Genre: Drama, gen
Characters: Kurumi, Mihirogi, KR
Summary: [Side B] KR and Kurumi have a discussion over tea.
Spirals of Vermilion
Disclaimer: I don't own Weiß Side B. This story takes place after the Christine and Cedric arc, so there are a few spoilers (I wrote this before the sixth graphic novel was released, so chances are this is going to end up disregarding the extra information that is supposedly going to be the real conclusion). This was also supposed to be part of a longer work, but that didn't work out. However, I didn't want to waste that I had already written, so I rewrote some parts to make it work as a one-shot. There will be hints of some unresolved issues, but there won't be anymore to this. Still, I am confident that this is good the way it is now. Enjoy!
Kurumi slipped on her white jacket over her lavender tank top. It had been two weeks since she had come to this facility, and now it was almost time for her to be driven back to the flower shop where Ken and the others worked. She was quite glad to be out of that hospital gown. They were always so uncomfortable, she thought. She turned her head and examined the white room that acted at her "bedroom" while she was here. She then let out a heavy sigh.
The day she had left was the same day the other "florists" had returned from their mission. All six of them had seemed distressed, and the most alarming thing had been Chloé's left eye, or more accurately, the lack of. Kurumi hadn't had a chance to ask what happened before she had to leave for this facility. Maybe it had been better that way. Maybe when she went back today, his eye would be fully recovered and she wouldn't have to think of all the horrid things he and the others had to endure.
"Shinjou-san, are you dressed?" came a female voice from the other side of the door.
"Yes," Kurumi answered after deciding that she didn't want to zip up her jacket. It wasn't cold enough for her to justify doing so, and her shirt didn't reveal that much anyway.
The door opened, and Mihirogi entered. A smile came upon her lips as she stepped up to Kurumi. "You look nice," the older woman complimented as she laid her hand on Kurumi's shoulder.
"Thanks," Kurumi replied, blushing slightly. She felt Mihirogi's fingers brush against the side of her neck. Mihirogi certainly had wonderful hands. Kurumi had come to expect some sort of physical contact from Mihirogi whenever they were together. Sometimes, like now, it was just a hand on the shoulder, but other times Mihirogi placed both hands on Kurumi's shoulders. Other times Mihirogi's hand came upon Kurumi's cheek, and sometimes upon her back. It was usually nothing more than a gentle touch, much to Kurumi's dismay, but she was happy with that, as she was probably reading too much into the physical contact anyway.
"Are you feeling all right?" Mihirogi asked, sliding her hand down Kurumi's arm to her hand.
Kurumi froze up. How did Mihirogi expect to get a coherent answer out of Kurumi when she did that to the young girl? Of course, it had simply been a quick, unconscious gesture, but still… "G-Good…" Kurumi finally managed to stutter. "I didn't have to go through any blood tests this time. They just wanted to check my vital signs and my physical abilities."
Mihirogi pulled her hand away from Kurumi's. "That's good to hear," the older woman said.
"Yeah, I guess so," Kurumi mumbled, turning her face away. "Hey, will I ever be able to get this Human Interleukin out of my body and not have to be subjected to these tests anymore?"
Mihirogi bit her lower lip. "I don't know," she answered, her voice quiet.
Tears began to well up in Kurumi's eyes, but she held them back. "I mean, I haven't really thought about my future much, but I kind of would like to study medicine. What I learned from my parents won't help me much, but still, I want to be the one to do the studying. I don't want to be treated like a guinea pig for the rest of my life."
Mihirogi laid her hands on Kurumi's shoulders, paused for a second, and then pulled the younger girl into her arms. It was a tight embrace, not one Kurumi would've expected from an acquaintance. The fingers of Mihirogi's right hand went up to the back of Kurumi's head and became intertwined in her blonde hair. Kurumi opened her mouth to say something, but no words came out. Her whole body felt hot, and although she wanted to return Mihirogi's embrace, she couldn't concentrate enough to lift her arms from her sides.
"Don't lose hope," Mihirogi began, her lips almost brushing against the top of Kurumi's head. "You're stronger than that. I know that for sure."
"Mihirogi-san…" was all Kurumi could think to say. She finally managed to lift her arms, but before she could wrap them about Mihirogi's back, the older woman released her. Kurumi hoped that the disappointment wasn't too visible on her face.
"Shinjou-san, we have to be leaving now," Mihirogi said. "We don't want to be late."
"All right," Kurumi replied quietly. She picked up her golden sandals and slipped them on. She did want to return to the Kitten's House and see her co-workers again, but she wouldn't have minded staying here a little longer if she could be with Mihirogi.
The two of them left the room and Kurumi followed Mihirogi as they headed for the facility entrance. By now, Kurumi felt she could navigate this place by herself, but she wanted to be with Mihirogi. It was certainly strange. Whenever Kurumi thought about Mihirogi, her heart would race faster, and other parts of her body would also start to feel a bit unusual.
It wasn't long before they came to the entrance. When they stepped outside, Kurumi saw a sleek, black car waiting for them. She began to walk toward it, but then she noticed that Mihirogi had stopped. "Aren't you coming with me?" Kurumi asked.
Mihirogi shook her head. "My employer wants to meet you," she explained. "I'll pick you up from his place after that. Aya and the others know that you'll be arriving later than usual."
"Oh." Kurumi glanced at the black car ahead of her. If that person was Mihirogi's employer, did that mean he was also the one to send Ken and the others out on their missions? The idea of meeting such a man was a bit unnerving, Kurumi thought. But, she couldn't disappoint Mihirogi by showing cowardice. "Okay then, I guess I'll see you later," Kurumi said, trying to force a smile. She then walked up to the car. It was definitely a dark color, and almost looked forbidding. After inhaling a deep breath, she opened the side door and got into the backseat.
The driver started up the car, and Kurumi heard the engine roar. She looked out the window, and then she waved at Mihirogi. Mihirogi waved back, but as the car began moving, Kurumi wasn't able to keep Mihirogi in her sights for long.
"Put your seatbelt on," the driver ordered, glancing up at the rearview mirror.
His sharp voice startled Kurumi. "Oh, right!" she said as she fumbled to get her seatbelt on properly. Once she had done that, she leaned her head back and sighed heavily.
* * *
Now that Kurumi thought about it, if she had known she was going to meet someone special today, she would've worn something more formal than a cloth jacket, a tank top, jeans, and sandals. But, as there was nothing she could do about that at this moment, she tried not to dwell on it.
That would've been easier if she was meeting Mihirogi's employer someplace else. He must've been a very important man if he owned such a grand and beautiful castle. If she hadn't been led to this specific room by a bodyguard, she surely would've gotten lost forever in this place. It was a very large castle, but although it was also very beautiful, Kurumi wondered if the man she was soon to meet was lonely here.
Kurumi stood up and walked up to one of the tall windows. The rays of the afternoon sun were shining through, but the thin, transparent drapes were hindering them. In addition to the thinner drapes directly in front of the windows, thicker violet drapes adorned the sides of each window, and although they appeared soft to the touch, Kurumi didn't want to risk dirtying them by running her hands over them.
Truth be told, she was afraid to touch anything in this room. She looked to where she had been sitting, where three mahogany chairs with brown cushions surrounded a polished table that was also made of mahogany. There were other small tables in this room, and some of them had miniature figurines and statues on them. The walls some of the tables were up against were a soft gray, and upon them hung a few large paintings. Below Kurumi's feet was a dark beige carpet and above her was a high ceiling with several crystal chandeliers hanging from it.
All the details of this room were beginning to make Kurumi a bit dizzy. She had never seen anything so magnificent before in her life. She walked back to where she had been before and sat down in the same chair. This place was too much for her. It would be rude of her if she said this aloud, but she really just wanted to leave and go back to the flower shop.
"Ah, you must be Kurumi Shinjou," said a male voice from somewhere behind Kurumi. "I apologize for making you wait."
Kurumi turned her head and saw that a well-dressed older gentleman had entered the room. He had blond hair and was using a cane. As he came closer to Kurumi, she saw that he also wore glasses and had a small beard. She supposed he was kind of handsome, in that way older gentlemen sometimes were.
The man sat down at the other side of the table and then smiled brightly. "Welcome, my dear!" he greeted. "The tea should arrive shortly."
Kurumi clenched her hands tightly in her lap. This was not how she imagined Mihirogi's employer. "That sounds nice," she said softly. He seemed friendly enough, but that did nothing to ease her nerves.
"My name is Richard Kripton," the man introduced himself. "Miss Mihirogi has told me quite a bit about you. I'm happy to finally meet you."
"The pleasure's all mine," Kurumi replied quietly, trying to force herself to look up at the man in front of her. How rude she must've looked.
"Please speak up, Miss Shinjou," Richard requested. "There's no need to be so shy."
Kurumi gulped. He wasn't being mean, but his words still hurt. "I'm sorry," she said. She hoped her voice was louder, but she wasn't sure.
Richard let out a drawn-out sigh. He then stood up and went over to the chair next to Kurumi. "Miss Shinjou, when Miss Mihirogi told you about me, what did you imagine?" he asked as he sat down.
"Um…" That was definitely not a question Kurumi wanted to answer. "Someone…" she began, but she trailed off again. She was already being rude, and she didn't want to offend him any more than that.
To Kurumi's surprise, Richard merely chuckled. "You don't have to answer that," he said. "By how tense you are, I think I can guess."
"I'm sorry," Kurumi repeated. "I didn't mean to offend you."
Richard smiled warmly and leaned back in his chair. "That's quite all right. You've done nothing wrong. I do wish you would lighten up, though. But, if you're more comfortable tense…"
Kurumi's face became a bright shade of scarlet. He was making fun of her now! She looked down at her hands in her lap. How could she embarrass herself so much? This was the worst possible first impression she could make!
"Miss Shinjou, the tea is here," Richard said, almost making Kurumi jump out of her skin. She had been so preoccupied with her own internal thoughts that she hadn't noticed the blond servant enter the room. Her cheeks grew redder and she tried to keep her face averted.
The servant gave Kurumi an odd glance and then set his tray on the table. The teacups were already filled, but he had brought along the teapot in case either Richard or Kurumi wanted more. Kurumi began reaching for the teacup closest to her, but the servant was quite adamant in giving her the other teacup. He then handed Richard the teacup Kurumi had originally set her sights on. That only make her feel more embarrassed. Luckily, Richard hadn't seemed to notice that little mishap.
"Thank you very much," Richard said as he accepted the teacup.
"You're welcome, sir," the servant replied as he removed the teapot from the tray and set it on the table. He then left the room while clutching the tray tightly to his chest.
Richard was about to take a sip of his tea, but then he noticed Kurumi staring intently at him. "Miss Shinjou, is something wrong? Do you not like tea?"
"Oh no, I like tea!" Kurumi replied quickly, and she took a large gulp of her tea, nearly emptying the cup. She had been waiting for Richard to take a sip of his tea, so that in case there was some super polite and fancy way of doing so, she could just imitate him. It was very sweet tea, she noticed, probably made more so by how she had almost downed it all in one gulp.
"That's nice to hear," Richard said. He brought his cup up to his lips and took a much smaller sip than Kurumi had. "Yes, this is very good tea."
Kurumi leaned forward and set her teacup on the table. She thought about pouring herself another cup, but she decided against it. She wasn't normally clumsy, but she didn't want to risk spilling anything. At the rate things were going, that had a good chance of happening.
"How is life at the flower shop?" Richard asked, looking over at Kurumi.
"It's fine," Kurumi answered. "They're very nice to me." Thinking of the flower shop made her think of Chloé's injured eye. She figured now was a good of time as any to ask about it. "Hey, do you know what happened to Chloé's eye?"
The smile vanished from Richard's face. "I do not wish to answer that. But, I can tell you that he is now completely blind in that eye. It would be best if you didn't talk to him about it."
"Oh," was the only reply Kurumi could muster. Of course he wouldn't tell her. She wasn't a part of the "missions," so she didn't need to know about what happened on them. Not only did she look like an idiot, she probably looked like an insensitive, nosy idiot.
Richard laid a comforting hand on Kurumi's shoulder. "Please don't be depressed," he requested. "It's nothing for you to worry about. There were a few injuries on that last mission, but I'm sure they'll feel better once you're back and can help them."
Kurumi tried to force a small smile. "I hope I can help."
"Please, have more confidence in yourself," Richard said, pulling his hand back. "They are very handsome men, aren't they? Which one do you think is the most attractive?"
If Kurumi had been drinking any tea, she most surely would've spit it out. "U-Um…" she stammered, her face becoming a lovely shade of red. How could Richard ask such a thing? Kurumi didn't want to look like she played favorites! Sure, they each were very handsome, and she supposed a normal girl would simply faint from the pure sexual emotion caused by idea of living with them, but as for Kurumi…
Richard's chuckle interrupted Kurumi's thoughts. "You don't have to answer that if you don't want to," he said. "Let's move on to a different topic. What about Miss Mihirogi? What do you think of her?"
Kurumi's body felt hotter. She had this strange stirring in her stomach, and she felt some sort of tenseness somewhere lower. Thinking about Mihirogi always made her feel a little odd, as if some previously hidden part of her was starting to react. The uncertainty of it all made her feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, it was a rather pleasant feeling to have. Yes, it was very pleasant, Kurumi thought as she unconsciously began to smile.
Richard took another slip of his tea. "Your smile tells me everything," he said. "I like her very much too." A forlorn expression formed on his face, reminding Kurumi of how she had wondered earlier whether or not he was lonely in this large, grand castle. "We have a close, professional relationship, but I…" He trailed off, and his fingers tightened around his teacup.
"Kripton-san?" Kurumi said. "Are you all right?"
The smile returned to Richard's face. "I apologize, I was lost in thought." He set his teacup down on the table, next to the pot. "Miss Shinjou, would you like to see the gardens?"
"Sure!" Kurumi replied. It would be nice to get some fresh air, she thought.
* * *
It was less like a garden and more like a field where wild flowers grew. However, that was not a bad thing, Kurumi thought and she stepped onto the grass. It appeared so natural. The flower shop was pretty, but it was all so artificially arranged. Here, the flowers needed no help from human beings to flourish. They grew all on their own, and a natural beauty could be found in that.
"So beautiful!" Kurumi exclaimed, a broad smile forming on her lips. She turned her head, and saw that Richard had come up next to her.
"Miss Shinjou, you reminded me of Michel when he first saw this place," Richard began. "You two do look similar, although you are a bit taller and your hair is not quite so curly."
"Really?" Kurumi supposed she was blushing slightly, but she wasn't embarrassed to the point where she had to avert her face from his. She was finally beginning to feel comfortable in his presence. "Did Michel grow up here?"
Richard turned his face away. "Michel came here when he was very young. It was Free who brought him here." The tone of his voice implied there was more to the story, but Kurumi wasn't going to press him for it.
"Huh," Kurumi replied, unable to think of what else to say. She tried to force a small smile.
"Miss Shinjou, are you happy?"
That question seemed to be completely out of the blue, but at the same time it was not wholly unexpected. It was probably the main reason Richard had wanted to see her, Kurumi thought. She inhaled a deep breath. "I don't know," she answered, avoiding eye contact with Richard. "Your group did kill my parents, and the only reason I matter to you is because I carry Human Interleukin-3 in my body. I may be resentful because of that. And yet…" An image of Mihirogi flashed briefly in her mind. She then looked up toward Richard. "I think I'm stronger than that. At this point in my life, I'm not happy, but I'm able to hope for a better tomorrow."
"That's wonderful to hear, Miss Shinjou," Richard said, smiling. "And I'm sure she thinks that too."
"She?" Kurumi repeated. Richard pointed toward the courtyard entrance, and when Kurumi turned her head, she saw Mihirogi leaning against one of the pillars. She had her arms crossed over her chest, and there was a small smile on her lips.
"Mihirogi-san!" Kurumi exclaimed, rushing up to Mihirogi. Wait, why am I rushing? As soon as that thought crossed her mind, she froze suddenly.
"Shinjou-san, what's wrong?" Mihirogi asked, reaching out and touching Kurumi's shoulder.
"Nothing, nothing," Kurumi mumbled, trying to will her face not to blush too much. "I'm just happy to see you."
"Miss Shinjou, it was quite a pleasure to speak with you," Richard said, walking up next to Kurumi. He glanced at Mihirogi's hand on Kurumi's shoulder and smiled brightly. "I think we may even be rivals of some sort now."
"What, what are-" Kurumi stopped herself and then also smiled brightly. "Yes, it was a pleasure to meet you today." She bowed slightly. "I hope to see you again sometime."
As the three of them began walking, Kurumi stayed closed to Mihirogi and Richard stayed a little bit behind them. Thanks to Richard's words, she thought, she now understood her own feelings for Mihirogi.