I am taking a yakuza plot point out of the story line just for the sake of the flow. I might share with you guys later what that particular plot point was, but for now, know that the overall ending and other parts of the story are still intact without it. Sucks to have to remove after thinking about it for so long but honestly, I figured that it doesn't do much for the flow of the story or development and that I should more precious chapters building up to more important points of the story.

Counting the Differences

Chapter Twenty-One: Bow to Beg

Davina ventured off into the ground floor restrooms to check her appearance before braving the inevitable wrath of her parents. They had just dialed her and again straight to voicemail, but she couldn't bear to answer so close to the flat. She fixed her smudgy makeup and checked her breath. Under the harsh incandescent light, her skin was dull and the area under her eyes was dark, however, she was too tired to bother.

The elevator ride upstairs was prompt; quicker than she had hoped. She had zero idea of how she was going to explain. How did the party girls at her school face their parents on such nights?

She saw the warm light peeking from under her front door and her stomach sunk: they were awake.

Fumbling with her keys nervously, she unlocked the door and quietly slipped through. She shut the door slowly, damning the cracking hinges. She couldn't even bear to remove her shoes for the sake of the noise. She rose en pointe and slowly made her way to her room, carefully avoiding the spots in the floor that cracked loudly from pressure. Her hand touched the knob of her door—

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" Her father's voice sliced through the silence, causing her heart to skip a beat.

Already dehydrated, her mouth dried. Davina slowly turned.

Her father's features sagged with exhaustion. The area under his eyes was dark, especially in contrast by the red in his eyes. Davina sunk back against the wall.

"Where on earth have you been, Davina?"

She gulped for her dry mouth and throat. She couldn't even bear to face her father, ducking her head. "Out with friends."

Ken fought the urge to not shout for himself and his sleeping wife. Out with friends?! "Do you have any idea how much you worried me? And your mother?! I was this close"—he shakily held up to fingers close together for effect—"to calling the police to report you missing. Why didn't you answer your phone?!"

Davina's knees were weak from her father's loud voice. She couldn't explain the real reason why she hadn't answered. "I just lost track of time and didn't think."

Ken rubbed his eyes in frustration. He could shout, all night, but he didn't want to do that. "Go to bed," he whispered finally, feeling unsatisfied but he saw no point in continuing.

Davina didn't hesitate. Before Ken removed his hand from over his eyes, Davina's door was already shut.

Despite being bone tired and emotionally exhausted, Ken sat there for a long time.

What happened to his little girl who had tugged his hand so she could show him what she had learned in ballet class? Suddenly he regretted not watching her dance more or taking time out of his day to spend more time with her when she had asked.

His daughter had grown up and changed as a person and for the life of him, he couldn't see when or how it started happening. For that, he blamed himself. He moved her away from a dance school she wished to attend in New York, had she resented him for doing that to her?

Perhaps her change in behavior was a cry for help. Maybe the move to Japan had been one too many. Even Esmée, adventurous in nature, had expressed how tired she had become of moving and her difficulty in adjusting recently.

Ken, too, was exhausted of moving all the time, always living in a different language. His single colleagues had shown better adaptability, but as a family man, things were more complicated. Perhaps, with his assumption that his family would always adapt and after the rush of the new war, Ken hadn't properly thought out their most recent relocation.

Why was it so different from before? Was it merely exhaustion? Last time they were in North America, they firmly believed they were going to stay. Ken thought of their fourteen plus hour flight to Japan. Visiting family and friends, no matter which direction they flew, would take a whole day of traveling. Staring at the walls of his home on the island nation of Japan, Ken experienced for the first time in as long as he could remember, a lost sense of direction and distance, being far away from anything familiar. Homesickness.

Before shutting off the living room light, perhaps it was the exhaustion or his new fear of his daughter, but he had a thought: maybe, just maybe, moving to Japan had been a mistake.

The whirl of the subway engines startled the sleepy Davina and her heavy lidded eyes blinked rapidly. She had nearly dosed off again. She hadn't slept soundly the former night either from the impending appointment at the police station or her night of drinking. Those shots were certainly to thank for her pounding headache and unsettled stomach. She had swallowed some aspirin before they left for the station, but no relief yet. Watching the passengers flow in and out of the train like a blur, Davina wondered if relief was possible.

Davina wanted to lean on her mother's shoulder who sat in the chair next to her, but the severity of the situation made her stiff. Davina and her parents rode the subway and not the government cars for the reason that her father worried about the army finding out and getting smack.

"They recommend that you don't use the flagged cars for…personal matters."

The train shook as it sped off, which didn't help her upset stomach settle. To make matters worse, the teenager worried for her father's reputation. Perhaps… another reason they rode the train was because her parents believed she had somehow instigated the assault.

Something about that thought burned in Davina's chest. All she wanted to do was to go home. Go back to bed, forget everything then wake up and meet Jayla and Mira for an afternoon coffee like they normally did on weekends. They could fret about exams and daydream about summer vacation.

None of that was possible. Davina and her parents sat in their chairs, in silence, riding the train via a route they had never used and hopefully, never again.

Yankumi somberly sat at her breakfast table despite the glow of the sun, which would normally deliver a hyper rush of energy. She sipped her tea quietly, in thought. Footsteps approaching caused the homeroom teacher to turn slowly.

"Ah, Wakamatsu. Good morning."

Second in command, Wakamatsu bowed his head and thanked her for her gesture. "Ohayo gozaimasu, Ojou. Good morning."

He sat at the other end of the table and refilled Yankumi's teacup.

"I'm not sure how to begin—

"Did you see Itou yesterday?"

He nodded his head. "Like I promised."

"Is he going to tell their clan leader of their activity?"

Wakamatsu tilted his head uneasily. "I imagine so, but the discipline is left to their clan leader."

"So, Dabina-chan will probably still have to confess."

Wakamatsu bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Ojou."

Visibly tranquil, Yankumi gulped the rest of her tea then stood up with resolve. "It's up to Dabina-chan then; however, she'll know that she has 3-D's support."

Wakamatsu bit his lip uncertainly, Yankumi set down her cup. "Is something the matter Wakamatsu? You know you are free to tell me."

The second in command bowed his head. "If I can offer my unsolicited opinion…I am concerned that Ojou's interference in this situation could affect her future as a teacher. For someone who isn't directly a student…" Wakamatsu's words choked his throat. "I apologize, Ojou!" He bowed fully, hitting his forehead to the tatami floor.

Yamaguchi didn't erupt in anger like he expected, instead she patted his shoulder. "I appreciate and understand your concern Wakamatsu. I will keep an eye on those two hooligans and I trust Oedo will watch my back?"

Wakamatsu peered, almost with tears in his eyes. How could Ojou question their loyalty? Of course they would protect her and her job, they were family… "Ojou! We will continue to do our absolute best!"

Davina recognized the handsome officer from before. She was grateful for the familiarity despite the still grim situation. Something about his nice character was comforting; he was nice to her, unlike the policemen she had imagined.

Shinohara-san sat opposite of Davina, her parents and a translator. "We are still waiting for Tsuchida and Inoue to appear but until then, we can gather your statement."

The translator spoke English to the three foreigners, though Davina understood Shinohara well enough.

Davina's hands covered the bruises on her arms in spite of her sleeves. She sipped her water for her dry mouth and narrated the story from before. She had lost her temper, Davina said, and assaulted Inoue and Tsuchida when they had reprimanded her for a grammar mistake.

"That varies from Tsuchida's and Inoue's former testimony. The details at least. And your current statement does not match yours from before." Shinohara unexpectedly stated.

Davina stared at the officer, her palms like vices on her arms.

"For your conscience's sake, it is best if you do not lie." Shinohara uttered and the translator quietly translated.

He knew she was lying but not because her statement didn't match Inoue and Tsuchida's, but because he knew they were lying too.

An abrupt knock at the door caused Davina to exhale deeply. She settled back into her seat; she hadn't realized how stiff she had been.

Shinohara apologized then left the questioning room. Davina could hear her parents speaking stressfully to each other and the translator, but she didn't pay attention. The redhead stared at her reflection into the one way mirror, knowing that Shinohara and someone else was standing on the other side.

"Yamaguchi-sensei, and Sawada-kun" Shinohara sighed in relief. He gave a brief nod of acknowledgment to Sawada and all three of them turned to the glass showing a despondent Davina, her agitated parents and translator. Sawada was not supposed to be standing there as a minor and non-relative, yet given the situation, Shinohara quietly allowed it

"Has she budged, at all?" Yankumi crossed her arms and gazed into the glass in pity at the young student.

Shinohara shook his head. "Her story is virtually the same, but…"

"Hmm?" Shin pressed.

"As a long time investigator, I have sense of when someone is telling the facts as a witness. She speaks as someone who remembers what to say rather than someone who has seen the events. It means she is lying though she is confessing to serious charges. Also, my intuition…but from what I can tell of her personality, I don't think she has the impetus for what she is saying."

Another police officer intruded on the exchange. "Shinohara-san, telephone."

"From who? Representatives of Inoue and Tsuchida?"

The officer shook his head. "The American High School's principal."

"Expulsion?! You mean expelled?!" Davina's father cried in lieu of Davina shouting aloud herself, his knuckles was white. Davina's mother cursed under her breath in French through gritted teeth, on the verge of tears.

Davina dipped her head and stared at the floor tiles. Despite being unable to drone out the commotion next to her, she couldn't bear to glance over and see the disappointment in her parents' eyes.

"If your daughter's story is truthful and if her statement remains as so, then unfortunately ASIJ's officials have requested her immediate expulsion." Shinohara clearly yet sadly declared. "It is not official yet, they are awaiting the final decision in this matter."

So there was still a chance… but Davina's throat dried the instant she thought of Tsuchida's hands on her.

"Expelled?" Yankumi cried her hand closing over her mouth. Her blood boiled in her veins and she instantly needed to pace. "But they have no evidence!"

"In a case like this, a confession is enough evidence." Shinohara stated, quietly sighing.

"But she's not expelled yet?" Shin asked calmly. Despite his shaggy hair falling over his eyes, Yankumi could see how he stared into the glass.

"After Inoue, Tsuchida and their parents and fill out their statements… if she doesn't tell the truth by then, it will be difficult to overturn a confession."

"Sawada!" Shinohara heard Yamaguchi-sensei call out right as the door to Suminsu-san's room opened.

Davina felt what seemed like a bag of bricks on her shoulders when Shin unexpectedly stepped through the door. She immediately turned her head back to the tiles, knowing the last of her composure would be ruined if she stared at Shin any longer.

Her father, painfully confused and upset, wished to ask Shin to explain himself but couldn't formulate any form of Japanese nor could he press the translator to begin. He could barely gather an English sentence, yet he directed his worry to his daughter. "Davina—what is the meaning of this?"

"Dad, it's nothing—please." Davina muttered to the tiles, but out of the corner of her eye, she could see Shin shaking his head.

"You're good at not speaking honestly, are you?" Shin harshly began. "Small things, like your background, that can be forgiven—not telling anyone the manner in which we met, something we both did, your parents never heard of the details of that night—

"Davina, what is he talking about?" Davina's father interrupted.

Davina cringed but finally lifted her head to face Shin.

"You're a ballerina. You act like your life is so poised, simple, without a misstep. There's no need to pretend."

"It is an act. So what? My life is a mess right now. You can't pretend that you have been one hundred percent honest with me. I don't know anything about you, Shin and you don't know anything about me." Davina eyes moistened with tears but she stubbornly refused to let them touch her cheek.

The door opened again and Yankumi approached the table. She quietly took the seat next to Shin and gave a slight bow of her head to Davina's parents and the translator. "Yamaguchi, Kumiko. I'm Shin-kun's homeroom teacher. I'm sorry. I had hoped that we would have met some other way."

The translator quietly uttered the English equivalent while Yankumi placed a caring hand over Davina's on the table. "I cannot imagine the difficultly you are facing right now or what it will take to describe the troubling events, but I beg you to try."

The teacher bowed her head and Davina's breath hitched in her throat. A teacher would never bow for a request for a student; the translator shifted uncomfortably in her chair, and Shin stared, physically still, yet he felt humbled by the teacher's gesture. He looked to Davina whose eyes were glassy, visibly awestruck from Yankumi's profound movement, hoping she fully understood.

Head still down, Yankumi continued, "Speak about it now and I promise we will never have to discuss it again. If you don't now, you may regret it and Inoue and Tsuchida will never have to face the truth."

Slowly, the teacher lifted her chin, her face soft with utmost sympathy. The teacher smiled at Davina and the urge to withhold the secret burned away. Though initially she had felt like crying, the next emotion she experienced was relief.

She opened her mouth to speak when Shinohara walked into the questioning room.

"We still haven't received any form of communication from Inoue or Tsuchida's representation or their parents. For now all that stands is Summon's statement. If she will wish to leave it at that, then she is free to go home to her parents."

The translator spoke slowly and carefully, realizing that Davina probably already understood but to make sure she comprehended every single word for the sake of the situation.

Free to go home? Despite his quiet demeanor, Shin nearly jumped to his feet to protest, worried that Davina would agree simply for being done with the situation. He looked to Yankumi, who was peering to the detective, brows high with concern. If Yankumi hadn't gotten through to her yet, she'd never...

"Shinohara-san...Yamaguchi-sensei," Davina began, prepared to speak Japanese despite the translator. Yankumi and Shin slowly turned back in unison, deciding to wait before protesting.

Yankumi felt Davina's hand ball into a fist under hers.

"I am sorry, but I would like to make a new statement. I would like to start over from the beginning and scrap the old one, onegaishimasu." Davina bowed her head, her forehead a breath away from touching the table, lower than Yankumi had bowed. At last, she blinked and the hanging tears hit her jeans like spots of rain though she hadn't produced anymore. The feeling of relief in the situation was unexpected yet true.

Though the notion of speaking about Tsuchida and Inoue's actions made her wish to shrink, against her chair, slowly her relief and will to confess grew to eventually outweigh her reluctance.

Her hand was gently squeezed by Yankumi. She slowly lifted her head; her pale skin was flush from the rush in her blood. "Well done." The homeroom teacher murmured.

Davina spoke simply and honestly. Despite how frightened, embarrassed and worried she had been about telling the truth, she didn't withdraw again after requesting a new statement. Emotion was well composed by the stiff listeners in the room, too concerned to even noisily shift in their seats. The teenager found it slightly easier to tell the story in English then how she imagined it in Japanese. She drowned out the Japanese translation from the translator, allowing the words to scramble in her head to obscure the meaning.

Shinohara documented her words calmly and without any visible sign of apprehension. Her parents were facially expressive of their disgust, however the most difficult of what they felt to express was regret. Yankumi still appeared understanding, finally at ease from the admission that Davina had reason to fight back. Shin wished he had been more verbally patient and sensitive for the sake of her embarrassment.

"Any marking or bruising from the assault?" Shinohara asked, his pen scribbling fast against his records.

Davina opened her mouth but then shut it, feeling no urge to grace her next motion with a verbal explanation. She slowly pulled down her long sleeves to reveal bruises on her arms.

Yankumi and Davina's mother couldn't help but gasp at the marks. It looked as if someone gripped her forearms like vices and squeezed with all their might. Admittedly, Shinohara had imagined the possibility that it would be her word against Tsuchida and Inoue and that because of her flip-flopping, her statement would be flagged as untrustworthy. However, neither of the latter parties stated that they ever touched her. Judging by the positioning of the markings on her arms, she couldn't have done them herself.

Shinohara quickly retrieved a photographer to document the bruising.

Davina declared she was finished when she rolled her sleeves back to her wrists. Her headache was gone as was the weight on her shoulders. Still, all she wanted was to go home.

Shinohara left the room then Shin heaved a sigh. Davina leaned back into her chair, realizing how stiff she had been. Yankumi cleared her throat then cover her mouth when her small silence fracture echoed in the small room.

"Davina..." Ken began. His tired face looked extra worn after Davina spoke. Though Yankumi was not the best in the English language, she listened closely wishing to fully understand. "If I had known...I'm not sure what I would have done other than break their legs—what I wanted to say...is that I'm sorry—"

Shinohara quickly returned and spoke, not seeing he interrupted Davina's father. "If the statement will be signed as it is then police department will not press charges. Without any counter statement from Tsuchida or Inoue, this case will be filed as self defense."

Yankumi blinked curiously. "Please pardon my interference, Shinohara-san…but weren't Inoue and Tsuchida supposed to have issued a formal statement over two hours ago?"

Shinohara made an uneasy noise in his throat. "They were meant to show up. We keep calling their contact information but no one has answered on either side. With one side not answering, it's no concern but with two, it makes it difficult to firmly declare this as self defense. If everything stays as it is with Summon's statement, I'm almost certain it will be dismissed."

Yankumi nodded as the translator quietly iterated for Davina's parents. "I see…and what about her high school?"

Davina found it especially peculiar that Tsuchida and Inoue hadn't showed. By chance, she peered at Shin and her wonder faded. She made note to properly ask him later.

"I'll speak with them personally and clarify the situation. I'll make sure she'll attend school tomorrow for her exams." Shinohara reassured Yankumi and Davina. "And I will...speak sensitively about the events that occurred."

Davina and her parents signed the statement, confirming everything was one-hundred percent truthful and she understood the possible consequences following statement filing. While her father went off to call for transport services, Shinohara said that if after one week of no contact if Inoue and Tsuchida hadn't replied to their inquiries the case would be dismissed as self defense with contention. Tsuchida and Inoue would still have the ability to file a complaint but they needed to do it before official dismissal otherwise it would be double jeopardy.

With her father gone to make a phone call and Shinohara away to finish filing, with just Shin, Yankumi and her mother who couldn't understand Japanese, Davina confronted them. "Spill. What happened yesterday and why aren't Tsuchida and Inoue here?" She demanded in Japanese.

Shin and Yankumi reactively looked at each other, trying to figure out a way to say how without slipping that Yankumi was connected to the Yakuza.

Much to Yankumi's gratitude, Shin was better at coming up with something. "While you were with the others last night—"

"Davina, what are you talking about?" Her mother mumbled next to her.

"...Yankumi and I drew out Tsuchida and Inoue who were waiting by the Hardy Barracks. We told them to leave the case—that we would persuade you somehow to confess and if you did, it would be immediately dismissed. I guess they couldn't even bother to show up."

Yankumi shifted easily before uttering almost too cheery and forced. "Yep, that's all true. That's exactly what happened."

Davina's brows rose suspiciously. "Well that doesn't explain—"

"Davina!" Esmée snapped. "You shouldn't keep things from your mother—"

"The car will be here soon." Ken returned, with a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness, I might fall asleep on the train at this rate." He yawned and Yankumi giggled when she understood his English statement.

Davina saw her parents stare at Yankumi and Shin, fully taking them both in mentally. Ken, respectfully and habitually, held out his hand to Yankumi to shake. "Thank you, sensei." Davina saw her father remember too late, judging by his immediate scuff, that the custom was to bow. However, it was too late to withdraw his hand because Yankumi was awkwardly extending hers.

They shook stiffly, though Ken hadn't imagined the lithe woman to be such a firm, strong grip. Yankumi slightly bowed her head politely at his gracious words, understanding that their depth was more profound than his simple Japanese. Ken returned the bow, obviously unpracticed, but sincere.

Esmée also thanked Yankumi and bowed politely. Despite the relief in the situation, Davina couldn't help but notice how all of the adults smiled with worn at each other, as if they mutually agreed that it was unfortunate to have met in a police station.

They proceeded outside, wishing for air and to wait for the car. Yankumi and Davina's parents were conversing in broken English and Japanese, smattering 'I don't understand' frequently in a mix of languages.

Shin and Davina strolled behind the adults. When Davina reflected on her behavior over the last few days she could hardly deal with the embarrassment. "I'm sorry for how I've acted lately, Shin. I hated every minute of this whole thing but I'm glad you and Yankumi pushed me. I'm starting to realize that my coping mechanism of dealing with painful situations is simply lying and not dealing with them."

"Wakatta. Understood. Are you still scared of Tsuchida and Inoue?" Shin asked.

Davina smiled and took his hand. "Not at all."

He gently squeezed her hand in response. The automated doors opened and Davina lifted her chin as if to embrace the early summer's heat and sunshine. Impending summer vacation never felt so good. A brief flashback to the questioning room made Davina bit her lip.

"By the way..." Davina began quietly.

Shin leaned in with interest. "Huh?"

"What we said earlier about not being honest with each other... about not knowing anything about the other... what do you think?"

Shin thought carefully for a moment, turning his memory, playing out the confrontation mentally. Though the words had been hurtful, neither of them denied at the moment that they were true.

There was still so much Davina hadn't told him and she knew so little in retrospect about Shin. He knew ballerina Davina, the girl who performed beautifully on stage and gracefully walked in life. He had no idea about the girl back stage, outside of the spotlight. Meanwhile Davina did not know of Shin besides his poker face. Any and all information she had was given per allowance. Even his long term friends frequently admitted to not knowing much about their unassigned leader.

The moment was dismissed by the four cheering boys, parading towards them. At first Davina was alarmed by the yelling and sudden appearance of Uchi, Minami, Noda and Kuma. However, she then ran up to each of them and hugged them, not caring about the custom.

After exchanging hugs with each of them, she sighed happily at the four friends. It was refreshing to see them clad in regular clothing—however the four of them wore white headbands with unfamiliar kanji on them. Unfortunately, Davina didn't know of the word but before she could ask Noda was shouting.

"Well?! Verdict?!"

"Did you tell the truth like Shin and Yankumi said you would?" Kuma uttered.

They all leaned in closely with anticipation. Before Davina could utter her answer, she nearly jumped from another wave of enthusiastic shouts.

Seeming out of nowhere, all the rest of 3-D marched towards the police station entrance.

All of them, Matsudaira, Hazama, Takeda, Hattori, Shimazu, Yagyu, Ooishi...everyone. She could name all of them by heart. Her parents were confounded by their arrival but Davina ignored their murmurs and joined the rest of 3-D with a skip in her step.

Yankumi was the closest to tears Davina had ever seen her. "You guys..." She stammered. Finally, she punched Minami playfully, yet painfully on the arm.

"AIE, Yankumi! Whoever said you could be that strong?" He groused, sorely rubbing his arm.

"Well! Verdict?!" The boys shouted.

Davina peered back to Shin then face the boys again. In a very Yankumi-like manner she extended out her arms in the form of an 'x'. With a big smile, she exclaimed the one word she had learned that day: "dismissed!"

The boys whooped happily and cheered with unrivaled enthusiasm. She got countless high-fives, more than she ever had in her life.

"Did Tsuchida and Inoue show their faces today?" Ooishi asked, pounding his fist into his palm threateningly.

Yankumi shook her head. "They're not here so if you came here for a fight, it was for naught."

The teacher watched in horror as there was a visible dip in her students' morale.

"Cowards." Yagyu muttered.

Noda raised his arm to gather everyone's attention. "For Davina's innocence, I say a celebration of her freedom is in order!"

The boys raised their arms up and chorused "Yes! Hai!"

"What would you like to do in celebration, Dabina-chan?"

All of their attention seemed to focus in awe at the road and when Davina turned she saw a long black car decorated with four freely flowing American flags. Her parents were already strolling to the car before it halted in the lot.

"Maman, dad, is it alright if I stay out today?" Davina asked.

She saw her mother's lips thin into a tight line on her face. "Not today Davina. Say that I'm sorry to your friends, but it has been a tiring weekend and you need to study for your exam tomorrow."

Though everyone but Shin and Davina didn't understand, they could still interpret by Davina's sudden frown.

Shin murmured over her ear. "We can reschedule. Don't worry about them."

That gave Davina a great idea. "Let's reschedule! For celebration I would like to have a baseball game!"

The boys tilted their heads, flabbergasted.

"Eh? You serious?" Shimazu asked.

"I was thinking you would say a theatrical ballet or something..." Takeda said, scratching his head.

Davina rolled her eyes. "I'm American, I like baseball!"

A bit of a stretch. Her father loved baseball, sworn Sox fan "until he's cold in the grave" he had once said. He had her watch dozens of televised games as a child, hoping she would pick up on his love for the sport. Though she knew the rules far better than any other ballerina, she considered herself a casual fan rather than a diehard fan like her father. However with Shin as a former player, she was willing to physically give the sport a chance. Maybe she'd enjoy it more if she were actually playing.

Too distracted by 3-D's raucous, Davina didn't see Shin's smile. He tried not to indulge the possibility that the reason she wanted a baseball game was because he had mentioned his love of the sport.

Davina's parents filed into the car and left the door open for Davina. Feeling rushed, Davina said her goodbyes. "Thanks for coming to celebrate, guys. It means so much to me to see all of 3-D here." She turned to 3-D's teacher. "Thanks Yankumi, for being more caring than my own homeroom teacher."

She swung Shin's hand in her own. Come to think of it, it was the first time she was saying goodbye to Shin in such a large crowd. She knew the modest custom and she didn't want to embarrass Shin...

However, before giving in to her reluctance, she wrapped an arm around Shin and kissed him on his cheek. She pulled away immediately, after hearing the cries and whistling from 3-D and spun away towards the waiting car, barely catching a glimpse of Shin's undeniable smirk. Energized, she skipped to the car, her blush-prone skin tomato red to her hairline.

When she sat in the car, she was laughing. Her parents peered strangely at her as the car door shut. "What was the shouting and whistling all about, Davina?"

Despite promising herself to be more honest in life, she readily dismissed her parents' concerns, unprepared to outright say she had kissed Shin. "Oh, they were just happy the case was dismissed." She briefly wondered if her parents believed her but for the rest of the drive home, Davina frequently smiled to herself as she gazed at her window.

The last days of Davina's junior year of high school were short yet stressful as Davina fought to keep her excited mind off summer vacation long away to complete her exams. Though Davina was normally unconfident about her schoolwork, she knew she aced her Japanese exam. She spoke with ease for the verbal part and breezed through the kanji and written portion.

The rest of her examinations went on without hitch. Davina jumped into Jayla's arms when they were released after their math final.

They joined Mira by her locker as the short girl finished cleaning it out. She threw some scrap pencils and papers into her bag as they gleefully relaxed as the flow of students headed towards the exits.

"Summer is here at last!" Mira yelled into her locker before slamming it shut. They proceeded towards the exit, managing to travel together despite the crowds, occasional crying and hugging.

"Is that gonna be us this time next year?" Jayla pointed to two familiar senior girls, weeping in each other's arms.

Davina cringed. "Too soon, Jay."

"We're seniors now, girls. Graduation is officially only a matter of time."

"Can we wait until after summer vacation?" Mira uttered. "I'm going to Alaska for a week in a couple of weeks—I really wish I had convinced them instead for Hawaii. That brings me to my point—we should go on holiday."

"But it will have to be domestic! My parents won't be keen on me going somewhere international without them." Davina added.

"But you'll be eighteen soon..."

After their recent situation...Davina knew the vacation would have to be later in the summer, after things calmed down. "That's what I keep telling them."

"It has to be warm. The rainy season here is sure to drive me insane once it really kicks off." Jayla added and the girls nodded.

"Hey, Davina!"

The three girls turned away and Davina recognized Sam strolling towards them with his book bag.

He politely greeted Jayla and Mira. The four of them quickly exchanged woes about exams and their happiness of being free for the summer.

"Er, Davina, do you mind if I asked you something?" Sam asked, indicating that he ask her without the company of her friends.

Davina awkwardly adjusted a piece of hair that was tucked under her bag strap. "Um, sure."

Together they stepped a few paces away from Jayla and Mira who watched keenly.

Sam was nervously attempting to seen relaxed. "Um, I'm not sure if your father spoke with you, but he recommended that I speak to you about getting to know this city."

Davina nodded her head, adjusting her strap again on her shoulder.

"Well, I was sort of wondering if you could show me around—tell me what places are good and which ones need to be avoided. I haven't really seen much of Tokyo yet, with the moving and schooling and that train system is a nightmare to sort through—"

Davina exhaled a laugh, reminded of her own nightmarish transition to the Tokyo subways.

Sam accepted the laugh as a sign of good response. "If you have time, will you show me?"

The redhead peered to her friends then back to Sam. His brown eyes had remained on her, waiting patiently. "Sure, my friends and I were talking about doing an all around tour of Tokyo to celebrate the end of junior year—"

Sam gulped. "Actually, Davina, I have sort of hoping...that"—he struggled to find the right wording—"maybe...it could—"

"Be just the two of us?" Davina finished for him, her voice just above a murmur.

Sam nodded slightly. "Yeah. Just the two of us."

Davina peered down to the floor, feeling bad for Sam but she thought only of Shin. "I'm sorry but I can't accept. I only see you as a friend and I don't think it would be fair to you for me to accept your invitation."

Sam casually, forced albeit, shrugged his hands into his pockets. "Yeah, you were seeing someone weren't you? You mentioned his name was Shin, right?"

She waved her hand and shook her head. "It's not like that…"

His stance was progressively becoming more shakily and visibly crushed. However bad she felt, she simply could not accept. Sam wanted a date. Even if she went with him on the naive assumption of staying friends, she still knew he wanted more.

By then, the halls were mostly empty with the only stationary individuals being Mira, Jayla, Davina and Sam.

Though internally crushed, Sam still had his dignity. "I understand. I appreciate your sincerity and I hope we can remain friends."

"Of course." Davina answered before peering over to Jayla and Mira then back to Sam. "I'll see you around the base."

"And I'll see you at your father's promotional gathering this weekend. Tell him congratulations for me."

Davina smiled in gratitude. "I will, thank you." She slowly walked away and rejoined Mira and Jayla.

Sam watched as the girls proceeded down the hall with an inch of hope that Davina would turn around and look at him. Despite already being crushed, something more ached after Davina turned the corner with her friends and never peer back at him as if he completely evaded her mind.

He hadn't been sure of what he was expecting when he decided to ask Davina out. He knew about Shin. He had met the guy during their date, no less. He remembered painfully how much she smiled at Shin and if that guy, Shin, wasn't actively pursuing her then he was an idiot.

Another dull pain was the obvious fact that Sam had just barely missed out. Had he been a few days quicker, he could be strolling to the Hardy Barracks with her at the moment.

She said "it's not like that" but he could honestly say he didn't fully believe it. Were girls ever really honest that sort of thing? Even with themselves?

Faced with the fact of her rejection, Sam was still reluctant to completely surrender. He wouldn't persist outright, but he would remain in the picture as her school friend and army base acquaintance.

Sam had sensed Srgt Summons' disapproval of Shin and in a strange way that gave him hope. The teenager wouldn't wish for her to experience pain but he trusted her father's judgment. He was strict, disciplined, but very reasonable—all characteristics Sam admired. Though Srgt Summons never forthrightly declared it, Sam could tell the soon to be Sergeant Major liked him. Why else would a father recommend that a young man speak with his daughter? With that, Sam was able to shrug his bag over his shoulder then head for home with renewed resolve.

Even if Davina rejected Sam over Shin, there was still something he had that Shin didn't—her father's approval.