Notes: As I said at the beginning, this is a side story to Alluring Mystery, and this chapter has a lot of references to it. I hope that everyone, including those who may have not read Alluring Mystery, are able to follow along. Anyway, here's the last chapter of Charmed! I hope you enjoy it!
*AnimaniacXOX: The Ken/Minako pairing is certainly very cute. His Lover's Path is very pure and innocent. ^^ Thanks for the review!
*witchjuliana12: Yes! An epilogue! XD I'll start working on it soon, and I'm sorry for taking so long to update the last chapter! I hope you enjoy this one too!
*honey-vanilla11: Thank you! It took me a while to get used to writing as Ken since he's very different from Ryoji, who somehow comes so easily to me, but writing this fic has also been very fun. Enjoy the final chapter!
Chapter 4 – The Reality
Ryoji visited the dorms quite often.
But considering the recent events, no one really complained. After Chidori's unfortunate death, it was hard for everyone to watch the always-cheerful Junpei mope around and be sad. At least with a friend like Ryoji around, Junpei managed to bounce back to his normal self, and Ken was happy to see that. His only worry was what would happen if Minako came home while Ryoji was visiting, but since she was always working or at her club whenever Ryoji came over, Ken had never seen the two of them together since he first saw Ryoji at Gekkoukan, and that was just fine with him.
In the meantime, Ken took the opportunity to observe Ryoji's character. As a person, he didn't seem like such a bad guy. He was polite and properly greeted everyone, even Ken, whenever he visited, and he and Junpei seemed to get along pretty well. Ken finally understood how strange it was for Aigis to always call Ryoji "dangerous." Everything about him seemed perfectly normal.
One night, Junpei and Ryoji were playing games in Junpei's room, and everyone else was downstairs. Ken was planning on returning to his room to finish his homework when, as he passed Junpei's door, he heard voices.
"So dude, you really told her?" Junpei's voice.
There was a quiet reply, but it sounded like a confirmation. Ken stopped, wondering what they were talking about. "Her" Junpei had said, and with Ryoji in the room, who else could it be? Ken didn't know if he really wanted to hear the rest, but his feet seemed to weigh twenty tons. He was frozen in his spot. The voices continued, and Ken almost couldn't hear, but then Junpei's voice returned to its normal tone.
"I gotta hand it to you, Ryoji, I was beginning to think that girl would stay single forever."
It had to be. They were talking about Minako. It was the only way things made sense.
The weight on Ken's feet was suddenly lifted, and seemingly on their own, his feet ran into his own room, and Ken slammed the door behind him. He leaned his back against it, lightly gasping for breath. Minako-san…and Ryoji-san? Could it be…could they really be…? Ken shook his head. The mere thought was enough to make his heart ache, and his mind raced with all the other "hers" that Junpei could have meant. Yukari, Mitsuru…someone from their school Ken didn't even know! Any excuse would do, just keep the undesirable truth from becoming real!
But it wouldn't work. He knew. He always knew that it would turn out this way.
Am I…too late? Is it really impossible for me to be by her side?
Ken heard a door opening in the hallway. The only ones on the guys' floor were Ken, Junpei, and Ryoji, so it was obviously Junpei's door. Ken also only heard one set of footsteps going downstairs, and, although faint, a voice that was undeniably Junpei's saying, "Wait here." Ken slowly slid to the floor, wondering what he should do now. Should he try find proof of his theory? Should he confess to Minako, even if as he is now, he was unsuitable for her? Or should he just give up on her altogether? Three options, and none of them one that Ken wanted to do.
Then he heard Junpei's door open again, and once more only one set of footsteps. Ken didn't hear Junpei come back up the stairs. Was Ryoji leaving the room? Maybe to use the bathroom, Ken assumed, but then his assumption was proved wrong when he heard the footsteps going upstairs.
To the girls' floor.
Out of instinct, even though he didn't know what he wanted to accomplish by doing it, Ken quickly left his room and peeked upstairs. He could clearly see Ryoji making his way up to the third floor. He was alone, and his expression seemed…unusually vacant. But that didn't matter, although none of the girls were in their rooms at the moment, surely it was unethical for Ryoji to be up on their floor. (Especially considering his reputation, Ken couldn't help but think.) Ken had no choice. What could Ryoji possibly be planning? Although Ryoji was the last person Ken wanted to see at the moment, he had to stop him.
"Hey Ken? What are you doing?"
Ken felt his heart leap out of his chest in surprise as he spun around. Junpei was standing at the foot of the staircase holding two canned sodas in his hands. He had one eyebrow raised at Ken. Obviously he was confused.
Ken sighed, relaxing a bit. "I just saw Ryoji-san heading up to the girls' floor." They were friends, so Junpei could probably handle Ryoji better anyway. It'd be better to leave it to him.
"Seriously?" Junpei let out a small laugh, "Guess he couldn't wait." Ken flinched. He did not want to hear it put that way… "Okay, I'll get him before Mitsuru-senpai does," Junpei said, putting the canned soda by his door. "Thanks Ken."
Junpei rushed up the stairs, and Ken simply stood where he was. He could hear the two boys talking, even upstairs. It sounded as if Ryoji was by Minako's room. Once more, Ken sighed. Ryoji's feelings seemed pretty clear. As for Minako…Ken shook his head. No, he didn't want to think about it. Slowly, Ken made his way back downstairs, where the others were. As he was, there was no way he could concentrate on his homework.
And no matter how things turned out, he just really wanted to see her.
Ken sat quietly in the lounge, pretending to watch TV. Every now and then, he would glance at the clock. She should be home soon, and Ryoji would have to leave soon as well. So far, he had been lucky in that the two hadn't met up at the dorms yet, but surely the luck would only run for so long. And sure enough, right when he heard two sets of footsteps coming downstairs, Ken could hear the front doorknob wiggling. It opened, and Minako walked in.
"Oh, welcome back, Minako-chan," Fuuka said, "You're late. Ryoji-kun was just leaving."
Finally, his luck ran out. Ken did not move from his spot on the couch, merely watching as the two spoke to each other. They both looked happy, but there were no signs of a romantic relationship from their actions alone. For a moment, Ken felt the slight hope that he had misunderstood Junpei after all, but then Ryoji leaned closer to Minako and whispered something in her ear.
Without thinking, Ken sat up and clutched the couch cushions with his fists. Jealousy raged through him, but there was nothing he could do. He had to calm down. An adult would be able to handle this situation calmly.
Ryoji left, and Minako's face had a slight red tinge.
"Ken-kun, let's go to Tartarus tonight."
Long after Ryoji left, Minako had made a quick visit to Ken's room to give him that quick message. Over and over, that message would repeat in his mind. Why couldn't it have been him? Wouldn't someone who was actually a part of SEES and understood Persona be better suited for her? Why was Ryoji, a complete outsider, the one at her side? Jealousy was so unbecoming. It only lead to hatred, grudges, and inevitably revenge. Ken didn't want to go down that path anymore, but he couldn't help it.
Why couldn't it have been me?
Ken and the rest of SEES were back in Tartarus, and he was currently exploring the floors with Minako, Mitsuru, and Aigis. So far everything was great, and their group showed no signs of slowing down. They destroyed Shadow after Shadow, but for Ken, that message never left his mind.
"Ken-kun, let's go to Tartarus tonight."
It was somehow unnerving. Everything currently bothering him was exploited in that one sentence. Ken knew about Tartarus. Doesn't that somehow put him in a category above Ryoji? Ken had known Minako for months, and Ryoji just transferred here. How could Ryoji have gotten so far ahead? And then, the other unnerving part…
His first name…without a "kun" or "san."
"Ken-kun, are you alright? You've been kinda out of it today."
Ken gasped, yanked out of his thoughts by Minako's voice. Mitsuru and Aigis were up ahead, but Minako had matched pace with Ken and was walking next to him. She looked concerned. She always could tell when something was wrong. At the moment, there were no Shadows, and SEES calmly walked through the strange labyrinth. So quiet…if Ken told her what was wrong now, everyone would know…
"Minako-chan! Ken-kun! Behind you!" said Fuuka's alarmed voice.
Out of nowhere, another one of those annoying cupid Shadows appeared right behind Minako. Their guard was down, an awful time to be ambushed. I…was distracting her… Ken could see it all, everything as if in slow motion. The Shadow quickly approaching Minako with its bow and arrow raised, Mitsuru, too far away to help, Aigis slowly raising her gun, and Minako, who in mid-turn would have no way to defend herself in time.
Ken's mind flashed back to when he was charmed by the very same kind of Shadow. Minako was wounded that time, and he couldn't do anything about it. Her wound…the blood…her scream…that dripping sound of blood that would drive anyone insane…
Only one thing was in Ken's mind: protecting her. Everything returned to normal speed, but with only one thing on his mind, Ken reacted purely on instinct, and everything was over in a second. Even with his small body, he managed to shove Minako to the side, and with one powerful thrust, his spear pierced the cupid Shadow. It made its annoying squeak again before disappearing into a dark cloud. Minako's were wide, and she was panting slightly as she waited for the adrenaline to fade. Then, Ken regained his senses, and his eyes widened when he realized what he just accomplished: He beat that Shadow in one shot.
"Ken-kun…" The relief in her voice sounded so wonderful.
I protected Minako-san…
Mitsuru and Aigis rushed over, asking if Ken and Minako were okay. Minako quickly regained her cheerfulness and said it was all thanks to Ken, but the boy modestly looked to the ground, claiming he didn't do so much. When the excitement wore down, Mitsuru and Aigis continued on, but Minako stayed behind.
"Thanks Ken-kun," she said with a bright smile, "If it weren't for you, I might have gotten injured again."
Ken didn't meet her eyes. Before, when he was charmed, he had hurt Minako. But now…he proved that he could protect her as well. He could do it. He is someone capable of protecting her in a way Ryoji cannot. Now, he was able to forgive himself for hurting her the way he did. He had redeemed himself, and that feeling somehow gave him courage.
"Whether you're an adult or a child, I'll always care for 'Ken-kun.'"
Minako blinked, a bit confused at Ken's silence. "Ken-kun, are you okay?"
"…Minako-san." He calmly looked into her eyes. "Even once is okay, but just once…could you call me by name?"
She stared at him for a moment. She was probably wondering what brought on such a request, but it didn't matter. If only just once, Ken wanted to be put on the same level as Ryoji. Just once…he wanted to hear her call him only by his name. Then Minako smiled, understanding what he meant, and to Ken's surprise, she actually wrapped her arms around him, and gave him a tight hug.
Even if it was only a friendly hug, Ken did not mind. Everything, his insecurities and his anxieties all seemed to disappear. A content smile appeared on his face, and the large green moon of the Dark Hour shone in brightly through a window in the corridor.
One more day until the full moon.
There was something Ken had forgotten all this time, something very important.
Ever since he hurt her in Tartarus, Ken had thought carefully about his relationship with Minako Arisato. He knew what he wanted: he wanted to be suitable for her, to be special to her, to be the one that protects her during difficult times. He wanted her to love him the way he did her. But he thought he had no chance because of their age difference, that there were other people much more suitable for her, and most of all, because he was the one who hurt her so badly. Yet, she didn't blame him at all. Minako knew Ken would never willingly hurt her because she saw Ken as his true self. He liked that about her.
The Shadows may have charmed him that day, but he was the one charmed by her.
Being charmed by someone is a strange feeling. The things you thought were obvious are suddenly confusing. You're unsure of your own feelings and what you really want. Sometimes, you tend to think of yourself, and what you think you want, completely forgetting that your feelings involve one other person, and that person has their own feelings. Ken had believed that, as long as he was suitable, if he could proudly stand at Minako's side, and vise versa, then everything would be all right. They could be together. Some might call that a "childish" hope, but it wasn't. It was just hope.
But hope is blinding, and it kept Ken from seeing the most important thing.
The Moonlight Bridge. All members of SEES, minus one Shinjiro Aragaki, stood together on the large bridge under the large full moon of the Dark Hour. Aigis was damaged…no, hurt very badly. Everyone gathered around their fallen friend, and Aigis could only say she was sorry. Minako held Aigis in her arms, asking for an explanation of what happened, but all Aigis did was apologize. For what reason, no one had any clue.
At least, until Ryoji showed up.
He explained to everyone what happened. That he was the one who hurt Aigis, that he was the embodiment of all Shadows, and finally, the most shocking news of all: he had been sealed inside Minako all this time. Everything…it was all so shocking and sudden, as if everything they knew about Shadows had been turned upside down. Ken watched Minako's expression as Ryoji explained things. Her eyes were wide and confused. Even she, the leader who always had the answers, was at a loss for words. Then she asked Yukari to take care of Aigis and slowly stood up. She never took her eyes off Ryoji, and Ken could have sworn he heard her quietly say Ryoji's name.
"There's more I need…to tell you."
But Ryoji couldn't tell them more. Not that night. The moment he finished his sentence, Ryoji collapsed to his feet, and he lay there completely still. That fight with Aigis must have been something incredible, but Ken did not have time to reflect on that. His attention was drawn from Ryoji to Minako, who from the moment Ryoji collapsed made a mad dash to his side. Then, as if snapped out of a stupor, everyone but Yukari and Aigis followed.
That was when Ken realized he had forgotten something important.
He knew the moment he saw Minako rush to Ryoji's side. He watched her run, almost as if in slow motion, as he came to the realization. It was never about being suitable. It was never about being able to stand proudly beside her. Whether someone was suitable for her or not, Minako will inevitably be the one to decide who she wants by her side.
And she did not choose Ken. Simple as that.
Even though they now knew who Ryoji really was, Minako still ran to his side. She still cared for him, and Ken watched her take his hand. Of course she would still love him; Minako was just that kind of person. She could see a person's true self, not who they were on the surface. It was clear now. Minako loved Ryoji. And Ken just needed to accept that fact, no matter how hard it could be. But it'll be okay, because the girl he loved had someone she loved, and that in itself was a miracle to be celebrated. There was no need to be jealous or upset, no need to feel defeated or unsuitable. He only needed to accept and face reality. Although her love might end tragically, Ken could still be by Minako's side as an important…special friend.
And he was already suitable for that.
Notes: One thing I've always thought about Ken is that he expects too much of himself. I understand his desire to be more mature or adult-like, but I think he sometimes takes it to the extreme where he will occasionally forget his true self. He'll focus on what he is unable to do rather than what he can do now, and I worry that as an adult, he'll regret that he didn't try to really live out his childhood. And what I like about his and Minako's SL is that she seems to understand this part of him, and she will try in various ways to bring out his true self. And further along, down the Lover's Route, she'll respect his insecurities about their age difference, yet love him for who he is rather than what he is able to do for her. I think this fanfic is basically a combination of my thoughts on Ken and Minako's relationship and his point of view during Alluring Mystery.
Alright, enough ranting. This is the final chapter of Charmed, and soon I will work on the epilogue for Alluring Mystery. As much as I look forward to writing as Ryoji again, writing Charmed was an interesting experience to write from the point of view of another character, and I may try exploring Minako's relationship with other SEES members later on. Thank you everyone for reading this story, especially witchjuliana12 who has reviewed every chapter! I always appreciate feedback, and reading reviews always makes me happy. So, thank you, and until next time!