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Chariot, Hermit, and Hierophant

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“Oh, good, you’re here,” Futaba said, sitting on the edge of her bed and staring at her phone, not looking up.

Ryuji just stood in the doorway. “I…thought you said…this was urgent…!?” he gasped, bracing himself on his knees. “I ran…fast as I could…”

“Yeah, yeah. Now come over here and help me write this note…”

Ryuji’s face fell. “The dire emergency…is an effing note??”

“Yup!” Futaba chirped, still looking down at her phone.

“Gimme a break…” Ryuji groaned, flopping on the bed next to Futaba.

“Oh, quit whining,” Futaba jeered. “It’s…well, it’s none of your business—!…but it’s for Valentine’s Day…” she muttered.

At this, Ryuji perked up. “Ohhh—why didn’t you just say so?” he asked, sitting up and looking over her shoulder. “So you were lookin’ for some romantic advice and figured you’d give your old pal Ryuji a call?”

“Nah, I just knew you wouldn’t be busy today.”

“That’s cold, even for you…” Ryuji winced.

“Yeah, yeah, just…” Futaba pulled her knees to her chin and began rocking back and forth. “…will you help me?” she asked.

“…Yeah, of course. What’s up?”

Futaba continued rocking back and forth, not speaking. Ryuji just sat by her, waiting patiently. This was common when she got nervous or uncomfortable about something.

Finally, she shifted to face Ryuji, sitting cross-legged and grabbing her phone. She hung her head, letting her hair cover her face.

“I bought someone chocolates…” she started. “But chocolates don’t talk, which means if I want the person to know that I think they’re special, I need to say it myself…” she mumbled.

“Wait, you went out? By yourself? And bought chocolates!?”

“…mostly.”

“Mostly?”

“…Ren came with me. But it was my own money and everything! And I even spoke to the cashier to buy them!…”

Ryuji smiled. “Wow, Futaba-chan, that’s amazing!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m the best, you don’t have to tell me,” she answered, waving her hand dismissively. “Now can you help me write this? All I have so far is “Thank you for taking care of me. I love you.”

“Woah, are you this serious with someone already, Futaba-chan?”

“I-it’s not like that!” she cried, her ears burning red. “Just…help me, okay?”

“Okay.” Ryuji said, thinking. “Hmmm, well, the first thing is to figure out what it is you want to say.”

“I already did that. I want to say ‘Thank you for taking care of me. I love you.’”

“So…then what do you want me to help with?”

“I want you to help me write it, of course!” Futaba insisted. “Jeez, why’s that so hard for you to understand?”

“Look, you’re right, I don’t understand. Do you want my help or not!?” Ryuji snapped.

Futaba didn’t say anything. She pulled her knees to her chin and began rocking.

Shit.

“S-sorry, Futaba-chan,” Ryuji said, softly. “I’m just…having trouble seeing things from your perspective…”

Futaba half-shrugged, still rocking.

Ryuji took a deep breath. “If I talk, can you listen?”

Futaba nodded.

“Okay,” Ryuji thought for a moment.

“I think, if you want to show someone that you appreciate them, you should just be honest with them,” he started. “Like, there’s no need to try and be someone you’re not. So, if ‘Thank you for taking care of me. I love you.’ is what Futaba wants to say, then say it. Does that make sense?”

“Kinda…”

“Is there something else bothering you?”

Another nod. “Doesn’t it sound too…robotic or something?”

Ryuji grinned. “Isn’t that perfect for a robot like you?”

She reached out and punched him on the arm.

Ow! Kidding, I was kidding!” he yelped. “But seriously… Look, if it’s coming from you, then it should sound like how you would say it. Because…” he took a deep breath, “…if they love you back, then they’ll love you for being just you, Futaba-chan.”

Silence. Then a small muffled “…promise?”

Ryuji nodded. “I promise. Does that help you write it?” he asked.

Futaba nodded again.

“Do you have any other questions you want to ask?”

Another nod. “What if…” her voice was still muffled by her knees. “…what if someone asked me to be a couple with them…and I didn’t want to be…?”

“Did you tell them that?”

“Yeah, but…what if they get upset with me?”

“Sometimes that happens…” Ryuji sighed. “But whoever it is, he’ll get over it. And if he doesn’t—”

“Who said it was a he?” Futaba asked.

“Sorry, he or she—”

“Who said it was a she either?”

Ryuji looked confused. “…who is it then?”

“Hm?” Futaba looked up. “Nobody, I just figured I should know what to do in case it happens…”

Ryuji let out a sigh of relief. “Gotcha. Well, whoever it may be,” he continued, “they’ll get over it. And if they don’t, you can give me a call, and I’ll come take care of them for you, got it?”

Futaba nodded. “Thanks, Ryuji.”

“Need anything else while I’m here?”

“…wanna play Punch Ouch III instead of moping about being single on Valentine’s Day?”

“Eh, sure, why not?.”

“Alright!” Futaba shouted, jumping up and setting up her console. She plugged in two controllers, started the game up, and handed one to Ryuji.

“Oh, and Ryuji?”

“Yeah?”

Futaba leaned close and closed her eyes. Ryuji hurriedly backed up, looking concerned.

“Whoa there Futaba-chan! Is there something I should know about…!?”

“Oh, relax,” she said, “it was just going to be a friendly kiss on the cheek—”

“Uhhh, I think we have different definitions of ‘friendly’ then…”

“Well, it’s not like any other girl was going to kiss you today…” she said, smirking.

“Yeah, nope, definitely not accepting a pity kiss from Boss’s daughter,” Ryuji winced.

Futaba shrugged. “Suit yourself!” she announced, plopping down next to him and starting the game.


It was a few hours later when Ryuji heard the door open in the hallway. Futaba immediately jumped up and paused the game, yelling “Sojiro’s home!” as she scrambled around the room grabbing things.

“Everything oka—”

“Be right back!” she called over her shoulder, running out of the room with something under her arm.

Ryuji paused for a moment. Should he be worried? Should he go check on her?

Finally, he set down his controller and decided to brave the journey out into the hallway. Futaba and Boss’s voices sounded softly from down the hall, and he walked slowly towards them.

As he approached the dining room, he saw Futaba standing in front of Sojiro, holding out a box of chocolates with a proud grin on her face.

“Wha—are these for me!?” Sojiro asked, taken aback.

“Yup! I bought them myself!” Futaba said, “from an actual store too!”

Now it all made sense. But he watched with a smile as Sojiro took the chocolates, read Futaba’s hastily-scrawled note, and gave her a huge hug. It was all Ryuji could do not to cry himself as he sniffled.

…Which Sojiro heard evidently, because his head swung around to stare directly at Ryuji spying on their moment.

“Oh, uh…Sakamoto-kun,” he grunted, trying to hide the fact that he’d been crying. “Wait, what the hell are you doing in my house!?”

“Relax, Sojiro. I invited him over,” Futaba assured him. “We’ve just been hanging out in my room.”

“Uhhh, but not like, in any kind of way!” Ryuji cried as Boss’s glare intensified. “Please, sir, I’m not dating your daughter!…Don’t kill me!”

“Oh, yuck. Please…” Futaba gagged. “…as if!”

“…Alright,” Sojiro sighed.

“I was just about to leave anyway!” Ryuji said, backing slowly down the hallway. “I’ll…let you two be alone now.”

And with that, he grabbed his things and darted out the door.