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Wilted Roses Smell of Coffee

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Yongen was a small village, and in that village, gossip travels like wildfire. This time, the gossip is about a young man named Ryuji Sakamoto, as it had been for the past three weeks. “Did you hear? Ryuji was out by the fields again.” “Was he running to the market this time?” “No, he was out feeding the hens.” “That boy is so weird, he just runs and runs and never stops to socialize or go to school.” “If his dad wasn’t such a drunk and left he probably COULD go to school.”

Ryuji learned to just tune them out by this point. All he had to do was keep the farm in a stable enough condition for his mom and he didn’t have a problem. Well, he had ONE problem.

 

“RYU!”

 

“Gah!” He startled from his place where he was feeding the hens. The voice of his mom cutting into his mindless haze. He shakes his head to clear it of any fogginess before replying, “Whaddya want ma?”

 

“Another girl’s here!”

 

He sighed. Figures. Another girl he really didn’t want to meet trying to court him. Shouldn’t they have realized he wasn’t interested by now? He groaned as he stood up, his runners knee acting up a bit from sitting too long. “I’ll be there in a bit….” He grumbled as he strode towards the house, his gait betraying a slight limp all the while. He entered the small stead belatedly as he turned toward another girl he’d have to turn down, only to find his childhood friend Ann, and she was in a panic. Her face showed a desperate relief as she saw him, and he turned to his mother worriedly. “What’s going on here? Somethin’ wrong?”

His mother nods and turns to Ann as she nearly shouts, “Sojiro’s daughter went missing in the woods, you meathead! Haven’t you been paying any attention to the town gossip?!”

He shakes his head, slightly pissed. “Ya know I don’t Ann… But why are ya tellin’ me all this?”

She stomps her foot. “Because we’re gonna go find her! This is our chance to help out everyone, and I KNOW you know the woods like the back of your hand, don’t even try to lie Sakamoto, we’re gonna…”

 

She went on and on at about fifty miles an hour about how this would boost their chances of being recognized as something other than odd and maybe land them respectable jobs before Ryuji’s head started to hurt from her blabbering. “Alright! Alright! I’m goin’ with ya, cool your jets Ann. Jeez.” He looked at her dead in the eye, his face revealing his slight excitement at the prospect of saving someone in trouble. “Do I get to know when we’re leavin’?”

Ann jumped up as she grabbed Ryuji with one hand and darted out the door. “Now!”

...This was gonna be one long ass day, wasn’t it?

Chapter Text

Ryuji did know the woods better than anyone in that village.

 

So when he saw the patch of briarwoods and gnarled oaks, he was kinda stunned. These had never been here before, so when the hell did they get here, and who the ‘eff planted them? He turned to Ann, who just shrugged at him. She had just about as much of a clue as he did, so asking her about it would be kinda pointless. “Well…” he mumbled to himself, “If she ain’t in here then I’ve got nothin’. Might as well take a look.” Ann nodded in agreement. “Yeah, but this place is pretty scary, don’t you think? Why would anyone go in here WILLINGLY?” Ryuji just tapped his foot on the ground and shrugged, his nonchalant manner showing. “Dunno. Maybe she’s just a bit weird?” Ann rolled her eyes and shook her head at him, but they pressed forward anyways. This area was dark and gloomy, the kind of place that made your hairs stand on end even if you were a skeptic. As the two teens trudged along the barely recognizable path, getting scratches and cuts from the many loose twigs, they heard a rustle in the fallen leaves. From somewhere, Ryuji swore he heard a wolf howl. Suddenly, Ann stopped, pointing at something in the distance. “Look! Over there! A castle! An actual CASTLE!”

 

She was right. A dark, gothic castle was right there, a few feet in front of them. It was HUGE, with black spires that pierced the sky and weathered statues that littered the well kept, but still neglected-looking courtyard. The wide and intricate ebony doors looked over the duo as they quietly approached, their jaws slack with awe. Ann turned to Ryuji, dumbfounded, and whispered, “How did no one know about this? This thing is amazing! Not to mention completely huge!” Ryuji nodded in quick succession, and quickly whispered back. “I know! ‘S amazin’ no one ever talked ‘bout this place.” He smirked “Otherwise ya’d be talking my ear off ‘bout it.” That earned him a lighthearted punch to the arm as Ann smiled at him. “I would not!” She exclaimed with the light smile still gracing her face. The two laughed at their antics, as they always did since the two were small kids.

 

But their banter was interrupted by the door swinging open with a bang, as a serious voice called out. “Who’s there?! Why have you come?!”