View Full Version : Holidays and Hearts I: The First Taste (Arc/Shiki)

March 14th, 2011, 08:09 PM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Writer's Note: Certain dialogue sequences in this story are lifted from the Tsukihime anime or game but I trust in the intelligence of my readers to recognise them when they see them.

CONTINUITY NOTES: For this story, I don’t really plan to follow any of them. I’ll try not to break the Tsukiverse “rules,” but there’s no need to adhere religiously to a specific continuity, either. This one’s just for fun. And now, without further ado . . .

The time had come. The fourteenth of February was nigh, a time set aside by the modern world for lovers and those beloved by those around them. In the West, this was specifically a day for couples, old and new, to celebrate the bonds between them, or forge them anew. In Japan, however, the traditions differed. Valentine’s Day was a time of confessions of the heart, and hope that the heart offered would be accepted. And the all-important medium for this confession?

“Chocolate,” Akiha Tohno pronounced firmly.

“Chocolate, Akiha-sama?” Kohaku repeated innocuously, coincidentally barring her mistress’ path through the kitchen entrance.

“Yes, Kohaku - the mansion is virtually choking with the aroma.” A dangerous glint appeared in the eyes of the head of the household as she asked, “Now why, precisely, would you prepare a chocolate dish the night before Valentine’s Day? Especially when my brother is out of the mansion?”

Carefully concealed from view by Kohaku’s stance, Hisui trembled. She should never have listened to her sister - she knew the enterprise would end in disaster!

“Well, Akiha-sama,” Kohaku said smoothly, “Shiki-san is someone we greatly respect, so it seems only natural to prepare giri-choco for him . . .”

“For that kind of duty, a simple store-bought chocolate would have sufficed,” Akiha retorted heatedly.

“It would,” Kohaku allowed. “But we thought it would be much more meaningful to his schoolmates if Shiki-san had homemade chocolate to display. You must certainly be aware that high school boys regard tomorrow as a way to measure their status among themselves - and it wouldn’t do for Shiki-san to have nothing at all . . .” She trailed off and stepped back. “I’m sorry Akiha-sama, we’ll stop at once.”

“Kohaku!” Akiha blurted, causing the maid to pause. “Do you . . . do you have enough ingredients to make extra?” She held herself erect, but didn’t quite meet the maid’s eyes. “You’re quite right - my brother’s status as the first son of the Tohno family demands that he receive the proper accolades of his peers . . . so I would like to help.”

Kohaku was very careful not to let her smile widen, and bowed her head respectfully, so the gleam of amusement would not show in her amber eyes.

“Of course, Akiha-sama.”

Shiki sneezed, causing Arcueid to stop.

“Are you OK, Shiki?” she asked. “You’re not sick, are you?”

Shiki shook his head, dismissing the sudden chill as simply the wind picking up. “I should be all right, Arcueid.”

The blonde looked plainly relieved. “That’s good. Then we can keep spending time together.”

Shiki smiled. “Always, I hope.”

Mentally thanking Arihiko for agreeing to cover with a “late-night study session,” that would no doubt result in his being “forced to stay the night,” he continued walking with Arcueid through downtown Misaki, free to do as they pleased. It never seemed to bore her, just walking around, looking at the different storefront displays and moving through throngs of people - though given what she’d said of her lifestyle prior to coming to Japan, he supposed he shouldn’t be surprised. To be moving, surrounded by people, must be a very pleasant change from being alone in dark, silent stillness.

“Shiki!” Arcueid broke into his thoughts suddenly, tugging on his arm. “What’s that?”

She pointed to a display of red, white, and pink hearts in a storefront window - a coffee shop, he noticed - that advertised different chocolate drinks and pastries, as well as special deals for couples.

“Oh, they’re decorated for Valentine’s Day,” Shiki explained.

Arcueid didn’t quite frown, but the confusion was evident on her face. “I didn’t think anybody in Japan would celebrate the Feast of St. Valentine.”

Now it was Shiki’s turn to look confused. “The what?”

Arcueid frowned. “All right, then what’s Valentine’s Day?”

“A holiday invented by the West that the candy companies use to sell chocolate,” Shiki replied offhandedly. Not being exceptionally well thought of socially, he’d never had much use for the holiday.

“Chocolate?” Arcueid asked. “What’s chocolate?”

Shiki blinked, incredulous. “You’ve never had chocolate?”

“No,” she said innocently. “I wasn’t usually awake long enough to eat, and when I did, I didn’t have candy. Is it good?”

Shiki normally didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, but the idea of never even having tasted chocolate seemed a crime. It might mean a hit on his bank account, since the candy wasn’t exactly cheap, but one of the things he enjoyed about Arcueid was her unbridled enthusiasm for new experiences. Watching her would justify the expense.

“Why don’t we try it, and you can find out for yourself?” he invited her with a smile.

The night noises of Misaki weren’t exactly loud, but the sense of quiet was they entered the coffee shop was all-pervading. The seating was enclosed in booths, and any conversations that might have been ongoing were held in low tones, and further muted by soft music that, at first, Shiki did not realise was coming from outside the confines of his mind. Soft lighting, from electric candelabra, completed the atmosphere. This was a place to relax, aware from worries or cares, and be at peace.

Shiki and Arcueid followed the server obediently to a corner booth by the window, where they could see the city outside without necessarily being seen themselves. Glancing around, wondered that he’d never found the place before, and paused in seating himself, as he caught a reflection from the window glass that looked like Ciel’s. An intent look, however, convinced him that it was only a trick of the light.

Arcueid fairly vibrated with excitement. “So, what should we have?”

March 14th, 2011, 08:11 PM
Shiki glanced at the menu. “Well, if you want to try chocolate right away, they have cocoa - that’s a hot, chocolate-flavoured drink.” He looked at the list. “And it looks like they’ve mixed that with a number of flavours, as well - hazelnut, French vanilla, mint . . .” The list actually was fairly extensive.

Arcueid studied the menu with all the intensity of a child spending her first time in a grown-up restaurant. The comparison was silly - she’d eaten with him in restaurants before, and was used to the setting. Moreover, Arcueid’s age and natural elegance made her seem almost too classy for the coffee shop, despite its pleasant atmosphere. But at the same time, her general attitude almost always befitted that of a little girl who was simply pleased to be able to explore, to talk - to live, really.

Ever since the incident eight years ago, Shiki had always tried to enjoy his life, knowing how precious, and how fragile, it truly was. Arcueid seemed to share that attitude, and take it a step further. She seemed to take pleasure in almost every experience, no matter how mundane. And while that attitude occasionally caused him some difficulty, it was one of the things he most admired about her.

“I think I’ll just try plain cocoa, first,” she remarked at last. Shiki nodded, ordering a hazelnut-flavoured one for himself. The server nodded, and returned with commendable speed, bearing the mugs and a basket of cinnamon rolls, then withdrawing to allow them to consider.

Arcueid sipped her drink cautiously at first, gauging the relative temperature and flavour with care. Her ruby eyes popped wide in an rare display of uninhibited surprise as she got her first full taste of chocolate.

“Wow,” she said, softly but with feeling. “It’s very sweet, isn’t it, Shiki?”

“Mm-hmm,” he agreed, sipping his own. “Fairly strong, too. A lot of people don’t like it because it drowns out a lot of other tastes.”

“But they still mix it with other things,” Arcueid said. “Like yours. Can I try a sip?”

He handed her the mug, and wondered at her next actions. For a Japanese high school boy, drinking from the same spot as another person like that would be considered an indirect kiss . . . Did Arcueid know that? Would she do that?

“This is almost sweeter, in a way,” she remarked as she contemplated the depths of the drink, seemingly oblivious to the reaction she caused in him. “The aftertaste is milder, I think. It’s nice.” She glanced up. “Shiki - you’re all red. Is something wrong?”

“I . . . It’s nothing,” Shiki replied, doing his best to sound confident. He could guarantee she’d needle him about whatever was causing his distress if she really believed he was upset.

If only he could be so certain about her reactions to romance. Arcueid’s general personality was predictable, but her attitudes were very fluid, seeming to go from one extreme to another with little to no warning at times. He could chat comfortably with the casual, very human “Arc,” then find that at some offhand remark or phrase, she’d withdraw into the cold elegance of the True Ancestor. Or else she’d vanish from his sight altogether for a day or three, seemingly offended, before reappearing as though nothing had happened, or simply saying, “I forgive you.” It was more than a little frustrating, at times - but that sense of mystery seemed as much a part of her as her golden hair, and it made her who she was. Without it, she just wouldn’t be Arcueid.

Nonetheless, it made it very hard to say what her reactions to a possible romantic moment might be - or even what he’d want them to be. He had enough trouble trying to figure out human girls.

For the moment, however, Arcueid seemed content to change the subject, or at least return to an earlier one. “So, Shiki, if chocolate is this good, why do they have to have a special day to sell it? Is it so hard to come by that they can only have it on holidays?”

“No . . .” Shiki considered how to answer, and then settled on the truth. “The tradition on Valentine’s Day is that girls give chocolate to the men in their lives. Most of it we call ‘giri-choco,’ given out of obligation to those they respect - their friends, employers, landlords, and other associates. However, they also give ‘honmei-choco,’ traditionally homemade chocolate, to other boys.”

“What other boys?”

“. . . The ones they really like,” he said at last.

“So I should give some to you, then?” she asked brightly.

Shiki’s face turned red so quickly it was a wonder he didn’t pass out from sudden blood loss - or ignite from the heat his cheeks gave off. “A - Arcueid!”

Her expression crumpled a little, and he immediately felt sickeningly guilty. “But you said . . .”

“It’s a lover’s gift,” he said quickly. “The girls give that kind of chocolate to the boys they like, in the hope that their feelings will be accepted and returned. That’s what Valentine’s Day is about, both here and in the West - it’s a day for lovers.”

“I see . . .” Arcueid was quiet for a while, then asked, “And what happens if the boy doesn’t accept the chocolate?”

“Traditionally, it’s always accepted,” Shiki answered. “But if that tradition is followed to the letter, the girl won’t know whether her feelings are returned by the boy until White Day.”

“White Day?”

“About a month from now. Essentially, any white gift will do, but you’re really supposed to respond to a gift of dark chocolate with white chocolate.”

“Chocolate comes in white?” Arcueid asked in surprise.

“Yeah, it’s a different texture, and a slightly different flavour - not very popular with most people.”

“Do you like it?”

“Honestly, I’ve never tried it.”

“It sounds like a romantic holiday,” Arcueid murmured almost dreamily. “I wonder what it would be like, wondering and waiting to see if he likes you as much as you like him . . .”

Shiki shrugged uncomfortably. “I wouldn’t know.”

Arcueid glanced at him. “No one’s ever given you - what did you call it - honmei-choco?”

“No,” he admitted. “I’ve gotten giri-choco from classmates, but that’s all.” Just enough to keep from being seen as a total loser by his peers. And it amazed him, for a moment, that he could tell her that so openly.

Arcueid didn’t say anything to that, for which Shiki was thankful. But what was it about her, he wondered, that made even awkward questions like this so easy to answer? He’d never have said as much as he had to Arihiko or Yumitsuka, even though he was fairly certain that they’d be sympathetic.

Maybe it was that, coming from totally outside his own culture as she did, he knew Arcueid wouldn’t judge him. He didn’t have to pretend to be Shiki Tohno, noble scion of a noble house, as Akiha would have him be. He didn’t have to be “Shiki-sama,” as Hisui thought of him, or even the reliable and righteous “Tohno-kun” that Ciel and Yumitsuka saw in him. He could just be Shiki - even the parts of Shiki he was afraid to be - and Arcueid would accept that. Just as he accepted what she was.

They knew each other’s darkest secrets - and could be comfortable with each other for it. It was for that reason, most of all, that he would do things like sneak out of the house to spend a night in her company - that in some ways, she was his best friend.

The silence was broken, with obvious reluctance, by the voice of the waiter. “Have you decided what you’d like yet?”

In the end, they decided to split a large slice of chocolate mousse cake, topped with chunks of dark chocolate and ladled with strawberry sauce, with whipped cream on the side. It was definitely not a traditional Japanese confection, but the taste of it was such that anyone from any culture should have been able to appreciate it. Still, it wasn’t the kind of food you could simply devour in a quick sitting. They ended up lingering over the cake for a while, Arcueid eating most of it - the richness of the cake did him in fairly early on - even discounting his anaemia. When it was gone, they’d finished with cups of tea to help digest it, and finally left to walk off the rest of it.

Shiki noted, on the way out, that the waiter had given them the couples’ discount, despite the fact that it shouldn’t come into effect until tomorrow - he’d have to remember to repay the kindness by recommending the place in future.

As they passed through the park, Shiki murmured, “I’d better get home soon, or I’ll never be able to face school tomorrow - it’s probably very late.”

Arcueid shrugged nonchalantly, glancing up at the clock. “It’s not late for me - is it for you, Shiki?”

Shiki’s eyes traced the path hers had taken to the timepiece. “It’s after midnight, anyway.”

Arcueid lowered her hand from her mouth, as though yawning, and turned to him. “That means it’s Valentine’s Day now, right?”

“Technically,” Shiki replied. Anything else he might have said was cut off by the sudden grip of Arcueid’s arms around his neck, and the pressure of her lips against his own. He momentarily forgot to breathe as her warm tongue casually pried open his jaw, to place something smooth and bittersweet in his mouth.

The last lump of dark chocolate from the cake. He’d never even seen her take it. Its taste was as strong as ever, but despite that, it was overshadowed by another flavour, more delicate and even more lingering . . . his first taste of Arcueid.

As he half-choked on the bonbon, he heard the True Ancestor whisper to him. By the time he’d gotten his breathing under control again, Arcueid was gone, but what she’d said still lingered in the winter air.

“I’ll learn how to make it myself for next year, Shiki, and I’ll give you chocolate then, and every year after that - because my feelings belong only to you.”