Notes and Disclaimers: The following is an original work by me, freely using the
creative genius of Tachiwaka Megumi, to whom I am indebted. The characters of Saint
Tail, Asuka Jr., et al are owned by Kodansha and TMS.

                                                                                                               by Stirling Twilight

Snakes and Ladders

Asuka Jr. let out the breath he had been holding, as softly as possible. The pause that
rushed around the room was as dangerous as a coiled snake. Rina and Meimi regarded
each other with an air of barely suppressed anger that was palpable. Deciding discression was the wisest choice open to him Asuka Jr. turned slowly, hoping vainly, that no one would notice.

Rina did.

She rounded on him, her finger stabbing out, nailing him in place like a pinned butterfly.
"And where do you think you’re going?" she demanded, her eyes flashing.

Halting, he turned to face her. He mustered as much dignity as he could and straightened himself to his full height. Looking her squarely in the neck he began.

"Since this argument has moved away from the original topic I felt I could leave…" was
what he meant to say. In actuality he got as far as "S…" when Rina reached over the desk and grabbed him by the arm.

"Yes, you can walk me home," she said firmly, taking his limp hand in her own and pulling him towards the door. Asuka Jr. had just enough presence of mind to grab his book bag as she dragged him from the room. As his angry cries died in the distance every remaining pair of eyes locked on Meimi. In anticipation of a truly volcanic eruption, no one moved. The redhead, however, slowly collected her books and carefully placed them in her satchel. With a sigh she rose, and her classmates drew back a step, giving her room. Meimi looked around them in annoyance.

"If she wants to flaunt her bad taste in public, she’s welcome to him," she said and turning towards the door, stalked from the room. Everyone followed. They watched as she went down the stairs and then, as one, they rushed to the railing to see her stride defiantly away.

Such disappointment was seldom known. Meimi’s classmates returned to their room to
collect their things and leave now that the show was over. It had been a disappointing
argument to be sure.

Meimi turned when she was out of sight of the school and headed into town. She thought
of how any argument with Rina always came down to Asuka Jr. Rina seemed to enjoy it
that way. It was like she planned it. Meimi had tried to keep to her original question but
Rina refused to listen. When Meimi had thrown up her hands in exasperation Rina had
moved in for the kill.

Meimi sighed. Why did it bother her she wondered? She knew Rina liked him, and that
suited her just fine. Meimi stamped her foot and turned her attention to shopping. She
wanted a toy for Ruby and she was going to loose herself in the pursuit of such an item.

Almost an hour later Meimi had to admit it just wasn’t her day. Nothing Ruby would like
presented itself and the image of Rina and Asuka Jr. leaving together kept returning
unbidden to her mind.

Sinking down onto the edge of the fountain Meimi hung her head and stopped trying to
hide from herself. It was just too much work. Dejectedly she looked around the square,
and saw, to her astonishment, Asuka Jr. walking in her direction! He hadn’t noticed her
she saw and for a brief moment she was torn between fleeing and waiting. Suddenly rising, she did neither. Taking her feelings firmly in hand she began to approach him. When he finally did look up his relief was as visible as his smile.

"Haneoka!" he breathed in obvious pleasure. Meimi felt any lingering anger evaporate.

"Hello Asuka Jr." she smiled.

"Are you hungry? I was just going to treat myself to some ice cream." He leaned closer to her and smiled, "I think I deserve it."

Meimi couldn’t help herself, "Alone?" she asked with a sly smile.

Asuka Jr. laughed, "Not if I can help it," and he offered her his arm. Meimi giggled and
accepted him. Arm in arm, they left the square.