

“We’re always at your service, my Lord,” Jun said with a bow before they made their exit. He closed the door after they left.

“Tell me, what is your real purpose of living with me?” Nino asked while the nobleman went around the small room, opening and closing the curtains, the empty cupboard, and the closet.

“You don’t have anything inside these cupboards? What a waste,” the noble said while looking around. “I’m here to look for inspiration,” he answered while he continued inspecting the empty closets. “I can’t just write about things that I haven’t experienced.”

“Write? You’re a writer?”

The man turned around to look at Nino and smiled. This time, Nino gulped. The man’s smile was not arrogant – it was sincerely happy, with a twinkle in his eyes. The poor man found himself looking into those brown eyes, going out of focus.

“Indeed, I am,” he replied with a sigh. Nino blinked a few times. “But you see, I’m able to write scenes of extravagance and wealth but…”

Nino shook his head before he sat down, understanding everything. “You have difficulty with scenes showing normal people – or even the poor people.” Trash-can-guy nodded. Anyway, Nino wanted to stop referring to this guy as “trash-can-guy”. “You know what? I don’t know what I should call you,” he said. “If you want to experience being normal, you can’t let ordinary people call you ‘my Lord’. What’s your name?”

“Why should I tell you?” the nobleman said with an air of haughtiness.

“Because I call you ‘trash-can-guy’ in my head,” Nino replied.

“That is certainly barbaric and rude.”

“Not telling me your name when you’re living under my roof is certainly rude,” Nino replied.

The man sighed. “Fine. So, to avoid having a lot of problems, you can call me Masaki,” he said with a small regal bow. “It’s up to you if you want to add a proper title."

“Shut up,” Nino replied. “Well, Masaki-san,” he started as if tasting the sound of his name on his lips, “It’s very nice to meet you. You can call me Nino.”

“Good. That’s shorter,” Masaki said with a smile. Nino groaned inwardly. He somehow wished Masaki would not smile often under his roof.

***

“So you mean, this nobleman – Masaki – wanted to live with a normal person so that he could get inspiration for his writing?” Sho asked while he munched on some cookies.

“Yep,” Nino grunted while he rearranged some of the books. Those pesky students didn't return them to the right shelves.

“So far, what has he done?” his boss asked curiously.

“Hmm… nothing much,” Nino said. “Hey, but he’s kinda silly. There 's stuff that's normal to us but that he doesn't know, it seems."

“Really?” Sho replied as if he was listening to a teacher telling something out of this world.

“I don’t know,” Nino shrugged. “You come from a rich family. Maybe you know.”

“Hey, even though you say we’re rich compared to your standards, my dad made us walk to the bus station. We’re perfectly normal, thank you,” he replied, raising his chin in pride. “And I buy stuff from the convenience store.”

“But you have a million yen wristwatch,” Nino added with a smug smile, making Sho consciously hide his watch.

“That’s not the point. This guy is a different level,” Sho nodded. “Can you share some stuff that he didn’t know?”

***

“Yes, I do agree that there should be someone who will lead the company for a while,” Jun said through the phone while nodding. “I know. Thank you for understanding.” He hung up and pocketed the phone.

“Matsumoto-san?” Ohno looked at his companion, uneasily.

“I think the traitors are already showing themselves,” Jun replied with a sigh. “Just a few days after the show has begun.” He smiled gently at the driver. “I know you’re feeling uncomfortable about our master’s orders but please bear with this,” Jun said, patting Ohno’s shoulder.

“Ever since I assumed this position, I have only known how to follow one important order, Matsumoto-san,” he replied in a small voice. “This is something new. I should have been following our lord wherever he went but here I am, doing something else. I don’t understand.”

“Well, I’ve been with our lord ever since we were young and I don’t understand him either,” Jun replied with a shrug. “But I know that even though he looks careless, he’s an intelligent fellow. His father has underestimated him and his abilities. Have a little more faith in him, Ohno-san, and everything will be alright.” He looked at his iPad and started to push buttons on the screen.

***

“I am not that ignorant, Nino,” Masaki replied with narrowed eyes after Nino had to push him away from the stove.

“Yeah, right, whatever,” Nino answered with an eye roll. He opened the packets of teabags.

“Excuse me, what is that?” Masaki asked with such genuine curiosity that it made Nino want to laugh. Of course he would not. But maybe he could; Masaki’s pout from earlier after being told that he was ignorant looked cute, actually.

“Tea.”

“Seriously, how can commoners create tea from such packets?” Masaki folded his arms and frowned. “Such disrespect.”

“Here,” Nino said, placing two teacups on the low table. He started drinking his tea and munching on the dorayaki Sho had given him. “The dorayaki is good too.”

Masaki smelled the tea and scrunched up his nose. “I can’t drink this. My maid will be mad.”

Nino shook his head. “Fine, if you don’t want to. I’ll take this.” He felt offended. He hadn't really bought the teabags. His mom made good tea and for convenience’s sake, she packed the tea leaves into tea bags for Nino. He sipped his own tea and closed his eyes. He really missed his mom.

“Well, for an ordinary tea, you seem to be too enamored with it,” Masaki said. Nino opened his eyes and saw that the nobleman was staring at him intently, as if he was observing a painting. Nino coughed and looked away in embarrassment.

“Shut up,” Nino hissed. “I’m offering you the best tea in Tokyo and you’re going all arrogant.”

“The best tea in Tokyo, huh?” Masaki said, lifting the plain white cup. “Why do you say so? These are just tea bags.”

“Huh? They’re not just teabags. My mom made them for me,” Nino answered. He watched as Masaki traced the edges of the cup with his long fingers. It was inexplicably hypnotizing.

“Your mom…” Masaki sighed. “You like talking about her. You love her so much?”

“Yeah, I love her so much I’m willing to live with a crazy guy like you,” Nino said before eating his dorayaki. “She has been sick ever since I was in high school. I had to leave her in our hometown. The hospital over there is taking good care of her and she got some regional sponsorship.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” Masaki replied with a big smile. Nino looked at him and the nobleman really seemed to be happy. “Your mother… she’s doing well, right?”

“Yes, she is great!” Nino answered. “I think she’ll be fine after a few more months.”

Masaki lifted the cup and took a sip – elegantly. Nino just observed Masaki’s movements. He did not miss that subtle twinkle in his eyes when he drank the tea. He placed the cup down and gave a reserved smile. “Hmm… passable.”

“So, is your servant better at making tea?”

Masaki just smiled at him. “You haven’t tasted the best, Nino.”

Nino clicked his tongue. Masaki obviously loved his mom’s tea and he did not want to admit it.

***

“What are you doing here?” Nino exclaimed when he saw Jun and Ohno sitting with Sho. Sho was eating some kind of expensive bento. Jun was browsing through some books, and Ohno looked off into the distance.

“Ah, Ninomiya-sama,” Jun said, walking towards Nino. “We have received instructions from our lord that we can’t visit him to check his health so we came here to ask you.”

“Ah, he’s fine. Silly, ignorant, arrogant, but yeah, fine,” Nino whined while he made his way to the locker.

“Nino, I just told them the story about Masaki-san getting stuck in the train doors because he did not know how to use the Suica,” Sho said with a hearty laugh.

Ohno straightened his back. “My Lord has ridden another mode of transportation?” He looked mortified. “The horror! Did someone hurt him?”

“No, silly, it’s just the train,” Nino replied before he put on the apron uniform. “He asked me if we could go to Shinagawa so that he could see how normal office people worked.”

Sho nodded. “I told Nino to bring Masaki-san to my dad’s office just to observe. It wasn’t the best idea, though. Dad’s company has been kinda chaotic recently ever since their owner disappeared.”

Jun and Ohno looked at each other with shock on their faces. Jun then looked at Nino and shook his head. “Ninomiya-sama, you must understand that as our lord’s servants, we take pride in everything that we do for him. The fact that he uses the service of other people is an insult to us, I’m sorry about this.”

“What? We can’t go to the park waiting for Ohno. You said yourself that he told you not to interfere in this stupid immersion!” Nino clicked his tongue in annoyance. “Seriously, you rich people are annoying.”

“Forgive me, Ninomiya-sama,” Ohno said with a small bow. “I was just too surprised but I do understand what my Lord wanted to do. I will understand.”

“My Lord tried horseback riding some time ago and Ohno was really furious,” Jun said with a small chuckle. “You may not guess it but it gets pretty ugly when he’s mad.” Nino watched as Jun took a pocket watch from the inside of his coat. It looked really familiar. He was about to ask something about it but he saw a frown on the butler’s face. “Well then, Ninomiya-sama, we have to rush now. Here’s the credit card for the groceries.”

“Huh? Doesn’t he have a private cook or something?”

Jun smiled. “Fortunately for you, my Lord has no private cook. But tea time is a different story,” he added. “Well then, I know that with the credit card you can buy more expensive food but for the sake of my Lord’s immersion, commoner’s food will be enough.”

Nino sighed as he looked at the platinum credit card. “Great life.” He accompanied the two servants to the car.

Jun tugged Nino's sleeve and started speaking in a hushed voice. “Ninomiya-sama, I do apologize that it seems like my lord is causing you trouble, but I have a favor to ask.”

“Hmm?”

Jun handed Nino a business card with a golden embossed emblem. “Please message me next time when my Lord wants to go anywhere. Don’t let him know that you’re telling me.”

“Is there something I need to know, though?” Nino asked, raising an eyebrow. Why was this kept a secret from Masaki when he was the one who planned this ‘immersion’?

Jun sighed. “It’s our responsibility to keep him safe. Hearing that he walked through Shinagawa without any form of security really horrified us, especially Ohno-san, who is in charge of security. I am not against him strolling around but we just have to know… to be sure.”

Nino nodded while looking at the business card. “I understand,” he replied. He knew that the butler was telling the truth but at the same time, he felt that there was something terribly wrong.

Jun bowed and got into the car. Sho got out of the store to see the guests off.

“Bye! Bring over some cheesecake next time!” Sho said, waving at the servants as their car sped off.

“Sho-chan, that’s embarrassing!”

“What?” Sho replied with a frown. “Ohno-san is a cheesecake enthusiast like me. He says they have a good baker who supplies their sweets and he’d like me to try.”

Nino rolled his eyes once again. “Whatever, boss. Do you have the hots for that driver?”

“Why? He’s so cute, you know,” Sho said with a pout.

“Cute? He wrestled that loan shark who is like three times his size!”

“Macho,” Sho chuckled. “Now, go back to work. Do you want me to accompany you to the supermarket later?”

“No need,” Nino said, going to his bag to put the credit card in. He was thinking of what to prepare for Masaki that evening. He shook his head frantically.

***

“What are you cooking?” Masaki asked, standing up from his desk. He had been scribbling notes on a flowchart ever since Nino had arrived home. Maybe smelling the scent of sautéed chicken made him stand up.

“Nothing much. I’m just throwing together whatever ingredients I have, the commoner’s way,” he added.

Masaki nodded behind him. Nino suddenly felt conscious that someone was watching him cook. “Let me try?” the nobleman asked.

“Are you sure?” Nino replied, lowering the fire and turning around. He found Masaki’s eyes sparkle with innocent interest.

“I’ve actually never tried cooking before,” Masaki said with a sheepish smile while he shuffled uncomfortably. Nino wanted to laugh but he did not want the nobleman to think that he was that shallow.

Nino stepped aside and gave the ladle to Masaki. “Just go and mix them up until the meat turns golden brown,” he instructed. He went towards the rice cooker. “If you need help just tell me.”

“Okay,” Masaki said with a shaky voice. Cooking that meal was not really complicated but Nino had to remind himself that Masaki was a nobleman who had probably never stepped into a kitchen. “I think… this is alright?”

“Add that cup of water over there,” Nino said, pointing towards the sink without looking while he busied himself with the rice.

Nino looked up when he heard a shriek. “What happened?” he asked, running towards Masaki. Well, there was not really enough room to run around in that small kitchen. He found Masaki blowing his finger.

“I think I touched the pot. It's hot,” Masaki said.

Nino shook his head in disbelief. “We have pot holders and mittens,” he said. He stared at Masaki’s somehow vulnerable state, looking like a lost kid while shaking his fingers to numb the pain. “Let me look at that.” He turned off the stove and dragged Masaki to the sink to let the running water cool the burn. He then took Masaki to the small living room. “Sit.”

“You sound like a mom,” Masaki commented. Nino groaned. The nobleman had gotten his suave arrogance back in a matter of minutes. “Actually, you sound like my old maid.” He chuckled.

“Shut up,” he said while he searched through the first aid kit Jun had brought to the apartment. Maybe the butler had predicted that something was bound to happen to their clumsy, inexperienced master. He found a burn ointment and slathered it on the reddish skin. “Why do you keep on talking about your old maid? Where is this maid?”

“Hmm…” Masaki mused. “Well, I didn’t have a mother so she stayed with me when I was young. But she has resigned already.” He sighed. “Nino, you’re good,” he then commented with his signature elegant smile.

“Shut up,” Nino muttered but he was really blushing. He kept his head down while he wrapped clean gauze around Masaki’s fingers. “Be more careful. I’ll finish dinner. Just sit here.”

“Ahh, how am I supposed to write with my right hand like this?” Masaki wondered aloud. That made Nino chuckle.

“You just got a burn, not a fracture,” Nino replied from the kitchen. Masaki could be childish sometimes but Nino admitted that he looked cute.

“Nino?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you still have your mom’s tea?” Masaki asked.

Nino looked at Masaki for a while, wondering about the sudden request.

“The fact that he uses the service of other people is an insult to us …”

Maybe Masaki loved the tea. Maybe it was actually better than his servant’s. Nino felt proud that this picky nobleman liked it. A smile was plastered on his face as he boiled the water and prepared the tea. This time, his mom did not put them in packets. She sent loose tea leaves and even included a fancy tea set with a teapot with strainer in his monthly supply.

Masaki inspected the cup for a while before he drank his tea. “This one is better. Tea should not be kept in tea bags.”

“Well, my mom decided to send it that way,” Nino answered. “I really don’t like it because it’s very inconvenient to use a teapot and a strainer.”

The nobleman shook his head. “But the best way to prepare tea is the traditional way,” he argued. “I would love it if your mother sent you tea this way.”

“My mom is not my servant,” Nino pouted. His mother had worked hard when he was young and Nino, as much as possible, did not want her to work hard now that she was older and a little sick.

Masaki chuckled before he sipped his tea. Nino watched the nobleman’s change of expression: his eyes were closed and his lips formed a relaxed smile. “You know, Nino, I envy you.”

“What? Me? You have everything. Why do you envy me?”

Masaki put his cup down and looked at it as if it was the most fascinating thing. “You are independent. You are free to do whatever you want and you’re not afraid. You can walk outside without fear of getting blown up.” He gave a gloomy smile. “The first time I set foot out of a house without a bodyguard was when we went to Shinagawa.”

Nino somehow pitied Masaki when he said that. He was rich and all that but there was a price to pay. Well, you can’t get everything, that’s what they say. Masaki may have been filthy rich but he was not free to do much.

“Ah!” Masaki suddenly exclaimed, making Nino almost jump. The nobleman crawled to his desk. “I know I’ll be breaking my immersion ‘protocol’ for doing this but,” he took out a box from inside his work desk. “Here.”

“What is this?” Nino asked, looking at the handsome box. There were golden embossed decorations all over it so that it seemed like a jewelry box. He looked at the emblem on top of the box.

“Those are chocolates. They will be perfect with the tea,” Masaki suggested. “Chocolates do not normally go well with this kind of tea but trust me.” He opened the box for Nino and handed him a toothpick.

Nino just stared at the delicious-looking chocolates and then at Masaki’s outstretched hand. The nobleman impatiently grabbed Nino’s wrist to give him the toothpick and he looked at the man expectantly, like a person waiting for his friend to unwrap a present.

“Stop staring.”

Masaki probably noticed his childlike action and he stiffened. He took the cup and took a sip, suddenly going back to his noble-like demeanor. Nino slowly picked up one piece using his toothpick and took a bite. He was not really a fan of sweets but the chocolate tasted heavenly – melting in his mouth and spreading all over his tongue.

He finally opened his eyes and found Masaki staring at him intently with a lazy smile on his lips. Nino blushed and looked away. “I told you to stop staring.”

“Nino, it seems like you really love the chocolates. I’ll ask Matsumoto to give you more, if you like,” Masaki offered.

“No need,” Nino mumbled, even though he would really love some. Maybe he could even share this with Sho at the shop.

“I insist,” Masaki said before he took a piece with his fingers and ate it. He licked the melted chocolate from his fingers and leaned on his elbow lazily.

Nino looked at Masaki, who was lightly sucking on his index finger while looking at the ceiling. It made his heart jump, and felt like his insides were moving out of control. Damn, Nino hated it that Masaki could make him feel like some teenager with a crush.

***

Ohno took a sip of his coffee. He was not really a fan of this drink but it was already past 2 AM. The rain started falling harder so he needed to use his windshield wiper to see what was in front of him. Silently wondering what his master was up to, he started driving slowly.

He clicked his tongue when he saw that Nino was cornered by three men. He got out of the car, carrying a black umbrella with him.

“… you have a sugar daddy giving you money and paying your debts but we’re not through yet!” one of them said. It was the guy Ohno had defeated with one punch a few months ago.

“Excuse me, what are you doing?” he asked in a calm voice. The three guys looked at him. He caught a glimpse of Nino, he was already on the ground. He looked up at the men again and took a deep breath. “I thought we have talked to your boss and closed all of Ninomiya-sama’s transactions?”

“I don’t care about his fucking money. I want to get even,” the man said.

Ohno nodded calmly. “Shouldn’t you fight me because I was the one who beat you that time?” he asked.

The man did not reply. He started to lunge forward to attack Ohno but he just swiftly stepped to the side. He closed the umbrella and used it to hit the man’s leg, causing him to fall down. The other two started to attack him but they just ended up hitting each other.

“Before I knock the three of you unconscious, please be wary of your actions. My Lord will not tolerate this unmanly act of not honoring an agreement,” Ohno said before he used the handle of his umbrella to hit the three.

Ohno sighed to calm his racing heart before he went towards Nino. “Ninomiya-sama?”

“Mmmm…” the man managed to say. At least he was still alive. Ohno scooped him up and carried him towards the car. He took out a fluffy towel and placed it around Nino.

Ohno was about to start driving home when he heard his phone ring. The call came from his master. He answered it and said, “My lord, I know why you called.”

“What do you mean?” his master replied. Ohno could really hear the worry in his voice.

“I’ll take Ninomiya-sama home as soon as I can,” he replied.

Ohno arrived at the apartment complex and saw that the lights in Nino’s apartment were the only ones turned on. He helped Nino up. He could feel the vibration in his pocket; his master kept on calling him. Ohno knocked on the door and it immediately opened.

“What happened to him?” his master asked. Ohno saw the worry etched on his face.

“He was beaten up by the guys from the loan shark company,” Ohno said, helping Nino get in. “My lord, do you need help?”

“No, no, I can do this,” the nobleman answered. Ohno watched in awe as his master made his way to the kitchen to heat water and then rushed to the closet to get a fresh set of clothes and a towel. Ohno helped Nino change his clothes while the master prepared warm water for washing and the first aid kit for the wounds.

In the end, Ohno felt like he was just a spectator of the scene. His master did everything from preparing the futon to tucking Nino into bed. He did not even show an ounce of his noble nature. The master was not really cruel or arrogant but Ohno had known over the years that the man he was serving did not know how to do things normal people would refer to as simple. But there he was, taking care of Nino. And in Ohno’s eyes, he saw that his master really felt genuine care towards the man.

“Ohno.”

“Ah, yes, my Lord?” he asked, shaking off his thoughts.

“You can go back to the mansion now. Nino’s safe now.”

Ohno stood up and bowed. “I’ll go now.”

“Tell Matsumoto to send my regards to that loan shark. I think I should expect you to do your job normally tomorrow,” he said.

“I understand,” Ohno replied. He went to the genkan to put on his shoes and take a glance at the scene. His master was sporting a small smile as he watched over Nino.

“Ohno, thank you for looking after Nino.”

***

Nino woke up. He remembered being beaten up by some thugs until a guy wearing black saved him. He tried to sit up but he winced when he felt pain in his sides. However, he realized that he was back in his apartment and he could hear furious typing sounds. He shut his eyes to try to recall more of what had happened. He placed a hand over his eyes and groaned because everything was fuzzy. But he could remember someone taking care of him. Nino placed a hand on his lips. He could remember someone kissing him on the forehead and then on the lips. But that was probably a dream. There was no one in the apartment apart from him and…

The typing sounds stopped. “Nino?” Masaki called out.

No way. That was probably a dream. There was no one in the apartment apart from him and Masaki! “How did I get here?”

“Don’t sit up, you might get hurt,” was Masaki’s reply. Nino blinked. He wondered if it was Masaki but he was absolutely sure that the nobleman would never do something like that. “Ohno saw you on the street and brought you here.”

Nino thought of a question to change the topic and to take his mind away from that hazy kiss. “H-how is the writing coming along?”

“Well, it’s going well,” Masaki said. Nino eyesight finally became clear and he saw that Masaki was sporting a smile. He really seemed to enjoy talking about his work because his eyes were sparkling once again. “But don’t ask me about the plot; it’s a secret until publication date.”

“As if I’m interested in listening to your story,” Nino clicked his tongue.

“Have you ever read a novel before?” Masaki asked. Nino looked at him, ready to lash at this guy’s mocking question but he saw that instead of a smug smile, Masaki looked genuinely curious. “You’ve been working in Sakurai’s book shop for quite some time. I bet you have a favorite.”

Only one book crossed Nino’s mind. “Children of the Sun,” he murmured. He didn’t really read a lot of books and he felt that saying the title of book written years ago reflected his disinterest.

Masaki looked at him attentively. “W-Well, why do you like that book?”

Nino rolled on the futon so that he faced the ceiling. “It was really beautiful and raw,” he answered. “There were no difficult words but when you started reading it, it gave you this – this warm feeling.”

“Warm feelings, huh?” Masaki said, looking down and sighing. “I wonder what made it popular.”

“Maybe that’s the reason why it was popular,” Nino answered. “It gave people happiness even though we’re living in these hard times.” His lips twitched. “Never mind. You’re a nobleman; you’ll never understand what commoners like me go through.”

“That’s true,” Masaki said, the disappointment obvious in his voice. “But that’s why I’m trying my best to know how commoners live.”

“Commoners don’t actually live in trash bins, to be frank,” Nino said.

Masaki nodded, looking like a defeated little boy. He leaned back against the wall. “But it would be nice to be able to write something that can give happiness to people who are having a hard time.”

Nino sighed as he looked at Masaki’s face. He actually looked miserable, probably more miserable than him when he could not pay a month’s rent. An idea suddenly hit him, and he did not know if it was worth it.

“Go to sleep, Nino. I think you need some rest. You still have a fever.”

Nino did not argue. He was already groggy and dizzy because of his fever. After a while, he saw movements through the blur and felt a warm hand stroking his hair and cheek.

“Good night, Nino.”

***

“Where are we going?” Masaki asked after Nino prodded him awake.

“I’ll be helping you in your research,” Nino grunted as he donned a simple, striped, white-and-gray shirt. It was a precious off day for him – a day that he would usually spend sitting inside his house, finishing 20 or so levels of his favorite game.

He did not know why but he felt the need to help Masaki with his research. Actually, staying inside Nino’s apartment the whole day would not really help him know more about the commoner’s way of life. Living inside the small apartment for two weeks just exposed the nobleman to Nino’s monotonous routine and he had probably milked all possible ideas from that.

“Research?” Masaki repeated. He mumbled thanks when Nino grabbed a random shirt from Masaki’s bag for him to wear. It was actually the simplest from the bunch of branded outfits that Jun had packed. The nobleman nonchalantly changed into the shirt and removed his pajamas to change into his (obviously expensive) jeans. Nino found himself staring at Masaki’s body so he quickly turned away, just right after spotting that large mark on the nobleman’s shoulder spreading to his back.

“Are you done?” Nino asked, clearing his throat after realizing that his pitch was a tad higher. He turned around and saw Masaki looking at him with his arms outstretched.

“Do I look like a commoner?” Masaki asked, turning around a bit.

“Yeah,” Nino answered with a sigh. Masaki could pass as a commoner. His clothes this time were not as extravagant and silly as the ones he used when he arrived at the apartment after their flat-sharing agreement: a coat with golden embroidery, a big silk bow, a hat, and leather shoes. The ones Masaki was wearing would be commoner enough unless someone pulled the tags and saw their real brands.

Nino, once again, found himself staring at Masaki. That nobleman could wear a potato sack and still look gorgeous.

***

“I asked Ohno-san to drive us to the park because he’d probably have kill me if he suddenly had heard that I made you ride the bus or train,” Nino explained. Ohno looked at him through the rear view mirror. Nino had consulted with Jun about this trip and they had agreed to it as long as Nino would tell them their itinerary.

“Ohno,” Masaki started with a reprimanding voice. “I told you I’m doing research.”

“Apologies, my Lord,” the driver replied. “I have to keep you safe at all times.”

“I’m an adult, not a child,” he answered. Nino watched as Masaki talked. He sounded authoritative but at the same time kind. “You are really like your father.”

“Ohno-san’s father worked for you too?” Nino asked curiously. He wondered how servants in upper class families lived. Did generations serve the same family?

Masaki looked at him with a soft smile. “Indeed. Ohno senior used to be my bodyguard. Matsumoto’s father also served as my father and my butler until his retirement. Trust and loyalty towards my family have never skipped a generation.” He then looked outside through the window and Nino noticed a slight change of expression. “That doesn’t mean that they are forced to stay forever, though.”

“My Lord,” Jun interrupted. “Even the servants who leave you continue to adore you.”

“Thanks, Matsumoto,” Masaki answered. He took a deep breath and looked at Nino, resuming a cheerful expression. “So, Nino, where are we actually going?”

Nino had a lot of things in mind. But in all honesty, he was never the type to go out and around town. “Well, like what you said, we’ll do what the commoners do.”

“Oh, like purikura and eating street food?” Masaki asked. Nino looked at him in disbelief. Instead of a smug expression, his eyes showed wonder and curiosity.

“Well, if you want to add them in, be my guest,” Nino replied with a shrug. Ohno coughed and Nino knew that the driver was just trying to suppress laughter.

Ohno dropped them off in front of a street full of people. Nino turned to the side when he heard something that sounded like a squeal. “Is it your first time in this place?”

Masaki really looked like an innocent child. He even bounced on his heels, showing excitement. Upon hearing Nino, he cleared his throat and went back to his calm demeanor. “Indeed, it is. That’s why I think I’m going to get a lot of inspiration from here.”

Nino sighed. “Masaki-san, you don’t have to hold back, you know? I’ll stay with you throughout this trip so I’m okay with whatever.” He remembered what Masaki had mentioned about going outside without bodyguards and saw that Masaki’s shuffling was not really because of excitement but because of anxiety due to being outside, unprotected. He should not worry, though. Jun said they would keep a close watch.

Nino gulped when the nobleman looked at him and everything else became a blur. Nino felt a warm hand gripping his. “You don’t have to be constrained by the things I want to do. Let’s enjoy this together, okay?”

“W-What?”

Masaki chuckled and showed him a thick wallet. “I don’t usually bring cash but I guess they don’t accept credit cards in areas like these, right?” Nino slapped a hand on his forehead before he broke into laughter. “What? What’s funny?”

“You really don’t get commoners, Masaki-san. Anyway, let’s go. What do you want to do today?”

Masaki’s requests – or demands – about what to do were really too normal. Which was why Nino felt embarrassed when Masaki acted like some ignorant foreigner. The upside was that Nino got to see a different side of the nobleman. Masaki really didn’t hold back; he showed genuine curiosity over things and didn’t hesitate to try them. Nino could even see that behind that arrogant façade was a bubbly, cheerful boy. The anxiety had already disappeared.

“There’s one thing I still want to try,” Masaki said as they both strolled through the nearby park.

“Masaki-san, I’m actually really hungry. If you want to actually play Dance Dance Revolution, maybe you should do it another day,” Nino whined. His feet were killing him and he certainly did not want to go back to the noisy arcade.

“No, not that,” Masaki responded, shaking his head with a smile. “I’ll take you to dinner, don’t worry. But let’s just try this. It’s nothing physically taxing, I promise.”

“What is it?” Nino sighed in defeat.

Masaki grabbed Nino’s hand and intertwined their fingers. He gaped at the nobleman and wished that if he was blushing, Masaki would not notice. “This is embarrassing,” he breathed out.

“No, it’s not. I think it’s sweet,” Masaki replied. “I wanted to try walking with someone hand-in-hand, in a nice garden at sunset.”

“That’s kinda specific.”

“And this is perfect, right?” Masaki grinned, pointing at the sky. It was already orange-colored. “Let’s walk slowly so that I can feel it.” He looked forward. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to do this again so let’s do this bit by bit.”

Nino was actually glad that Masaki requested the both of them to walk slowly. Apart from them, he saw sweet couples walking around too. He looked up at the taller Masaki and felt a little upset because he was just doing this for his research and nothing else. Masaki wanted to try walking hand-in-hand with someone but that didn’t mean that it was specifically Nino.

Masaki gripped Nino’s hand tighter and it made him gasp softly. At that moment, he felt the first drops of rain falling. People around them started taking out their umbrellas. Others started running for shelter. Masaki did not bring an umbrella but he just stood there, as if waiting for the rain.

“Hey, we should take shelter,” Nino said, tugging Masaki’s hand. Masaki just grinned at him. “We can’t just…”

“Isn’t this perfect, Nino? I actually wanted to add a rain scene in my novel. This is a big inspiration for me!”

“Stupid!” Nino yelled. “We’re going to get sick!” he added. At last, Masaki seemed to listen to him. With their hands still linked, they both ran through the muddy ground, looking for a tree or a shed where they could stay. The trees were not enough to protect them from the rain so they had to run for some time until they reached a bus stop.

“Are you alright?” Masaki asked in a gentle voice that made Nino’s cold skin warm up. He managed to nod his head a little. “I can’t let you get sick since it’s my fault that we got drenched.”

“For a nobleman, you’re really stupid,” Nino mumbled. But he did not speak further. He enjoyed being with Masaki, and to be very honest, he liked the fact that Masaki hadn't let go of his hand until they had reached the bus stop.

“Ah, they’re just in time,” Masaki said happily. The car they rode earlier pulled over and Jun came out with an umbrella.

“My Lord, Ninomiya-sama, I do hope you had a great time. Hop in so that we can take you to a warm place.”

“Thank you,” Nino said, shivering. He got in first and found towels and a blanket inside the limousine.

“Ah, that was fun,” Masaki said after he got in. The servant closed the door for him and after Jun had gotten into the car, Ohno started driving. “And I’m glad I did all of those things with you,” he added with a bright smile.

“W-what?” Nino gasped.

“Take off your clothes,” Masaki told Nino.

“WHAT?” Nino yelled. “Is this part of your research?”

“No, it’s not. But I think you should take off your clothes, wipe yourself with the towel and make yourself comfortable with the blanket until we reach home,” Masaki cleared. He carried an amused expression on his face. Jun coughed a little and his and Nino’s eyes met through the rear view mirror.

“Ah, alright,” Nino said. He shyly took off his shirt, dried himself with the towel, and quickly rolled the warm blanket around his body. Once he was in the blanket like a burrito, he looked at Masaki and asked, “How about you?”

“I’m a noble, I can handle… ACHOO!” Masaki suddenly sneezed.

“My Lord, being a nobleman does not exempt you from sickness,” Jun said. “Please help yourself with the towel and blanket.”

“Matsumoto-san is right, my Lord,” Ohno chirped in. “The drive will be two hours long because of the rain so I suggest you keep yourself warm.”

Nino tried not to watch as the nobleman removed his shirt and revealed his ripped body. He wiped himself dry, giving out a sigh of comfort. “Matsumoto, is there an extra blanket?”

“Apologies, my Lord,” Jun said. “I was able to bring two towels, but there was only one blanket. I think Ninomiya-sama will be so kind as to share?”

“Share? Blanket? What?” Nino felt that the temperature rose to uncomfortable levels. Masaki shamelessly pulled the blanket and wrapped it around his shoulders. “I thought you were rich, why do we have to share?”

“It’s better this way. We’ll be sharing body heat. Right, Matsumoto?”

“Yes, my Lord,” the butler just replied.

Nino felt like his surroundings were burning when he felt the blanket being tugged a little. He tried his best not to get near Masaki but he also liked the comfortable warmth of being beside someone in order to feel warm.

***

Nino watched from the door. His mother held a worn-out copy of “Children of the Sun” while sitting on the stool by the windowsill. He admired the view. They just transferred to the new hospital, which would provide free service. It was near the sea and his mother enjoyed the fresh air and the serene sights.

“Mom, I’m here,” Nino greeted her.

“Kazu!” she said, looking at him with a soft smile. She slowly stood up and sat on her bed.

Nino placed the plastic bag full of fruits (courtesy of Masaki) and other kinds of food on the bedside table and pulled the stool so that he could sit beside his mom. “Are you not sick of reading that book?” he asked her. “I can buy you a new one.”

She placed the book on her bedside table. “No need, Kazu. I really enjoy this one.” She looked at her son. “Unless you’ve seen a new book by Miyabi?”

“No,” Nino replied. He also wondered why the author who had released such wonderful book did not publish a new one. “He’s probably a one-hit wonder,” he said. His mother glared at him.

“I don’t believe you,” she answered. “It takes such heart to write something like that,” she said.

“Are you his fangirl?” Nino asked with a disgusted look.

His mom laughed. “Well, you could say that,” she replied. “I do adore him. I think I haven’t told you this before but I personally know Miyabi… from where I worked before!”

“Oh, I see,” Nino said with a nod. “Have you seen him after you left?”

She shook her head. “There was the rule that once we leave the mansion, we can’t go back. It’s like they’re cutting you off from their world.” She sighed sadly.

Nino didn’t want that to ruin their moment so he started to steer clear of that topic. Mother and son caught up on a lot of things; they hadn’t met for three months because of Nino’s money issues. Nino talked about Sho buying a big container full of old books in a lost-and-found auction, his landlord who seemed to walk better after his rehab, and Masaki, his new roommate.

“… He’s really something,” Nino sighed. “He doesn’t even know how to use the train! I mean, is that really normal for rich people?”

His mom chuckled a little. “For someone who is annoyed with his new roommate, you seem to be passionate about telling me stories about him,” she noted. “You’ve been talking about this Masaki for almost an hour already.” She drank some water. “I think you like this roommate of yours.”

Nino pursed his lips and looked down. That made him embarrassed. “I don’t like like him, Mom,” he said with a childish pout. “What makes you say that?”

“Why? Am I trying to imply something different? You two seem close. You even told me about touring him around town so that he’ll know what commoners do,” she replied. Nino groaned in annoyance. Maybe he got that way of speaking from his mother.

“Mom, let’s not talk about Masaki, okay?”

“Sure,” she answered with a knowing smile.

After eating afternoon snacks with his mother, he bade goodbye to return to the city.

“Ah, Kazu, take that box with you,” she said, pointing at the box at the visitor’s table in the room. “Share that with your Masaki-kun, alright? And say hello to him for me.”

Nino frowned when he peeked inside the box. It was, once again, dried tea leaves inside a jar and a tea set. It was one of those sets she kept in their house and this set was decorated with an emblem similar to the one on his pendant. “The best way to prepare tea is the traditional way…” he muttered.

“I’m sure your guest will love the tea that way. It was a big insult to let him drink from tea bags,” she added with a soft smile. “Take care on your way, Kazu.”

“I would love it if your mother sent you tea this way..”

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“Do you regret leaving your former job?” he asked curiously. He remembered that his mom had received the tea set from her past job where she honed her tea-making skills.

She smiled at him. There was a hint of sadness in her eyes. “You w/don't always find work where your employers appreciate the things you are passionate about and that house really gave me that satisfaction. But you know, I value you more than anything so I have no regrets.”

***

Nino watched Masaki as he typed furiously on his laptop. It was like he was on fire and any moment, the keyboard might burst into flames because of friction and overheating. It reminded him of how passionate his mom had looked like when he had accompanied her to a tea shop in the countryside where she had worked, sold and demonstrated the preparation of different kinds of tea. Nino suddenly felt jealous of the passion and motivation that they showed in their craft. It made him ponder over the questions: What about himself? What did he want to do in life?

“You should stop sighing,” he heard Masaki say without turning towards him. He had stopped typing and was drinking water from his glass. “It will make you appear older than you really are. But to be very honest, you look like a teenager to me.”

Nino blushed. He frowned and looked to the side. He couldn’t believe that Masaki’s flirty words could get him like that. Damn, he’s probably a lady-killer at parties. He shook his head once again to try to shake off thoughts of the nobleman flirting with a random princess, a princess who would probably be more deserving of his attention.

Well, he had to manage a comeback. “Is that an insult or what?”

Masaki finally looked around. He had a nice smile on his face, something that could make a teenager swoon. “I’m complimenting you, Nino, at least be grateful.”

Nino clicked his tongue and turned away. “Shut up!”

Masaki walked towards Nino and sat down in front of him. “Tell me what’s bothering you. Did something happen to… your mother?” Nino looked at Masaki’s eyes and found genuine worry. It even confused him why an arrogant nobleman would care for a stranger like that.

“No, it’s not about my mom,” Nino answered honestly. “It’s about me.”

“Oh,” Masaki replied. He looked like he was ready to listen. He nodded his head towards Nino.
                                        
“I feel lost,” Nino started.

Masaki looked to the side. “Oh,” he reacted. “Are you not happy being free?”

Nino felt confused by Masaki’s statement. The nobleman had already expressed before that he envied the kind of life that Nino had. But still freedom and happiness don’t pay the bills. “I am happy being free. But I am not happy that after all the trouble I caused, I’m still a worthless nobody.”

“Don’t say that,” Masaki whispered. “Nobody is worthless. Even my servants are not and people tend to trample on them.”

“Maybe I should have been a servant instead then,” Nino mused. “Even Matsumoto-san has it easy.”

Masaki made a sound that made Nino look up. The nobleman looked definitely mad. He did not know the reason. Maybe Nino had offended Jun? Maybe Masaki didn’t like these kinds of conversations? It made him feel smaller and more helpless. It was definitely a wrong move for Nino to pour his heart out to a man like this.

“Matsumoto doesn’t have it easy, Nino,” Masaki replied in a gentle tone, as if he was hushing a baby to sleep. “He also works, he also studies, he also pursues the things that he wants in his life. And it’s not easy because he’s serving me.”

“I thought servants dedicate their lives to their masters,” Nino answered back.

“Maybe your concept of a servant is actually slavery,” Masaki replied with a knowing smile. “Nino, what do you really want to do with your freedom? Freedom doesn’t mean that you can do whatever the hell you want. You also have to be responsible for it. You also have to make your freedom worthwhile.” Masaki edged nearer and took his hand. “Maybe you think it’s hard for you because you’re poor and all of that. But you have me. I’ll help you.”

“I don’t need your money,” Nino replied. He was not offended, just embarrassed and frustrated with himself.

“Well, if you don’t need my money, at least my presence and my guidance are here,” Masaki continued. “Now, what do you want to do?”

Nino pursed his lips. What did he want to do? “I want to be rich.” Masaki snorted and puffed air into his cheeks, attempting to hold his laughter. “Hey, it’s not funny!” Nino pouted. “Don’t you laugh at people’s dreams! I want an easier life. I hate having three to four part time jobs.”

“I’m not laughing at your dreams, Nino,” the nobleman replied. “I just… well… I’ve seen a lot of people saying that they wanted to be rich. I don’t think they – and you – know that there’s also a big responsibility once you have a large amount of money.” Masaki leaned closer, making Nino back away and feel the heat on his cheeks. “But of course, there’s something that you want to do, something that you are passionate about. I think you’re annoyed because your part time jobs don’t allow you to do the things you want to do.”

“What are you now, a detective?” Nino joked. However, Masaki was 100% right. He had to give up his passion due to a lack of time. He looked at his hands.

“You like to draw,” Masaki said. Nino looked up at him and he smiled. “I saw them when I was going through the drawers.”

“What? Didn’t I tell you not to touch anything?”

Masaki just shrugged. “Ohno also draws in his spare time.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Nino said sarcastically. Masaki looked at him as if he was thinking. “Oh. No, no, no. I don’t need any ‘nobleman intervention’ from you.” His voice became smaller. “Besides, you’ve already helped with the loan shark.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Masaki grinned.

***

Of course, Masaki did not say anything. Nino arrived at the store the next day to find Jun going through some old books.

“You wear glasses?”

“Indeed, Ninomiya-sama,” he replied with a small bow and a smile. He then proceeded to read an old Italian novel.

Nino made his way to the back room to change into his work clothes when he found Ohno sitting by the table, leaning his chin on his elbows as he watched Sho eat a large cheesecake with lots of berry toppings.

“Hey, Nino!” Sho greeted with a muffled voice, his cheeks stuffed with dessert.

Ohno suddenly woke up from his daze and he stood up and bowed to Nino. He then took a duffel bag from the side and handed it to Nino. “Here, Ninomiya-sama.”

Nino looked at the bag and found art supplies, a mustard-colored, leather-bound sketchbook, and a pencil case with a complete set of charcoal pencils and pencils with different tip diameters. “Wow,” he exclaimed. “Don’t tell me your master bought this.” He laughed nervously. “I don’t need this.”

Ohno shook his head. “Apart from the sketchbook, everything else was mine.”

“What?” Nino asked with eyes wide with surprise. “Really, Ohno-san, there’s no need.”

“Your Masaki knows you won’t accept new stuff so Ohno’s giving you his and Ohno will buy new ones,” Sho said while he stabbed the cake with his fork. He was three-fourths into the large cake.

“It’s still the same,” Nino scowled. “You still have to buy new stuff.”

Ohno shook his head. “Our lord really supported my love for drawing and arts so he gave me those supplies five years ago. I think it’s time for me to support someone else, the same way my Lord gave this to me.” He gently pushed Nino’s hand so that he could accept the duffel bag. “Consider that as my gift for you.”

“T-thank you,” Nino managed to stutter.

“And maybe you can help me with my exhibit? It will happen in three months’ time, you can work there part-time, it won’t be tiring, I promise.”

Nino tilted his head. He looked over Ohno’s shoulder to Sho. His boss shrugged and then nodded. “I’ll think about it.” Nino smiled at the driver.

Ohno grinned happily before he bowed before him. “Thank you, Ninomiya-sama. Sho-kun, I’m going now.”

“See ya,” Sho replied with a wave. “Thanks for this cake!”

“My pleasure,” Ohno said with a sheepish expression. He shuffled out of the back room, tapped Jun, and both of them headed out.

“It seems like their master is fond of you, Nino,” Sho said, standing beside him.

“Shut up!” Nino snapped. He smirked. “Well, the driver calls you Sho-kun. Explain that!”

Sho just pouted and went out of the room to go back to the counter. Nino placed the duffel bag on the table and looked at the handsome mini-sketchpad. He opened it and saw a note on the first page.

Start it small and make it big afterwards.

Nino smiled at the statement. He then returned the sketchpad inside the bag and went down to work.

***

Nino tried to stop it but apart from random birds, buildings, and flowers, one of his favorite subjects was anything related to Masaki. He had pages dedicated to the nobleman’s hands, lips, eyes, and of course, his whole face. He even managed to sketch the man while he was asleep on his mobile work desk. He smiled while he added final details to his sketch of sleeping Masaki.

“What are you drawing?” Masaki asked, peeking over his shoulder. Nino immediately snapped the notebook shut.

“None of your business,” he tried to act nonchalant. What would Masaki think if he found out that Nino had been drawing him while he was asleep?

Masaki pouted but he shrugged. “I like looking at you when you're drawing,” he said. “I can see that you are really into it.”

Nino tried not to react but he felt his cheeks redden. “Shut up.” He took a deep breath and watched while Masaki ate the convenience store onigiri on the picnic mat. Before he could stop himself, Nino said, “I like looking at you too… when you’re writing.”

Masaki beamed at him. “Maybe when I finish my novel, you can draw images for it?” he said excitedly.

“Why not Ohno-san?”

“I want you to draw for me,” Masaki said, raising his chin regally.

“You didn’t even share what the story is about,” Nino replied. “How am I going to do that?”

***

Nino enjoyed the part-time work at the exhibit hall. Ohno introduced him to some artists and agents and would always talk about the part-timer’s skills. For someone who was usually quiet, Ohno became talkative when it came to art and when Sho dropped by to talk about some dessert shop recommendations. They were really obvious at that point.

Nino had realized what Masaki had meant when he talked about his servants pursuing their own interests on top of serving him. Maybe they had more free time since Masaki was staying in Nino’s apartment. But still, it was like juggling a lot of things at the same time.

“Maybe you’re wondering how we manage to do the things we do even when we’re serving our lord,” Jun said, standing beside Nino and swirling his glass of champagne. The exhibit had formally opened and Nino felt a little envious of Ohno’s sparkling eyes and pleased face, an expression he also saw on Masaki while he furiously typed on his laptop.

“I told Masaki before that his servants had it easy,” Nino said, ashamed. “Do you have it easy?”

“No, of course not,” Jun said. “My Lord likes to go to parties and Ohno should always be there. It’s difficult to juggle personal passion and work. We don’t work 9 to 5, Ninomiya-sama. We serve our master when he needs us, where he needs us.” A waiter passed by them and Jun grabbed a champagne glass for Nino. “How about you? What have you drawn at this point?”

Nino avoided the servant’s eyes. His sketchbook would probably look like a stalker’s. “L-lots,” he stuttered.

“My Lord will be happy to see them before he leaves your apartment,” Jun commented with a proud smile. “He mentioned that he wants you to draw for his book.” He took a sip of the drink and walked away.

Nino turned around and suddenly found Masaki talking to a woman wearing a red gown. She was laughing, clearly enamored of the man. Masaki smiled and laughed with her. More guests came and went to greet the noble and to socialize. It was not difficult to see varying degrees of luxury. Nino shuffled nervously in the suit that Jun had prepared for him. He looked up at the grand chandelier, then at the party hall, and the realization that Masaki’s world was different hit him hard.

Nino closed his eyes a bit. Yes, maybe he was becoming too fond of the nobleman. Maybe he was so used to his presence that he almost forgot that this was only a temporary arrangement. Maybe he was even stupid enough to think that spending lots of time together and going out to different ‘commoner’ places that actually looked like dates meant more than research. He gulped down the champagne, almost slammed the glass back on the waiter’s tray, and stomped off.

“Nino! Nino, wait,” he heard a familiar airy voice beside him. He didn’t stop walking so the person grabbed his elbow.

“Let go,” Nino snapped. Masaki looked at him, confused.

“Are you alright?” the nobleman just asked. “The party’s not yet over but if you need to go, I have another driver who can take you…”

“I don’t need anyone. I can go home on my own. I’m not like you,” he added curtly.

“Not like me? What are you saying?” Masaki asked, his eyes wide and totally confused.

“I was fine living by myself, being poor, being miserable inside my apartment. You didn’t need to come and shake my world. You didn’t need to come make me feel stupid and little just because I didn’t have a dream.”

“Nino, I…”

Nino’s feelings came in like a flood. He couldn’t stop himself from saying everything to Masaki even though that was probably embarrassing and silly for the nobleman. He knew he was being dramatic and it was all Masaki’s fault. He turned away but Masaki held him by the shoulders. “Get off me.”

“I won’t until you explain yourself.”

Nino looked into Masaki’s eyes. There was undeniable gentleness in them. Nino gave a resigned sigh. He really had to speak out. “We’re different, Masaki and I hate that we are because I…” He shook his head. Maybe the haze in his head had subsided and he could already think clearly. “Never mind.” That had been such a close call for him.

“Nino, we’re not strangers anymore,” Masaki said with a small smile. “It’s getting annoying that even though we’re this close, you still treat me as an outsider. It’s not that we’re strangers…!”

“I don’t want to listen to you,” Nino replied. “Go back to your world. I don’t want to be a part of it.” He was mad, and he was getting emotional and he hated it. He stomped out of the hall and decided to go back home by himself.

He went back to his apartment and sighed as he looked at the mobile desk that Masaki always used. He admitted that he had acted emotionally and he may have said hurtful and definitely vague things towards Masaki.

“Yes, when Masaki comes back, I’m going to apologize,” he muttered to himself while he sat on the floor, facing the desk. He hugged his knees and sighed.

Nino fell asleep and he only realized that when he was jerked awake by the loud ringtone of his phone. He groggily picked it up from the floor and answered the call. “Hello?”

“Nino! Nino!”

“Sho-chan, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“I was watching the news and, oh my god, this is so unbelievable!” he said. High-pitched sounds only came out of Sho’s throat when it was something bad.

“Sho-chan, I don't understand!”

There was another ‘ding’ sound and Nino turned on his messaging app. Sho had shared a news video clip presumably recorded from television.

“… the president of Aiba Estate Holdings, Aiba Masaki, has been found dead last night. One of the few noble families in Japan, he owns the largest farms in Hokkaido and the major publishing house…”

“No…” Nino gasped when they flashed the photo. It was Masaki, the same Masaki who stayed with him in his apartment. Tears flowed freely from Nino’s eyes. He did not even get to say sorry. He tried to contact Jun but the phone was only ringing. “Please, please answer,” he muttered as he continued to call the butler’s number. “Please tell me that this is not true…”

Nino sunk down. He placed his hand on his face as he sobbed.

***

“Nino, are you alright?”

It has been a week since the news came out. Ohno and Jun did not drop by the book store or showed their faces after they wordlessly collected Masaki’s belongings from the apartment. Jun told Nino that their lord would continue to honor their agreement but he never answered any questions related to his master’s death. He did not even tell Nino any information about the funeral.

Nino stared at the television. It was showing news about an old bald man who would be taking over the Aiba Estate – Masaki’s company. He did not really care about these kinds of news but he was thinking about how figure out where the funeral was being held.

“I bet you want to know where the funeral is,” Sho guessed. “Nino…”

“Those darn servants did not even talk to me or tell me where the funeral is!” Nino muttered through gritted teeth while he balled his fists. “I just want to see Masaki,” he admitted, “even for one last time.”

“Nino,” Sho stood up from his seat and gave his friend a hug. “Nino, I know that this is a bad time for you,” he said with a pat. “I think it would be better if you took some days off. Don’t worry, I’ll consider it as paid leave.”

“Thanks, Sho-chan,” Nino tried to smile with appreciation. He slowly packed his bag and left the bookstore. He arrived home and looked at the familiar spot where the mobile desk was – it was still empty and quiet. He really missed Masaki and he could not believe that he would not see him ever again.

Nino’s phone rang. It was his mother. “Kazu?”

“Mom, what is it?”

There was a pause form the other end of the line. “I – I am just wondering, uhm, about your roommate?”

Nino sighed. “Mom, he’s gone. He’s actually this very rich nobleman who recently got killed, if you saw the news.”

“He’s really gone?” his mom exclaimed. There was a pause. “Kazu, did you go to the funeral?”

“No. I don’t even know how to find out where it is!” he said angrily.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you,” she apologized quickly. “But do let me know if you’re able to go to his funeral, okay?

“Yes, I will,” Nino answered. “Bye, Mom.”

Nino felt inexplicably tired. He tried to block his memories related to Masaki and cover his ears to ward off Masaki’s voice laughing and calling out to him in his head. He laid out his futon carelessly and jumped on it face-first. He was so tired even though it was just four in the afternoon. His head hurt and he was so drained that he slept easily.

***

The nobleman slid the door open and entered the room, leaving the bouquet of flowers on the table. He took out a stool and sat down beside the hospital bed. He removed his hat and the gloves from his hands and placed them on the bedside table.

 “Takayasu, I missed drinking the tea prepared by you,” he said in a whisper as he held her hand.

The woman opened her eyes and looked at him with surprise. “Young Master?” She sat up. “I thought… What happened?”

Masaki smiled shyly. “I planned all of that. But I’m okay. I’m sorry I made you worry.”

“You have grown up, Young Master.”

“Takayasu, there’s no need to be too formal. You’re no longer my servant,” Masaki said, taking the woman’s hand to leave a kiss.

“But still, old habits never die,” she said with a chuckle.

“How have you been?” he asked anxiously.

Takayasu touched his cheek gently. “Young Master, I’ve been doing great. Thanks for your help.”

“What?”

“When we became the recipient of the hospital sponsorship, they made me transfer to this hospital,” she started. “I know every variation of the Aiba family emblem and I know that you own this hospital,” she added.

Masaki was surprised but he just smiled. “Indeed, Takayasu,” he replied with a nod. His hold on her hand got tighter. “I’m happy that all these people stayed in our family.” He gave a small pout. “When you left, it was really lonely.”

“Young Master, it’s alright,” she said, touching his cheeks as if he was still a little boy. “I know the rules.” She smiled. “But I’m a mother first before being a servant.”

“You have taken good care of him,” Masaki said. “He’s really like you. He knows how to prepare good tea.” He looked at her bedside table and saw a teacup. “Thanks for sending the tea set. I bet you found out that I’m staying with him.”

Takayasu laughed. “He was ranting about you, young master. I don’t have to be a genius to figure out.” She looked at the teacup as well. “I thought that maybe I can serve you one more time and I wanted to know if my tea is still as good as it was.” She chuckled. “It seems like I’m still good. Kazu said you loved the tea.”

“Of course. You make the best tea in the world, Takayasu!” he pouted. “But you really don’t need to do that. I am not here to ask for any of your services. I do not deserve them.”

“I feel hurt hearing that, young master.”

Masaki stood up and smiled at her. “Please don’t,” he said. “I am not here to ask for your service, Takayasu, but for your blessing.”

“B-blessing?” she repeated, confused.

Masaki nodded with a smile before he bowed. He had never really bowed to anyone, especially to a former servant. But it was his form of respect to this wonderful woman. He stood up straight and took a deep breath. “Please let me take care of your son.”

“I… I am surprised,” Takayasu replied. Her voice was shaky and her eyes were watery. “Young master…”

“After you left the estate, I really felt sad. Maybe I wanted you to continue serving me and preparing tea. You are like my mother and it was sad to see you go. But after meeting Nino, I realized that he’s really something.” He placed a hand on his chest. “He has caught my heart.”

“Young master…” the woman said, her tears falling down. “I am – I am deeply honored to hear those words from you. It has been a very great honor serving your family and serving a wonderful boy like you.” She held out her hands and Masaki walked nearer to take them.

“And it’s been an honor tasting your wonderful tea, Takayasu,” he said with a big smile. “And an honor to have your son with me.”

***

Nino almost had a heart attack when he woke up to find the two servants standing in front of him. “Sorry for our intrusion, Ninomiya-sama,” Jun apologized.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Nino asked. He still felt bitter that the two did not tell him where he could see Masaki even for the last time.

“We’re here to pick you up,” Jun said. “I think we owe you an explanation.”

“Yeah, right,” Nino rolled his eyes. “After ignoring my calls, of course, you do owe me a big explanation! You did not even let me see Masaki for the last time! I shouted at him that night! I can’t believe he died and the last thing I told him was rude stuff!” He tried to calm his breathing so that he wouldn’t cry again. “Yeah, you should apologize.”

“You have to come with us,” Jun said.

“Me? No way!” Nino replied. But before he could say another word, Ohno stooped down and carried Nino like a sack of potatoes. “Hey! Put me down!” he argued weakly. His sleepiness and the fact that he didn’t have any physical training compared to Ohno made him feel wobbly. Jun led the way to the car.

“Apologies, Ninomiya-sama, we have strict orders. Don’t worry, we won’t hurt you,” Jun assured.

Nino frowned. “At least take me to Masaki’s grave… or something,” he murmured sadly. Ohno carried him down the apartment and into the same car they had used when they had brought Nino and Masaki to the park. Jun and Ohno entered the car and they drove off silently. “Where are we going?”

“We’re going to the Aiba Manor,” Jun said.

Nino nodded. Maybe the two would actually take him to where Masaki’s remains were. At least he could pay his respects. But still, it gave Nino very sad and guilty feelings. He missed Masaki and instead of actually confessing the feelings that he had for the nobleman, he snapped at him and ran away. Nino just couldn’t accept that the last things he had said to Masaki were rude words.

The car entered through a set of large black gates with large, golden-colored emblems: the right one was similar to the ones printed on the car door and Masaki’s mobile desk, the one on the left made Nino look at it with eyes wide-open. He instinctively held on to the old pendant on his chest and looked at it.

The car passed through a smooth road surrounded by greenery and it took about fifteen minutes before Nino was able to catch a glimpse of the gigantic house on top of a low hill. He was too busy looking at the greenery that he did not realize that Ohno had opened the door and was waiting for him to get out of the car, his hand still on the door frame to prevent him from bumping his head on the way out. “Ninomiya-sama?”

“Welcome to Aiba Manor,” Jun greeted. He held out his hand to lead the way.

“Jun-kun,” Nino said, showing him his pendant. “Explain this.”

Jun gave an all-knowing smile. “If you are wondering about the family emblem: yes, it’s the same as on the pendant.”

Nino racked his brains and remembered Jun’s somehow shocked face when he first showed them the necklace. “Does that mean you knew about this pendant from the very beginning?”

“I am not the one who will explain that to you,” Jun replied. “Please, come inside with us so that your questions may be answered in the comfort of a nice warm room and tea.”

Nino frowned at Jun. Nevertheless, he followed the butler. The large wooden doors closed behind them. He marveled at the carpeted floors, crystal chandeliers, and wooden sculptures that adorned the halls. But at the end of the long corridor, he saw the two emblems again: one of a bird with his wings around a book, and one of a bird with a sunflower in its beak, the latter was the one on Nino’s necklace. At the side was a wall where a painting of a regal-looking Masaki, sitting on a grand chair, hung. Below it was a vase full of white flowers.

“Jun-kun,” Nino stopped before Jun could open the large door. “I don’t think I’m ready.”

“What do you mean?”

Nino looked at the floor. “The night when I ran off, I told Masaki horrible things. I may have hurt him and I feel so bad that those were my last words to him,” he admitted. “I wanted to see him but now, I don’t think I can.”

Jun took a deep breath and nodded. “I do understand, Ninomiya-sama. But I believe that my Lord wanted to see you as much as you want to see him.” He opened the door.

Nino mustered all his courage and entered the room. It turned out to be a large receiving room with a luxurious couch in emerald in the middle, large windows and a balcony, and a center table filled with fresh flowers. There was even a tea set on it. Nino was looking for the altar, or anything where he could pay respects to Masaki but when he looked at the right side of the room, he saw an grand, empty chair – the same one from Masaki’s painting.

“I’m glad you came here, Nino-chan,” a singsong voice said.

Nino almost jumped when Masaki appreared from behind the large chair. He sat on it, his legs crossed and he linked his hands together. “W-What? You’re alive?”

Masaki shrugged and then smiled. “You can touch me if you want.”

Nino sprinted towards Masaki and held his hand. It was warm, as always. He then proceeded to pinch his own cheek. “I’m not dreaming! You’re alive!”

Masaki laughed. “Yes, I am! The show is over already, that’s why I’m planning to go out there and reveal that I’m actually alive. But of course, I wanted to inform you before I inform the whole world.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I planned to go away from the manor, declare myself as missing, so that I could secretly work on catching the traitors who were trying to pull my family down,” Masaki continued calmly. “I upgraded the script and pretended that I’m dead so that I’d quickly find out who they are. Unfortunately, it seems like I made you worry.” He stood up, touched Nino’s cheek, and pinched it. “You were worried, right?”

Nino frowned. He really felt cheated. All of those sleepless and guilty nights for a show like this? “Shut up, liar! So you also used me? You lied about the novel?”

“No, no I didn’t. I also really had to do my research. I can’t fail my number one fan, you know?” Masaki said. “Takayasu wrote a fan mail to Miyabi and said she’ll be waiting for his next bestseller.”

“Takayasu?” Nino repeated. His mother’s maiden name was Takayasu. “The old family emblem…”

“Yes, I’m talking about your mother, Nino,” Masaki said. “There have always been variations of our family emblem and the one on your necklace was my father’s emblem. All our servants have a piece of jewelry with the emblem, symbolizing their loyalty and pride that they are serving the House of Aiba.”

“R-Really? Wait a minute!” Nino started, realizing everything. “My mom said that someone from her old workplace wrote Children of the Sun… Miyabi… You are Miyabi?”

“Indeed, that’s my pen name,” Masaki replied.

“That explains everything!” Nino exclaimed. “But why? How?” He frowned. “How did you find us? Did you stalk us? Was everything planned? Like – like sleeping on the garbage bins?”

Masaki leaned back in his chair. “No, actually that was a very funny coincidence. Maybe it was destiny? I don’t know,” he said with a shrug before he took a sip of tea. “I realized that I’d be able to find Takayasu when you showed me the pendant. I was so overjoyed when I saw that necklace and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to pursue my plan and also to get close to you, the person she exchanged her work for.” He chuckled. “She said her son was more important and that’s why she left.”

Nino could not help but blush. He had asked before why his mom left her job when she was so happy with it and she always answered that it was because of him. Masaki took his arm and led him to the couch. On the table were the same chocolates that he had eaten before, and a tea set similar to the ones his mother had asked him to use for Masaki.

“I don’t usually serve tea but…” Masaki poured some into Nino’s cup and offered it to him.

“I’m not used to this,” Nino replied, feeling uneasy with the different treatment. A nobleman who was used to being pampered and being served upon is pouring tea for someone like him!

Masaki wafted the tea before he took a sip. “You know, Takayasu – your mother –  is one of the best. She’s like my own mother,” Masaki replied. “When she resigned, I was so devastated. In a way, I harbored feelings against her son because she said the reason why she left was because she wanted to take care of her son more.” He shook his head. “I wanted to know what kind of person you are.”

“So now it’s my fault,” Nino said with a pout. He folded his arms.

“Ah, I always think your pouts are the cutest!” Masaki laughed. “Keep that up.”

“Shut up!” Nino pouted again but he felt a little proud of himself. “So,” he started with a small voice while he looked at Masaki sideways. “What impression did I make on you?”

“You’re grumpy, moody, stingy, and always play games till dawn,” Masaki described. “But you’re also fierce, brave, independent, and caring, especially towards the people you love.” Nino found himself looking at Masaki’s sincere, beautiful eyes. “I admire the way that you care about your mother and your courage to do anything just to save her.” Those words suddenly made Nino’s tears fall down uncontrollably. He tried to turn away but Masaki kept him still before embracing him tightly. “Nino, I wish that I’ll receive the same love and care that you give to her.”

“What do you mean?”

“You fascinated me. I wanted to be your friend. And now,” he pulled away and wiped Nino’s tears away. “I think you’re more than a just a friend in my heart. I wish I were also special to you.”

Nino sniffed. “Stop talking as if you were a poet!” He did not want to assume anything but Masaki was definitely hinting at something. Was it possible that he had feelings towards him as well? Nino felt his heart beating so loud it could jump out of his chest.

“Well, to be more straightforward, what I want to say is that I love you, Nino.” Now, it was Masaki’s turn to blush while he avoided Nino’s stare. He then covered his face with his hand. “Ah, this is so embarrassing. I am usually used to people falling for me.”

“Stop being an arrogant ass,” Nino said, hitting him lightly on the head. Masaki relaxed and laughed heartily. Nino took a deep breath before he confessed his feeling as well. “I love you too.”

“Oh, really?” Masaki replied in a singsong voice. Nino knew that the nobleman was surprised but he was just quick to hide it. “Is that the real reason you walked out while I was talking to those women?”

“Shut up! Shut up!” Nino yelled, feeling stupid and embarrassed. He was about to retort something when he felt soft lips on his. Masaki had kissed him. Nino placed his arms around Masaki’s neck before they deepened the kiss, making Nino glad that the couch was soft because Masaki’s weight was falling on him while they kissed each other.

“My Lord, Ninomiya-sama?” Jun’s voice interrupted them, making Nino gasp and push Masaki off. The nobleman fell on his butt on the floor, all grace gone.

“Matsumoto, what is it?” Masaki asked, looking annoyed. Jun grinned smugly at his master and winked at Nino before pushing a trolley full of pancakes inside the tea room.

“We can’t let breakfast wait,” he said with a raised eyebrow. “But if you are craving for a different kind of meal, I would ask the maids to prepare the bedroom.”

Masaki smirked and stood up from his position. “This will do. Thank you, Matsumoto. And, yes, that’s a great idea. Do prepare our bedroom and a nice bath for the two of us, please.”

Nino glared at Masaki and then at Jun, who just bowed to them before leaving the room. “Perverts,” he sighed. Matsumoto served the breakfast to Nino, who suddenly felt that he was actually hungry. “I told you not to stare,” he said to Masaki before he dug in. The breakfast was so delicious that he had to sigh with happiness.

“I arranged for Takayasu to return to Tokyo as soon as it is physically possible for her,” Masaki said.

Nino looked up at him with eyes wide-open. “What? Really? B-but that hospital is giving free services to her there! I simply can’t pay if she is transferred to a hospital here.”

Masaki clicked his tongue. “Nino, you have to remember that you’re talking to a noble. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want it,” he said. He leaned his chin on his hand. “Live here with me.”

Nino almost choked on his pancake. “What?”

Masaki shrugged. It looked silly rather than arrogant. “We will get married, Takayasu will be my official mother, after we get married of course, and we’ll live happily ever after! Isn’t that the best?”

Nino drank some water before he started speaking. “That is definitely crazy!”

“You told me that you love me too. There are mutual feelings between us. Why are we going to make this harder then?” Masaki asked.

Nino created an incoherent noise that was between a squeal and a coo. Masaki suddenly looked too cute, like a little boy, perhaps too much like the ridiculously energetic boy Nino played with when he was young.

“Fine! I will live here with you. But there should be rules!”

“Rules? I’m the head of this house!”

“First, you have to impress me,” Nino said, folding his arms and smirking. “Yeah, I know that I confessed but what if I actually made the wrong choice?”

Masaki nodded. “Fair enough. But whatever you saw when we lived together, that’s the real me, minus the money.” He smiled. “What else?”

Nino pouted. He knew that the attitude Masaki showed him was genuine. “Well, if you’re going to marry me, everything will be conjugal,” Nino replied and he felt smug when he saw Masaki’s mouth hanging open at his statement. It was perhaps a slip of his tongue, but his feelings for the nobleman somehow made him dream of being with him. He bit his tongue.

“Not a problem,” Masaki said, waving his hand. “You can have your own manor if you want, as long as you’re in my room at night.”

Nino’s mouth opened. “Pervert!” he said with a blush. “And third…” He took a deep breath. “I don’t want to live in your shadow.” The nobleman looked at him with interest. “I want to stay free. I want to be able to pursue my dreams. Like you said, even your servants are free to chase their dreams.”

“Nino,” Masaki started, “That’s what I admire about you and I won’t take that away. You can use whatever I have, whatever I own, to pursue all of your wildest dreams.” He patted Nino’s cheek. “I’ll have no problems with that, as long as my dear wife is happy.”

“Wife?” Nino exclaimed. Before he could utter another retort, Masaki carried him to the bedroom, princess-style. “I am not going to be called your wife!” he whined while he weakly hit Masaki’s chest. However, he inhaled the nice perfume and enjoyed the warmth of being held by his lover. He snuggled close, making Masaki laugh.

“Yes, you are,” the nobleman said while he ruffled Nino’s hair. “Let’s go to my room, my dear wife.”

***

Nino sat on the balcony of his and Masaki’s bedroom, taking his time to sketch the scenery using the sketchbook Masaki gave him as he waited for the familiar car to stop in front of their house. His face lit up when Ohno parked the car in front of the door and he saw the driver take out a wheelchair.

“They’re here!” Nino yelled in excitement. He raced down the staircase, ignoring Jun’s order to not run fast because the marble tiles had just been waxed, and ran to the door. He was huffing when he stopped by the entrance. Two servants opened the large wooden doors for him.

“Mom!”

“Kazu!” she said, opening her arms for a hug. Mother and sun embraced, Nino squeezing her tightly. “I missed you, my son.”

“Me too, I really, really missed you.”

“Even though you just visited me a week ago?” she asked.

Nino nodded. He was too embarrassed when Masaki and he had used a helicopter to visit his mother in the hospital after their marriage registration. The three had chatted and enjoyed their time together. “I’m sorry I didn’t call. Masaki was making a fuss over the wedding preparations.”

“He just wants everything to be perfect for you.”

“Mother!” a voice from the door called out. Masaki ran towards her and hugged her as well. Nino just smiled as he knew that Masaki had really missed the woman a lot. After all, she had taken care of Masaki even before Nino was born.

“Young master,” she answered.

“I told you not to call me that,” he pouted like a spoiled kid. “You are now my mother-in-law, okay? There’s no need to be formal.”

“I’m sorry, M-Masaki,” she stuttered, clearly struggling with the change.

“Apology accepted,” Masaki replied with a smile. He bounced on his feet. “I have called the couturier and they’re going to take your measurements for your dress! It’s like when you were still living here, right?”

“There’s no need,” she blushed. Nino chuckled a little at his mother’s reply. Nino just knew that his mother loved dresses and he realized that this might be where it came from. She definitely looked excited but just tried to hide it.

“I think it’s time to take mom to her room, Masaki,” Nino interrupted.

“Ah yes, right, right,” Masaki replied. “Matsumoto, take mother to her bedroom.”
“Mother?” Nino echoed in annoyance.

Masaki pouted at him. “What? She’s my mother now too, right, mother?”

Takayasu laughed. “Indeed,” she replied. “Kazu, be kind to your husband.”

“Mother, Nino is such a good wife, don’t you worry,” Masaki replied. He attempted to wink at Nino, who just laughed because even though Masaki was a nobleman, he couldn’t buy the ability to wink.

***

“Are you ready, Ninomiya – I mean – my Lord?” Jun asked as he opened the door slowly.

Nino turned away from the full-length mirror and said, “I really don’t like it when you call me that, Jun-kun.”

“I have to get used to it. I am now officially your servant,” Jun answered with a bow. He entered the room and stood in front of Nino. “I’m glad the suit fits you perfectly. Now, if you could stand up properly…”

Nino rubbed his cheek anxiously while Jun fixed the silvery bow tie and straightened the white suit. “Do we really need to do this? I mean, we’re already married on paper.”

Jun frowned. “Our master has already adjusted the wedding so that you will not feel uncomfortable,” he said while he surveyed Nino’s hair. “If it weren’t for you, he would have even invited the royal family to be witnesses of the wedding.”

“The royal family? That’s a stretch,” Nino said. But looking at Jun’s serious expression, he realized that the butler was not joking.

Jun looked at his pocket watch. “It’s almost time, my Lord. The guests will be waiting.” He held out his hand and assisted the bride out of the waiting room. His mother was waiting by the door. She had a walking stick to help her walk but Nino was really surprised when his mom had suddenly stood up while they were having dinner. That meant that she was better, more than ever.

“Kazu, you look so wonderful!” she said, hugging him. “Let’s go?”

Nino nodded before they walked through the corridor. Jun accompanied them to the door, where two guards opened the large doors for them. Sho, with Ohno standing beside him, congratulated Nino at the door. The long red carpet led to a beautifully decorated glass dome and at the end of the trail was Masaki, smiling widely at him.

“You’re nervous,” Nino commented when Masaki held his hand. Indeed, the noble’s hand was sweaty and shaking.

“I’m not! I’m perfectly calm,” Masaki retorted.

“Right…” Nino snorted.

The wedding ceremony was just a simple one. As Jun had told Nino, Masaki had probably held back with the decorations and visitors, making sure that only their closest friends were invited and that no one in the media would cover the event. Nino had never even dreamed of having a wedding like this so it was more than perfect.

The couple faced each other and they spoke their vows while they exchanged their wedding rings. Masaki had even forgotten his memorized vow and he turned into a blabbering mess. For a writer, that was certainly a disaster.

Nino looked at the ring while Masaki slipped it on his finger, on top of the large emerald engagement ring. “So this is now very real,” he muttered. Masaki chuckled because he had heard it.

“Nino, I promise that I’ll give you everything that you need. I promise that I will let you be free to pursue your passions and chase your dreams. Please don’t think that this wedding is a chain that will bind you to stay in one place, but a springboard that will help you reach your ambitions.”

Nino held his breath when Masaki, his eyes glimmering with tears, uttered the last words of his vow.

“I love you, Nino, and I will always be right behind you.”

Date: 2017-09-07 06:49 pm (UTC)
reveetoile: (Default)
From: [personal profile] reveetoile
This was such a cute story. Aiba is so silly as a noble and Nino was able to calm him down again and again.
They were lovely together and how they got closer and closer to each other. I had such a nice time reading it :D
Thank you for sharing. I loved the happy end

Date: 2017-09-19 01:41 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (Ninoai)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
I am so happy that you liked this story. Thank you so much for reading it. Happy ends are great <3

Date: 2017-09-08 03:27 am (UTC)
yukitsubute: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yukitsubute
Oh my, I loved this story 😍😍😍 Aiba as noble richman *lol* and his butler and driver, they were such a cool bunch, really. And I loved that Aiba sees them as free people, and allows them to do what they want.

Nino is so great *lol* and when they lived together *lol*

Oh, I guessed that Nino's mom and Aiba'said were the same person 😉 but it was a nice twist. :)

Thanks for this, anon-san, I loved reading this story 💚💚💚💚💛💛💛💛

Date: 2017-09-19 01:43 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (aiba neck)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
I have always wanted a "noble" Aiba fic and I just couldn't help it. I'm glad you liked these characters, and the concept I pulled for the servants.

Yep, I knew that the twist wasn't really a surprising twist (I tried) but I just love it when Nino and Aiba are actually related in some way.

Thanks for reading this! I'm glad you enjoyed. <3

Date: 2017-09-09 02:03 am (UTC)
phrenk: (Beaton: plop!)
From: [personal profile] phrenk
Ahhhh, a story for me! I've been out of town without my computer, but I am very very excited to read this fic. Already just the header makes me happy--I adored Kizoku Tantei, and I also adore Aiba/Nino~~ YAY.

Date: 2017-09-12 08:29 pm (UTC)
phrenk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phrenk
Oh my gosh, THIS WAS ADORABLE. A long, sweet, hijinks-filled, romantic, bantering, AIBA/NINO fic for me!! I love Aiba as the nobleman, and I love Nino's situation with his mom and how hard he works to help her. I love Jun and Ohno as Aiba's trusted servants, and I love Sho as Nino's boss and friend! I love that you don't just have the romance but also let Nino grow and find himself~ And oh my gosh, you have them SHARING AN APARTMENT (cohabitation, one of my favorite tropes), you have them SHARING A BLANKET (!! excellent in every way), you have them GETTING MARRIED OH MY GOSH I AM OVERWHELMED. IT IS SO GOOD, EVERYTHING IS SO HAPPY-MAKING. Thank you so much for this wonderful fic! It really hits so many of my favorite things, fjdlskjaskfsa, thank you. <3<3<3

Date: 2017-09-19 01:50 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (aiba)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
I'm so happy that you liked this fic. The first concept that actually caught my interest was your "apartment-sharing" prompt! I just have to find a reason on why they would start living with each other and it brought me here. And then all of Arashi with roles, and then the bantering, bickering, which, in my image, is so Nino and Aiba. And you also have something where the character cares more for one other person so I made it Nino and his mom.

I tried to put all the elements that you wanted (but I know I wasn't able to do that) but all in all, I just want to give you the feel-good kind of story. I really hope you enjoyed this and you can go back to this to cheer you up.

Thanks for reading! Otsukare for this year's exchange! <3

Date: 2017-09-19 07:32 pm (UTC)
phrenk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phrenk
Really, thank you so much for doing all that for me! It definitely ended up in just the kind of feel-good story that I love, fjkdlsafa. <3<3

Date: 2017-09-10 09:29 pm (UTC)
nicefinalbeam: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicefinalbeam
I love, love, love that Nino's mother had been working for Masaki and left because Nino was important. That was such a sweet touch!

The idea of this noble guy landing in Nino's lap basically is so fun. I think you captured the spirit of Kizoku Tantei really well even without a big mystery to solve. You got that fake death in there (and oh boy did I feel bad for Nino that this person he cares about he thought was dead D:) as well as the badass servants. I like especially that you explained that they each had freedom and a choice to work for Masaki, they weren't prisoners of the household or something lol

Nino's mom becoming Masaki's mom through marriage - yes! A big happy family is a great ending. ♥

Date: 2017-09-19 01:55 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (nino)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
I really really appreciate that you like the background of Nino's mother leaving. With this, I have no regrets that I made things simpler. And of course, a mom's love for her son is very important.

I honestly did not realize that the "fake death" is Kizoku Tantei-ish until you mentioned it! Aiba here isn't even a detective. But then, he was certainly "extra" in his plan to clear his company from traitors. Hopefully, I was able to show how bad Nino felt when he thought Aiba was dead (was I?). Also, I'm glad that all of you liked the concept of their servants: they're not slaves.

I'm happy you like the fluffy and cheesy ending too! <3

Date: 2017-09-11 12:03 pm (UTC)
lapetit_chou2: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lapetit_chou2
Gozen-sama Aiba and Nino is a perfect combination! I had a hunch that it was Nino's mom and isn't that nice that it came full circle?

I like the way you presented the concept of freedom from different point of views. How our status in life affects how we view freedom and such.

And Aimiya is just so sweet. Thank you anon-san.

Date: 2017-09-19 01:58 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (nino)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
The twist wasn't really a surprising one, but yes! I think the point here is that they are all related in a way.

This concept of freedom maybe came from myself. When I wrote this piece, I was so busy trying to make money that even writing fics became so hard and it made me so antsy (especially that I cannot finish this fic on time). D:

Thanks for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed. <3

Date: 2017-09-11 06:51 pm (UTC)
mikunicchi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mikunicchi
This is probably my most favorite fic through the exchange *-*
It was so cute! I really liked how Nino was strong in this and how Aiba was such a cute Kizoku >//////< The plot was so lovely. I really loved it when Nino's mom sent tea for Aiba! She was such a lovely woman!
I felt really sorry for Nino when he thought he lost Aiba like that T-T But I am really happy that they made up!
Nino and Gozen-sama's date was so perfect! Aiba-chan was so cute when he was excited over everything >/////<

Thank you so much for this cutest Aimiya Anon-san!!!!

Date: 2017-09-19 02:01 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (Ninoai)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
I feel so flattered to read that!! I am so happy. There are better writers than me and I kinda feel inadequate in writing especially in exchanges like this but thank you. This means a lot!

I'm glad that you liked those different parts of the story. I personally loved that part where Nino's mom sent Aiba the tea. She actually used the same tea set and same tea recipe she used for Aiba when he was young but I didn't dwell on this detail because I didn't want to be too obvious about the maid.

I am so happy you liked their date. Aiba looked silly cute living a commoner's life but his innocence and curiosity about these things made everything cuter. :)

Once again, thank you!

Date: 2017-09-12 10:38 pm (UTC)
falkner: photoshoot picture of Aiba Masaki from Arashi (嵐 ☆ serious)
From: [personal profile] falkner
This is such a good story. I love the way everything unravels, and how the reader can piece everything together themselves. And it's just so... romantic. How Nino's favorite book was written by Aiba, how Nino's mother used to work for Aiba's family, and it's... just... Aiba's and Nino's lives are so intrinsically connected to each other, and as you read it's hard to imagine it could end in any other way. Also, Aiba calling Nino "wife" made me smile so much.

Date: 2017-09-19 02:07 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (aiba neck)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
Thank you for reading! And I appreciate all the nice comments you made regarding this story.

I hope everything meshed well in this story. There were too many webs that I wanted to spin all around their relationship in this story but I realized that I was making things unnecessarily complicated. I'm glad that I was able to simplify this story. And I love a Ninoai story where somewhere somehow they were connected with each other before they met.

Aiba calling Nino his wife makes me live! I got it from WWG this year :D

Date: 2017-09-17 01:20 am (UTC)
piggywhale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] piggywhale
OMG, I LOVE this. So. Much.

What a happy and delightful story. It's so full of cuteness that I kept squealing all the way through. So many sweet and heartwarming moments. So romantic. I love everything about it. The story is also very well-written and has great pacing. You wouldn't believe how grateful I am that this story had no abrupt emotional jumps. The story is so seamless and so well constructed. I am so amzed with this.

I love your Nino here very much. He's so Nino - just as you sum him up toward the end in Masaki's words. He's so full of spirit, yet remains normal and funny ❤️ Aiba is a wonderful mix of weird, quirky, adorable, and romantic. He is pretty awesome in the way he seems to stay slightly aloof of everything. Love it! Also, a special shoutout to Jun here. Gosh.. he's studious, funny and charming. Ohno is so badass 👍🏼 Sho is so funny with Nino. And I really enjoy their interactions. Totally +++

But the core of this is definitely Aiba and Nino's progression toward love. And dear, anon-san, let me tell you that you really are a master! Oh mine, how this story unfold is beyond words. I love seeing Nino warms himself into Aiba. I love that he resists and denies his feelings while being so apparent that he falls for Aiba too. The way Aiba cared for Nino is just so sweet. Such warmth.

You had us worried for Nino quite a bit there. I know we should worry for Aiba but hey, given how lovely you have been with them throughout the story, clearly you won't kill Aiba off, right? right? I felt sad when Nino felt he had lost Aiba. Poor guy. But it's all redeemed in the end. Nino as Aiba's wife? Gosh, you really know how to tug a heartstring. I squealed soooo badly there. And of course, the wedding. So sweet and perfect!

I am so happy beyond words that I have read this story. Thank you for writing this, Anon-san!

Date: 2017-09-19 02:13 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (aiba)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
Thanks for the love! <3

I am glad you liked the way it was written and the pacing. That was always my biggest worry in writing because I get to be so absorbed in accomplishing each bullet point of my story outline that I sometimes forget the most important part: the fluff and the love. I am so glad and thankful that it turned out like this. :)

I'm glad that you liked the characters. I tried to model them to the way we know Arashi but of course, the particular emphasis on how Aiba is actually a very innocent noble who just got out of his shell.

I'm also happy about your appreciation with the progress because I thought Nino falling in love with Aiba was too fast or too weird or forced. And of course, how can I show that Aiba is falling too without being too obvious and through Nino's eyes? I'm glad I was able to capture that for all of you.

I didn't put the "major character death" warning because no one died! But I guess this shocked the readers a bit. But the reveal was too soon, hopefully, it didn't affect the readers (unlike Nino T_T). I have this cute image of NinoAi and I hoped I was able to bring them all to you.

Thanks for reading this!

Date: 2017-09-17 04:52 pm (UTC)
astrangestorm: (Default)
From: [personal profile] astrangestorm
Cute! I loved seeing Kizoku Tantei-esque Aiba here with all his misunderstandings about commoner life. And his servants were great too :)

Nino and Aiba living together was so great. I liked all their arguments and disagreements even as it was clear they were coming to fall for each other. I liked the hints of Yama too :)

Date: 2017-09-19 02:15 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (arashi letters)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
Thanks for reading!

I wanted to think that curious and innocent Aiba is just so cute! :D And of course, Nino and his disbelief made the arguments endearing as well.

(The Yama seems to few. But I'm glad you liked it.)

Date: 2017-09-18 06:32 am (UTC)
yumi_usagi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yumi_usagi
Such a sweet story with a very happy ever after ending. I love it!
Thanks for writing!

Date: 2017-09-19 02:15 pm (UTC)
koi_choshi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] koi_choshi
Thank you also for reading! Glad you like the ending :)

Date: 2017-09-27 06:01 am (UTC)
pupilurker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pupilurker
cute~ 💛💚

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