Tokyo was far more bustling than the tranquil streets of Iwatodai. The teenager could stare at all the windows but none would cease the view of cars and cars and even more. A quiet yearning to go back to his dorm was growing within Ken, but now he was going to live in here.
At least for a little while.
“I hope the drive from Iwatodai wasn’t too long!” The driver’s smile was like the sunlight. However, it didn’t seem to reach her eyes. Her shoulders were slightly slumped in contrast to her warm-colored blouse.
“It’s fine, really, Mi- Hamuko-san. Even Koromaru agrees.”
The white Shiba Inu in the back barked as if in affirmation.
The sound of the motor permeated the atmosphere. Neither person spoke. The student could catch some stray glances from her, but that was it. He forced himself not to shuffle in his seat by looking at the sights Tokyo had to offer.
It was, for a fact, that Tokyo was far superior to where he lived. The car passed by parks and tall buildings with lights still glowing in blues, reds, yellows.
They were heading for Shibuya. Ken only visited the place once, and it was only for a field trip. There was a small knot in his stomach and his throat seemed to stay dry no matter how much water he would drink.
He and Koromaru would be living with Hamuko-san until the end of the mission.
This arrangement was quite impromptu. Mitsuru-san called him for his help, and who was he to disagree with this request. It caused him to have a small smile on his face when he finally had something to do in their organization. Being a high school student really had its advantages in going undercover.
However, it did not mean this arrangement was comfortable.
While the person beside him did technically adopt him because of the nonexistent status of his relatives, she did not want Ken to be part of this. Hamuko-san had vehemently denied his presence on the phone with him. Until he told her that he would go anyways, no matter what she had in mind. It only led to the silence between them.
He had to compromise for bringing Koro-san along too. It was gladdening he had someone to stay with him when Hamuko-san was working for her other job. The dog was well-mannered, maybe they could use the guise for him as a cop dog when needed.
Ken cleared his throat, “So… how much do we know about the Phantom Thieves?” Those words cut through the palpable silence.
“We still don’t much about them other than their involvement with Madarame Ichiryusai and Kamoshida Suguru,” Hamuko-san said. “Kamoshida was a teacher at Shujin Preparatory School and the first target, so we think their base is somewhere in there.”
Shujin Academy was called a prestigious school. Ken had to admit it looked enormous, but it had it pale in comparison to Gekkoukan to the point that he agreed to continue his studies with his previous school independently. The reviews for the school was already mixed and with the Kamoshida scandal, it’s being seen in a negative light.
“They’re gonna send you to Shujin for inside information, and I’ll take you to the school tomorrow to meet with the faculty.” There was a fierce look in her eyes as she drove forward. Was there a trace of regret in there too? “I can’t always take you to the school with a car so Mitsuru-senpai prepared a train pass for you.”
“Thank you,” Ken said.
But Hamuko-san could not keep this awkward atmosphere much longer. Her mouth would open and close multiple times until she found the words. “Since you’re both here in Tokyo, I can show you at all the sights! Like- Like Inokashira Park or Destinyland.”
Of course, Ken thought, that Hamuko-san would see the positives in due time.
“Oh you know, the Disneyland of Japan, or more specifically the rip-off of Disneyland.”
“Onee-san! That’s rude.”
“But you know that’s true.”
The playful banter continued between them, even the dog would get a comment in some places. The atmosphere brightened remarkably. They teased one another, one being how can a student council president abandon their school like that for a prolonged student transfer or another one being how can someone like his ‘so-called’ sister become a cop. And when everything went into a hush, it was comfortable. A warm feeling and nothing dark or cold.
“How is your job now?” The teenager said.
“It’s complicated.” She made a quick face before defaulting into her light smile and furrowing eyebrows. “Most of my coworkers are nice and the jobs aren’t hard compared to what happened before, but I feel like they look down upon since I get thrown all the easy tasks. That and I may or may not have glimpsed at some really interesting files.”
Ken could have sworn there was a moment of her smirking.
“Oh yeah! How are you and Koro-chan? I know you’re student council president and all, but you haven’t told me how it is.”
Ken (and Koromaru?) explained how life was in Iwatodai was. How Gekkoukan was growing more and more. How the shrine was still being maintained. How empty the dorm was, but it was fine if there was Koro-san. Ken kept his lip closed about weird it was still in the dorm alone. Then again, it will not ever be the same if other people came in.
“Are we close to your apartment?” Ken said.
His friend hummed an affirmative, “Just a few more minutes.”
The passage of time seemed so fast for him because the next thing he recalled was getting out of the car in the parking garage and Hamuko-san hauling out his and Koromaru’s bags from the trunk.
Koro-san jumped out from the car unto the ground, turning his head to examine the area then trotting around the vicinity. When he pranced to Ken, the teenager could not let himself not to scratch the dog from behind his ears.
“The apartment isn’t too far from here now,” she said as she relieves some of their luggage unto Ken. “It might a little messy, so don’t mind that.”
The woman led them through a minute street of Shibuya. As much as Ken would love to stay and look at the lights, it would be rude to leave her waiting. This street was not as busy as the streets shown in pictures, but it was still a beauty with multiple hues and city lights decorating the area. He let his gaze linger for a little bit before following.
They went through a rather big lobby with blue carpets. It was not grand or fancy, but it was cozy with couches and seats grouped together at tables. Hamuko-san said that she would do a tour of the place when they had the chance before taking them into an elevator.
After a few stories, the elevator went ding and the doors hissed open. The apartments were evenly spaced out, but they were also given so much space in between. In front of one of the wooden doors, the woman cried that they were here!
Then she opened the door.
The room was an immaculate pigsty. It was neither dusty or dirty, and the oaken floor was as clean as Ken’s dormitory. However, on the dining table was piled with papers most likely from her job and their current assignment. Then there was the fact some papers were strewn on the floor...
Hamuko-san ushered Ken and Koromaru inside, shutting the door in the meantime. “I don’t have guests over often so we can use that room.” The other room she led them to was near the back end of the main room. With a turn of the knob, the room was shown to all.
Ken went in to drop his luggage, sizing up his new living quarters. It was not like the immaculate pigsty of the living room, but it was pristine. It had to have been cleaned recently for nothing looked akin to a musty old attic. In fact, it was bare of anything other than the bare necessities and a couple of liberties taken here and there. A writing desk, a bed, a dog bed, a shelf for whatever it could be placed, and a few more things a student and a dog need to survive. It had a sort of alien feeling that Ken could not describe.
What caught the teenager’s attention most was the book with a picture of their group on the cover placed on the center of the desk. “What is this for?” Ken said, weighing the book with his hands. He was kind of hesitant to look inside it.
“It’s a welcome gift! There’s still a lot of blank spots for other photos so… I hope it’ll be good. You both will be living here for a while, might as well have something to look back at.” She said, placing the rest of their luggage on the floor. “But worry about that later, we have to unpack your stuff.”
Ken did not have the grace to suggest they do it tomorrow when she just opened the first bag and promptly placed an eighth of its contents into the closet. He tried his best to swallow a sigh and then assisted her in the endeavor.
Time passed by. The three covered the room with the additions from the new residents. Hamuko-san cooed over their inventory, leading Ken to grab said items only a second after although his stern words were always veiled by the chuckle. Koromaru moved his own items near his bed. Laughs, barks, and chatters filtered the room. Suddenly, the place felt more like home.
Within moments the room was filled with books, clothes, and things that held sentimental value. The walls were left bare; he was absolutely content with that, but the woman insisted that they would go to the store and look for something to add some pop to the beige on the weekend.
Through the window, the moon shined high and bright in the starless sky. Everything was settled in their proper places aside from the select few bags. It was far too late to do anything else for Ken had to force himself not to yawn.
“Thank you, Hamuko-san,” Ken’s words were followed by a bark.
She glanced around the room, nodding as she goes. “It’s not a problem! If you need anything else... don’t hesitate to ask me.” Hamuko-san slid near the door. She glanced at the desk once more. From the corner of his eyes, her hand closed into a tight fist. The silence came back, but her mouth was pursed.
Then their eyes met only for a moment before she turned away to open the door. She briefly faced her tenant with lips quirked up. “Goodnight, Ken-kun.” There her body disappeared behind the shut door before Ken could even struggle a word out.
“Goodnight,” was the word that left from his mouth as a whisper. His eyes traveled towards the window. He could envision the skies turning green and people transforming into coffins, but it would never happen again. At least to his knowledge. Albeit, the moon was always a sickly white to Ken no matter what he thought of it. It looked so lonely in the sky without the stars helping it be a guiding light. There was that bitter taste in his mouth again.
He thought that going to bed would be a better investment than exploring the album, but curiosity was ushering him to reveal its contents. The first page was enveloped in pictures of years ago. Ken did not remember when the pictures were taken, but it made him feel fuzzy inside.
A sound from Koromaru shook him out of his reverie. His eyes looked back at the dog and then the book then the dog again, “Oh alright,” the student decided to sit down on the ground near one of his good friends.
The boy and his dog inspected pictures of memories. Memories of wayward do-goods struggling to make the best of their time. It was not a simpler time, in fact, there would probably never be a simpler time if one was given authority over their own persona. The memories were bittersweet because it would never be the same, and while his eyes would feel wet, they would not start shedding.
But now he had a mission to complete. He could finally help them once again.
To find the truth about the Phantom Thieves.
That is what they needed to find out. Their methods were unknown and Fuuka-san’s observations made it seem that those outbreaks were connected to them. It was not the same as the apathy syndrome. They eradicated it and that was that.
He did not notice that the pictures did not even fill half of the album right away. His hands flipped through pages of black before placing the book away with the rest of them. He quickly laid a few pats on Koro-san’s head then hurried himself to bed, cleaning himself up as needed.
The lights went off so the only light was that of the moon. On the bed, Ken would stare outside under the warmth of the blanket. He could feel something warm resting on the side of his legs. Another comforting feeling that felt more like the dorms. Those empty, lonely dorms.
Tomorrow he would start off as a transfer student. Learn about the school, have someone assist him, it felt like the roles were switched. The future was unknown, but he was not a fool to leave it only to fate.
He must discover the methods used by the thieves. No one can change someone’s heart as fast as a day. If he needed, justice is what he will bring to the fight. Yet to have horrible people confess their crimes than killing them was amazing. But were those methods justifiable? Were they the best for everyone.
That night, the young persona-user dreamt of venturing in the dark.