Disclaimer: I, Joe "JS Smitty" Smith, wish to make clear that the anime/bishoujo game Shuffle! is owned by outside companies and claim no ownership of the characters herein.

SPOILER: To start, I would like to make a quick note about the series Shuffle! and the ending. First of all, was the imminent pairing of Tsuchimi Ren and Shigure Asa. Looking at it from a broad aspect, it was an abnormal choice on the part of the protagonist. Usually the character, in that situation, falls in love with either the childhood friend or someone from his childhood. For this, I commend the writers and producers of the show. She was not my first choice, but I am not Tsuchimi Rin. I do not want to spoil my fanfiction to the point of "oh so THIS is what's going to happen", I am still in the process of constructing and piecing together the rest of the story, but I implore you to enjoy my story nonetheless.

Also, for the sake of keeping characters IN character and addressing one another with proper respects, I will be using Japanese suffixes like –san, -sama, -chan, etc,. I will steer clear from other "Japanesey" terms that some authors use to try and look sophisticated (no offense to those who use it :p ).

Note: Until I figure out how to work with this infernal contraption called all scene changes will be noted by the actual words SCENE CHANGE

Shuffle! Hope

The June days were coming to an end, the summer heat was beginning to build around the country. Summer break was just around the corner, all the students could feel the tenseness in the air. Most students had a aura of satisfaction around them, final exams wouldn't prove too difficult to them and those it didn't come too that easy only worried about a few select courses. Then, of course, there were the ones who had a lot to worry about….

"Uhnnn…" Mayumi Thyme groaned as she slumped through the school doors, walking up to her locker.

"Good morning Mayumi-chan," Kaede Fuyou greeted her, the smile that everyone was accustomed to spread across her face. Following closely behind was her live-in friend Primula, and her two neighbors Lisianthus, or Sia for short, from the Realm of Gods and Nerine from the Realm of Demons.

"Good morning Mayumi-chan," Nerine and Sia said in unison, Primula repeating seconds later in her slightly-less-monotone voice.

"Sia…" Mayumi moaned, reaching out to her mahogany-haired friend, and placing both of her hands on her shoulders. "I don't think I can make it this year…" Sia smiled nervously, beads of sweat running down her head. Her face perked up as she grabbed Mayumi by the shoulders and forced a reassuring smile.

"I-It's ok Mayumi-chan! There's still two weeks left before finals, you can do it with hard work!" She said, trying her best to comfort her. It didn't seem to work, as Mayumi raised her head, tears streaming from her eyes.

"Sia-chan…" she spoke solemnly, "You'll keep me company over summer break won't you." Implying Sia's future academic downfall. Upon realizing this, Sia yelped, her hair standing on end. She swayed slightly, Mayumi's arms keeping her steady, until finally she gave up and her spirit slowly began to rise out of her body.

"Sia-san!" Nerine yelled, shaking her. Kaede quickly joined in, trying desperately to comfort the sobbing Mayumi. Through all the crying and shouting this morning was…not much unlike any other this time of year. Mayumi shrill cries of desperation at her situation, Sia's subtle other-worldly moaning, and Nerine and Kaede shouts to bring both back to reality, or life. Primula had a faint smile across her lips as she walked past the girls to her locker, slipping on her school shoes. Usually around this time, Midoriba Itsuki would pop in and say something that would require a beating, usually at the hands of Mayumi, but as it appeared today he was early…or late. Primula tapped her foot on the ground and looked towards the girls just in time to see Sia's spirit entering her body. And off in the distance…

She walked up to Kaede and tugged at her arm. Through the panic she was able to look towards the school ground entrance to the figure walking towards them, he was recognizable no matter how far away he was to her. Had this been two weeks ago this would be an enjoyable moment, no matter how common it was during the school year. But for two weeks it was painful to even look at him. Not being in the same class as him caused confusion for Kaede. Her natural instinct to love him wanted her to be near him all the time, but as of recently he would have none of that. She forced a smile and got between the other girls and the gate outside, pushing the girls inside as hard and fast as she could. Mayumi's streams of tears flowed like waterfalls as she stumbled up the stairs, Sia's shell of body following, with Nerine and Primula helping her up the stairs. Kaede smiled and waved them off, she was in Nerine and Mayumi's class so she would be with them all day, and she would see Primula and Sia during lunch and after school. But she hesitated changing shoes. She's done it every day for the past week now, always trying to force the courage to greet him when he walked through the doors. Slowly she slipped on her first shoe, as her eyes peeked around her shoulder. He walked in, a cloud of despair following him.

Today would be the day, she had taken care of him for eight years and despite all they've been through last year she still wanted to take care of him. She wanted to be there for him, she wanted to hold him in her arms until his hurt went away. She knew she let her emotions get carried away before but seeing him act like this was tearing her apart. It was simple, just turn around and say hi, she told herself. Ask how he was doing, how work was. It was obvious to anyone who didn't know him personally that he was troubled…deeply. Just turn around, she told herself. He's only a foot behind you….

'I can't…' her fear betrayed her again, holding back the tears. She looked over her other shoulder as he walked away, looking more miserable than ever.

Tsuchimi Rin…the shell of the man who was, his heart shattered into pieces.

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Unfortunately, the group that had made school history was no longer as one. They were not spread to the four corners of the school, like some, but between the six of them, Mayumi, Nerine, and Kaede were in one class, Sia, Itsuki, and Rin were in another. Her father, Maoh, knew the extent of how desperate Nerine wanted to live life as a normal teenager to become more sociable and a better wife for Rin. Sia, too, implied upon her father, Shin, almost the same thing as Nerine did to her father, but to no avail Shin stepped in, demanding that Sia be placed in the same class as her future husband. It is still unknown where Sia got the armchair to imply on Shin's forehead that she did not want that kind of extra burden, but threat of war changed the school's faculty otherwise. Kaede, Rin, and the secondary characters who serve not much more than comic relief were, like Nerine, picked by the faculty.

The school year started off much like any other, this small group whom the talk of school was for many months last year, had a difficult time saying goodbye to most of the people in their last class. Granted it wasn't a forever goodbye, but for their last year it was hard for them to part with each other just the same. Shigure Asa and Kareha, both being seniors, graduated at the end of March, and through many tears set out for their life in college. Kareha, in a matter of speaking, dropped out of sight since her college life started, her only true source of contact being Asa, who relayed the information to Rin. Asa and Rin, being in love, maintained contact and considering the distance from Rin's apartment and Asa's apartment, met with each other as often as the distance and time would allow them…at least for a while.

Rin stared blankly into the book in front of him. He could hear his teacher talking, but about what he didn't even try to distinguish. He ended up in a different class than Nadeshiko Benibara, a new teacher to Verbena High School. A foreigner, with long white hair and insanely thick glasses. He was lank, and towered over all the students when faced-to-faced with one. His appearance was…to say the least, quite odd for a teacher. For starters, it was uncommon for a foreigner to teach a subject other than English, and even that was rare. Yet a man, who looked to be in his early twenties, claiming to be from America, was speaking near-perfect Japanese and instructing classes through science and chemistry. His hair was, for a man, completely unbecoming of a teacher. Allowing it to be grown long, to mid-back height, and bleached a pale white, it was amazing that he even applied to be a high school teacher, much less be accepted. His personality wasn't much different than Nadeshiko's, Rin had noted earlier in the school year, very strict and straight-forward with a low tolerance to delinquent acts, although the punishment he used was, as a lot of the students put it, almost stereotypical. But the most oddest and queer thing about him was his glasses. They appeared to be, from the front of the class, at least two and a half inches thick. The lens themselves were pressed firmly against his eye it appeared, the eye socket at its shallowest. For some time it was believed that the frame was nothing more than mere showmanship, until he actually removed his glasses one day during class. The shocked noises of the entire class ended with everyone getting a ten-page report on the fundamentals of chemistry, and some good laughs.

Rin continued to stare deeply into his book. It wasn't interesting in the least; it just made it look like he was actually participating. He had given up on most things, school, friends, health…he was just a empty shell, who walked, and on occasion spoke. Work kept him from moving back in with Kaede and Primula, and life…life at the point was just a passing fancy. The more he tried to think about it the more it hurt him. It was better for him to just exist, living was just too painful. He would go to work, go to school, get back home, eat and sleep and have the entire cycle repeat itself. He didn't need to try hard to get passing grades, nothing close to what he was capable of, but passing nonetheless.

Anthony-sensei's lecture was just a mumble of incomprehensible words to Rin, he just did not care anymore. This is how he would live, no interruptions for the rest of his life, just living. He continued to stare into his book, lost in darkness and asleep to the world.

A sharp snort woke him up. He jumped in his seat to the ear-piercing grunt behind him, grabbing the attention of several students around him, not including the teacher, thank goodness. He looked behind him to the demon spread contently over his desk, a stream of drool running down his cheek from his big, goofy grin. The students around Rin slowly turned their attention back to the front of the class, Anthony-sensei almost completely lost in his lecture, very passionate about his own scientific theories. Rin stared grimly at the demon behind him.

Rin didn't remember much about this kid. He transferred into this school about a week ago, much to the dismay of Itsuki. His name escaped Rin, not that he would have cared at this time. The demon mumbled and his mouth twisted, still contorted into a wide grin but adjusting at different shapes. Rin blinked, uncaring, and also faced the front of the class, still looking like a fresh zombie. But in the midst of all this, a small thought passed through Rin's mind.

"That doesn't sound like a bad idea…" he thought to himself as his eyes slowly began to close.

Sia watched with a worried expression from the other end of the room. Rin was in the row next to the door, Sia being a couple seats behind him a row away from the window. Even after all that happened, through thick and thin, Sia had loved Rin. She loved him no less than when she first met him, and it would be ages before she would love him less. She was, in so few a words, content with loving him without having the feelings returned. But where she used to be able to love him, and be with him, it was excruciating to love him from afar. Asa-sempai broke his heart, some way, some how. After all he'd done for her, through all the good times she had with him and everyone else, she broke his heart. And Sia, either of them, deep down would never forgive her. She watched, painfully, as Rin's eyes slowly shut tight, and became dead to the world

-----------------

Rin began to dream. It had been a while since he'd dream before. Unfortunately, his dreams weren't pleasant. This would prove to be no different.

He was on a cliff, overlooking the entire city. In the distance he could see his school, Kaede's house, even his soon-to-be apartment. He was talking, although the words were undistinguishable. He could almost feel the wind as it blew through his hair, causing it to sway. He looked over to his right, and there she was.

What made her so special? More special than any of the other girls in his life? She just was. It was a matter of opinion if she was more beautiful than the other girls, or had a more pleasurable personality. But to Rin she was everything to him.

Shigure Asa. Just the sight of her in his dreams wanted to make him cry. He remembered everything about her, her beautiful green hair, her slender figure, and her mouth that he loved to kiss….

She was listening solemnly to Rin, the Rin that was in his dreams. Immediately he knew what this was, where he was, when he was. This was the day he confessed his love to her.

"But I didn't know what happened between you two and I really wanted to know" Asa said to Rin as she leaned back on the railing overlooking the city. She looked at Rin. "I'm so sorry."

"It's ok," Rin replied. He began to walk towards her, closer towards the railing of the city. "I wanted you to know too."

"You did?" She asked. "Why?"

"Well," Rin said, contemplating his answer, "I think it's for the same reason you wanted to hear it." Upon hearing this, Asa's face quickly became red, her eyes widening as she stared at Rin.

"Oh, your face is turning red," he noted, poking fun at her.

"It's nothing," she quickly replied, turning away from him. "Anyway," she said, trying to change the subject, "why did you come to my house and ask me to go for a walk? Did you need to talk to me?"

"Yes…" Rin answered, "I told Kaede about you." Referring to the occurrences that had happened earlier that day, ones that the Rin that watched this scene remembered all too well. "I haven't told her directly before. And it's not just her…I've never told you either." Rin spoke with astute confidence, as he gazed upon Asa's face, which had become even redder than before. Rin remembered that day, had his heart not been beating so hard, he would have sworn that he had heard Asa's. He walked up to her, standing no more than a foot away from her. "Asa-sempai…. As a man, I swear, more than anybody else, I love you."

Rin and Asa stared at each other for, to Rin, which seemed like eternity. Finally, Rin spoke, not asking, but saying, "Please go out with me."

Asa looked down to the ground, then away to the side. Rin felt his heart skip a beat, after all this was he going to be turned down?

"Asa-sempai?"

She turned around, looking over the city, and spoke, "About your story earlier…how Kaede hated you and you suffered so much…wasn't it hard?"

Rin smiled, and looked out towards the city as well, "I'd be lying if I said no. But I only wanted to protect Kaede."

"No matter how bad she treated you?" Asa asked.

"The only good thing about me is that I'm tolerant," he replied, half-joking.

"You're strong," Asa said.

"That's not true."

Asa disagreed, "You are, just as much as her."

"As her?" Rin asked with slight confusion.

"She sacrificed herself. She endured being treated to and spoken to harshly, and yet she kept protecting her only child." Rin gasped, he remembered Asa speaking earlier about this to him, how when she was younger she had treated her own mother badly, because Asa was so sick most of the time. She turned to him, getting closer, "So, are you going to protect me?" She looked at him, the sun shining brilliantly in her eyes, "Just like the person who I admire the most in this world?"

Rin turned to face her, and spoke with extreme confidence, "I will, no matter what."

Asa smile was so bright, so beautiful, it overshadowed the redness of her cheeks, "You were cool just now. It made me feel a little fuzzy inside." She stared longingly into his eyes, "So, this is the answer to your question," she said, as her hand reached up to touch his face, and she leaned ever closer in, closing her eyes. Rin closed his eyes too, heart pounding, as this was something he longed awaited….

Nothing came. Rin opened his eyes, he was enveloped in darkness. He looked around, Asa was gone, the city was gone, the beautiful cliff was gone.

"Asa?" he called out. There was no reply, he knew there wouldn't be a reply. He stood in darkness, he'd been in darkness the past two weeks, he was used to it. At least he thought he was.

"Asa-san?! Why?! Why?!" He heard his own voice call out from the darkness.

"Rin-san…please don't make this any harder than what it is…" Asa's voice. This was similar to two weeks ago, no, this exactly was two weeks ago. Rin muttered something, desperately holding back the tears in his eyes.

"I don't understand…! Asa-san I don't understand!" His voice echoed through the darkness again. Rin clung to his ears, desperately trying to block out his and Asa's voices around him. He crouched down, his hands still wrapped around his ears. Not that it mattered, he still heard every word clearly.

"I have to go Rin…. Please…please take…" Asa cut herself off. Was it painful to her to finish that or did she think it would be too painful to him, Rin couldn't tell. He just wanted an answer, but he didn't deserve that much. He couldn't contain his tears anymore.

"Asa-san!" His voice screamed out, "Asa-san!!!" His own voice echoed around him, and in his mind. The tears began to slowly come out, creating a thin waterfall running down his cheeks.

"Asa-san…" he barely whispered, "Why…?" He began to tremble, "Why…?"

He sat in darkness for eternity. He was tired of this pain, he was tired of living, he wanted it all to end.

For minutes all he could hear was his own painful, subdued cries. In complete silence, it was deafening.

"Rin-chan…" a gentle voice called out to him. He barely heard it, but was too absorbed in his own self-pity. It called out again, "Rin-chan…"

Rin raised his head, the tears having yet to stop, "Wh-wha…?"

In the darkness, a hand reached out from behind him, gently touching his hair. The salty water running down his face immediately stopped, his eyes widening to this comforting sensation on his face.

"Rin-chan…" the harmonious voice called out again, as the hand slowly moved from his hair, around his ear and to his cheek. The voice was so familiar…so comforting…Rin felt his heart slowly come back to life, as he let his head fall gently into the hand that caressed his face.

"It's ok Rin-chan," the voice told him, he felt a slight breath upon his ear lobe, as it continued to reassure him that, it was indeed, ok. For a moment, a passing moment, he believed this voice…

---------------------

"Rin-chan…!" The voice rang out throughout the classroom. The eyes of everyone, not including the teacher, were focused on the spectacle spread out before them. Rin, in a daze, had been subjugated to the slumber assault of the new transfer student. "Rin-chan…!" He called out again, as he pulled Rin closer to him as he whispered in his ear. "It's ok Rin, it's ok, just relax. This is just natural human bonding." The new student, a huge grin on his face but his eyes still closed, lost in dreamland, pulled Rin in and blew into his ear.

The entire classroom gasped at this, the teacher's chalk making unrecognizable noises and drawings as it was slowly and forcibly pushed against the blackboard. The students reactions were mixed, most of the guys in the class had huge beads of sweat running down their face and head, whilst most of the girls had a faint blush around their cheeks as Rin was being molested by this new student, who was also whispering dirty things, loudly, into his ear.

Rin's eyes slowly opened, blinking several times. He knew he had probably whimpered loudly, or said Asa's name loud enough for others to here, but…why could he still feel the hand on his….

"What are you doing?!" He yelled, nearly jumping out of his seat. The new guy didn't wake up, instead getting closer to Rin.

"Eh eh Rin-chan, don't be like that," he wrapped his other arm around him, locking his arms around his necks. And much to Rin's dismay, he had a deathlock grip. The new students face was still froze in a big grin, as he rubbed Rin's hair and cheek.

"Let go of me!" Rin yelled, trying desperately in vain to unlock his arms around his neck.

"You're so shy Rin-chan," the new student said loudly, and with a big smile, "Ahhn…" bit down gently on Rin's earlobe.

"EYEAAH!" was the general reaction from the whole classroom. Men looked on in disgust, women squealed, all's faces were red as the sun. Sia in the back had lost it, steam rising from her collapsed body from watching this.

Rin felt the teeth and the lips, and he felt his entire back tremble. His face red as well, turned around and slammed his palm into the guy's face and pushed as hard as he could. Aside from the grunting from Rin and the demon, two different kinds, the only noise distinguishable was the screech of the chalk being dragged along the chalkboard.

The demon kid's eye, his left one considering his right one was scrunched up with the rest of his face, slowly opened, blinking a couple times, then turned his head to face who he thought was Rin-chan.

"You're not Rin!" He yelled, embarrassed beyond reason.

"Yes I am!" Rin yelled back equally embarrassed.

"ENOUGH!" came a loud, commanding voice from the front of the class. The two's epic struggle halted for a second, for a black flash with a whitish tint appeared before both of their eyes. Rin noticed a puff of smoke…? No, chalk dust he surmised, as he looked back to his assaulter to see an eraser embedded firmly in the center of his face. The following event, to Rin at least, seemed overly dramatic as he flew off Rin's body, almost hovering in the air for a split second before crashing to the ground in a mess of limbs and desk pieces. Silence hung over the entire classroom as half of the class was focused on the lump lay spread out over the floor, the other half gazing at the monstrous form that had thrown the eraser at the front of class, holding a half-inch piece of chalk in his hand. The students also took notice to the large, white, jagged line running diagonally down the chalk board.

The teacher, Anthony, was almost foaming from the mouth. One disruptive student was one thing, but two stretched him to his limit. He was ready to snap and the whole class knew.

"Tsuchimi Rin! Ichigo Watanabe! Go stand in the hall! And meet me after class!" He yelled with ferocity.

"Y-Yes sensei!" Rin yelled, immediately standing up, face still red with embarrassment, and stiffly walked towards the door. Watanabe, his leg raised high in the air, twitching, was still silent.

"Watanabe-kun!" Anthony yelled yet again. In a flash the demon, Watanabe, stood up, flinging chair and desk aside. He stood erect in front of his teacher, mockingly at attention, and saluted Anthony with his left hand.

"Yes! Tony-sensei!" He yelled with sarcastic seriousness.

Anthony glared daggers at Watanabe, "Toe…ni…sen…say…." It could have been the "pop" of the tiny piece of chalk he held in his hand, or a blood clot exploding in his head, but no matter what, what was left of his patience shattered.

--------------------

"Ha ha ha!" Watanabe guffawed loudly as he stood out in the hall, a pail of water in each hand, "What an archaic form of punishment!" A big grin on his face, he continued to laugh to himself.

Rin, with a nervous looked, glanced over this demon. At first glance, he wasn't much different then most demons that had come through to this world. About Rin's size, a little larger, his ears stuck straight out from his head like most demons, instead of running alongside his head like those of the gods, and were much larger in size and dimension than human or god. His face was rounded, but not large by any stretch of the imagination. His hair was short, spiked wildly up and back and had an auburn tint to it. His eyes were odd, they reminded Rin of Mayumi's eyes, technically the same color just a different shade in each eye. Whereas Mayumi's eyes were more lavender, this demon's was red.

"Kind of cliché eyes" Rin thought to himself, reminded of the fantasy stories were demons were once regarded as evil spirits. The following sensation washed over him like a tidal wave, that feeling of helplessness. For a brief few moments Rin had snapped out of his zombie like stage, but that was all over now as any life in his eyes were immediately lost. He stared blankly at his feet, almost forgetting the events that happened moments ago.

"What's your name?" Watanabe said, breaking Rin out of his trance. Rin looked up to him, an almost indifferent look covering his face. Rin noted one thing, no matter what, this guy loved to smile.

"R-Rin…Tsuchimi Rin." He said in a mellow tone. Watanabe's smile disappeared, as he stared curiously into Rin's face. Rin could actual see his face turning red as he gasped loudly, bringing his hand still holding the pail to his mouth.

"Ahhh! How embarrassing!" He shouted, bowing, "I'm soooooooo sorry!"

A bead of sweat ran down Rin's face, "Ehh…"

"It's just that Tony-sensei's class is so boring and I get so tired listening to him ramble on about differentials and excavations and other stuff that I just can't help but go to sleep." Rin tried to speak again, but Watanabe stood immediately up again a smile returning to his face, raising his hand next to his face and waving it splashing water around the place, "Hahaha, but who would've thought that the person I molested turned out to be a Rin-chan as well?!"

"Eh…yeah…that's something…um…" Rin stumbled over his words, he just wanted whoever this guy was to shut up. But the demon in front of him pouted, and pointed to his face still splashing water over himself and Rin.

"Watanabe. Wa-ta-na-bay. Remember that."

Rin blinked, thinking what a…common but unusual name that was. It sounded like a surname. But he nodded, empathetically, "Mm…"

Watanabe stared at him for a second, than smiled again and faced back to the other wall of the hall. "Good." He stretched, raising his hands and pails high in the air, spreading more water over the floor. Rin dodged the splash of water that headed his way, but glanced at Watanabe with an uninterested look, then continued to look at the floor. Silence spread over the halls for a few minutes, Rin once again zombified and Watanabe stretching his hand high above his head.

"I bet you want to know who my Rin-chan was, eh Rin-chan?" Watanabe broke the silence.

"Eh?" Rin said in surprise, that name hurt him, "Don't call me Rin-chan."

"Ah sorry sorry," Watanabe apologized, "Well…I KNOW you want to know but…" He turned to Rin, smiling, and waving his index finger in his face, "That. Is. A. Secret."

For a brief second, Rin began to feel an emotion return…annoyance.

-----------------------

It was that time of day again, the time for lovers to snuggle under trees and on benches, the time of day that allowed students to take a break from the hassle of classes…lunch.

To Rin, however, this was just another hour of pain. Although his heart wanted only one thing, his body still demanded physical needs. For a couple months he had survived lunch through Asa, Sia, Kaede, and Nerine's lunch, but for two weeks…anything from his past was painful to him, he just couldn't deal with it right now. He sat down, a plain bowl of regular ramen noodles and some curry bread. This would prove more than enough to get him through until dinner, taste and nutrition were at the bottom of this list, he just wanted his stomach to shut up.

He stared into his noodles. For a brief second he thought he saw Asa's image floating in the broth. But it was a passing moment, and he grabbed his chopsticks sitting next to him.

"Yo!" an annoying familiar voice called to him. Rin looked up from his ramen, to see the slender form of Watanabe standing before him, smiling. "Wat iz up?" Watanabe said in broken English. Rin just stared at him, and continued to eat his meal.

"Hey now, are you still mad from earlier? Oh, I know! You're mad because I won't tell you who MY Rin-chan is, well you'll have to tough it out cause you never gonna find out," Watanabe said with extreme confidence, Rin continued to be blank, praying that this pest would be gone soon. He would not have such luck.

"Oh, do you know that cute god in the back of our class, the one with the reddish hair and the big brown eyes with the perfect chest? She kept staring at you, I think she likes you why don't you ask her out?" Rin took in a big gulp of noodles, "Rin-san…you awake?"

Rin set his chopsticks down and pushed away from the table, Watanabe began to pout and glared at Rin.

"You're no fun," and with that, he reached out and grabbed both Rin's bread and noodles."

"Hey!" Rin yelled in surprise reaching out for his food, but Watanabe had it tucked firmly under his arms. "Give that back! I'm hungry."

"Smile." Watanabe blurted out. Rin reeled back in shock.

"W-Wha…?"

"You don't get this back to you smile," Watanabe told him again, his face still pouting, "I don't know what I did wrong but I'm gonna get you to smile one way or another…"

Rin was furious! How dare this stranger assume that the cause of all this pain was he! How dare he force himself to be happy! And by such a…ridiculous method! Rin's face began to turn red again, the feeling of bloodlust rushing to his head.

"Smile…" Watanabe said seriously, then broke out into a big smile, "Or try and take it from me."

Rin could feel the blood vessels in his forehead about ready to burst. This nobody just smiled at him as though nothing were wrong.

"Hee…"

Moments later, the sound of running filled the halls of Verbena High School, as a human chased a demon carrying a bowl around the entire school.

"Give that back!" Rin yelled at him. Watanabe didn't answer, instead running down the hall yelling "Wheee!" at a high-pitched voice. Rin, in his anger, found it amazing that this guy could run so fast, while carrying an almost full bowl of ramen at that. As he rounded a corner, he slipped and for a brief moment Rin thought this was it. He'd go crashing into the wall or the ramen would go flying, then he'd have him. But with minor spillage, Watanabe regained his composure and, although losing some ground to Rin, continued on his way, laughing.

"Think you can catch me Rin-kun?!" He yelled ecstatically, "I hold the Fukuruba High School record of the 'Curry Bowl Race'!" He laughed mockingly at him, "Just try and catch me!"

One more corner, Rin was beginning to lose steam. After noticing how wide Watanabe took corners, he resorted to a final sprint and cut off, hoping to catch him on this corner. Watanabe did indeed take the corner wide again, and Rin gave it all he got. He was further ahead than he thought, with arms outstretched, fingers length…he had him!

"W-What?!" Rin yelled, as Watanabe soared over Rin's head, a look of apathetic interest gazing down on his face. As if in slow motion, Rin's head followed Watanabe, legs spread wide, who flew over Ren and landed gracefully.

"Shit, the wall!" Rin thought, and immediately braced for impact. He threw his shoulder forward, and had that impact most of the wall. He was still running at full speed, and hit the wall awfully hard. He bounced off and rolled down to the floor, landing with a thump.

Watanabe had yet to recover from his jump, and with little grace, twirled around trying to regain his composure, as he yelled "Rin-san!" Much to his avail, he did not see Anthony and Nadeshiko walking side by side to down the same hall. To add to his dismay, he forgot about the bowl of warm ramen he held in his hands.

Nadeshiko got the bulk of the food on her face and clothes, that of course is not to say Anthony didn't receive a large portion as well, including the bowl planted gracefully around the entirety of his face. Time froze for second, the bowl slowly sliding off Anthony's face and landing on the floor, the thud and rolling of the bowl creating a deafening noise.

Watanabe could see the flames of hell rising behind Anthony's back, his face looking directly at the floor and his silky white hair beginning to stand on end. No. Each strand of hair itself was coming to life, coming to life with an evil spirit of vengeance and hatred. Watanabe lost all color in his face, as his body shrunk down and trembled at the sight of a true demon in front of him.

Nadeshiko went for a different look. Unlike Anthony, who used dramatic effects of hellfire to express his anger, Nadeshiko was a silent angry. Her face contorted in a desperate attempt to not show her hideous side. Her eyes burned with evil, the veins in her forehead at full throttle. In some ways, she was more frightening than Anthony.

"I'll take the stupid one." Anthony said in a low demonic voice.

"I'll take the lazy one." Nadeshiko replied.

Watanabe's eyes lost their color, his pure-white face frozen in a look of terror as Anthony got closer to him. A faint scream escaped his lips.

Nadeshiko walked slowly up to Rin, her heels louder than the screams of pain coming from behind her. She bent at the waist and stared directly into Rin's face, who was still squirming with pain.

"Tsuchi…" she said in a low, threatening voice. Rin glanced quickly at her, his face scrunched with pain, then immediately turned away in a huff.

This was different from the regular Rin Nadeshiko was used to. The Rin that was under Nadeshiko's tutorage last year was…not really submissive as much as respectful to his superiors. This Rin was different, this Rin didn't care about anything.

"Tsuchimi Rin," she said with more anger in her voice. Still, Rin didn't look at her, he looked away, hurt in his face.

"Nadeshiko-sensei…" came a weak, defeated voice from behind her. She turned around to see Watanabe, slightly beaten up, dangling precariously from the back of his uniform at Anthony's hand. With a defeated and almost saddened voice, "Nadeshiko-sensei…Tsuchi didn't do anything wrong. I provoked him and took it too far." He turned slightly to the right, "Don't punish him sensei…" he turned to the left, "I'll take all the blame."

Nadeshiko stared at Watanabe, who's defeated face twisted with his body as he was held a foot off the ground. She glanced back down at Rin, who still looked away from her, holding his shoulder. She sighed, standing upright.

"Tsuchi, go to the nurses' office and get your shoulder looked at," she continued to look at him, his face without noticed changing back to his recent, uncaring zombified look it was.

"I understand," he said softly, as he got up only using his legs, leaned against the wall and began to walk away.

"Rin-kun…" that same annoying voice called to him, Rin looked over to see Watanabe digging into his pockets. He pulled out some paper yen and what looked like a crumbled curry bread, "The bread's still good, but it's a little smushed. I'm sorry I ruined your lunch Rin-kun, I was only trying to get you to laugh."

Rin stared at him for a moment, taking in the pieces of bread and crumbled pieces of paper in his hand. But he didn't care. He turned and continued to walk away from the three. He continued down the hall to the nurses' office, ignoring the pleas of mercy from Watanabe to his captors.

-----------------------------

Rin stared into his bowl of rice that had been sitting there for 20 minutes. He couldn't bring himself to eat it. For some reason, the rice that Asa had made for him was just so much better. What he had was the same brand, the same grain, the exact same kind of rice that he would eat with Asa. Yet it wasn't. It was awful. Everything lost its taste, it was just as well he ate dirt.

"Asa-san! How are you?! I haven't talked to you in a while…I've missed you."

"…"

Rin got up and walked to the TV. He didn't turn it on, just stared blankly at the dead screen. He wanted to turn off, he thought. He wanted to be like this TV. Just have someone come and turn him off. Maybe he would short circuit soon.

"Ahh…I'm sorry, you've probably been busy. Finals are coming up soon for you aren't they? They're still about a month away for me. But hey, we have all summer to spend time together!"

"…"

He picked up the bowl of rice and headed over to the garbage can. He wasn't that hungry. He turned the bowl over, and grain by grain the rice spilled out. He stood still for a moment, waiting for every last grain to drop out of the bowl.

"Kaede and the others are wondering about you, they haven't seen you in a while either. Oh yeah, Nerine-san wanted me to ask you how Kareha-sempai was doing…Asa-san?"

"…"

A few grains stuck to the bottom of the bowl. It wouldn't matter. He hadn't done dishes in days. One more wouldn't matter. He dropped the bowl into the full sink and walked away. Seven o'clock. He could stay up for a couple more hours, but doing what? Suffer? He crawled into bed, the darkness surrounding his entire apartment just getting darker.

"Asa-san…what's wrong…?"

"…Rin-san…I need to talk to you…"

Rin pulled the blanket over his head. Maybe I won't wake up tomorrow was his last thought before shutting his eyes.

END

Writers Block

Once again I apologize for taking so long, filler is an aspect I still have to work on, and although I don't consider this a "filler" chapter, a lot of it was not contemplated and thus wasn't as good as my original chapters has been.

Also, I am looking for a proofreader for my fanfiction, in particular Shuffle!Hope. If anyone is interested I would love to hear from you through e-mail only please. Requirements include being completely subjective, an open mind yet possess the ability to be very critical if need be. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, proper word usage is among a few things I look for, the rest include attention to story detail, character development, and above all else make sure to keep my OC's in check. I fear that people read the first chapter and go "new character, I'm leaving" and with the recent development of poor OC's it's understandable. Still, I want Anthony and Watanabe to not take away from the main characters, yet at the same time add an aspect to the Shuffle! story that was not prevalent in the anime. Not making it better, but continuing the story for you, the reader, in one of an infinite number of possibilities, so above all else you have to look at the OC's in a negative light and make sure they do not take away from the main characters. Pay involved my gratitude and the reward of seeing how the story progresses before anyone else (except me).

And as a final note, I wish to let everyone know that if you, the reader, find something that you do not like, you do like, you want change, you want to see happen, please let me know. Although I am very critical of my work I love to hear what people think about it, whether it be bad or good, everything can be used to further improve this story. I have not given up on it, and I will make sure it will finish.

I hope everyone looks forward to the next installment of Shuffle! Hope, as it should be out soon enough. I receive any and all criticism, as it is not an insult to my character rather than it is an opportunity for me to expand and build, becoming better as I write. I love to write, I wish I wrote more. Have fun reading future installments of Shuffle! Hope, I know I'll have fun writing them. :)