Author's Notes: Junpei is the main focus point! My attempt at his characterization, plus his personal interactions with Minako and Ryoji and them together. I pretty much busted my gut out with the happiest scenes I could write, because there's too much tragedy/angst (I know, it's a given) and their friendship needs more love! Junpei's awesome, Ryoji is just full of epic win, and MShe - she's cool. I just love them all. :D (I hope I wrote Aigis IC.)
Song #1 = "Welcome to the Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance
Song #2 = "Breathing" by Jason Derulo
Heartfelt Cry inspired the majority of its content.
Story 2 : Cry from the Heart
[The Magician needs more love in his lonely life.]
Noise. Static. Flicker. Six hour rewind. Memory log: 11/09/2009. Early Morning.
[Chatter. Excitement. Students are whispering as they settle in their seats.
Negative atoms appear on her radar, before an adolescent male human enters the vicinity. Organic darkness for hair. Blue moon eyes. Fluttering yellow taillight. Nothing out of the ordinary; something lurks beneath the surface.
He strolls through the door behind homeroom instructor Ms. Toriumi. Female humans are hypnotized, pheromones reacting to secreted energy meant to attract prey. He resembles a fallen angel or a handsome devil, possesses the ability to manipulate the atmosphere.
Aigis senses different DNA, a being unlike all the others, does not understand this unease she feels. Gears go rigid.
[Ms. Toriumi]: "Alright everyone, today we have yet another transfer student... As you all know, this is our third. That makes it a hat trick."
Everyone seems unamused. Yukari hangs her head, Junpei groans, yet that one lone chuckle draws Aigis to glance at her first priority. She re-registers the soothing vibration upon moment of enlightenment.
[Ms. Toriumi]: (Glare.) "...please introduce yourself."
[Transfer Student]: "My name is Ryoji Mochizuki. I would be grateful if you could show me the ropes."
His smiling mask unsettles Aigis, festers hostility in her amnesic system, and she registers his name into her memory circuits.
[Ryoji Mochizuki]: "...Nice to meet you all."
Lightning speed calculations determine the direct angle of his intent stare, the spot beside her – Minako Arisato. Invisible pressure twists the wires, threatens to wrench her from within.
[Ms. Toriumi]: "Ryoji lived overseas for a long time because of his parents' work, so he may not be used to all of our customs. Please be sure to explain them to him."
[Ryoji Mochizuki]: "I'd be grateful."
[Ms. Toriumi]: "Now then, you need a seat. Let's see... That one's open. Second from the left, in the front."
[Yukari Takeba]: "Um... Ms. Toriumi? Technically, that seat's taken..."
[Ms. Toriumi]: "You must be present to be a member of this class, so as far as I'm concerned, that seat is taken. Life is nothing but a game of musical chairs. The rest of you should be careful, too."
He strolls pass Aigis – Optic nerves whir – and he stops to face her direction.
[Ryoji Mochizuki]: "Good morning. I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch your name..."
[Mechanical Maiden]: "...You are dangerous."
[Ryoji Mochizuki]: "Dangerous? I haven't even asked you out on a date yet..."
Confusion echoes. They are not on the same wavelength.
[Mechanical Maiden]: "A date...?"
[Yukari Takeba]: "Aigis, what's wrong with you?"
[Ryoji Mochizuki]: (Smile. Laughter. Unassuming humanity.) "Rejected from the start. You're an interesting girl..."
[Ms. Toriumi]: "Your teacher understands, Aigis. You haven't had very long to be the 'new student,' and already you have to share the spotlight." (Sigh.) "I wish your classmates would pay attention to me for a change... Hey, are any of you even listening?"]
Data does not compute. File removed from Inbox. Copy saved to Gekkoukan High: Memories of You.
Aigis stands up from her seat after she exits standby mode. The present scene before her [Ryoji Mochizuki has come into physical contact with Minako Arisato] spikes urgency to intervene.
One handshake begins the end of their precocious friendship. [I will make sure of this.]
"You are a threat! Ryoji-san, please step away from Minako-san!"
His smile falters at her hostility and formality masks his discomfort. "...Oh, um, Aigis-san. Would it be alright if I stood closer to you, then?"
Junpei sighs. Mumble grumble. "Yikes... What's all this about...?"
"Would you girls like to spend time with us?" Ryoji attempts to amend their rocky start; Aigis doesn't appreciate the effort.
Cerulean eyes zoom in on their hands, how they remain linked the entire time, and her glare may as well be launching missiles. Ryoji frets behind his smile.
"Minako-san cannot." Places a tense hand on her shoulder for emphasis. When he does not let go as she suspects, Aigis pulls her close. "She has work in approximately one hour, thirty-eight minutes, and twenty-two seconds."
"Aigis." Minako hopes for patience in the coming days where this might become a habit; in the meantime, she pries her overprotective grip and decides not to humor Ryoji for today. "I'm going to Hagakure Ramen with a friend before work. You can prepare my uniform and wait for me there."
"Ahh~" Junpei wags his eyebrows. "I see how it is."
Best friends communicate all manner of mental remarks and knowing looks, flippant hand gestures and silly facial expressions; re-enacting past conversations. Aigis and Ryoji stare, intrigued by this unique exchange. Junpei breaks eye contact at last and nudges Ryoji to follow.
"I guess it's just you and me, dude."
"I don't mind." He shrugs, smiling. "Let's go now. It's a sad thing to watch girls leave first, after all."
Junpei chuckles; his choice of words amuse him. "Spoken like a true man."
Junpei tips the bill of his cap with self-importance, smile plastered as if he were a magician ready to perform a parlor trick. They stand near the arcade at Paulownia Mall and he had promised to show Ryoji how to accomplish the impossible: extracting a Jack Frost doll from a rigged crane machine.
"Watch and be amazed."
Junpei puts on his game face, hand poised on the joy stick. Digital clock ticking, their faces loom near the glass barrier until Junpei jabs the button. They watch as it plummets at an odd angle. Hooks latch and slip off the plushie head, and Junpei growls. Second attempt; hooks snap around the fringe of its hat, and Junpei snarls, fire flaring from his nostrils. Dozens more rounds of spent coins and dollar bills burning through his pockets, and colorful vocabulary, and banging fists at the machine –
"Damn it, you piece of shit! I oughtta–."
"C-Calm down, Junpei-kun." Ryoji appeases the boy in vain with a meek smile. "Maybe some other ti–."
"I said I'm gonna get it, and I'm gonna get it!"
The happy-go-lucky enabler supplies his compliance. "Okay."
Cheek smooshed against glass, eyes squinting at his adorable target, Junpei jerks the stick with fidgety precision. Heart leaping in his throat, Ryoji gulps and upon immediate panic convinces himself it won't last long given its hanged man impression.
Jack Frost flops back onto the pile. Junpei collapses. "THERE IS NO GOD!"
"No! I will not allow it!" Determined after seeing him shed blood, sweat, and tears for a toy just to throw in the towel, Ryoji pulls him back onto his feet. "Here!" He slaps ridiculous amount of coins into his palm. "Take some of my money. We're not leaving until we get it, right? Don't give up!" His earnest smile rejuvenates Junpei's optimism.
"Damn straight. Let's do this thing."
"I'm right behind you."
Normally that would have been a perfect opportunity for Junpei to pull out an obligatory "That's what she said," but this situation calls for desperate measures. They have come too far to give up now and they resolve to walk away rewarded.
"Don't worry. I'll use my Jedi mind powers to help us win!"
"Yeah, well... Let's hope they're legit."
It seems sheer determination defeated the odds some way or another, because Jack Frost made it home.
"Yay! We did it!" Lost in a moment of delirious excitement, they embrace each other. Until Junpei shoves him off. Ryoji laughs, unashamed, and fetches the prize. Softness shrinks beneath his hands as he squeezes it and coos over its irresistible cute face, its empty black eye sockets and open black smile.
Junpei snorts, blush gone. "Dude. You are such a girl."
"Am not." Unrepentant grin. "I just happen to be in touch with my feminine side."
"And the chicks dig it?"
"Of course! Girls like it when guys show their sensitive side." Wink, two finger salute. Junpei rolls his eyes. Like he hadn't heard that one before."By the way, are you going to give this to Minako-chan?"
"Huh?" Junpei snorts. "She's got like a mountain of those going on in her room. Nah. You can keep it."
"Wow! Really? I can have it?" He takes a moment to admire the doll, its magical blue hat and matching sneakers and pure white fluffiness. His face glows with a smile that stretches to his ears. "Thanks, Junpei-kun! This means a lot!"
"Uh, yeah..." The boy scratches his head, self-conscious, scratching his scalp further beneath his cap, and shrugs. "You're welcome?" It doesn't feel weird at all to give a guy a girly gift. Yeah. Junpei reaffirms this statement with a proud nod.
"There's something about spending the entire day at the mall, playing games, having all kinds of fun..." Ryoji must be musing out loud, since Junpei struggled to catch the tail end of that sentence. Fondness lights up his face, the kind of smile he's seen only one other person give him. "I want to spend all my days like this, and you'd be the first person I'd call, Junpei-kun."
He feels all warm and fuzzy inside, 'but no way in hell will I admit it.' Junpei rubs his nose, smiling. "Heh. Can't promise the same. You lose out to Minako."
"But you know what," Junpei says, slinging an arm around his shoulders, "You can always hang with us!" Ryoji slouches under his weight, smile increasing tenfold.
"Like the three musketeers!"
"Hell yeah! ...but it's not much the three musketeers without Minako. She should be getting out of work soon. Lemme call her up."
"Oh! Can I have her number?"
"Yeah, sure." He recites her number by memory and Ryoji dials the digits, nonchalant urgency placing the call. What possessed Junpei to give out his best friend's number without permission, he had no idea, but Casanova boy beat him to the punch.
"Wut? You sly dog."
"It's Ryoji– Huh? Junpei-kun–."
"What do you think you're doing?"
"–gave it to me, yeah, sorry about that!" He flees and laughs at Junpei's predatory approach. Loud mouths compete to drown out the other; what a sight, when two teenagers play tag. "I know, I know you're busy, but..."
"Give me back the kindness I gave you!"
"Hold on a second– Junpei-kun! Where doe–."
"Hand over the phone. I wanna talk to her!"
Ryoji leaps on a bench, Junpei pursues him on top the fountain's circular rim, the latter less graceful than the former, and they both jump down to dodge and lunge between annoyed bystanders. "Where does Minako-chan work?"
"Why are you asking me? She's on the phone with you!"
"C'mon, Junpei-kin, tell me before she–"
"Chagall Cafe. Now get back here!"
"That's near where we are! Hey, Minako-chan, when are you getting off? You're finishing up? Gre–ACK!" Ryoji reels back, cell phone clattering to the ground when he reaches for the scarf now suffocating him. Junpei laughs, pulling the long cloth tighter.
"Ta da-da da! Found your weak spot!"
"Junpei-kun..." he says, breathless, "You're... mean..."
"Couldn't help it. Wearing this kind of thing — you were just asking for it!"
Round and round they spin in a violent circle,
spinning the ropes of their mischief and mayhem.
"Boys these days..."
Middle-aged housewives step inside for last minute luxury, gossiping about the commotion outside.
Minako almost spills her drink when fresh brewed coffee scalds her tongue. 'That's what I get for rushing... and getting caught on the phone during on my shift...' She stifles a groan, apologizes to karma for multi-tasking earlier, and returns to enjoying Chagall's trademark.
"They are very energetic, though. Sigh... What I would do to be twenty years younger..."
Those two same women situate themselves near Minako's table. Should she be concerned about incoming cougar comments? Not really, since time has taught her how to desensitize her disgust.
"I know what you mean. That boy with the yellow scarf looks absolutely striking!"
"You like 'em pretty." The smirking woman clucks her tongue. "But I prefer them aggressive. Like that one wearing the cap!"
Cue choking. And coughing.
So much for her break.
Minako changed out of her maid uniform, before the boys had half a mind to find her. Especially if Ryoji laid eyes on her, because God knows if he'd ever be able to keep his hands to himself. Not exactly something she wanted to test out, either.
Ten minutes and she meets them at the centermost fountain. The sight of her brings startling delight, glad to see her outside school and glad to see her twice in one day. This feeling scares him, uncertain of where to interpret its source, and despite himself Ryoji runs forward—but Junpei reaches her first.
"Hey, girlie, how you doing?" His warmth lingers longer than his prolonged embrace and Minako smiles. She must look tired.
This has been their routine since that October incident, this has been their thing.
They give each other love everyday, a little more than the last.
Ryoji slows his approach, disheartened and yet
touched by this heartwarming scene.
"What do you guys want to do?"
"I don't mind whatever."
They look to each other for suggestions. She shrugs, conceals a yawn. Junpei glances at the stairway and smirks.
"...who's up for some karaoke?"
Piano begins the song, a light and tinkling singular sound. Anticipation hushes the boisterous crowd, the yelling ladies and gentlemen of Mandragora Karaoke. Junpei adjusts his hat, nervous, relying on his two friends for moral support. Minako and Ryoji stand on either side of him, twin smiles of encouragement. Bright words that serve to aid amateur singers appear on the karaoke machine's screen and his voice breaks free from cowardice to tell a story.
"When I was, A young boy, My father took me into the city, To see a marching band." In Minako's mind's eye, darkness opens a scene, of a man on his sickbed surrounded by nurses. The black and white television screen in his hospital room flickers to life, projecting the face of a rock star. "He said, 'Son when you grow up, Will you be the savior of the broken, the beaten and the damned?'"
In the music video she watched once, the electrocardiogram beeps to the beat of the patient's dying heart. Its green light a discouraging color in contrast to the neon strobe lights of the karaoke bar. Darkness shrinks the picture; a pale hand clasps that of a nitrile glove, unlike Junpei's affectionate clap when he passes the baton to Ryoji.
"He said, 'Will you defeat them, your demons, and all the non-believers, The plans that they have made?'" Bass drums snap to attention, glockenspiel resonating and rising thereafter. "Because one day, I'll leave you, a phantom, to lead you in the summer, to join the black parade." Multitude of percussions rock and roll, guitar strings blasting beneath passionate fingertips adept at air guitar. The audience whoops. Energy surges in her veins, emotional energy empowering, and Minako's voice joins them at last.
Trio of heartfelt cries repeat the first chorus:
When I was, A young boy, My father took me into the city, To see a marching band. He said, 'Son when you grow up, Will you be the savior of the broken, the beaten and the damned?'
Lapse in vocals and they pause for breath, laughing and looking at each other. "Heh heh. We got this." Junpei fiddles with the cord attached to the main microphone; Ryoji blows a quick kiss to the female onlookers; and Minako taps her toes, unable to contain her excitement.
Lyrics explode on cue and they don't miss a beat except for their beating hearts.
"Sometimes I get the feeling, she's watching over me, And other times I feel like I should go," Junpei pumps his fist above his head, "When through it all, the rise and fall, the bodies in the street," Minako strolls through the mass of sitting people, "And when you're gone we want you all to know~ We'll carry on~" returns to whence she came, and Ryoji pours his soul into the microphone, "We'll carry on~"
Joy stretches ruddy cheeks, yet they don't dare stop.
"And though you're dead and gone believe me, Your memory will carry on, We'll carry on~" Junpei slouches his shoulders, howling at the top of his lungs, "And in my heart I can't contain it," Minako hugs herself, rocking back and forth, "The Anthem won't explain it," and Ryoji sweeps his arm in a grand gesture.
"A world that sends you reeling from decimated dreams, You're misery and hate will kill us all," boy and girl engage in a mock fight, playful punches thrown and flimsy blocks made, "So paint it black and take it back, Let's shout it loud and clear," Ryoji paints the air with positive flare and holds his smile like a torch, "Defiant to the end we hear the call, To carry on, We'll carry on~" and Minako strains herself to hold that high-pitched note.
Highlighted words continue flowing on screen, unwarranted at this point. Minako has this song memorized by heart and Junpei just loves his rock music, and Ryoji – he knows how to lose himself in the moment.
And though you're dead and gone believe me, Your memory will carry on, We'll carry on~ And though you're broken and defeated, your weary widow marches~
"And on and on we carry through the fears, oh oh ho~" Ryoji taps his cheeky face thrice, "The disappointed faces of your peers, oh oh ho~" Minako sticks her tongue out, "Take a look at me 'cause I could not care at all~" and Junpei's killer smile can rival the devil. Girls swoon, guys whistle.
"Do or die, You'll never make me, Because the world will never take my heart," they march in place as if entering into battle, "Go and try, you'll never break me, We want it all, we want to play this part," until they separate, wireless microphones in hand.
Ryoji leaps onto a table and twirls with scarf sashaying, "I won't explain, or say I'm sorry," Minako hops on a barstool and dares to skip across the counter, "I'm unashamed, I'm gonna show my scars," and Junpei wipes down imaginary tears from his intense face. They almost knock drinks and plates of food aside, startling people with their bold horseplay, disgruntling them — yet they also find infinite amusement from their enviable vivacity.
"Give a cheer, for all the broken," Minako somersaults off the edge, performs a graceful landing, "Listen here, because it's who we are," Ryoji bows with a flourish, and the crowd applauds, "I'm just a man, I'm not a hero," clapping louder after Junpei stakes this most epic claim. "Just a boy, who had to sing this song, I'm just a man, I'm not a hero,"
They hurry back to his side, jumping in time to the syllables. "I. Don't. Care!"
"We'll carry on~! We'll carry on~!" They stomp to emphasized syllables; Junpei pumps his arms, Minako sways her hips, Ryoji snaps his fingers. "And though you're dead and gone, believe me," they dance around each other, hands reaching out, "Your memory will carry on," Minako skipping one way, Ryoji the opposite direction, "We'll carry on, And though you're broken and defeated" and Junpei shuffles like crazy at center stage, "Your weary widow marches on~"
Ryoji winks, "Do or die~" finger trained like a gun to his temple, "You'll never make me," Minako points to the sky, "Because the world," Junpei swings to pound his chest, "Will never take my heart," they risk breathing, "Go and try," linking arms, "You'll never break me," bumping heads, "We want it all," smiling cheek to cheek, "We want to play this part."
Minako kisses his cheek, "Do or die," Ryoji pats his back, "You'll never make me," twirling apart, "Because the world will never take my heart" repeating the chorus whereas Junpei splits from the rest and prolongs that solo line.
"We'll carry on~"
The crowd cheers, and Junpei never felt more alive.
"Did you see that shit? We totally owned that place!"
"Let's commemorate the occasion!"
"Yeah! To the Print Booth!"
They squeeze close to fit inside the camera's frame – Snap! – and they were smiling so big that they can't even see their eyes for the tears.
Ryoji's footsteps are shy of the opposite sidewalk once they reach the intersection.
"See you tomorrow?"
Junpei smirks. "You bet."
"Goodnight, Ryoji." Minako waves.
Jack Frost waves back, his master conveying childish sadness. This endearing action motivates Minako to reciprocate, digging in her backpack for her own little friend. A rabbit doll.
Cuteness overload proves impossible to take seriously. Junpei sniggers, grasps her arm, steers her toward the dorm. "...As much as I like chilling in the winter, we gotta go. It's almost midnight. See ya!"
Minako skips to the pace of Junpei's jog. Ryoji watches them disappear beyond the exposure of streetlights as their voices recede into darkness.
"So... Who gave you that? Another secret admirer?"
"Well, if you must know... Akihiko-senpai."
"Totally called it."
His smile of farewell wilts in the shadows. For some reason,
he never wanted the day to end
ever since it began.
"You had me at hello."
I only miss you when I'm breathing
Halfway in the process of unpacking her backpack, notebook, textbook, and pencil piling on the desk, Minako looks up,earphones down. I only need you when my heart is beating... Ryoji grins; not his best pick-up line, but he doesn't fail to amuse. His warmth and humor reflects in her crimson eyes, and she giggles.
"I didn't even say hello."
He giggles. "You did now."
Childish glee ensues.
They lapse into comfortable silence, jokes and chit-chat and academic normalcy surrounding their little world while glares are met with oblivious resistance. She glances at the doorway, curious when she notices Ryoji doing the same. Minako smiles.
"Junpei's just late. He'll come soon."
Pleasant surprise reveres her power of perception. "I know."
Music echoes quiet as static. I only miss you when I'm breathing