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Better in Every Way

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The thing is, it was to be expected. Kiku isn't surprised really that his music didn't reach out that much in the world, apart from Vocaloid, as he is known to be way too "weird" for Western taste, compared to Yong Soo's music that, to him, pretty much sounds like something Alfred could produce while playing with how pretty and young their people look to appeal to foreign audiences (Kiku has his opinion on that but he usually keeps his mouth shut).

He dreaded it though because Yong Soo is insufferable when things go his way and no one for once can contradict him.

The good thing though, is that he isn't the only one annoyed by Yong Soo carrying around his radio to blast his music whenever he wants to.

“I'm this close to throwing him out of my house,” Lien grumbles next to him, eyes tightly closed and fingers pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Do it, I can't handle it anymore aru,” Yao answers in an equally low voice.

“Come on let him enjoy his thing, it doesn't harm anyone ana,” Kiet argues, smiling as always.

“Speak for yourself my ears are starting to hurt and I can't even understand Korean anymore at this point,” Mei chimes in with a whine.

Kiku stays silent while listening to their complaints. He knows they aren't a hundred percent genuine, he can still hear fondness in most of their voices, and are just tired because they just came back from a World Meeting, so, Yong Soo's loud and upbeat music probably doesn't help anyone to relax (especially when during the meeting, for some reason, Alfred and Yong Soo started to have a sing-off which was terrible because if they have good music coming from their country, they themselves can't sing to save a life and scream more than anything else really).

Well, it seems to help Naveen at least, as he can see the old nation in the distance dancing happily with Yong Soo.

“It's been a while since we've seen him like that, isn't it?” Kiku asks suddenly, making everyone look at him bewildered. “I mean-” He turns around and is met with Mei's eyes first since she is sat in front of him, eyes glinting with curiosity and surprise. He knows why she is looking at him funny, in their little family, he usually is the one who doesn't care about Yong Soo. “I mean, it's been a while since he could do that and no one could really contradict his success.”

“I guess aru.” Yao shrugs, sounding not so convinced. “Why are you defending him aru?”

“I'm not really,” he replies with a little frown of his own, “he made sure to remind me my music failed but his succeeded but it's just... I don't know, does it sound weird if I say I missed how cocky he could get?”

“Definitely,” Kiet snorts, making Kiku blush. “I can understand though ana. In the recent years, he's been quite down.”

“Huh, I wonder why,” Lien says sarcastically while rolling her eyes.

They all stop breathing - or at least that's what Kiku feels like they do - at her intervention, fully knowing what she is implying but neither wanting to name him. The forever empty bed in Yong Soo's room.

“Anyway,” Mei is the brave one who speaks again, “I would still appreciate it if he stopped flaunting it everywhere because we hardly listened to anything but K-Pop lately. I feel like I'm still in the US and I don't like it.”

Everyone chuckles, making her blush. She seems confused though, not knowing what was so funny about her statement and that's only then that Kiku realizes she is the only one who doesn't know Alfred enough to know Yong Soo is nothing compared to him. Lien is smiling behind her hand, something close to fondness in her eyes, Yao looks nervous and tired upon the mere mention of the American, Kiet has a nostalgic look on his face as if reminiscing a good memory.

It is kind of surprising how nearly all of them – Yao excluded – seem to like Alfred, considering the history they all share with the young nation. Then again, they see Alfred a lot less often than Yong Soo, and this factor must play a key role in everything.

Kiku, on his part, only offers a smile to Mei. She smiles back, still confused.

“Guys why aren't you joining us?!” Yong Soo's voice startles them all. The South Korean boy goes for Mei first and lifts her in his arms just as the music got louder and the beat dropped when Naveen approached with the radio in his hand.

Mei yelps and nearly hit the boy's head in her panic. “Put me down you idiot!” she yells. “Before you make me fall like last time!”

“Come on I'm the strongest here!” Yong Soo huffs, offended, and not letting her go.

Lien loudly clears her throat while raising an eyebrow. “The second strongest,” the boy corrects himself then.

“I beg to differ. I'm probably stronger, let's fight ana!” Kiet chimes in with a huge excited smile.

“Kiet no,” both Yao and Naveen say, the former sounding borderline panicked and the latter between annoyed and afraid at the boy he raised.

“We can do a dance battle though!” Yong Soo exclaims excitedly, letting Mei go only to twirl her and make her almost lose her balance. “That's settled, Nav and Mei are on my team!”

“We didn't accept-” Kiku starts but Kiet shuts him up with a simple hand on his arm as he smiles wickedly.

Kiku can feel a shiver run down his spine – the sweet Thai boy is more than scary when he has a goal in mind.

“It's on ana,” Kiet states, looking at both Yong Soo and Naveen with challenge in his eyes. He stands up and he and Lien share a look when he presents her his hand. She is silent for a few moments – Naveen even cuts the music off – before she smiles and takes his hand to stand up.

“Mei has no coordination, you're going to regret taking her in your team,” Lien states simply.

“Hey, that's mean!” Mei protests with a pout.

“Kiku, join them, I'll be the judge aru!” Yao announces, a smile finally gracing his lips.

Kiku only blinks, not quite sure how they ended up in this situation, but his competitive side quickly rises and he jumps to his feet to join Lien and Kiet to face the three others. He shrugs as Mei sends him a look of betrayal and stretches while Yao takes the radio from Naveen to take control of it.

And to say some moments ago they were complaining about Yong Soo's music. The boy knows how to rile them all up.

And maybe, just maybe, it doesn't bother Kiku as much as he pretends to.