Saber Marionette Fan Fiction ❯ Gifts ❯ Of Plates and Men ( Chapter 1 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]
~Chapter Two~
Summary: Yumeji finds Christmas shopping with his elder brother to be more surreal than an Burroughs novel...

At first, Hanagata faithfully crossed off the days on Yumeji's Christmas calendar, determined not to let the sense of impending doom that surfaced every time he thought about Christmas at his father's get the best of him. As the eighth slowly turned into the ninth, however, Hanagata felt his determination crumbling faster than a brick beneath Kamatarou's large fist. Ten minutes later, and the calendar was safely hidden deep within his laundry basket.

As the days wore on, Hanagata's reserve to enjoy the holiday season waned even further. Somewhere between the twelfth and the fourteenth, he began having nightmares that usually involved being strangled with yards of tinsel or having his body pummeled into the consistency of Christmas pudding. By the seventeenth, Hanagata's nervous silence was even beginning to get to Yumeji, who began spending long hours in his room "making gifts for Lime-chan and the girls" in order to spare himself his older brother's agony. Meanwhile, Hanagata boarded himself up in his room in order to "work on my Christmas outfit". As he sewed, the only two thoughts which kept him sane enough to slide the needle into and out of the fabric were the those of how irresistible his long, slender legs would look in the outfit's short skirt and tights, and, more importantly...

The perfect gift he would buy for Otaru-kun, the specifics of which he maniacally enumerated to Yumeji every morning at breakfast and every night at their solitary dinner until the young man almost wondered if he'd prefer to starve if it meant being spared the gory details. And by the time Christmas Eve rolled around, it took all of Yumeji's efforts to drag Hanagata out of the house in a last-ditch attempt to show his brother the gift he wanted more than anything this year...


"Onii-sama! Onii-sama!! Look at all the toys!"

"Hai, Yumeji, I see them," Hanagata Mitsurugi chuckled as he followed his younger brother's almost lustful gaze to the toy locomotive circling the shop's window display. He couldn't help it, he decided. Yumeji's happy face, coupled with the sights and sounds of the Kobe Market in December were enough to make him forget his troubles.

~After all,~ he thought with a grimace. ~ If I'm going to die a slow, violent and painful death somewhere between Christmas Morning and Christmas Morning, the most I can do is enjoy what's left of the holiday season...~

Yumeji grinned happily at him before smearing his cheek across the glass to get a better view.

~...or whatever's left of it, that is. How long do I have to live again? One week? At least one week... yes. The last time I checked a calendar it was December 18th... plenty of time to find Daddy's robe, get Otaru-kun's gift custom made and...oh, well, at least I'm ahead in _something_,~ Hanagata smiled to himself at the thought of the store's last gift-wrapped toy locomotive and track hidden only half an hour ago in the trunk of his motor palanquin.

~But it's strange that they'd be out of them so early in the month. Oh well, maybe they'll get a new shipment in tomorrow or something...~

"It's on some kind of weird system," the younger boy explained, pulling Hanagata out of his reverie and into the chestnut-scented reality that was the Holiday Market. "'Cause it goes in the little tunnel in the back and then it appears way up there on the mountain like a few seconds later -- hey, look!! There it goes now! Onii-sama, I really like that train!"

Hanagata smiled and gently patted his little brother's head. "I know, Yumeji. And if you've been really good this year, Santa Claus might bring it to you!"
Yumeji rolled his eyes. "Onii-sama, come on! I've known Santa Claus was just Daddy in a red suit since I was four!"

Hanagata furrowed his brow in disapproval. "And just how exactly did you know this, Yumeji?"

Yumeji gave him an exasperated look. "'Cause he caught you eating the cookies I'd put out and challenged you to a wrestling match -- which he won like ten seconds later."

Hanagata merely stared blankly at his younger brother for a few moments before bursting into the nervous laughter of one who has just been proven wrong both publicly and painfully.

"Well, anyway, that's enough looking for today, Yumeji!"

"But Onii-sama!! Can't we just watch it go around the track just once more?"

"No, because we have to finish shopping."

"Onii-sama --"

But Hanagata was already walking away.

"No butts! I want to make sure we get all our shopping done well before Christmas Eve!" The young man stopped in mid-stride to clasp his hands together. "After all," he continued, gazing up into the winter sky with shining blue eyes. "The wonderful gifts I'm buying for Otaru-kun take time to prepare, Yumeji..."

"Time? But Onii-sama --"

"Don't interrupt!!" Hanagata cried, whirling around and shoving his finger into Yumeji's face. "I'm explaining a very important fact here, Yumeji!"

The little boy blushed slightly out of surprised and nodded as he attempted to fight down a growing sense of anxiety.

~Oh no... did Onii-sama forget again...?~

"As I was saying," Hanagata continued, clasping his hands over his chest yet again and turning his bright blue eyes to the cloudy sky. "The gift I plan to purchase for Otaru-kun this Christmas will go down in history as the most sensitive, the most wonderful, and certainly the most expensive Christmas gift in all of Terra Two's history!"


But Hanagata was already lost somewhere in a rose-colored world. In his fantasy, he wore a red and green elf costume complete with striped tights and pointed shoes as he danced around gigantic candy canes to the sound of jingle bells. And his world was made only brighter by the smile on Otaru Mamiya's face as he opened his present on Christmas Eve.

"Otaru-kun," Hanagata murmured, "This Christmas, I will show you the depths of my love by giving you the most wonderful, the most spectacular, the most expensive present in all of Japoness! Yes, Otaru-kun... I am going to give you --"

"A holographic ball with your picture in it," Yumeji muttered, startling Hanagata from his reverie. "Hai, hai, onii-sama. You've told me that a thousand times."

Hanagata shot his younger brother a dirty look. "Not just any holographic ball, Yumeji," he reminded him crossly. "But a ball with a base made of twenty-four karat gold and lined with red velvet, upon which, in pure spun gold thread--"

"-- is embroidered scenes depicting your immortal passion for Otaru-san," Yumeji finished almost mechanically.

"And the hologram inside this ball --"

"Is you wearing nothing but a smile and a well-placed sprig of mistletoe. You've been telling me that forever, onii-sama."

"And did I also tell you such a marvelous custom-made present would cost?"

"Two-thousand mon, plus tax. Which reminds me, onii-sama, Daddy's been looking for a box containing just that amount since last Friday. And he wanted me to ask you if you know anything about it."

Hanagata simply stared at Yumeji for a moment before throwing his head back and laughing loudly enough to make more than one fellow shopper stare. "Anyway, that's enough talk for now, Yumeji. Why don't you go and get some lunch at the Sushi House while I um... go and get my fortune told for the day."

Yumeji gazed at the toy train once more before sighing loudly.

~Yup, he forgot again...~

"Well, onii-sama, it had better be a fast lunch if we're gonna get all our shopping done by tonight."

"Why, what's so special about tonight?"

Yumeji sighed. ~I'm going to kill him.~ "Because tonight is Christmas Eve, onii-sama."

Hanagata merely blinked at his brother before throwing his head back for another loud and stare-inducing laugh. This time, however, the laugh lasted much longer and seemed to border on mass hysteria.

"Ohh, Yumeji!" Hanagata cried, wiping a tear from his eye. "Don't -- don't *tease* me about things like that! You know how long it takes me to get ready for Christmas and --"

"It's not a joke, onii-sama! Ohhhh, didn't you use the Christmas calendar like I asked you too?"

"Oh... ano.... of-- of course I did --"

Yumeji folded his arms over his chest and frowned. "Well, then you should know that today's Christmas Eve!"

"I ... Yumeji, this really isn't funny!!"

"And I'm telling you I'm not joking! You've waited 'til the last minute to do *anything*, onii-sama. And unless you know a place that can make that ball for Otaru-san in, like, four hours, then you might haveta get him something else this year."

Hanagata simply stared at his brother for a few moments, his pale face twitching slightly as he emitted small, gurgling sounds.


~Oh no! I shouldn't have said anything! I think I've killed him...~


But Hanagata's heart had long since surpassed freezing and climbing into his throat. The way it felt now, it might simply shrivel up and die at any moment. Hanagata turned his wide blue eyes to his brother and....stared at him as if he were a complete stranger who had just asked him to shave his dog in perfect Xi'anese.


The pidgeons perched on top of every building in the market screeched and took flight at the sound of Hanagata's scream.


"Onii-sama!! Slow down!!! Onegai!!! You're gonna hit someone!!"

"No time!!! No time! No time!!!"

"But Onii-sama --"

"Must find gifts!! Must find perfect gifts!!!"

"But --" Yumeji cried out and tumbled into the back of the golden motor palanquin as Hanagata took a sharp turn which narrowly missed slamming right into a group of shoppers.

"Onii-samaaaaaa!!! You're gonna get us killed!!"

"Hang on, Yumeji. We're almost there... almost there.... yes, almost there!!!"
Seconds later, Hangata's motor palanquin screeched to a tire-burning halt before Kyouichi's Krystal Kave, the very location at which he'd purchased his custom-made holographic Otaru crystal ball six months earlier.

"What are you gonna do, onii-sama?" Yumeji asked as Hanagata slammed the driver's side door shut.

"I'm going in to see if they can make Otaru-kun's gift. In the meantime, Yumeji, you are going to get Daddy's present."

"But --"

"He wants a red bathrobe made from real Romanan silk with a gold trim!! You know his size! Meet me back here in an hour!"

"But what if I can't --"


"H--hai!" And with that, the boy raced off down the street.


Exiting the small clothing store an hour and a half later, Yumeji again thanked Kami for remembering to finish his own Christmas shopping two weeks ago. Now, no matter what his Daddy would say about the... interesting robe his onii-sama would give him tomorrow morning, he would sure be delighted by the slippers and the new boxing gloves! Not only that, but the goodie baskets he'd painstakingly put together for Lime, Cherry, Bloodberry and Otaru-san were sure to go over well!

~Hmm, I wonder what Onii-sama's gonna get for Lime-chan and her friends,~ Yumeji wondered as he approached the Krystal Kave.

~Oh well. At least now, maybe he's got Otaru-san's ball. And if that's the case, maybe we can just go home.~ Deciding to give his elder brother the benefit of the doubt, Yumeji pulled the door to the glass shop open --


-- to find his brother kneeling on the counter repeatedly poking a salesman in the nose.

"H--hanagata-s-sama! O--onegai!! Calm yourself!" The poor man whimpered. "I-- I just got that pierced!"

"Calm down?" jab. "CALM DOWN?!?" Jab. "You ruined it!" Jab. "RUINED IT!!!!!" Jab! Jab! Jab!

"B--b--but --"

"This is an OUTRAGE!!! Do you have ANY IDEA WHO I AM?!?"

"O--of course, Hanagata-sama. You -- you are --"


Yumeji sighed and shook his head. "So much for good will towards all men," he muttered to himself. "Onii-sama!! Stop it! You'll hurt him!"

"That's my sole INTENTION, Yumeji!!!" Hanagata's irises were now the size of pin pricks as he began shaking the salesman's head back and forth.

"Onii-sama!!! Don't!! Please!! It's Christmas!"

"That's right!! And he's just ruined it!! Ruined it!!!"

Yumeji sighed. It looked like he would have to handle this situation in the time-honored Hanagata way...

"Excuse me, sir?"Yumeji gave the closest and most burly man his most innocent smile. "Gomen nasai, but it seems my onii-sama's had, like, way too much to drink!"

The man looked Hanagata (who was now attempting to pin the hapless salesman to the floor) over as if he were a new kind of fungus growing in a thus far undisclosed and inappropriate location. "You sure that's the only thing wrong with him?" he said at last, folding his arms over his chest. "Anyway, it's not my problem, kid."

"I'll give you seventy-five mon if you get him out of the store for me."

"Take that!! And that!!! Feel the wrath of a man scorned!!!!"

"Ahhhh!! Not the hair!!"

The burly man shook his head and gave Yumeji a sympathetic look. "He really is a nuisance, isn't he?"

"You don't have to live with him, sir."

"Hmm, can't say I'm not thankful for that. Ok, kid. One hundred and you've got a deal."



"Simpleto n!! You shall suffer gravely for offending the manly Mitsurugi!!"

"Owwwww! My tooth!"


"Eighty-five and not a ryo less!"

"And now for the coup d' grace... ugly-plate-that-I-didn't-order to the forehead! HA HA!! TAKE THAT!!"

"You drive a hard bargain, mister," but Yumeji handed him the wad of mon, anyway.

"Thanks, kid," Yumeji simply hid his disgust behind another polite smile as the man tousled his blonde hair and made his way over to the counter, which Hanagata was now standing on top of.

"Attention, good gentlemen! I am going to perform an impromptu ballad about the poor quality of service in this establishment!"

"Sir?" Again the man turned around as Yumeji tugged on his jacket.

"What is it, kid?"

"Um... don't, like, hurt my brother or anything, ok? It is Christmas, after all..."

"Today, at the Krystal Kave, I was given a ridiculous plate THAT I DID NOT ORDER to give to my beloved. And thus this song: Broken Plates."

"Good thing you told me that before he began screeching." The man said, wincing as Hanagata's shrill voice broke a glass vase near the door. And with that he sauntered across the room, cracking his knuckles ominously...


"Onii-sama... let me look at it..."

"No, Yumeji."

"But your nose hasn't stopped bleeding for ten minutes. Maybe it's..."

"I said leave me alone, Yumeji!"

"Onii-sama," the boy sighed and rested his hand on his elder brother's shoulder. "You're being kinda childish, don'tcha think?"

"Fine then! Treat me like a little child! Goo goo, ga ga, da da!"

"Onii-sama, we're in public," but even this admonition was not incentive enough to stop Hanagata from rolling around on the snow-covered sidewalk as two streams of tears leaked from his eyes.

"Onii-sama, I'm sure he'll like a plate with your picture just as much as that ball!"

"Humph! Have you even looked at that monstrosity?! I'm going in there and demanding my money back!"

"Well, that'll be kinda hard to do, considering they just banned you for life."

"Stop picking on me!! Banned for life from the Krystal Kave!! What ever shall I do for all my Otaru glassware needs now?!? Oh, woah is me!!!"

Yumeji rolled his eyes and slid the tissue paper away from the glass plate. "Oh, come on, onii-sama! It can't be as bad as you --" Yumeji's swallowed at the sight of the thing. "Ano...onii-sama? Is your face supposed to be stretched out like that?"

His only response at first was the soft 'thud' of bone against cold concrete as Hanagata slammed his head repeatedly into the sidewalk.

"Onii-sama, don't do that. You'll break the sidewalk."

"Thank you soooo much for your concern!" A soft sigh of near-existential angst escaped Hanagata's lips. "Did you find Daddy's robe?"

Yumeji's heart froze only momentarily before he thought up a good enough...well, embellishment of the truth. "Ano... yeah! Yeah I did, onii-sama... nothing to worry about there!"

"Really?" Hanagata looked up from his sidewalk-worshipping with a quasi-hopeful smile.. Briefly, Yumeji weighed the odds; on the one hand, he could tell his big brother the truth and get chased around Japoness for the next three hours by an unstable, ugly-glass-plate-wielding Mitsurugi... or he could simply continue lying and get chased around Joshyua for three minutes Christmas morning by an unstable and battered Mitsurugi who would probably lose his balance and lie in a bruised heap until sometime after dinner. Hrm... truth. Lie. Truth. Lie. Truth. Lie...

Well, wasn't the choice obvious?

"Yeah, really."

"Oh, thank Kami. Yumeji, give me your hand. Yes," Hanagata continued as his brother helped him from his fetal position near the Krystal Kave's front window. "I, Hanagata Mitsurugi, have completed my Christmas shopping over an hour before the stores close. I am a virtual shopping God!"

"Aren't you forgetting something?" Yumeji asked, visions of the toy train dancing in his head.

"Um... no... I got gifts for Daddy and Otaru-kun."

Yumeji sighed. ~Kami-sama, I think you owe me for this...~ "How about Lime-chan, and Cherry, and Bloodberry?"

Hanagata wrinkled his nose in disgust. "And why would I want to waste my money on buying gifts for those uppity machines?"

"Because those uppity machines beat the snot out of you last year for not getting them anything, remember."

"Oh," as Hanagata's face palled and his eyes again took on the frantic, possessed look of a last-minute holiday shopper, Yumeji silently cursed himself for being so altruistic.

"Yumeji!! What am I gonna do?!" Hanagata stammered, hopping up and down nervously. "Everything closes in an hour and I don't have any ideas!"

"Well," Yumeji began, hoping the hint would register somewhere within his brother's twisted mind. "We could always go back to that toy store and --"

"Wait! I know! You have a bunch of gift baskets for them in your closet, don't you?!"

Yumeji eyed his brother darkly. "Where's this going?"

Hanagata threw himself on his knees and clasped his hands together. "Please, Yumeji! Let me have your gifts!!"



"Onii-sama, let go."

But Hanagata only tightened his grip on Yumeji's shoulders. "Please," he whimpered. "If I don't give those she-devils something you know what they'll do to me!"

"And if I don't give Lime-chan something she'll cry until the New Year!"

"Humph! Putting that machine's so-called "happiness" before your own flesh and blood's well-being! Besides, they actually _like_ you, Yumeji!"

"Your point being?"

"They won't beat you up if you don't get them anything for Christmas. On the other hand, they will have no trouble kicking me all the way to Romana if I don't show up with a gift! NOW FORK OVER THOSE GIFTS, YUMEJI!!!"

"Stop shaking me!"

"I'm the eldest son!! I have rights!!"

"Baka!" Yumeji shouted, pushing his brother roughly away. "Instead of fighting with me, why don't you just go and get them something!"

"But, I don't know --"

The boy sighed, silently noting this was at least the thirtieth time he'd done so on this particular shopping trip. "Listen, onii-sama," he explained. "You don't have to get them anything fancy."

"I -- I don't."

"Heck, no! Lime-chan would probably be happy with candy, and Cherry --"

"We don't have time to talk, Yumeji!" And again the boy gasped as Hanagata grabbed his hand and pulled him off down the street.

~ End Chapter Two~