A fragmented oneshot centered around Izumi this time. And the girl in her flashback during the Sakkakumon incident. As far as I know, she doesn't have a canon name, so I've called her Kashigawa Rei, for no real reason except that she kinda needed a name.
Italics is first person (Izumi's) POV. Normal is 3rd Person POV.
And that bit at the end...embarrassment is normally a good means for laughter, which is the best cure. At least in our world, though it almost always winds up being at someone's expect.
After confronting Ranamon inside Sakkakumon, she realised she owed an apology to someone. Post frontier.
Being a new student in a new school isn't easy, but being one in a new country was even harder. I may have been born in Japan, but I had lived in Italy since I before I could walk and talk, and I was accustomed to their way of living. As it was, Japan was very different, and I just couldn't understand their ways. Especially the antics of girls which were similar to me in age.
I couldn't change what was normal for me, and the others found that as an insult. I didn't understand the need to accompany another to the bathroom; I mean, couldn't they go alone? I didn't agree to the cuteness of little critter dolls, my tastes were more Italian oriented, and I had no love for the dainty little things which held no meaning for me.
People don't like outsiders, so it was that I was doomed to fit in...
She trailed behind the others, apart from them. She always did; she always was. Being different and being insecure in that difference while at the same time reluctant to change for acceptance often resulted as such.
When she had first come, others had tried. But she was too different for them to be comfortable, and those who could not understand her own ways as culture based took it as mockery. And so no-one got close enough to her to be befriended, and while she was safe from the deeper level of pain, she still tasted the bitter loneliness.
But having to change who she was to adjust...it was simply something inconceivable.
They were at camp, and her bunkmates simply tolerated her as much as necessary. In the larger group, she trailed at the end, a sufficient distance for each to be satisfied with their differences, though sometimes the blond would look to the rest of the group and wistfully wish she could be there too.
Then she noticed someone in front of her. Someone who had broken away from the flock.
Her name was Kashigawa Rei, and she seemed rather happy to hang back with her. The blister was put right in a minute, thanks to the band-aid, and then they walked the rest up the way up the mountain together, both girls enjoying every minute of it.
Izumi learnt that the brunette was a fan of romantic gothic novels, but even more so of Shonen Jump manga. The blonde herself didn't care much for either, but her own interests were far from contradicting, going even so far as to complement one another, and the conversation carried them up to the designated meeting point behind the rest of the class.
It was like I had finally connected with someone in Japan outside my own family on a more personal level than simple peers. Our interests, while conflicting, were far from repellent, and perhaps it was a stroke of luck, but our different interests allowed the conversations to carry far, and to form a deeper bond as understanding grew.
But it wasn't to last, as both of us had our weaknesses, and unfortunately, they both came to light at the same time...
Birds who break initially from the flock, especially the young ones, are readily called back, and this particular case was no exception. Because while she realised the other was not as rumours told, no one else did, and eventually, peer pressure caved its walls around her, she muttered in resignation.
'Maybe you should eat with your own group. I mean,' she looked rather embarrassed. 'We're using all our pots and pans.'
Izumi burned in anger and hurt at that. She knew the blatant lie, and instead recognising the effort to spare her feelings, she was mad that this girl, who she had thought to be different, had sided with the rest in the end.
I had thought I had a friend here in Japan at last...and then she had been taken from me. Or she chose to go. But to me, then, it didn't matter. She turned, and I felt angry and hurt and betrayed, by the others, who turned their backs to me at the campsite, at my parents for moving back...but then, mostly at her, as she was the one who had dug my insecurity up. After all, if I could have a friend and lose her so easily, would I ever be able to have someone other than my parents here? Did I really belong? Because as much as I ignored the chides of the others, their words always burned.
'Go back to Italy. You don't belong here.'
Sometimes...I would believe that. And I would let my temper get the better of me, because I would wish it not so.
'Liar!' she screeched, and the birds around flew in fright.
A sudden silence followed.
Perhaps she could have tried harder, but that wasn't the point. Looking back at the memory, she realised her own weaknesses as well. She angered too quickly, rising to bait which was non-existent.
I should have been nicer. I shouldn't have been mad at her. After all, I hadn't really done a good job at all of trying to fit in, getting fed up with things I could have tolerated with more patience and tried to understand...as I had expected others to do.
But how could I expect things I did not do myself?
'I shouldn't have been mean,' she murmured, eyes still murky as her thoughts were entirely trapped in the weakness of her not-so-distant past. 'I should have been nicer to her.'
'Oh you're such a goody two-shoes!'
Her eyes suddenly cleared. And she resolved to make things right as soon as she could.
After she dealt with an annoying little water sprite of course.
They had to win. They just had to. They had an entire world to save...no, two worlds. The Digital World, and the Human World.
They had to save it, and they had to return. Too much had been left unsaid, undone. Too many bonds that needed fixing. Too many words left unsaid...
They had to win.
And in the end, win they did.
After all was said and done, we all realised how much we had left undone in the human world, and so we went our ways to fix them. Kouichi pulled through, and they introduced themselves to their parents: Kouji to their mother, and Kouichi to their father and stepmother, and after the initial reactions were said and done, they were all a big happy family.
Takuya patched up things with Shinya too. He became more patient for one thing, and more mature, even introducing Shinya to Tomoki so the two could play with someone their own age rather than always hanging around us older kids.
Speaking of Tomoki, he made other friends as well, now that he wasn't as sheltered as he used to be and understood the world a little better. And he gets along better with his brother now, now that he isn't the "spoilt little annoying brother" as Yutaka not-so-eloquently put it at one time.
Junpei too made some new friends. I did as well, but there was still an old one which I had to talk too.
And eventually, I summoned up the courage and did.
After all, facing large digital monsters was one thing, but face-on confrontations where you're the one admitting you made a mistake is another thing entirely.
'Kashigawa-san?' she asked, halting her as she passed a corridor with a few friends.
She turned. 'Hai?' she said politely, almost cordially, but most certainly formally.
Izumi took a deep breath, then plunged right into it. After all, subtleties had never been her strong suit.
'I'm really sorry, for shouting at you, for pushing you away and then ignoring you afterwards. It was wrong of me, I shouldn't have been mad at you, it was just that I was feeling so insecure about my place here that-'
'That it was the final straw.' The other interrupted, still a little cold.
'Well...yeah. Sort of.' She gave a little sheepish smile. 'I've also got an ungovernable temper.'
There was an awkward silence between the two after that, as Rei's other friends whispered to themselves. Rei herself was silent in thought, while the other held her sanctuary by anticipation.
But in the end, the brunette shrugged and then offered a grin.
'It's not like I wasn't at fault myself. I could have tried harder.'
The murmurs around her continued, along with a few shuffling feet.
'I'll accept your apology if you accept mine. Deal?'
It all worked out in the end.
We walked around together that lunchtime, talking about general things, mostly about what had changed my views. Obviously, I neglected to mention Ranamon and the digital world, but there was other things I told her, namely about my friends.
And it was still a little awkward, but as they say, one step to be climbed at a time...or something like that.
'They're the best friends I've ever had,' she said. 'And they helped me understand myself better. 'Takuya, Kouji-'
She suddenly cut off as Rei blushed. A teasing smile wormed its way to her lips.
'Ha, admit it. You've got a crush on Kouji.'
She stuttered denials, but the other continued her relentless pursuit. There was safety in that teasing; teenagers rather commonly did so.
And Kouji wasn't exactly an uncommon interest amongst teenage girls at that particular school. After all, most found themselves attracted to the 'lone-wolf' type, despite the said twin making it clear he wasn't interested.
They went back and forth, and eventually, she relented.
'All right, fine. I've got a crush on him. Happy?'
Soft laughter interrupted their conversation, and both girls spun around to find the twins, one of who was the object of their latest twist on the conversation, leaning on the wall behind them, the elder being the source of the laughter and the subject of the younger twin's glare. He was probably the only one not affected by the whole awkwardness of the situation the four suddenly found themselves in.
'Ni-san,' Kouji growled, visibly annoyed, indicating that if he had been any other, he would have been dead long ago. 'Stop laughing!'
'Okay, okay.' The other complied, coughing once to get it out of his system. 'But you should have seen your face!' Then he shook slightly in his effort to refrain himself from laughing again.
Izumi, wondering what the usually quiet twin found so amusing as she looked at Rei's red face, diverted her gaze to peer discreetly into Kouji's instead.
And then she burst out laughing too as she caught sight of the red tinge that graced the features of the usually cool and collected Minamoto Kouji.
And the mixed tenor that soon erupted told her she wasn't the only one unable to contain their amusement.
That was a Kodak moment. Unfortunately I hadn't brought my camera...or perhaps it was a good thing, otherwise I don't think even Kouichi would have been able to placate his twin's embarrassment at his embarrassment. But that was one of the first memories we shared as friends, the laughter that sealed our accord, the one that fastened and solidified into a permanent bond the band-aid on a relationship broken and refashioned again.
And after that, there were many more.
Because the hard ice that had formed between us had been broken.
Sometimes, you just needed to be guided to that first step. Even by a sworn enemy.
I didn't think, when I first came face to face with Ranamon, that I'd wind up owing her, you know?