I never hated him, despite how colorful my words were, how snide my remarks had been. Looking back on them now, I guess you could say I did regret some of it, maybe even most of it, but I don't regret much these days. If things hadn't worked out exactly as they had, down to the very last detail, we never would have been brought together, the eight of us. I never would have met my best friend, a kung-fu 'master', a modern day priestess, an idol, a pint sized detective, a stuffed animal turned mascot turned friend and him, of course.
A juvenile delinquent that destroyed my sensibilities and ransacked my grasp of right and very, very wrong.
To start, our relationship was overly complicated. It didn't have to be and most of it may have been me antagonizing the subject and it was stressed to say the least. Kanji was…well…even now, I'm not too sure. He said he just felt awkward around girls and it was nothing but it felt like there was more to it, like he was hiding more. I can't lie - I did feel awkward around him. The air was always thick; he was a decent guy, don't get me wrong but it was hard for me to overlook what he was. Souji seemed to be okay with it and most of the time, I wondered why I couldn't be, why it bothered me so much. The girls found him as bothersome as most men, Rise found him endearing and Naoto, well, they had something going on, I'm still not sure what. But, I just had the hardest time accepting Kanji. We dealt with each other. I think that was the best we could do. We were members of a team, we were seekers of truth but we were so very different. Little things he did urked me but still, we had each other's backs. So, I guess, in that respect, we were friends but I still use that term lightly.
Once Souji left, I think we all dealt with it differently. Chie clung to Yukiko, Rise went back to being an idol and writing ballads about the boy who left, the boy she loved. Naoto submerged herself in case after case. She didn't show her feelings all too well but she missed Souji more then she'd ever admit. Teddie popped in and out whenever he pleased (no surprise there) and me, well, I felt lost. I know, I'm being overdramatic, but it's true. Losing Souji, my constant support, was a hard hit I wasn't ready to take. He was there after Saki-senpai…I just felt as if I relapsed, wanting something more out of life, something to live for. My life in Inaba was still as it always had been, just a little more empty.
I worked at Junes when I wasn't at school. Idle hands are the devil's playground, right? And to be honest, I'd had enough of devils and gods and goddesses for one lifetime, thanks. I needed something to do, something to take my mind off of the thoughts clawing at the back of my head, so I stocked shelves, swept up, anything. Plus, I figured whatever money I made, I could save for a train ticket to see Souji. That idea kept me going.
This particular day, it just felt warmer then a day in late April should feel. The Junes apron was clinging to places it shouldn't and I felt disgusting. There was a faint breeze outside rustling the trees, not like I could feel it. One of the workers had called out so here I was, sweeping the same spot I had been for about fifteen minutes in silence, that unnerving kind of silence. I wasn't focusing on much of anything. Class that day was kind of rough and math was ju-
My heart skipped ten or so beats and was fighting to regain its rhythm. I turned and saw pretty much the last person I'd expect to see.
"Geez, Kanji!" I snapped, sounding a little more agitated then I actually was, "Don't sneak up on me like that!"
When my eyes met his, he looked dejected, truly sorry. He looked like a damned kicked puppy and that was one of his 'endearing' qualities. He shuffled his feet and cleared his throat, "Sorry, Senpai. Didn't mean to scare ya."
"Scare? Pfft, you didn't scare me." He did…sorta but he didn't need to know that. Considering what we'd been through, I shouldn't have been so skittish, "Did you want something?"
More shuffling, more downward glances. He was so awkward, it almost hurt to watch him struggle. Kanji cleared his throat again, seemingly searching for something, anything, to say. Words eluded him and judging by his face, he actually did have something to say, "After work, are you, uh, free, Senpai?"
Free? After work? I cocked an eyebrow, leaning against the broom I had been using minutes before. We'd never hung out, just us. Souji was always the center of our attention so even when we were together, the conversation was always a shared one. I didn't dread it or anything, it was just…new.
"Yeah, I should be." I answered before I even realized it. Kanji's face lit up just a bit. He looked almost relieved, a soft laugh following a few moments of silence.
"O-okay, cool." He smiled, taking a few steps away, "I'll wait in the food court. Just come when you get off!" Kanji trotted off and the first thought that popped into my head was to just leave, just go home after work, forget he asked and move on but part of me resisted such negative thinking. I had no idea what to do but my shift ended in an hour so I had sixty minutes to decide whether I would either stay or go. I was torn.