[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.
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September 2017

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