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V3: Discovering Harmony

Chapter Text

WELCOME RANTARO

YOU HAVE BEEN PLACED IN GROUP V3: DISCOVERING HARMONY

STAND BY AS WE CONNECT YOU

CONNECTING…

Today @ 12:34 (UTC+01:00)

ONLINE: (01/01)

TRANSLATING FROM:

FRENCH

Rantaro: oh, i’m the first one here?

Rantaro: well i’m sure other people will join soon.

Today @ 6:47 (UTC+1:00)

ONLINE: (02/02)

TRANSLATING FROM:

ENGLISH

 

Kaede has joined the chat!

Rantaro: oh hi there!

Kaede: hi!!!! 

Kaede: oh wait are we the first two members???

Rantaro: for now, yeah.

Rantaro: but it says the cap is 16, so i’m sure that we’ll get more people.

Kaede: oh good!!

Kaede: but for now! tell me about yourself!!!

Rantaro: oh? what would you like to know?

Kaede: hmmm well

Kaede: the chat says youre speaking french!

Kaede: why do you wanna learn japanese??

Rantaro: oh, well, i AM japanese.

Rantaro: or, my parents are.

Rantaro: they moved to paris before i was born.

Kaede: oh that’s awesome! mine are too!

Kaede: but whoa paris!!

Kaede: that sounds so awesome!!!

Rantaro: it is!

Rantaro: most of the time.

Rantaro: but you said your parents are japanese, too?

Kaede: ah yeah!!

Kaede: well my dad was born there but he moved to america for college! he met my mom there!

Kaede: her parents moved here in the 50s though!

Rantaro: oh well that’s interesting!

Rantaro: i’ve been to the us a few times.

Rantaro: do you mind me asking what area you live in?

 

ONLINE: (03/03)

TRANSLATING FROM:

ENGLISH

 

Kaito has joined the chat!

Kaede: oh i live in cali!!

Kaito: DAMN

Kaito: CALIFORNIA GIRL

Kaito: NICE

Kaito: ………. GIRL???

Kaito: BOY???

Kaito: FUCK JAPANESE NAMES MAN

Kaede: oh hi!!!! 

Kaede: yes girl!!

Rantaro: wait, isn’t your name japanese, too?

Kaito: YEAH

Kaito: SO

Kaito: IVE HEARD ENOUGH PEOPLE CALL ME KAY TOO TO SAY THEY SUCK

Rantaro: okay that’s

Rantaro: i understand that.

Kaede: people read my name like

Kaede: kah ee YAY DAY

Kaede: i get you!!!!!

Rantaro: people don’t normally mispronounce my name!

Rantaro: or, well,

Rantaro: french people don’t normally mispronounce my name.

Rantaro: when i go to america though…

Kaede: oh thats right! you were just talking about going to america a few times!!

Kaito: OH DUDE SERIOUSLY

Kaito: NICE MAN

Kaito: ………….

Kaito: MAN?????

Rantaro: yes, i’m a boy.

Kaito: COOL

Kaito: GOOD TO KNOW IM NOT THE ONLY DUDE HERE

Kaito: ……………...

Kaito: NOT THAT THERES ANYTHING WRONG WITH BEING A CHICK KAEDE

Kaede: oh no i understand!!!!

Kaede: i hope im not the only girl for too long!!

Kaede: but you two both seem super nice!!!!!

Kaede: actually………

Kaede: that reminds me!!!

Kaede: theres something i should do!!!!

Kaede: ill be back in a bit!!!!!

Kaito: OH OKAY

Kaito: SEE YOU THEN

Rantaro: have fun!

Kaede: thank you!! 

Kaede has disconnected

Kaito: LOOKS LIKE ITS JUST US DUDES

Rantaro: i guess so?

Kaito: WAIT

Kaito: DUDE

Kaito: YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR SCREENNAME???????

Kaito: HANG ON

Rantaro: oh, can you?

Kaito has changed his name to SPACEMAN !

SPACEMAN: YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

SPACEMAN: THATS MORE LIKE IT

Rantaro: how do you do that?

SPACEMAN: GO TO YOUR PROFILE

SPACEMAN: RIGHT CLICK THE USERNAME

Rantaro: oh, thank you!

You have changed your name to mysteryavocado !

mysteryavocado: there we are!

SPACEMAN: WAIT

SPACEMAN: DUDE WTF

mysteryavocado: oh it’s um….

mysteryavocado: a long story?

 


 

 

“Rantaro?”

His attention whipped up from the screen at the sound, a light flush settling on his cheeks when he realized just how much the tiny voice had startled him. But he turned in his chair, toward the noise, immediately greeted with the sight of his youngest sister looking at him with big, hopeful eyes as she nervously played with her hands. “It’s almost seven…” Her voice was so soft, so delicate... “You said that we can go to the park then right?”

He blinked too hard, too many times, trying to force his brain back into French after reading all of the translated Japanese in the chatroom.

“Ah, yeah! Yeah, of course! Just give me a few minutes, okay?” he promised the moment that her words finally registered in his struggling mind. “Ask Laure to help you get ready?”

The little girl in front of him broke into a bright beam, nodding eagerly before turning around and hurrying out of the room.

The wheels of her chair squeaked with her exit. The sound echoed in his head, pounding relentlessly against his skull. He bit back the ever-present, thick, toxic feeling in his chest, slowly exhaling the breath he failed to realize that he had been holding as he slowly turned back to the screen.

 


 

 

SPACEMAN: DONT ITS A LONG STORY ME DUDE

SPACEMAN: WHAT DOES THAT M EAN

mysteryavocado: sorry, i’ve gotta go!

SPACEMAN: WAIT NO

SPACEMAN: YOU CANT JUST WRITE THAT AND RUN OFF

mysteryavocado: sorry, it’s important! i’ll tell you when i get back!

SPACEMAN: …………..

SPACEMAN: FINE

mysteryavocado: ah great!

mysteryavocado: i’ll talk to you in a bit then?

SPACEMAN: YEAH SURE

SPACEMAN: GO HAVE FUN OR WHATEVER

mysteryavocado: well you too!!

You have disconnected

 


 

 

Rantaro pushed back from his desk with a soft sigh, anxiously messing with one of his rings as he stood up. He knew that he shouldn’t feel so bad, but every time they did something like this together, he could instantly feel his heart begin to sink into the recesses of his abdomen.

No matter how happy he knew he should be from the mere fact that he was able to do this with her.

But he stepped out of the room anyway, careful to avoid the strong but delicately crafted rail installed into the wall as he made his way down the stairs. And sure enough, at the bottom was his youngest sister, still beaming up at him in excitement as he went to the closet to get his shoes.

“Rantarooooo! Let’s go!” she giggled enthusiastically.

The elder let out a soft laugh, a warm smile breaking easily onto his lips.

No, guilt aside, he did love being around her. He just had to stop himself from overthinking, from thinking too much about that in particular. And, quite frankly, it hadn’t been long enough for it to not draw his attention every single time he looked at her. But he simply forced the smile to stay on his lips and shook his head, carefully slipping his shoes on before turning to her.

“Alright, alright, I’m ready!” Another laugh, one that seemed far too stressed to his own ears, the tension echoing in his head, bouncing off of the walls of his skull. But that was probably just his imagination. Or, at least, she didn’t seem to notice.

He opened the door for her, helped her push the chair over the slight bump that led out onto the porch and locked up quickly before taking ahold of the handles behind her head. They were covered by a soft, a jellied material that made them supposedly easy and comfortable to grasp, but he always felt the little groves cutting into his palms, anyway.

She had been chanting excited little ‘yay’s to herself the entire time, tiny form bouncing gently against the fabric beneath her, legs still even as her slight hips moved the top half of her body.  “Let’s go!!!” She let out a tiny squeal, craning her neck back to grin at her elder brother.

“Alright, alright,” He laughed again, the same painful echo filling his ears as he began to push her down the ramp that had replaced their stairs. And tried not to think too hard about how he had ruined her life.

Chapter Text

“HELLO AND WELCOME TO BURGER KING, HOW MAY I HELP YOU?”

Kaito could see the drive-thru customer flinch, but no matter how many times it happened, he never quite made the connection between that reaction and his own volume level. Even when, as he took her order, every time that he repeated back an item or asked if there was anything else, the woman behind the wheel flinched again.

He had never really been the fastest to catch on. Especially when it was about himself.

But he kept talking, telling her how much her food cost and to come to the next window with his usual aggressive cheerfulness. The woman looked a bit perturbed, clearly wondering how someone could be so loud and cheerful while working at a Burger King, let alone without forcing either of those emotions at all. But she pulled up to the next window, where Kaito waited with a huge grin on his face and repeated the total to the woman, his voice as loud and booming as ever. He still didn’t process the shock and confusion on her face.

There was a choked noise behind him. “Oh Jesus f-”

He resisted the urge to turn around while he handed the woman her bags of food, wishing her a good day and again oblivious to the last flinch, only turning around toward the sound when she drove away.

One of the griddles had caught on fire.

Again.

Except that, this time, a drop of burning oil slipped off of the black metal and onto the floor, a tiny dot of the bright yellow flame slipping along the slick tile.

“Ah, crap, where’s the…?” A girl a head and a half shorter than him ran by, clearly searching for something as another boy stepped into the room, grinding his teeth together.

“Oh yeah, so one of the toilets got clogged again,” he grumbled, his voice full of the characteristic annoyance of someone who had been there much too long.

“What with this time?” an older woman asked, getting down on her knees to unplug the alight appliance from behind.

“Oranges. Again. For fuck’s sa-” The teenager’s words cut off in the middle, his eyes narrowing as they finally focused on the shock of gold light on the stovetop. “What happened?”

“Excuse me!” the girl squeaked, stumbling slightly as she slipped back by with a giant container of salt, flinging half of the contents onto the flames, effectively smothering them.

But it was too late, the jarringly loud screeching of the fire alarm finally beginning just as the flames went out, the boy sighing in exasperation and getting to his knees to snuff out the rogue drop of oil with a towel before the sprinklers could spread the danger any further. “I’m not even shocked anymore.” He was still grumbling, as he dragged himself back up to his feet.

And Kaito just laughed.

“Man, it’s never boring around here, huh!” He needed to yell even louder to be heard over the screeching alarm, and the water was melting the gel out of his hair, bangs flopping in front of his eyes, but his smile never so much as wavered. No, if anything, he just looked more entertained, hands on his hips as he let out another bright laugh.

The older woman looked at him with a fond, amused smile and shook her head as the younger girl let out an exhausted sigh, sinking to her knees. “Why do I still work here?” the poor child asked, her hands running down her face.

“‘Cause it’s fun!” Kaito didn’t process the incredulous look she gave him. “And you get to hang out with awesome people! Like me!”

The girl just rolled her eyes.

But no matter, they all knew that they were in a jam now. The firemen were coming, and after having to deal with at least fives fires in the last month alone, there was no way the place wasn't going to be shut down for a while due to safety hazards. . . Which would mean that they would all be out of the job for a while.

All told, Kaito was lucky to be living with his grandparents. They loved and took care of him, happily supported him and his dreams, so they would be understanding about this minor setback.

Probably.

 


 

“I heard the Burger King you worked at was shut down,” the old man shouted, making sure his voice traveled from the living room all the way to the foyer.

Ah. He had already found out. Not like Kaito expected anything else from the old man.

“Sure did, gramps!” Kaito shouted back, toeing off his shoes. He nudged the pair closer to his grandparents’ and placed his visor on the hook of the nearby coat rack, before making his way over to the kitchen to greet his grandmother. As usual, she was already preparing dinner and was more than aware that he’d arrived, thanks to both men’s screaming.

The aging woman gave Kaito a smile and opened her arms to him, knowing he was coming in for a hug. . . but as soon as he was in her arms, holding her tight, she could smell the copious amounts of grease and melted hair product all over him.

“Goodness! That smell!” she exclaimed, pushing her grandson away. “Go take a bath this instant!”

Kaito gasped with mock offense, but then just sighed as he began playing with the long strands of his hair, looking a bit embarrassed. “It’s not that bad grandma. . .”

She resorted to giving him a light smack with the wooden spoon she was using, to get her words across. It didn’t hurt, but he winced nonetheless and quickly shuffled out of the room, shouting over his shoulder that he was going.

Once in his room, Kaito pulled off his socks and reached into his drawer to grab something to change into - a white sleeveless shirt, a pair of long purple pants, and a pair of clean boxers. When he made his way over to the bathroom, he tossed his clothes onto the countertop and reached past the shower curtain, to turn on the hot water.

As steam began to fill the room, Kaito yanked his shirt over his head and tossed it to the side. With a hum, he gazed upon his reflection in the mirror and struck a few poses, flexing his muscles for the hell of it. He wasn’t a particularly vain man, but he did have some pride and a good chunk of positive self-esteem. Besides, anyone could see that he was well built, thanks to workouts at the gym and a few years of baseball. . .

He leaned closer to the mirror as he pulled long strands of dark hair out of his eyes. Truthfully, he couldn’t ever get used to the sight of his own hair down. It felt strange… He would always use product to spike it and that was how the world usually laid eyes on him in person, as well as how he appeared in photos. It was how he always saw himself.

Although, in his professional opinion, having his hair down was kind of attractive. It gave him a mysterious allure of sorts. The only real problem with it was the fact that it got in the way. . .

Huh.

Maybe he could get Kaede to swoon over his stunning good looks?

Ha! That would be great!

But he shook his head, trying to force the developing blush on his cheeks away. He’d only known her for two days. He knew better than to try to rush into a relationship. Experience had taught him that. . .

Plenty of girls rebuffed or broke up with him, telling him that he was an airhead, or too aggressive, or simply annoying. He couldn’t help that he was an excitable dreamer, an optimistic person, looking for the best in even the worst situations and only expecting the best out of people.

There was no point in being sad and moody all the time, in his opinion.

Still, Kaede seemed to be as cheerful and optimistic as him. Maybe she could understand his position in life. And maybe they could... hold hands and stuff. . . She probably had soft, delicate hands, even after playing the piano for so long. They would. . . probably be nice to hold. . .

Kaito quickly shook his head, forcing the train of thought to fly off. It was getting pretty weird... He turned his attention to the shower, sticking his hand under the running water. Finding it warm enough, he pulled down both his pants and boxers, tossing them to the side on top of the rest of his clothes before jumping under the hot stream of water.

He grabbed the bar of soap from its holder and began to rub it over himself, humming a tune softly. That, however, lasted only moments before he opened his mouth and began properly singing, off-key notes loud enough to be heard through the bathroom wall.

Fly me to the moon

Let me play among the stars …”

 


 

It took twenty minutes, but Kaito’s mind was finally clear of the intrusive, soft thoughts about his new friend. Feeling refreshed, he went back to his room, dirty clothes tucked under his arm and a towel draped over his shoulders. He threw the clothes over his bed, into a waiting basket.

“Goal.” Amused with himself, he threw himself into the chair at his desk and flipped open his laptop.

 


 

WELCOME KAITO

STAND BY AS WE CONNECT YOU

CONNECTING…

 

Today @ 12:44 (UTC-04:00)

ONLINE: (02/03)

 

SPACEMAN: YO RANTARO

mysteryavocado: ah, good evening kaito.

SPACEMAN: EVENING?

SPACEMAN: OH YEAH.

SPACEMAN: TIMEZONES.

mysteryavocado: that’s right, they do exist.

SPACEMAN: HARHAR

SPACEMAN: ANYWAY

SPACEMAN: TIME TO SPILL DUDE

mysteryavocado: haha. i wonder what you could be talking about.

SPACEMAN: YOUR USERNAME OBVIOUSLY!!

SPACEMAN: WHAT THE HELL KIND OF NAME IS THAT MAN?!

mysteryavocado: ah. it’s really nothing special.

mysteryavocado: i have green hair.

SPACEMAN: GREEN HAIR???

mysteryavocado: yes. it’s all natural. and beautiful.

mysteryavocado: so beautiful, actually, that my siblings call it avocado hair.

SPACEMAN: OKAY. . . BUT WHATS THE MYSTERY?

mysteryavocado: i have a lot of brothers and sisters. and, to them, i’m kind of a mystery.

mysteryavocado: also i love that ‘itisamystery.mp3’ meme.

SPACEMAN: HOW MANY SIBLINGS DO YOU HAVE. . . . . . ????

mysteryavocado: 12 little sisters and 10 little brothers.

SPACEMAN: WHA T THE FCUK?!!?!

SPACEMAN: WHY THAT MANY?!

mysteryavocado: well, honestly, my dad cannot keep it in his pants.

SPACEMAN: HOLY SHIT DUDE . . . . .  

mysteryavocado: even if they’re my half siblings, i love them all very much.

SPACEMAN: WHAT??!?!

SPACEMAN: THEYRE ALL HALF SIBLINGS???

mysteryavocado: yes, that’s why i’m a mystery to them.

mysteryavocado: several of them have been abandoned on our doorstep.

mysteryavocado: otherwise, their mothers bring them to our home and never return for them.

mysteryavocado: so i end up becoming a mysterious new part of their lives.

mysteryavocado: anyway, i’m a bit curious why you’re online at the moment.

mysteryavocado: it’s almost 1pm, don’t you have lunch hour to deal with?

SPACEMAN: OH YEAH

SPACEMAN: WORK WAS CRAAAAZY TODAY

mysteryavocado: oh? how so?

SPACEMAN: WELL

SPACEMAN: NO ACTUALLY IT WAS KINDA AVERAGE

SPACEMAN: A GRIDDLE CAUGHT ON FIRE SO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT CAME

SPACEMAN: AND SHUT IT DOWN CAUSE OF SAFETY HAZARDS

SPACEMAN: SINCE THIS WAS LIKE THE FIFTH TIME THAT HAPPENED

SPACEMAN: ALSO A TOILET WAS CLOGGED WITH ORANGES

SPACEMAN: NBD

mysteryavocado: . . .

mysteryavocado: how, exactly, was any of that normal?

SPACEMAN: ITS FLORIDA

SPACEMAN: WEIRD SHIT HAPPENS HERE A LOT

 

ONLINE: (03/03)

pianomom has joined the chat!

 

pianomom: kaito what the heck???

pianomom: thats completely insane!!!

mysteryavocado: oh thank god.

mysteryavocado: it’s not all americans.

SPACEMAN: NAH ITS THE LAW DUDE

SPACEMAN: YOU JUST GET USED TO WEIRD THINGS IN FLORIDA

mysteryavocado: law?

SPACEMAN: YEAH THE SUNSHINE STATE LAW????

SPACEMAN: BASICALLY EVERY GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

SPACEMAN: ITS WHY FLORIDA MAN HEADLINES ARE SO WEIRDLY SPECIFIC

pianomom: i... had no idea that was a thing. . .

SPACEMAN: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

SPACEMAN: FLORIDA MAN

pianomom: well that um sounds

pianomom: interesting????

pianomom: but youre making me glad i live across the country!!

SPACEMAN: AW CMON DUDE FLORIDAS AWESOME

SPACEMAN: WE GOT CAPE CANAVERAL

SPACEMAN: AND UH

SPACEMAN: ORANGES

SPACEMAN: DISNEY

SPACEMAN: ITS COOL YOU SHOULD COME VISIT

pianomom: haha okay maybe sometime soon!!

SPACEMAN: FUCK YEAH

SPACEMAN: OH YEAH TARO DUDE YOU CAN COME TOO

mysteryavocado: … thank you??

mysteryavocado: i honestly haven't ever been to florida before.

SPACEMAN: AW DUDE YOUVE NEVER BEEN TO DISNEYWORLD

mysteryavocado: no, but i have been to disneyland. and disney paris.

pianomom: oh ive been to disneyland!! its great!!!

SPACEMAN: FUCK THAT YOU GUYS

SPACEMAN: DISNEYWORLD IS THE SHIT

SPACEMAN: IS WHERE ITS AT

SPACEMAN: THATS IT WERE ALL GOING TO DISNEYWORLD TOGETHER

pianomom: oh psh okay!!!

pianomom: some day sure!!!

mysteryavocado: heh, sounds like a plan.

SPACEMAN: TARO I FEEL LIKE YOURE BEING SARCASTIC

mysteryavocado: i do think it sounds great! i just don't know… how realistic it is?

SPACEMAN: BUT IM GONNA IGNORE THAT

SPACEMAN: CAUSE DISNEY

SPACEMAN: WOO

mysteryavocado: also aren't you like

mysteryavocado: 20?

SPACEMAN: YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD

SPACEMAN: FOR DISNEY

mysteryavocado: heh, alright, that's true.

mysteryavocado: i watch so many kids’ shows, i can’t judge.

pianomom: well so do i!! and i don't even have 500000 siblings!!!

mysteryavocado: okay, okay, you two!!

mysteryavocado: i get it. i want to go too!

pianomom: yaaaaaay!!!

pianomom: so its settled! we’re going to disney!!!

SPACEMAN: HELL YEAH

Chapter Text

Today @ 16:31 (UTC -07:00)

ONLINE: (03/03)

 

SPACEMAN: OKAY YEAH BUT LIKE

SPACEMAN: CONSIDER

SPACEMAN: LUIGI IN SPACE

SPACEMAN: HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE

mysteryavocado: why is that the first thing you thought of??

pianomom: w

pianomom: what did i just walk into????

mysteryavocado: oh there you are!

mysteryavocado: we were wondering where you went.

SPACEMAN: AWESOMENESS

SPACEMAN: YOUD SEE IT IF YOU STOPPED DISAPPEARING MAN

pianomom: sorry im trying to take care of something!!!

SPACEMAN: WELL WHAT IS IT

pianomom: okay okay so ive mentioned my best friend before right?

pianomom: shuuichi?

SPACEMAN: OH THAT KID

SPACEMAN:  THE ONE YOU KEEP BRAGGIN FOR YEAH OF COURSE

pianomom: ive known him forever and hes great and i love him but like

pianomom: hes not great with talking to people???

pianomom: when i signed up for this

pianomom: i was hoping we could join together!

pianomom: so im trying to get him to want to join!!

pianomom: hes just

pianomom: really nervous i guess??

SPACEMAN: WHY IS HE NERVOUS

SPACEMAN: WERE COOL

SPACEMAN: TELL HIM HOW COOL WE ARE THATLL HELP

mysteryavocado: you said that he doesn’t talk to people much.

mysteryavocado: does he just get nervous around people?

pianomom: i do tell him how cool you guys are!!

pianomom: but yeah he has social anxiety and all that stuff

pianomom: people kind of really scare him ^^;

mysteryavocado: my best advice is just to reassure him that we won’t judge him.

mysteryavocado: you wouldn’t put him in a situation that makes him uncomfortable, and he’s welcome to bow out at any time if he wants to.

pianomom: ah yeah ive been doing my best but maybe if he knows that you said that itll help!!!

pianomom: whoops!!

pianomom: its getting close to my shift!

pianomom: i have to go

pianomom: but ill make sure to tell shuuichi about all about the chat!!

pianomom: i bet hell love to meet you all!!

SPACEMAN: YEAAAAH!!!!

SPACEMAN: CANT WAIT TO MEET HIM!!!!

mysteryavocado: i’m sure he’ll be lovely.

mysteryavocado: take care, kaede.

pianomom: thanks guys!!!

pianomom: see you later!!!

 

You have disconnected.

 


 

Kaede had to admit that the Danganronpa company had managed to outdo themselves again. She had always been weary of using their products given the weird -- unproven -- rumors surrounding them. Although the program had a few hiccups with certain translations, it was still a rather impressive piece of technology to help people communicate. Far better than anything else she had used, herself.

Carefully moving the lap table and computer from her legs, Kaede climbed off her bed and began to carefully smooth out any wrinkles in the white long-sleeved shirt of her uniform, fingers dancing the silk of her tie.

She took a seat at the vanity across the room and began to prepare herself for work. She only did basic makeup - eyeliner, some light blush, a neutral, pink-tinted lipstick - before taking the time to comb her hair once more and pinning her bangs back with her favorite music-note clips.

Satisfied, she pulled on white stockings and flats that matched the deep purple of her tie and skirt, before shuffling through a stack of colorful folders on her work desk. She tucked the purple one under her arm and made her way to the outlet where her phone was charging. Finding the battery at 100%, she smiled to herself and unplugged it.

She crossed the room once more, taking her purse off the hook by the door and checking that her wallet was inside before slipping her phone in beside it. Finding everything in order, she took one final glance over herself in the mirror and departed from her dorm room.

A few of the students she passed by noticed her, many greeting her with a wave and a tired smile. She returned the gesture with much more enthusiasm than any of them could muster at the moment, as she made her way to the bus stop outside the campus gates a minute or two before the vehicle arrived. She showed her school ID to the driver, happily taking a seat when they nodded their head.

She knew that she was rather lucky to get a full ride scholarship to her school of choice, but that didn’t exactly cover personal expenses. A part-time job made perfect sense! And she was also rather lucky to find a piano bar on the beach, not far from campus. The owner had been beyond ecstatic when she applied, more than willing to bend her schedule to accommodate her school work.

The pay was nice, and so were the tips when she played. Honestly, she was happy to know that so many people enjoyed her work. . . but she did feel a little bad that the restaurant got so much busier when she was playing.

It was a short ride and, as usual, Kaede arrived twenty minutes early. Usually, she used the spare time to do whatever she could to help around the restaurant, be it waiting tables or helping to bring people food. But she knew that, around this time - almost midnight in London - Shuuichi would be awake.

It would be the perfect time to contact him about joining the group again!

She pulled her phone from her purse and navigated her way through her neatly organized apps to pull up Skype. As she waited the few minutes for the app to boot up, she let out a soft sigh. He should really stop using Skype. . . It was pretty terrible.The sooner he did, the sooner she could delete the darn app from her phone and laptop. But still, for now, she was more than glad to see that Shuuichi was indeed online.

 


 

pianomom: shuuichi!!!

pianomom: hii!!!

pianomom: hi*

pianomom: hehe

pianomom: whoops

Blushing_Detective: Oh, hey there Kaede,

Blushing_Detective: This is a surprise. . .

Blushing_Detective: Isn't it close to your shift?

pianomom: kind of. . .

pianomom: but here!!

pianomom: XYzlQ4

Blushing_Detective: Huh?

Blushing_Detective: What is this?

pianomom: its my invitation code for team danganronpas brand new language learning program!!!

pianomom: just type it into the prompt when you sign up and itll place you in the same group with me!!

Blushing_Detective: Kaede. . .

Blushing_Detective: I don’t know about this. .

pianomom: i know i know!! but i still stand by what i said last time

pianomom: i wont force you to join but i think it could help with your anxiety

pianomom: i wouldnt put you into any situation that would hurt you and you can bow out any time you want!!

pianomom: i can say with absolute certainty that kaito and rantaro are very nice!!

pianomom: rantaro even said hes here for you!!

pianomom: and it will be way more fun to learn japanese with them than alone!!

pianomom: ill even be there so you wont be surrounded by strangers!!!

Blushing_Detective: I

Blushing_Detective: I suppose that’s true.

Blushing_Detective: I’d like to meet your friends, but you know. . .

pianomom: i understand but you have to force yourself forward sometimes or youre always going to be stuck in one spot!! i only want to help shuuichi!!!

Blushing_Detective: I know. . .

Blushing_Detective: You always do so much for me Kaede. . .

Blushing_Detective: I just wish I wasn't so much of a failure.

pianomom: oh geez

pianomom: youre not a failure shuuichi!!!

pianomom: youre diagnosed with an anxiety disorder!! that just means things are a challenge for you!!

pianomom: youre incredibly smart and talented!! you got into your college of choice because of your grades AND youve helped your uncle with tons of cases!!

pianomom: oh shoot

pianomom: its time for me to go on stage

pianomom: just think about it!!!

pianomom: luv u shuu U3U

 


 

Before he could even form a coherent response, Kaede signed off and left him all alone. Shuuichi let out a deep sigh, slouching forward so that his forehead hit the hardwood of his desk. Only after several long moments did he exhale a deep sigh and peer over his arm, to see Kaede’s affectionate farewell on the computer screen.

His heart fluttered in his chest, as though it were going to break free at any moment and shatter his entire being. God. What a pathetic crush. . . It wasn’t as though she would ever return it. She would always see him as her ‘precious childhood friend’, nothing more.

There was nothing wrong with the title. Of course Kaede was allowed to love whoever she wanted. It was just so exhausting, always pretending that those feelings weren't there, fearing the inevitability of her finding out.

. . .Maybe she already had.

Maybe that was why she began pushing for him to meet new people. . . She would always do that, but she’d been doing it more lately.

. . .

Oh God.

That was it, wasn't it? She knew. She knew that he liked her and she was trying to get him off her back, but she could never be cruel. She was always so gentle and kind, this was her way of doing it without calling him out on being a fucking weirdo. This was it. He’d completely destroyed one of his only genuine friendships and now he was going to be alone for the rest of his life. There was no way anyone else would want to deal with him and no--

. . .

Oh god.

No.

Wait.

Please.

Not now.

 

But Shuuichi’s body refused to listen to him, seizing up in a full-blown panic attack. Clutching his chest, his mind had gone into complete overdrive, telling him of a thousand ways in which his entire life had gone wrong. Who would want to deal with him anyway? A miserable, stupid idiot that couldn’t keep his shit together. He couldn’t even look anyone in the eye!

His breaths came out in wheezy pants, throat seizing up, suffocating him. He couldn’t stop his body from shaking. He couldn’t stop sweating. He couldn’t. He couldn’t.

COULDN’T.

STOP.

 


 

Shuuichi woke up at nine thirty the following morning, still sitting in his computer chair. The same place the panic attack had come over him last night. The thought made his insides twist with disgust. He was disgusting . . . Why did he have to go off and freak out like that?

Even if Kaede knew he loved her . . . she would never be cruel enough to push him away. She wasn’t that kind of person. He had grown up with her. He, of all people, should have known that.

God. He was such an idiot.

He let out a heavy sigh, running his hands over his face and wiping away tears before they could fall. He had to . . . do something. Somehow. . .

But then, Kaede had given him the ability to do so, hadn’t she? Team Danganronpa’s language program.

With what little courage he managed to cobble together, Shuuichi quickly pulled up the website and filled out the required form. After pressing SUBMIT, a window appeared, asking if he had an invitation code. He copy-pasted the code from Kaede into the box and got a simple THANK YOU in return, before transferring him to the web version of the program.

 


 

WELCOME SHUUICHI

YOU HAVE BEEN PLACED IN GROUP V3: DISCOVERING HARMONY

STAND BY AS WE CONNECT YOU

CONNECTING…

Today @ 9:44 (UTC+00:00)

ONLINE: (02/04)

TRANSLATING FROM:

ENGLISH

 

SPACEMAN: NO ONE ONLINE BUT ME?!

SPACEMAN: THATS FUCKIN FINE

SPACEMAN: I DONT MIND YELLING AT A WALL AT THE MOMENT

SPACEMAN: I JUST GOTTA YELL AT SOMETHING!!

 


 

Suddenly, Shuuichi was sure he’d made a huge mistake. He could feel his courage escaping his body, a thousand critical, self-conscious thoughts instantly pouncing on him. Why did he do this? What had compelled him to do this? At this hour, no less? It was nearly 3 AM where Kaede lived. She wouldn't be online. It would only be him and some complete strangers for hours .

How stupid could he get?!

Now he was trapped there and whoever this SPACEMAN was, they were completely oblivious to his arrival and ready to scream whatever was on their mind, leaving Shuuichi to lament his awkward and useless existence.

 


 

SPACEMAN: OH SHIT BOY

SPACEMAN: I AM FUCKIN PISSED OFF!!!

SPACEMAN: SO

SPACEMAN: MY FUCKIN BRO HAS A COUSIN

SPACEMAN: HES LIKE TWELVE

SPACEMAN: SMALL BOY LOVES SPORTS

SPACEMAN: GREAT KID

SPACEMAN: BUT MY BRO FOUND OUT THAT THE LITTLE GREMLIN IS GETTIN ABUSED BY HIS SHITTY ALCOHOLIC OLD MAN

SPACEMAN: OF COURSE WERE PISSED AND WE WANT TO HELP HIM

SPACEMAN: BUT HES BEGGIN US NOT TO TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT

SPACEMAN: THAT SHITS NOT RIGHT

SPACEMAN: HOW CAN WE SIT THERE AND DO NOTHING

SPACEMAN: BUT AT THE SAME TIME

SPACEMAN: WHAT CAN WE DO

SPACEMAN: ONE WRONG MOVE AND THE KID CAN GET BEATEN LIKE SHIT BY HIS DAD

SPACEMAN: ITS SO FUCKING FRUSTRATING

 


 

And like a switch was flipped, Shuuichi’s panic immediately dissipated as he brought his hand to his mouth, searching his mind for all possible answers to the dilemma.

SPACEMAN was most likely right - directly confronting the man will put the child in danger. Without proof, the accusation could easily be brushed aside and, behind closed doors, the man could make things even worse for the child for telling someone else. And if they tried to force the child to tell authorities, he could go into a panic and lie.

 


 

Shuuichi: That’s certainly a troubling situation.

SPACEMAN: HOLY SHIT

SPACEMAN: I DIDN'T KNOW ANYONE ELSE WAS ONLINE

Shuuichi: Ah,

Shuuichi: Well, I just joined. . .

SPACEMAN: OH

SPACEMAN: UH

SPACEMAN: SORRY THIS IS THE FIRST THING YOU SAW

Shuuichi: No,

Shuuichi: You have every right to be upset over this situation.

Shuuichi: If I had to guess,

Shuuichi: You know the victim rather well. He isn’t simply an acquaintance.

Shuuichi: So this feels a bit personal.

SPACEMAN: YEAH

SPACEMAN: ACTUALLY. . .

Shuuichi: I’m not a professional in any way,

Shuuichi: But it is commonly advised to take direct action.

Shuuichi: And, in this case,

Shuuichi: I would recommend stressing to the authorities that the child would be in danger if the adult knew of the investigation.

Shuuichi: That way, the child can be safely relocated before the investigation begins and cannot be harmed while it proceeds.

Shuuichi: Which is why I would also suggest securing a safe house for the child beforehand.

Shuuichi: That way, if things get bad, he will have some place to go to rather than simply hiding in fear.

Shuuichi: Perhaps your house or your ‘bro’s house, once he explains the situation to a trusted adult.

Shuuichi: In addition, if he does find the courage to report this on his own, he will already have someone safe to go to.

Shuuichi: I hope this suffices.

SPACEMAN: HOLY SHIT

Shuuichi: Huh?

SPACEMAN: DAYMN

SPACEMAN: KAEDE SAID YOU WERE SMART

SPACEMAN: BUT I DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE THIS SMART

Shuuichi: What? I didn't say anything special.

SPACEMAN: FUCK YOU

SPACEMAN: THIS IS AN EXCELLENT PLAN!!

 

ONLINE: (03/04)

mysteryavocado joined the chat!

 

mysteryavocado: i’ll have to agree.

mysteryavocado: simple, but elegant.

SPACEMAN: HELL YEAH

SPACEMAN: YOURE A REAL LIFE SAVER SHUUICHI!!

Shuuichi: Really, it’s nothing special.

SPACEMAN: AH CMON!!

SPACEMAN: DONT PUT YOURSELF DOWN

SPACEMAN: IF IT WASN'T FOR YOU

SPACEMAN: ID BE PUNCHING THAT SOB IN THE FACE RIGHT NOW!!

mysteryavocado: i can assure you, he’s not joking about that.

SPACEMAN: YEAH!!

SPACEMAN: YOURE ALREADY PROVING YOURSELF TO BE AN AWESOME PERSON SHUUICHI

 


 

Shuuichi grabbed at his chest.

This wasn’t another panic attack. No, it was something much worse. He could feel how flushed his cheeks were, his heart threatening to flutter out of his chest -- again! -- over some praise from Kaede’s friends. God. The worse part was that it wasn't caused by the two of them, only the one. By that SPACEMAN guy.

God,

Please don’t let me fall hopelessly in love with someone else. . .

 


 

mysteryavocado: why don't you tell us about yourself shuuichi?

mysteryavocado: kaede has nothing but positive things to say about you.

mysteryavocado: but i’d like to hear from the man of the hour himself.

Shuuichi: Ah, I’m nobody special.

Shuuichi: Just a kid living with his uncle.

mysteryavocado: that’s right, kaede mentioned he’s quite the skilled detective.

mysteryavocado: and that you are, too.

Shuuichi: What? No!

Shuuichi: I’m nowhere as skilled as him. . .

Shuuichi: I’m just an assistant at best.

mysteryavocado: i’m certain it takes a lot of skill to become an assistant, though.

Shuuichi: No. I’m pretty sure I’m just his assistant because I’m his nephew. . . and I’ve been lucky on my cases. . .

SPACEMAN: OH MY GOD!!

SPACEMAN: IM DYING HERE SHUUICHI!!

Shuuichi: What?

SPACEMAN: DUDE STOP PUTTING YOURSELF DOWN!!

SPACEMAN: YOURE SO FUCKING SMART

SPACEMAN: NO ONE SOLVES A CASE BY PURE LUCK

SPACEMAN: ALSO YOUR UNCLE MAKES A LIVING OFF HIS DETECTIVE WORK

SPACEMAN: RIGHT????

Shuuichi: Ah. That is correct.

SPACEMAN: SO HE OBVIOUSLY WOULDNT KEEP AN EMPLOYEE THAT COULDN'T DO JACKSHIT!!

SPACEMAN: SO YOU CLEARLY HAVE TALENT DUDE

SPACEMAN: KEEP YOUR CHIN UP!!

Shuuichi: . . . I guess that that’s true.

Shuuichi: Thank you.

mysteryavocado: pardon for being forward, but how did someone as shy as you end up being friends with kaede?

Shuuichi: Oh, um, actually. . .

Shuuichi: We’re childhood friends.

Shuuichi: We happened to live next door to each other.

Shuuichi: It was easier to make friends back then, after all.

Shuuichi: We’ve just kept in touch with each other over the years.

SPACEMAN: WELL DAMN THAT SAYS A LOT

SPACEMAN: YOU GUYS MUST REALLY LIKE EACH OTHER IF YOU KEEP TALKING

Shuuichi: Well, I can’t say anything about her, but yes

Shuuichi: I do like her quite a lot.

SPACEMAN: OH CMON DUDE

SPACEMAN: I WASNT JUST TALKING ABOUT YOU

SPACEMAN: SHE HAS BEEN SINGING YOUR PRAISES LITERALLY ALL DAMN WEEK

Shuuichi: I… don’t understand.

mysteryavocado: well clearly you need to talk to her about that

mysteryavocado: because she just keeps talking about how great you are.

Shuuichi: I . . . I suppose so.

Shuuichi: But. . . I don't really understand how she could consider me great. . .

Shuuichi: I’ve been more of a bother to her than anything.

mysteryavocado: doubt.png

Shuuichi: What.

mysteryavocado: i mean, i doubt she feels that way about you!

SPACEMAN: YEAH

SPACEMAN: SHES BEEN NOTHIN BUT EXCITED FOR YOU TO JOIN

SPACEMAN: IT MAKES ME KINDA JEALOUS HOW MUCH SHE CARE FOR YOU

SPACEMAN: YOURE OBVIOUSLY A HELL OF A GUY!

mysteryavocado: kaito, your gay is showing.

SPACEMAN: YOUR GAY IS SHOWING

mysteryavocado: ah, yes, excellent comeback.

SPACEMAN: MEET ME OUTSIDE YOU FRENCH AVOCADO

mysteryavocado: catch me if you can, space boy.

 


 

Shuuichi found himself smiling at his computer screen as he read the banter between them. It was completely ridiculous and yet, it calmed his racing heart. It seemed Kaede was right after all. They were good people, so quickly warm and welcoming.

Especially that SPACEMAN -- Kaito, if he recalled right -- who insisted on proving his insecurities wrong. He seemed like a really nice person. . . not to say that. . . mysteryavocado wasn't. He just strangely felt more at peace when Kaito spoke with such enthusiasm

With his head in the palm of his hands, he read through Kaito’s messages again and again. He felt his cheeks grow warm, his heart nearly beating out of his chest. It was then he was struck with a sudden realization. . .

God didn’t hear his prayers.

Chapter Text

Today @ 21:31 (UTC +00:00)

 

ONLINE: (03/04)

 

pianomom: guys guys guys!!!

pianomom: its afternoon!!!

pianomom: are we on for the game????

mysteryavocado: well, it’s almost eleven here.

mysteryavocado: but yes! i’m excited.

mysteryavocado: are you two about ready?

Blushing_Detective: Wasn’t Kaito supposed to join us?

pianomom: oh yeah you’re right!!

pianomom: shoot where is he??

mysteryavocado: how about we give him a few more minutes?

pianomom: sounds good!!

pianomom: im gonna go freshen up!

pianomom: ill brb!!

mysteryavocado: have fun~~

 

(3) PM(s) from mysteryavocado !

 

mysteryavocado: hey

mysteryavocado: hey shuu

mysteryavocado: pssst shuu pssst

Blushing_Detective: Yes??

Blushing_Detective: Rantaro, may I ask why you’re PMing me?

mysteryavocado: important questions, shuu.

Blushing_Detective: Okay…?

mysteryavocado: so

mysteryavocado: what is your relationship with kaede, my small, nervous boy?

Blushing_Detective: . . .

Blushing_Detective: She’s my friend?

Blushing_Detective: I don’t understand why you’re asking me this.

mysteryavocado: wait no that’s not what i mean.

mysteryavocado: uh okay better question

mysteryavocado: what would you like your relationship with kaede to be, my small, nervous boy?

Blushing_Detective: My friend.

Blushing_Detective: Rantaro, what are you implying?

mysteryavocado: you do know that you can talk to me, right?

mysteryavocado: i’m not going to tell her or anything.

Blushing_Detective: I. . . understand that, Rantaro.

Blushing_Detective: But I still don’t understand why you’re asking me this.

mysteryavocado: because i * care about you* shuu

mysteryavocado: i want your romantic dreams to come to fertility

mysteryavocado:

mysteryavocado: fertility

mysteryavocado: fertility????

mysteryavocado: REALIZATION

mysteryavocado: damn translator

Blushing_Detective: Ah, does it mess up a lot for French?

Blushing_Detective: I haven’t had many problems with it, myself, at all.

mysteryavocado: no it’s normally pretty good but

mysteryavocado: shuuichi.

mysteryavocado: you’re ignoring what’s important here.

Blushing_Detective: which is?

mysteryavocado: your love life!

mysteryavocado: your happiness.

Blushing_Detective: I don’t understand how that’s important. . .

mysteryavocado: listen, that’s another issue.

mysteryavocado: for right now

mysteryavocado: do you want to kiss her and hold her hand, shuuichi?

mysteryavocado: that is the question.

mysteryavocado: answer the question.

Blushing_Detective: Oh, look! Kaede’s back. She’s probably wondering where we’ve gone.

mysteryavocado: don’t do this to me, shuuichi.

mysteryavocado: don’t leave me, shuuichi.

mysteryavocado: SHUUICHI!!!

 

Today @ 21:47 (UTC +00:00)

 

ONLINE: (03/04)

 

pianomom: im back!!!

pianomom: guys?

pianomom: guys???

pianomom: guyyyyssss did you leave?????

Blushing_Detective: I’m sorry, Kaede! I was distracted.

pianomom: oh thats okay! i was just getting kinda worried!!!

pianomom: rantaro???

mysteryavocado: i’m sorry as well, kaede.

mysteryavocado: i was the distraction.

mysteryavocado: you have not escaped me, shuuichi.

mysteryavocado: i will get my answer.

mysteryavocado: i will make you face the truth!

pianomom: :0?????

mysteryavocado: don’t worry about it for now, my dear.

Blushing_Detective: * Please* don’t worry about it.

 

ONLINE: (04/04)

 

SPACEMAN is online!

 

SPACEMAN: KICKS DOWN THE DOOR

SPACEMAN: G U Y S

SPACEMAN: CHECK THIS SHIT OUT

SPACEMAN: [ LINK ]

 


 

A photo was included with the article. It featured a tall male with tanned skin, warm lilac eyes, spiked purple hair and matching goatee. He was wearing a white button up over a white wife beater and his left cheek was bandaged up but you could still see the swelling.

Joining the tanned young man was a guy, not as tall as him, with wild orange-red hair, a goatee and a number of silver piercings. He was wearing a ridiculous white jacket with a popped collar on top of a simple white shirt.

Between the two young men was a tanned boy wearing bandages. He had messy red hair, bushy brows and blue eyes. He was wearing a black and red striped shirt and a matching wristband.

The little boy was grinning widely, his arm crossed and with a confident looking face while the two young men were pointing at him with huge cheesy grins, as if to showcase the amazing boy to the world.

 


 

pianomom: oh my god are you okay???

mysteryavocado: your face looks like shit.

pianomom: rantaro this is serious!!!

SPACEMAN: DUDES IM FINE

SPACEMAN: HOW CAN I NOT BE

SPACEMAN: LOOK AT THIS SHIT

SPACEMAN: IT WAS EPIC

SPACEMAN: AND MOST IMPORTANTLY NOW THE LIL GUYS SAFE

SPACEMAN: SHUU LOOK AT THIS

SPACEMAN: SHUU

Blushing_Detective: I apologize; I was a bit distracted.

Blushing_Detective: Are you sure that you’re alright?

Blushing_Detective: That looks like it really hurt. . .

SPACEMAN: THE PAIN IS NO MATCH FOR ME DUDE

SPACEMAN: COULD NOT BE MORE WORTH IT

SPACEMAN: ALSO LOOK AT MASARU THE LITTLE SUCKER

SPACEMAN: HES SO PROUD

Blushing_Detective: I suppose so. . .

Blushing_Detective: I’m really glad that he’s alright.

Blushing_Detective: And that you are, too.

mysteryavocado: gay

mysteryavocado: no but really, i think we’re all glad that everything turned out so nicely.

pianomom: yes!!!!

SPACEMAN: THANK YOU THANK YOU

SPACEMAN: THATS ALL THANKS TO SHUU THOUGH

SPACEMAN: STOPPED ME FROM PUNCHING THE GUY OUT MYSELF

mysteryavocado: which, as we can see from his reaction to your * laughing *,

mysteryavocado: would have ended wonderfully.

SPACEMAN: I MEAN

SPACEMAN: I COULDA TAKEN HIM

SPACEMAN: BUT YEAH

SPACEMAN: THANKS FOR SAVING ME A FEW BRUISES SHUU

SPACEMAN: SHUU??

SPACEMAN: SHUU WHERED YOU GO

Blushing_Detective: Ah, I’m sorry.

Blushing_Detective: I keep doing that, don’t I?

Blushing_Detective: I really don’t think that I made that much of a difference. . .

Blushing_Detective: But I’m glad that I could help, at least a bit.

SPACEMAN: DONT BE FOOLED

SPACEMAN: YOU WERE A GREAT HELP

SPACEMAN: NOW SHOW ME YOUR PICS

Blushing_Detective: Excuse me???

SPACEMAN: PICS

SPACEMAN: YOUVE SEEN MY FACE NOW SHOW ME YOURS

Blushing_Detective: I’m sorry???

SPACEMAN: GUYS CMON

SPACEMAN: DO ME A SOLID

pianomom: im taking a new one hang on!!

mysteryavocado: calm down i’m trying to find a good one.

mysteryavocado: actually, i’m gonna get my sister to take a new one for me.

mysteryavocado: one sec.

pianomom: here you go!!

pianomom: [ IMAGE ]

SPACEMAN: OH MY GOD

SPACEMAN: JESUS CHRIST

SPACEMAN: YOURE ADORABLE WTF

SPACEMAN: WTF

SPACEMAN: WHAT

SPACEMAN: THE FUCK

pianomom: oh my gosh

pianomom: thank you so much!!!

mysteryavocado: well hello, beautiful.

mysteryavocado: you’re as pretty as you are sweet.

mysteryavocado: amazing.

pianomom: you two are too sweet!!

Blushing_Detective: As beautiful as ever, Kaede.

pianomom: awww guys!!!

mysteryavocado: now, i’m not as pretty as you, but…

mysteryavocado: [ IMAGE ]

pianomom: !!!!!!

pianomom: youre so cute!!!

mysteryavocado: why thank you!

SPACEMAN: DAMN

SPACEMAN: THAT IS

SPACEMAN: SOME AVOCADO LOOKIN HAIR

SPACEMAN: NOT BAD LOOKING THOUGH DUDE

SPACEMAN: SHIT IVE GOTTA FIND A PIC WITHOUT MY FACE ALL BANGED UP

SPACEMAN: HANG ON

Blushing_Detective: You both look lovely.

pianomom: show one too shuu!!!

Blushing_Detective: I don’t really think that that’s the best idea, Kaede.

pianomom: of course it is!!

pianomom: everyone else is sharing!

pianomom: show them how cute you are!!!

SPACEMAN: OKAY GOT IT

SPACEMAN: [ IMAGE ]

pianomom: awww!!!

mysteryavocado: alright, your face doesn’t look as shitty…

mysteryavocado: that hair, though…

SPACEMAN: DONT START WITH ME FRENCHY

SPACEMAN: LOOK IN THE MIRROR

mysteryavocado: well, mine is natural!

mysteryavocado: besides, you’re pretty cute.

mysteryavocado: five pounds of gel aside.

SPACEMAN: OH

SPACEMAN: UH

SPACEMAN: THANK YOU

pianomom: youre super cute kaito!!!!

SPACEMAN: AH DAMN

SPACEMAN: YOU GUYS ARE MAKING ME BLUSH

Blushing_Detective: Ah, here’s my picture. . .

Blushing_Detective: It’s nothing much to look at

Blushing_Detective: [ IMAGE ]

mysteryavocado: if i may, you look quite adorable as it stands

pianomom: no shuushuu!!

Pianomom: this is no good!

Blushing_Detective: I-I know it’s not a good photo. . .

pianomom: no!!

pianomom: thats not what i mean!!

pianomom: you need to share a picture of you WITHOUT the hat!!!

pianomom: you have such a pretty face

pianomom: you shouldn’t hide it!!!

mysteryavocado: ah

mysteryavocado: well

mysteryavocado: now we have to see your face

SPACEMAN: S H O W  U S  T H E  F A C E

Blushing_Detective: I. . .guess I will. . .

Blushing_Detective: [ IMAGE ]

Blushing_Detective: Sorry.

Blushing_Detective: I’m uncomfortable without my hat.

mysteryavocado: oh

mysteryavocado: my god

mysteryavocado: your lashes.

Blushing_Detective: Huh? What about them?

mysteryavocado: are those natural? they’re stunning. beautiful even.

Blushing_Detective: Oh, ah, yes. They are.

mysteryavocado: i’m rather jealous of them.

pianomom: another to save in the folder!!!

Blushing_Detective: Huh?

Blushing_Detective: You . . . save the pictures of me?

pianomom: why wouldnt i????

pianomom: i have such a beautiful friend and i want to keep all the memories of you!!

SPACEMAN: DAMN SHUU

SPACEMAN: I HAD NO IDEA YOU LOOKED THIS GOOD???

Blushing_Detective: Huh?

Blushing_Detective: Do I. . .

Blushing_Detective: Do I really look. . . good?

SPACEMAN: HELL YEAH!!! WHOEVER YOURE DATING IS ONE LUCKY MOTHERFUCKER!!!

Blushing_Detective: Oh.

Blushing_Detective: I’m not actually dating anyone. . .

Blushing_Detective: No one has ever showed any interest in me. . .

SPACEMAN: WHAT THE HELL

SPACEMAN: SERIOUSLY???

SPACEMAN: THATS A DAMN SHAME

SPACEMAN: YOU HAVE GOOD LOOKS, YOURE SMART AND YOURE A KIND PERSON

SPACEMAN: YOU SHOULD BE CRAWLING IN GIRLS!!

pianomom: haha

pianomom: its a real shame!!!

pianomom: shuushuu would be the sweetest boyfriend in the world!!

Blushing_Detective: What?

Blushing_Detective: You. . . You really think that?

pianomom: of course!!!

pianomom: i wouldnt lie about that!!

pianomom: youre so wonderful shuushuu!!!

mysteryavocado: how hetero of you two

mysteryavocado: now, if we’re done praising and kissing our beloved shy boy,

Blushing_Detective: B-Beloved?

mysteryavocado: it’s time to lose faith in humanity with cards against humanity!!

pianomom: yes!!!

SPACEMAN: HELL YEAH

SPACEMAN: WERE DOING THE VOICE CHAT THING RIGHT

mysteryavocado: hell yes.

pianomom: im so excited!!!!

mysteryavocado: i’ll go get my good microphone.

mysteryavocado: one moment, please.

pianomom: oh ill get mine too!!!

pianomom: shuushuu do you still have the one i got you last year??

Blushing_Detective: Of course I do, Kaede.

Blushing_Detective: I’m sorry that I haven’t been using it lately on our regular calls.

Blushing_Detective: I placed it in the office and I always forget to take it out until you call. . .

Blushing_Detective: And I apologize for saying so, but you do tend to call late.

pianomom: oh psh dont worry about it!!!!

pianomom: i just want to let them hear your cute voice in all its glory!!!!

Blushing_Detective: I

Blushing_Detective: I think that I can sneak downstairs without bothering him.

Blushing_Detective: I’ll be right back.

mysteryavocado: so heterosexual.

SPACEMAN: AW DAMN I DONT HAVE A GOOD MIC

SPACEMAN: MY COMPUTER ONES NOT BAD THOUGH

SPACEMAN: DO YOU GUYS CARE

mysteryavocado: i’m so disappointed in you, kaito.

mysteryavocado: no, it really doesn’t matter that much.

pianomom: of course not oh my gosh!!!

pianomom: were all just happy to hear you!!

SPACEMAN: ALRIGHT NICE

SPACEMAN: IM READY WHEN YOU GUYS ARE

mysteryavocado: i can get the room together while we wait for shuuichi.

pianomom: okay!!

SPACEMAN: GO FOR IT MAN

SPACEMAN: IVE NEVER DONE IT BEFORE

mysteryavocado: played or made the room?

SPACEMAN: EITHER

mysteryavocado: i have a feeling that you’ll love it.

pianomom: its really silly but i like it a lot!!

SPACEMAN: THEN IM SURE I WILL TOO

Blushing_Detective: I’m back.

Blushing_Detective: Just setting up now.

mysteryavocado: alright, nice.

mysteryavocado: i added a few bonus decks too.

mysteryavocado: [ LINK ]

pianomom: how many is a few??

mysteryavocado: seven.

pianomom: oh my gosh how much do you play???

mysteryavocado: not very often.

mysteryavocado: i don’t get much of an opportunity to.

pianomom: gosh i only have one bonus pack!

mysteryavocado: what can i say? i enjoy those opportunities to their fullest.

mysteryavocado: shuuichi, are you ready?

Blushing_Detective: Ah, sorry, yes.

SPACEMAN: ALRIGHT LETS DO THIS

SPACEMAN: MIC HERE WE GO

 


 

There was a soft static as each of them turned their microphones on, as Shuuichi’s fingers tentatively hovered over his mousepad, as his cursor pointed at the “Allow” button. This was fine. This was. . . fine. There was nothing for him to be nervous about. All of them would be speaking, after all. He just. . . needed to open his mouth. Like he normally would. . .

As if he ever felt relaxed in public in the first place.

“DUDES.” A sharp, loud noise, which cut through Shuuichi’s headphones in a way that made him flinch painfully. “Dudes, say something! I can hear you guys buzzin’ around!”

He could feel his muscles tensing in strain, his heartbeat racing unbidden at the simple forcibly powerful excitement in the other boy’s voice. This was why he’d been so tentative to hit the button, to agree to this at all. The way that his head was swimming too easily and every self-deprecating thought was piling up on top of each other as he moved to slide the cursor away, to come up with some excuse to…

There was a familiar laugh, soft and light and delicate, and Shuuichi instantly felt the pressure beginning to ease.

“Okay, okay!” Kaede was still laughing, and it was too easy for the poor boy to imagine how her eyes sparkled, his cheeks beginning to warm at the mere thought. “I’m guessing that’s Kaito?”

“Hell yes that’s Kaito!” His laugh was loud too, the sound crackling in the telltale way of a cheap microphone, but it was warm and bright and oh God, there went Shuuichi’s cheeks again. “Geez, Kaede, you sound just as cute as you look!”

“Aw, you’re too sweet!” Another giggle, though this one made Shuuichi’s stomach drop slightly. Right, they were. . . . . .

Right.

“Heh, means a lot coming from you!” Kaito boomed, and imagining the smile that had to be on his face had Shuuichi’s heart speeding up again. “’Taro, where are you at?”

“Oh?” The sound was strange, tight, even as casual and elongated as it was. “Are we speaking in English?”

An accent. A thick, unbelievably stereotypical French accent. . . which somehow had not been at all what Shuuichi was expecting.

“Uh, I mean, unless your Japanese is better?” Kaito sounded taken aback too, though the amusement in his voice didn’t go away.

“Oh, no, my English is not bad.” Rantaro’s voice was soft, higher than Kaito’s, words drawn out like he was very carefully contemplating them as he made their very sounds, yet with a lightness that didn’t make it seem like he was really focused on them. Shuuichi. . . didn’t know what to make of it. “My Japanese is much worse. . . Besides, that wouldn’t be fair to the three of you! I’m happy to try my English for all of you.”

“Well, nice!” Kaito’s booming voice came again, though there still didn’t seem to be as much confidence in it as when he began. “Long as we’re all good with that!”

“I think we are!” Kaede’s words seemed to ring out clearer than the guys’, in a way that made Shuuichi’s teeth dig into his cheek. He should probably hit the button before she. . . “Shuu, c’mon, turn your mic on!”

And there she went. The guys would probably start cheering him again, and the pressure would make things worse, and the cycle would inevitably be vicious, so he rushed the hit the button, sheer nerves causing him to begin to speak before the connection was actually complete.

“-o. … Oh. Ah, s-sorry. Hello. . .” His voice was soft, too small, too anxious, the gentle lilt of what had become a slight British accent almost certainly making it seem garbled and unclear.

“There you are!” Kaede chimed, voice even warmer and more excited and Shuuichi found himself covering his burning cheeks with his hands, his head starting to hurt. God, why was he like this? “Is everyone ready?”

“Hell yeah!”

“Yes, I am.”

Silence, the five seconds that it took for Shuuichi to realize that they were waiting on him feeling like they stretched into minutes. “Ah, s-sorry, yes.”

“Alright,” came that strange, strange French accent. “Let’s begin! I’m the first card czar. . . ‘Remember, there is no ‘I’ in…’”

Shuuichi looked at his cards, taking a moment before grimacing slightly. Okay, so he had. . . no idea what he was doing. What was actually supposed to be funny? Maybe he just didn’t get that kind of humor. . . But he hit one that he thought could maybe be amusing, and hoped that it wouldn’t look too ridiculous.

It only took another moment for the cards to flip around, Rantaro’s voice flowing through the speakers as he read them aloud. “‘There is no ‘I’ in a mayonnaise restaurant’. . .” Oh God, it sounded sillier when he said it in such a calm voice. “‘There is no ‘I’ in creating safe spaces’. . . And ‘there is no ‘I’ in. . . a morbid fear of seeing, thinking about, or having an erect penis ’, Jesus. Well, it does have an I in it, but. . .”

Shuuichi heard Kaede beginning to giggle and Kaito cheering over Rantaro’s voice, as he picked the last one.

“Hell yeah! First point!”

“Okay, I’m the czar!” Kaede’s voice was gleeful, before settling into a gentle brightness as she read the next black card. “‘A man won a 3.1 million dollar lottery. He spent it all on [blank] and was charged with murder!’”

Oh dear God. Were these cards just going to keep getting more ridiculous? … Probably, from what Kaede had said before the game. Well, at least hearing them was nice… Shuuichi would just have to try his best. Besides, if he didn’t get the point, no one would know which card was his, right? . . . Although someone was bound to eventually figure out that he was playing all of the bad ones.

God. They’re probably gonna get mad at you for being such a stick in the mud. How dull and boring can you be Shuuichi? Do you want to fuck up at every opportunity you're given or something? Goddamnit! Get your fucking shit together Shuuichi!

No, no, he was not going to have another panic attack. Not now, not with them, not like this. Not. Now.

He hoped that they didn’t hear how strained his breathing had become as he clicked a card at random. God. Who was he kidding? They could hear him. They were thinking about how much of a weirdo he was for breathing so heavily while on voice chat. He must be a pervert. He must be disgusting. He must be--!

“Shuushuu, are you alright?”

Oh fuck.

Now you’ve done it you absolute fucking moron!

Now you have Kaede worrying over your stupid fucking ass.

Again.

It’s a fucking card game and you’re losing your shit!

WHY CAN'T YOU DO ANYTHING RIGHT SHUUICHI?!

W H Y ? !

. . .

Haha

Isn’t it obvious?

It’s because you’re useless~

It’s the very same reason why your parents left you Shuuichi!

Abandoned you!

Because you’re an ugly useless child!

Don’t you think it’s time to face facts and stop indulging your fantastic delusions that you will be loved?

Useless children cannot be loved

S-h-u-u-i-c-h-i~!

“Shuuichi,” Kaede’s voice came in once more, firmer, more certain. “Fuck your parents.” Shuuichi was about taken back by her words. How… How much of that had he said out loud…? Oh Christ. Why... “They don't deserve a son as wonderful as you!”

He. . . He wanted to believe that.

He wanted to be angry at his parents. But the moment that he entertained the thought, guilt consumed him.

They uprooted him from his childhood home only to throw him at his uncle and aunt while they went abroad to do work. But it was work, after all.

He hadn’t seen them in years. Not in person anyway. He saw them all the time on TV or in photos. But maybe they were just that busy. They had to be, as famous as they were.

They didn’t send him any presents for his birthday or for holidays. Not even a measly letter. But feeling so negative about them only reinforced the feelings of emptiness and helplessness in the end. . .  An unlovable pathetic helpless child. . .

“I’m sorry. . .” The words were cracked, choking back sobs as disruptive bookends, tears streaming down his face. He couldn’t even remember when they had begun to fall... “I’m so sorry.” This wasn’t supposed to happen. It was supposed to be a fun night. He’d single handedly destroyed game night. There was no way he was going to be invited back. They’d probably kick him out of the group too and get mad at Kaede for inviting him in the first place. They’ll--!

“Oi, hey, Shuu.” It was… Kaito’s voice, reaching out to him. Quiet. Gentle. … Welcoming. “Just, do me a solid and listen to my voice. . . Nothing else, alright? Just my voice.”

Shuuichi bit back a whimper, clutching at his arms and pulling his legs to his chest. He nodded his head against his legs before realizing that Kaito couldn’t see and letting out a trembling, “Okay.”

“Alright. Good. Now, breathe.” Carefully, Kaito coached him through some basic breathing exercises. And slowly, slowly but miraculously, Shuuichi felt himself beginning to relax, the toxic fog of panic that had built up in his head beginning to disintegrate.

“Two. . . One.” The other boy’s voice was still deep, still rough, but warm and soft and soothing, and as the haze of fear began to fade, as Shuuichi opened his eyes at the gentle request to, he found himself wanting to sink into the sound. “There. How are you feeling?”

“Bet. . .” Shuuichi swallowed thickly, a lump filling his throat and making anything beyond breathing still a struggle to accomplish. “Better. I. . . Thank you. . .”

“Ah, dude, it’s no problem.” There was so much warmth in his voice, like he honestly didn’t. . . mind helping him like that. Like he… had wanted to? But that was stupid, who would. . .

“Kaito?” Kaede’s voice was gentle, like she was afraid of startling either of them. Mostly Shuuichi, most likely. “How’d you know how to do that?”

“Oh, Masaru gets panic attacks sometimes.” There was a tiny laugh in his voice, not the bold one that Shuuichi had already heard so many times, but almost. . . sheepish. “Leon and I have kind of trained ourselves on how to deal with it? I’m better at it than him, though!”

“Of course you are,” An unfamiliar voice teased gently, and it took Shuuichi a long moment to realize that it was Rantaro.

With no accent whatsoever.

“Uh, ’Taro?” Kaito seemed to have taken as long as he had to notice, and Shuuichi knew Kaede more than well enough to know her reaction, to imagine her silently staring at her computer screen in confusion.

“Yeah, what’s up?” He sounded as though he hadn’t even processed anything being wrong.

“What the fuck, dude?”

“Oh.” A soft, sheepish laugh. “The accent thing? Yeah, I was just messing with you guys… I figured I should probably stop that right about now.”

Okay, maybe now that Shuuichi was listening for it, he could detect a tiny bit too much tightness in his o’s, a softness to his th’s, but it was honestly remarkable how clear his words were.

“How is your English so amazing?” Kaede seemed genuinely stunned, her voice stuffed full of more warmth and excitement than usual.

“Oh, I travel a lot.” Now that Shuuichi thought about it, Rantaro had vaguely mentioned it a few times, but nothing terribly specific. “Well, my family does. I’ve had private English lessons since I was six, so I’ve had plenty of time to learn. But that’s not important here. Shuuichi, are you still up to play?”

“Huh. . .?” Shuuichi was stunned silent. He blinked in utter confusion as he absorbed the words. “Are you sure you want to keep playing after. . . that?”

“It’s fine!” Ranaro’s smile was clear in his words. “My dearest friend has fits of self-deprecation, too, but that doesn’t change how I feel about him. I’ve found it's better to keep treating someone as normally as ever to prevent alienating them. You're a good kid, Shuuichi. Don't think otherwise. Now, we can keep playing or stop, which is perfectly acceptable. We could watch a movie instead, if you like.”

“No, I’d. . . I’d like to keep playing. . .” He wanted them to have fun. . . . He wanted to have fun together . He still didn’t understand how they’d managed to become so ingrained in his life so quickly, but they meant so much to him, even after so little time. . . He wanted to become better. He wanted to cherish these moments with them, for as long as he could.

“Oh, um, i-it’s my turn,” Shuuichi murmured, nerves settling back in - but light, fluttery ones that he knew that he could deal with. They must have finished the other round before he. . . Focus. “Uh, let’s see. ‘[Blank] is a slippery slope that leads to [blank].’”

He could hear snickering and giggling on the other ends, but he couldn’t find anything in his own cards that would make a good match, anyway -- how shocking -- so he had no idea what they could possibly be planning on playing.

But one by one, the pairs lined up, until six cards turned around and he began reading aloud - carefully, only to feel a smile beginning to tug at his lips as soon as he opened his mouth. “Alright, um. ‘Hot people is a slippery slope that leads to seduction.’ ‘Poor life choices is a slippery slope that leads to exactly what you’d expect.’ And ‘Flightless birds is a slippery slope that l’-” Oh God. Oh, God . Oh, it was so bad, why couldn’t he stop himself from laughing through the words? “‘That l. . .  leads to. . . a murder most foul .’”

Shuuichi covered his mouth, trying to stifle the peals of giggles that spilled from his lips to no avail. Okay, it was silly, but he couldn’t help the rush of warmth, the feeling that he loved these people, as he clicked the card.

Kaito’s cheer nearly broke his headset. Despite that, Shuuichi kept laughing, more and more, even as he continued his attempts to muffle himself. And unbeknownst to him, the sound came through as a beautiful ring, warming the very hearts of his dearest friends, lighting their faces aflame. All at once, they unknowingly shared a thought:

Shuuichi Saihara is beautiful.

 

Chapter Text

Ryouma Hoshi was tired.

No, he had been tired for the last three years. This was a different feeling, a numb, draining sensation that threatened to pull his soul out of his body through his weakly throbbing chest, leaving him to collapse on the floor as nothing but an empty husk.

He wouldn't have protested. It wouldn't have been very different from how he normally felt.

He didn't feel as though he was even really there , his eyes glazed and absent as he stared at the keys in his hand, mechanically locking up the cash register in front of him with weak, clumsy fingers and not noticing how the metal of the teeth bit into the skin, leaving red marks in their wake.

He couldn't feel anything. Hadn’t been able to in so long. . . Nothing but the occasional hit of guilt, stabbing him hard in the chest and twisting, pulling upward, gutting him until he was curled up on the floor, gasping and clutching his stomach and wishing that the pain weren't just inside of his head, that the feeling of death was an actual threat rather than just an agonizing, pressing weight on his brain.

He didn't want to be there anymore.

He didn’t want to exist.

But he walked out anyway, giving his co-worker a silent nod of acknowledgement as the other took over his position behind the register.

The door jingled as it shut behind him, the sound muted and distant, as though through deep water. Only memory guided him to where he had parked, metal and asphalt blurring together into a murky mess of dark colors. It had been too busy when he had come in, forcing him to park in the lot of the store next door, and. . .

Oh.

Well, he did notice the tiny slip of white paper stuck under one of the wipers, though he couldn’t seem to focus on the whole thing, eyes skimming over only certain lines.

 


 

Ticket No: **********

You are charged with the violations:

PARKED IN HANDICAPPED AREA(S)

Amount: 150€

 


 

Ryouma squinted at the violation, confusion seeping into his thoughts as he processed the words. Handicapped? It wasn't a handicapped. . .

He took five steps back and looked down and, sure enough, there was faded, cracked blue paint on the asphalt behind his trunk.

. . . . . . . . .

Oh.

He. . . 

He couldn't do anything right, could he?

The money wasn't an issue. The car had even been custom made, to allow someone of his stature to drive. He had the money. He just. . .

He knew, objectively, that it was a tiny thing. That, had it been anyone else, he would have rolled his eyes and told them it wasn't a big deal and that it happened to everyone. He just. . .  couldn't process that he had done it. That he had messed up again. Every handicapped spot in the parking lot looked full and he had taken one, had likely prevented someone who actually needed it from getting what they needed done with ease, and he just. . .  kept. . . hurting people. Didn't he.

He stuffed the ticket into his pocket and turned away from his own car, toward the loud thrum of those that were moving along the road.

It was a busy time. Lots of people going 100-some odd kilometers an hour. If he just. . .  He could just. . .

He stopped on the edge of the grass, one tiny step off of the gutter, staring at the asphalt, the black rubber rushing along it, loud and fast and dangerous, so dangerous, and he just. . .  He started to put his leg out, to take that final step, to. . .

“Ryouma!”

Oh.

He recognized that voice.

Looking back, Ryouma recognized the motorcycle parked a few dozen yards away. He knew who he would see before his eyes even landed on the driver’s face, but he didn’t expect such. . . incomprehensible fury?

Ah. Well, it seemed fate was against him once again. After tormenting him for so long, it wouldn’t even let him have a simple death. . .

“What the hell are you doin’, you son of a bitch?!”

Objectively, it was probably funny, how his friend towered over him as he marched over, all orange-brown hair and gritted teeth and rough slang.

“Nothing much.” It was a mumble, Ryouma shrugging his shoulders weakly, unable to muster up the strength for much more. But the other’s face turned bright red, his rage clearly growing with each passing moment.

“Walkin’ out into heavy traffic is nothin’ to you?!” Angry. He was always angry, always shouting… Normally not at Ryouma, but still, it was merely one more little thing swirled up in the storm that crowded out his thoughts.

The smaller simply shrugged once more. Compared to everything else he’d had to deal with for the last three years, that really was. . . nothing. Getting up, getting dressed, going to work . . .all those basic human things were just so . . . exhausing. . .

Living was so utterly exhausting.

Still, he couldn’t quite grasp why the other was the one getting emotional over this. It was his life to throw away, after all. If he was dead, then he wouldn’t have to deal with someone as exhausting as him. Shouldn’t he be happy about that?

Are you listening to me, you fuckin’ coward?!

“. . . Not really, no.” Ryouma admitted. He hadn’t heard a word of what he was yelling about… But the other was clearly resisting the urge to scream. And punch something. Maybe if he pissed him off enough, he could punch him into the street and fix both of their problems. . . Ah, but then the other would probably get in trouble for that. . . “It doesn’t matter much, though, does it? You’re right. I’m a coward. And a weakling. Isn't it obvious, Mondo?”

The taller faltered for a moment. He probably hadn’t expected Ryouma to agree with his harsh words. And maybe he wouldn’t have, before. Not aloud. Not with a soft, hazy smile on his face, his eyes half-glazed, unfocused, numb to the point of pain. How ironic. . . He hardly felt his lips moving, as he continued. “If anyone should have died, back then. . . it should have been me. Not her . Not my father. My arrogance put my mother in the hospital, Mondo. I killed two people, and one more will never be the same. You agree with me. It’s better if I end up splattered on the street, right?”

Mondo’s face falling wasn’t the response he’d been expecting. Nor was the fear, the look of distraught, the building tears. . .

“Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me. . .?” Mondo whispered, the words caught under his breath even as he gritted his teeth. “All this time he’s. . . you. . .” Whatever Mondo’s intentions had been for visiting the gas station, they were cast aside for the moment. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed, commencing a quick call that left Yukimaru with the job of coming to pick up his bike for him. He gave the poor boy no explanation, simply hanging up before extending his hand to Ryouma.

But. . . the silent demand didn’t process properly. He couldn’t seem to grasp why Mondo was holding his hand out to him like this. And the taller just let out a heavy groan, his free hand landing on his own cheek and dragging down.

“Keys.”

“Ah.” A simple, soft sound, all that Ryouma managed to get out. He reached into his pocket and handed the keys over to Mondo. The other was still grumbling under his breath as he ushered Ryouma over to his car. They sat there, Mondo in the driver’s seat, Ryouma in the passenger’s, simply. . . waiting for Yukimaru to show up. The only thing that filled the silence was the taller propping the door open, complaining about the heat and wasting gas.

Ryouma wasn’t sure how much time passed, before Yukimaru finally arrived. And only then did Mondo begin to fight with the driver’s seat, forcing it into a position that was slightly more comfortable, awkwardly squirming throughout the process. It made the smaller snort. Just a little.

When the bleached blond young man finally arrived, Mondo simply tossed his own keys in his direction, slammed the door shut, and jammed Ryouma’s into the ignition to start the car. He wasn’t usually one to tell someone to buckle in, but for the other’s sake, he did this time, and found himself thankful that his friend complied.

The drive to Ryouma’s house dragged on in silence for what seemed like forever. Even with the sound of the radio -- crackling harshly, between clear stations because he really never messed with it -- the silence was suffocating. Both of them were trapped in their respective thoughts, wondering how the hell things had ended up how they did.

When they did finally get there, Ryouma dug around in his pockets for the keys to the front door. The motions were lethargic, threaded with utter exhaustion, taking far longer than they should have. But he did pull it out after a moment, sliding it into the lock and clicking the door open.  And Mondo marched right past him, into the kitchen a few rooms over. Ryouma, meanwhile, took his time getting into the house, peeling away his coat slowly and in the midst of kicking off his shoes when he heard a soft meow.

For a moment, his brain couldn’t connect the sound to what had made it, until he saw the Russian Blue trotting over to him, little noises getting progressively louder, more excited. She rubbed up against his body, looking for pets and attention, and it was in that moment Ryouma realized something horrible.

If he had died, Aoi would have been left all alone. Alone to die of starvation because of his own selfishness. Instantly, regret began to consume him. He had almost. . .

He gathered the cat into his arms, rubbing his face against her head. She happily nuzzled back, purring -- so simple, so joyous, so loving. . . Ryouma managed to crack a smile, as he made his way over to the couch.

“There’s no fuckin’ food in this place.” Mondo growled from the kitchen. He slammed the cabinets shut, causing Aoi to jump just a bit. Ryouma sent a glare Mondo’s way as he pet the cat to calm her down, but the other probably didn’t even notice. “Only cat food. Goddamn cat food.”

“Aoi needs to eat.” Ryouma sighed, stroking the underside of the cat’s chin.

Mondo poked his head out of the kitchen to give Ryouma a nasty look. “So do you you!”

To that, Ryouma simply shrugged.

“Oh my god. I’m goin’ out to get some food. Sit your ass down an’ wait!”

Well, Ryouma was already sitting, but he didn’t have the strength to point that out. He was too drained to even think about attempting anything again, and with Aoi around, he knew he couldn’t if he wanted to. He couldn’t abandon his mother’s poor cat. His mistakes had torn her from her owner before she had even gotten a chance to know her. . . He had to make things right by properly caring for her, and he couldn’t do that if he was dead.

. . . So right now, he could live a little longer. Just for Aoi’s sake.

 


 

Ryouma had no idea when Mondo returned to his house. The concept of time had seemed to lose all meaning years ago. Things either moved far too slowly or rocketed on ahead of him. He never felt. . . in sync with the world.

But Mondo tossed something at him, which Aoi took to entertain herself with. Ryouma just let her be. After all, he had nearly left the poor cat to die by his selfishness. She could play with whatever she wanted - but he did take a moment to inspect it.

It was a kombolói - worry beads - probably purchased as something to distract him. . . But Jesus Christ. Did Mondo have to get such an expensive looking one? Such smooth, round Lapis Lazuli gemstones, strung together with black yarn and ending in a little tassel. It was too nice for a guy like him.

“Should I pay you back for this?”

Mondo stuck his head out from around the corner and gave Ryouma an expression torn between disgust and annoyance. His voice came out in a growl.

“I don't want your fuckin’ money.”

And so, Mondo got to work preparing a meal for Ryouma - moussaka, something simple enough, something that was easily made in large quantity so that Ryouma would have leftovers to heat up later.

After time had passed, when the food was finished and being served, Mondo insisted upon him seeing a therapist. Ryouma uselessly shrugged, making a noncommittal sound, only serving to piss Mondo off further. He pointed his fork at Ryouma’s face, demanding under no uncertain terms that he see someone.

In the end, Ryouma only agreed in order to get him off his back. Mondo was a persistent son of a bitch. He would have relentlessly hounded him until he agreed.

Although. . . He had no idea why Mondo was putting forth so much effort in the first place.

 


 

It took Ryouma a week to find a therapist. It was his own laziness and stubbornness - he was fine as is, thank you very much - that kept him from completing his promise. Ultimately, it took Yukimaru calling him up and begging him to do whatever he promised Mondo. Apparently, the other had been in an awful mood for the last few days - which unfortunately affected his work at the Crazy Diamond’s Carpentry - and Yukimaru had managed to trace it back to him.

He pitied the young man serving as Mondo’s right hand - granted, he usually did, because as much as Mondo loved him, Yukimaru was normally the target of his yelling - and took action. He ended up finding a small office about twenty minutes away from his house . . .  His first session primarily involved a brief interview and filling out some paperwork evaluations, which made him doubt already that it would be helpful at all. But the aged woman had a cat in her office, so she’d more or less won him over already.

It wasn't until a week later that he got a call from the office with a request for him to come in so that his therapist could discuss his results with him. As expected, he’d been diagnosed with chronic depression - a mild but long-term form of it, and the tests read positive for low self-esteem, low appetite, guilt, loss of interest, and insomnia.

. . . The insomnia really explained why he couldn’t sleep anymore. He had thought that it was just the guilt eating away at him. . . but no, apparently it was just another symptom.

“Ah,” was all that he managed to get out. The woman gave him a careful look, not even blinking as her cat jumped up onto the couch and settled down in Ryouma’s lap. Ryouma focused on the cat instead of the situation, running a hand over its fur and stroking the underside of its chin when prompted.

“Do you feel anything now that you have an exact understanding what is going on with you?” Careful. The words still sounded too careful.

Ryouma merely shrugged. “Not really.”

“That’s understandable. Sometimes patients don't have an immediate response.” The woman’s pen flew  across a sheet of paper in the silence of the room. “I’ll prescribe you an antidepressant and some medicine to help with your insomnia. I’ll need you to fill out some more paperwork so we can release your information to your doctors and they can modify your dosage or type of medication to fit your needs.”

When would the paperwork end. . .?

“As I’ve mentioned before, everyone has a different chemical makeup so there may be a chance the medication I prescribe is not strong enough or may not work at all. Make sure to tell your doctor as soon as possible to fix this.”

 


 

Two months passed and Ryouma still felt like a useless piece of shit. Of course he’d been told recovery wasn’t some instantaneous thing, but that didn’t help make him feel any less horrible.

About a week ago, his therapist had recommended Team Danganronpa’s Language Program as a way to talk to new people and make new friends. He really. . . didn’t want to. He would inevitably drag the other people down and ruin the fun. . . But then, he didn’t want to disappoint his therapist either.

So, there he was.

In Hell.

He pitied whoever was stuck with him.

 


 

WELCOME RYOUMA

YOU HAVE BEEN PLACED IN GROUP V3: DISCOVERING HARMONY

STAND BY AS WE CONNECT YOU

CONNECTING. . .

Today @ 11:54 (UTC+02:00)

ONLINE: (05/05)

pianomom: kaito shouldnt you be in bed?

SPACEMAN: SLEEP S FER THE WEAK

Blushing_Detective: But it’s four AM where you live.

SPACEMAN: THE WEAK SHUUCHII

SPACEMAN: THE W E A K

mysteryavocado: hey there newcomer!

TRANSLATING FROM:

GREEK

Ryouma:. . . . . . . . . . .

Ryouma: hey . . . . . ?

pianomom: oh! hello!

SPACEMAN: EY HTERE DUDE!!!!

Blushing_Detective: Good morning.

mysteryavocado: greek, huh?

Ryouma: yeah

mysteryavocado: my, quite an assortment we’ve acquired thus far.

Ryouma: yeah

Ryouma: i see that

SPACEMAN: WHOAAAAA NEW DID

SPACEMAN: HELLO NEW KID

SPACEMAN: KID? BOY? GIRL? I STILL UNNO MAN

Ryouma: are you wasted

SPACEMAN: WHO DRINKS AT 4 AM

Ryouma: me

Blushing_Detective: That’s . . . not recommended.

Ryouma: meh

 


 

This was a huge mistake.

He wanted to smash his head into the desk. (But he wouldn’t - Mondo had made it for him. It showed just how talented he was. Besides, it would be a terrible thing, ruining a gift like that.) God, he hadn’t even tried to socialize in so long. . . He wasn’t sure if this was the reason or the result. Both, more than likely. Every word seemed stressed and faded and dull, carrying over just how sick he felt much more than he wanted them to.

Fuck, they must have thought that he was ridiculous. . .

 


 

SPACEMAN: DUDE YOU O KAY

SPACEMAN: DUDE???/>>

SPACEMAN: AHHH FJUCK IT

Blushing_Detective: Kaito, please go to bed.

Blushing_Detective: You can talk in the morning.

SPACEMAN: YURA GOOD KID SHIIICHI

SPACEMAN: ILIKE YIU

SPACEMAN has disconnected.

ONLINE: (04/05)

Blushing_Detective: 786yu7uyjjjjjjjj

Blushing_Detective: oplikj,,iokl

pianomom: shuu?? you okay??

Ryouma: uh

Ryouma: and he was worried about me?

pianomom: kaito worries about everyone!!

pianomom: i bet you were just nervous about interacting with new people!!

pianomom: dont worry!! everyones nice here!!!! :D :D

Ryouma: uh yeah

Ryouma: that’s it..

pianomom: oh oh oh shuu!!!!

pianomom: check out what celes sent me!!

pianomom: [ IMAGE ]

pianomom: look at him!!!!

pianomom: LOOK AT HIS FACE

Ryouma: oh

Ryouma: my god

Ryouma: it bleps

Ryouma: grade a nya

 


 

What the actual fuck am I typing.

God. If he hadn’t looked stupid before, he sure as hell looked like a complete idiot now. Who the fuck says ‘nya’ when they’re talking about a cat and not Japanese?

Weeaboos and goddamn fools. That’s who.

It was official.

This had gone completely fucking pear-shaped. There was no other way out of this, he was going to have to decapitate himself.

He took one last glance to the chat before resolving in his demise. . . Except. . .

 


 

pianomom: ahhhhhh i know!!!
pianomom: grand bois is just the cutest!!!
pianomom: but wait wait wait i have more pics!!!

 



One thing led to another, pictures of the same big gray fluffball leading to photos from other friends, leading into a variable avalanche of internet pictures, the other two people in the chat eventually joining in. God. There were so many cats; big and small. Sitting like little loaves of bread, or lounging on their sides, or stretching out with their stomachs exposed. Such beautiful creatures. . .

. . . Well.

He supposed that decapitation could wait until later.

Chapter Text

Well into the night, a young woman slept soundly, undisturbed until the sharp sound of something hitting her window woke her up.

She furrowed her brows and tried to ignore the muffled shout of her name that followed, but her window was struck again, and the voice only called out more loudly. So she sat up, pushing the thick plush sheets out of her way.

“What?” she demanded. . . but she was met with only silence. Huffing, she pulled the sheets up once more and attempted to return to sleep.

. . .

“CRIMSON WITCH!” a voice boomed outside of her window. She nearly leapt out of her bed, taken by surprise. “IT IS THE WITCHING HOUR. THE CEREMONY MUST BEGIN NOW!!”

The tiny young woman sleepily grumbled as she pushed the sheets off her body and climbed up onto her knees in order to look out the window above her bed.

. . .

Yep.

As expected.

Gundam.

He stood in Himiko’s backyard, a huge grin splitting his face as his hamsters slept in the scarf wrapped around his neck. How they slept through his screaming, she had no idea... But he was practically vibrating with glee at the prospect of their arranged summoning ceremony.

Why had she agreed to a summoning ceremony at the Witching Hour. . .? That was too early. . .

“I need my tea first. . .” Himiko mumbled, not really expecting the other to hear her through the window.

But Gundam chuckled, crossing his arms, looking nothing short of amused. “VERY WELL, I shall join you! As the blood of the pathetic human sinners is the only thing that can QUENCH the thirst of the SUPREME OVERLORD OF ICE!!”

“Fine, I’ll get you some blueberry tea. . .”

Gundam chuckled once more before walking off in the direction of Himiko’s backdoor. She squinted slightly as she watched him go. . . . She really had no idea why he had been screaming in her backyard. She knew he had a key to the house. Their moms had been friends forever. . . He was invited to come to her house at anytime and vice versa.

He was so weird sometimes. . .

Mumbling to herself, Himiko rolled out of bed, hitting the floor with a soft thud in the process. She laid on the carpeting for several moments before jumping up to her feet, moving a little too quickly and nearly losing her balance in the process, though she did regain it.

The small young woman approached her dresser and pulled out an outfit - a pair of black tights, a red skirt, a brown vest and a black collared shirt. She dressed herself as quickly as she could, then hobbled over to her closet to grab a black blazer off a hanger, as well as the rest of her witching supplies -- a black cape with a red lining, her witch hat, and a long, pointed, white staff.

With a yawn, she opened the door to her room, only to realize halfway down the hallway that she had forgotten her witching shoes and enchanted stone. She walked backwards down the hall, back to her room, and grabbed the light brown pair of boots sitting by the door. She gave them a shake and, hearing something rattle inside them, a sleepy, satisfied smile crossed her face.

Himiko made her way to the living room, where she unceremoniously tossed her items onto the couch, next to the bag of supplies that Gundam had brought over. She turned her shoes upside down, causing a polished white gemstone to tumble out, and swiftly placed it in the pocket of her blazer for the time being. She then took a glance in one of the mirrors on the wall, to better tuck her bangs behind her ears.

They were getting pretty long on the right side. . . She should get her mom or a professional to take care of it. She had done a pretty terrible job the last time she had cut her own hair.

Huffing, she entered the kitchen to find that Gundam had already filled her favorite kettle with water and placed it on the stove to heat up. Noticing her arrival, he chuckled, crossing his arms over his chest. “Good morning, Crimson Witch.”

“Mornin’,” she mumbled in return, trying to wipe the rheum from her eyes. Once more, Gundam chuckled.

“Look alive, Crimson Witch, for I have crafted the most excellent charm for you!” He pulled out a white hairclip with a flourish, a proud grin on his face. “With this, your crimson bangs will not longer obscure your flow of mana!”

Himiko accepted the clip and gave it a look over. It was nothing extraordinary -- white, but decorated with a series of pale, shimmering yellow stars that grew in size down the length of the clip.

. . .

It was kind of cute, actually. Maybe she should get some matching cufflinks?

“I love it,” She softly mumbled, putting the clip into her hair. Gundam leaned closer and took a moment to adjust it, before beaming with pride over the excellent gift that he had crafted.

“EXCELLENT!”

Himiko promptly turned her attention back to the tea. With the kettle taken care of, she proceeded to pull out the rest of her tea set and all the necessary tools needed for the preparation. She placed the teacups and teapot into a deep bowl, then poured the warm water from the kettle over the items to warm them up.

Placing the kettle back onto the stove top, she then unscrewed the cap of the tea canister labeled as “Blueberry Tea” and, with a tea scoop, measured an appropriate amount of tea leaves into the teapot. She gave the kettle a good hard look as she waited for it to reach the perfect temperature -- since the temperature played such an important role in tea-making.

As soon as the kettle reached 65℃, she removed it from the stovetop and turned her attention back to the deep bowl, which Gundam had emptied and placed the teapot back into while she watched the kettle. Himiko raised the kettle and proceeded to pour the hot water into teapot until it overflowed. She proceeded to scoop away excess bubbles and tea leaves and placed the lid back onto the teapot before pouring the hot water on the outside of the pot to ensure the temperature was the same inside and outside.

Himiko, being Himiko, was too lazy to bother with the pitcher or a Gai Wan, and opted to pour the tea directly into a waiting teacup the moment she deemed it to be perfect. She looked Gundam right into the eye, uttering simply, “It’s ready.”

“EXCELLENT!!” he boomed, accepting a hot cup of the deep red liquid. He dramatically clenched his fist as he took in a deep breath of the tea. “The fragrance is perfect! Your brewing skills are impeccable as always, Crimson Witch!”

Himiko simply hummed, before taking a gulp of tea. It was hot, but it certainly kicked her awake. She chugged down the rest of her drink and attempted to slam the glass down on the counter - only to stop at the last second, gently placing it on the surface, instead.

“Alright, let’s do this.”

 


 

It failed.

“Maybe we need more virgin blood,” Himiko offered with a huff, looking at the shape of the magic circle burned into her yard.

Well, at least it wasn't as bad as that one time. They had had to call in the fire department and even they had needed backup. How they hadn’t been arrested was still kind of a mystery, but a miracle within itself, so neither of them bothered to really question it.

“Crimson Witch.” Himiko hummed in response, letting Gundam know he had her attention. “What is your path now that you have taken a leave from the haunted grounds of imprisonment?”

Himiko uselessly shrugged. She had no goal in mind, much less an idea of what she was going to be doing now. If anything was certain, it was that she was not dealing with college.

Thankfully, her mother was completely understanding of how it overwhelmed her and how so much pressure hung around her, especially when she was on her final year for her AA. Doing anything, even concentrating, had been too much for her lately.

“Perhaps we should look into our respective bloodlines.” Gundam hummed, crossing his arms. “While I have no intentions of contacting that demon, I do hold some curiosity pertaining to his bloodline.”

“I guess.” Himiko hummed again, kicking at nothing in particular. “I dunno anything about dad. Except he’s Japanese.”

“The cybernetic webs speak highly of Team Danganronpa’s Translator program.”

Himiko squinted at her friend. While it was true she wanted to learn Japanese . . . “Don’t you only like their stuff because of their bear mascot?”

Gundam’s face froze in a proud beam. He sweated a little. “No,” he feebly shouted. “I am the Supreme Overlord of Ice! I would never--!”

“Liar. You’ll use anything with animal mascots.”

He furrowed his brows, looking down right offended by what Himiko suggested. “Not anything ,” he grunted. “Only those with pure heart! Team Danganronpa’s mascot is a well cared for and beloved bear! It’s a beast of high quality!”

Himiko wanted to question how he knew that, but she recalled how he had once won a chance to get a tour of their headquarters, something that no one else -- even the media -- had gotten a chance to do before. So of course he saw the actual bear in person.

. . . That was probably the only reason he had gone, now that she thought about it.

But searching her memories some more, she recalled how he had told her that the director and owner of Team Danganronpa worked alongside her sister and childhood lover. It was only a three man team, but they sure had one hell of a reach. It had become one of the biggest conglomerates out there; more or less rivaling with the Togami family.

Whoever she was, she sounded pretty cool, but aimed way too high in Himiko’s opinion. She was interested in a simpler way of life. But understanding who ran the company, well. . . It made it seem a little less scary.

 


 

It’d been around a week since her last conversation with Gundam about their respective roots. Since then they had met up and spoke in excess about what actions they should take to actually get their summoning ceremony to work, but that had gotten them absolutely nowhere.

That aside, with Gundam’s work at the local shelter, Himiko had far too much time to herself. Most of which was spent with her house, lounging around and eating whatever sweets her mother had baked. Her mother’s desserts were The Best. Gundam would fight her on that, though, even if he knew that his mom’s cooking was awful.

It was a matter of protecting his mother’s pride. At least, that was how he explained it. Still, it was pretty sweet, how dearly he loved her.

Himiko felt the same about her own mother. Unlike many other people, her mom was very understanding about the problems that plagued her life. Himiko had always been easily overwhelmed, and had had problems understanding concepts or connecting with people for as long as she could remember. None of it just, clicked with her.

And it wasn’t like she wanted to be lazy and sleep in like a useless piece of shit. It was just hard not to be lethargic about things that didn’t capture her attention.

But her mom? She always understood. She would just give her a loving smile and gently hug her as she assured her things would be okay.

And, one day, she left a letter on the counter after she left for work.

 


 

Himiko darling,

 

When I heard you and Gundam were talking about learning the languages of your fathers, I was very excited! Your father was a wonderful man when he was with us. And if he were here today, I’m certain he would take time to teach you all you wanted to know.

 

I hope I’m not intruding, but I would like to suggest the Team Danganronpa Translator Program! Many of my coworkers are talking about it and praising it for its simplicity. The program is supposed to set you up in small groups and you learn the language with other people.

 

I know you have some issues interacting with people, so if you have problems with the program, I’ll make time to help you learn. No matter what your choice is, I’m so proud of you for trying!

 

-- Love Mom

 


 

Himiko pouted at the words. In no way was it a bad thing. In fact, she was happy that her mom was praising her, but she had made no attempt to actually take action, yet. She couldn't disappoint her mom or take up her time trying to learn a new language. . . She had no choice now. She had to do something.

 


 

WELCOME HIMIKO

YOU HAVE BEEN PLACED IN GROUP V3: DISCOVERING HARMONY

STAND BY AS WE CONNECT YOU

 

CONNECTING…

 

Today @ 18:55 (UTC+08:00)

ONLINE: (04/06)

TRANSLATING FROM:

FRENCH

 

 

mysteryavacado: ryouma, rate this nya.

mysteryavacado: [ IMAGE ]

 

TRANSLATING FROM:

GREEK

 

 

killer-tennis: grade a

killer-tennis: very round and soft

killer-tennis: poor quality coat although

killer-tennis: tragic

mysteryavacado: yes, unfortunately it’s a stray!

mysteryavacado: for some reason it keeps appearing in my friend’s house, despite the locked doors and windows.

killer-tennis: i see,

killer-tennis: it must adore him

mysteryavacado: yes! i tell him that, but he keeps putting himself down.

mysteryavacado: he’s completely sold on the idea that the creature doesn’t love him at all.

killer-tennis: if the cat didnt love him it wouldnt bother to come back over and over

 


 

Himiko hummed, kicking her legs about as she inspected the photo of the sleeping cat -- a white tabby with gray stripes. It definitely looked like her familiar. It was good quality cat. And this was the perfect way to participate in a conversation.

 


 

TRANSLATING FROM:

CANTONESE

 

 

Himiko: nyeh, , ,, it looks like a tiger, ,  ,

killer-tennis: well it does have the stripes for it

Himiko: hehehe, , , ,

mysteryavacado: tiger, huh? well, that’s pretty cute.

 


 

With the passage of time, the group became aware that Himiko wasn’t much of a talker, but not a single one of them minded it -- especially given Shuuichi’s anxiety and Ryouma’s lack of speaking unless it involved cats or something serious. They would never force her to talk or directly interact, but if she added something to the conversation, they would always acknowledge what she had to say.

This apparently surprised her, just as much as the warm greetings she was met every time she logged in. It made it seem that she rarely received any sort of greeting while offline. . . but it became apparent that with each and every passing day, she silently learned Japanese and enjoyed the comfort of her newfound friends.

But Shuuichi, being the overthinker he was, did have some concerns about Himiko and how she was adjusting to the group. Which led him to writing up a lengthy PM to Himiko about his various concerns. And then promptly deleting it, spacing things out, instead.

 


 

Today @ 21:05 (UTC+01:00)

 

 

                 (6) PM(s) From Blushing_Detective

 

Blushing_Detective: Himiko,

Blushing_Detective: I hope it’s not a bother to ask, but is everything fine?

Blushing_Detective: I’ve noticed you’re silent rather often.

Blushing_Detective: If you’re suffering from anxiety too,

Blushing_Detective: I feel I should inform you that no one here will judge you for it.

Blushing_Detective: So you have nothing to fear by being yourself.

crimson.witch.: nyeh, , ,  im fine, ,,,

crimson.witch.: talking just takes up too much mp

crimson.witch.: but you have anxiety///

Blushing_Detective: Ah . . . yes I do. . . I’m sorry for assuming the same of you. . .

crimson.witch.: floating fae, nnng friend jho anxietie't nge fear't. let i’j smile.

Blushing_Detective: What. . . does that exactly mean?

crimson.witch.: its a special magic charm that will help you with your anxiety  ,, ,

Blushing_Detective: I. . .I see. . .

Blushing_Detective: Thank you Himiko.

 


 

It almost felt as if that last ‘nyeh’ from Himiko before she returned to the main chat was a laugh aimed at him. But no . He knew better than that. Himiko wouldn’t tease anyone. She would probably say it took too much MP to do so.

Shuuichi dragged his hands down his face with a deep sigh. He took a moment to compose himself, before switching over to the main chatroom window.

. . . ?

What.. . . What was this. . . ?

 


 

 

pianomom: but guys!!! chopin is way better!!!

mysteryavocado: um hello?

mysteryavocado: have you ever heard the entire version?

mysteryavocado: of german requiem???

pianomom: im not saying brahms isnt great! just that chopin is better!!

SPACEMAN: KAEDE YOU SAY GUYS

SPACEMAN: BUT YOU DO REALIZE

SPACEMAN: THAT I KNOW SO LITTLE ABOUT THIS

SPACEMAN: I HAVENT TALKED IN LIKE TWENTY MINUTES

SPACEMAN: THIS IS SERIOUSLY JUST YOU TWO GUYS

pianomom: well then we need to fix that!!

pianomom: what kind of music do you like??

pianomom: well find something that you can get into!!!

pianomom: *we’ll!!

mysteryavocado: or, at the very least, we can try.

mysteryavocado: true love is trying to draw people into what you’re passionate about.

SPACEMAN: UH

SPACEMAN: GUESS I HAVENT THOUGHT ABOUT IT MUCH

SPACEMAN: I LIKE JAZZ I GUESS I

SPACEMAN: WAIT

SPACEMAN: TRUE LOVE

SPACEMAN: ARE YOU SAYING YOU GUYS LOVE ME

mysteryavocado: yes, dear.

crimson.witch.: heh, ,,

crimson.witch.: dear,, ,

SPACEMAN: KAEDE

SPACEMAN: DO YOU LOVE ME TOO

pianomom: of course i do!!!

SPACEMAN: WELL SHIT

SPACEMAN: I DUNNO IF IM READY FOR LOVE YET KAEDE

SPACEMAN: YOU HAVENT EVEN TAKEN ME ON A DATE YET

pianomom: oh psh!!

pianomom: next time youre in la ill make sure to take you out on a nice date!!

SPACEMAN: WELL DAMN

SPACEMAN: I WAS GONNA INVITE YOU OVER HERE

SPACEMAN: I HAD IT ALL PLANNED OUT AND EVERYTHING

pianomom: ooh tell me about it!!

SPACEMAN: YOU AND ME

SPACEMAN: WALKING ALONG THE BEACH

SPACEMAN: DINNER BY THE PIER

SPACEMAN: STAYING OUT LATE TO LOOK AT THE STARS

pianomom: oh

pianomom: my gosh

pianomom: that sounds amazing!!!

pianomom: i was just gonna say dinner and a movie!!

pianomom: but oh my gosh thats so romantic!!!

mysteryavocado: this is the most heterosexual thing i’ve seen in weeks.

 


 

Kaede was so excited. . . And Kaito was so happy, planning dates for them. . .

Shuuichi helplessly clutched at his chest, clenching his jaw to hold back the tears that were fighting to break free.

It felt . . . as if his entire world had just shattered.

Worse of all, despite having known that this would be the inevitable result, he still felt completely and utterly broken about it. They had no idea how he felt, but all of this, it all felt like a reminder of how useless he was, as his very heart was torn from his chest and beaten to a pulp before his eyes.

How pathetic could he get?

There was no possible way for him even compare to Kaito. He was so amazing -- inspiring and confident and so goddamn romantic. Even Shuuichi was swooning over his date ideas. Not that he could compare to Kaede, either. She was incredible, the kind of warm and vibrant person that everyone went to in a time of need. Ever since they were little, people would always flock to her.

Of course the two of them would be attracted to each other. They were already so perfect, so happy together.  He knew he wasn't someone to love. He was such a boring, pathetic bookworm -- a nervous wreck, wracked with too much anxiety and too many fears. He was completely unlovable.

“Shuuichi!”

He quickly wiped his tears away as he heard the unmistakable, booming voice of his friend, accompanied by the loud stomping of his boots against the stairs as he rushed up them.

God. If Kiyotaka caught him crying, he would probably die of shame.

Then there was the sound of something thumping against the floor, followed by a soft ‘ow’. It didn't take a detective to figure out that Kiyotaka had tripped. But then, it wasn’t exactly common for him to run, much less trip. Whatever he wanted to tell him must have been something urgent. . .

Shuuichi took a moment to look over his appearance in the small mirror that sat on the surface of his desk. His face was a bit red, but at least his eyes didn't look watery, or anything. Good. He wouldn’t have enough time to clean that up, if they did.

He stepped away from his desk, crossing the room to open his door. . . and was almost punched in the face. The two boys both yelped in shock, jumping backwards.

“Shuuichi! I nearly hit you!” Kiyotaka yelled in horror. Shuuichi attempted to sooth him, but it failed. Like always, when something went wrong, Kiyotaka loudly shouted an apology, bowing over and over again. “I apologize!”

“It’s fine, really.” Shuuichi sighed softly. “Are you okay?” Kiyotaka raised a brow, looking at him with shock and confusion. “You fell, Kiyotaka, I could hear it.”

“Ah, well.” He looked down to the crumpled item in his hands. His expression suddenly looked nervous. “I’m fine, but perhaps we should go into your room? I have. . . something personal to discuss with you.”

The nervous look on his friend’s face both intrigued and concerned him. Not many things made Kiyotaka nervous. . . Whatever was happening really had to be big. Nodding his head, Shuuichi stepped aside from the door and motioned to the inside of his room.

There was a bit of an eager glint in Kiyotaka’s eyes, but then, that was always there when he visited his room. Kiyotaka was like him, socially awkward and more or less friendless, so to have a chance to visit a friend’s room was probably an experience he particularly enjoyed.

Shuuichi glanced over at his computer. In an instant, he was reminded that the two people that his foolish heart had fallen for loved each other, so he quickly turned the monitor off and took a seat in the chair, facing Kiyotaka, who sat on the edge of  his bed.

“So, what exactly is going on? I thought you were supposed to be helping your dad move into a new apartment today.”

Kiyotaka glanced away, a clear sign that he was ashamed that he ran off when he did. That could only mean whatever he wanted to tell Shuuichi was rather import-

“I have an older sister!” Kiyotaka suddenly exclaimed.

Shuuichi dumbly blinked, taking too long to process the words - simply confused for a long moment before surprise kicked in.

“Y-You what?!” This was new. Kiyotaka had always said that he was a lonely only child. . . but a sister? And an older one at that? How the hell did that happen?

Kiyotaka glanced at the crumpled paper in his hands before offering it to Shuuichi. Handling it delicately, Shuuichi unfolded the paper to discover that it was an old photo. In a hospital bed was a woman, clearly exhausted but smiling softly, but bundled in her arms was a little baby with red eyes and thin layers of silvery hair. The newborn was reaching out for a strand of her mother’s matching silver hair.

“This is. . .?” Shuuichi whispered softly. He already had an idea, but he would rather have Kiyotaka tell him. . .

“It is my mother . . . and my sister. I found this when I accidentally knocked over a box of mother’s belongings while taking it to Father’s room.” Distressed, Kiyotaka clenched his fists. “I’ve never seen that photo before. . . but I’ve seen enough pictures of my mother to identify her. The woman in that photo is her, without a doubt! But, she passed away giving birth to me, so the only logical deduction I could make is that that girl is an elder sister! An elder sister that I knew nothing about!” The passion and fire in Kiyotaka’s voice died out, leaving his voice sounding so. . . drained. “I don’t understand. . . Where is she? Why was I never told about her?”

“And you want me to find some information on her. . . ?” Shuuichi ventured.

Kiyotaka nodded his head, before jumping to his feet and bowing before Shuuichi. “I know it may be a dead end, and it will be time consuming, but I believe in you, Shuuichi! I believe you will find the truth!”

Shuuichi would have been lying if he said that he didn’t feel his heart beating rapidly, simply because Kiyotaka believed in him. It was hard to believe in himself, but, having people believe in him made him feel just a little more confident. Honestly, he was flattered to have Kiyotaka place so much trust in him.

And so, with the photo pressed to his chest and a smile on his face, Shuuichi accepted the case.