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Carnation

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A whole day to prepare for...whatever was coming tomorrow.

Shinada sighed, leaning back against the closest wall and dragging his hands down his face. He'd already gone and visited Daigo in the hospital, so that killed some time at least. His heart fluttered for a moment, cheeks flushing as he smiled at his shoes. He was definitely growing more smitten by the minute.

It had been...nearly nineteen or so years since he was in Tokyo.

"Fuck," he breathed out at the thought. God, I’m getting old.

After being scouted for the Wyverns, he only really visited home during the holidays or for his birthday, a week in the summer maybe. And of course, never to Kamurocho. Kamurocho in the 90s was...cool and kinda edgy.

Or at least, that had been his view of it. He was neither of those things.

With another sigh, he shifted and started to walk along the the street, hands shoved in his pockets. Might as well wander and see where his feet would take him...

Wonder if I had come here when I was younger. Would I have ran into Dojima-kun?

He smiled at the thought. Who knows whether anything would have happened - even now, accepting his attraction, he still felt a little of that self-loathing that had burned strong in his teens and twenties.

He scrunched his eyes shut. Not the time for that now Tatsuo-

"Wmph!"

Of course he wasn't looking where he was going. Shinada slammed into the other person, an older woman with her hair tied in a sensible bun, flailing his arms about to keep balance and not completely crush her. She still fell backwards, the shopping bags she'd been carrying spilling their contents.

"Ah, jeez, sorry ma'am."

He fell to his knees, hurriedly grabbing the items before they were trampled by other passersby. He paused for a moment, realising he was grabbing a pair of men's pyjamas on one hand, and a pack of boxer briefs in the other. Ah. Awkward...

"No, it's fine, it's fine..."

The woman grumbled, snatching away the clothes and stuffing them back into her shopping bags.
Shinada flashed a sheepish grin, getting back to his feet and offering out a hand. The woman glared for a moment, but her face softened, taking his hand and allowing herself to be pulled back up.

"Sorry again, ma'am," Shinada said immediately, bowing his head.

"No, I should have been looking where I was going too."

Now able to see her closely, there was something so...familiar about her, the way her brow knitted together especially, like he'd seen it before already.

She was also very pretty, the exact type of 'mature woman' Shinada swooned for.

But y'know. Sort of in the starts of a relationship or something.

Regardless, there was something a little sad and distant in her eyes as she checked through her bags once more with a sigh.

"Uh, I'm Shinada, by the way," he said, beaming.

She paused, head tilted downwards slightly as she looked him over, making him realise how scruffy he looked compared to her smart sweater and skirt.

There was deliberate hesitation before she spoke again. "...Yayoi. You may call me Yayoi, young man."

"Okay. Well...I'm sorry again, Yayoi-san."

Shinada bowed deeply and let her walk past, which she did with a polite smile and nod of her head. He couldn't shake the feeling that something bad had happened to the poor woman...but it was hardly his place to intrude.

A few hours passed. Shinada just wandered about the city a little longer, dipped back into New Serena upon a text from Akiyama saying he was going to order them some Chinese food (like hell he was passing up a free meal) before he found himself on the streets again.

Under Saejima's recommendation, he went to the drug store and grabbed a few Tauriners and Staminans. ("They'll be very useful, trust me.")

He stuffed most of them into his jacket pockets, though slowly drank one of the Tauriners as he walked back towards New Serena. He'd eaten a lot of Chinese food, felt a bit of a stomach-ache coming on, so curling up to sleep on the couch sounded like the best thing right now.

Only...

"Hm?"

Some arguing from the closest street. A few typical looking thugs, and...

Yayoi-san?

The four young guys had managed to corner her against the wall, blocking her from really escaping.
"C'mon lady, we ain't asking for much," one of them cried with a smirk, "We're just asking for a little compensation."

Yayoi, to her credit, simply looked at the youths with disinterest.
"I hardly brushed you," she said, nose wrinkling and brow furrowing in that oh-so painfully familiar way, "Now, go away."

"Not like you can pretend you don't have the cash on ya," another one chimed in, even reaching out to cup under her chin, "That bag's designer, right? And those clothes you got ain't exactly from the thrift store."

Something flashed in Yayoi's eyes as she lunged out a hand, swinging a punch right in the guy's face.
Shinada let out a small "oohh". That looked like it hurt!

"You lil' bitch-"

The guy had whipped out a knife.

Whelp. Time I stepped in.

"Oi! You lot!"

The four boys turned as Shinada jogged over, rummaging about inside his jacket.

"The hell you want geezer? She your girlfriend or something?"

"Man, I should be so lucky!" Shinada scoffed, glancing to his side at Yayoi. She gave a slight look of annoyed relief back. "Nah, I'm just here to ask you to move on. Didn't your mommies teach you any manners?"

"Hey, the old bat walked into us," one of them said, pointing accusingly at Yayoi, "Ain't nothing to do with you geezer, fuck off."

"Unless you wanna pay up instead," the guy with the knife said, pointing it in Shinada's direction instead, "C'mon. You wanna play hero? Let's go."

Shinada raised a brow, then shrugged, feeling his fingers wrap around the handle of exactly what he'd been checking for in his jacket. "Fine by me."

Knife-guy lunged forward, weapon aimed right for Shinada's stomach, but he was immediately blocked by Shinada whipping out his own (and far more impressive looking) knife. The younger guy's eyes went wide for a second, having clearly not anticipated this turn of events.

"Lemme show you how you wield one of these bad boys," Shinada said, starting a flurry move of jabbing his blade in the other guy's direction.
Obviously, he wasn't looking to actually stab the idiot - just scare him. The most he cut was the punk's clothes, slight scratches of blood maybe seeping through.

Satisfied he'd intimidated him enough, Shinada switched his blade into his non-dominant hand and swung with his other, sending the guy flying.

He slipped the knife back into the sheathe inside his jacket before turning to the other three with his fists up.

Wait, no.

The other one.

The other two were in equally crumpled piles on the floor, Yayoi in a fighting stance. Her hair fell out of place slightly and she was a little red in the face, but she swiped a swift kick at the remaining guy, the side of her heeled boot knocking into his ribs.

"What a woman," Shinada mumbled, diving in to deal a blow himself.

The remaining punk whimpered, covering his head as he gulped back tears. "Okay, okay, leave me alone!"

Shinada gave a glance to Yayoi who nodded, falling back and crossing her arms. "Then get out of here before we change our minds young man."

He nodded and ran, wailing as he did. Shinada let his shoulders relax, hand clasping against his middle.

"Urgh...cramp..."

"Thank you, Shinada." Yayoi smiled, picking up her shopping.

"Don't mention it. You're a tough lady."

"I was quite the brawler in my youth, believe it or not. I'm a little rusty though. Prefer a katana."
Shinada grinned, then let his eyes trace down to her hands.

"You're shaking."

Yayoi swallowed, gripping them close to her chest. "Adrenaline. That's all."

"...do...do you wanna go somewhere quiet?"

She paused and looked up at him, a tension releasing from her shoulders. "I...I'd like that."

Not long after, they were at Cafe Alps. Shinada ordered some tea (and a cake for himself, because he seemed to lose all sense of control when he actually had money), then sat opposite Yayoi, who was leaning forward with her hands clasped together.

"Sorry for putting you out like this," she said softly, but Shinada shook his head before she could say any more.

"You were nearly mugged and attacked. I'd feel bad if I left you alone after that!"

Their order arrived, and they fell into a rather comfortable silence as Yayoi closed her eyes and sipped her tea.

She glanced upwards as Shinada made his way through the slice of strawberry shortcake he ordered, and smiled, a relaxed one now.

"My son loves that cake. You two are probably about the same age, actually."

"Mhm?" Shinada wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, sitting up a little straighter.
He paused, head tilted. "Is...that who you bought those pyjamas and...uh, underwear for?"

Yayoi nodded, setting down her cup. "Yes. I got news that he's been admitted to hospital. I'm down as his next of kin, but I was so busy with my work that all the visiting hours were over before I got a chance to go see him." She sighed, tapping her nails against the side of the cup. "Apparently, he's rather weak right now, slipping in and out of consciousness. This isn't the first time he's had such an...accident. It's all I can think about."

"I...I know the feeling." Shinada took a gulp of his own tea, staring at his lap. "My...my friend. He's in hospital right now too. Similar sort of thing. Weak and can't stay awake for too long. The nurses said he might be better in the morning, after he's had a good rest, but...I feel guilty."

Yayoi frowned. "Why would you feel guilty?"

"Ah jeez, how to explain this..." Shinada rubbed the back of his head as he thought. He obviously couldn't tell this lady his 'friend' was actually the Sixth Chairman of the Tojo Clan. He probably couldn't even say he'd been shot; he wasn't sure how quick the rumour mill around here was.

"Basically, I was...meant to come to Tokyo with him, but I ran off and came back a few hours later. By which time, he'd gotten hurt. I just feel if I hadn't ran off, he...he might not be in hospital, that's all."

"...I see." Yayoi sighed, glancing out wistfully to the street through the window, at every passerby. "I must say, I understand to. I sometimes feel I...I should be there for my son more. He's very busy with his work, and he gets rather...into his own head. My husband died several years ago, so we're all the family we have."

She shrugged, drinking her tea again. "I know you can't exactly wrap your children up in plastic and try to protect them from everything in the world, especially in the line of work he does, but...a mother's instinct. It's very strong."

For the first time in a while, Shinada thought of his own mother, but all he felt was a slight sick feeling in the back of his throat. "Your son must be very lucky, to have a mother that cares for him so much."

Yayoi blinked, seeming to understand his implications from his words. "And if you're anything like you were today with your friend, he's very blessed to have such a loyal companion."

Shinada very quickly blushed at that compliment, just about stopping his smile turn into a full-blown beaming grin.
"Ahh...jeez, thank you Yayoi-san. I'm glad I could come across so positively."

"Don't mention it, Shinada."

They kept chatting casually as they finished their tea, and even a little after, until Shinada pulled out his cell phone with a small sigh as he saw the time.

"Hey, I'm really sorry, but I gotta head. I've got...a busy day tomorrow and I need a long rest."

"Oh, no, of course."

As they walked towards a taxi (Shinada insisted he do that at least too), Yayoi grabbed him by the wrist, then gave his hand a small squeeze.

"Shinada...thank you. I hope your friend recovers soon."

"Heh. I hope the same for your son too, Yayoi-san."

Shinada waved her off as the taxi drove away then smiled, walking back toward New Serena. A little of the stress that had been plaguing him lately was relieved, and he was eager to visit Daigo again tomorrow and see how he was doing, especially before everything went down. Maybe he'd even run into Yayoi there.

Man...what a lady...

He still couldn't figure out why she seemed so familiar to him.