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the dilemma of akizuki shiho

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It's half-way through her second year of knowing Sakon, walking along the neighborhood streets of Aoyama, when Shiho finally realizes. 

Halfway through the thick of trees, with Ukon spouting off the shit-he-says, Shiho realizes. Out of nowhere, the cogs in her clever mind twist and turn— and her brain fires off like a lightbulb, a subway train smashing through the dull peace of her thoughts, and she now realizes.

And apparently, Sakon's realized something too. 

"Shiho-san, are you well?" He speaks, much softer than the blabbermouth puppet. Sakon tilts his head, comes too near, face nearing her own — and this does not make it easier.

She doesn't reply, and Sakon's brows draw in.

"We can retire back to..."

"—No, it's okay! Yeah, I'm okay!" Shiho barely manages to get out, and the fact that it's Sakon makes it so much worse. With Ukon, he'll detect some type of clue, and even as himself, the fact that he cares 

Shiho bites her cheek to keep her embarrassing words inwards.

There's a short pause, and Sakon backs up, a tiny pout on his face. Ish. It kinda looks like one. Then, he responds quietly. 

"If you say so," Sakon concedes, voice still laced with concern and care that makes her feel guilt for her troubling-ish epiphany.

The thoughts plague her mind as they continue walking, the crunch of autumn leaves under her sandals and brushing her long, flowing skirt. Her fingers hook in the straps of her tank top, letting the wind flow against her skin. They spend the rest of the time walking on a path, then walking back — all in an amicable, understanding that includes Shiho mulling over the thoughts as her eyes flicker schoolgirl style to Sakon as she desperately attempts concentrating on the duo beside her, and Sakon, perhaps joyfully oblivious or willfully pretending, ignoring the looks he's capable enough to notice and conversing with Ukon.

Hitting like the arrow that pierced her fucking soul, the time to go hits fast. She can't spend forever at his place; she has school and responsibilities, as does he. But somehow, she's blinked, and now she has to bid him goodbye. Parting always sucks. 

"Shiho-san..." Sakon trails off, "Is everything alright?"

No. Not at all. I realized I like you, and oh my god, I'm doomed.

Smiling, Shiho nods in reassurance, waves, and bids him goodbye. 




The train ride cannot be longer. The run to her house is even longer and even more excruciating. Thankfully, it takes little time, and she's barreling down Mika's room before she realizes it. 

Mika barely looks. 

Then, probably ignoring her as all sisters do, only answers the second tap on her arm. Because of course, she's too wrapped up in texting on her limited data and all of that to notice that Shiho's wet from the surprise rain, kinda tracking water over the house, and utterly panicking about her new revelation.

"I think I have a crush on somebody." Shiho blurts.

Mika looks up from the device, the blocky pixelated letters. There's about half a moment where Shiho can't decipher what she feels or even her facial expression, then, Mika blinks, face becoming dully neutral.

"Wait a sec, dude." She orders and throws out a palm. 

Her fingers fly across the buttons, tapping at the hard keys on the ten keys. After a second, she tosses the palm-sized phone to the side and twists to meet her eyes.

"Okay, now— Well, hey. Good to see you got back." Mika states, staring at her younger sister.

"Thanks," Shiho replies out of courtesy, and it takes a moment to notice that Mika's not asking or relatively shocked. Mika was all up in Futaba's business when Futaba got her first crush. 

"Okay, great. Now, repeat yourself."

"I think I have a crush." 

"On..." Mika asks, a sardonic smile tugging at the corners of her mouth as she smushes her face onto her hand, then airily adds, "Sakon?"

The sputter on her side, then the flush on her face is enough to speak for Shiho. The silence only speaks worse volumes. 

A cracked laugh bursts from her chest, and Shiho doesn't need to look up to see her sister smirking. 

"Yes?" Mika asks in a curious, sing-songy voice. Shiho doesn't get why she asks if she knows the answer. 

She repeats herself, and Shiho rakes her hand through her bangs. 

"Yes, it's Sakon." Shiho lowers her tone as she caves in. The embarrassment filling her chest must be noticeable in her contorted face. 

Shiho isn't one for crushes. She doesn't like guys like that, but Sakon's different. He's cool, he's kind, he's helpful — Sakon's just... different. Not in a different from society kind of way, but in a... different to her. Like a person her shoulders let down around and the type of dude she doesn't have to be tough around — not that she hates being tough, though. 

"Congratulations," Mika states, then, "you're officially the last one to know."



During dinner, a soft curry prepared by the maid, Futaba smiles at her. With Kikuichi there, she restrains herself in his direction, and more often than not, the environment is hazardously thick. However, not today. Her shoulders flare freely, her mouth moves amused, and her and Mika chat freely as Kikuichi and Shiho merely listen.

Then, Futaba shows off her teeth, dropping the whole 'beguiling' act she plays for others, and Shiho knows she's smiling at her. 

"Congratulations, Shiho." Futaba merely says, then lifts her spoon up to her lips, narrowly avoiding Shiho's gaze.

Drawing on the strength of the Gods to hold her back, she whips to glare at Mika. Said person merely chews on the beef and rice, covering her mouth with a pedicures hand. Shiho resist the urge to break her wrist and lunges over the table instead, hands against the wooden side.

"You told her?!" Shiho grits out. 

"Well, yeah, but she'd probably figure it out if I didn't." Mika shrugs, pointing a finger at her little sister, "You're not that secretive, y'know."

"Correct, little sister." Futaba giggles, "Shiho, you're not secretive. We could tell you liked him from the beginning."

"I liked him from the beginning?" Shiho strokes her chin, then snaps — yanks — out of the trance of thoughts. 

"N-not the point! Still," 

She doesn't try fighting the claim and the who; Futaba will ultimately win, and Shiho will end up dying by the sword. 

"Deal with it. Besides, we'll help you bag your man anyway." Mika gestures between her and Futaba, confidence practically oozing off her being. 

"We do have more relationship experience."

"Ugh, right." Shiho tries not looking at the both of them. 

They absolutely have more experience; boys aren't her expertise and never will be. Futaba's a beautiful woman, Mika's just as pretty, and Shiho's always been a tomboy, and that's the fact that translated to her love life or lack thereof. She really has no feminine hobbies that translate to what guys like, the domestic baking and cooking and cleaning; she's not girlfriend material, and Shiho is more fine with that. 

But well, the fact stands to dissuade some. 

"So we'll help you!" Mika grins and slings an arm over her shoulder.

"Alright, alright," Shiho gives her a sidehug and pushes her back, scratching at the back of her neck as she mulls over her thoughts.

She likes Tachibana Sakon, a ningyou-joururi puppeteer; Akizuki Shiho is absolutely smitten with the intelligent, quiet, and shy boy of the Tachibana family. She's never been good at this sort of thing; it's not like she told the guys she ever did like, and it's not like she's liked somebody as uniquely different as Sakon. 

Sure, maybe she's assuming, but Shiho's positive that she isn't gonna meet a full-time wandering puppeteer and part-time detective dressed in Victorian Gothic pieces with a possessed 200-year-old doll attached to his limb with ancient hair the color of fire and an opposing their duality to match again. There's a million fish in the sea, but he's one in a billion — actually, one in five or so billion. 

"So... How do I do it, then?"

Mika raises a brow and waits for her to clarify. 

"How do I tell him I like him? Like, actually — genuinely?" Shiho asks, looking her sister in the eye for the answer. 

She'll die if she makes a fool out of herself. Hell, embarrassing herself in front of Sakon isn't the norm, and she isn't about to start today. Thankfully, there's no one to tell but them two with her dad cremated and her mother beside him, but it's not like they have experiencing handling Sakon either. But wordlessly, she thanks Mika for not telling Kikuichi, the annoyance who tries doing good and well and ultimately ends up making her fist ache for a punch. 

It's a whole lot easier asking them than him, but she isn't certain if they even have proper advice — Futaba being in an arranged marriage and Mika being a playgirl. Still, she opts to smush her very existent pride to ask the questions she should probably know the answers to but doesn't. 

"Like, without making a fool out of myself... Y'know?" Shiho echoes a bit quieter, and the older sisters lean in curiously.

"You're serious about him," Mika playfully remarks with a fake gape, "wow."

"Of course I am!" Shiho huffs. She feels a bit insulted knowing that Mika could see through her emotions, but she takes that in stride as a sign of her strong, overwhelming feelings because it's not as though she has other options besides school friends... who clearly haven't met Tachibana Sakon and would have no clue on how to approach him.  

"Of course you are." Futaba echoes, voice always barely above a polite murmur. The corners of her lips pull up. 

"So, how do you want to? I'd say the best way is your way, a—ka— be bold!" Mika shrugs, "Your boyish personality is one of your assets. He probably likes how it contrasts his, right? So, use that!"

"Maybe?" Shiho answers, blush on her cheeks again. How fast can she learn to disappear? 

"Hmph, just tell him." Kikuichi butts in, arms crossed. Sure, he might look disinterested and above the conversation, but through pure experience of handling people like him and the glance askew, (and Sakon's mini-lessons on reading people) Shiho easily sees through the act. 

"True, but..." Her voice drops into a whisper, then into nothing. 

Mika twirls a finger in her hair, "But?" 

"If I say it in person, I'll totally screw it up!" And what follows is a gentle silence that makes Shiho feel bashful in spite of herself.

Kikuichi asks, "Why?"

Shiho thinks about it. She totally doesn't know why she'd be nervous, but she knows how Ukon's effect on Sakon would him quiet and subdued, ultimately making her nervous to know what the hell he's thinking — but Ukon's Sakon's right hand man and he rarely if ever leaves him, and though she teases, she isn't about to force it. Okay, maybe she will for a moment or two so they're alone. Maybe. Shiho isn't quite sure. 

Kikuichi stares at her. 

"Wait, is it that puppeteer boy, Sakon-san?" Kikuichi tilts his head, and Futaba nods to answer. Damn, know Kikuichi knows the name of him, but it's not as though they haven't met before. 

Thankfully, even if he's spineless and even if there are— Shiho's pretty damn sure— residual feelings from Oki, they get along nicely. Not perfectly, but decently enough to what their old man intended. For a moment, Kikuichi looks pleased. 

Then, his brows raise and his face sours. 

"Doesn't he like you already?" He asks. Kikuichi looks genuinely puzzled. "I thought you two were beginning courtship or at the very least dating."


"Now, now, Kikuichi-san, Shiho's only sixteen." Futaba says as if she and Kikuichi aren't young and as if younger than 25 isn't the norm, "Anyways, I'm sure he does, but Shiho isn't sure how to say her feelings." Futaba finishes and sips on her tea, manicured nails cresting tiny chink sounds against the glass. 

"What about flowers?" Mika shrugs. "He won't see it coming, and it's hella romantic. I've had guys tell me they want flowers." 

"I see..." Shiho says, but the idea won't express the full extent of her feelings. They're strong and swelling to burst like a tsunami against levies.

Before she can open her mouth, Futaba speaks.

"Perhaps... chocolate?" Futaba suggests lightly. "Normal men tend to enjoy it. 

Not to idealize him and all because he's a normal guy like her (even though he isn't really) but Sakon's an enigma, and she isn't the best thinker; he isn't quite the normal guy. Normal-ish, but not normal.  

That, and she can't bake for crap. 

"...maybe?" Shiho mutters. 

"Hmph, what about a letter?" Kikuichi adjusts his glasses as he thinks. "You can tell him all of your feelings without having to rant on."

Shiho blinks— and then, it dawns on her. Kikuichi actually isn't an idiot; it's a wonderful idea. The frustration inside her melts, and cold, joyous air fills her lungs. The relief is immediate, fast, and she knows that it's the right answer. 

"That's perfect, Kikuichi-kun." Futaba says from the side and leans over to give him a peck, a reward that makes him steam at the ears and stutter incoherently. 

In all senses, it makes sense. His room is filled with books, he enjoys little conversation and all that old typa stuff, so a letter would be perfect for him! Shiho stroked at her chin. But that would mean getting a book on letter etiquette, then studying up on that if she means it to be formal. 

Ah, fuck formality. 

"That's perfect!" Shiho grins, pumping a fist. 

Shiho reflects on the matter. 

"So, how do I get started?" 




Apparently, getting started includes research. Japanese letetrs require research and plenty of it, even informal letters require some level of formality included, whether it be specific Haikei and Keigu. She's smart, but Shiho's not entirely good at that, but she knows someone who is -- aka, a certain photographer with plenty of favors to owe her. He finds it fun, of course. (Not that she doesn't, but the formal stuff is a mindbogglingly boring.)

She dials him up with more than asking fir help in mind. 

"Help. I'm in love with Sakon." Shiho garbles into the phone, clenching at the curled cord with the strength of a thousand men. 

"Okay! Woah, I was expecting that, but not so soon. What made you realize?" 

"What made me realize...?" Shiho hums, then her voice drops.  "W-wait, am I really that obvious?"

There's a silence from the other side of the phone, then a quiet, "Yep."

"So, what do you need help with?" Zenkichi asks over the phone, voice bouncing and smile heard through the phone. 

"Research-- On letters! You like that type of stuff, right? And handling my feelings, too. What should I do? You've known him longer than I have --- I'm fucked.

"Calm it, ma'am." Zenkichi dryly says with a deep chuckle, "I'm heading your way in thirty-five. I'll bring some books on lettering, okay?"   

"Tokyo to Shinshuu? Seriously?" Her eyes widen as she questions him, but by the time she realizes it, the phone is already beeping to signify an ended call. She'll thank him when he arrives. 




Inevitably, somehow, Zenkichi gets roped into sitting on her floor and cheering her on - that whole situation. As does Yoshida, which is awkward because the only true interaction they had was through a murder case, but they get along well. Too well, actually, but Shiho isn't about to overthink it.  It's no shocker, though; Zenkichi has been Sakon's (best-friend?) friend for a while, and Yoshida's had a few encounters with him through the investigation of her old man's murder. Futaba called Yoshida, asked him for his time, and he headed over there stat. She's glad, to be honest. They're both close friends and are supposed to be her moral support. 

But they're really shitty moral support, and fuck this, Shiho thinks as she accidentally cracks the lead of a mechanical pencil from scribbling too hard. How hard is it to start a letter? Apparently very hard, actually. 

Somebody in the gaggle of people giggles. Mika. 

"You should write down what you think." Yoshida says softly, smiling down at her. 

When it feels a bit stressful, his soft voice tends to help. 

“Okay,” Shiho states, "I don't know what to think and how to start." 

Then, she starts anyway. 

Dear Sakon,

Shiho pauses, chewing on the end of the pencil. Does that sound right? To Sakon? To my dearest friend? Okay, she isn't that sappy. 

Hey? How are you doing? I guess I haven't wrote you one of these before. It's pretty informal, but can you read it til the end? I have a lot of feelings for you. 

To be upfront, I like you. That's all there really is to say, and if you like me back, can you meet me--

It's doubled in hours later, and she's lost count of how many times she's repeated herself in actions. Write, then crush the paper, write, then crush the paper. 

She crumples the paper in her hand. No way, she isn't some kind of coward. Besides, her brother - if he were alive - would dunk on her for it. He'd probably have more insight into the mind of a puppeteer than Kikuichi, but she isn't about to complain about the guy when he's actively tryna help her. 

Shiho gazes over the leaning tower of crumpled dreams littering her floor and groans loud enough to disturb the inhabitants of the room. Futaba is lying on Kikuichi's shoulder, the man still as a rock and as awake as ever. It's a symbol of their growing marriage and their marital tension fading. Mika's sprawled over Yoshida, the young man flustered and red, and Zenkichi's over her shoulder, instructing her.  Even then, on his dark skin rests bags, and she can't keep her friend up forever, even if he wants to help. 

"You've spent enough time on it. You should take a break." Yoshida gingerly chides, not really moving to make her take a break. He's melted into the wall. 

From his side, Mika nods. She's in solidarity with Yoshida. 

"I wish..." Shiho groans, "but I'm gonna see him tomorrow. Might as well confess, right?" 

If anything goes wrong, then she doesn't have to see him. If everything goes as planned, then she gets an entire day with her new boyfriend. (And the thought of spending all day with Sakon is enough to buzz her fuzzy with giddy.)

"Right, right, but you're not gonna be in the vibe to confess if you feel like garbage." Zenkichi advises and massages her shoulders lightly, then claps her on the back as he goes to lay down on the floor amongst the piles of tired people. She isn't sure if doing it alone would be better, but having people advising her feels a lot better than foregoing help. 

Shiho knows that she'll feel like utter garbage, but like everyone who knows what's good and bad for them, she doesn't listen. Picking up the pencil with determination, she slips another piece of paper from the pile with the lingering thought of: make this be the last one.

Futaba slides her hands along Kikuichi's suit, and with a smile, she parts from their cuddle. They're growing that familiar gaze and gleam in their eye, and she's proud of Futaba for accepting the marriage.  Leaning over Shiho, she asks, "What makes you like him? Why do you feel so strongly for him?" 

Shiho stares up at her eldest sister, mind working. At first, it was because he was there for her when she needed someone most. But now, his presence is a gift itself - his reticent ways, then his personality 180'ing when they're alone without his idiotically charismatic puppet, his soothing calmness - and there's a whole lot to say. Her brain plummets from jumbled and disjointed to... a bit clear.  

"Atta girl," Mika giggles behind a hand, but Shiho barely hears her over her thoughts. 

Her voice goes warm with memories, and Shiho feels her gaze go fond, fingers tingling. Something deep within is pushing her to write, and with the words scrolling in her mind, there's no way to write fast enough. 



Somehow, she writes most of it. Her feelings, that is. But then she has to narrow those feelings down, write some more or less, make it more or less formal depending on the occasion, and now her brain is overloaded. 

After they head their ways, (Zenkichi back to Toyama because apparently he was in Toyama instead of Tokyo for some illusive reason that's certainly photography purposes, and Yoshida back to his own place) Futaba and Mika stay at her side. Never one to get on Futaba's bad side intentionally, Kikuichi, of course, obliges with her wishes to vacate the room for a women's talk. Then, in the case she becomes displeased, he leaves a tray of snacks outside to placate her just in case. 

They stay and talk her through the grammatical errors, but she isn't done by a long shot.

"Are you ready to get a boyfriend?" Mika questions.  

Shiho isn't sure how to answer. 

"If he likes me," Shiho huffs, and Futaba chuckles.

"Sure he does, little sister." She ruffles her hair, "With all you've been through together? I'd be shocked if he didn't adore you."  

"Don't think too hard," The middle sister warns, brows furrowed. In the light, she looks a bit serious, but as soon as it fades in, it dissipates out. Her grin is sharp, and her fingers crawl through short hair, ruffling it with pride. 

"Yeah, I won't." Shiho, with her hands behind her head and legs star-fishing, answers. She's pretty sure she won't overthink it too much as she did today, but she's hedging her beliefs on that. 

They leave, and she's left alone with incomplete thoughts scrawled on a piece of paper. It isn't finished, but with tomorrow looming in the moon, it might as well be. Soon there after, Shiho somehow falls asleep in the benighted room, her thoughts rolling in her head and a certain boy of puppeteer descent rolling in her mind.