It was summer, and Ken Amada was in agony.
What could be worse, Ken wondered, than being stuck inside on a gorgeous day alone.
Well, almost alone.
Sanada-san was at the gym, Fuuka and Yukari were at the shrine with Koromaru paying their respects to Koromaru's fallen master, while Junpei and Minato were at the arcade with Aigis, probably having a blast introducing her to the joys of whack-a-mole. Ken wasn't particularly enthused by the arcade, but he did get some enjoyment out of it, so he didn't feel too bad being left out of the activities of his mentors, but still. . . he wish he could be out doing something productive. Ken would have gone out on his own, but Ikutsuki had strongly advised him to stay with one of his teammates at all times. Like he needed to be babysat. At this point, while he was still getting to know everyone, he had no choice but to follow orders.
There was one option, and it was sitting downstairs in the lounge reading a book.
Ken took a deep breath before quietly taking a trip down the stairs and slowly walked down the hallway, trying to think of what to say. "Will you play with me?" Ken thought over, mockingly. This was absurd, the whole notion of requesting a companion. Ken was perfectly able to walk himself to the park and amuse himself as he saw fit, he certainly didn't need a guide or a chaperone.
He coyly stepped into the main lounge and took a large gulp as he looked over at Kirijo-san, who was sitting quaintly in the chair closest to the dorm entrance. She had her legs crossed in a businesslike fashion, with the book spread open gracefully before her eyes. It did not appear as though she had noticed Ken, so he took a few tentative steps toward her.
Mitsuru softly looked over her book as she saw Amada's flushed and downcast face, and she cordially smiled at him and lowered her book.
He raised his eyes momentarily at her and then nodded.
"Hello, Kirijo-san." he murmured softly.
Mitsuru waited for him to speak further, and when he did not she scrunched her forehead slightly.
"Are you all right, Amada?" she asked concerned, closing her book and putting it down on the coffee table.
Ken nodded, a little too energetically.
"Um, I. . . I was wondering if you. . ." Ken twisted his feet on the ground, smashing a bit of nothing further into the floor.
Mitsuru raised her eyebrows, patiently waiting for him to finish.
"I was wondering if you'd go to the park with me." He blurted out, feeling immensely better that it finally had gotten out but feeling really stupid for saying it so ungracefully.
Mitsuru was looking at him, as though that were the most shocking thing a young boy could say to her.
"Oh. . . I. . ." she choked. Obviously, she was caught off guard as indicated by her cheeks turning a red that put her hair to shame.
Ken felt mortified at her reaction.
"It's okay if you can't- I mean, no big deal-" he said quickly, waving his hands defensively in front of him.
Mitsuru looked at Ken helplessly.
"I believe Takeba and Yamagishi will be back soon-" she offered pathetically.
"Right. Of course. Sure. I can wait." Ken nodded, his eyes resorting back to the sanctuary-like sight of his feet.
He heard her sigh.
"Amada. . . I'm sorry. How terrible of me. Of course, I will go to the park with you." She said bravely, uncrossing her legs and standing up and resuming her intimidating stance. Ken looked up at her with wide eyes, not so sure he wanted to go anymore.
Mitsuru smiled unsurely.
Ken watched with pure amazement as Mitsuru pulled around the corner in her bike, looking sharper and scarier than ever. He swallowed down his nagging fear as she and the powerful motorcycle stopped before him. Mitsuru leaned down, picked up a helmet, and offered it casually to Ken. Ken took it, trying to hide the merciless shaking of his hands. If she noticed it, she didn't say anything or was nice enough to pretend not to see it. Ken wasn't scared about being killed on the bike or even being so close next to Mitsuru (she's just a girl). He was just nervous because he had never done it before and he didn't want to look stupid in front of one of his leaders.
"Amada?" Mitsuru's voice startled Ken, and he clutched the helmet a little closer.
Ken awkwardly stradled the motrobike, secretly thanking Mitsuru for keeping the bike steady but not trying to fuss over him safely getting on.
"Ready?" Mitsuru asked, revving the engine.
"Amada?" she asked again, turning around slightly.
"Oh. I guess you didn't hear my nod." Amada laughed nervously.
Mitsuru startled him when she laughed lightly too. A very pretty laugh, Amada noticed.
"You're going to have to hold on a little more tightly."
Ken reached around Mitsuru's thin waist and hugged her as tightly as he could.
"Good." She went to lift her feet up and remove the security of the kickstand when Ken pressed his head against her back.
"Kirijo-san?!" Ken yelped suddenly.
"Yes?" she replied.
"What do I do?!"
Mitsuru gave a faint smile that Amada couldn't see.
"Just lean into the turns with me; Let me handle the rest, all right?"
Without another word, Mitsuru flipped the kickstand and the motorcycle lept forward, causing Ken to grip Mitsuru's waist a little tighter.
Together, they flew through the streets of Port Island; hugging turns, dodging and spinning around slower traffic, and feeling free and unrestrained.
Ken's initial apprehension took off with the jump of the wheel, and from the dorm to the park he felt nothing but unbridled glee at being seated behind Kirijo-san and zipping effortlessly through the streets.
They arrived safely at the park, and after Mitsuru tenderly parked her bike, she and Ken began walking around the rim of the large park. Ken had been here many a time, mostly to walk around and clear his mind, so he knew the general layout enough to lead a somewhat dazed Mitsuru Kirijo around its premises.
"The dynamics of this park are quite eloquent. The urban planners are to be commended for their choice of trees and emphasis on walkability."
"It's a nice park. Lots of people come here just for a break, you know?"
As they continued around the park, they came upon a playground. Mitsuru stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and appeared to be analyzing the different structures. Her eyes settled on the swings.
"Strange," she murmured to herself. "such small and simple equipment brings so much joy to so many."
Ken knew she was talking to herself, but he agreed with her. He never understood the amusement of the other children when they were frolicking on slides and climbing walls. He preferred to read during his breaks, but couldn't help but feel a tingle of envy when he saw the other children mindlessly enjoying himselves.
Ken noticed Mitsuru was still looking at the swings.
"Do you want to swing, Kirijo-san?" He asked meekly.
Mitsuru looked down and over at Ken with wide eyes.
"I. . . I beg your pardon?"
"Would you like to swing?"
Mitsuru shook her head energetically.
"I- I'm much too big. . . I'd look ridiculous. . . I'm too old-"
Ken acknowledged her with a few quick nods.
"Oh, Amada, how selfish of me. Did you want to-"
"No, no! It's okay, you just were looking at them like you wanted to."
Mitsuru cast her eyes downward.
"I guess I was just remembering. . . my father and I would. . ." Mitsuru purposely cut herself short.
"My mom used to push me on the swings too." he said, looking down at the ground nostalgically. He did not notice the flash of guilt that momentarily clouded Mitsuru's eyes. There was a tight silence between them and Mitsuru folded her arms thoughtfully.
"Amada. . . let's. . . let's swing."
Ken looked up at her incredulously, wondering if aliens had abducted her, eaten her brain, and replaced it with someone else's. Mitsuru Kirijo wanted to swing?
"You- You really want to?"
Mitsuru nodded confidently.
"Absolutely. Besides – there aren't many people here anyway. . . and even if they do laugh at me, I don't mind." Mitsuru flashed a smile down at Ken and he returned the happy smile.
After they had spent a few minutes swinging together, Ken bailed out and started pushing Mitsuru.
"C'mon, Kirijo-san, you can go higher than that!" Ken teased.
Mitsuru laughed as Ken gave her back another shove and she pumped her legs to soar higher. "I'm going as high as I can!" she said back.
Ken shook his head. "I bet you can fly right over the bar and wind back around!"
Mitsuru laughed again at this ridiculous notion.
"The way you say it, I'm sure I could, Amada!"
Mitsuru pumped her way so that her head was almost level with the bar.
"Now, jump out!"
"What?!" Mitsuru screamed back at Amada behind her, who gave her another hard shove.
"I don't remember this requirement being enforced when-"
"Just do it!" Ken ordered.
Mitsuru held her breath and clenched her eyes shut and then catapulted herself forward off of the safety of her swing's seat and, just like a feline, landed square on her feet in in the thick of surrounding sand.
Ken looked at her wide-eyed and mouth agape.
"Wow! In those shoes too! You're amazing, Kirijo-san!"
Mitsuru blushed modestly.
"Would you like to keep swinging?"
"Nah, I think I'm kind of done for today."
"Shall we walk around a bit more?"
Ken was about to answer her when he saw a brightly colored cart out of the corner of his eye.
"Hey!" he said, smiling and pointing to the cart. "Shaved ice!"
Mitsuru looked at him with mild suprise. This abnormally mature elementary aged boy was showing a few signs of being a real child. It was reassuring to Mitsuru, she had to admit. She watched him sometimes around the dorm, mulling over books with a serious expression or petting Koromaru's fur thoughtfully. He reminded her-
Mitsuru's thoughts were sharply interrupted by the blurred movement of Ken, now quite a distance away from Mitsuru, who was running toward the vendor. Mitsuru's leadership accountability and protective nature kicked in and she took off after Amada.
"Amada!" she yelled, chasing after the to the swift boy.
She caught up to him in time to hear him ordering a commodity from the vendor.
"One medium wedding cake, please." Ken said, his chin barely reaching the counter of the small cart. Mitsuru, who was still slightly winded, looked at him bewildered.
"Wedding cake!? Amada-"
Ken shook his head at her and laughed lightly.
"It's a flavor. What would you like, Kirijo-san?"
Mitsuru looked relieved. "I'm fine, thank you," she replied crisply.
"Haven't you had shaved ice before?" Ken asked, suddenly feeling much more like a child now.
Mitsuru looked at him as though he were speaking some strange dialect.
"No. . ."
Ken sighed laboriously, and pulled Mitsuru over so that she could see the flavors. He watched her read through the list of flavors, her expression becoming increasingly confused as she perused the different varieties.
"Crazy coconut. . . Wacky Watermelon. . . does that. . . does that say Tiger's Blood?" She looked at the vendor abhorringly. "Why- the audacity! Poaching a wild animal and selling its blood as a flavor to-"
Ken could not keep his laughter in any more, and leaned over as he clutched his stomach from laughing so hard. Mitsuru looked at him scathingly.
"Amada, please, I'm trying to talk to-"
"No, Kirijo-san, it's just a name! It's not literal."
Ken wiped a tear away from his eye and scooted up to the counter. "-one Tiger's Blood, please." Ken asked, trying not to laugh at the shaking vendor.
Mitsuru gave a stiff nod to the man behind the counter.
"I see. I apologize."
Ken smiled gratefully at the vendor when the latter finished up serving them their shaved ice. Ken paid him and then led Mitsuru over to a nearby bench.
"I haven't had one of these in so long!" he said happily as Mitsuru took a seat next to him.
"Here you go," Ken said handing Mitsuru a cup of red colored shaved ice and a spoon. Mitsuru looked down at the shaved ice with an expression resembling simultaneous intrigue and doubt. She tentatively poked the pile of ice and syrup with her spoon before scooping a small bit unto her spoon.
Ken watched her in anticipation as she gingerly put the spoon in her mouth.
Her face relaxed in shock.
"Well?" Amada said, wincing slightly.
"It's exquisite!" she profused leaning over to Amada as though it were a revelation to the human race.
Ken smiled laughingly.
"The flavor. . . It's intricate and simple at the same time- how fascinating!" Mitsuru couldn't seem to keep her enthusiasm contained.
Ken was looking at Mitsuru as if he was meeting her for the first time. The smile on her face was pure ecstacy. The fact that a simple shaved ice could bring such happiness to one who appeared so stern and cold brought Ken to the realization that he hadn't known who his mysterious leader was at all before today. Now, he had been honored with a rare glimpse into her soul.
"I'm glad you like it." Ken said simply.
Mitsuru looked to him softly.
"Yes. Thank-you, Amada." She said sincerely.
They finished their shaved ice just as the sun was going down. When Mitsuru suggested they head back to the dormitory, Ken agreed and was happy to be back on the bike.
When they arrived back at the dorm, Ken watched Mitsuru put away her bike and walked back up to the front entrance of the dorm.
"Kirijo-san?" Ken said softly as Mitsuru put her hand on the door. Mitsuru looked to him inquiringly.
"Thanks. . . for today, I mean. I'm glad we went." Ken said, blushing slightly.
Mitsuru nodded, hiding a smile.
"Of course, and thank you, Amada. I always enjoy a new experience, especially when it's with a good friend."
Ken looked at her, not quite believing what he had just heard but glowing with happiness all the same.
Mitsuru moved to enter the dorm, but turned back to Ken once more.
"Please refer to me as 'senpai' from now on."
"Thanks. . . Mitsuru-senpai."
Mitsuru gave a formal nod before opening the door for Ken and then following him inside.