Zanki sits in the waiting room and listens to the boss. To Tachibana.
"Just now... I heard from the doctor. I suppose... looks like he will be unable to continue. Too bad."
There's pain in the man's voice, and he neatens his scarf while he speaks. It's a way to distract himself, to make himself focus on the words instead of the meaning. Zanki knows this. He knows Tachibana cares, knows it hurts him too, but...
But it's not enough.
How could it be? Tachibana's seen other Oni get hurt before. (Including Zanki.) And while he cares - Zanki knows this, he knows it in the pit of his stomach and the soles of his feet - Tachibana can't let himself care too much. He's in charge of this part of Takeshi. He has to pull himself back from going under with the pain of any individual Oni, because if he does that, then there's no one to coordinate the others. Tachibana has to be able to send any of them out at any time, knowing full well that they might get hurt.
That they might get... stopped.
Zanki isn't like that.
He'd thought he was, after Shuki. He'd thought he could just be the quiet, steady, stern one with the occasional twinkle, the occasional fondness. He'd thought he could remain largely unaffected, could stay back behind emotional walls, but still help save lives. He'd thought that taking a student so unlike himself, and training him until he was able to transform and fight, would be an excellent way to help but not get attached.
(He'd thought his heart irreparably broken.)
Until his irrepressible, surprisingly strong, surprisingly needy, student wormed his way into his life, and many things that Zanki had thought true about himself proved to be no longer so.
So he protests, voice still calm but shaky. Damn it. Tachibana knows him too well to not read the shakiness. "Too bad? Please don't end it with those words. That guy... Todoroki was born to be an Oni. Being an Oni is everything to him."
...but Tachibana doesn't have any answers. Of course he doesn't. The man is intelligent, calm, and not without his own worry. He's not magic.
Seems like Zanki isn't done being a teacher just yet.
(Not that he'd ever wanted to be separated from his student. Not really.)
There has to be something he can do, to address the emptiness in Todoroki's eyes. He has Hinaka-chan for the human side of him, and she's important, she's so, so important. Bright and sweet and mischievous. But no one understands the Oni side of him as Zanki does, and it's the Oni side that's utterly broken at this point.
Zanki goes upstairs, later, and finds Todoroki asleep. He allows himself the brief comfort of his lips to Todoroki's forehead, and there's a brief moment of peace for him.
He doesn't know what he'll do. Not yet.
When Todoroki's awake, the next time, and refusing to eat for Hinaka-chan, Zanki learns the true depth of his depression.
"Right now, in my heart, I punched you. Did you feel it?" he says calmly to Todoroki's request to end it. He can't let this continue. He has to stand firm, for both Todoroki's sake and that of poor Hinaka-chan. Hinaka-chan stands behind him, out of his eyeline, but he could feel her reaction.
This won't be easy. But now he knows what to do, because he's been there. He knows what it's like to be told that you can't transform. He knows what it's like to feel that your life is over. So he starts talking to Todoroki about teaching. It's not a tenth, not a hundredth, of what transforming is. But it's something, and it has to be enough for Todoroki eventually if Zanki just keeps trying. Even if this isn't enough. He'll find something for Todoroki. Something to keep him here, to hold him to himself, to encourage that lively spirit to return. Zanki will do whatever it takes to help.
Zanki knows that nothing has to be broken forever. Because Todoroki taught him that.