"Yes, I would never," JIn confirmed.
Closing her eyes, Ranka turned and slowly walked away as her head drooped downwards, her ears for the first time that day becoming floppy.
The pavement started to get stained with a few of her tears as they rolled down her cheeks and onto the ground.
Sighing, Jin turned and started to make his way to the cafeteria, trying not to look back.
It hurt him that he had to see Ranka in this state, but she had grown too fond of him and he needed to set up clear boundaries.
"Besides," he thought to himself as he walked along the path, guided by the scent of food growing stronger the closer he got to his destination. "I did make it clear that I would never date an animal for years and she still didn't get the message. I needed to be harsh on her for her to understand it. But still....."
"Jin? Is that you?" Looking around, he noticed that he had made it to the cafeteria quicker than he had anticipated.
More importantly to him, he noticed that standing a few feet away from him was the one individual he was trying to see all this time, Hitomi Hino.
One of the very few humans that he ever saw and the only one that he had ever felt an attraction to.
Smiling, he waved to here and approached her. "Yes, it's me Hitomi!" He yelled out as the pair got closer.
He noticed that she was carrying a tray piled with food, human food.
Unlike the private academy that they had attended before, this school was more accommodating to its minority student population and apparently had many different choices for foods that people like Jin and Hitomi could eat and enjoy.
"Not raw leaves or raw meat, real human food. Perfect." He thought to himself as they both sat down next to each other on a cafeteria table.
They began to talk about each other, asking how they enjoyed their summer, which programs they were going into and what teachers they were going to have this semester.
Jin explained that he managed to find a part-time job on the university campus as a gym receptionist to earn a bit of money while he had some free time.
"That's great," Hitomi had said. "But will you have enough time to be able to lead the cooking club?"
"To be honest, I don't think we need the cooking club to be set up here," Jin replied, surprising Hitomi.
"But why?", Hitomi wondered. "He loves to cook for us and hang out with us, doesn't he?"
"Yes, I do still like to cook for you and the others," Jin followed up, reading the concern on her face.
"But I think that it would be too big if we added more people, making it harder to manage and more expensive to get the food. Plus, there are already cooking clubs here, and the administrators didn't want too many clubs of the same topic to be made."
"It's all fine," Jin continued. "We can still meet up at my place to cook and hang out, we can find other things to do."
"God this is so good!" He thought as he took a bite of her meatloaf.
It was fluffy with a delicate meaty flavor, with enough garlic in the sauce to leave a pleasant aftertaste in the mouth for a brief moment.
"Then how about a club on the history of food!" Hitomi exclaimed. "We can talk about old dishes that we found and make them appreciate history in a culinary manner! That way it's not exactly the same thing!"
Jin thought for a moment. It could work, there isn't a club based precisely on that topic at the school at the moment. "True, but even if we can make it, I don't think it would be very popular with the other students."
"Oh, that's fine!" Hitomi waved her hand as if to dismiss Jin's concerns. "I personally prefer the size of the club the way it is. With you, me, Ranka and the others, it feels like a group of friends hanging out and cooking along with doing other things. If we add more people, it would feel like a real club, less personal and more professional."
She turned to look directly into Jin's eyes, causing him to slightly fluster.
Jin took this as a sign to make his move. Adjusting his shirt, he took a deep breath and gently took her left hand. "Hitomi, there is something I have to tell you. I-"
"Hitomi!", a panda cried out before she crashed into Hitomi and gave her a massive bear hug, causing Jin to let go of her hand.
"I haven't seen you all summer! I went to so many different places for my summer tour and tried so many different foods! I have pictures, here let me show you!"
As MeiMei pulled out her phone and tried to show her the many pictures she took over the summer, Jin snapped up her phone. "What do you think you're doing you shitty Panda! You came up and smashed into us! Didn't your manager teach you to have any manners?"
He regretted saying it as soon as the words came out of his mouth. "No, he didn't," MeiMei admitted, looking up at him with bright gleaming heart-shaped eyes.
"But if you think I need to be taught a lesson, then please do whatever you want with me." She shuddered and squirmed while Jin and Hitomi looked at her with stone faces.
"You can scold me out here in public while every one of the students watches me, put me in a cage in my dorm and tell my roommates to not let me out unless you say so, or even-"
MeiMei struggled to say the last thing she had on her mind before her manager waddled up and threatened to execute Jin if he so much as made the precious panda even a little stressed or made her work.
After both had calmed down, the manager left to inspect MeiMei's dorm floor to make sure that it was up to his standards and supplied with all the bamboo she wanted.
MeiMei sat down to join them to eat as Yukari the Koala spotted them and also came over to eat.
She was pushing around Miyubi in a special wheelchair that Jin had built for her two years ago. It allowed her to be able to go places without moving too fast and dying twice a day.
As the rest of the group chatted amongst themselves, saying how much they had missed each other and started to plan a group activity for them to do when they first meet up for the history food club, Jin zoned out and watched them with no particular interest.
Frustrated that his chance to confess to Hitomi had been blocked once again, he focused on the plate of food that she had brought for him.
Chewing silently, his mind wandered to planning his next opportunity with Hitomi. "Maybe I can tell her when we register the group, ask her to talk for a bit and then tell her on one of the benches outside? That could work."
"Where's ........... Ranka ........ ?" Miyubi asked slowly. The others looked around and just noticed her absence from the table.
"I haven't seen her yet," Yukari said as she chewed on a foul-smelling bowl of food. "Jin, have you seen her?" The others all looked right at him.
"Why would you all assume that I would see that mutt?" He snapped coldly at them.
"Well, we pretty much never see the two of you without one another!" MeiMei explained.
"That's because she is a dog."
"Same thing. Anyways, we are always together because she always manages to track me down, nothing more."
"So, you did see her today!" MeiMei exclaimed excitedly.
She pressed her face uncomfortably close to Jin, causing him to lean back until he was on the brink of falling down. "How was she? Will we see her today? Where is she? Can I see her?"
"No idea!" Jin scolded her as he gently but firmly pushed MeiMei back, making her blush. "She went away, and I don't think she will want to talk to me after what I said to her." He said as he looked down on the ground
"Well, what did you tell her?" Hitomi asked.
She rarely saw Jin look regretful, especially when Ranka was involved.
Sighing, Jin looked back up and explained what happened during the tour to the group.
They listened intently to him describing how Ranka had talked to him, kissed him and essentially told the school that they were to be married.
They looked at him with scorn as Jin described how he responded to her intentions.
"Well that sounds too harsh, even for the pair of you," Hitomi observed. "Maybe she took it hard because she didn't see you all summer and missed you, only to be publicly rejected and told that you would never be with her." She sat back up and looked sternly at Jin. "You should have been gentler with her."
"No, I should not have," he flatly stated. "I have told her this for four years that I will never date an animal, especially her." He huffed and folded his arms as the rest of the group gave him death glares.
"Why not?" MeiMei said angrily. "You have been friends with animals of different species for years, why not date one? Give me one good reason!"
"Because wolves and humans are not compatible. They can't have kids." He said smugly.
"They know that I have the most knowledge when it comes to animals and their behaviors, hopefully, they will trust what I have said and no one will-"
"That's......not........true......at.......all........" Miyubi slowly said.
"Huh!?" The rest of the group exclaimed.
"I've.....been....reading...over...the...summer.....that. it's...possible..." Miyubi said before she fell face forward onto the table and died.
The more she talked, the more physically exhausting it is for a sloth like her. Too much talking can kill her kind.
"Miyubi!!!!" The others cried out in unison.
"Why can't you just die once like a normal person!" Jin yelled out in desperation.