The jacket felt much too warm, even in the rapidly cooling evening.

As Takumi walked down the path to the Umehoshi household, he tried to imagine what his roommates were doing right now. Had Hana told them of his choice? Were they angry?

Tora probably wasn't a cause for worry. He had a big heart and an easy acceptance that always soothed the trigger-happy members of Umehoshi. But Hana's approval and Tora's acceptance might not be enough to convince Sakota and Renji. They probably wouldn't take his joining the Armament very well and he might be walking to his own beating.

His worried thoughts came to an abrupt stop when he spotted two silhouettes up ahead. Sakota and Renji faced him almost at the same time with matching stony expressions, which caused his stomach to tighten in apprehension.

Three teenagers stood in a circle under the streetlamp. Not an unusual sight to anyone passing by on a Friday evening, returning home from work. They might pause a moment over an obnoxious hairdo, or a disfiguring scar, or a leather jacket with a frightening skull, but that would only make them scamper away faster, oblivious to the silent words floating between the three delinquents.

It's funny how symbolic lighting a cigarette could be. With Sakota's burning support underneath his fingertips and Renji's smoky acceptance disappearing in the evening air, he felt invincible.

Sakota's words didn't surprise him because the man was always thinking about fighting. What surprised him was that the jacket suddenly didn't feel too warm anymore. In fact, the boys quickened their steps to get inside the bright house where Hana was already waiting with delicious cups of ramen.

Outside, the chilly wind carried the shriek of a fighting owl.