Much Ado About Mankanshoku
Disclaimer: not mine. Also, slight spoilers for about episode 10 onwards.
Fulfilling the role of Disciplinary Committee Chairman of Honnouji Academy was no easy feat.
Granted, being 8 feet tall with muscles like knotted steel helped, but still. While other disciplinary committees across Japan dealt with general tardiness and talking back, Ira Gamagori cracked down hard on frenzied revolutionaries, kept power-hungry psychopaths at bay, and quashed riots with a steel fist.
All of these were to be expected, admittedly, when the Academy's totalitarian governing body could toss pupils into the lap of luxury just as easily as the throes of poverty. Ah, and there was some slight upset about the whole training children to be seasoned veterans in the art of warfare policy thing. That too.
It was a tough job, no doubt, without even mentioning the ever looming possibility of student nudity.
But Gamagori was a man who took pride in his duties, and sometimes, some days, he knew it was all worth it.
Today he stood, surveying the academy with a critical eye from the roof of the science block, arms folded across his chest.
Order. Was there anything more glorious? In every direction, grey buildings stood against grey buildings under a grey sky. No student had stepped a toe out of line the entire morning through, there was nary a delinquent in sight, and the Goku uniforms were all where they ought to be- on the bodies of the strong, hard-working members of Honnouji Academy.
Everything was as it should be. And that meant that he had done his job well. Satisfied, he nodded once, turning to report back to Lady Satsuki. She would be pleased to hear of Matoi's absence today. Perhaps their plans could even go ahead early, if all continued to proceed smoothly. Inumuta was sure to have completed his research by this time.
He turned the corner, thinking that Sanageyama had been itching for a fight for some time now anyway, he had told them as much every meeting-
And his metaphorical train of thought promptly derailed and smashed right into a metaphorical brick wall, at the sound of an off-key rendition of an unidentifiable folk tune ringing on the breeze.
"Mash 'em up, knock 'em down! Mix 'em round and round and round! That's the way they do it here in Osaka~"
That voice was all too familiar.
He spun on his heels immediately, and was greeted with the sight of Mako Mankanshoku, twirling around the rooftop merrily, arms outstretched and face tilted to the sky. Perhaps he had spoken too soon on the delinquent front. Of course she would be the student singing from the roof of the science block.
Who else would it be?
"Mankanshoku!" he boomed across the rooftop, stalking over.
"Eh?" Startled, the girl skidded to a halt, brown eyes going wide. "Gamagori-senpai?"
"What do you think you're doing?!"
"H-huh? I'm not doing anything," she protested, waving her arms around in apparent nervousness. His eyes narrowed.
"It is against the rules for you to be up here! You should know this!"
Mako blinked up at him from underneath her honey brown bangs, and he realised with a twinge of discomfort that his reprimand was going completely and utterly over her head.
"But it's so pretty up here! Look, look, you can see the entire school!" At this point, she had somehow clambered up onto his broad shoulders and was gazing out, a hand over her eyes to block out the winter sunshine. "Woah, the view's even better from up here!"
It took a moment to register the warm weight of her body, shifting around the spikes protruding from his three star uniform.
"Hey!" he spluttered.
"I can even see the tennis courts from here!"
"I am by no accounts a jungle gym!" He didn't want to impale her, and blood didn't wash out easily...
"Oh, hey, the team's practising now! Nice backhand, Omiko!"
"Yeah?" she answered, neck craning so her head was angled over his. He swallowed, taken aback by the sight of two large, brown doe eyes blinking upside-down at him. "Oh, I know, you want to see the school from up here too! Only you can't sit on your own shoulders. Yeah, that's a toughie." She nodded twice, in affirmation, resting her forearms on his head.
"Get off me at once!"
"Aww, but I feel so powerful up here...!"
"I will not repeat myself!"
"If I were 8 feet tall I'd walk on my knees all the time-"
"MANKANSHOKU!" At this point he was all but roaring, and almost entirely convinced that his face had gone as pink as Jazakure's hair.
"It's okay, Gamagori-senpai, you don't need to get so upset! You can sit on my shoulders now if you want to."
Gamagori paused to wonder how this tiny no-star girl could possibly lift his body (250 pounds of hard muscle, muscle, and more muscle) onto her back, then shook his head. He had no time for such asininity.
"NO MORE OF YOUR FOOLISHNESS!" he bellowed. With a rough swipe of his hand, he lifted her by the scruff of her shirt, and inspected her with no small measure of bemusement. "The school roof is prohibited to no star students without special access! Do you have special access, Mankanshoku?!"
"Uh, well, umm..."
"Speak up, second year!"
"...You know I don't," she protested.
"Then I will ask you once more: what business do you have here?!"
Her every sign of petulance evaporated away at the question. Sparks lit up her eyes as she pumped her fists in the air, missing his nose narrowly.
"Lunch!" she proclaimed.
"Lunch?!" he repeated, incredulous at the apparent non-sequitur. "Understand that I, Ira Gamagori, Disciplinary Chairman of Honnouji Academy, do not condone baiting of any sort!"
She shook her head quickly, strands of hair flying around her face.
"No, no, lunch! Please let me down, Gamagori-senpai. I gotta eat!"
Reluctantly, he obliged, a moment before realising that he'd just taken orders from Mankanshoku, of all people. The girl plopped down on the edge of the rooftop, folding one leg beneath her, swinging the other over the side, and pulled a large pink bento box from the front of her shirt.
He strode over to her side, taking note of the 50 foot drop to the ground below.
"I eat lunch up here sometimes when Ryuuko isn't around. That way nobody tries to take me hostage," she said, beaming as if it were the most obvious reason ever.
Maybe it was.
Gamagori's eyebrows twitched. Yes... Whether it was a beating from the tennis club, almost being fried alive in scalding oil or sliced open by the biology club, Mako Mankanshoku was always getting into trouble. With her penchant for breaking rules, due to falling in with the wrong crowd (read: Matoi), she was far, far from a model student.
"That means Ryuuko doesn't have to worry about me," she explained. "It must be a pain for her to have to beat everyone up every time I get kidnapped!"
She also had some disconcertingly skewed priorities. With her bright eyes and flushed cheeks, Mankanshoku didn't look like someone who'd been on the brink of death several times. For all appearances' sake, she just looked like a... well, like an ordinary high school girl. And that in itself was odd, because he hadn't seen one for such a long time, not at Honnouji Academy. Wordlessly, he sat down next to her, and tried hard not to stare.
It was near impossible for him, him who had seen corruption and betrayal and cruelty overrunning this world, to comprehend how someone who had faced the brunt of it could be so...
Mako let out a hum of delight as she popped open the lid of her bento box. With barely a cursory glance at its contents, she promptly began to shovel food into her mouth like a woman denied sustenance. Pieces of rice and breadcrumbs went spewing in all directions, arcing through the air, scattering across the floor. Gamagori's eyebrows shot up into his hairline.
"Mankanshoku!" he bellowed, despite the fact that she was half a yard away from him. "Has nobody taught you any table manners?!"
The troublemaker looked at him, a chunk of battered something raised half-way to her mouth. Then she gasped, dropping the chopsticks back onto the box.
"Oooh, sorry! I'm sorry! You must be hungry too, Gamagori-senpai! It must be hard chasing people around all day, and not getting to eat lunch." She thrust her bento box out at him, a bright smile lighting up her face. "Here, have some of mine!"
Gamagori faltered in surprise, regaining composure a moment later than he'd care to admit.
Crossing his bulking arms over his chest, he fixed her with the same glare that made other students break out into a cold sweat. (She naturally continued to grin up at moronically.) "What's this, Mankanshoku?"
That was only half a rhetoric question; the other half was borne from genuine concern. The lunch seemed to consist primarily of deep-fried lumps, of dubious shape and even more dubious content; he wondered fleetingly if they would pass a school health and safety inspection.
"My mom's mystery croquettes, made out of completely non-toxic ingredients! They're really tasty! Try them!"
He declined immediately.
Mako huffed. "You can't skip lunch! It's the most important meal of the day! Right after breakfast, and dinner, and, uh, sometimes supper, I guess. But, anyway! The point is that to function correctly you have to eat! Eat! That's the only way to keep your energy up to do all the important things you have to do, like tell students to take their clothes off! And mom's mystery croquettes give you 50 horsepower! Which means Gamagori-senpai, who functions already at 30 horsepower, will be boosted to 100 horsepower! That's a lot of horses!"
Well, that was a lot of horses.
But as a 3-star, he had access to the finest cuisine money could buy. Fine lobster, fresh caviar and veal, cooked to perfection at his whim. Could he truly, in good conscience, take food from his poor, slum-inhabiting junior?
"I am certain that- Ooomph!"
There was a steep learning curve when it came to Mako Mankanshoku. Lesson number 46 -the latest addition to his growing mental archive of useless facts about the girl- she was about as proficient with a pair of chopsticks as Inumuta was with a laptop and a kernel-based keystroke logger. Three 'mystery croquettes' had been skilfully jammed into his mouth in quick succession by surprisingly deft wrists, in the time it had taken him to blink.
Left with the vague feeling that he had been out-manoeuvred by a no star and more worryingly, not minding much, Gamagori began to munch slowly on the mystery food.
"Well?" she sang, "how is it? Good, right? Really, really good?
Deep fried. Really, really deep fried. Crispy on the outside, squishy on the inside, they tasted more of cheap frying oil than the mystery foodstuffs... though that may have been a blessing in disguise. It was probably better that the unidentified ingredients remained unidentified.
Still, it was...
"Not too bad," he admitted.
"Not too bad!" she cheered, "That's one step better than 'okay', and that's one step better than 'really kinda terrible!' Would you like more, senpai?"
He had no time to form a response, because Mako had already procured another pair of chopsticks and a spare bento box from thin air, and was already proceeding to divide her meal between the two boxes.
Lesson number 47: Mako Mankanshoku may have been poor, but that didn't get in the way of her sharing what she did have. The food was pressed into his hands, cold, battered and probably loaded with more salt and saturated fat than he usually consumed in a week. His gut rumbled in anticipation.
"You really should learn not to skip meals, senpai!"
"I suppose," he grumbled. His brain was telling him that this was bending his beloved rules and therefore kinda sorta disobeying the orders of Lady Satsuki, but his stomach was clearly in cahoots with Mankanshoku. So maybe she had a point. Lunch was an important meal and it wouldn't do to keep missing it. He might slack in his duties as Disciplinary Chairman.
"Only for today, understand?!" he demanded.
"Yep!" she agreed, lifting her chopsticks. He did the same. "Just for today!"
An hour of listening to Mankanshoku's witless rambling and he must've lost a fair few IQ points, because she was beginning to make a startling amount of sense.
"...For the carrots and licorice straws that we never got! And doors! Lots and lots of doors! Which is why dogs should never eat more than double their body weight!" she finished, and he found himself nodding in agreement.
"Wise words, Mankanshoku."
"I worry sometimes, especially for Guts. If he keeps eating too much, he'll start getting fat. And then who will chase off Mataro's friends when they start stealing the furniture?" Her left leg swung up, foot slipping into the shoe that had been dangling precariously from her toes over the 6 story drop.
"Perhaps you should place him on a strict exercise regimen. I can recommend one for maximum muscle gain."
"Oooh! Good idea, Gamagori-senpai! Is it the same one you do to get so totally ripped? Sign me up as well! I want muscles too!"
"That's the spirit, Mankanshoku! Grab life by the horns! You, too, can achieve an excellent muscle to fat percentage with just 200 push-ups each morning!"
"200 push-ups, got it!"
"And 500 in the evening!"
"And 500 in the evening...?"
"As well as 50 laps around Honnoji Academy daily."
"Uh huh." Mako's face scrunched up.
"Followed by 30 laps in the pool, 400 squats and 600 sit-ups! This is how one remains at the very peak of fitness!"
"...Gee, you sure work hard, Gamagori-senpai."
"As Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee, I must set an example to the students of Honnouji Academy not only of honourable behaviour, but also excellent physical form!"
Mako 'oooh'ed, stars in her eyes. "Wow, no wonder you're a three star!"
"I am certain that you could become a three star as well, Mankanshoku, if you worked a little harder."
She blinked twice at him, then shook her head with an embarrassed grin.
"Nah," she said, dismissing the idea with a wave of her hand. "...Remember when I was Fight Club President? Do you, senpai?"
He remembered. He remembered the way she rose to prominence in a matter of weeks, and recalled being impressed by what an underachiever could achieve when she put her mind to it.
Mako continued, playing with the hem of her skirt. "I was two star but I wasn't happy. Even though we had a real toilet that flushed and real beds and real meat at mealtimes," she bowed her head in a brief moment of mourning for the lost foodstuffs, "Even though I had all of that, I lost my family, and my best friend."
"Ah." There had been tears, too, hadn't there? In the moments before all was blown away by the shockwaves of her earth-shattering punch, Mankanshoku had been crying.
"So I traded it back," she concluded. "It was worth it, senpai!"
"Is that so...?"
"Some things are more important than others," she mused, absently. "What's important to you, Gamagori-senpai?"
What was important to him?
Strength, he supposed. Kindness and loyalty and justice.
"The rules," he told her, and tried to ignore the stab of distress that ran through his spine at the way Mako's smile melted off her face.
"The rules...?" she echoed after him, disappointed. "Really?"
"Well, yes, but," he cleared his throat, wondering why he cared at all what a no star thought of him. "That's not all that's important to me."
"Right, there's your car too!"
"Right, there's my..." he trailed off. "N-no, I meant other things, Mankanshoku."
Her eyes were about as wide as dinner plates. "Like what, then?"
Mankanshoku was worse than a stranger; she was an enemy.
But she was also an underachiever and an idiot and her heart was about three sizes too big for her tiny frame. The top of her head barely came up to his ribcage but that didn't matter because she was always climbing to high places, and he saw her all the time anyway... There were three eggplants, two hawks and one Mt Fuji on her favourite set of pyjamas, and the heavens themselves shone down on her when she spoke, even though she was always breaking rules and being stubborn and headstrong and confusing and sharing everything she had with a smile.
Mankanshoku was worse than a stranger; she was an enemy, and he trusted her.
Gamagori drew in a deep, long breath.
"I will tell you someday, Mankanshoku."
And it may have been something in the mystery croquettes he'd just eaten, but he vowed to himself that one day, he would. When this entire mess was over and Honnouji Academy was safe once again.
Mako was silent. Gamagori glanced over at her, to ascertain whether she had fallen asleep again. She hadn't- she was wide awake, and staring at him intently.
"Is something the matter?"
"You're smiling," Mako said, head tilting to one side.
"What did you say?"
"You're smiling," she repeated, wonder kindling slowly in her eyes. "I don't think I've ever seen you smile before."
"No, don't stop! You look far more handsome when you smile, Gamagori-senpai!"
He turned away to hide the furious blush that was, to his utter mortification, rising to his cheeks. Just the chilly air, he informed himself, though the voice in his head sounded uncharacteristically lacking in conviction.
Fortunately, this is when the school bell began to ring obnoxiously, drowning out the sound of his brain's rather feeble excuses for the warmth in his cheeks and the butterflies in his stomach. He stood immediately at the sound, brushing off his white uniform.
"Lunchtime is over!" he declared, and repeated it to himself in his head, for good measure. Lunchtime is over. He glanced down at her. "You should return to your classroom."
Mako tapped her chopsticks down onto her box and hopped to her feet, before he had the chance to offer her a hand.
What did he come up here for, again?
Oh, right. Disciplinary Committee. He cleared his throat awkwardly.
"The next time I see you up here, Mankanshoku..."
She fixed him with a giant, hopeful grin. "You'll join me again?"
He strode towards the rooftop exit, deliberating his words carefully before booming his answer back at her. "You have my express permission to come up here at lunch time! Tell anyone who asks that Ira Gamagori has granted you special access!" He paused again. "As for your proposition..."
He was Chair of the Disciplinary Committee, Lady Satsuki's impenetrable shield! To share lunch once more with the school's unwitting rebel...? The very notion was ridiculous! Scandalous! Preposterous!
"We shall see."
"Okay!" Mako chirped in reply, bounding at his side. "I hope you do, senpai!"
She smiled a smile so wide that he thought it was about to split her face in two; and now the image was seared into his memory, still there when he closed his eyes.
What a troublesome girl.
Gamagori held the door open for her, and wondered if the world would end before he had a chance to share a meal with Mako Mankanshoku once more.
The next time he saw Mankanshoku sleeping in assembly, he turned a blind eye, but he didn't turn away.
"What are you smiling at, froggy?" Nonon snarked from beside him, eyebrow cocked.
He caught himself immediately, averting his eyes before she could follow his gaze. From his vantage point above the academy grounds, he watched the students fall back into their lines, at attention.
"Nothing, Jazukure," he said, shaking his head. "Nothing at all."
a.k.a. Lady Satsuki's impenetrable shield begins to let his guard down, just for little Mako Mankanshoku.
Shameless fluff. I'm sorry. In my head canon, in the rare moments of down time between episode 12 and 19, Mako and Gamagori share a whole bunch of sweet moments, where she's oblivious and charming and he's trying to figure her out, leading to his heroic antics come her capture in the festival. (Also, anyone see those Mako-shaped croquettes episode 22?)
These adorable kids.