[personal profile] amnosxmatsujun


Pairing: Aiba Masaki x Kusunoki Shion (OC)
Rating: R for whole series, PG for Ch.6
Genre: Romance, Mystery Drama
Word count: 1,787

Plot: Aiba Masaki (29) is the CEO of Yamakaze Hotels, Japan's top hotel chain. What began as a search for a secretary turns into a life-changing matter when he meets candidate Kusunoki Shion (26). As Shion challenges Aiba to question the only world he's ever known, she keeps to herself a dark secret that must remain undisclosed.

Author's Notes: Thanks for stopping by to read my fanfic! :D I have two ongoing series: this one, and Eyes Like Honey (Sakurai Sho fanfic). I beganThe Beautiful Downfall with a clear concept: I wanted to write a dark, DoS Masaki. ;) From there, I jotted down a rough storyline which became The Beautiful Downfall. Each chapter is relatively and deliberately short (under 2,000 words), so they are quicker reads than my other fanfics. Although I'm not sure how many chapters will be in this series, I hope you'll stick around to the end! ❤

Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5


Chapter 6: Sakura (*Ninomiya POV)

The spring of my second year of college, she floated in like a sakura petal. Not sure what I wanted to do with my life, I majored in business as I thought the knowledge I'd gain would be versatile enough to apply to any profession. I didn't hate academics; it just bore me. I went to class because I knew it was costing me money, not because I couldn't wait to learn. But today was a special day, because one of my favorite authors was giving a lecture on the psychology behind money and wealth. Others thought the same. Usually by 3:00PM, most students hid themselves at the back of the lecture hall to sneak in a much-needed afternoon nap. But today, there was excited chatter and curious eyes, skimming the hall for the anticipated arrival. It was a full house. There were only a few seats left, and even the back rows where I was seated were starting to fill up.

The backdoor of the lecture hall opened slowly. From the corner of my eye, I saw an arm full of books. Thinking it was the author, I turned excitedly to get a first look. Just then, I saw the hem of a soft pink dress. She was slightly out of breath, but seeing that the speaker hadn't arrived yet at the podium, she sighed in relief. Her eyes scanned the lecture hall for an empty seat, and upon finding one, she scurried over to claim it.

"Is this seat taken?" She pointed at the seat next to mine and gazed at me with hopeful eyes.

"No, it's all yours."

"Thank you." Her voice was prim and proper, a tone you'd expect from a professor or doctor. When she sat down, her dress flowed over the seat and her long, straight hair swooped across her face. She brought a hand to tuck the strands behind her ears, opened up her notebook, took out a pen, and was poised to learn.

"Are you a fan of Mr. Tsukagoshi's works?"

I knew I was staring, and I didn't want her to think I was some creepy guy. Still, I was desperate to introduce myself to her and that was the best I could come up with at the time.

"Actually, I'm hoping to find chinks in his metaphorical armor."

"Excuse me?"

"I disagree with his theories on money and wealth in general. I came to hear him speak so I can write a review about how his methods are not based on any scientific research and how he's just a big phony reaping benefit off the desperate public."

I had nothing to say. For her small frame and gentle features, her tongue was sharper than that of any other girls’ I'd ever encountered.

"...I'm sorry." She looked away apologetically.

"About what?"

"You like Mr. Tsukagoshi, don't you?"

I chuckled awkwardly. "I do."

"I must have offended you. For that, I sincerely apologize." She seemed both genuinely embarrassed and upset at herself.

"Hey."

"Yes?"

"What about Mr. Tsukagoshi's theory do you dislike?"

"Excuse me?"

"What are the faults in his claims?"

She finally looked my way again with bewildered eyes, as if I were speaking a foreign language.

"You're...not offended?"

"No, it's not every day I find someone with whom can discuss deeper topics," I smiled.

She didn't.

"I'm Kazunari."

Her big, round eyes shifted apprehensively, but after several seconds, her name tickled my ears.

"I'm Kusunoki Shion."

"Nice to meet you, Shion-chan."

She stared at me startled. "Shion...chan..." she mumbled.

"Hm? Is that too forward of me? Sorry, I thought 'Kusunoki-san' would be too formal--"

"N-No!" she said rather loudly, then gasped upon hearing her own voice. "I mean... Shion-chan is fine with me."

What happened to the confident woman speaking to me earlier? The dichotomy was intriguing. It made me want to tease her, to test her limits and see her reactions.

"Then, you can call me Kazu-kun."

"What?"

I pointed to her. "Shion-chan." Then, at myself. "Kazu-kun."

"I can't do that," she said sternly.

"Why not?"

She pointed to my textbooks. "You're my senior. That would be disrespectful."

"But isn't it even more disrespectful to disobey what your senior is telling you to do?" I joked.

"...I guess so."

"Then...?"

"Then..." She glanced up at me for a moment, then looked away. "It's nice to meet you... Kazu-kun."

--

"Hey... Kazu-kun?"

This tone of voice. She doesn't have to say much else.

"Where are you?"

This girl.

"I just left."

She's never given me much of a choice.

"Okay."

10:15PM. I received the call fifteen minutes after I had closed the restaurant. I spent the next twenty minutes cleaning and preparing for tomorrow. Keeping an eye on the clock, I grabbed my lightweight jacket and headed out the door around 10:35PM. Although the days were beginning to feel like summer, the nights were still reminiscent of the season preceding it. Tonight was a windy night; I immediately thanked myself for grabbing the jacket.

The ten-minute walk to the train station was refreshing, and it made me realize I hadn't stepped outside all day. As I waited at the station, a wave of people swarmed toward the ticketing gates. Among them, I spotted her in an instant. She looked around and upon finding me waiting by the convenience store, rushed to get out of the gates. I gave her a smile as she hurried toward me.

"Hey."

"Sorry to make you wait."

"Don't be. I just got here."

Seeing the big backpack on her shoulders, I filled in the blanks and stuck out my hand.

"I'll carry that for you."

"Oh, that's okay."

"Shion-chan," I insisted.

"...Thank you." She removed the backpack hesitantly and handed it to me.

"How long has it been since I gave you this?" I took her belongings from her and held the pack by the straps.

"Four years."

"Thanks for using it."

"It's my favorite backpack."

"Isn't it your only backpack?" I chuckled.

"It's still my favorite one." A subtle smile crossed her face.

"Oh, well, then. I'm honored." I hung the strap over my left shoulder and tucked my hands into the jacket pocket. "Come on."

.

.

.

"Here you go." I placed a large plate of hayashi rice in front of her after she took a seat at the counter.

"What...?"

"You're hungry, right?"

After a long gaze, she nodded and looked down at her plate.

"Go ahead, dig in."

She picked up her spoon. I could see her shiny eyes reflecting on the silverware. "Thank you, Kazu-kun."

"It's just leftovers," I warned playfully. "Don't expect too much."

"No one else can make hayashi rice like you do."

She picked up a spoonful and carried the food to her mouth. Her cheeks ballooned as she chewed, and after swallowing the bite, she sighed and with it came a sincere smile that lit up the entire restaurant.

"Mmm!!" She squirmed in her chair happily. "You should be charging people for this."

"I do charge people for it," I smiled at her. “But this one is on the house.”

She finished the whole plate before cleansing her palate with a glass of water. Then, as she set the cup down with both hands, she looked at me with an expression I knew too well.

"Something on your mind?" I asked.

She nodded, then pulled down on her sleeves. This was my cue. I walked out of the counter, sat down next to her, and held out my hands.

"Let me see."

"How did you know?" She seemed genuinely surprised.

"Don't underestimate me, Shion-chan."

"...I never have."

Slowly, I pulled up her sleeves. On her fragile wrists were bruises no woman deserved to have. The edges were yellowing but they were still clear enough to see: merciless handprints leaving purple scars on her porcelain skin. I took her hands into mine gently and stared at the bruises for a whole.

"Do they hurt?" I asked, almost a whisper.

"Only when I lift heavy things."

My fingers caressed her wrists. I had to take several deep breaths to calm down. The anger was bubbling in my veins.

"Kazu-kun."

"...Hm?"

"What if he saw it?"

The pronoun was vague and yet, I knew exactly to whom she was referring. I looked up to face her. "Maa-kun?"

She nodded. "I fainted at work today."

"You what?"

"......" She looked down at her wrists and clasped her hands together nervously.

"Did he say anything?"

"No... When I came to, I was lying on his office couch. He was sitting at his desk working."

I knew immediately that the answer to her question was a 'yes'.

"Shion-chan."

"Yeah?"

"Is there a reason why you don't want him seeing this?"

"......"

I sighed. Silence was her answer.

"He's not one to pry. If you don't bring it up, he won't, either."

"......"

"Hey."

"...What?"

"Do you remember what happened four years ago?" I looked away and fixed my gaze on her empty hayashi rice plate.

"Why--"

"It frustrates me," I interrupted her, "that this is the extent to which I can help you, that even if I wanted to do more, I can't."

"......"

Irritated at my own uselessness, I stood up and made my way back into the kitchen with her dirty dishes in hand. I had already finished prepping for tomorrow, but I used that as an excuse to free myself from the situation.

"Kazu-kun..." I heard her timid voice at my back.

"...What?"

This tone of voice.

"Please don't say that."

"......"

This girl.

"Without your help, I wouldn't even be here."

She’s never given me much of a choice.

I turned my head to the side. In my peripheral vision, I could see her gazing straight at me. Even without a decent look at her face, I knew that depending on what I said next, she could end up crying. This, I wanted to avoid at all costs, not just because I didn't want to see her cry, but also because I just wasn't in the mood to pacify a crying girl.

"Can you promise me one thing?" I faced away from her and began chopping some carrots. My customers tomorrow are going to get an extra serving of vegetables in their hayashi rice, I joked to myself sarcastically.

"...Hm?"

"Just don't let history repeat itself."

"......"

What a bad habit of hers. Her lack of response was response enough.

"...Hurry and get some rest," I said with my back turned toward her.

I knew she didn't want to hear that. I knew she wanted to say something. But tonight, I lacked the courage to hear anything else but silence from her.

Date: May 31st, 2017 03:47 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ezmiera.livejournal.com
Kusunoki-san sure is a strong women
What actually happened to her four years ago?
And yea on Nino's hayashi rice (is he using the the Ariake hayashi recipe?? XDD)
Looking forward to the next part...

Date: June 7th, 2017 05:55 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amnosxmatsujun.livejournal.com
Hehe, looks like you have a lot of questions! ^^ A lot of them won't be answered until later in the story, but you'll start seeing different dimensions. The one question I CAN answer now is, yes, he is using the famous Ariake recipe! ;)

Ch.7 is ready if you're interested~!

Date: May 31st, 2017 04:05 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kuronokeiko.livejournal.com

What has really happened with them.. Especially with Kusunoki..
What makes Nino feel like regret..
What makes her wrists bruised..




Okay, too much question.. You made it, XD
Can't wait for the next..

Edited Date: May 31st, 2017 04:07 (UTC)

Date: June 7th, 2017 05:56 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amnosxmatsujun.livejournal.com
I feel like I left a lot of readers with tons of unanswered questions. xD Don't worry, as the story continues, all your questions should be answered...

Ch.7 is ready if you're interested~!

Date: May 31st, 2017 05:12 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hsiahsirafzi.livejournal.com
Now i'm really curious of what happen to her. I just hope that it is not so severe. I can't say anything else. Masaki must have suspected something but choose to keep quiet like nino said he's not one to pry. But i really hope that she will tell masaki or nino will tell in her place and masaki will do something about that as he have power to make it happen. Well i'll be waiting for next chapter. Thank you for writing

Date: June 7th, 2017 06:00 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amnosxmatsujun.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading my fanfic! :)

There are lots of unanswered questions right now, but you'll start seeing different dimensions as the story continues, and you'll find answers slowly.

Ch.7 is ready if you're interested~!

Date: May 31st, 2017 14:03 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] haku-nineno.livejournal.com
What is happening here and what happened 4 years ago?? I have too much question if i write it down here. I guess i have to bear my heart with the (upcoming?) angst that'll come. Oh! and nino making hayashi rice, does that mean i could imagine him with ariake's hair? xD

I love how puzzled this and previous chapter are, it's making me think about alternate theories why and how things could happen to kusunoki. Keep getting us curious, Emkay! and thank you for your reminder as always :)

Date: June 7th, 2017 06:02 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amnosxmatsujun.livejournal.com
I honestly feel a little bad because I left a lot of my readers with tons of questions. xD But they WILL get answered eventually! Like what happened 4 years ago... what are your theories? ;)

The one thing I CAN answer now is, yes, you are free to imagine Nino with Kouichi hair <3 *kyaa*

You know what this comment means ;) Ch.7 is ready~!

Date: June 10th, 2017 03:55 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] haku-nineno.livejournal.com
lol but i'm sure you'll answer it eventually! xD One of my theories rn probably she's being physically abused by a person close to her (relative? parents? bf? husband???? idk lol xD) but maybe i'll put down parents because her past seems like she was raised by a well-educated family to have such an critical mind like that, but idk let's see. one thing i'm quite concerned is when nino said "don't let history repeat itself" to her. repeating itself means it only happen once in a while right? but with all the hint i see kusunoki always wearing long sleeve clothes and that means the bruises (mostly) there on her arms everyday. this part make me curious so much to the point i googled for what kind of bruises could she possibly have on her body lol. truth is i have several theories (because my mind just can't stay calm with a general theories like that xD) but i'll keep it to myself and see where this goes now.

Yeay now chap! off to read~~~

Date: June 4th, 2017 04:55 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] koi-choshi.livejournal.com
What happened? Ahhhh, this is making me feel impatient because I want to know, what is wrong with Shion? Very deep, I think.

I also do wonder why she was concerned if her boss saw them. Hmm...

Thanks for this! Will wait for the next ;)

Date: June 7th, 2017 06:05 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amnosxmatsujun.livejournal.com
You beat me to it! I'll comment here and reply to your Ch.7 comment when I post Ch.8 ;)

There are a ton of unanswered questions right now, but things pick up quickly in the following few chapters (at least, that's my plan, hehe). Also, you're the only reader who focused on that part of this chapter. Why was she concerned if Aiba saw her wrists...?

Thanks for continuing to read my fanfic, dearie! :D

Date: June 4th, 2017 05:51 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trece-13.livejournal.com
Yay for Nino POV! I have to say that while reading this, my thoughts are "OMG I love him, I want to hug him" and I sort of forgot that this fic's main character is Aiba (sorry!) XD
So in this chapter, the most intriguing line would be "Just don't let history repeat itself." I can only guess why, and I sure am sticking around to find out :p
Thank you for all the feels! <3

Date: June 7th, 2017 06:08 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amnosxmatsujun.livejournal.com
You're so funny xD I don't blame you; it happens to the best of us Nino wifeys, hehe. Nino does play a pretty big role in thism though (or, at least, has had more POV chapters than the others surrounding Aiba).

I know there are a ton of unanswered questions right now, but they will all eventually be answered in the chapters to come! I wonder what your theories are...?

Ch.7 is ready if you're interested~!

Date: June 5th, 2017 09:59 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] melodyofmysoul.livejournal.com
Leaving a comment now so that I won't forget! XD

I will most likely repeat this whenever Nino has a significant part in a chapter: I love, love, love your Nino. His penchant for nicknames and love for wealth is unlike anyone else's, I think. XD And I love the nod to Ryuusei no Kizuna.

That metaphor of Kusunoki floating in like a sakura petal is lovely, and not just because of her soft pink dress. I caught the last few not-so-popular sakura varieties in full bloom (though some were already beginning to fall since it really was the tail-end of the sakura season, I think) during my trip to Japan last year, and they really are beautiful. I definitely understand how someone like Nino would be captivated by her looks alone, so for Kusunoki to also be very insightful and opinionated must have pushed all the right buttons for him.

I love how you give more bits and pieces of the relationship between Nino and Kusunoki, and I'm definitely yearning for more! I hope what will be revealed of their history - especially Kusunoki's - won't shatter my heart, although with what has been laid out here I have a strong feeling that at least part of it will be heart-wrenching.

Date: June 7th, 2017 06:16 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amnosxmatsujun.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading two chapters in a row! <3

Again, your comment makes me smile because I love writing Nino, hehe. Interestingly enough, he wasn't a member I had thought of writing into the story, but now, it seems he's becoming a big part of it. xD Glad to hear you like the Ryuusei no Kizuna "cameo."

I used that sakura petal metaphor also because, as you somewhat implied, a very fragile yet beautiful thing. "Full bloom" for sakura blossoms is actually a very short amount of time, and I wanted that to be part of the comparison: that there was something transient about her... and yet, she is the center of everyone's attention when in "bloom." The trees are also very strong, so that's something I wanted her to embody as well. ^^

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, but you'll eventually find out the answers in the following chapters...!

Speaking of, Ch.7 is ready for reading! :D