A/n: Oh yes. It's finally begun! I've been leaving subtle hints throughout the prior chapters, and again, I'm somewhat surprised that no one notice the constant mention of it. The Arc words have been said, and the real action begins… or so I hope. Also, props to Ritachi for noticing the Girl who Leapt through Time reference! Elizabeth is such a troll by the way. You'll see what I mean.
I made this chapter longer in amends to my crappy filler, so enjoy. :3
WEDS- 9/9/10 - Lunchtime
Today was Wednesday. She was sitting idly in her desk, staring outside of the window deep in thought again. It was lunch time, and unlike her usual forwardness to eating, she sat dejectedly in her seat with Kitaro sitting next to her on a nearby desk. She today woke up with a terrible feeling sitting in the pit of her stomach. It wasn't the stomach ache she usually got from her unhealthy habit of eating so much. It was an ever-growing knot in her conscience, to the point where she was suffocating, and wanted to let it all out. Sighing briefly, she glanced at Kitaro. If anyone… maybe he would understand?
Hamuko gave the blue haired boy a troubled glance before standing up and dragging him out of the classroom by his free arm. Without a word, Kitaro followed her faithfully.
Again, he stared at her with concerned grey eyes as she brought him to the roof, and shut the door behind them. With an apologetic smile, she stared at her shoes in awkwardly.
"What's wrong this time?" Kitaro asked, getting straight to the point.
"…" Giving a dejected look, she futilely brushed away her short auburn bangs. "Onii-chan, do you have those?"
"…Y'know. Those cards that sometimes appear in your mind after you talk to your friends?"
"…Oh. Social Links…" Kitaro blinked once before he realized what she meant. "…What about them?"
"I really, really don't mean to pry, but have you ever gotten the feeling that they've just… disappeared?" The blue haired boy merely stared at her, trying to figure out what she was trying to say.
"No. The bonds with your friends never vanish…" He denied it flatly as he shook his head. "but… what are you trying to imply? Did you do something…?"
Something bad, she thought. But that was the feeling that was steadily growing inside. She bit her lip.
"…Hamuko," He began to say with a steeled gaze. "did you enjoy helping whatever you did to help those people? I admit that I've had them reverse once or twice… but their feelings never vanished. Did you do something?"
She enjoyed helping others. To see them stand on their own was something she enjoyed, even after getting tricked by Tanaka, she found out that he had donated ten million yen to children in need, and shrugged it off to keep his eccentric TV façade. She tried to help Mutatsu have something to look forward to, despite his early rants of not expecting anything in the future was the best way to go. Hamuko wondered how he was doing in his quest to make up with his family. She smiled to herself whenever she thought of Bebe, who had left for France in hopes to persuade his uncle to return. She silently cheered on Rio, hoping that someday Kenji would return her feelings, and that she would continue her passions of playing Tennis.
Junpei, Yukari, Akihiko, Fuuka, Ken, Mitsuru, Shinjiro, Koromaru, Hidetoshi, Maiko, Bunikichi and Mitsuko, even Pharos… If she didn't know them very well at the moment, she still had warm feelings for all of them. They were her dear friends, friends she would've died for in her younger years of growing up under the neglectful eyes of her aunts and uncles, but there was an exception (she had lived with a certain family member for the longest time, and admittedly, it was much better than being sent to a boarding school).
Nonetheless, she loved her friends dearly. Sure, they burdened her with their problems, and took advantage of her at times, but in the end, she told herself it was worth it. Even if they always left, she could see their resolve to amend whatever they had lost, or determine themselves for the future.
Hamuko liked seeing that resolve in people.
There were still others she didn't have either, if social links corresponded with the twenty two major Arcana; She was still missing the Sun, Fortune, Judgment and the Empress. And Saori…
Her feelings were gone. She had always tried to understand what they were aiming for. Saori, she wanted to face the future and become accepted by her parents. Hamuko understood that. But, it was as if those feelings- everything that Saori had hoped for the future- had been stolen from her. She was a mere husk of herself, afflicted by Apathy syndrome. Hamuko was extremely perturbed by this.
"…I only wanted to help…" She mumbled forlornly. "…I'm going to the Velvet room after school to find out. If anyone should know, it'd be them, right?"
"…Maybe." Kitaro sighed briefly before patting Hamuko's head. "Don't push yourself. If you're anything like 'then'… you should take it easy. Don't blame yourself either."
Hamuko still wasn't convinced. Staring at the grey eyed boy, she asked vehemently, "…Am I bothering you?"
"…" Kitaro gave her a solemn stare before finally answering. "…If I didn't want to be here, I wouldn't be. No matter what others tell you, if you're deserted by everyone you know, I'll always be here as long as you need me."
Hamuko never thought that something like that would actually happen to her, but knowing that he would stay with her comforted her.
"It's simple…" Kitaro pulled her close, until his forehead was touching hers. Etched onto his face was a rare smile, or something that he would never allow others to see even at his happiest. Smiling was something he only did while he was in the presence of those he could trust. As Hamuko wondered these things, she felt herself blushing as Kitaro continued.
"…I'm your older brother… It's my responsibility to make sure that you're happy. So no matter what happens, as long as you need me, I'll be here for you. I've got nothing to lose anyway…"
Kitaro, Minato, it didn't matter which name he went by. He wasn't the type of person who allowed his emotions to show on his face. Hamuko in contrast, allowed whatever she was feeling to be shown on her face. It was the way they lived. Hamuko closed her eyes blissfully, taking comfort of having someone she could relate to. But the last part bothered her. He 'had nothing to lose'… Did he mean that literally? Mentally shaking her head, she gazed up at him. She didn't want to be a burden to him by telling him all her troubles…
Finally, his smile faded as he pulled his head back, and pat her tenderly on the head again.
"C'mon." He tugged her cheeks and stretched them to some extent with a stoic expression. "Smile for me."
Flustered, Hamuko pulled her face away, and rubbed her cheeks gingerly. A small pout graced her face as Kitaro, she saw, was trying to stifle a chuckle. Hamuko found herself smiling inadvertently as she rubbed her cheeks. It was the first time in ten years she had heard him make something remotely close to a laugh.
"Seeing that you're feeling better… I'll be going now, all right?" Smiling ever so slightly, Kitaro shoved his hands in his pockets and walked to the door. Stopping, he grabbed the door handle and gave Hamuko a side glance from the corner of his fringe-covered eye.
"I'll see you later at the dorm."
With that, he left the roof, leaving Hamuko to herself. She stayed there for the remainder of lunch before returning to her classroom, with a much lighter conscience. She wanted to see her elder brother happy. What had been wrong with her for the past couple of days? She had been letting her melancholy take too much out of herself.
Getting him to smile more often was now on her list of priorities.
She waited for class to end so she could eat. She hadn't eaten anything since morning, and well, simply put, she was starving. When the bell did ring, she scooted out of her desk and stretched her numb legs as she began her brisk walk to the door, but much to her surprise, Junpei approached her before she could do so. Questioningly, she gazed at the cap-wearing teen.
"Hey. I wanted to talk to ya about something…" He began to say. "It's about the new guy on the team." Junpei scowled slightly as he continued to speak. "…You're the one who introduced him, right? Don't you think that there's somethin' kind of… off about him?"
"Like what?" Hamuko asked curiously as she lifted her head up with piqued interest. Junpei rubbed the back of his head uncomfortably.
"Look, I dunno. You seem to trust the guy a lot, despite the fact he just got here outta the friggin' blue." Junpei groaned before he spoke again, with a doubting edge in his voice. "I mean, come on… 'Kitaro Shujinko'? It sounds so goddamn fake, but everyone's buying it! It pisses me off!"
"…Sorry." He said somberly as he titled his hat over his eyes. "Just forget everything I said, okay Hamuko?"
"… Is something on your mind?" Giving a mixed look concern and hope, Hamuko gazed intently at Junpei, waiting for his answer.
Tentatively, Junpei fumbled with his cap. "…Nah, just forget about. I'm in a bad mood today, that's all."
"Why's that?" She asked worriedly. Tapping the side of her cheek delicately, she frowned a little before brightening her expression with the idea she had hatched in her mind. "Oh, I know! How about some ramen? It'll cheer you right up!"
"Thanks, but no thanks." Junpei grinned apologetically. "…I've already got plans after school. The hospital…" He began to say, but his voice trailed off as he took off his hat and looked away sheepishly. "Don't take it personally though. We're still friends, right?"
"We'll always be friends. Best friends." She grinned back firmly. "I'll be cheering you on, alright Junpei?"
"…Best friends, huh? Never expected to be best friends with a girl… but you're not just any girl." Grinning jokingly, Junpei put his cap back on and sighed with relief. "Well then, see ya later, leader."
"Good luck." Hamuko smiled as Junpei walked out of the classroom with a confident grin.
Now that she was left alone again, she sighed to herself. Despite Kitaro's talk earlier, she was at a loss, because somehow she felt it was her fault.
"…No." It wasn't my fault. There was nothing I could do…
Hamuko wanted to believe what Kitaro told her. People were still depending on her. And as long as she was needed, she would be here to stay. But that was just the thing. After this year, it was probable that she would have to relocate again. Now that she had so many wonderful friends, this idea didn't appeal to her at all. She wanted to stay, but then again, her relatives who always knew best would decide what she would do next. Groaning, she massaged her temples as the idle chatter of the girls in her class reached her ears.
"Hey, did ya hear the rumor about that one journalist going around?"
"You mean that one who goes around the station and mall asking about Apathy syndrome? She nearly jumped at me once!" A glasses-wearing girl replied nonchalantly. "What's up with all the rumors going around anyway? It's kind of weird, don't you think?"
"Like I know. But when you hear a rumor, aren't you tempted to find out if it's true or not?" Her friend giggled. "Anyhow, the rumor is that lady is looking for someone!"
"Whaaaaat? Didn't she say that her only motive was to find out the deal behind all the Apathy Syndrome cases? Where'd you hear this one?"
"The rumor is like, well, apparently she's searching for some dude, so she purposely pissed off her boss and was sent here to do research on Apathy syndrome."
"Whoa! That's so cliché. Is she stalking this guy or what?"
"Like I know, but wouldn't it be cool if she were looking for one of her lost loves or something!"
At that point, Hamuko stopped listening. She had better things to do than listen to rumors. Instead, she clipped her headphones to her ears and walked out of the classroom, towards the place where she believed there were answers.
"Welcome to Velvet Room. What may we assist you with today?"
She received a cordial greeting from Theodore, as per usual. Noting that Elizabeth was still here as well, she waved at both platinum blonds before digging through her bag, pulling out a tray of Takoyaki from the Iwatodai Station that she had picked up before coming to the Velvet Room. There originally were two, but she had thoughtlessly devoured the first to curb her hunger pangs. Surprisingly, both Elizabeth and Theodore abandoned their posts and compendiums alike post haste and stared at her expectantly. Begging, almost. Almost.
Hamuko smiled awkwardly at both of them.
"What's up? How've you guys been?"
"Quite well," Elizabeth replied smartly with a quaint smile. "It's so much easier now that we needn't pass over dimensions like before. Theo and I see each other much more often now…"
"So you didn't see each other much before?"
"Correct!" Elizabeth nodded genially as she clapped her hands together. "As you know, I was assigned by Master Igor to be Master Minato's assistant, and Theo ended up as yours. Time passes differently in this world compared to yours, so most of our meetings were cut short, or 'touch and go' as one would say. When we do get the pleasure to speak together, he does talk quite fondly of those… dates you take him out on," Elizabeth replied exuberantly much to Theodore's obvious discomfort. Smiling evilly, Elizabeth threw a side glance at Theodore.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but you did say 'date', right Theo?"
"A-Ah… sister… Must you bring that up now of all times?" It was one of those rare occasions that Theodore had allowed himself to slip up and show his embarrassment in front of Hamuko. His pale face was flushed with a robust shade of pink as he glowered at Elizabeth, who took no heed of him.
Hamuko blinked bemusedly. Was this the sister who 'subjected him to unimaginable tortures'?
"A-Anyway!" Theo coughed before regaining his composure. "Might I ask Master Hamuko… but might you be willing to share?"
"The Takoyaki?" Hamuko asked as Theo gave a swift nod of his head. "Sure! I bought it for you since I thought you would like it…" Glancing at Elizabeth, Hamuko noticed the golden eyed girl stare at Theo enviously, when suddenly, a look of candid glee festered on her face.
Theo, in the meantime, was absolutely gratified. "You have my sincerest thanks, Master Hamuko. Indeed, as the saleswoman said, these are good enough to melt one's cheeks-"
"Theo, not too long ago, you do recall that story you told me?" Elizabeth interrupted. Hamuko gazed at her inquisitively.
"He tells you stories?"
"Why yes. I enjoy hearing stories, you see…" Elizabeth's smile grew wider. "and most of the time, they are of you."
Hamuko felt herself blush. "M-Me?"
"S-Sister!" Theo yelled indignantly, nearly dropping the tray of Takoyaki in the process.
"What might be the problem, Theo? Surely there's no problem in mentioning our affections for our dear guests. I for one, am very fond of spending time with Master Minato. Is it not the same for you? Or do you hate Master Hamuko? Which is it, my dear younger brother?" Still smiling calmly, Elizabeth threw a suggestive look to the ever-reddening blond. Theo could only gape at Elizabeth's audacity.
"I recall that time where you told me that she had thoughtlessly allowed herself to remain stationary in the street. How did it go again?" Elizabeth cleared her throat as she spoke eloquently. "Let me see… You 'dove towards her with unparalleled speed and pulled her away out of the mechanical beast's path, in the same fashion a striking white knight would do so for his beloved princess-'"
"Please! Enough, sister!" Theodore yelled embarrassedly. "I… I'll subject myself to… that… again. But in exchange, you must never speak of that event again!"
"…'That'?" Hamuko parroted, but Theo merely turned his face in the opposite direction, hiding his shame, she assumed. She would be doing the same, but she found Elizabeth's bullying all too amusing.
"It… is nothing to concern yourself over, Master Hamuko." He coughed again, before gazing squarely at Elizabeth. "…Well?"
"Throw in the Takoyaki too, and maybe I shall consent to your terms."
"Nng… fine." Theo grumbled as he dolefully handed over the tray of Takoyaki, which Elizabeth gracefully removed from his hands, plucked the delicacy into her mouth and chewed blissfully.
"Thank you for your business, Theo." Elizabeth prodded his cheek teasingly as he gave a crestfallen look over the loss of the Takoyaki.
With a sympathetic look, Hamuko pat his back tenderly, suddenly wishing that she hadn't eaten the first tray. With a side glance, he cleared his throat again, and regained his composure. With a cool (but defeated) look, he gazed at Hamuko intently.
"Ahem… so… what can we do for you today?"
"A-Ah! Right!" Hamuko smiled delicately. "I'd like to talk to Igor please. There's something that I need to discuss with him…"
"By all means," Theodore nodded. With that, he and Elizabeth quickly took their leave through one of the doors to the side, leaving her alone with the long nosed man, who had been sitting in the navy blue loveseat, watching the entire time.
Staring questioningly at Igor, Hamuko took her seat in the chair that was strikingly similar to Eurydice's Lyre. After being seated comfortably, the long nosed man gazed at her from behind his crooked hands.
"I see you've finally come to realize one of your consequences." Igor spoke softly with his same unnerving smile.
"Yes. You mentioned the last time I came here. I was… wondering about that." Hamuko nodded. "…What's happening?"
"…It is no trifle matter, my dear. The consequences that revolve around your actions are great, but as I've said many times now, as long as you accept them in the end, you will be welcome here in the Velvet Room. As for your Punishment…" Nodding, Igor stared at Hamuko before waving his gloved hand over the fluttering table cloth. Immediately, a small deck of Tarot Cards appeared, bearing the insignia of the black and white ornate mask.
"Tell me my dear, would you care for a… telling of your fortune before I might continue?"
"By all means." She replied, not really wanting to stop him at this point.
"Very well." The deck began shuffling itself accordingly. Taking three cards randomly from the deck, Igor placed the three cards in a straight line, the rest of the deck disappearing with a wave of his hand. Hamuko watched as Igor flipped over the first card. It depicted a man being strung upside down.
"The Hanged Man in the upright position. The Hanged Man is always the card prior to Death and it usually represents the hope and fear of a different more challenging path." Igor said dryly, as he rubbed a corner of the card before looking keenly to the cards that lie waiting.
"The Hanged Man also brings up the idea of the total worth of one idea as compared to another. It symbolizes the revelation that life is different depending on whichever way you choose to look at it. You still fear that there will be risk and sacrifice in your decision to abandon your worldly values and plunge into the depths of "Self" to seek the inner reality needed to become whole - but from this sacrifice, from your willingness to put aside the world for a while and experiment with the 'inner' experience will come enlightenment and renewal."
With his verdict complete, Igor flipped over the second card. On this card, there was an etched woman holding a horn towards three people. Hamuko hadn't seen that card before.
"The Judgment, in the reversed position. It is not uncommon to find this card inverted, for this is a very difficult step in your evolution of consciousness."
"There may be a serious flaw, clearing has not been achieved. Guilt, which is part of not forgiving self, can be the result of assuming more responsibility than is one's lot. This is seen as an aspect of the sin of pride - for it is presumptuous of us to assume too much responsibility. Discover what you are sowing for yourself. You can be optimistic about the seeds you plant within yourself - given half a chance, they will grow in quite miraculous ways…"
Eyeing the last card, Igor turned it over. It was a warrior on a chariot, being pulled by two sphinxes.
"The Chariot, in the upright position. The Chariot card represents the need to take control of ones actions to rise above the conflicts in ones life."
"Accept that you are 'in' the world but not 'of' the world- The Chariot represents a dualistic nature and that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Focus and awareness is necessary in order to make the most out of the situation. Most importantly, it represents the need to hold on tightly to the reigns because should we let go we will face the likelihood of going way off course. Ultimately, if we don't hold tight and steer our way through, our life can get way out of control…"
Waving his hand once more, the cards vanished just as abruptly as they had appeared. With an airy sigh, Igor folded his hands and perched his outlandish nose just above them, staring at Hamuko disturbingly. She shifted in her seat uncomfortably before Igor finally broke the silence.
"You've made your journey much more complicated than what fate had mapped out for you, my dear guest. That, is quite clear. Not even my master knows what possibilities your future holds… but nonetheless, continue. Only your heart can be your guide, and I, a helper or mentor if you will." With a final wave of his hands, he closed his eyes briefly.
"…Now… let us discuss the punishment bestowed upon you. Your particular world is being subjected to a severe unbalance due to a specter's appearance, or in short, our other guest. My master had issued out two forms of punishment to you: If anyone found out about your relationship with your sibling, the price would be exacted on yourself, or on your relations with people. The second punishment is that the world around you has become much more… influenced, if you will, thanks to its sudden unbalance. What that means, I shall leave for you to decipher."
Hamuko's eyes widened in realization. "…So then… when I told Mitsuru-senpai, Saori was… erased?"
"That is indeed correct."
"It was my fault that this happened to her…?"
Hamuko swallowed her unease on the subject and continued. "…Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"My master allowed me to only impart this information to you on the condition that you approached us for answers. I may be the master of the Velvet room, but there are higher powers beyond your current understanding. Please understand this." He responded contritely.
Nodded, Hamuko steeled her gaze before venturing another question. "Igor, you said that Minato has a punishment too. What's his?"
"…He is a special case. His parallel's one of my previous guest's punishments. That is all I can say upon discussing the matter with you. If you wish to know what his punishment is, I suggest you go forward and ask him yourself."
Something was off. Hamuko creased her lips before asking, "…When did he go to the Velvet Room and learn all this?"
"I am not obligated to speak more of my other guest's tribulations or motives."
"Are you like this with all of your guests?"
"Indeed." With an affirmative nod, Igor's Cheshire smile stretched taut. "Remember my dear guest, other may be affected in the near future, but do not lose sight of your goal at the end. No, find what is you are seeking. Do not be ruled by your fate. Your fate is ruled by you. Your decisions only add to that factor…"
"That's a pretty convincing line." Hamuko said weakly as she smiled slightly at the old man.
For the first time, Igor's eyes were filled with a nostalgic glint as he spoke. "…An old guest of mine parted words those words to me. He accepted his fate in the end, and fulfilled his contract. I cannot say I know what happened to him, after this very long time… Perhaps, there will be another time for that story."
With another brief shut of his eyes, Hamuko heard the Velvet Room gain speed. When Igor reopened them, Elizabeth and Theodore emerged from the blue door and stood adjacently on either side of their long-nosed master. Hamuko at the same time stood up, and bowed her head respectfully at the elderly man before turning her back towards room's residents.
"…Until then," He spoke in his airy voice, slurring his words purposely. "Farewell."
When she had arrived at the Dorm, she had intended to speak with her elder brother effective immediately. She had shrugged off her usual greeting and strutted through the lounge in hopes of see him, but much to her displeasure, he was no where in sight. Frowning, she tossed her school bag on the coffee table and collapsed on the sofa, grumbling in annoyance.
Turning around, she spotted the beanie-wearing senior, clad in his purple pea-breasted coat. Giving him a curious look, Shinjiro gave her an indifferent stare as began to speak.
"…If you're wondering where that Shujin-guy went off to, he took the robot out somewhere some time ago."
"…Really?" Giving a wondering look, Hamuko wondered how Kitaro was able to drag Aigis outside of the dorm, given that she couldn't no matter how many times she tried.
"…Yeah. He was getting ready to take the dog out on a walk when she approached him, and asked if he'd let her accompany her or some shit like that. You get the goddamn point." He said roughly.
"…Thanks for telling me." She grinned goofily. "Oh, and Senpai-"
"There you go with the 'senpai' bullshit again. Didn't I tell you to just call me by my goddamn name?" He cut her off in mid sentence, glowering down at her.
Hamuko refused to waver. Instead, she smiled. "Yes, you've said it a lot of times already. But I'll only stop if you stop calling me by my last name. Call me by my name too. Ha-mu-ko."
"I ain't stupid." Shinjiro grumbled.
"Are you implying that I am?" Hamuko asked objectively. Much to her displeasure, he nodded a 'yes'. Pouting, she crossed her arms defiantly and stared up at Shinjiro. For a long time it seemed, neither of them moved, until finally Shinjiro broke the moment by pulling his beanie over his eyes and slinking to the back of the room, defeated.
Hamuko was about to let him get off, as she moodily pumped up the volume of her headphones by several notches, when she noticed something peculiar. Glancing around the lounge, she saw that no one else was here. Usually that meant they had returned to their rooms, or they were still out, or in Kitaro, Aigis, and Koromaru's case, went out. She glanced at Shinjiro from the corner of her eye.
…Had he waited for her to come back?
Brazenly, she stood up and walked towards the back of the room where he stood, complaining to himself it seemed. When she got close enough, Shinjiro stared at her coldly.
"…You. What do you want?"
"Let's get something to eat!"
Again, like the first time, it had caught him off guard. Hamuko smiled daringly, awaiting his response.
Hamuko had managed to drag him off to Wakatsu, since Shinjiro had stated he didn't care where they went this time. She had priory stated that she wanted to go out to eat, since she hadn't had much to eat today. Before Shinjiro could think of protesting, she stomach growled loudly, sealing her case. After they sat down in an empty table near the window and ordered they respective meals, Hamuko began humming a refrain from 'Warm Feeling' as she began waiting.
"…You eat here often?" He asked, breaking the silence once more as she stopped humming.
"Yep." She answered immediately with a nod of her head. "I love this place."
"…You seem to love a lot of places, don't you?" He said after a while, before heaving a sigh and mumbling, "…Aki should eat here too. All he ever eats is meat…"
Hamuko smiled amusedly as Shinjiro continued to speak.
"…About Aki… from what you see, is he fighting properly?"
"Of course," She replied, wondering if Shinjiro was worried about Akihiko's prior injuries. "He's a great fighter."
"Is that right?" Shinjiro asked, with a slight smirk before nodding seriously. "…You know more about fighting than I do, so… I'll leave that to you."
"…Your way of approving things… that's just the way you are, isn't it?" He said finally.
"What's that supposed to mean?" She asked curiously, but Shinjiro merely shrugged.
"With you, it's a hell of a lot more easier than it originally was with me, Aki and Kirijo. Back then, we were stupid kids trying to be heroes, and trying to one up each other constantly. Your power's a great thing. You know what I mean, right?"
"Mhm. I hope it is…"
"Jeez, you've got a lot of confidence in yourself, you know that?" He replied sarcastically as he rested his neck against his hand. With a gentle smile, Shinjiro murmured quietly, "…You're doing a great job."
Praise was the last thing she expected out of him. Smiling, Hamuko nodded warmly as the waiter laid their meals on the table. Even if he didn't show it, somehow she felt behind his cold demeanor, Shinjiro really cared for S.E.E.S. As the delectable aroma of her tonkatsu filled the air, she grabbed her chopsticks eagerly. Hungrily, Hamuko began digging in at ludicrous speeds as Shinjiro watched in amazement of how she was packing all the food into her small body.
Thou shall have our blessings when thou chooseth to create a Persona of the Moon Arcana…
"Sho shempai," She chewed slowly, gazing up at Shinjiro. "Do you shometimesh regresth not being able to go to schsool with the othersh?"
"…Talk after you're done eating your food. I can barely understand you." He replied flatly as she attempted to choke it all down. Instead, it backfired, and she ended up coughing. Frowning, Shinjiro gingerly handed her his glass of water, which she drank down with a bit trouble. She sputtered a bit as she removed the cup from her lips, gagging slightly before picking up right where she left off.
"Idiot." He mumbled tersely. "…So… what were you trying to say?"
Stopping, she stared at him intently before asking, "I said, 'Do you regret not being able to go to school with the others?'"
"…Didn't I tell you to drop the subject?"
"Mm…" She started to say in protest. "But Shinjiro…san?"
"Cut the honorific crap too while you're at it."
"But it doesn't sound right!" Hamuko complained as Shinjiro shook his head dismissively. With a disapproving pout, she whined, "Senpaaaaai!"
Shinjiro covered the side of his cheek and turned the opposite direction, pretending that he couldn't hear her. Her remaining rice lay forgotten as Hamuko attempted to get his attention once more, but to no avail. In the end, when she finally gave up and began eating her unfinished tonkatsu, she imagined a smile to be hiding behind his hand.
One day, she thought. One day, I'll see that smile.