Author's Notes: This is a short mini-series I've been itching to write about. I might update it every now and then, but I have it planned to be short and sweet. Hope you guys enjoy it! (If there's still anyone in the Shuffle! fandom)

...

It was early in the evening, thought Rin Tsuchimi, as he looked out the window of a train. The sun was sinking in the distance and blackness started to bleed into the perriwinkle sky. The lingering rays of sunlight settled on Rin's clothes, a sharp coat-and-tie attire befitting a Tokyo salaryman intent on riding the corporate ladder to the top. However, the young man gave off no aura of a Tokyo salaryman at all.

Rin's tie was undone, his coat was unbuttoned and his shirt stuck out oddly from under his belt. His hair was unkempt and the beginnings of a beard was growing on his face. There was no energy in his eyes and a frown was stamped on his lips. Crumpled up in the pocket of his coat was a little piece of paper – a pink slip roughly two days old.

In his hands was a trolley of his luggage he had meticulously yet somberly prepared himself. On the other was a cellphone.

"Asa Shigure" read the phone, the indicator highlighting the familiar name in blue.

"Sorry Rin-chan, I can't meet you at the station. Takkun and I had something planned today – I'll make it up to you, though!"

Rin read the text message again, trying to find some way to look at it positively. 'I can't meet you.' 'Takkun and I'. None of it lightened his already ill mood.

He and Asa Shigure drifted apart after their short-lived relationship. Takumi Takizawa, now referred to as 'Takkun' and the lively upperclassman hit it off and their bond proved to stand the test of time. It made Rin wonder what he lacked, and what wedged him and the love of his life apart... and in such a short time.

"One year..." Rin muttered to no one in particular. He ran his fingers through his messy hair in frustration.

With his free hand, Rin scrolled down through his phone and came into his outbox. He had sent a number of messages out to a few people – those people who had been close to him; Kaede Fuyou, Princess Lisianthus Eustoma of the Gods, Princess Nerine Forbesii and Primula. There had been no reply from any one of them so far, but Rin wasn't surprised.

He was coming back to Verbena City all of the sudden, after all... and it's been a long time since he had actually talked to any one of them. He wasn't even sure if he still had their current phone numbers – or full names for that matter. Some of them might even be married now... he didn't know. Thinking about it just frustrated him even more.

He pocketed his phone and sighed as the train rolled into the station.

...

A Beautiful Mess

Chapter 1

...

The train doors parted with the hiss of hydraulics and Rin stepped out with his things in tow. He followed the crowd out through the turnstiles and checked his watch. It was almost six o' clock – he had to find a place to stay before night fell.

Kaede had told him that he was free to visit the Fuyou household whenever he liked, but that was a five-year old promise. Rin wasn't even sure if that house in the suburbs was still Kaede's. He wasn't willing to take that chance.

Rin's plan of action that day was to find an inn or a hotel – the cheaper the better. From there, he would try to look around for work – anything that would put cash in his pocket. He still had money left over from his last job, but he was pretty sure it wouldn't last him too long... and it wasn't like he made much money in Tokyo either. The title 'Customer Service Representative' was just a fancy name for a bank teller, after all.

Lost in his thoughts, Rin didn't pay much attention to where he was going. As he walked through the early evening crowds at the Verbena Central Station, he bumped into someone.

"Hey! Watch it!"

Luckily for Rin, it was a familiar face.

"Hey... you're Tsuchimi, right?"

"Itsuki?"

"Holy shit, man!" Itsuki was amazed, "Five fucking years, Rin – we haven't seen or heard from you at all!"

"I was busy with work, man."

"Ah – the Tokyo salaryman speaks words of wisdom." Itsuki teased, "You living the life over there? Found another harem too while you're at it?"

"Well..." Rin's tone was evasive. Itsuki's eyes then caught sight of the pink slip – Rin didn't realize he was still holding onto it.

"I see what's going on..." Itsuki's voice grew consoling. "That's rough."

"I know, right?"

"Life throws shit at you when you least expect it – don't be so hard on yourself, Rin." Itsuki gave Rin an appraising look, "You look like shit already."

Rin didn't reply.

"You know what, dude – let me buy you a drink." Itsuki offered, "Unless you were meeting up with any of the others."

"I texted them before coming here... but I didn't really get anything back from them." Rin thought out loud.

"I'll get you two drinks then." Itsuki laughed, "We have some catching up to do – heart-to-heart talk between old friends. I can put you up to speed on what's gone down here too."

Rin was silent for a moment.

"... why not? A few drinks couldn't hurt."

To Be Continued