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Friday, September 9

Instead of going on the school trip to Hawaii with her friends, Akira Kurusu went to attend an entrepreneurship-related course. She had been looking forward to that course for a while and had enrolled in it two months ago, way before she heard anyone mention the school trip, and she wasn't going to cancel that. Plus, she had the benefit of the course counting as an extracurricular activity. The course would span three days. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Her friends would return to Japan on Monday, and she would join everyone at school on Tuesday.

The first day of the course was over, and Akira was quite satisfied. She had learned a few interesting techniques, some of which she believed would also be useful to her as the leader of the Phantom Thieves.

When she arrived at the hotel, she ran into someone she hadn't expected to see.

"Do you have a reservation, Akechi-san?" The female receptionist asked.

The high school detective fiddled with his hair for a split second. "No, I don't. My trip was too sudden and I didn't have time to make a reservation in advance."

"Oh. Then, I am sorry. We are already packed. If you haven't made a reservation previously, then you cannot get a room."

"Ah. I... see..." Akechi seemed to be considering his options.

"Unless someone is willing to share a room with you," The receptionist added. "Though I think it would be difficult, with your current reputation and all..."

Akira knew too little about the high school detective. He always wore that annoying TV celebrity mask that was obviously too fake and meant nothing to her, and Akira didn't think much of him at first. But that day when Akechi appeared at Leblanc and disclosed a bit about his past, Akira came to a conclusion. It was like the saying went. "Do not judge a book for its cover." And Akechi's cover, his TV celebrity mask, really didn't convey anything about his true nature. She got curious to know him better, but they hadn't run into each other again since then. That is, until now.

Akechi had been receiving a lot of hate from the public since the day the Phantom Thieves managed to take Medged down. Whether the receptionist was seriously considering to have someone share a room with him or was just mocking him was up to anyone's guess, but Akira couldn't waste that opportunity to learn more about the young detective.

"I wouldn't mind." Akira pipped up, right from behind him.

"Ah!" Akechi startled. He quickly turned around, and his eyes widened comically at the sight of her, in an expression totally uncharacteristic of him. "... K-Kurusu-san? I w-wasn't expecting... to see you here."

"Me neither. How many days will you be staying?"

"Until Sunday at most."

"Oh, me too. Um, I don't mind sharing the room with you, if it's really okay with the hotel staff..." Akira threw a glance at the receptionist.

"It's against the rules to have strangers share a room," the receptionist said. "However, you two seem to be well acquainted enough with each other." And Akechi tensed. "Most of our rooms have more than one bed, since people tend to come here in groups." The receptionist checked Akira's reservation info on the computer. "Yes, Kurusu-san, your room actually has two beds. I could change your reservation to a double room reservation."

Akechi's face flushed. "A-are you two serious?"

Akira nodded firmly.

"Still..." Akechi stared downwards sheepishly. "You a-are suggesting that we, two people of the opposite gender... stay in the same room."

"And?" Akira shot back nonchalantly. "I've slept in the company of male friends no problem. And you're going as far as being this polite and arguing this much. I trust you won't try to do anything weird to me."

His face scrunched up in horror. "I wouldn't...!"

"Then, we have nothing to worry." Akira turned to the receptionist. "Please, go on."

Akechi stared apprehensively as the receptionist changed Kurusu's reservation. He paid for his part of the bill, then both he and Kurusu got a copy of the room key.

The hotel was small, and the room was quite plain, but Akechi didn't need much. Indeed, the room had two beds. Akechi sat on one while Kurusu sat on the other. He stared warily at the girl. Outside of his mindless admirers, no one ever welcomed him anywhere he went, especially once they looked at his documents and learned he was a bastard child and an orphan. And he had disclosed about his situation to her, too. She also knew he was against the Phantom Thieves, and obviously couldn't be one of his mindless fangirls. Why did she insist on sharing a room with him so much? She must have an ulterior motive. That had to be it. What could she want with him?

"Kurusu-san, why are you doing this?" He asked bluntly.

"What? Sharing the room? Because I heard that you couldn't get a room, and I don't want to leave you without a place to sleep."

"... Just that?"

"Did you actually expect something else?"

"N-no, I just..." This was frustrating. Even though Akechi always had the exact words to respond to interviews or fan questions, words tended to escape his grasp whenever he was interacting with Akira Kurusu. That girl's behavior didn't follow common patterns, and always defied his logic. "I just think you're being... too nice."

"Are you implying that I'm not a nice person? Now, you offended me, mr. detective."

"Huh!" Akechi quickly shook his head. "No, I am sorry. That was not what I-"

She unexpectedly laughed and waved his apology off. "I'm just kidding. You're too serious, Akechi-kun. Relax."

She had just acted in an unexpected way again. He couldn't comprehend. Was she making fun of him like the bullies at the orphanages and schools he had been at? Or was she trying to lower his guard? ... Or what?

"Actually, there's another reason." Her words snapped him to full alertness again. Of course she had another reason...

Akechi's paranoia kicked in. He had followed the Phantom Thieves in the Metaverse from a distance at a few occasions, and even though it was hard to see details from a far, he suspected she might be one of them, thanks to her peculiar circle of friends, which was mostly composed of people involved with the Thieves' previous targets. What if she were suspecting him as well? What if she were there because she was following him!?

"I wanted to talk to you," she added.

Akechi was on edge now. Was she trying to corner him?

"... Talk about what?" He asked reluctantly.

"I don't know. Hadn't you said you enjoy talking to me?"

"Uh. Y-yes, I had." Akechi admitted. He had really said that. In fact, more than once. Every talk with Kurusu was an interesting experience, as frustrating as their interactions could be.

"But we rarely run into each other, and I was wondering when we'd be able to talk again. When I saw you at the reception room, I decided I couldn't let this opportunity pass. Now that we're here, I believe we'll have more time than usual to interact. So, talk away."

This was suspicious. Akechi needed to gain the upper hand and seize control of the conversation before it was too late. He wanted to make her slip and confirm that she was in the Phantom Thieves, but as Kurusu had just pointed out, they would be in each other's presence for more time than usual, and he didn't want to make her uncomfortable.

"So, Akechi-kun, what brings you to these parts?" She began, since he was taking too long to spark conversation.

"A case. I need to investigate something nearby, and will have to stay here for a few days. What about you?" He hoped she actually wasn't there to follow him.

"A course. Today was the first day. It was great!"

"Hm? Shouldn't you be at school, though? My school gave me permission to take care of detective work during school hours as long as I deliver good academic results. Do you also have permission from your school? Or is this course school-related?"

"Oh, no. It's not school-related. Actually, there's a school trip going on right now, but I had enrolled in this course a few months back and didn't want to miss it. I had to ask for permission to skip the trip."

Akechi offered her a genuine smile of admiration. "You had chosen the course beforehand, and even skipped a school trip in favor of it? You're very dedicated, Kurusu-san."

"There's a huge difference when you choose to learn something you want, rather than when you have to learn stuff others force down your throat."

Akechi had studied a lot on his own, but not necessarily because he "wanted" to learn things. He mostly forced himself to study many subjects just so that he could bring them up as conversational topics, and so that people would view him as a well-informed person.

"Yes, I suppose so..." Akechi answered anyway. And the conversation died. For a moment, they only stared at each other in silence. Akechi decided to try and approach the topic of the Phantom Thieves. "Have you seen the rankings on the Phantom Thieves website?" He quickly added, "Oh, what a silly question. Of course you would-"

"Rankings?" She cut him off. "What's this about rankings?"

"Huh? You haven't seen them?" This threw Akechi off. If Kurusu were indeed a member of the Phantom Thieves, then she should have been keeping up with the website, shouldn't she?

"No, I haven't. I've been too busy lately with the trip here, the course and all."

"Well, there's a ranking about who people want the Phantom Thieves to target next." Akechi ended up explaining. "Mr. Okumura is at the top."

"... Who?"

Akechi suppressed a grunt. Was Kurusu playing dumb or what? "Mr. Kunikazu Okumura. The owner of the Okumura Foods chain, which includes Big Bang Burger."

"Oh...? But why would people want him targeted?"

It was important to have the Thieves target Okumura. It was an integral part of the trap. "His company is growing much too quickly. And there are a lot of shady rumors about it, such as slave labor, and its competitors conveniently... disappearing and benefiting his climb to success."

"'Conveniently' disappearing? What do you mean by that?"

He didn't really want to elaborate, but it sounded like he would need to. "Other fast food chain employees having psychotic breakdowns and causing scandals that ruin the chains' images, like that incident at Wild Duck Burger, for example. Or influential people in the fast food industry... dying of mental shutdowns... and only Okumura benefits from all of this, no matter how you look at it..."

Kurusu's eyes widened. "Whoa, wait. You mean to say the mental breakdowns and shutdowns are planned?"

Akechi nodded. "That's the only explanation. And a thought occurred to me. The forced changes of heart the Phantom Thieves cause are obviously planned as well. Perhaps these mental diseases and sudden heart changes have more in common than we had assumed..." He was expectant to see Kurusu get on the defensive and make a slip.

"... What? You think that the Phantom Thieves are behind those breakdowns and such?"

"I didn't say that. But this theory makes sense, and I believe we shouldn't ignore the possibility. If the Phantom Thieves indeed end up being the ones responsible, then they are more dangerous than we gave them credit for."

Akechi could hear Kurusu's gears turning inside her head. She did an aggravated expression, unable to keep her calm exterior for once, and he was sure he had gotten her this time.

She wordlessly took her cellphone and began tapping on the screen. The taps gradually became more and more furious.

"This... this is outrageous!" She nearly shouted out of the blue, and startled Akechi for the second time that day. "I'm looking at the website right now. The comments are a mess. People are saying whatever they want, telling the Thieves to target anyone before the public gets bored, as though this were some kinda spectacle! Basically, they're saying that as long as they aren't involved, everything can burn and they'll treat it just as entertainment! Ugh, just reading these things make me sick..." She put her phone away.

"That's the public for you. They switch sides easily and just support whatever is more popular at the moment. There's never any guaranty they will remain on your side. They may be with you today, but might become your enemy number one tomorrow. In my case, I had a lot of fans before, but as soon as the Phantom Thieves defeated Medged, everyone suddenly turned against me. You have seen the rankings now, right? I don't know if you noticed, but my name is in there too."

"Haters gonna hate, and there's nothing you can do about it. Just let them talk."

"Thank you," He said, even though he was sure she also disliked him and was just being polite. "Though I have to admit. It'd be interesting if the Phantom Thieves really decided to come after me. Then, I would be able to find out their methods."

"Do you think they'd come after you?"

"... Perhaps."

"What makes you think that?"

"I am the most well-known figure opposing them so far. They might decide to eliminate opposition, just as Okumura has supposedly been doing. If the mental shutdowns and the changes of heart are indeed related, and if the Phantom Thieves turn out to be the ones causing them, then it would be likely that they would chose to follow the same plan."

Kurusu clearly didn't like hearing him blame the Phantom Thieves for the mental diseases. Akechi could tell from her expression that she was holding herself to not scream, "We would never do such things!" or something along those lines.

Kurusu sighed and tried to recover her composure. "Akechi-kun. As much as I don't doubt your detective skills, I hope you're wrong about this. I see the Phantom Thieves as the hope for us who got abused by corrupt adults and wronged by society, you know? I don't want to believe the Phantom Thieves might be responsible for those terrible things."

This threw Akechi off once more. Kurusu was either acting, or was really clueless about Phantom Thieves matters. Akechi almost began doubting his suspicions of her being one of the Phantom Thieves. Almost...

Akechi forced a chuckle. "Yes, let's hope they aren't. As much as I don't like to be wrong, it would be interesting to be proven wrong about this. If it turns out that I was judging the Phantom Thieves badly and they are indeed just, then I can have some hope that not all is lost in this harsh and messed-up world."

The bitterness in Akechi's words caused a pang in Akira's heart. "You think that this world is hopeless? Surely there's a lot of bad stuff going on, but there's a lot of good stuff, too!"

Akechi scoffed, uncharacteristically for his celebrity self.


Silence. His only response was to look away from her.

"Okay. I don't know what happened to make you think that way, but we won't talk about it now if you don't want to. Just know that if you feel the need to talk to someone about anything, I'm all ears."

Akechi's mouth opened slightly, but he said nothing. Akira had likely touched a sore spot, and he clearly didn't trust her enough to discuss that topic with her.

"Alright. I'll leave you alone for a bit. I'll go take a shower." Akira stood up from her sitting position on the bed and excused herself to give him some space.

Alone in the room, Akechi began thinking. Not that he disliked the Phantom Thieves. He was sure that their actions were bringing good results. However, they were the perfect scapegoats to frame the mental shutdowns on so that Shido would gain the public's trust and reach the top, which would mean that Akechi could finally get his revenge and shove the man off the mountain. If only the Phantom Thieves had appeared years earlier, before Akechi had approached Shido, before that mysterious entity had given Akechi that power, before Akechi had begun walking that destructive path... he may not have messed up so much, and may still have a chance of having something good in his future.

However, that didn't happen, and reality was totally different. By now, Akechi's life was an irrecoverable wreck, and there was nothing that could be done about it. When Shido tasked him with killing people, he didn't want to. But Shido would eliminate him if he didn't obey, and Akechi went on with it, as it was the only way he could get his revenge later.

Akechi kept telling himself that most of his victims deserved to die because they were corrupt and filthy power-hungry bastards playing the "eat or be eaten" game, but deep down, he had known it was just an excuse. He had known what he had been doing was wrong. He had caused too much harm to others already. But he was way past the point of no return. As an unwanted child, he was already labeled and had no hope for a good future. From the moment he accepted to follow Shido's orders, he threw away the last shards of hope for a decent future that he still might have had. Now, he had nothing else to lose, and the only thing he had a chance of getting was the taste of revenge. And for that, there was no option other than doing what Shido wanted.

Once Kurusu came out of the shower, he went in. And once he came out, they went to have dinner at the small restaurant downstairs. Akechi took his distance to not get in Kurusu's way and let her have her space.

Akira took her full bowl and glanced around in search of Akechi. She spotted him dining all by himself at a faraway table with six seats. He had been acting weird since they had last talked. It must have been the topic. Akira needed to make it up to him somehow.

Akira approached his table. "Akechi-kun?"

"Huh?" He snapped to attention. "What is it?"

"Are you... angry at me?"

He seemed confused. "Hmm? ... No, I'm not. Why do you think that?"

"Well, you've been kinda evasive..."

Akechi shook his head politely. "Oh, no. Sorry if it came across that way. It wasn't my intention. I was just lost in thought. Plus... I didn't want to get in your way. I mean, I'm already intruding in your space by staying in the same room..."

Akira waved it off with her chopsticks. "Nah, you aren't intruding. I wouldn't have offered to share the room if I had thought that, now would I? Also, to tell you the truth, one of the downsides of coming here was that I'd have to spend days here alone, far from all my friends, literally continents apart since they're in Hawaii now. So, I'm glad to have run into a familiar face. Some company would be nice, but if you prefer to have dinner alone, I'll leave."

Akechi raised a hand. "No, that's not it... not that I 'prefer' to have dinner alone. I'm actually not used to have company. Sometimes people from work treat me to dinner, but it's only to discuss work. It's rare for me to hang out with someone around my age, even more so during a trip. If you don't mind having me as company, then by all means take a seat. There are many to choose from." He motioned to all the empty seats around the table.

"Thanks." Akira chuckled at his gesture and sat on the chair next to him. She would go straight to the point. "Um, Akechi-kun. Sorry about earlier."

"Huh? Earlier?"

"Yeah, the topic. It bothered you, didn't it? I'm sorry."

Akechi shook his head. "Don't be. I was the one who started it." He lowered his gaze. "I wish I could have the same positive outlook on the world as you. But..." He trailed off. Akira silently waited for him to continue talking, which he did a moment later. "A lot happened to me while I got passed around institutions and foster homes. It was not easy. Kurusu-san, I don't know the extent of the hardships you have been going through at the moment, but I assume it hasn't been easy, either."

"Huh?" Akira had no idea what he was talking about.

"I... uh..." Akechi inched his head closer and whispered in her ear. "I'm aware that you are under probation. Y-yes, I... looked you up. I'm sorry."

"Oh?" That was all that left Akira's mouth. Come to think of it, it looked like Akechi suspected her and her friends of being the Phantom Thieves, and it was no surprise that he would investigate them. He was a detective, after all. Their personal information had to be the first thing he would look into.

"Assault, though? What did you do?" He continued prodding.

"Trying to get dirt on me now, detective? Or are you just having second thoughts about sharing a room with me?" Akira shrugged slightly. "Seriously, though. Do you think I'm the kind of person that'd assault someone?"

"No, I don't. This is the reason why I'm asking. The way the case was handled was really strange, if you ask me."

"I could tell you the details. Whether you'll believe me or not is a whole different story, though."

"Go on." He nodded in encouragement.

Akira told Akechi about her attempt to save a woman that was being harassed, and how it ruined her life.

"He forced the woman to incriminate you, too?!" Instead of listening with an analytical expression like she had expected, Akechi's eyes flared and he was gritting his teeth by the end of the story.

"Yeah, and she did. Believe it or not."

"I... believe you. While there's no proof of anything, and I have no way to tell whether you are exaggerating or not, I know that this kind of thing can happen. From the anonymity, the man must have been a powerful person as well. Any idea who it was?"

"No idea." Akira shook her head. "It was dark, and I don't remember his face. Not to mention the shock of it all. All I remember is that the guy was so drunk that he couldn't even tell I'm a girl! It was probably for the best, now that I think about it. If he had noticed, he might've tried to harass me, too."

Akechi was horrified. He shuffled awkwardly. "... Uh, sorry. Was this supposed to be funny?"

"I don't know. It was supposed to be absurd, which it is. You may laugh if you want."

"Er, no, I'm not going to laugh at your expense." Akechi paused. "After it happened, how did you react?" He quickly tried to retract the question. "Uh, sorry if this is too personal."

"It's okay. I'll tell you." Akira waved it off. "I didn't know what to do. My previous school labeled me as a delinquent and expelled me. Honestly, I thought my life'd be over. I had worked so hard, studied so hard, done everything to follow the values I learned. I had been sure I had done everything right and had been improving as a person each day. Then, one night, that happened. Everything went downhill in less than five minutes, and I suddenly had my reputation ruined and everything taken away from me in a blink. I was scared of the future. I thought that I might never recover my integrity, or that even if I did, something might happen the next minute and make me lose it all again. I only managed to not give up because my parents know me better than anyone and are on my side. At least Shujin accepted to take me, and I got sent here. My parents couldn't come with me because of their work, but they still support me."

Akechi stared intently at her, as though he were seeing her for the first time ever. "You are an admirable person, Kurusu-san. Despite how the world mistreated you, you still manage to see things in a positive light. You seem cheerful most of the time, and I could have never imagined the things you had gone through, or even that you are an outcast."

"Same here, mr. celebrity. I'd have never known any of the things you went through if you hadn't told me at Leblanc."

He shuffled again on his seat. "To be honest, I hadn't intended to tell you those things. I feared you would treat me like everyone else does if you were to learn about my situation. But when I realized it, I was already talking."

"Looks like you were desperate to get that out of your system. I'm glad you told me, though. You don't seem to be the kind of person that trusts others easily."

"Ah, yes, you got that right. I usually can't get myself to trust others. But I don't know. There is something about you that makes me say more than I should sometimes."

"Who could've guessed? At the end of the day, the famous high school detective is an outcast just like me. I know what it feels like to be labeled. You can talk to me without fear of being looked down on."

"Thank you, Akira."

"Huh?" Akira blinked. "... Did you just call me by my first name?"

Akechi jumped on his seat, startled for the third time since Akira had run into him. "Ah! Sorry. I mean, Kurusu-san." He quickly corrected himself.

"No, Akira is fine. All my friends call me that. I just wasn't expecting to hear you do it so suddenly."

How could she say such a thing so naturally?

"Um, but... I'm not..." Akechi tried to argue.

"My friend?" She finished the sentence for him.

Akechi nodded.

"Yeah, maybe not quite yet. But do you want to be?"

Akechi was unsure about how to respond. He had no friends, as it seemed like no one was willing to give him that status. Even though he didn't know how it felt like to have true friends, he believed that a true friendship was supposed to be special, not something superficial or forced.

"That... would be nice. But do you think we can really become friends? I mean, I believe that a true friendship should be something that comes naturally."

"Despite our different opinions of a few things, we've been getting along pretty well so far, haven't we? I believe we can continue to get along and eventually become good friends. I'd like that."

Unfortunately, it wasn't this simple. There was still his Metaverse issue. If Akira were to find out about the horrible things he had been doing, she would hate him for sure. It should be better to not get too close to her. But...

"By the expression on your face, I can tell you'd like that too." Akira's hand unexpectedly landed on Akechi's arm and startled him. "Wow, you sure are jumpy today, detective. It's the fourth time already."

"... Y-you have been counting?" He lowered his head and tried to hide his embarrassment. "Uh, no, never mind. It's not important. Anyways... y-yes, I w-would like that, but..."

"Then let's give it a try and see what happens over time. The first step is, start by learning to call me 'Akira.' It's how i prefer people to call me. Less formal."

"I..." The notion of having her also address him by first name crossed his mind, but he dropped it quickly. From the time his mother passed away, no one never ever addressed him by his first name again. It was either his full name or last name, never his first name alone. It got to the point that his first name separated from his surname became foreign to his ears. Asking someone who wasn't even a friend (yet?) to use his first name would be asking too much. "I understand," he said instead. "A-alright, then, Akira it is."

"Good." She smiled approvingly at him. "You learn fast."

"I do." Akechi puffed his chest.

"Show-off." Akira elbowed him lightly and startled him once more. "Fifth time. You need to work on learning to get used to these things, too."

"... I suppose so..."

... ... ... ... ...

Akechi and Akira finished their dinner and returned to their assigned room. Akira turned on the TV, but nothing interesting was airing. They flipped through the channels and tried to watch a few movies, but nothing grabbed their attention enough. A yawn from Akira was the sign that they should stop wasting their time with meaningless boring movies and go to sleep.

"Okay. Now I need a good night kiss." Akira suddenly declared.

"... What?"

"A good night kiss." She repeated.

"Y-yes, I heard that."

"Then, please, Akechi-kun, would you...?"

"M-me?!" Akechi's eyes widened. "Why?"

"There's no one else here." She stated the obvious.

"Huh? But this is... not right!"

"Just a quick and light peck on the cheek. That's all I'm asking. Nothing special. There's nothing wrong about that."

"Um, but..."

"Please?" Akira insisted.

"..." Akechi tried to ignore her request, but she didn't seem about to give up anytime soon.

"... Pretty please?"

Akechi bravely tried to not give in to that cute pleading face of hers. "A-Akira, sorry, but..."

"Akechi-kun, you accepted to learn to become my friend. So, you obviously need to learn how to deal with me. It's part of the process."

Akechi didn't respond for a moment, but Akira refused to stop staring at him expectantly, and he didn't want to see that expectant face morph into a sad face. Akira was always so cheerful, and sadness didn't fit her. Plus, if she was specifically requesting that action, she shouldn't think less of him if he were to do it. It should be okay.

"... F-fine." With a sigh, Akechi stood up and hesitantly walked over to the other bed where Akira was seated. After an intake of air, he tentatively inched closer, and his lips timidly touched Akira's delicate cheek. Then, Akechi quickly backed away and scurried back to the other bed as though he had just done something forbidden.

As if his embarrassment weren't enough already, Akira began laughing her head off. "Ah... ... you... you really did it!"

"H-huh?" Realization finally dawned on him. Akira was just messing with him. Akechi wanted to bury his face into the ground. "Argh, I really shouldn't have done this... it was a prank, wasn't it?"

Akira's laughing subsided. "Hmm, sort of. More like a dare. Honestly, I didn't think you'd really do it. But you did... and it was so cute! Well, after this, it's only fair that I do my part too." She stood up. "Don't worry. I won't leave you to bear the embarrassment alone."

Akira was walking towards his bed.

Akechi's eyes widened in panic. "A-Akira, wait..."

She reached him. Akechi tried to back away, but Akira was quicker. With no hesitation whatsoever, she inched forward and kissed his cheek, with a level of affection and kindness that he didn't deserve. Akechi froze on the spot, and his heart began beating faster.

"Done. Now we're even, right?"

Akechi's mouth opened, but no words came out.

"Good night." Akira gave him a kind smile and walked back to her bed. She placed her glasses on the bedside table and turned the lights off.

It took a while until Akechi finally recovered his movements and managed to get in bed. "... Akira?"


"This made me remember. My mother used to do that when I was little."


"I saw it on a foreign movie, and basically convinced her to do it."

Akira laughed. "Aww. I'm just imagining how cute it probably was. Anyway, it seems to be a good memory."

"Yes, it is." A memory from the time he was just a child, when his heart had been pure and he had done no wrong. His mother's good night kisses had been his incentives to stop playing and go to bed early. They were nice. Akira's was nice too, but it was different. For some reason, it made him feel dazed and caused his heart to beat faster. In fact, his heart was still racing.

"Sorry to have embarrassed you." Akira apologized. "But I'm glad that this brought you a good memory back."

"No, it's fine. Uh... thank you." Akechi didn't know what else to say. Despite the awkwardness of the event, a quick thought crossed his mind. The thought that he wouldn't mind having it happen again...