So This is it. Strange how a weird little idea spun out into this decade-spanning epic but here we are, the final Monomyth story. Thanks to Brythain and Blank Mage for their amazing help with the first section, they really helped shape the rest of the story.
Dearly Beloved, you are all...
It all started as all stories like this do. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. You know how it goes.
A shy young woman, taking her first tentative steps into the world of people, asking one simple question of a classmate: Can I trust you?
A sardonic young man, his cynicism hiding wounds from the latest in a long line of embarrassments asking a —to his own ears, disgustingly maudlin— question of himself: Am I someone worth trusting?
The answer to both questions turned out to be yes, both back then and a few months ago. Years after their first true meeting, as the pair lie together in bed, it’s hard not to think back on how this all began and how it all culminated in yet another question.
Once again, the answer was yes.
Hanako lifts her left hand above her head, and a prismatic dance of light reflects the morning sun onto her face. She inspects the worn white gold band adorning her finger and the modest diamond at its crown, a salvaged treasure from yesteryear. A masculine hand brushes up along her arm and intertwines its fingers with hers, bringing both hands closer to their owners.
“You still have time to back out, y’know,” Akio remarks with a sly smirk. Hanako tilts her head up along his bare chest and studies her auburn-haired lover, as she often does, wondering which particular deity she's offended to be stuck with him. She squeezes his hand a little before answering.
“F-Funny, I was about to say the same to you…” She muses, sliding up from under his arm to nuzzle his nose affectionately. “But I decided a long time ago that I was going to keep you. You don’t get a say in the matter, by the way.”
Akio laughs, his torso rocking gently against Hanako’s slender frame. “I didn’t think I would, somehow.” He gives her a tender peck, lip to lip, and they lie staring into each other’s eyes for a few moments more, content in their own little bubble before the world comes crashing in. Hanako’s phone chirps melodiously just as Akio’s chimes with its deliberately flat tone.
In unison, but in opposite directions, they sit up and snag their phones—only to snuggle together once more as they begin to read their messages aloud, each to the other.
“‘You'd better be up, sir. You are not leaving me and Taro alone with him. Not again.’
” Akio chuckles as he reads the message from Hisao. “He could have just not
invited that douche this time…”
Hanako titters at her fiancé’s exasperated sigh as she unlocks her phone and quickly scans the message from Miki. “‘Get your ass outta bed, wallflower! Sent S&R to the airport & I’m gonna to be outside your place in an hour. You better be decent, sis!’
Looks like we ought to get dressed…”
Akio snatches Hanako’s phone out of her hand and tosses it beside his own, flung carelessly upon the foot of the bed. His arms make their way around her waist. “Do we have
to? I mean, we could always just elope.”
“I don’t think eloping means staying in b-bed all day.” She gives him a look that disapproves of his glib suggestion, then smiles as she strokes his chest.
“It can if we want it to… We just turn our phones off and…” Before he can finish his seductive suggestion, Hanako cuts him short with a solitary finger to his lips, which were edging dangerously close to hers.
“Go put on some pants, Hayashi.” She instructs with a firmness that she only ever uses with Akio, to let him know when things are serious. Right now, meeting up with Hisao is very important.
“Yessum,” Akio mumbles against the slender finger barring his lips. He slides out of bed and stretches gingerly, taking care not to inadvertently break anything, while giving Hanako a good view of his naked body. He peeks over his shoulder and sees that she’s quite happy to enjoy the sight while he searches for fresh clothes.
Ah, why not give the lady what she wants
, he thinks to himself.
Hisao and Taro share a quick, uncomfortable grimace as the backseat passenger continues on his tirade. They wonder if they share the same wicked thought; that they could leave him on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and no one would mind. He’d still be ranting even without an audience.
“He’s making a huge mistake, you know. Marriage is just another
of their terms for slavery! Do you know what the other two are? C’mon Hisao, buddy
, you should know this!” Kenji pulls himself forward, his head peeking in between the two front seats of Hisao’s aging 2003 Prius, a present from his parents for graduating university.
“Put your seatbelt on!” Hisao half-yells out of the side of his mouth, trying to keep his focus on the road to Akio’s apartment and keep his already elevated heart-rate in check.
“What if I need to make a quick escape? Nevermind! Taro
! You’re a clever guy! You should get at least one of them, you just
broke out of one of these!” Kenji slaps the gentle giant’s bicep and Taro looks over his shoulder with a look of tired disdain, his wounds still fresh from a decision he made and has been second-guessing ever since.
“A relationship?” Taro breathes reluctantly, his heart sinking at the thought of Ritsu. Taro can’t decide whether he’s trying to rationalise his actions—that he’s doing it for her in the long run or simply convince himself that he didn’t make a huge mistake.
“Damn right! Pregnancy is the other one! Good thing you never got that broad preggers or she’d have her claws into you so deep tha--”
“Shut the fuck
up, Kenji!” Hisao hisses at the bespectacled, self-confessed ‘Meninist’. Hisao sometimes wishes he’d never met him. He’s loud, misogynistic and his only concept of tact ends in ‘ical’
Hisao thinks, allowing himself to smirk a little at his clever wordplay. He’d have to remember to tell Shizune that one.
But sometimes, when Kenji’s well and truly liquored up and his guard is down, there’s flashes of a semi-decent person in that squirrelly, paranoid head of his. At least, that’s what Hisao likes think and given how people went out of their way to accept him once upon a time, how can he not pay it forward?
Kenji simmers down, even putting on his seatbelt after catching the ire in Hisao’s eyes from the rear view reflection. Kenji knew better than to rile Hisao up, especially given his heart condition. Kenji Setou was in no hurry to die in a car crash or lose his best friend.
Not while there was still so much work to be done to thwart the feminists.
“You okay, man?” Hisao asks quietly as Taro breathes noisily from his nose, looking out the passenger window. They both know he’s not but it’s just polite etiquette to ask anyway.
.” Taro answers curtly, cutting dead any thread of conversation for the rest of the trip. Hisao slowly reaches over to the radio and fills the awkward silence with whatever talk radio station Shizune had left it on when Hisao dropped her off at work.
Ritsu slips her hands into her suedette jacket as she consults the incoming flight board. She only agreed to pick-up duty to save herself from the third-degree from Hanako. In Ritsu’s mind, Hanako could be more of a hopeless romantic than Suzu and recent events would only ignite that fire in her.
Ritsu couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of her though. Hanako had it relatively easy with Akio, despite him being an insufferable asshole at times. Taro on the other hand, was, and continues to be, hard work. Loyal, kind, compassionate and self-sacrificing; all to his own, or Ritsu’s, detriment. She’s hesitant to throw stupid on that pile but she’s definitely considered it once or twice.
Ritsu looks over to her partner in non-crime, Suzu, as she scrolls through the messages on her smartphone for the flight details. A small blue charm, almost like a phone booth, dangles from Suzu’s phone’s case, swinging slightly with every swipe. Ritsu didn’t understand it’s meaning other than the tiny words ‘Police’ written on each side and that it was a gift from Molly.
“Good thing they decided to take a flight together or we’d be here all day.” Ritsu comments, mostly to herself, as she finally finds the flight they’re waiting for. It’ll be here in half an hour and Suzu confirms it by showing the message she received.
“Saved me the trouble of making another sign!” Suzu responds, not fully realising that one of their quarry would be unable to read such a sign, as she slips her phone back into her beige double-breasted coat and adjusts the waist length strap of her purse, careful not to crease the rectangle of card jutting out from the small bag. “Wanna grab a coffee while we wait?”
, yes!” Ritsu grins, thankful that the sleepiest of their old group was along for the ride. That meant caffeine aplenty. It doesn’t take long for the pair to find a moderate little coffee shop inside the terminal with exorbitant prices and sit at a high-table near a window looking out onto the concourse.
“So how long do you think it’ll be this
time?” Suzu asks in a sing-song tone as she empties four thin packets of brown sugar into her cappuccino. Ritsu shows her amusement with a simple snort, shaking her head.
“How long’s a piece of string?” Ritsu replies glibly, popping the top off her to-go cup and stirring two packets worth of sugar into her black coffee. “We always get back together. Me and Taro are just meant to be
. If we weren’t; it wouldn’t be easy for us to fall back into things, would it?”
“Nothing worth having comes easy, Ritsu.” Suzu whispers wistfully, brushing her cerulean bangs out of her face, barely looking at her friend while the confidence drains from Ritsu’s smile.
“Speaking from experience?” Ritsu snipes, looking at their phones on the table, notably Suzu’s phone charm. “How’s Toshi
feel about you coming to pick up your ex?” She asks, curious about how Suzu’s latest boyfriend is handling the close ties that bind Suzu and Molly, even after they separated. Some have been… Less than supportive of their continued friendship from what Suzu has said.
“He’s fine. Things are fine. Great even!” Suzu chuckles nervously. “Suuuuuper-great…” She does her best to avoid Ritsu’s piercing gaze. The recent troubles in Suzu and Toshi’s relationship haven’t been about jealousy, nor is it because of Molly.
Well, that’s not entirely true…
Suzu thinks as she focuses on her drink, still unable to look at Ritsu. “Look, I’m not going to get all up in your drama… God knows I’ve got enough for the both of us but if you ever feel like talking…” Ritsu offers with a warm smile and an almost motherly tone; to which Suzu simply nods, thankful she’s avoided an interrogation for now.
“The 10:30 flight from Glasgow will be arriving in ten minutes.” A monotone female voice declares from the tannoy on the concourse. “Oh c’mon! I’m not done!” Suzu pouts downwards to the glass mug of coffee she’s only drank a third of. Ritsu laughs as she hops off her high chair, coffee cup held triumphantly in her left hand.
“Sucks to be you. You should’ve thought ahead!” Ritsu’s smugness only serves to dare Suzu into guzzling her drink down, an act which she instantly regrets as the hot liquid burns her tongue.
“Fuck! Ow! Hoooooot
!” She holds her mouth open, tongue comically drooping out as she confirms that the coffee is, indeed, still hot. Suzu spends the trip to the gate grimacing and twitching her mouth around while Ritsu tries not to laugh. Before long, people begin emerging and Suzu excitedly pulls the card sign out of her purse and holds it over her head. Ritsu cranes her neck to view it properly before frowning in bemusement.
“Did… Did you write that with a glitter pen?” She asks incredulously, earning a glare from Suzu. “It makes it stand out!” The cerulean haired woman replies, “Besides, I thought it’d look cool.” Their targets come into view, a duo of passengers parting to make way for them.
The first is tall and blonde, fair of skin and exuding an aura of serene grace. He hair is done into a neat, high ponytail, tied with a velvet ribbon. Her golden hair flows down to the middle of her back. Suzu notes her thigh-length coat, under which she wore a tan blouse and a brown knee length skirt that matched the coat.
Her plain black suitcase trundles quietly behind her as the woman’s other arm is hooked around the free arm of her travel companion. Ritsu almost feels bad for comparing the two women purely on looks but their opposing palettes are plain to see.
While one was pale-skinned and blonde, the other had a much darker complexion; her face adorned with a pair of blue-rimmed glasses, thick and curly onyx hair bobs around her shoulders as she walks. Even their clothes were opposite, the black-haired woman wearing a more casual pair of hip-hugging black jeans and long-sleeved grey shirt, a heavy-looking duffel bag thrown over her right shoulder.
“Molly!” Suzu cried with a huge grin, bouncing up and down with her sign like a fan for a teen idol group. The pair look in our direction and Molly spots the sign, a beaming white smile spreading across her face. She soon abandons her travelling companion and bag, much like Suzu discarded her sign, and they run to each other, embracing tightly. Ritsu moved to the blonde woman and offered out her hand instinctively before retracting it, cursing herself internally.
“Hi there, sorry about Suzu, she’s… Really missed Molly, I guess!” A pair of cloudy sapphire eyes almost meet her own, accompanied by a warm sympathetic smile.
“That’s quite alright. Doctor Kapur was quite eager to see her as well. She barely spoke of anything else during our flight. I don’t believe we’ve truly met, I’m Lilly Satou.” Lilly offers her hand out politely and Ritsu accepts, shaking it firmly.
“Ritsu. I’m one of Hanako’s friends.” Lilly’s polite smile curves upward a little more in response, almost brimming with pride.
“Ah, yes, Miss Tainaka. Hanako informed me that you were still dating Taro Arai, I remember him asking about Hanako and drawing something for her a long time ago.”
…” Ritsu begins but, despite her earlier glibness, she finds herself unable to say more. “Yeah, Taro liked to draw for a lot of people. Did he ever draw something for you?” Ritsu asks, eager to change the subject and Lilly simply laughs in response. The penny finally drops for Ritsu and her cheeks burn from embarrassment. “Sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“It’s fine, Ritsu.” Lilly titters to herself. “Unfortunately, I was unable to enjoy his work but he once described what he’d draw for me. He has quite
the imagination.” Hearing another woman, especially one as beautiful as Lilly, compliment Taro stirs up old feelings of jealousy and she just as quickly stamps them down. That side of her has been an ongoing problem for years, Ritsu lamenting that she’s never really managed to completely rid herself of it.
“Did, um, Molly braid your hair for you?” Ritsu struggles to find a new topic with the relative stranger, Lilly’s polite smile warping into a perplexed expression. “She did?
” She asks, slightly perturbed, swinging her hair over her shoulder, stroking it gently. She finds several tiny braids tied into her ponytail and raises an eyebrow quizzically.
“Oh dear… She must have done this while I napped on the plane.” Ritsu chuckles at the odd revelation and looks over to Suzu and Molly, just now breaking from their embrace.
“You smell great, by the way.” Molly grins earnestly, making Suzu blush more than she already was. She thinks back to the last time they saw each other in person, an Autumn week spent in Oxford while Molly studied for her doctorate. While Suzu didn’t care for the cold, they found plenty of ways to stay warm.
“Don’t make this gay, Kapur.” She giggles nervously, her voice cracking ever so slightly. Molly laughs raucously, the vibrations rippling through her arms and into Suzu. She rubs her Japanese friend’s shoulder gently, enjoying the tactile feeling of being close to her again. “I think we both know it’s a little too late for that
, Suzy.” Molly smirks knowingly, her voice hushed but still lilting upwards.
The friends share an affectionate gaze, one that could possibly have lead to something if not for the timely interruption by Ritsu. “Do you guys need more
hugging time or can we get going?”
Molly and Suzu share a sheepish look, both coming to the realisation that they hugged for much longer than friends really ought to. Ritsu crosses her arms across her chest with an unimpressed look and they finally join her and Lilly. Everyone present and accounted for, they make their way out of the terminal towards Ritsu’s car.