Egads! What is this! Sargent Toughie is alive! Well, yes, as a matter of fact I am alive. Thanks to all of you who have been way more patient for my chapter updates then I rightfully deserve, and I promise that I'll try to make it worth your while once I get back in the swing of writing... TRY being the key word there, since I don't exactly have a winning record when it comes to consistent updates on this website. If you think it's been too long since I've updated any of my stories (more then a few weeks or so), please don't hesitate to start poking me in the shoulder until I start dragging myself back to the keyboard to do some writing. No, I'm not being sarcastic when I say that either. I enjoy writing, I'm just usually too lazy to actually do any of it if I don't pester myself enough. Anyway, on to other news.

I like updating this story, because it's shorter and easier to write on short notice then my other ones, so while I'm writing, I figure I might as well just tack on a news update for the rest of my channel as well. My top priorities will be this story and my current Megaman X one, since those will be the two that are easiest to write. I plan on going back to my rift story when I have more of my stories cleared up and I can dedicate more time and affection to it, and I'm just considering throwing the reboot at the lumbering behemoth I have over my head called Legacy Gundam. I'll be going into more detail on the potential reboot on an update all it's own, so keep an eye out for that, if you care.

Anyway, on to the reason that you came here today. Please enjoy chapter 3 of Shuffle! Soul searching and new beginnings!

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Shuffle! Soul searching and new beginnings!

Chapter 3

Sia let out a small sigh as she dropped Kaede's wrist when the two of them finally left those two goons behind to brawl with one another. When the two girls had at least some semblance of privacy again, the redhead turned around and smiled at her blonde friend with her hands behind her back. "Alright then, we need to come up with a plan of attack if we're going to find you some kind of new hobby at any kind of a reasonable pace. It's pretty clear that I've taken up the most daunting task imaginable." Sia giggled playfully, only giving Kaede a few seconds to look apologetic before the redhead smiled brightly and nodded. "Still! I love a good challenge. Rest assured, Kaede, by the end of the day I'll find something that you can care about outside of being a house maid, I haven't changed that!" Kaede, at this point, tried to lift a finger to get in a word or two, but Sia didn't notice, as she spun around and started walking down the sidewalk while talking the entire way. "Still, we'll have to at least be a bit more careful, with all of those weirdos walking around and everything." With that, Sia turned around again, finally giving Kaede the chance to speak as she just let out one question and waited patiently for Kaede to answer. "So what do you think, Kaede? Has anything hit you yet?"

Kaede simply fell silent for a few seconds, as she played with her thumbs when she finally had a chance to speak. Her wrist still felt oddly warm from where Sia had gripped it, and Kaede couldn't get thoughts of the redhead being so close to her out of her mind. Ever since that bus ride, that was all that occupied Kaede's mind, it got so bad that she had to pretend to be indecisive about some street vendor in order to just get a little bit of time to herself to try and think about it. Of course, that had backfired, but Kaede wasn't about to come out and tell that to Sia. "Well, I think that-" Kaede suddenly paused, as a small roaring sound suddenly came from her stomach. At the sound of that, Sia suddenly started to giggle brightly before she leaned in towards Kaede teasingly. "You hungry, Kaede?" Kaede took a step back, her cheeks were now a shade of deep red as she put some distance between the two girls, while she stepped back, she also nodded gently. The blonde's words came out soft and uneasy, as Kaede tried to get her mind back on it's appropriate tracks. "Well... yeah. If you want, we could just head home and I could-" Sia didn't even give her a chance to finish as she stood up straight and shook her head. "Don't even say it, Kaede, you're not going to lock yourself in the kitchen again. C'mon, I think there's a pretty good cafe' nearby, we can get some lunch there." Kaede paused at that, she tilted her head gently to the side before she spoke in a gentle voice. "Um, wouldn't it be cheaper if we just went back though?" Sia shook her head, not losing her bright and cheery attitude for a second as she continued down the road. "Kaede, my dad is the lord of the gods, I don't think money is going to be an issue." With that, Kaede simply sighed gently and followed Sia down the road. "If you insist..."

The two girls walked for about five minutes before they came out to a rather lovely looking little cafe that was planted right at the entrance to a small park. Sia had to admit, it was pretty smart to set up an outdoor section to the place when there was such lovely scenery just a stone's throw away, it almost felt kind of like a picnic, even though the food was prepared inside. With a bright smile, Sia looked over at Kaede to see if she approved of the setting, and apparently she did, as she herself was also smiling at the sight of it. "What do you think, Kaede? Think you'll be able to stand eating out for lunch instead of preparing it yourself today?" Kaede lowered her head and laughed just a little bit, before she nodded her head in response. "I think I'll manage." Sia gave Kaede a pleased and grateful look before she reached over and took the blonde's wrist again, more because she liked the contact between them then anything else, and led the two of them inside. She found it strange that she was so fond of leading Kaede around by the wrist, in it's own strange way, it sort of felt natural for Sia to hold on to Kaede in this manner. Sure, it was nothing intimate, even the rather vanilla act of holding hands was farther down the line then what Sia was doing, but the redhead simply couldn't stop herself, and it obviously wasn't a problem with Kaede, she didn't seem to care. She pushed her thoughts away and simply went about leading Kaede into the cafe to get the two of them seated. She could see rain clouds moving in to overtake the otherwise rather beautiful blue sky of the afternoon, and while she certainly loved rain, she didn't think that being outside eating lunch wouldn't be the best time to be caught by such weather. Still, she'd have to be sure to pick up an umbrella later if they came by some kind of shop, that was her favorite part about the rain, it was just a shame that Rin couldn't be here for her to share the umbrella with... and yet...

Sia's eyes drifted back towards Kaede as her thoughts advanced further, and her face instantly went a deep shade of red before she snapped her attention back forward and shoved those thoughts instantly out of her mind. She really shouldn't have gone down that path of thinking in the first place, and now she was all flustered as a result. She just hoped that Kaede didn't notice anything, otherwise this lunch of their would get quite a bit more awkward. Thankfully, if Kaede really did notice how flustered Sia's train of thought had gotten her, she sure didn't show it. In all honesty, she seemed more confused then anything else, which helped Sia calm herself down a great deal. With that little incident over, Sia let go of her wrist and walked up to the receptionist at the front of the cafe, where they were quickly directed to a table over in the corner of the outdoor section.

Once they were seated, Sia softly stretched her arms over her head and relaxed in on the table. While her head rested on her hands and she was leaned in forward, she watched the way that Kaede settled in to her chair and sat straight upwards nice and politely. It was actually rather humorous to see the way that the blonde girl was so self contained and polite. When Kaede was fully settled in, Sia dove right into a question, seeing this as the perfect opportunity to question her friend a little more in depth now that they were sitting down and waiting on service. "So Kaede, have you had your eye on anybody else around here other then just Rin? There's gotta be somebody that you think is kinda cute." At that, Kaede's cheeks just went a soft shade of red as she coughed softly into her hand. It took her a few seconds, but she eventually stammered out a response. "Oh, um... Not really, I'm afraid."

Sia wasn't buying it, she leaned in a little bit more as her eyes narrowed mischievously. "Are you sure? You know that you can talk to me, right Kaede? We're friends, after all. I won't tell anybody." Sia's words only served to make Kaede's cheeks a deeper shade of red as she shook her head a little bit. "No, really, I'm fine." Sia simply giggled a little more, as she realized that a blushing Kaede was just about the cutest thing in the world. One had to question rather or not this was Sia for these few moments, or if her twin sister had taken over instead. "C'mon... not even a little hint? I can keep a secret." Kaede's face was now about as red as a cherry as she shook her head yet again, and Sia decided to show the blonde a bit of mercy as she just shrugged and backed up in her chair. "Well, fine, but I'll be here to listen if you want to talk about it, okay?"

With that said there was a silence between the two girls for a few seconds, which gave Kaede enough time to calm down before the waitress came over and asked what they would like to drink. Kaede requested a water, while Sia got the local brand of soda. Once the drink orders were taken, the waitress smiled politely and pressed a finger to her notepad. "You two are actually in luck today, we're having a special sale on our famous fish platter. If you buy one meal at full price, you get a second one at half off." After they heard about the promotion, Sia gave Kaede a small and curious look to see if she was interested before she decided to take her up on the idea. After all, neither girl had actually been here before, so getting the best dish in the entire place was as good a way to get a good first impression as anything else. With the waitress gone, Sia gave Kaede a curious look as she wondered aloud about just how good the fish here was. "She did say that it was their 'famous' platter, but I haven't heard of it before... What do you think, Kaede?" Kaede simply smiled eagerly and gave Sia a nod while she spoke. "Try everything once, I always say."

The two girls shared rather casual conversation for a few minutes before their plates were brought out to them. When she finally had a chance to take a look at what she'd be eating, Sia had to admit that she was won over from just a first glance. The meal looked absolutely masterfully prepared, and the aroma that it was letting off was enough to get the redhead primed and ready to sink her teeth into this positively delicious looking piece of art. Naturally, she grabbed her sticks quickly and was about to dig in when she looked up at Kaede, and saw that the blonde was looking at something behind Sia with a nervous and somewhat scared look in her eye. "What is it, Kaede?" Before Kaede could respond, Sia suddenly heard a grown man's voice behind her, letting out a small groan as he suddenly lunged for the table. "Fiiiiiiish" Sia would have been knocked to the side, but she had good enough reflexes to grab her plate and jump out of the way before the man stumbled ungracefully into her chair and gripped the table. Sia glared bullets at the man, who looked to be in about his mid to late twenties. "Hey! What's the big idea! In case you didn't notice, this is my lunch here!" The man didn't listen though, as he simply rose from the table and lunged at Sia again. "FIIIIIISH!" Sia stepped back again, keeping her plate safely out of his grip. "Stop that!"

By now, Kaede had risen from her chair as well, and was taking a step forward to try and mediate between Sia and the crazed man, but before she could, a young woman about the same age as her suddenly lunged for Kaede's plate as well, having appeared in the park behind where the two girls were sitting. "Fiiiish!" Before Kaede could react, the other woman grabbed her plate and pulled it over to her side of the fence, where she started to devour the contents. Kaede just let out a soft gasp, turning towards Sia to see that she was now dealing with about three or four different brain dead patrons creeping towards her, all of them slowly getting closer and closer to Sia's precious lunch.

"Fish."
"Fiiisssh?"
"Fiiiiiiiiish..."

Sia was standing her ground though, she refused to surrender over her lunch to these strange and mysterious creatures. "I thought I told you all to get lost!" At that point, Kaede saw a small back door that the two could use to get away from the slowly growing horde, so she grabbed Sia's free hand and urged her to come along. "Sia, this way." Sia decided to place her trust in where Kaede wanted to lead her, so she simply nodded and followed along as Kaede ran the two of them over to a nearby door, opened it, then shut and locked it once the two of them were safely inside. Kaede and Sia both took a moment to catch their breath before they realized that they were still holding hands, and both of them jerked out of the grip with more then just a little bit of blush in their respective cheeks. Thankfully, before they had too much time to dwell on the mild discomfort of them holding hands, a loud banging on the door brought them both back to reality as Sia walked over to the door and peeked through the looking glass to see the patrons on the outside. "They're still out there! Geez! How good is this stuff!" Meanwhile, Kaede was looking around the room that she had led the two of them into, apparently it was some kind of utility closet or something, since it had a lot of odds and ends in it that would have just cluttered up the building outside.

Sia had seen enough of the patrons outside, as she stepped back towards Kaede with her plate still in hand. "Let's see here... there's only one door out of here, so I guess..." Her eyes suddenly got a sinister glint in them as she offered Kaede her fish platter. "Kaede, hold on to this for me, would you?" Kaede simply nodded and accepted the lunch meal while she watched the redhead go over to the corner of the room and start picking up various kinds of chairs, where she did a test swing with each of them as she assessed the durability and condition of each and every one. "Hmm, this one's got more sting, but it might break... while this one..." Kaede simply giggled and looked around the room on her own, until she saw a roll of plastic wrap sitting up on one of the counters. If Sia was going to be swinging her way out of here, the least Kaede could do was protect the meal for her, right?

Within a few minutes. Sia had selected the chair that she wanted to go with, while Kaede had lovingly and diligently wrapped up the lunch. Sia pressed herself up against the door with her chair firmly gripped in one hand, while the other one was resting on the door knob. "Alright, you ready Kaede?" Kaede simply gave a small nod. "ready." And with that, Sia suddenly threw open the door and started swinging violently, chair meeting face with several a crazed patron hitting the ground shortly thereafter. Sia's attack was so swift and powerful that the rather sluggish and unprepared patrons simply didn't know how to react before it was far too late. With just a few decisive seconds, Sia cleared the way to the entrance for a swift escape, and she tossed the chair to the side. "We're clear! Run for it!" In the corner of her eye, she could already see several of the patrons getting up, so they had to operate on a very small clock to make their escape.

The two girls quickly fled from the cafe, completely blowing off the receptionist where they would normally pay and leave a tip. Sia turned back and waved at her, shouting as they continued their retreat. "We'll come back later to pay and return the plate! Promise!" The receptionist would have called after them and tried to get their attention, but she suddenly had a bigger issue to deal with as a horde of patrons that were stumbling their way out of the cafe demanding more fish. Thanks to the distraction provided to both the receptionist and the patrons, the two girls were able to make a clean getaway.

The two girls didn't stop running until they were in the middle of the park, and they sat down at a park bench while they caught their breath. Sia was the first one to talk, getting words out in between gasps of breath. "Well that... was... that was weird." After a few more seconds, the two of them fully caught their breath, and Kaede was able to offer Sia her lunch again. "Here you go, I even wrapped it for you and everything." Sia turned towards Kaede in surprise, not expecting her to take such care of her lunch like that. "Oh... um... thanks. Here's hoping that it was worth it." With that, she took the plate back, unwrapped it, and grabbed a piece of the fish with her sticks. After a few seconds to take a deep breath and calm her nerves, Sia popped the fish into her mouth and chewed. Kaede looked on curiously, trying to read Sia's reaction while she sampled it. "So?" After the first bite, Sia's eyes lit up happily and she instantly grabbed another piece of the fish. "It's really, really good!" Sia went on to eat about two or three more bites before she glanced over at Kaede to see the sad smile that the blonde was wearing, before she remembered that Kaede's lunch didn't make it out safely. Of course Kaede wouldn't say anything, she was never really one to vocalize her own desires. With a gentle smile, Sia offered Kaede the utensils. "Here, we can share it." Kaede looked genuinely surprised for a moment, and she spoke in a soft voice. "Are you sure, I mean it's your-" Sia cut in again, as she shook her head gently. "I'm sure, eat." Kaede's smile got much more genuine as she nodded, and began alternating bites of the lunch along with Sia.

After a little while, since the two girls had decided to slow down and make it last longer, Sia leaned in a little bit towards Kaede and reached towards the fish with her fingers. "Fiiiiiish." Kaede let out a small, startled yelp and watched in dismay, as she thought that her friend had been lost to the craze. However, at the last second, the hand that was reaching towards the lunch suddenly lifted up and gently grabbed Kaede's cheek while Sia gave her a playful smile. "Aw! I'm just kidding!" Kaede, now quite embarrassed, simply started to giggle softly. After a few seconds, Sia started to giggle along with her, and before too long, both girls were letting out genuine, full laughs as they recalled the extremely strange incident at the cafe.

Kaede was the first to speak again once they were settling down from their moment, though her words came out in between small, soft giggles. "Here's hoping the rest of our day is a bit more normal now." She had no way of knowing it, but she had just jinxed the two of them, she had just jinxed them hard.

End of chapter 3