XXXI.

Meeting Asano in the library shouldn't have surprised me as much as it did, but I hadn't seen him for a while now. He was probably the last thing on my mind when it came to the problems I had - just a minor problem in comparison to what my life had become.

Said person was now staring at me with an equally perplexed expression, despite the fact we must have stood beside each other for almost ten minutes. My mouth did that weird motion when it couldn't decide whether to smile or grimace. A moment later my mother's lessons kicked in. She had taught me manners and I was going to use them as long as Asano didn't decide to be an antagonistic shit.

''Good evening, Asano-san. I didn't notice you here.'' That really went without saying, but small talk would stay small talk.

''Likewise, Kitani-san. I have been lost in thoughts. Excuse my inattention,'' he replied in a perfect, gentleman voice that made me want to hit something. That guy just raised my hackles without trying. It didn't even make sense.

''There's nothing to be excused. I did the same after all,'' I waved him off and stared at the book he was touching. It was about the effects of undernourishment and exactly that what I'd been looking for. There was a chance there was a second edition of it somewhere.

''Did you want to read this, Kitani-san?'' Asano pointed with his hand to the band.

''Ah, yes, I wanted to look up the consequences of low blood sugar levels and got interested in how eating habits affect a person's psyche,'' I offered as an explanation in hope he would let me have it.

''Oh, may I ask what has brought up that interest?''

I eyed him with suspicion, unsettled by this rather civil conversation after a year of passive-aggressive interaction and hidden insults. Deciding, that, yes, it was possible that he had mellowed out a bit after not seeing me for a while, I answered him with a half-truth.

''I'm interested in certain aspects of psychology and wanted to see how much one's eating behavior like undernourishment influences a person's personality.'' This wasn't exactly bullshitted, since Itona's unstable personality was highly influenced by his tentacles, which had changed his eating behavior into an unusual one. Koro-sensei also tended to consume a scary amount of food and learning about nourishment while training to be an assassin wasn't a bad idea. That gave me quite many reasons to look up this topic.

''I see,'' the strawberry-blond replied with a smile. ''I guess that class E has more than a few people who warrant this type of research?''

Immediately every thought of him being nice vanished.

''I don't like what you're implying, Asano-san,'' I gritted out calmly, while giving him a flat stare.

''I haven't even done anything to offend you, Kitani-san, have I? I am deeply sorry if I have,'' the bastard continued shamelessly, despite knowing well what he had done. That was exactly why we didn't get along. Our interaction was too shadowed by insults, taunting and clashing of different world views, that we couldn't hold a civil conversation. At all. At least not in the sense of me not calling him whatever offense that would come to my mind first.

''Just when I think you could possibly be a decent person, you manage to come up with some way to completely destroy whatever goodwill I had over you.''

''Really?'' He raised an eyebrow. ''What could possibly be the reason for that? I always try to be civil towards you.''

'''Civil' means to me you not insulting my classmates. I happen to like them, you know? And don't deny it, we both know you did and that you always will, whether I like it or not, unless some miracle happens.'' By now I had put my hands on my hips and looked at him with a disapproving expression. Karma had told me once that I looked like a scolding mother this way, but I really couldn't help that habit.

''My experience does suggest these things I have implied, so it is a valid conclusion on my part to remark such. Your class is an unsightly part of our school, Kitani-san and it has always been,'' he fortified his argument and raised his chin in an attempt of showing off his superiority.

I was not impressed.

''Your experience or your upbringing. Does your daddy tell you these things when you have nice heart-to-heart conversation, A-sa-no-san?'' drawing out his last name intentionally, I watched his expression change to one of shock and anger. ''Ah, did I hit a sore topic? I am terribly sorry. I didn't mean to.''

Ah, I really should have watched my words, but it was too late for that. I couldn't really bring myself to regret it, when I could see the boy in front of me clenching his jaw and trying to think up a way to win this battle. Both of us were a bit too invested in upping the other every time we met and I could imagine that I hadn't been making myself a lot of friends with that. Luckily, Asano kept our conversations normally under wraps and most of them sounded at least half-civil to an outsider.

''Why would you think of such a thing, Kitani-san?'' he ground out painstakingly and I had the pleasure of watching him grimace at his question. His pause earlier to gather his wits had given me time to come up with a good explanation and I was good at making things up on the fly.

''Well, you are very obvious when it comes to your father, Asano-san.'' His face was now cold stone. If it weren't for his very expressive eyes, I wouldn't have seen any of his mood changes. ''Now, don't worry. I'm not going to tell that anyone, but part of your charisma drops when you talk with your father. I'm very sure that you two have an interesting relationship, but that has nothing to do with me.''

Obviously, his father was a sensitive topic for him. It was a low of me to use that, but again I didn't feel regret. It was rather sad that I could use it, though pitying him would only hurt his pride. Not mentioning it again was the only thing he would get as a near apology.

I only received a disbelieving stare and silence as a reply, but I had anticipated that. Asano had told me once I didn't fit into his world view and I was quite happy to continue doing that.

''Take a picture. That will last longer,'' I snapped at him, when he didn't stop. ''Are you going to continue gaping or will you give me that book, Asano-san?''

For a moment, I honestly believed that he was going to snap a photo from the way his fingers were twitching, but then I reminded myself that he was raised to have at least a semblance of manners. Snapping random photos of acquaintances wouldn't fit into that criteria.

''I will certainly not,'' he insisted, making me think for a moment I wouldn't be getting the book any time soon. ''I'll give it to you, since you need it more than me. I doubt that you have as many books as we have in that old building.''

''Nope,'' I answered cheerfully and took the offered item. ''We only have the internet and a good teacher, but go ahead and tell me all about your great school. I'll listen to it when I have time.''

My sarcasm had been clearly understood by irritated expression, but it only made him smirk a little bit more.

''Thanks for the book,'' I added in a less obnoxious tone.

''You are welcome, Kitani-san.''

It always came back to the same song and dance we had built up in our years of acquaintance. I didn't regret it, but it made me aware our relationship would not change any time soon.


''I'm home!'' I called out and immediately received three different variations of ''Welcome back!''. Smiling at the thought of everyone being home, I moved to the kitchen.

''Sayo! Come on, try this!'' an overly excited Karma teleported himself next to me, making me jump in surprise. He had the decency to look sheepish, but still held a spoon of something in front of my face. I grimaced. It didn't smell bad, but Karma was practically a master at disguising scents.

''You really made curry?'' I addressed my mom, who was almost cooing at us, but held herself back.

''Open your mouth, dear, and you'll know it,'' was all she said and I sent a searching look at my father. He was almost as bad as me when it came to spicy food. It was a thing we doubtlessly agreed.

''I haven't tried yet,'' he answered me apologetically and cast a suspicious glance towards the spoon in Karma's hand. ''Karma, I hope you know what you're doing.''

Once again, I really didn't understand their relationship. The memory of my former life was getting blurrier every single day, but any boy I had brought home there, didn't have this weird thing my dad and Karma had.

''Yes, Yuu-san. Don't worry, Sayo'll never kill me and the other way around,'' he assured my father and once again fixed me with his pout. ''Try this for me please?''

''I'm going to regret this, aren't I?'' And I opened my mouth to eat whatever concoction they had cooked up.

For a moment, I chewed in an exaggerated fashion just for the fun of it and to show our overzealous cooks, that I was eating it, but it came back to bite me in the ass, since I goddamned choked on something small, that tasted a bit like bell pepper.

Let me tell you, I hated choking and coughing. It was partly because of my asthma, but also because of my former life. I had been prone to coughing often and strongly, which made my throat most of the times after that sore and miserable. Seriously, it wasn't funny at all to cough and choke so often.

Karma, who was, in my opinion, far too used to this, leaned forward to put a hand on my back and gave it a few sharp hits. Immediately, I coughed even more and spat out the food stuck in my throat.

'''ank you,'' I managed out before I coughed a little bit more. My mom, looking a bit uneasy, was already holding out a glass of water, which I took gratefully, while Karma was rubbing my back in small circles.

''Right, was it spicy, dear?'' my father tried to lift up the awkward atmosphere in the room. In retaliation, I gave the driest look I could muster.

''Why don't you try it, tou-san?'' From his facial expression, I could guess that he wouldn't.

''Sorry, Sayo. I guess we shouldn't have put in too many spices,'' Karma apologized and nudged my mom beside him.

''I'm sorry, Sayo-chan,'' she said obediently, but genuinely. My mother really didn't like apologizing when it came to her cooking, but I didn't really know the reason for that.

''I don't think I choked because of the spices,'' I explained, feeling faintly embarrassed. ''Something got stuck in my throat. Sorry for worrying you.''

Karma pretty much broke out into giggles after that and my parents joined in when we saw our resident redhead not being able to stop. I rolled my eyes at them, but still laughed when my mother tried to feed my father with the stuff. The only male adult in the house ran away screaming.

''I'll never eat it!''


''Hey, Sayo,'' Karma's voice grabbed my attention when we were just about to go outside for our lesson with Karasuma-sensei.

''What is it, Karma?''

''You still remember our date?'' Remembering him asking on the day Itona had come to our class, I nodded and felt my cheeks heat up just a little bit. I had been so surprised that he had asked me, that I had dropped the umbrella in the rain. We had gotten just a bit soaked. ''How about next week on Saturday?''

I felt myself smile at his hopeful expression. It twisted something inside, warming me.

''Yes, I'd love to,'' I answered him truthfully and he gave me a blinding smile in return.


Seeing my class ready to go against the students from the main building was encouraging. Noticing that the girls were readier for the class tournament games than the boys was amusing and also a bit worrying, since the guys were not enthusiastic about it at all. But I was pulled out of my musings when Kataoka went ahead and held a strategic meeting about how to hold our own against the girls of the basketball club.

The boys had to deal with that on their own, we had a game to win first.

''For someone who can beat the speed of sound twenty times, he's not particularly strong,'' I remarked to Mobil-Ritsu, as I watched the boys trying to hit baseballs at the speed of 300 km/h. The girls were currently taking a break from basketball training on the field Koro-sensei had been so kind to set up for us. ''He is in a standing position, but his pitches aren't as fast as I thought they would be. Do you think he is holding back, Ritsu?''

''I am not sure, Sayori-san. He seems to be genuinely putting effort into it,'' she answered me, while holding my phone camera towards our teacher's direction.

''Let's just put it down on the list.''

''Sayori! Are you done stalking Karma-kun?'' Kanzaki's shout made me turn my head around and I was not the only one. Several heads turned around, watching her walking into my direction with a water bottle in her hand. Amused, I watched as the boys resumed their training after a barrage of Koro-sensei's special pitches.

''Hey Yukiko, how's it going?'' I angled my body towards her as soon as she was close enough for me not to raise my voice too much. She moved her head in a so-so fashion.

''It's okay, but I just witnessed a ball thrown into Kayano's face. She did not look happy nor very enthusiastic about this.''

''Nah, maybe it's just because of the ball. I mean, they really hurt.''

''It could be,'' Kanzaki admitted and looked at my hand holding the phone. ''I heard you're going on a date with Karma-kun?''

''Where did you hear that?'' I asked her slowly, blinking in surprise.

''The class has been gossiping about you two for ages now,'' she admitted freely, but didn't really answer my question. The other girl realized that she had not given me the correct response and added sheepishly, ''I may have cornered him when I saw you smile at him so nicely last time before P.E. and I really couldn't help myself.''

Kanzaki looked embarrassed about her actions, but I couldn't help but laugh.

''It's okay. I guess my father now has somebody to go all overprotective with.''

''Kanzaki, Sayori-chan, are you two done? We're going back to practice!'' Okano called us out and we were back to training.


Playing basketball against a competitive team when you were only an amateur yourself was hard. It was even harder when no one in your class was motivated enough to put effort into the game. Fortunately, that wasn't the case, since Kataoka was able to lift the team's mood to a remarkable high.

I mused about her leadership abilities, as I watched the game from the bench. Tactics (and Kataoka) demanded that I was going to be subbed in when the point difference was between twenty and thirty points or when one third of the time had passed. From then on, I would be playing until the end with little breaks in between to confuse the girls of the basketball club.

Given that my stamina was quite good, it was reasonable. I wasn't good at doing the whole fast track method of running back and forth in the highest speed possible, which was the plan for the beginning. I could run for long, but sprinting wasn't my forte. It had too much to do with running away and feeling chased.

''Sayori-san! It's your turn,'' Yada hollered while jogging towards me. Standing up, I moved to the line that separated the court from the benches and gave the other girl a high-five. ''Go and get them, Sayori-san!''

''You bet,'' I answered, grinning. The scoreboard showed a score difference of 24 to 49 points, which was a good score for the beginning. We only had five minutes until this third was over and apparently Kataoka wanted to shock them. Fine with me, I would show the whole school that they shouldn't underestimate 3E.

''Sayori-san, go to the center position. We're doing a fast one!'' Giving Kataoka a thumb-up, I hurried to my assigned position and observed the players on the court. Every girl on our opponent's side was at least half a head taller than me and the other girl in the center position was looking at me with disdain.

She could have her thoughts written down on her face or maybe spelled them out, too. I wasn't someone that normally qualified for the position of the center, since they were most of the time tall and with more body mass, but I could jump high enough, which made me an ideal player for getting rebounds.

I didn't know if it was only me or if it was the school's fault, but many people here were just... dull. Their personalities had something thin and transparent within them and there was no real depth in their actions nor their mind. Maybe they were just growing and finding a place for themselves, but my class was just so vibrant and full of diversity, that this simple-mindedness in the main building stroked me as odd.

Tall, strong legs and quick on their feet. We were up against some good basketball players, but that was expected. Quickly looking at my teammates, I waited for the game to resume.

In a burst of speed, the other team had managed to move into our side of the court and immediately tried to score, though the ball didn't go in and bounced off the rim. In a second, I was jumping and grabbing the item to dribble back to the other side of the field. I passed the ball to Kataoka, when I was blocked and the ball landed in the basket.

''Nice, Kataoka! Let's do this!''

The last few minutes were a continuous back and forth, but luckily it ended soon enough. Though we were getting out footing back in the game. There was only a 16-point-difference now opposed to the one of 25 of before.

''Okay, everyone, please come here,'' Kataoka's voice pierced through chatter and exhausted breathing. We assembled near the whiteboard the class rep had brought with her to visualize our tactic. ''Okay, we have caught up a bit by exchanging Yada-san with Sayori-san. Sayori-san, we're going to change positions. You'll be the power forward and I'll be center this time.''

I nodded in acceptance and the brunette directed her attention to an irate-looking Kayano.

''Kayano-chan, please get it together. You are too distracted for some reason. I'll give you another chance, but otherwise I'll bench you earlier than planned,'' Kataoka warned in a stern voice though she was tactful enough about it. ''Everyone is giving their best, so you should do the same. That goes for everyone. Nakamura-san, you'll go one on one with the point guard. Okano-san, do the same as before. I'll substitute you and Kayano ten minutes before the end of this third.''

She arranged the magnets on the whiteboard according to her words.

''We'll set a slower pace now. Make sure to screen the other players as much as you can, otherwise we have a problem. I and Sayori-san will try to score as much as we can, but if we're blocked, you pass the ball to Nakamura-san for a distant shot. If you see a chance, seize it. Watch out for traps, but otherwise you're free to go,'' she explained carefully, while eyeing the group with an encouraging expression. ''All clear? Dismissed.''

After that the game was a blur to me. It was a repeat of jumpblockthrowpass and so many variations of it that I lost the feeling of time. I enjoyed the exertion and the feeling of camaraderie that spread through me as I watched the others struggle and give their best.

The second break passed in a blink of an eye, Kataoka not having many things to say except for substituting more people. Despite our goal to win this game, I ignored the score, having no need for emotions that would affect my game-play.

''Come on, guys. Only ten seconds more!'' The other girls from the bench cheered on us.

Okano was persistently chasing the person with the ball, who was just a few steps ahead of me, but my classmate was a second too late, the ball changing its possession to another player, who had gotten free from Yada. The girl crouched down for a jump and I moved.

A second before she jumped, I set off of the ground and found myself a hair-width higher than her. Twisting, I hit the basketball before it could leave her hand and I touched the ground again.

Not sure where the ball went, I caught Yada dribbling down the court and evading the desperate attempts of stealing it from her. I could feel the desperation coming from Yada's opponents and the increasing frustration of the crowd. And then...

The buzzer rang.

Another bout of silence, just before my entire class erupted in loud cheers.

''WE WIN!'' Suddenly there was a pile of people surrounding me, almost toppling me over with their over enthusiastic jumping. I couldn't really grasp the situation, my blood still pumping and urging me to move again.

''We won?'' I asked in a surprised tone. My brain hadn't caught up yet and I was still in the middle of my euphoric classmates.

''Yes, you dolt! We won!'' a grinning Nakamura confirmed and I was finally caught in my classmates' happiness.

''Goddamn yes! We earned that one!'' I yelled, joining the jumping.


The boys had won their match, too. I was content with knowing we had won our matches and just let myself fall down on the grass, when we gathered once again for a last goodbye from our teacher.

''I am so proud of all of you!'' I heard our teacher sob. ''You were incredible and showed them everything you had. I'll reward you with a homework-free weekend next week!''

Cheers, this whole day was just filled with so much cheering. Closing my eyes, I stretched once again and waited for our teacher to dismiss us. All I wanted now, was a shower and my bed. Sweat and exhaustion were a reason enough for that.

Someone poked my cheek. Cracking open one eye, I was greeted with a view of one amused Karma, who was crouching next to me.

''Well, sensei has perfect timing,'' he said out of blue.

''For what?'' I questioned, as I closed my eyes again. The sun felt perfect today. Not too warm nor too bright.

''Well, our date for an instance. You remember?'' Ah, yes. Maybe the sun was a bit too warm for me today.

''You sap,'' I accused him, when he really wouldn't stop beaming like that. Karma just was so happy to be doing this. It was a good look on him and I really wanted to preserve it.


''Are we now at the stage of drawing on each other?'' I asked the redhead, when I felt something wet on my right cheek. ''Also, do you have something with my cheeks, Karma?''

I opened my eyes lazily to see that my whole class had acquired a henna tattoo by now, even Karma had now ornaments adoring his right hand.

''We almost live together, Sayo, we can also draw on each other,'' Karma decided and merrily continued drawing. ''Your face just happens to be the closest thing to me lately.''

''I see. Give me a mirror when you're done.''

''Will do,'' he hummed, while I caught Nakamura's phone flashing across the classroom. I could only guess what she wanted to do with the picture, but it felt ominous.

''Hey Ritsu-san,'' I paused for a moment for her to set up a white noise projector, so that Koro-sensei wouldn't be able to overhear us. Experimenting in class was so much fun! We even had found out a frequency that blocked sensei's hearing. ''How much of Koro-sensei's face melted when he put the color on his skin? Give me the percentage per second, please.''

''Approximately 0.83 percent of his face melted when Koro-sensei's face came in contact with the color. Though that rate slowed once his healing kicked in. I can conclude he healed about 4.3 percent of his face within 20 seconds,'' she answered at my request.

''That doesn't fit with the usual criteria, does it?'' I mused out loud and noticed that Sugaya was almost done with his tattooing. I would have to ask him about his paint, once he was done. ''Given that Koro-sensei was in shock for almost five seconds when you interpret his way of screaming... Is the healing rate within that time window smaller compared to the one after that?''

Karma had stopped drawing on my skin, when I had started to bounce ideas off Ritsu. His face showed an equally thoughtful mien.

''You think his healing has something to do with his focus?'' he asked me, when he resumed drawing.

''Yeah, he can change his face color by will, meaning he can change the color pigments of his skin. It doesn't seem far-fetched that he can manipulate the cells of his body at will and not just with Okuda-san's concoctions. I mean-''

''You are right, Sayori-san,'' Ritsu cut me off and also confirmed my thoughts. ''Sensei's healing rate increased after he stopped panicking.''

''So that means-'' I began and immediately Karma picked up my train of thoughts.

''-if we get him panicky enough, he won't be able to concentrate enough to heal all of his wound, just the worst ones. From his fight with Itona we also know he needs energy to heal. So, we chase him around enough and hurt him enough-''

''-his wounds won't heal as well as they did before. I don't know if his natural healing rate needs so much energy, but we could technically challenge his endurance until he drops dead.'' I frowned. ''His speed degenerates after using too much energy and so does his healing. The wounds Itona inflicted on him, gave him serious problems... and when they pressed him he made more mistakes... We could manipulate his food intake to lower his endurance...'' I trailed off when Karma tapped my forehead.

''We have too little time to discuss things here. We have to make another study group again,'' he reminded me and I sighed. Man, I liked throwing around hypotheses, but I'd have to wait for more people.

''Right... Ritsu-san, you can drop the noise now,'' I told the AI and caught Sugaya sitting down on his desk to cram out more paint. ''Hey Sugaya-san!''

The boy flinched at my shout and turned around with a startled expression.

''Ah- Yes, Sayori-san?''

''Sorry for startling you,'' I apologized sheepishly. He looked honestly like a deer caught in headlights. ''I just wanted to say your idea with the paint was awesome. And ask about how many BBs you put in there.''

''Haha, thanks. I thought it was kinda neat too. Just a pity that it didn't work,'' he responded, shrugging. I raised my eyebrow at him.

''You sound like you knew it wouldn't work. Next time just give us heads-up that you're going to do something like this and we'll make it work,'' I suggested and he smiled.

''Sounds good. Ah, yes. I put in seven BBs in one of the tubes. More of them made the paste crumbly.'' The gray-haired boy put an arm over his seat and peered over to my right side to look at the painting Karma had made on my skin.

''Looks good, Karma. The ornament suits you, Sayori-san.'' Karma cracked a grin at Suguya's compliment.

''Thanks, master,'' the redhead replied.

I shook my head and took out my phone to check Karma's work. The redhead had drawn a wide arc from my chin over the bridge of my nose in dark blue and several lines lead the arc back to the middle of my cheek. He had also added a few swirls and a little ornament over my left eyebrow. It looked pretty.

''Well, doesn't look too bad, Karma. I guess I won't have to hide my face for a while.'' A thought popped up in my head. ''You're explaining that to my parents though.''

''Haha, you two are sure something,'' Sugaya laughed. ''I'll go and give Fuwa's tattoo few finishing touches.''

''Have fun,'' I wished him and Karma waved lazily.

When Koro-sensei began to draw on a knocked out Jelabitch-sensei (she had tripped on a paint tube and hit her head. Koro-sensei had assured us she wasn't injured) I was struck by the familiarity of his drawings. I didn't notice it before, but his art was like the style Yukimura-sensei had favored for her shirts.

It was simplistic and in general very dorky, which had been the theme of our former teacher's clothing style. I tried to shake it off as coincidence, but really how likely did something like that coincide? Karma wasn't there when Yukimura-sensei taught us and it seemed really paranoid when I thought about it...

Damn, I had to ask Koro-sensei myself.

When the firing started, I really had to wonder about Sugaya. He hadn't gotten the attention of our class for the mess Koro-sensei was defending himself against, despite the fact he had also played his part in it. The guy was calmly talking to Nagisa and I couldn't help but think he really had a gift for slipping out of people's notice.


So, here's the new chapter. Sayo meeting Asano, family shenanigans, basketball and henna tattoos.

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This is a picture of the henna tattoo Karma drew on Sayo's face. I had the urge to look for one. Just take out the crosses. If it doesn't work just PM me.

I wanted to fit in at least the beginning of the Takaoka arc, but everything just got longer and longer. I'm not sure how good this chapter is, since the basketball scene got a bit too long and I don't know. I felt the girls deserved also a decent match.

At least this is not four month waiting time for a new chapter, but doesn't really move the plot forward. I promise the next one will be different.

Also, THANK YOU! When I started this story I never thought it would be this well received. It was my first fic and I was 15 for crying out loud. Thank you for reading this.

This chapter was betaed by the lovely Riladell. She has an account on AO3, so check out her story. Her name is myfandomcauseshanaji. Lots of FMA.

Please review. What do you think will happen on their date?