"Eat right, exercise regularly, die anyway."

-Author Unknown


7:16 AM

As I stared back at the harsh red glow of the LCD display in front of my eyes, my brain could only contemplate one simple response.

'Aw man...'

Why? Well, simple math. Normal people getting up at this time go to bed anywhere from ten PM to one AM. That gives you your required eight hours or so of sleep. Which is good. But this isn't so simple for me lately.

Now, while I can go to bed at any given time. Because of these jumps, I seem to appear at exactly four AM at my next destination the moment I fall asleep.

So as I gazed back at the clock, I realized that if I appeared where I was now at exactly four in the morning, that the sinister red glow of the alarm clock in front of me meant I had only gotten EXACTLY three hours and sixteen minutes of sleep.

Of course, as anyone would be willing to point out. Most people would just turn over and go right back to sleep. As anyone who's known me for the last week or so would promptly counter: If I went back to sleep, I'd just jump again.

That's assuming that I could even go back to sleep in the first place.

As tired as I was, there had to be a pretty damn good reason I was awake of my own volition long enough to ponder the numbers on the clock.

Hell, after everything that's happened, it wouldn't be too far fetched to believe it was a screaming girl, or an argument over my sudden appearance.

Thankfully, if the quiet whispering was any indication, that wasn't the case this time around.

This time, the blame was all mine.

Or rather, my body...

Specifically, my stomach.

And the fact that it hurt.

A lot...

Like I was going to puke at any moment.

"How long does he have to be there?" one voice whispered. "I mean, I understand the problem, but if Grampa sees him-"

"He HAS to get sleep," the other whispered. "Remember how borderline paranoid he was? It gets worse. If he doesn't get enough sleep..."

"Okay, I get it... But this just looks so... So."

"I know. But it's the only way. Wake him and move him and that's it. He'll just jump again."

What little of that conversation I actually heard just now told me that indeed, the situation was spot-on, as I had predicted. From the sounds of things, Luna was briefing Rei on what was going on.

7:17 AM

The rollover of the minute for the LCD display in front of me had little significance, but it served to alert me that time was passing. And as the two continued to speak from somewhere just behind my back, (When did I roll on my side?) my stomach continued to do cartwheels.

Problem is, on top of this; I had the distinct feeling that I really did not want to move. And if I did, it would only make me feel worse.

"What about this evil presence?" Rei whispered. "I can feel some kind of aura..."

"That's just Senbei," Luna whispered back. "He's harmless... Most of the time... It's complicated, but believe me when I tell you he's on our side."

You sure it's not my stomach Luna? Ugh... Something's wrong. Something's really wrong. This isn't just my occasional bout of late-night/early-morning upset stomach.

This is...

I sat up abruptly, and the sudden feeling of motion sickness took over, making me regret the action.

"Oh!" Rei chirped from where she sat at the foot of her bed. "He's awake..."

"Oh dear," Luna sighed. "I was hoping not to wake him."

I heard them, but I wasn't listening. The way I could feel my heartbeat in the heat from my own face, the fact that breathing itself seemed like real effort... And the spinning; the nausea...

I know this feeling. This is like...

Like...

I groaned and flopped over on my side, I could FEEL my face turning pale as the two females blinked at me in the dark of the room.

"Is he okay?" Came Rei's voice.

"Uh..." Luna began. "He was a few hours ago..."

You'd be amazed how fast The Crud can come on.

"What's wrong?" I felt Luna in feline form prod me with a paw, then she crawled over the top of me to look me square in the eye.

"Oh my," she blinked. "You look pale, what's wrong?"

Today's language lesson, caveman speak.

'Groan.'

Translation: 'I feel like crap.'

'Grooooooooan.'

'I REALLY feel like crap.'

"He's sick," Luna shook her head. "Of all the- why now?"

"Great," Rei whispered. "I hope he's not going to throw up in my bed."

Funny she should mention that.

"I think," I began, trying to keep my voice down. "I'm going to take my leave now..."

I rolled free of the already thrashed covers, promptly leaving the bed in a controlled fall. There was a minor thump as I hit the floor feet first and made for the door.

"Wait!" snapped Rei in a loud whisper. She then grabbed me by the shoulder, to which I almost reflexively yanked free.

"I said wait!" she snapped again.

Now, is NOT the time for waiting. As I turned around to give the girl a desperate sour gaze, she grabbed me by the shoulder again and pulled me back, whispering quietly in my ear. It's nice to note in an offhand fashion that, for once, I'm taller than someone is.

"Grampa's been up all morning since you got here," she continued. "I think he senses this Senbei that Luna's talking about. If you go out there now, he'll definitely spot you."

And if I stay here much longer, we're going to have a mess on our hands.

So those are my choices? Be sick all over Rei's room, or run the gauntlet of Grampa Hino? I object! Those are terrible options! Like they're out of some dating simulation game decision tree. Which invariably means that both decisions lead to getting caught.

And if given the choice, the better of two evils would be to just get it over with.

What's the worst that could happen?

No, that's a bad thought. That's a stupid thought. One never asks that anywhere within the effective range of a fictional phenomenon. It automatically gets worse. Think ahead of the gag. Use it.

Oh... thinking in this state isn't fun. Not with the making with the spinning...

Come on; focus for two seconds... Senbei.

Dammit, why does he have to be a signal flare everywhere I go? I don't know HOW he manages to mask himself against the goddesses when he shows up as Apocalyptic Evil on the senses of every psychic and magic sensitive person in a fifty-mile radius. Well, if he's going to be a flare, might as well be a decoy flare... Carrot on a stick method...

"Senbei," I half whispered, half groaned.

"Yes?" the Demon god appeared in the air next to me.

"Ye-!" Rei snapped out then covered her mouth as she gazed wide-eyed at the pint sized source of Evil Energy. Then she gawked quietly at the absurd attire the demon god was wearing. Same reaction as just about... Well, everyone.

"Rei?" Grampa's voice immediately responded from beyond the sliding door. "Are you okay?"

Oh God dammit, too late! Rei's face changed to that of dread as she quickly started to look around the room.

"Quick!" she whispered. "We've got to hide you!"

"Rei?" Hino's voice was closer now.

"I- I'm fine Grampa!" she announced, quickly snapping her gaze around the room. Then in one swift motion, she snatched Senbei out of the air and stuffed him into a drawer, then slammed it shut. Then she turned back to me and clicked her teeth around a tense hiss.

Can't stuff me into a drawer.

"It's almost time for school," the elder continued, now frighteningly close to the door. "If you don't hurry, you'll be late."

Rei's attempts to find a hiding place to stuff me into became frantic. Oh give it up girl, I'm already caught.

Just as I was about to open my mouth and get this over with, the girl suddenly grabbed me by the shoulder, and with a determined twist, threw me at her bed. That shut me up quite well, as I almost lost it right then and there.

"You mustn't do-" Luna tried her best to mouth quietly.

"No time," Rei replied with equally quiet snap.

"You don't understand!" Luna whispered urgently. "You're setting up a-"

There was a knock on the wood for the sliding door. Rei wasted no more time in grabbing her bedding at lightning-fast speed and throwing it over me. A moment later, something small landed on top of me, a pillow. Then a second one, and something slightly heavier. Must have been Luna.

She can't seriously be thinking she can hide me with something as infantile as a blanket and pillows can she? You couldn't fool a five-year-old with that kind of stunt!

Before I really had time to think about this any further, the mattress sank slightly as Rei flopped down on it. At least she had the decency not to land on me. Or maybe I was just lucky. Though, at this point, between the queasiness, and the situation... I'm not making any observations on luck.

"Rei..."

The door could be heard sliding open. Uh... Old man entering teen girl's room. When she might be changing clothes. Uh, we ask first before entering, yes? No?

Who am I to dictate that at this point?

"Hi Grampa!" Oh that was falsetto. Were I ever greeted in that tone, the first thing out of my mouth would be: 'What did you do?'

That however, was NOT the first thing out of his mouth. The first thing out of his mouth was more like-

"REI! Wha- you're not almost ready! You're not even dressed! You're going to be late!"

More or less...

"I've got it all under control Grampa!" Rei snapped. "I'm not going to be late!"

"You were late last week too," the elder continued. "If this is becoming a habit-"

"I WAS MAKING SURE YOU WERE OKAY!" in came Rei's signature explosive temper. Well, this version of her WAS prone to the bad puns about having a fiery temper for a reason...

"I hope this isn't because of your new friends," Hino stated. "I mean, I like them, but if you're going to start being late for school-"

"I TOLD YOU-"

"And falling asleep in class!" he continued.

"I only did that ONCE!"

"And your grades have slipped," the elder rattled on, shifting into his 'woe is me' voice. Ever wonder how parents, or in this case, grandparents, wait for just that right moment to hammer you with a list of woes? It's like they planned the whole thing out, even though you know they didn't.

"But I-"

"It's your future we're talking about," he continued to whine. "If you don't learn to prioritize better, what do you think is going to happen if-"

He stopped, dead in mid sentence.

"What?" I heard Rei ask.

"It's in here," the Elder Hino's voice had shifted gears completely. It had gone from his poor-old-man tone, a deliberate and rather obvious attempt to guilt his granddaughter, to one of a skilled, alert old master.

"Wh-what?" Rei asked. "What's in here?"

"That evil spirit," her grandfather continued. I almost imagined him standing in the room, looking around like a predator. Too bad I can't see through this smothering layer of blankets and pillows.

There was a brief moment of shuffling. Then a sliding sound.

"GRAMPA!" Rei suddenly shouted. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!"

"What's it look like I'm doing?" he asked in a serious tone. "I'm finding that spirit!"

Rei's body left the bed in an almost spring.

"It's not in my underwear drawer, GET OUT OF THERE!"

Oh, yeah... That would probably be about par for this kind of thing. And she probably really did stuff Senbei into her underwear drawer.

"It must be a perverted demon then," the Elder hissed. "You should exorcise it promptly-"

"OKAY!" the younger Hino snapped. "JUST GET OUT OF THERE!"

"Okay!" Grampa snapped. Well, at least I know the temper runs in the family. "I'm just trying to protect you."

"I don't need protection from my clothes," the girl returned, there was the sound of a thump as the drawer was shut. "Really, you can be such a pain sometimes."

"I'm just worried, that's all." The temper faded as fast as it came. "You know that."

"Yeah..." the younger Hino responded around a sigh. "I know. It's okay."

There was a moment of silence, before the bed sagged under weight again. Both of them sat down.

"Rei," Grampa continued solemnly. "Is there something you need to tell me?"

"Er-what?" she asked.

"Is there something going on?" he rephrased his question. "If there's something going on, in school, with your friends. Just tell me, and I'll be there."

"N-No! Nothing of course not! What gave you that idea?"

"I'm just a worrying old man," the elder sighed.

There was a rustling, and if I were to describe what I thought was happening, I'd say it was a hug, but then again a blanket obscured my vision. And if indeed it was a hug, well, that's a nice, touching scene... But can we expedite this before I vomit? No seriously, I'm going to puke for real here in case you forgot.

"Now," he continued, part of the weight on the mattress lifted. "School starts with or without you. And yo-"

'click'

Click?

"What is-" Hino began.

The air suddenly seemed to get real thick, and then the sound shifted. There was a wind chime and a... A hiss applied with a phase effect? And then I realized with a certain twist of horror... That was the opening effects to-

"The answer is always in my chest…"

And the music that followed those words drowned everything out like I had front row seats to a live concert. Of course, there could be only one thing that would have this particular song, and blast it at this level, and even as I tried to stuff my fingers in my ears without success, Washu's GMP3K boomed music at the borderline earsplitting level of ninety decibels.

"WHAT IN THE WORLD!" I heard the elder manage to yell over the din. "WHAT'S THIS NOISE?"

"I DON'T KNOW!" I could barely hear Rei's voice panicking. "I THINK IT'S THAT THING!"

The weight on the bed shifted as Rei jumped up. There was panicked thumping on the floor, and then the volume spiked. Now it just wasn't borderline, it was PAINFUL! They must be trying to figure out how to work it!

"TOO LOUD!" I couldn't tell who shouted that.

Dammit!

I sprang out of the blankets, surprising the other two as I worked over my stomach to snatch the device from the girl's fumbling hands before she could finish making us all deaf. She may not be Minako, but I doubt she could navigate her way around a regular MP3 player, let alone this thing. Especially since MP3 players didn't exist yet here.

'NOW PLAYING: Aya Hirano – Bouken Desho Desho (Euro Mix) [V=115db]'

Stop button? OFF BUTTON! Shut up you god damned piece of hyper-technological junk! Before I find a really good way to smash you into thousands of hyper-technological PIECES! OFF! I SAID OFF!

'Click'

Instant, blessed silence.

"And stay off," I frowned, my stomach kindly informing me of its displeasure at my sudden motion. We all just stood there for several seconds, blinking away the slight whining sensation in our ears. (At least, my ears.) Luna was still on the bed, ducked flat against the sheets, her paws doing their best to pin her ears to her head. Poor kitty took that harder than we did.

After a few seconds to recover from the shock, the two finally turned to acknowledge me. Rei's face betrayed how nervous she suddenly got. And Grampa?

"You..."

Okay, let's get this crap over with...

"Me," I huffed. Big mistake, opening my mouth only made my stomach worse. It's taking everything I have just to keep from losing it at this point.

"YOU!"

Yes, we've established that part, let's work on new words.

"Never see you again, huh?" The Elder rounded, and despite as short as he was, he did manage to pull intimidating when he wanted. Though honestly, it didn't work on me at this point. I've just seen way too much, and feel way too crappy at the moment.

"Grampa-" Rei began.

"And here you are in my Granddaughter's room," he snapped. "Of all the places... You really must be some kind of pervert! Oh, but you're not armed this time are you?"

Actually, I'm very well armed.

"Grampa DON'T!" Rei snapped more assertively. "It's okay! He's a friend!"

"A friend?" Hino asked. "What kind of friend do you have that shows up at all hours of the morning and night, and hangs out in your room and-"

Yeah, even I could hear the gear-click. This was going to go down that street, and there's nothing I could do about it.

Then he turned, looked at me, then back at Rei.

"You didn't," he glared at me, this time it WAS intimidating. It wasn't just a glare, it was THE glare. The 'you just touched my pretty little flower, and BAD THINGS(TM) are about to happen to you' glare. It doesn't matter how small you are. When you put on THAT face, even the Incredible Hulk knows to run.

"What?" Rei cut in. "No! Grampa, I can explain!"

"Wrong answer," I managed to choke past the rising bile in my throat.

"This isn't what it looks like!" the girl continued. Two cliches in a row?

"Worse answer," I put my hand to my throat, making a sour face. Okay, I need to go NOW.

"You stay RIGHT there," Hino caught my free hand and yanked me back into place as he placed himself between the door and myself. "And what do you mean not what it looks like? What else could this be? You've got a guy in your room! I made explicitly clear that you aren't allowed to date any guys until you're eighteen! And here I find that not only have you been going around ignoring my rules behind my back, but you have the audacity to bring one into your ROOM and... AND..."

Rei's face grew three shades of red at what he implied.

"It's not like that!" she snapped.

Is she going for a record here? That's number three on the 'do not use' list.

"What's it like then?" Grampa asked. "Tell me, what is this?"

"HE SAVED YOUR LIFE!" The girl finally snapped under the grand-parental pressure. "OKAY? HE'S THE ONE WHO HELPED US WHEN YOU WERE ATTACKED! HE ATTACKED THAT MANIAC LIKE SOME KIND OF DEMON! JUST TO HELP YOU!"

Grampa seemed to flinch when she blew up, and cast a withering glance at me. Something about the look on his face, like shock, or horror, for just a moment... I guess it hurt to have your own granddaughter telling you off.

On the bed, Luna was watching intently, both ears erect and aimed at us. We made eye contact, and I knew if 'negotiations' broke down and anything happened. She could still intervene. Plus, I knew Senbei was still nearby in that drawer. One word from me and I'd have all the distractions I could ever want.

"So," Hino continued after a moment. His temper had faltered. "Why is he here? Does him saving me make it okay to-"

"I. Did. No. Such. THING." I never knew the Senshi of fire could come off that ice cold. But, good lord, that was cryogenic.

The two just stared directly at each other for several seconds. Each daring the other to back down. Amidst all the tension, I managed to get another look at the clock.

7:24

You know, trying to sort this out is nice, but time is not a luxury at the moment. And denying the liberation of my stomach for seven minutes now was becoming painful.

"E-scuse me?" I choked. Rei looked at me, and her face went from frost-queen to livid in an instant.

"What?" the Elder growled.

"If it's okay-" I began, fighting back the burning in my throat. "I really need to run."

"Run?" Hino somehow laughed. "You're not going anywhere boy."

"Grampa," Rei was well aware of the color of my face, I'm sure. "I think you need to move. NOW."

"Why should I?" he asked, some force coming back into his voice.

I took a deep breath and fought down the bile nice and hard, then spoke, in a very nauseated, very stiff tone.

"Because if you don't," I began, "You are going to be wearing the contents of my stomach in thirty seconds."

Hino froze, then whipped his head to look up at me. Then he too went livid and quickly backed out into the hall.

"Go..." he motioned. "GO!"

'Thank you-" I mouthed, choking again.

"First door on the left," Grampa indicated as I quickly hauled ass past him. I made it in the door, found my target, and dropped to my knees.

The next few minutes were not exactly the highlight of my life. And it's not something I'd really like to get into too much detail about, and I'm sure nobody really wants those kind of details anyway. But for the sake of accuracy, I did indeed spend this time worshiping the All-Powerful Porcelain Goddess.

Praise be the Goddess. Praise! Hallelujah!

After completion of the Sacred Ritual of the Goddess several minutes later, I felt infinitely better than I had been. Weak and shaky, but... Well, not HORRIBLE, just weak and shaky.

"This is turning into a LONG week," I shuddered to myself as I washed my face in the sink. As I did so, I looked at the mirror. My stubble had grown since I had seen it two days ago, and it made me look absolutely nasty. A pair of slashes across my right cheek where that Mesquite branch had tagged me didn't help the look. They were faded already thanks to Washu's nanomachines, but it was obvious the marks were going to be with me a while. And I didn't even want to think about the lack of a bath for two days in this suit.

"I'm a mess," I muttered to myself in English. There just wasn't any denying it. I was not made for universe jumping. There just wasn't any precedence for it. No form of survival routine. Sure, you could probably adapt a wilderness survival routine, but I'm not exactly a Boy Scout.

If it weren't for Washu's help, I'd probably be dead already. Or at least wandering around with a sprained ankle, an injured knee, a broken rib, and a broken hand... Not accounting for the skull fracture she fixed personally. And even without the critical injuries, if I hadn't returned to top condition so fast, I probably would have accumulated injuries until I was unable to do anything to stop anyone from attacking me.

God I'm so patheti-

Listen to me, I sound like I'm suffering depression. Ugh... That's the problem when I get sick. I can't think positive. I didn't survive the Week From Hell by moping around like Shinji Ikari. Stop moping around like Shinji Ikari!

Ugh... Mental Pep talks take too much energy... I think I'll just skip it and get right to the point.

Washu said her nanomachines help fight disease, which makes sense. So it must have been something I ate. I didn't eat anything greasy right before I went to sleep did I? That always ends up messing with my stomach a few hours later. I don't know why.

No, scratch that. I didn't even EAT anything except another Drewell tablet to knock my ass out. So it wasn't my usual upset stomach.

I ate rice, and a meal from that IHOP/Starbucks wannabe place...

Wait... I ate food from a restaurant that existed in a world that hadn't even learned how to pasteurize milk yet.

I wonder how many pathogens I ingested from the glass of water alone.

Actually, that's probably what it was... Revised note on Those Who Hunt Elves: Don't Drink The Water.

'Thump!'

"You done in there yet?" Hino must be guarding the door so I couldn't try to run. "Hurry up!"

"GRAMPA!" Rei's voice echoed. "Be nice!"

"I am being nice!" the old man responded. "He's still alive isn't he?"

"GRAMPA!"

Well, technically true.

"You just hurry up and get ready for school," the Elder continued. "I took the time to make you a quick breakfast too. And now that I know where the eggs went..."

"For the last time," Rei's voice snapped. "LEAVE HIM ALONE!"

Well, I can't hide in this bathroom all day. I have things that need doing, and I can't get them done from in here. Oh man... I just want to go back to sleep and nap this stomach off. I feel better, but feeling better and feeling good are not the same things.

I opened the door, discovering that Hino did indeed post himself to guard against my escape. Luna was still nearby, observing the older man warily. She knew the guy well enough, but I figure she wasn't taking any chances. Obviously by the way Hino was ignoring her, the old man had seen her enough to dismiss the cat.

"Hey," the old man grunted. "Feel better?"

"Ugh," I attempted to smile. I think it only came out as an exhausted sigh.

"I know the feeling," Hino glared. Then he looked me up and down, examining me now that he had a chance to in the light.

"You American?" he asked, but made it sound more like a statement. "What base are you from?"

Then he paused.

"No," he continued. "Too much of a mess for that... You a fugitive?"

"He's not a criminal Grampa," Rei walked by in a white and brown school uniform, tying the ribbon on the front. "Stop treating him like one."

"Hmph," Hino scoffed. Rei stepped over Luna and maneuvered her way into the bathroom, grabbing a toothbrush and running the water.

"If he's not a criminal, then who is he?" the Priest asked.

"I told you," Rei paused, her toothbrush half way to her mouth. "He's a friend, he saved your life."

Idea...

"Actually," I began, my voice still raw. "I'm Usagi's friend. Maybe you know her."

Luna smiled.

"Hmm?" he looked at me. "Usagi? You're her friend?"

"Yeah," I nodded. "Blond, hair pulled up like this..."

I grabbed at the top of my head with my hands as if pulling up invisible hair.

The old man grunted, nodding.

"I know her," he continued. "Which explains a few things, but not why you were in my Rei's room at this time of the morning."

"I was checking on you," I went with the first thing that popped into my head.

"In Rei's BED?" he snapped. "If you were checking on me, WHY were you hiding?"

"I did that," Rei commented around her toothbrush, then spat it out. "I was afraid you'd freak out..."

Justified.

"What?" Grampa asked. "Why would you ever think I'd freak out if you just came straight out with it?"

"You ALWAYS freak out," the younger Hino snapped. "You scare the girls who come to the shrine, you chase off any guy who so much as looks at me. You even ran off that bum you found sleeping on the steps last week."

There goes Yuichiro and any semblance of getting the plot around here back on the rails. Speaking of last week, I better come up with a REALLY good excuse as to why I was here, with a shotgun, at four in the morning. Because Gramps is really close to asking that...

"And you think I wouldn't expect you to overreact?" Rei continued.

Honestly, overreaction seems to run in the family.

"Well, with flying madmen on the loose its no wonder," Hino snapped. "I'd like to see you deal with a guy who floats and throws crystal spears."

Sounds like Zoicite to a tee. Good riddens to bad rubbish.

Rei came out of the bathroom and crossed her arms, looking down at her Grampa. I swear, if I didn't know any better, SHE was the one in charge, not her Grampa.

"I don't know about flying-"

Lie.

"But I do know that if he hadn't been there to help you..." she let the rest of the sentence hang.

I'm still waiting for Grampa to ask why I was there in the first place. And I still don't have an excuse. After all, I did pretty much show up out of nowhere, ARMED TO THE TEETH, paranoid.

"Okay!" Hino snapped. "But at least next time you could let me know he's here. Maybe I won't try to beat him with a broomstick."

"Okay!" Rei snapped in return. "My mistake! But can you blame me?"

Well, he asked if I was from a military base... And then he ruled that out. Mercenary? Contrived. I've already declared to be friends with Usagi. Teen Prank gone wrong? No, where would I get a shotgun in Tokyo? I could always claim Yakuza affiliation or something equally crazy, but I don't think he'd be too thrilled about that as an upstanding Shrine Priest... Though I could say I was being hunted by the Yakuza... Which is... Equally contrived. But it WOULD explain why I was paranoid. Would also explain Zoicite, somewhat.

But then if I go with that, the way Rei's been carrying on like I'm a friend now... That would imply that the Yakuza might now be after them too. Which would put the old man on edge. And as protective as he is of Rei, would probably result in him deciding that I'm nothing but trouble.

"No I can't," Hino admitted. "Can you blame ME when a strange boy shows up? I worry sometimes!"

Oi, they just admitted to each other twice that they were wrong, I think. Are they so argumentative that they'll sit here and beat a dead horse? If Grampa wanted to win this argument, he could have just asked outright what I was doing there in the first place. I can't come up with anything that sounds plausible to my own brain. Not this fast anyway.

Hold the phone...

Why HASN'T he asked? In fact, why is he being so agreeable, if you could call it that, in the first place? I'd have called the police by now. Or at least threatened to call the police.

What's going on?

Something's off. Something's not right here.

Luna cocked her head to the side, the motion catching my attention. She's watching my reactions; I must be making one hell of a confused face.

Come on brain, WAKE UP! Rewind, play back what's going on... Deal with feeling like crap later. Pay attention to what's going on.

"Okay," Rei continued into my thoughts. "Just promise me you won't run him off like you do everyone else. I've got to run-"

"What?" Hino asked. "What about your breakfast?"

"PROMISE ME!" Rei snapped.

"OKAY! He snapped. "I promise I won't hurt him!"

He's giving in too easily, and wording his statements to get loopholes out of them. I know this trick.

"Good!" Rei nodded, then turned to me.

"I have to run," she informed me. "Stay here and rest, don't let Grampa pick on you too much. Today's only a half-day so I should be back by noon. We'll talk then, okay?"

Rei emphasized 'we'll talk then' by lowering her head slightly, and then she seemed to casually glance at Luna as she finished the statement.

I simply nodded, at which the girl smiled and spun to leave.

"What about your breakfast?" Hino asked.

"Feed it to him!" she snapped, rounding the corner. "I don't have time! Bye!"

And that, was that.

"That girl sometimes," Hino shook his head. Then he looked at me, let his face go from a determined glare to a wry smirk, and snorted.

What are you playing at?

"Well," he began. "Might as well not waste my effort."

Then he turned, putting his hands behind his back 'Kung Fu Master' style.

"Let's go see if you can keep anything down..."

Yes... Way too agreeable. And I may have caught on way too late.

At a loss, casting a glance at Luna, who simply gave me her best 'I don't know' look, I sighed and turn to follow the old man.

I have too much to do, and too little time to do it in. I'm going to be tired all day; I'm going to feel like crap the whole time, and now I've got Grampa playing games of intrigue on top of that.

That settles it.

This is going to be a long day.